Imperial Year 24

Branca 5

The day of remembrance… A day forever marked by infamy and a constant reminder of the day that the Zeteginean Empire first tightened its grip upon the free world.

However, what all but myself ignored, was that it was also my birthday… … …

Of course, that fact was always overshadowed by the grim figures that crossed my path even now, as I face the battlefield for the first time in my life.

It was on this day, twenty-five years ago, that Gran, the last reigning King of Zenobia, expired; murdered… by the hands of the captain of his own royal guard…

"The King has fallen!" The couriers had shouted from the top of their lungs. And yet, the meaning behind those words meant little for one such as myself; and even if I had been old enough to understand, I would never have been able fully comprehend the impact of the chain reaction that would soon usher the continent into chaos.

For that Endora, the queen of the Highlands, had seized this opportunity to invade her four neighbors; and within months, both the kingdoms of Horai and Ofays fell before the might of the Highlanders; with its four generals, the Devas, drawing ever closer to their true destination.

Our own capital, fell almost immediately when their longhips reached our borders; and on the same night, the remnants of the royal family were cruelly executed; betrayed, by the petty ruler of one of their own barony.

Within less than a year, all four of the free kingdoms had submitted to the new Empress's rule, and thus the Zeteginean Empire was born…

But of course, an empire forged with blood and lies could only bring more turmoil to an already troubled land; as Endora's regime of terror scoured the land, eradicating the tattered remnants of the old order in the process.

… … …

What happened afterward… I, Earwind Rheda, remember all too vividly…

My mother, had died giving me birth; or so I was told. And as for my father, it is said that he was an adventurer and a truly wicked man; who left my mother all alone while he went on a foolhardy quest to find the a legendary artifact called the Fireseal; which he apparently hadn't found when his body turned up.

Still, I suppose that I was very fortunate, since a Roshian Temple near Felnamia took me under its wing and raised me according to the teachings of the gods; hoping, that perhaps one day, I would may be able to return the favor; by being indoctrinated inside the cult of Filarrh, the sun god.

However, it seemed like this was not what fate had in store for me; for that, as I aged, they discovered that I lacked the conviction necessary to become a monk, let alone a priestess; and thus, proceeded to teach me the way of the arcanes.

Discipline, which I absolutely despised, for the fact that I had to spend much of my days scouring through dusty tomes; which wasn't exactly the kind of existence that I had envisioned for myself. In fact, I seemed to find more solace within history books and the tales of the Zenobian knights of old, much to the dismay of my most exalted tutors…

It was during those teenage years, that the Empire came to Felnamia, and tried to conscript every able-bodied men into their army; forcing those who did not flee, to swear allegiance to the Empress or return back to the capital in shackles.

Being a woman, and one not especially strong in either faith or sorcery, I was spared; making the monks believe that perhaps I would simply end up as a mere peasant; forced to plow the earth till the day it would finally claim my life as its own.

But this was not meant to be. Later, I discovered that I wasn't the only one to have been spared, and upon meeting this lone crippled guard while on my way to the Volzak's castle, my purpose was finally revealed itself to me.

Through his teaching and my books, I learned the way of the sword as it was learned in ancient times; and thus earned my own keep by performing various deeds for the peoples of our mountainous island.

I was happy then, at peace… But all of this changed the day I heard rumors of a rebellion brewing within the outskirts of the backwater province of Sharom.

I, personally, did not give much credit to this kind of gossip; that is, until the day that a former wizard of the court arrived at our temple's doorstep… This man, dressed in tattered robes, was Warren Moon; and according to the monks, he was a seer, gifted with the uncanny ability to speak with the stars.

Then one day, as I was doing my chores, I accidentally stumbled upon him; and how I regretted the day I ever laid eyes upon him… For that it was on this day, that my trials truly began.

The aged sorcerer stood defiantly before me, his magical aura overwhelming my every sense, as if I was staring at the gods themselves; and he asked me, in a voice that chilled my bone to their very core. "Your name, child?"

Compelled to answer, my own name escaped my lips as he continued to stare confusingly at myself. And then? He just left, veiled in mystery, as I remained then, wondering about what had just come to pass.

Days later, he reappeared before me along with the head of the temple. And together, they explained to me that Warren had consulted the stars, and that I, was the one who was destined to lead the rebellion; which the temple of Filarrh had secretly been sponsoring for a few months now.

I denied everything, believing them to be mad, but the more Warren spoke of what the gods had whispered to him; the more that the veracity of his claims became uncanny…

Still, I was not a soldier; let alone a knight. So, why me?

To be perfectly honest, I had little confidence in my abilities to even be a part of this, so called, rebellion; even though I did sympathize with the numerous victims of the empire, this had nothing to do with me. I was no general, I was no leader.

And yet, who was I to deny the stars? Was I mighty enough to believe myself above the decrees of the gods, or did I simply enjoy the way that they flattered my ego?

And so, as the path opened itself before me, I heeded their commands and walked right through it, unaware, of the horrors that would have to witness during the next few days.

Of course, the wizard was not naïve enough to place me at the head of an army without a proper test of my abilities; and thus he sent me gather my armor and sword before sending me on my way, to find a former Zenobian knight, going by the name of Lans Hamilton; whom I was supposed to convince to join the revolution before returning back to the enigmatic seer.

Strangely enough, though he was undeniably a more formidable than I was, Sir Lans heeded my words, and lent his sword to our cause without a second of hesitation; though I still believed that he was probably far too enthusiastic at the prospect of taking the fight to the Empire and giving far too much credit to Warren's portents.

And indeed, upon returning to him, lightning came out of Warren's fingertips, forcing myself to struggle for my life as the magical energy coursed through my veins. I could not quite understand what he was doing, though I figured that this was probably another of his twisted tests. Not believing my life worth as much as they claimed it to, I charged at the wizard; vainly hoping that I would somehow be able to overpower him before he killed me.

I must really lucky, for that while the mage unleashed his wrath upon me, I noticed an opening between two of his fireballs and brought down my blade upon his person; only to be stopped by a shield of energy, which the latter had conjured as a last line of defense against myself.

"Enough!" Warren said in a thunderous voice. "Your will is satisfactory; the liberation army is now yours to command."

And it was then, that I realized that both the wizard and Lans were bowing before me; as I finally realized the folly of my actions.

I tried to convince them otherwise, but they would hear none of it; whether I liked it or not, I was going to lead them in battle as they marched upon the suburbs of Sharom; if only to prevent me from revealing the location of the rebel army that had gathered in Volzak.

And so, I marched alongside those men and women, who came from just about all classes of society. From the proud knight corps of Zenobia, to former bandits and glory seekers, all of whom had banded up under the singular purpose of reclaiming their lands; and I, was their prisoner…

For two days we set sail to the south, and it was upon reaching the coastal city of Svastpoli, that I was given my first assignment as the leader of the rebellion; which was to liberate the castle of Jindark, before the governor of the Sharom could heard words of our movements.

However, since we lacked the manpower to cover the area extensively, I was relieved to hear that Sir Lans had quite a bit of information about the current state of the region. Since that, back when he was a squire, the former Zenobian knight used to clash with a small group of bandits from this region, that used to be led by Usar the Mighty; of whom Lans had quite an intimate knowledge of, since he spent almost a year chasing him down before the empire granted him entire control of the area.

Also, from what little intelligence we could gather from the locals; we learned that though the empire was nominally in control of the area, Usar's bandits were perhaps the only serious obstacle between us and Sharom's main district; with the latter suffering from a distinct lack of weapons and equipment, which would undeniably play in our favor.

But of course, as you may have noticed by now, I had somewhat resigned to my fate, and had since accepted the fact, that my own freedom and the liberation of this area were intimately related; and this was why, that I decided to acquire an accurate map of the area, and choose to make Warren my immediate advisor, since I obviously did not fit the role of the glorious commander they were expecting.

And later on, I quickly discovered, that even though Lans and Warren were content to carry out my orders; it certainly was not the case for the rest of the army who seemed unable to understand how someone like me could possibly have been placed in charge of an army, even as small as this one.

Who could have blamed them? How were they supposed to carry out the commands of some unknown woman who had never faced the battlefield in her whole life?

There was no other way, if I was to live long enough to see Sharom liberated and go back to Volzak in one piece; I had to earn their trust before I could truly rely on them. I had to prove them, that not only was I worthy of being their leader, but that I was also ready to carry out whatever order I choose to give them.

With that in mind, and my map firmly in hand, I prepared our battle plan; using whatever knowledge I acquired from the libraries of Felnamia, I came to the obvious realization that both Jindark's castle and our own base were surrounded by a huge lake, which made a direct assault nearly impossible for either sides, as two single bridges were the only road left between use and the bandits hideout. Knowing that Lans's and his knights were probably the strongest unit inside out army, I came up with a clever plan, which I hoped would be enough to outsmart the leader of the bandits.

Basically, he and his knights would attack the empire's stronghold through the lake, while me and my own unit would ensnare their forces at the bridge; buying them enough time to dispose of Usar take over the castle before anyone could be warned of our presence.

Much to my surprise, the old sorcerer agreed with me that this was a sound plan, and seemed to understand why I had chosen to place myself on the frontline so soon after being forcibly ousted from my home. However, the revered seer was not foolish enough to expect me to tackle this task on my own, and assigned to me only the most zealous believers of his prophecies; to ensure that whatever happened, I would remain safe long enough for Lans to carry out our plan.

Of course, I made sure that he himself, remained behind at Svastpoli should something unexpected come up; but somewhat, I knew that I would probably regret this decision after my first few encounters with the bandits.

The first battles were fierce, and I certainly was glad that Warren had been wise enough to give me quite a few archers; which made short work of quite a huge number of bandits who seemed to be far too confident in their numbers to carry any strategies short of kill everything in sight. Aside from the occasional imperial knight which I was forced to face personally, I had to say that I was hanging in there; perhaps I could do it, though my belly certainly said otherwise…

However, my previous optimism was quickly crushed as the night fell upon us; the archers could not really tell if their targets were within range, and so they turned to me and my warriors to protect them; while they tried to get a better aim at our foes.

We held the bridge for most of the night; but suddenly something terrible happened… We heard loud noises coming from below, and soon enough, the bridge to shake frantically as I tried to get a proper assessment of our situation… A witch! Riding a giant octopus, along with another, whose tentacles had appeared on the other side of the bridge.

The warcries of the bandits could be heard in the distance, and the giant beast proved to be impervious to all but our most sturdy arrows. And then, suddenly, the foundations of the bridge were crushed into nothingness; forcing me cling to whatever part of the bridge that was still intact, while my archers fell inside the water.

I struggled, desperately, to save my own life. Magical chants, coming from the witch, filled my ears, and I knew then, that this was the end…

My limbs had grown numb, and my own body would not respond to my own will. All I could remember back then, was the sight of the full moon, and the sound of a lone howl that accompanied it… I was truly… as good as dead…

Well, as you can see, I have obviously gotten back in love with one of my old games, which has suddenly reawakened my interest in writing. Suffice to say, I am very enthusiastic about this project, and for once, I actually happens to have an intricate plan for my storyline, which may bring up quite a few more chapter to this particular story.

Now, let's just take time to mention, that I am not necessarily sticking to the canon storyline of the game; and as such, has decided to use the Female Opinion leader as my main character, much like I did within my own game. Though it should be mentioned that even though her last name is the same as Europea from its immediate sequel, I certainly do not plan to feed the supposition about her effectively being the same person as the Female Opinion leader; evidenced by the fact that I used the original name that I found inside an old Nintendo Power Issue, and hence claiming her persona as my own.

Preview: The governor of the Sharom district has heard words of a rebel army forming in Volzak, and has sent quite a few reinforcements to the ruler of the area, in the form a ravenous beasts coming from his own pens. Giant birds assault the rebels headquarters and Earwind find herself into a rather though spots as the bandits prepare to take away her life. What will happen to our Heroine? And will the rebellion be crushed just as it was born?