A.N.: So, it's been done to death, but I figured that I'd try my hand on a FE7 novelization. However, this isn't going to be your average novelization as I'm going to be taking several liberties with the story and plot, and putting several twists into them. Because, after all, how many ways are there to rehash the same old plot?

Author's Note 4/24: Sorry about the mass of unrecognizable text. FF'.net yanked my formatting even after the live preview showed it to be there. I'll go back through and replace it.

Begin

The green-haired woman went about her motions mechanically: pulling the orb-shaped red apples from the trees and dropping them into the baskets at her feet. Little to no thought was required for the task at hand, allowing the woman's mind to wander. While an ordinary girl might have allowed herself fantasies of her future husband and the life that they would live, this woman allowed herself no such luxury.

She knew where her thoughts would go, if she allowed them- and since she had no desire to remember those memories, she kept her thoughts in line. Soon she had succeeded in gathering enough of the red fruit to fulfill her needs. A chore that once took an entire day now took little more than a candle mark.

With a sigh, the woman indulged in a nervous habit of touching the medallion that lay 'round her neck. She then proceeded to gather her fruit and baskets, stand erect, and prepare to leave the forest.

And it was under these circumstances that fate intervened in her life. Fate was a fickle master, always drifting between helping a person and causing havoc for his amusement.. One never knew when Fate would choose to visit him, indeed some could live their entire life without encountering his hand, but those who did always found their course irrevocably changed.

In this circumstance, Fate chose to take on the form of a gray blur that swept from the skies, dove through the trees. A sharp 'snap' filled the air, and the blur shot off into the distance with the woman's medallion clasped firmly within his jaws.

A sharp cry of anger followed the gray blur as it pulled skyward and reconstituted into the form of a small wyvern that was scarcely the size of a man's forearm. A cheery warble came from the beast's throat as it circled around and began flying off in the distance.

The green-haired woman shouted after the beast again. For a brief instant, she was too stunned over the loss of her possession to wonder why a wyvern, native to the far-off country of Bern, was running off with her necklace. But that lasted scarcely a few tenths of a second before the idea presented itself to her mind (the latter half of the idea more prominently than the former) and the woman dropped her baskets and ran off after the creature.

With speed that few could match, the woman raced through the forest. Her legs were a blur of motion as she darted between trees and over roots. The forest crashed about her, but the green-haired woman paid it little mind. Her attention was fixed solely on the wyvern that floated along overhead. Even from the ground below, the woman could see the glint of sunlight flashing against her medallion.

This continued on for several moments. The woman's fattention was alternating between the wyvern overhead and the forest before her. Every once in a while, she would shout, just to let the thief know that she was still on his trail. This pattern continued on for several minutes, look to the ground, look to the sky, spot the thief, shout in anger. And then something happened to break the pattern.

The woman crashed into something solid and unmovable. The impact failed to move the object, but sent her rebounding into the ground below. The impact knocked the breath from the woman's lungs- and it took her a moment to return air to her lungs and recollect her scattered wits.

Anger descended upon the woman for she knew that her prey, the thief, would be long gone by now. With fury, she pounded the loose dirt and looked up to glare at the obstacle that had ended her forward progress. She froze as she realized that she had collided with a green-cloaked man.

The man looked down at her, his dirty brown eyes peaking out from under a mess of black hair. He took note of the triangular tribal patterns that adorned the woman's light blue robes- and then extended his hand to her.

The woman stared at the offered help as if it were a foreign object that had fallen from the heavens.

"You!" The woman snarled. "What are you doing here? Why do you just stand there? That thief is getting away!"

The raven-haired man arced an eyebrow as he sftudied the furious green-haired woman. A slight smile danced across his lips, and then quickly turned into a frown. It was apparent that the man was starting to realize just what had gone on in the past few minutes.

The newcomer looked skyward, and then thrust his left hand aloft. He extended his fore and ring fingers to the heavens, and waited.

The woman fought to keep her jaw from crashing to the ground.

The wyvern, the very creature that had stolen her medallion, slowly descended from the skies. The thieving creature grumbled in annoyance, and then lighted upon the man's shoulder.

While the man's green cloak prevented her from seeing the exact circumstances, the woman supposed that the newcomer must have had some sort of leather armor over his shoulder. Otherwise the wyvern's long claws would have gouged enough flesh from the man's shoulder to draw blood.

The man pried the medallion from the wyvern's jaws, then extended the necklace back to the woman.

"I assume that this is yours."

Without a word, the woman snatched the medallion from the man's fingers. She began turning it about in her palm, examining it for damage. A few scratches marred it's otherwise smooth surface, but mostly it was unharmed.

"You have my apologies." The man appeared to be genuinely mortified of his pet's actions. He deftly turned and used his thumb to bat the wyvern on the creature's head. The beast hissed but accepted the rebuke. "Wyverns are naturally attracted to bright objects… I've been trying to break Romeo of his thieving ways for some time now."

"Romeo?" The word had left the Sacean woman's mouth before she'd realized she'd spoken. A frown passed over her lips as she realized what she had done, but there was no helping it.

"Yes, his name is Romeo. I gave it to him after the legendary thief." The man shrugged. "Turned out to be well fitting. But alas, forgive me, I'm digressing. My name is Mark. What's yours?"

As he spoke, Mark extended his hand anew, prompting the green haired woman to realize that she was still sprawled on the ground. After briefly considering the idea of ignoring the offered help, the woman slowly accepted. The raven-haired man provided a fine counterbalance for her weight, and provided the Sacean with enough leverage to stand.

"My name is Lyn." The woman said at length. "Lyn of the Lorca."

Mark's eyes widened, and almost instantly his gaze became focusefd on the wyvern clinging to his shoulder.

"Ha-HA! Did you hear that, Romeo! I told you I wasn't lost, but did you dare to believe me? Let this be a lesson to you- trust me in the future."

His outburst complete, the raven-haired man turned his attention back to the slack-jawed woman who was staring at him in disbelief. After realizing her current expression, Lyn hastily reigned in her emotions and tried to act as if strange people who dropped in out of nowhere and conducted monologues with their pet wyverns was an everyday occurrence.

Mark carried right on, as if oblivious to how strange his companion considered him to be.

"Ah, this is good. I've been searching for the Lorca for almost a month now, and some had begun to accuse me of being the conductor of a futile errand." The man paused to shoot an accusing look at Romeo. Romeo in turned hissed indifferently. "Do you know of one Chieftain Hasser? I have business with him."

At the mention of Hasser's name, Lyn's eyes hardened. A hollow edge entered the girl's voice, preventing any emotion from seeping through.

"Then it appears you have indeed wasted your time. Hasser is dead."

A surprised blink passed over the man's eyes, and then he drew sober. The merry light that had filled his face waned in favor of a grave look.

"Father Sky accept his sacrifice, and Mother Earth embrace him." The raven-haired man breathed as he held one hand before his chest.

A pang of curiosity raced through Lyn. Few outsiders knew of the Lorca death rites- for the passing ceremonies were a closely guarded secret. For someone to know of them meant that the outsider would have to have been trusted as much as a tribe member- if not moreso. Not that the Lorca were xenophobic for they were friendly enough, but more or less indifferent. They were content to live their lives and allow the rest of the world to pass them by. Few outsiders could understand this way of life, and as such never tried to become friends with the tribe.

"My apologies." Mark continued, interrupting Lyn's thoughts. "But if I may, who would I speak to now?"

For a long moment, Lyn was tempted to scoff- to put this man down and berate him for his ignorance. But she quickly quelled that desire. The woman could not hold the man accountable for knowledge that he did not possess. Further, few had offered to speak with her since the incident- so long as he was willing she had no reason to refuse.

Even so, she couldn't keep bitterness from infesting her reply.

"You could speak to no one. They are all dead. I am the only survivor."

Mark paled.

"Bethra?"

For the second time in as many minutes, Lyn was struck speechless. Not only did this strange man before her carry a Bern wyvern on his shoulder, not only was said wyvern a thief, not only did he know of the Lorcan death rites, but he also spoke the Sacean dialect. How had he come to know so much? And how long had it been since she'd heard a word in her original language?

It took the woman a minute to loosen he tongue enough to reply.

"…Vapr."

"Bandits." Mark breathed in Standard. The man quickly shook his head and then drifted back into Sacean.

"But how? No bandit could stand against the might of the Lorca! What happened to tilt the balance of power?"

Lyn shrugged. She had no answer to that question.

"Andrimos."

"Taliver." The translated, unspoken word filled the man's mind. "The Taliver Bandits eradicated the Lorca…"

Mark chose this particular moment to switch over to a language Lyn was not familiar with. But judging from the distasteful way he spat the word out, the green-haired woman had a fair idea what had just been said. It was not flattering.

His next question caught her off guard.

"What of you?"

"Revenge."

Mark nodded, he should have known. The Taliver had annihilated Lyn's tribe. In Sacean culture, when a kinsman was murdered, it fell on a surviving family member to avenge the death. By surviving the raid, Lyn was obligated to bring her tribe's murderers swiftly to justice. It would have been on her mind.

But how could one girl, scarcely more than fifteen/sixteen, overcome armored bandits? It was unthinkable.

An awkward silence descended upon the two- neither side entirely sure how to pursue this conversation. Lyn, having been alone for the past three months, did not want to lose the closest thing to a companion she had. Mark, being concerned for the girl placed directly in his path, did not just want to walk away from her.

The raven-haired man breathed a long sigh and then pondered the situation silently. --And if I do offer to help her, her pride would refuse to acknowledge it. How on earth am I supposed to help her without coming across as condescending?--

Lyn's words brought him out his reverie.

"You asked about my father. Did you know him?"

"He was a great man. Proud. Honorable. Decisive. The model of a leader." It was no lie on Mark's part. The man had always like Hasser, and had no difficulty seeing the chieftain as described. "The honor of our meeting will be felt to my children's children."

The green-haired woman paused, obviously indecisive. But gradually she drew to a decision and decided to speak her mind.

"I can take you to him."

--The grave-- Mark realized what she was really saying.

"Please. I must give him my thanks."

The green-haired woman nodded, then wordlessly turned and began walking out of the forest. The raven-haired man fell into step behind the girl. Meanwhile, Romeo grew tired of waiting and took to the skies. The wyvern hissed and then vanished into the air amidst a flapping of wings.

The two walked in silence for several minutes as their path took them through the orchard and out into the plains. From there, it was a short walk to the crest of a nearby hill. There, Lyn stopped and pointed to a dusty plot of ground. It was obvious that, even to Mark's untrained eye, the ground had been disturbed. The grass had not yet regrown over the grave, but respectfully refrained from touching the sacred ground.

Mark paused before the grave, feeling like a trespasser on the sacred soil. The man shoved off the feeling and then extended one hand before his chest, vertically. His eyes closing, the raven-haired man paid his last respects.

After a solemn moment, the man opened his eyes and turned from the grave. Mark found himself staring at Lyn's back, for the Sacean woman was facing away from the grave and staring off, unseeing, at the distance.

"Are you well?"

The green-haired woman hesitated for a moment, then relinquished her self-control. There was no point in denying the fundamental truth of her plight. So long as this stranger was willing to listen, there was no need to hide it.

"I have not avenged him. I am not yet worthy to look upon his grave."

Mark frowned.

"That will come in time. Remember their honor, courage, love… then your oath… let that carry you through."

Lyn arced an eyebrow and looked at the raven-haired man. She opened her mouth to respond, but was cut off as a deep, bloated note filled the air. The sound washed over the prairie and resonated over the hills.

Instantly, Mark snapped erect and recalled Romeo. The wyvern descended from the skies and lighted upon his master's shoulder. The raven-haired man turned his attention to Lyn, who had paled.

"Bandits…" The woman spoke the word in little more than a whisper. "They're probably heading for the villages… I must go…"

Mark darted forward and managed to get his left hand about Lyn's arm. His move jerked the woman to a stop just as she began to march off. Instantly, the woman whirled about and sent him a death glare. Mercifully, Lyn was no magic-wielder otherwise her look might have incinerated Mark where he stood.

The raven-haired man knew for a fact that he was violating at least four Lorcian customs- he assumed that the actual count was probably closer to seventeen. The Lorca were a proud race and abhorred anything that might possibly stain their honor. No man would dare to even touch a female, much less manhandle one, unless he was betrothed. Even that was limited to a clasp of hand. But Mark also knew the conflict that the woman faced, and how emotion clouded the mind. He would not allow that emotion to get her killed on the battlefield.

"Unhand me- now!" Lyn demanded.

Mark released his hold, but spoke quickly while he still had his partner's attention.

"I will go with you."

"No." The green-haired woman spat the word out. "This is my oath, my duty. Revenge is mine. They will fall by my blade, and my blade alone."

Thankfully, Mark was quick-witted. He had known from the moment that the horn had sounded that Lyn would be against his help- it was that same Sacean pride that bound her to dispatch the bandits. The man knew just how futile it was to argue with a Sacean, especially a Sacean woman, and as such had a suitable compromise ready for her.

"So it shall be, for I am a Tactician."

Lyn raised an eyebrow quizzically.

"You are, are you? That is a strange profession…"

"But a needed one. Let me guide your blade- " Mark resisted the urge to say 'so that you may live to fight again' - such a statement was tantamount to a death-wish - and instead finished with: "to hasten the vengeance that is deserving of your enemies."

For a long moment, the green-haired plainswoman stared at the man. Her eyes probed him for any weakness or ill intent. Finally, she decided that he was trustworthy.

"Very well." Lyn ceased to speak the Lorcian dialect and instead returned to the Standard tongue. "Let us go."

"Yes, let's." Mark replied smoothly.

The two broke into a run and effortlessly crossed the plains. Down into the valley, Lyn charged, and up the other side. Mark followed her every footstep to the top of the nearest hill. Upon cresting it, he realized that he was looking down upon two separate villages set a short distance apart. Three bandits were steadily descending upon the twin towns, and judging by their demeanor, they were not intending on visiting for a cup of tea.

Mark studied the layout of the land, taking note of the villages, the plains, the hills that framed the valley, the grove of trees, everything. Instantly his stomach dropped to the level of his knees. Mercifully, the bandit forces were few. There were limited to three half-drunken members of the brigade. That was as far as their fortune extended, for there was little else to be seen.

"Well, my Master Tactician." Acid dripped from Lyn's voice. "What advice do you have for me?"

The man couldn't stop the thought from entering his head. --A hair-brained scheme and half of an idea.--

"Staying alive, for one." Mark replied quickly. "A direct charge is out of the question- they'd just circle around you and then slowly choke you to death like a noose. No, this calls for hit-and-run tactics…"

"A Sacean does not run from battle." The plainswoman announced.

"Neither do Master Tacticians. No, I have a much better plan in mind…"


The first bandit fell easily enough.

Following her tactician's advice, Lyn had circled down and around the valley. The plainswoman had managed to move undetected by following a grove of trees down and around the valley wall. There, Lyn waited in hiding until the first of the three bandits had made the mistake of drawing near to her hiding place.

The Lorcan had exploded from the trees like a savage tiger. Her blade had cut through the air and tasted flesh and bone.

The bandit dropped heavily to the ground, he would not be causing any more trouble.

Instantly, a shout went up. One of the bandits pointed his oversized axe at the Sacean woman and began storming towards her. The other bandit held back, obviously believing that his partner could handle this menace.

He would be wrong.

Lyn stood calmly, and fixed her coming attacker with a withering look. The plainswoman continued to stand over the thieves' fallen comrade. She was waiting, patient and unwavering.

The man came within striking distance and raised his mighty ax. The bandit stepped forward and drove his weapon downward in a cleaving spike that would have shattered anyone from shoulder to hip- had there been anyone to hit.

The Lorcan plainswoman had merely stepped backwards to evade the strike, and then melted back into the grove of trees. Scarcely had the bandit realized that he had missed, than was the woman gone.

Anger flooded the bandit's veins. No one defied them like this! To strike down one of their own and then flee- it was cowardice! It was a slap to his face as real as any physical blow.

The bandit charged into the forest glen, his axe carving through the air wildly. The thief's blade whistled and cut through air and foliage, clearing a path for it's enraged owner. The man continued onward, cutting down anything that stood in his path.

Abruptly, the axe fell still, and then clattered to the ground from it's owner's lifeless hands. The bandit stared down, his eyes unseeing, at the wound protruding from his chest. Then he collapsed in a heap.

Lyn lowered her weapon and shook her head. Mark had been right. The raven-haired man had predicted that the bandit would charge into the glen blindly, and as such set himself up for ambush. All she had had to do was enter the trees and immediately circle to her left. The oaf had marched right by her, and set himself up for his own demise.

The plainswoman drew a breath of relief, and then steeled herself for the coming battle. Those other two that she had dispatched were nothing more than hired muscle. They were little threat to anyone. No, the real threat behind the bandits lay with their leader- the man who had hung back and allowed his partners to die. His life had to be taken at her hand.

And at that moment, Lyn decided not to follow through with the strategy. Mark had suggested another ambush- he had told her to emerge from the bushes and to race for the village. Once there, she could easily hide behind the city's retaining wall and strike when the time was right. But no. She had won two battles this way… The Lorcan had destroyed the lesser threat using these tactics and removed two-thirds of the bandit forces, there was little to fear by abandoning them now.

With a scream, Lyn emerged from the forest. Thoughts of her dead tribe, relatives, and friends filled her mind pushing her to avenge their deaths. The Lorcan woman set her sights on the large man, the final bandit, and steeled herself for the coming exchange of blows.

As it turned out, the bandit struck first. The man raised his axe and whisked it through the air in a broad swipe. The Sacean was forced to abort her charge and stop short, lest she run straight into the attack. The bandit hollered an oath at her and then drove his blade around in another wide swipe.

Again, the plainswoman darted backwards to avoid a bitter end. Her reaction was slower this time, allowing her opponent to draw a line of red across her arm. The woman bit her lip and tried not to cry out.

Her attacker was not done yet, the thief turned his horizontal swipe into momentum for a vertical one. The huge man brought his weapon down in an effort to split the woman's head open.

Lyn's blade snapped up and deflected the blow. The Sacean allowed the axe to glance off of her sword, redirecting it's path just enough to spare her from injury. The plainswoman then danced to the side, putting her in the perfect position to counterattack.

Lyn swept in like the wind and drove her blade at the bandit's chest. The leader was no fool, he merely sidestepped, avoiding the impalement altogether. Lyn realized immediately that she'd overreached herself- all her opponent had to do was bring his axe around before she could correct her balance… and she'd be dead.

Fate intervened once again.

A gray mass fell from the sky and slammed into the bandit's face. Taken completely by surprise, the bandit howled in pained fury as the gray streak resolved itself into the form of the wyvern Romeo. The small, winged serpent was hissing furiously, clawing and biting at the man's face.

The surprise attack drove all thought from the bandit's mind, sparing Lyn's life.

The Sacean blinked in surprise, then regained her wits just in time to dart forward and drive her blade into her intended target.

The bandit screamed something about being the undefeatable Batta the Beast… then collapsed into a lifeless heap on the ground.

Romeo released his hold on the deceased man's face, looked up at the plainswoman and warbled mournfully. The wyvern then took flight and darted away into the skies.

At that moment, Lyn realized just how close she had come to death. Had not Romeo lent her his aid, then Batta would have ended her life then and there. Her vow would have left unfulfilled, and the Lorca would go unavenged.

A soft footfall broke into the plainswoman's thoughts. Instantly, Lyn spun around and brought her iron blade up in preparation to strike. Abruptly, she called off her assault when she found herself staring straight into Mark's face.

"You won." Mark noted in Standard. The tactician's eyes swept over the woman, and stopped as they spotted the bleeding gash on Lyn's arm.

Lyn noted his gaze, and slipped back into Sacean.

"It's nothing… barely a scratch."

The raven-haired man gazed at the Sacean woman for a long moment as if weighing the truth of that statement. Eventually, the man shook his head. Mark reached produced a vulnery, a medical concoction, from the folds of his robe, then a long scrap of cloth.

"Then allow me treat it." The tactician said simply.

Lyn's first reaction was to tell the man off- to remark that she was perfectly capable of handling herself. She was stopped, however, by the knowledge that had not Mark and Romeo intervened, she would be dead. It was plain to see that the tactician knew what he was doing, and as such could be trusted.

Mark stepped forward and uncorked the bottle containing the precious medicine. With practiced care, the raven-haired man smeared the slimy paste across the cloth. Then, judging that the correct amount had been retrieved, the man replaced the stopper of the vulnery.

The Sacean plainswoman winced as the vulnery came into contact with her splintered skin. The Tactician was gentle but firm, and insisted on making sure that the slime coated every aspect of the wound. Once he was satisfied with his cleansing job, the man wrapped the bandana around the injured limb and knotted it firmly in place.

"You did well." Mark commented.

Lyn was not so sure.


Music filled the air.

Romeo ignored it as he continued to gnaw at a steak.

Mark sat on the ground; his back resting against a fallen log, and a harmonica in hand. The man was warbling a slow tune from the pipe. The mournful song was keeping time with the stew that was simmering on the fire, and the raven-haired man was careful to keep an eye on the concoction at all times.

A rustling came from somewhere behind the man, indicating that Lyn had emerged from her tent. The tactician paid it little attention as he continued to fill the air with his ode.

Eventually, the Sacean woman appeared on the edges of his vision. The plainswoman continued to walk past Mark, and then sank to the ground on the other side of the fire. Her focus was bouncing back and forth between the stew and the man who had prepared it. It was plain to see that there was something on her mind.

Mark ceased his tune in mid-note, and returned his instrument to one of his cloak's many pockets.

Lyn considered her words for a few minutes, strengthened her resolve and then decided to enter the conversation. She chose to speak in standard.

"Mark, you mentioned earlier that you were coming to speak to Hasser, my father… Can you tell me why?"

The tactician nodded slowly. He then proceeded to check the meal to be sure it was cooking correctly. After deciding that the soupy concoction would be safe for a few more minutes, Mark framed his reply.

"I came to visit him." The man explained. "Years ago, I was barely but a child, when something happened in Ostia. Great turmoil swept over the land and killed our mother and my sister. It forced our father to flee. I had little choice but to flee with him. We stayed with the Lorca for many months, and during that time they taught me much. I strove to learn all that we could."

Mark paused to remove the stew from the fire lest it overcook. The raven-haired man then proceeded to withdraw two plates and forks from his moderate pack of supplies. After serving each plate with a large helping of the meaty soup, the man handed one plate to Lyn- who slowly took it- and then renewed his tale as he sat on the ground.

"I don't believe we ever spent much time together, although I do remember seeing a child I believe to be you on more than one occasion. Anyway, we left the tribe… oh… maybe a year or two later, for I remember the celebration of two Equinoxes, and moved onward. We traveled from Bern to Biron and back again, begging and borrowing our way across the land. It was through those travels that I acquired my… uh… expanse of languages.

"But my father was growing old before his time, and as such he decided that I was not to continue this life. He enrolled me in some school in Ilia, and I learned tactics from there. My father died the following year, and wanderlust took hold. I decided to drift back towards Sacea to see if I could spend some time among the Lorca again… only to discover… how things are now."

Lyn picked at the soupy meat as she digested this information. Her appetite was virtually non-existent at the moment. Questions pulled and tugged at her mind, and she needed them to be answered.

"Have you ever… killed someone?"

Mark had been expecting the question. The tactician reached under his robes, and this time withdrew a thick book with a dark cover and heavy binding. The man dropped it open, looked at the pages, and then recited a line of thick gutturals.

The light seemed to vanish from the tactician's open, right palm, to be replaced with an orb of solid… shadow. The tactician snapped his palm shut, and the darkness ran from out between the man's fingers before dissipating back into it's former state.

Lyn's plate crashed to the floor as she scrambled backwards, fear igniting her face. The Sacean stared unbelieving at the man before her, who suddenly appeared much more sinister and threatening.

"Wh- what deviltry is that?" The Lorcan demanded.

"I have killed." Mark said slowly. "I am a magic user, of the Elder school. I can harness the darkness of the land to do my bidding… and I have been forced to use it as a weapon."

The plainswoman's heartbeat began to slow, and her nerves began to calm. She looked up at the tactician's face, and beheld a flicker of pain there.

"It was not something that I enjoyed, and I would never take a life unless I or those I love were threatened. But I have killed. Killing is a dangerous business, Lyn, for the grief and knowledge of what you have done never leaves you, no matter how much you rationalize it and tell yourself that you had no choice. Some men and women kill so much that they are forced to become shadows of their former selves, to erect a wall so great around their hearts that they become unable to feel anything in an effort to escape that guilt. Anyone can reach that point where they do not feel, and when they do, they think nothing of killing anymore." The tactician explained.

"I suppose that it is fitting, then, that the parallels between killing and the Elder arts are there. Elder magic is powerful, but dangerous. Many have been perverted by the power that it offers, but it's true potential can only be unlocked by the restraint to use it wisely."

Pain and misunderstanding filled Lyn's face. The Lorcan was looking to her future, and she wasn't liking what she was seeing.

"Is… is that my fate?"

"It may be. Vengeance blackens the soul." Mark speared a potato that was resting on his plate and swirled it around in his stew's rapidly cooling gravy. "But it does not have to be. Mother Earth and Father Sky always give their children a choice. You may have to avenge your clan, but so long as your strike out for justice, not revenge, and remember that killing a person means robbing them of life, you will not become as bloodthirsty as those you seek."

The plainswoman stared past her untouched plate and into the fiery flames. Her thoughts were not in the immediate vicinity nor were they in the present, they were staring into her future. A future that was uncertain, and a future that could warp her forever. The amount of blood she would be forced to spill was staggering, and she did not know if she could deaden herself to the sensation. But her tribe was demanding justice, and revenge burned in her blood. It was only her recent acts that had caused her to doubt her course.

A low gurgling warble reached the plainswoman's ears. Lyn looked down to discover Romeo looking sorrowful and nuzzling at her wrist.

"He likes you." Mark noted.

"I'm sure that he merely desires my food…or my medallion." As much as she tried, Lyn couldn't get her heart into the joke she had just made.

"If that was the case he would have taken it without asking." The tactician smiled "But he feels your pain and desires to share it. Romeo may be a fickle wyvern, but he does care."

"So I see…"

The plainswoman allowed herself a bite of the now-cold meat and chewed against it as her mind worked furiously. She was rapidly losing her nerve and taste for revenge, but her Sacean blood demanded that she follow through. But one thing was clear, she could not do this alone. Batta the Beast had almost killed her, indicating that she would have to grow stronger if she were to fulfill her vow.

"Mark… I ask a boon of you."

"Name it."

Lyn steeled her will, and then spoke anew.

"I can see that you have fought before, and that you know the ways of war. I… I have a long road to walk, one that I am unprepared for. I don't have the strength or the skill to avenge my clan, and I must grow stronger if I am to succeed. Would you… allow me… the honor of traveling with you. Of learning from your experience so that I may avenge my clan?"

Mark looked up at the young fifteen-year-old who was camped opposite of him, and for the first time realized how young and scared she truly was. Her tribe had been ripped from her, her friends destroyed and her parents murdered. Had he and Romeo not appeared on the morn, she would have joined them.

To leave her behind would be to condemn her to death.

"I would be honored to have your journey with me. We are but two souls left without a place in this world… who roam the lands after losing our homes… we are but wraiths…"

"Wraiths?" Lyn repeated. The word was new to her, and she did not understand it's meaning.

"The Armons believe that families are bound to the land. Should disaster or war ever force a man from his birthplace, then upon his death he is destined to roam the land as a spirit- destined to wander until he returns home so that he may find peace. We have had our homes and families ripped from us, and are to wander the land in search of our place and peace. It… is a fitting title." Mark observed solemnly. "We are the Wraiths of the Lorca."

"Wraith of the Lorca." Lyn repeated in a respectful tone.

"That we are." The tactician reiterated. The man then blinked as he came out of his reverie and turned his attention to more practical matters. "… and because of that we have a long journey ahead of us."

END

Yep, I did some major personality tweaking to Lyn and the Tactician. Of course, since the Tactician has no personality in the game, using him at all required a bit of a revamp. Lyn will grow closer to her game-self as the story progresses.