Thank you so much to everyone who's reviewed! I'm glad that this story has held so many people's interest for so long! For once, I'm not going to babble in the opening author's note. Hopefully this chapter will be shorter.
"There it is. Gallia castle." Ike said aloud to the small group as they made it to the gates of the massive edifice.
The mercenaries looked around the entire structure, noting the numerous guards who glared at them from their posts. They saw a small number retreat back into the building as others kept a vigilante eye on the suspected intruders. They saw Giffca emerge from the gates, his cold countenance falling on top of them.
""The Greil Mercenaries." Giffca's loud, deep voice called to them. "What is it you come here for?"
"Oh dear… He doesn't seem too happy to see us." Rhys commented.
"Of course he doesn't!" Mia yelled. "He thinks we set his villages on fire!"
"Sir Giffca…" Ike greeted. "Would you allow us a seating King Caineghis?"
"…Follow me." He turned around without another word, leaving the group to follow him.
"A-are you mad at us?" Rolf asked the black lion meekly.
"I do not know how to regard you as of right now. We will settle this once and for all." Was his solemn response. He turned around without another word, leaving the group to continue after him.
He led them through the main hallways, the guards glaring suspiciously at the beorc as they walked by. Oscar made a note of the setup then tilted his head. "Isn't this the way to the dungeon?"
"That is correct." Giffca answered bluntly.
"That ain't fair! We don't even get a chance to speak to the king first?" Mia's lips puckered and her hands went to her hips.
"The king is in the dungeon." The lion stated, somewhat annoyed.
"The king? What for?" Ike asked.
"He is interrogating prisoners. We caught the Crimean royal knights." He opened the large doors, allowing the others to enter before he closed them.
Caineghis watched in wonder as Nariphes began to finish restoring the wills of the four knights. Little by little, their more notable traits returned to them. Geoffrey again sat up straight and likewise Makalov again slouched. Kieran's face lit with his typical enthusiasm that only he could show in such ample amounts. Astrid was the first to return to normal fully. Her glance passed over her companions, then the man healing them. Looking at the cell walls, she shuddered, turning to those she recognized. "What…am I doing here?"
"You do not remember a thing?" Narihpes asked her, his eyes still transfixed on the work in front of him.
"Did…something happen that I should remember?"
"Then Crimea is being controlled by another force." The king pondered. "Or is this an act?"
"'Tis no act." Narihpes spoke on their behalf. "Their wills were well subdued by the force of a stronger presence. It has been quite a task recovering them to even this point."
Caineghis turned around, acknowledging the mercenaries. "And what about them?" He asked "They were also seen committing acts against us. Are they in some manner of trance as well?"
"No. I sense nothing." He kept his focus on the last three knights.
"King Caineghis." Ike was the first to speak up. "Please, would you let me speak on behalf of Crimea?"
The king nodded. "Yes. I would like to know more of what is going on."
"There is much more to this than there appears to be." Narihpes grinned lightly. "Perhaps we can put some of the pieces of this puzzle together."
"I will ask the first question. Ike, general of Crimea, why was it that you attacked both our villages and Ranulf. He was a friend of yours from the war, was he not?"
"Crimea isn't responsible for the attacks on Gallia. Elincia had sent the Royal knights on a mission and then they never returned. Then she got your message, declaring war. She sent us to find out why. We never attacked Ranulf. We had just come across the four knights and were trying to find out why they acted so possessed. Astrid was the one who shot at Ranulf. We had caught them for a while but they escaped." He glanced over at the cell. "This is the first time that we have seen them sense."
"I…shot at Ranulf?" Astrid asked weakly. "But, I couldn't have! I haven't seen Sir Ranulf since the end of the war!"
Caineghis nodded at Ike. "This man here is Narihpes. He came to me and told me that these four have been in a trance and he is currently freeing them. For the time being….yes, I will accept your story. I cannot say if it is all true or if I can trust you, but for now we have other matters that must be tended to. I ask that you wait until these four are healed and that you then return to Crimea. Ask the queen to come here. I need to speak with her in person."
"All right." Ike responded.
"Just a little bit more. I will have them finished shortly." Narihpes nodded slightly. "And then we can fix this mess. Fix it before it becomes a matter too large for any of us to handle."
"That is the message sent by my uncle? Graa! Then we shall go there at once and join Ranulf's men!" Skrimir slammed a mighty fist onto the table.
"But, sir… He, er, didn't request that we support Captain Ranulf. It was simply an informatory report." The soldier protested quietly.
"If Gallia is battling the humans, then there is no other place that the future king should be! Their blood shall be ours!"
""But, sir… You see, Captain Ranulf and his men weren't sent to fight. They were only sent to observe. It said in the message that the knights we captured before were--" The soldier's explanation was cut off by the loud general's fit.
"The humans attacked us! No reason is good enough to dismiss their trespass! If our soldiers are on the field, they will be forced to defend themselves! The humans know no other way besides that of a coward. We must strike them down before their cowardice destroys us all! Come, we must prepare the troops to march into Crimea!" Skrimir rushed out of the tent, leaving the soldier looking exhausted.
"That didn't even make sense. This spot feels more like a demotion. I miss captain Ranulf. I just can't reel in the general like he could."
"Uh, yep! I'd definitely say there's a battle goin' on down there. Don't sound too pretty." Brom looked out into the distance, attempting to find the source of the noises they heard.
"Again? Why, it seems like we just got back from a battle an' now we gotta protect our village from another? Sounds like they getting' close. How we 'uppose to keep Ohma safe from somethin' that size. Can't see it but we can sure still hear it! It's gotta be pretty darn huge!" Nephenee looked in the same direction, shaking her head.
"Whelp, Nephenee. Looks like we should go check it out. It ani't doin' us any good just standing here."
"Um…" Meg came out of one of the nearby cabins, her axe in hand. "I can come, too."
"Naw." her father protested. "You stay here an' protect yer mother and siblings."
"But I can really fight! I learned a lot in the war!" She pleaded weakly.
"Let 'er come, Brom. She's only worried about her poppa."
The quiet girl grinned, then nodded her head.
"Aw, Meg!" Brom sighed. "All right then. All three of us! We'll go see what's goin' on."
Mainal Cathedral- Basement level
Gwidion walked through the narrow passageways examining each doorway, looking for the room that Manannan used as his bedding chambers. He remembered the door being marked by fancy adornments, decorations that symbolized the sorcerer's overdeveloped feelings of self worth. But all the halls and all the doors looked the same where he traveled. It was frustrating to a cat to be so small and walk so slow in such a large maze.
But was it really worth it to help those who were in the cell? They had at some point attacked him, too. He had attacked them first, but if they could have killed them they would have. What point was there in freeing them? On the other hand, to not free them would be aiding the wizard. He ducked his head, shaking it. What a hilarious thought that was. The small animal's hatred of that man would never allow something like that. Then there was his third option. Steal the key from the wizard and never deliver it. Neither side would benefit. The beorc would still be stuck and Manannan unable to throw any others into the cell. Then again, he would find another way to trap his prey. That was what the sorcerer did best, after all.
The further he walked the more hypnotic the scenery became. Perfectly aligned stones. Grey stone. Darker stone. Another grey stone. Almost black stone. The pattern stretched as far as his sight would reach, on ceiling, wall, and floor alike. Torch, stone, stone, torch. Torch, stone, stone, torch. Every thing was identical. Three torches, door. Three torches, door. How many rooms were really needed in the basement of a cathedral anyway? Gwidion's mind couldn't focus on such monotony. It had other, more vivid scenes to examine.
"Gwidion, why don't you come inside now? It's gonna rain soon. You know how much you hate the rain." That girls voice he remembered. It was Rosella. He was always so fond of her. Just hearing her voice echo through his head was enough to put more jump into his step.
She looked at him sadly when he didn't move from under the tree. "But it's up to you. I can't drag you inside." She sighed, her blue eyes sinking. "I wish you'd spend more time with me." It was true. It was in his nature to be independent and he had left her alone a lot. The thought made his tail drag. If only he could turn back time.
"Well, come in when you're ready. I'll have your dinner prepared at the same time I always do." He watched her close the door, leaving him to his own devices.
He walked down the path to a creek. It was one of his favorite places, an absolutely delightful place to pass the time. Sitting on the edge, one could look down and watch the little minnows swim, knocking themselves into rocks and flipping in the water. To push rocks into their path and create a small dam would cause hours of amusement. The stupid, small fish would keep swimming into it rather than fight the current or look for holes in the structure that they could go through. It was just like…just like…a magic barrier.
He had been watching the minnows when Manannan caught him. A strong magical barrier had been cast around him, a dramatic trap for someone so small in stature. The wizard drug him off and since then, there had been no more Rosella, no more creeks or little minnows. Just the sorcerer. And whatever it was that the sorcerer desired.
Those were not the most pleasant of memories but it had to serve as his motivation, no matter what his choice was. When he finally began to concentrate again, he noticed before him the door he was searching for. Even in his mindless wandering he had managed to find it. His memory was better than he supposed it to be.
He nudged the door and it opened effortlessly. The wizard was too arrogant to lock it. Why would he? No one was about to find him willingly. Stepping into the room, Gwidion was surprised to see the elderly sorcerer asleep on his bed. Aside from the snoring, the room was completely silent. Glancing around, he searched for a place where a key could be hidden, hoping that it wasn't still on the wizard.
Next to the bed was an old clay pot. He stuck his head into it to investigate further but quickly pulled it out again with a hushed hiss. Nothing desirable in there. If that was where the key was, the beorc would just have to rot. Gwidion was not about to go searching through Manannan's chamber pot.
Then he saw it. A shimmering, golden object just hanging over the top of the armoire. He jumped on top of the vanity to get a closer look. Sliding slightly across, the surface, he sat down to avoid slipping off. Tilting his head, he looked into the mirror. Why does a wizard have a vanity anyway? But it was irrelevant.
If he were to jump on top of the armoire to get the key, he would undoubtedly knock down the plethora of objects that clustered the surface around it. Such a racket could be enough to wake the wizard from his slumber. The cat thought pensively. Was getting that key really what he wanted to do?
Mainal Cathedral-basement level-cell
"Arg! That stupid cat's gonna leave us here! What were we thinking, sending that fur ball?!" Boyd fumed, staring impatiently at the way Gwidion had left.
"Relax, Boyd!" Mist yelled, just as aggravated. "We don't know how big this place is! He could still be looking!"
"Either way, we should come up with a plan. Even if he does bring the key back to us, we could still get caught again by the wizard. Then there is the matter of the bands on Maurim and Vika." Soren thought aloud. "We need to know a way out of here."
"When Gwidion returns maybe he can lead us out." Lucia suggested. "He probably knows this place better than any of us."
"Yeah, the only problem is he might not come back." Tormod reminded. "What then? Are we just gonna accept being stuck here? Relying on a cat isn't our best bet."
"Um…what about you, Maurim? Have you ever been to this place?" Vika asked, turning to her companion.
"Oh, that's right!" Mist exclaimed. "The empress made you an official!"
"No, I'm sorry to say I have never been down here. I typically stay at court. I have been to the first floor, but only for prayer. I'm sorry I'm unable to help us out of this predicament." He apologized.
"Gwidion will come back." Lucia grinned. "I just have that feeling."
Inside Crimea-battlefield-Crimea's troops
"Oh, for the love of it all!" Bastian exclaimed, looking into the distance. "Lo, more reinforcements?! Gallia is looking to crush us entirely!"
"Oh, darn! We can barely handle what we have to face now! This looks bad!" Marcia's face contorted at the sight of more enemies.
"But we mustn't give up!" Elincia lunged forward, destroying an enemy. "If we give up now, the closest village will be destroyed! We can't let that happen!"
"Queen, you owe us BIG TIME for this." Shinon shot an arrow, attempting to hit one of the four bird laguz that flew about. "Blasted sub-humans."
"Shinon! Stop talking and keep shooting!" Titania scolded him.
"Graa!" The general roared when they came upon the battle. "Destroy them! Destroy all the humans!"
"Um, sir….?" The soldier examined the battlefield closer, noting the beorc who were attacking other beorc. "You want us to kill all the humans?"
"Raaa! Obey your orders the first time they're given!" Skrimir barely paid attention as he searched for the leader of each of the forces.
"But… they're on different sides. Does it really make sense to attack them all?"
"More human soldiers coming from over the hill. Grr… The humans must be sending scouts. Cowards, they think they can create a surprise attack when we are unprepared for them! We won't let their scouts go back with any information!"
"Sir, they look like villagers. They probably came to see what is going on. I don't think we should attack the civilians."
"You!" The general finally acknowledged his attendant. "Take five men and go after those three that are coming."
"But…" Skrimir left before the soldier could respond. "This is pointless."
"Um, are those Gallian soldiers coming towards us?" Meg pointed at the cats who ran in their direction separate from the battle.
"Why are they attackin' us?" Nephenee complained. "We just got here!"
"This is one big battle." Brom scratched his head. "I can't tell who sided with who er who's fighin' who. Don't think we can push it back, that's for sure."
"Wh-what do we do now?" His daughter asked.
"It's gonna be bad if we try to take on those Gallians alone." Nephenee stated. "We should try to hide in them bushes before they get too close. We havta try to talk to someone in charge of this and get it turned around. Can't do that if we're dead."
"Good idea." Brom agreed.
"Hoo! It's working!" Oliver twiddled his fingers excitedly. "Master's plan is going exactly as he said it would! I have to move on to the next step!" He flailed his arms about in no organized manner, attempting to get the attention of his men. "Begnion! Retreat! We can leave them to attack each other now. We have other matters to attend to!"
The soldiers within his range turned around, marching back the way they came, still chanting, "Destroy all Crimeans!"
"You ninnies need to be taught better things to say." He looked into the sky, watching Reyson fly around. "That wizard is taking too long to give me my reward. I will have to do it myself. The group of you there!" He yelled to brainwashed Begnion soldiers who were following his original directions. "Bring me that heron, alive and well! I will reward you generously!"
"Destroy all Crimeans!" The group of twenty turned around, intent on catching what they were after.
"Oh, the sacrifices that must be made for beauty."
Ike and Mia-B
"Oh, hey, commander! What are you doing out here? Shouldn't you be preparing everyone to leave?"
"They're all used to traveling. They don't need me to help them get ready."
"Yeah, we did kinda adjust to life on the road. But anything else would just get boring. Seriously, who wants to constantly stay in one place?"
"Can I ask you a question."
"Sure. What'cha got?"
"Why do you want to become such a great swords master? Isn't that unusual for a woman?"
"Well, I guess so. Just want to. I learned how to use a sword when I was little and the interest stuck."
"I see. I was just curious."
"How about you?"
"How did you become so good with your blade."
"My father taught me. It was so long ago that I can barely remember the first time I picked on up. It's just natural now."
"Then that's my goal."
"You're my permanent rival. I can't rest until I get better than you! So you better train hard!"
"…Maybe next time I should just let her win."
Ike and Narihpes
"Hm? Pardon, you must be mistaken. My name is Narihpes."
"…My apologies. It seems like I met you before."
"I have heard that from the king as well. Perhaps we have made acquaintance and you confuse my face?"
"I'm normally pretty good about remembering who I met."
"Then maybe not? Either way, I am glad to meet you now."
"Thanks. I'm Ike, by the way."
"Commander Ike. I promise to keep your name in mind."
Rolf and Danved
"Danved is so happy he can be with the flowers again. Huh? Someone else is with the flowers to?"
"Uh, hi. I'm Rolf."
"Oh! Danved remembers you! Didn't expect to see you here."
"Well, I actually like plants. I used to pick flowers a lot when I was younger, but the others started to make fun of me."
"Nothing wrong with liking pretty flowers but you can't pick them. Then they die and become not so pretty anymore."
"Yeah. I guess they're better left in the ground."
"That way they can bring everybody joy!"
Wow, this story is almost on chapter 10. I didn't think it would make it this far. So now I have a few questions for the readers to decide on; 1) I originally didn't plan on adding any oc's to this in exception to Manannan, but Gwidion kinda made a part for himself and migrated in with the other FE characters. If he's really bugging anyone, I can send him somewhere where he isn't a part of the plot, though besides for this chapter he won't play a larger role than any other character. 2.)Because some of these chapters get lengthy (and yes, I know the a/n don't help) would it be better if I made separate chapters for the conversations or do people prefer them at the bottom of the chapters? I can do it either way. 3) Should I give a name to that poor default soldier that keeps getting stuck putting up with Skrimir? Or should he remain default soldier 1?
BTW- If any of you are on ficitonpress I just got an account. I'm going to post soon so if you're on that website, you should find me. I'm under the same name : )