A/N: Ok guys patience is a virtue. Just lemme get these guys split up and on their way and a new romance will begin! I gotta set up the story…anyway, here's the next chappy! In which battle ensues! And the tactician gets a name! Woo! On with the story!
"Andraya? What are you doing back here?" the mage heard from behind her. Whirling around, she found Sain looking at her quizzically.
"Something's happened! I think there's bandits or—or something. They need lances up front!" she stammered, out of breath from running around trying to find them.
"There's no way we can make it up there in time," Kent said, looking in the direction Andraya had come.
"We have to try, c'mon!" Andraya called over her shoulder as she ran through the trees. Kent, Sain, and the other cavaliers and paladins did the best they could to follow her, but she had to keep stopping and turning back to let them catch up. Finally they got to the rest of the group—finding them all struggling in a full-out battle.
"Good! You're here!" the tactician called to them. "Hurry up and help! Just…kill something! I don't even know where to put you! Anyone with a lance go get those sword masters to the east! Just help!"
Andraya nodded and headed for the nearest bandit, who was attacking a defenseless Serra. The pink-haired healer was squealing for Erk to come rescue her, but since he was nowhere in sight, Andraya made the shape of a rune in the air, then flung her arms towards the bandit, instantly freezing the water in his body. His lifeless form fell to the ground, to the delight of a much-relieved Serra.
"Erky! That was—hey, you're not Erk!" she screeched.
"Hey, I just saved your life. Stay back, and use a vulnerary, you look weak."
Serra looked at the ground.
"Did you hear me? I said stay back!" Andraya yelled at her.
"I don't have a vulnerary!"
"What?! Are you insane?!" Andraya exclaimed. She shook her head, taking her own vulnerary off her belt. She tossed it to the healer, then ran off to get some more bandits.
It didn't take her long to find another enemy. She almost ran straight into an axe-wielder who was feebly trying to take a swing at Florina's hovering Pegasus. Seeing the mage approach, he swung his huge blade straight for the her waist, almost slicing her in two. Andraya sidestepped just in time, signing another rune in the air as she did so. A ball of ice suspended itself in the air in front of her, and with a wave of her hand the mage sent it hurling straight for the bandit, knocking him to the ground and freezing the skin that came in contact with it.
"Florina! You all right up there?" Andraya called up to the Pegasus knight.
"Yeah! Thanks," she called down. "There's some archers over there though. I can't get any closer to help get rid of those sword masters with them there!"
"I'm on it!" Andraya called back up, running to where Florina had pointed. She saw some of the other cavaliers already taking care of the sword masters, but the archers were firing away behind them. Andraya slipped around the sword masters, who were completely occupied with the lance-wielders, and started attacking the archers from right in front of their faces. They were defenseless from that close vicinity, and were soon taken care of.
Florina noticed Andraya's success, and came to help with the sword masters. She swooped down on one from behind, and before he could even get a chance to comprehend what was happening, he had a lance through him and was falling to the ground. Florina snatched something from his belt before flying back into the air.
"Hey! I got a lancereaver!" Florina called, smiling at her newly acquired possession.
Andraya decided that the sword masters didn't have long, so she turned her attention to the rest of the battle. Almost all the bandits were gone, but there were still a few left in a clump, seeming to surround something. Who have they got? she wondered, running to the aid of her surrounded comrade. She signed two runes in the air as she did so, double-attacking the first bandit she came to, finishing him off before he even knew someone was behind him. Through the gap she created, she saw a figure lying on the ground, a broken sword in his hand…
"SAIN?!" Andraya exclaimed in terror. The now defenseless cavalier saw her and smiled weakly.
"Hang on, Sain!" the mage called, furiously waving her hands through the air. She formed a dozen small daggers of ice in front of her, rotating faster and faster in front of her. With a final wave of her hand, she sent them flying at the bandits, each of them getting stabbed straight through the chest with at least one of her projectiles.
After they fell, Andraya ran to Sain, kneeling beside him and cradling his head in her arms. "Sain, are you okay? What happened? Where's your horse?!"
"Hey, easy with the questions, 'Draya. I could use a healer or something…" he whispered.
"Sain…" Andraya said softly, pushing the hair gently out of his eyes. She reached to her belt for her vulnerary…only to find it missing.
"Damn!" she yelled, remembering where it had gone. "Serra! Priscilla! Get over here now, one of you!" She looked around, only to find the battle still going on at full force. Kent was running another bandit through with his lance, as were the other cavaliers and paladins. Lyn, Hector, and Eliwood seemed to be busy with the leader of the group; everyone was busy with an enemy. And more were coming her way.
"Damn!" she said again, at a loss for what to do. Serra and Priscilla were nowhere in sight, no doubt busy healing others taking heavy damage from this strong enemy. She looked down at Sain again, but a glinting piece of metal a few feet away caught her eye.
"A…healing staff?" she said, reaching over and holding it up to the light. "I wonder…gah!" she started as the staff suddenly flashed bright white. The light spread slowly to encompass Sain's body, healing his wounds instantly.
"Andraya…I…I didn't know you could use staves," Sain said slowly, standing up.
"Neither did I," she replied, still staring in awe at the staff.
"What does this mean?"
"I—I'm not sure." Andraya stood, tucking the staff into her belt. "I'm not complaining though."
"Neither am I," Sain said, smiling. He whistled, and his horse appeared from behind a group of trees. "Coward horse," the cavalier said, slapping it lightly. He mounted, and with a playful salute to Andraya resumed in the fight. Andraya too resumed fighting, healing her surprised comrades when they needed it.
"Damn these woods," Lyn said, coming over to the cavaliers when the battle was over. "We should be coming to a road soon, if our wonderful tactician's map is correct this time."
"I heard that!" they heard the tactician retort.
"At any rate, I think from now on we should all travel together at a slower pace so you can keep up. We should still get to Nisea by nightfall." The cavaliers all nodded.
"Andraya, I noticed you've become more advanced in your skills!" the tactician said, coming over to the mage. "Congratulations!"
"Thanks! But um, whose staff is this?" Andraya asked, pulling out her newfound healing staff.
"Ah, so that's what happened to Serra's lost staff," the tactician smirked, taking the staff. "Oh, Serra! Looking for this?"
The healer came skipping over. "Oooh! So that's where my other staff went. Thanks!" she said, reaching for her staff.
The tactician pulled it out of her reach. "Nah-ah. You've been a little too careless lately. Andraya here even had to give you a vulnerary after saving you! So now that she's become a sage, and can use this, I'm giving it to her. Here, Andraya. I'm sure you'll make more use of it."
Andraya accepted the staff, smiling broadly. "Thank you!"
"Hmph!" Serra pouted, walking away. The tactician winked at Andraya, then walked off to speak with the lords.
"Hey, 'Draya!" Sain called, coming closer to her. "Since we're traveling together again…" he said, smiling.
Andraya giggled and hopped up behind Sain. They rode off after the now slower moving group, followed by the other cavaliers and a few other soldiers on foot.
"Hey, 'Draya…isn't that Nisea?"
Andraya picked her head off of Sain's shoulder to look at the village appearing from over a hill in the distance. Nothing looked like the way she remembered her hometown, but she did recognize the lakes to the north of it and the forest just north of that. She used to play there as a girl, sometimes staying out past dark and making her mother worried sick. She smiled at the memory. "Yeah, that's it."
"It's pretty. Look at the sun on those lakes," Sain said, looking back at her.
"Yeah. Always was."
Sain smiled and slowly turned back around. "After we get all those bandits following us and protect the village, you'll have happier memories of this place."
"Yeah…yeah, you're right," Andraya said, kissing the cavalier lightly on the cheek. Sain blushed and grinned.
A few hours later the group reached the village. The tactician and Lyn went in ahead of everyone else to meet the new tactician.
"Serena! Hey, Serena!" the tactician called, running to a blonde girl waiting outside a small house.
"Kory! Is that you?"
Serena squealed, running to the tactician and almost knocking him over with a hug. "It's been so long!"
"Far too long," Kory said. "Hey, let's go meet the group!" he said, grabbing her hand and leading her towards the others.
"Everyone, this is Serena, the other tactician I told you about," Kory told the group. Serena waved shyly and blushed a little.
"I've already reserved your rooms in the inn," she told them. "I hope it's all okay."
"I'm sure it is, 'Rena. C'mon guys, I order you to rest now so in two days we can head out to the coast!" Kory said, walking with Serena towards the inn.
"Wow, it sure looks different," Andraya said into Sain's shoulder. The houses were all made of stone now, instead of wood as she had known. Smart, after a fire…
"See, they can't get to it again. It's all stone!" Sain said, as if he read her thoughts. He smirked. "What, I don't get a kiss for that?"
Andraya laughed. "I wouldn't want to distract you. You could trample someone, you know," she said. "We're almost at the inn, you can wait."
Sain whimpered, causing Andraya to laugh again. "You laugh at my pain!" he said with mock hurt.
Andraya rolled her eyes. Once they got to the inn, Sain helped Andraya down off his horse, immediately pulling her into a kiss.
Kent was walking his horse into the stable when he saw the couple out of the corner of his eye. Against his better judgment, he turned to look at them. I wonder what that feels like. I honestly don't see the attraction in it, he thought, turning and heading towards the inn.
"And this here dashing cavalier is Kent! Say hi!" the tactician said merrily to Serena.
"Well met," Kent said politely, offering her his hand. She took it shyly and smiled.
"Well met," she said, her cheeks tainted a faint pink.
"And look over there! It's our own lovebirds, Sain and Andraya. Get a room guys! But first say hello to Serena!" Kory continued, dragging the other tactician away.
"Shy girl," Kent heard someone behind him say. He turned around to find Matthew leaning against a wall in shadow.
"I'm sure it won't affect her ability to strategize in battle," Kent replied.
Matthew took a few steps closer. "Sure didn't seem shy when she said hello to Kory before. You know, just a meeting of friends." With that he stepped back into the shadows and was gone.
"Matthew?" Kent called peering behind the wall. The thief was nowhere in sight. He's such a mysterious fellow…
I wonder what he meant by that.
A/N: Well, well! How's that for an update! Long and prompt! Teehee :) Anyway, R&R please, as always. Hope you're enjoying the story!!