Hello everyone, and welcome back (or maybe just welcome for the first time) to my Fire Emblem PoR story. Thank you for coming and reading my work, I really appreciate it.
Okay, first things first. I'd like to talk about Ike's attitude in this fic. Let's all admit, Ike doesn't have the most developed personality in the game, despite being its main character. He's usually just hell bent revenge and outside of that is all business in battle. As such, I may have to improvise a little bit on how I personally view his character (and all the other ones in the game as well). Since it's common and understandable that multiple people often have different interpretations on one character, this may cause some characters to be a little OOC to some people. I' m going to try and keep the OOC-ness down for the most part, but I will be trying to delve more into each character and give them traits that we may have not seen in the game (don't worry, Ike won't suddenly start sobbing over emo thoughts in the middle of some battle in this here fic, though there probably will be some mild angsting). If I write something and you in fact don't think its in character, review and tell me what you think I did wrong (be polite and specific please) and I'll take it into consideration for future chapters.
Speaking of reviews, it brings me to my second request for this chapter. Please, please, please, please don't write any spoilers in your reviews. There may be one of you out there who's actually reading about Fire Emblem for the first time, haven't finished the game, or haven't played the sequel Radiant Dawn. Please try to refrain writing spoilers, as its common to read some reviews before reading the fic itself to see if it's any "good".
Well, I don't have anymore else to say at this point now, so I'll just let you get on with the reason why you came here in the first place. Hope you enjoy it.
Disclaimer: I do not own Nintendo or Fire Emblem or the characters or Mario or anything else that would be considered of actual worth.
Ike let out a quiet curse as he rolled onto his side, lying on his bed and looking out into the clear, starlit sky that lay just outside his window. Closing his eyes once again, he tried his best to find sleep but somehow was not able to doze off. Every sound that he had grown accustomed through his years at night seemed to have somehow become ten times louder than ever before. Outside he could hear the sound of various nocturnal animals going about their nightly routines. At one point he had heard the screech of some type of bird before catching its first meal of the night. His ears also picked up Boyd's loud snores coming from the next room. How either of his brothers could ever stand sharing the same bedroom with him he would never know.
Of course, it was hard to blame his lack of sleep on Boyd this time. Every fiber of his body was awake and tense, knowing what was to come the next day: his first job as a mercenary. As a hired sword whose purpose was to take the lives of other men, more often than not. But it was fine. He trusted his father above anyone else in the entire world, and he knew that he would never lead him astray…If his father took a job that required him to take another's life, it meant that it was for the greater good. Greil had oftentimes turned away high paying jobs that were considered "too dirty" by his standards, and he was proud of his father for it. Not only was he a great warrior, but he was considerate and wise as well. He was everything a true leader should be, and it was for these reasons that Ike's life goal was to someday surpass him.
Grunting finally in frustration, Ike sat up on the edge of his bed and leaned forward, clasping his hands together. He had lost track long ago just how long it has been sense night had fallen. As far as he knew, dawn was just around the corner. Of course, at the same time it might not even be past midnight yet.
The reason for Ike's anxiety did not stem from fear of his own life. No, his father had taught him early in his childhood that being a mercenary was not the job of one hoping for a long and prosperous lifespan. Though the thought of death still frightened him as it did for all sentient beings, he had taught himself how to break through that wall of fear and carry out what he knows is right. It was the same strength that his father possessed, and he was proud that he carried on his bravery. No, his agitation was fueled by the thought of not living up to his father's standards. Though Greil was a man of kindness and virtue, he was strict as well. He never hesitated to hand out punishments when they were called for, which Ike had learned quickly at a very young age. The following day would be his first test. If he messed up in anyway, if he put the mission's success or even more serious his companions' own lives at risk, it would be back to square one for him with the task of convincing his father a second time to let him on a job. And that would probably take years to accomplish again…
With one final sigh, Ike rose to his feet and grabbed his cape, hooking it around his neck before making his way toward the door. Just before he grasped the doorknob, he hesitated and looked back behind him. Up against his dresser leaned an iron sword, still in its sheathe. Walking back, grabbed the blade and made his way out the door.
When finally out in the chilly night air, he took a few steps out into the central yard where he grasped the sword at his side by the hilt and unsheathed it, gazing at it silently. It wasn't by any means a well crafted sword, it wasn't even that powerful. But even though Ike's father's mercenary company was the most popular in the area, it did not mean that they were a rich organization. Much of the food that they ate was hunted by Shinon or grown in a garden that Oscar had made. All of their money was usually spent on replacing armor that was past its use or stocking up when there was a shortage of food during the winter. Because of this, most of their weapons were usually sub par. His father's own personal axe was the only weapon in their possession that was of any real worth. But as his father always said: "A blade is only as great as the one who wields it."
Taking a few steps out into the center of the fort, Ike swung the sword slowly in two horizontal slices, getting accustomed to its weight. Finally, Ike bent his knees and held the sword over his head, picturing in his mind a hulking brigand standing opposite of him, brandishing its axe wildly. Dashing forward, Ike made a powerful downward strike at his invisible opponent, then followed up with a quick upwards slice. Turning to his side, he blocked another imaginary weapon and batted it away, following up with a hard thrust where his foe's heart would be.
"A little old, aren't you, for playing imagination," a voice said from behind him.
Ike's eyes widened in shock as he drew back the sword in his hand and prepared to swing his entire body around to cut down whoever was behind him. He stopped in mid swing as a powerful arm grabbed him by the wrist. Now with his body turned, Ike could finally learned the identity of the man. It was his father. Letting go of his arm, Greil next pulled back his fist and connected a weak but still unexpected punch to the side of Ike's head. Staggering back in shock, he rubbed his ear in pain before looking back at his father.
"What was that for?" Ike grumbled to his father.
"For being stupid," Greil replied back simply. "When you are caught off guard by an enemy behind you, don't blindly swing your sword behind you. Even if you were lucky enough to severely wound him, you're head would already be rolling on the ground. Instead, put some distance between yourself and your opponent and then face him. Better to not get in a strike at all than to lose an arm or even your life."
Well this was turning out well for Ike. The night before his first job and he was already making mistakes in front of his father. This was looking bad.
"What are you doing out here so late?" Ike questioned, sheathing the sword once more.
"I was about to ask you the same thing," Greil replied back with small grin tugging at the corner of his mouth. "I'm out because your sister apparently had a nightmare and thought I might as well take a short walk. But what's your excuse? You think you should really be out this late when you've got your first job tomorrow morning?"
"…I couldn't sleep," Ike explained, casting his eyes off to the side.
"I see," his father replied, but instead of looking to this side as Ike had, he looked up to the sky and at the many stars overhead. "Nervous about your first mission, I see." To this Ike made no reply. He didn't trust himself to say anything that would help him in the situation. "It's alright to be a little bit on edge before a job," Greil finally said, looking back at his son. "I'll openly admit that the night before my first job was not a relaxing one. Don't worry about a thing. Eventually, you'll get used to it all and will be snoring as loudly as Boyd. I swear, the older that boy gets the more thunderous his snores become."
For the first time that night, Ike let out a small chuckle. Now here was what Ike believed was what his father did best, just being a father. Though he had lost his mother at a young age for reasons that his father would not explain, Greil had made up for that small empty space tenfold. Whenever either he or Mist ever needed him, he would always be right beside them with a wise word and a strong arm to hold onto. This was why he idolized him. This was why he must surpass him, to show that his father's kindness was not in vain.
"Why don't we work off some of that excess energy?" Greil finally asked, walking over to a barrel that was placed against the house and having a seat atop of it. "Show me some of those attacks that you were doing before. You get sloppy when I'm not around watching you."
With a smile, Ike bent his knees once again and lashed out at the empty air, catching out of the corner of his eye every now and again a pleased smile from his father.
"So, you ready?" Ike asked himself in the small mirror on his dresser. Ike had never been one for personal possessions, so his room lacked everything except for the bare necessities. There was a bed, a dresser, a mirror atop that dresser that was rarely used, yet besides that the number of items that he had in his room were kept to a bare minimum.
He had also been described often by other members of the mercenary team as a man of little words. It wasn't as though Ike believed that words were a useless necessity in life or that communication with others was beneath him. It was just that he was under the firm belief that actions truly do at times speak louder than words. It was for that reason that he had waited until a successful training session with his father to propose the question to actually join him on a job.
Now that he had finally reached the morn of that point, he was surprised how well at ease he felt. In the past when he thought of taking part in his first job, he had thought he would feel nerve wrecked, excited, and even a bit afraid as well. But now, he felt perfectly at peace, as if he had carried out countless other missions before now. Perhaps it was because of his and his father's late night training session that felt as if had taken place not even an hour ago. Maybe it was a false sense of security that would soon be overcome with unspeakable fear once on the battlefield. He didn't know. Nevertheless, no matter what emotions would befall him that day, he would be sure to carry out his mission to the end.
Walking out the door and into the new morning air, he took in one last deep breath before looking around. Glistening morning dew now littered the ground at his feet, and the sky above was a pristine light blue with the sun still low in the east. To say that it was a good day was an understatement. Even Rhys, the mercenary team's lone sickly healer, would be able to step outside and need not worry about getting hypothermia or heat stroke which he seemed to get either or in near any type of weather. Ike just hoped that it was an omen of good fortune for the coming day.
Ike started at the sudden voice, turning quickly to find its source. A couple yards away from him stood Rolf, a young, green haired youth just about two years younger than Mist, wearing a wide grin. Rolf was the youngest brother consisting of Boyd, Oscar, and himself. The young man seemed to have become a kind of hybrid of his two siblings, while still retaining unique qualities that he could call his own. Though he was not as much of a goofball as Boyd, he kept his middle sibling's constant cheerful disposition which Ike sometimes sensed the youth was proud of, though the young boy would never openly admit it to anyone, let alone Boyd himself. In addition, he was unlike Oscar that he wasn't as perfectly organized or punctual, but at the same time he possessed a belief that honor and duty to others took precedence above all else, even his own life. He was a good kid, though Ike found it difficult to picture him becoming a trained fighter like Boyd or a knight like Oscar. His size did not help that image either. He was quite small for his age, not even as tall as Mist was yet. But Oscar often said that their family's growth spurts never occurred until after sixteen years, and when it did come they shot up. Ike had only recently caught back up to Boyd. Perhaps Rolf was better off just being a regular citizen who could make something of himself outside of mercenary work.
"Hello, Rolf," Ike said with a kind smile though still keeping a small expression of surprise on his face. He had not expected to find the boy out so early in the morning. The sun hadn't risen over the horizon even an hour ago, and Ike usually spent at least another hour or so sleeping before waking up prior to becoming a mercenary. Not just that, but Rolf even seemed wide awake, as if he had been up for hours already. A small amount of sweat also clung to his forehead, which made no sense sense the air had not yet warmed up from the previous night. "What are you doing up so early?"
Rolf's smile vanished for a split second as his viridian eyes darted away nervously. Not soon after though, he was looking right back at Ike again with a renewed smile, albeit a tad bit nervous one. "Oh, I…uh…just woke up a little earlier than usual this morning and couldn't get back to sleep."
Ike's right eyebrow rose suspiciously after the obvious lie. Rolf wasn't the kind of kid to just openly fib to others. If there was a reason for why he was hiding the truth, then Ike wouldn't push for it.
"So, this is your first day as a mercenary, isn't it?" Rolf asked as he took a spot next to Ike and began walking with the older swordsman toward the dining hall.
"That's right," Ike said nodding. "It'll probably be tough, but as long as I have comrades like your brothers fighting by my side, I have nothing to worry about."
"Just don't get hurt out there," Rolf said next, this time sounding a little more somber. "Sometimes I wish I was stronger so that I could help you guys out with the missions, but all I can do is just stay here and wait for you guys to come home. It was bad enough worrying about my brothers and Shinon…but now you too…"
Ike's smile fell a slight bit. He knew quite well the feeling of helplessness as others you cared about were out fighting for their lives. It had driven him insane ever since the company had first been formed and he had forgotten that his absence would cause both Rolf and even Mist more apprehension…
"Don't you worry about a thing," Ike said reassuringly, clasping a hand on the boy's shoulder. "My father wouldn't be sending me out there if he didn't think I was ready. You just be sure to keep care of the fort while I'm away. Now that I'm off doing missions, you'll be the man holding down the fort from now on."
This statement seemed to be the right thing to say, as Rolf's depressed features softened slightly as he gave a sad grin back at Ike. "Just remember that Mist will kill you if you ever hurt yourself."
"Don't worry, I know that well enough," Ike said with a chuckle. When the two finally reached the dining hall, they both gave one last farewell before they parted ways, with Rolf heading back to the living quarters of the fort.
Turning back to the door, Ike softly rapped his fist against it. After hearing a confirmation that he could enter, the blue haired swordsman pushed open the door. He was wearing his usual garb that he wore everyday, but this time an iron sword was strapped to his side in his sheathe in place of a wooden sword, the exact same one that he had practiced the previous night with. For the first time, Ike could understand why Boyd would always keep a hand on his own axe at his side. The blade felt like a badge of honor, a testament to his hard work and skill. Now that he had achieved that long and arduous goal of becoming a mercenary, it was hard to not feel some pride out of it.
Inside the room, standing beside each other next to the center table were Greil and deputy commander Titania, still engrossed in a conversation about the coming day. When the red maned knight's eyes finally gazed over toward Ike, she smiled happily, giving him a greeting nod which Ike returned back.
"I'm here for my mission," Ike stated simply as he walked up to the two. It wasn't until he had spoken up did his father finally turn his attention toward his son. Ike was shocked to find that his father seemed absolutely devoid of any and all fatigue from their previous night's training session. Though it had not been long, the overall lack of sleep from the previous night left Ike more than a little groggy that morning. Yet Greil seemed just as attentive as ever, looking straight at Ike sternly while still in thought.
"Good morning, Ike," Titania said cheerfully while still smiling at the young man. "So your father has finally let you take part in a job, huh?"
"That's right," Ike said, nodding back once again. Titania was the first member to be recruited into the Greil mercenaries, and Ike couldn't even recall back far enough to a time when he had not known her. When his mother had died years ago, Titania had taken over as a kind of mother figure to Mist and to him as well. Unfortunately, he could still remember small bits and pieces of his mother's life, which kept her on a pedestal that Titania could unfortunately never reach. Mist, on the other hand, was around the axe knight most with the exception of Rolf. The two were as close as any mother or daughter could be, and Ike was grateful for that. She had always been there for the three of them. For Ike, Mist, and even Greil on a few occasions. He and his family owed her a lot, and he was honored that he now had the privilege to call her his comrade in arms.
"I can hardly believe it," Titania said with a deep sigh, leaning a hand on the table beside her as if to support herself. "It seems as if it was only yesterday that you first picked up a wooden sword and was swinging it around the fort against imaginary enemies."
Ike turned slightly red when he saw his father flash a smirk over in his direction, but it disappeared quickly before Titania could spot it.
"You're right; he's not that same boy. But he's still nearly just as irresponsible as one," Greil said strictly. "Everyone else was ready for the day as soon as the sun was above the tree line. Tardiness could result in not only your life, but even your teammates'. From now on I expect you to be out of bed just as early as everyone else."
"Yes sir, I'll make sure of it," Ike replied obediently back.
"Titania and I are discussing today's missions together. You can go and wait outside until we're done," Greil said. It was one of those statements that could only be described as an order over a request. Knowing that there was no real reason to stay in the room, Ike nodded politely to his father and Titania both before turning his back and making his way out the door.
It seemed though that someone had been waiting for him on the other side.
"How you doing, Rookie!" a voice boomed as soon as he opened the door to the outside world. After recovering from the sudden explosion of noise, Ike was finally able to identify that it had originated from Boyd, who stood outside with his usual silly grin, leaning on the side of the building with his arm.
Beside Boyd, wearing green armor that matched well with his hair and tending to his mare was Oscar, who gave Ike a courteous wave from behind his brother. Beside his own horse was Titania's own white stallion, standing much higher and looking much stronger than Oscar's own steed. "I'd tell you good morning Ike, but I believe my brother has given you one that will suffice for everyone else in the country this morning," Oscar said with an even wider grin than before. Boyd looked sourly back at his sibling but didn't say anything. The two were well known for picking fun at each other throughout the day. Judging by Boyd's lack of retort, it seemed that Oscar had won this bout.
While Boyd was the most carefree of the three brothers, Oscar would be considered the most responsible and composed of the three. He signed with the Greil mercenaries a little over a year after his father had established the group. When he joined, he had brought his two brothers with him. When they did arrive though, all three of them seemed to deliberately avoid the subject about their pasts. No matter which of the brothers it was, whenever the topic arose it would be answered with a quick and vague answer followed up with an immediate change of subject. None of them talked often about their family or past, but Ike had a feeling by how they reacted when it was accidentally brought up that the three of them had seen plenty of rough times. All Ike was aware of was that Oscar had previously been employed to the Crimean Knights before he became a mercenary. He apparently left the higher paying occupation to care for his younger siblings when he was needed. It was because of this that Ike held Oscar in such high regard. It wasn't everyday that one met another with such dedication toward his family. He had a feeling that his father knew more on the subject, but refused to ever speak about it, saying that it was none of his business.
"So Ike," Oscar said, leaning his arm on his mare and turning so he fully faced Ike. "Commander Greil has finally given you permission to join in on a mission. Well congratulations! I'm just happy that I'll have someone else out there watching out for a certain cocky brother of mine when I'm not around. I'm sure that you won't be nearly as reckless as he."
"Hey, I'm careful when I fight!" Boyd said back, crossing his arms.
"Oh? And what about that one time where you were so anxious on one mission that you slipped in some mud and nearly fell on your ax. You were lucky that Titania was around or that brigand would have cleaved your hot blooded head right off."
"Oh come on, Oscar!" Boyd shouted even louder this time as Ike's smile continued to grow wider. He was enjoying the change of contrast compared to how Mist had humiliated himself about being knocked out in front of Boyd. He swore, sometimes it seemed like the two were a tag team in humiliating him. Of course, he couldn't say Oscar and Rolf weren't guilty of doing the same thing to Boyd.
"So, how are you feeling this morning?" Oscar asked curiously.
"Actually, I'm pretty calm," Ike admitted. "Though I did spend most of last night lying awake in my bed and staring at the ceiling. I'm surprised that I'm not as anxious now as I was then. Maybe I drained all of my energy worrying last night."
"Whatever the reason," Oscar said reassuringly, "you can take comfort that the rest of the Greil Mercenaries will be there watching your back. Just make sure that you'll be watching ours out there too."
"Thanks. Though I kind of think it hard to believe that Shinon will actually be there keeping an eye out for me," Ike said with a wry half smile.
At this comment Oscar's smile dropped only by a small amount. "Well…maybe he will eventually. You never know," he replied with an optimistic shrug.
Just then the door to the mess hall opened from behind Ike and Titania stepped out into the sun. Her white armor glistened in the sunlight as she beamed at each of the young men in front of her. "Ah, Oscar. I'm glad to see that I'm still able to count on you to have everything ready for when we leave. And I see that you even got your brother up on time for once as well."
While Ike's father was for the most part his primary instructor, Ike would consider Titania Boyd's. It wasn't long after the brothers had joined the company that Boyd made the decision that he would aspire to be a mercenary as well. Greil eventually agreed with his wishes since he was already a strong boy. All he had needed was some training, and sense Greil was too busy with the combination of running the company and training Ike, he had been put him under Titania's guidance for combat instruction. It was for this reason that Boyd's weapon of choice was an ax, though Ike could honestly not think of a better weapon for him. Because of the time they had spent together, Boyd had also developed the same mother-son relationship that Ike and Mist shared with Titania. Boyd made no secret though that he often dreaded their training sessions together. Though they had clearly done their job well, Titania's training was infamously rigorous and brutal, rivaling even Ike's father's.
"You don't have to worry about me slacking off anymore!" Boyd said with a bark like laugh and slinging his arm around Ike's shoulders. "After all, I need to set a good example for Ike so that he can have someone that he can look up to. Who knows Ike, maybe you'll become a topnotch mercenary like myself someday!"
"We'll see," Ike said with a challenging smile in return, shaking Boyd's arm off of him.
"Alright you two, that's enough goofing around," Titania said strictly as she graciously took the reigns of her horse from Oscar. "The four of us have been assigned as a team for one of the missions. Commander Greil, Shinon, and Gatrie are taking care of the other two. The one that we are to take care of is requested from the town Caldea, just a few miles south from here. It seems that it has recently become overrun by some bandits and they are causing quite a ruckus."
"How skilled are they?" Oscar questioned.
"As you may probably know, Caldea is made up of mostly farmland with barely even a hundred citizens. As such, they don't have much of a militia. The bandits are mostly causing more damage to property than to civilians, so we have reasons to believe that their bark may be more than their bite. It seems to be a fairly standard assignment, but I don't want any of you getting careless out there. Let's just get there, finish the job, and then leave with a job well done."
The three younger mercenaries nodded simultaneously in response to Titania's instructions. After mounting her horse, Titania made some last moment checks that they had all of the equipment they needed and then set out of the fort, taking only a moment to wave a quick goodbye to Mist and Rolf as they past by.
Most of the journey was made in silence. Titania took the lead and was followed closely by Oscar, both keeping their horses at a slow pace to not strain either Ike or Boyd to keep up. Ike knew that Caldea was a good three hour trek on foot. If each of them had horses they probably could have made it in a little more than an hour, but due to lack of funds, they made due without them.
To pass the time, Ike spent most of the trip just gazing about around him, taking in the scenery and his other surroundings. Winter had only ended just a month ago, so the air was a little frigid as it had not yet warmed back up completely from last night. The trees around him had only recently started growing their leaves again, leaving a couple bare branches in trees and bushes alike, which occasionally scrapped at his shoulders as he passed them by. Nevertheless, the sky overhead was no longer filled with the gray clouds of winter. The sun shone brightly, giving Ike momentary chances to warm up whenever a beam of light escaped through the trees over him. The sky was a bright shade of blue, with hardly any clouds to obstruct its vastness. It was hard to believe that on such a perfect looking day, he would have to go into battle on a job.
He had been told several times by both his father and Titania that their home country, Crimea, consisted of the most beautiful countrysides of the entire continent. Ike himself had never himself been outside of the country, at least not to his own knowledge, so he couldn't make and opinion of the matter. With the exception of what few memories he had left of his mother which he made a conscious effort to keep safe, there was very little that he could actually remember about his childhood. In fact, there were some things that Mist, despite being several years younger than him, could remember easily that Ike could not recall in the slightest. The majority of his memories were those at the mercenary fort with his father and sister. He did know that they had not always lived at their current residence, but that was mostly the extent of how far his memory goes and he could not recall in the slightest where they had traveled from.
Now that he thought about it, his general knowledge about the other countries were limited as well. Ike was by no means uneducated, but he often had a habit of forgetting what few lessons he received from his father and Titania and focused more on his swordsmanship. He of course knew of their names and their residence. He was also very aware of the laguz tribes that took residence in Gallia, Kilvas, and Phoenicis. Exactly which tribe called which country its home, he was not completely sure of. His belief was that such things didn't matter much to a mercenary, despite his father's lectures on how valuable knowledge is. Ike didn't have any interests in country origins, economics, or politics in the slightest. His friend who was currently studying with another mercenary company, Soren, was more informed than he. Perhaps he would inquire more about the subject when he returned to the company. Then again…he'll figure it out eventually.
The entire journey dragged on uneventfully, the four mercenaries only striking up a conversation every moment or so when the silence became a little too uncomfortable. Finally though, Titania turned her horse slightly to block the road in front of them. Oscar pulled slightly on his own steed's reigns to stop and Ike and Boyd exchanged glances before stepping beside Oscar.
"Caldea is only a little further down this path," Titania explained. Sure enough, when Ike looked past her, he could spot through the trees a couple modest houses just at the forest's edge. "I'll take the lead. I want to see if there is any other way to resolve this issue outside of force. But I want all of you to stay on your guard. There's no telling how these men are going to react to our presence. Keep a sharp lookout and be ready to draw your weapons if needed."
"Will do," Oscar said with a smile, already releasing the spear hooked onto the side of his horse and holding it in his right hand. Ike found it strange at times that one with as kind and gentle of face as Oscar's could be so fierce with a lance.
Titania gave her fellow knight a quick nod before turning her attention back to Ike. Though stern, he could still sense the underlying flicker of concern in her eyes as well as she looked at him. "This is going to be your first campaign, Ike. Oscar and Boyd are already aware of this, but as deputy commander any and all orders that I may give are to be followed without question. My job here is to assure the safety of both ourselves and the villagers at all costs. I don't want anything going wrong on your first mission…"
"You can count on me, Titania," Ike said reassuringly back.
"That's what I expected you to say," she responded back with a smile, turning her horse once again to head down the road. "But I know you Ike, you're just as hard headed and stubborn as your father at times. I just don't want that hard head to get you in trouble."
"Don't worry, Titania!" Boyd said, giving her the thumbs up sign. "I'll be sure to watch out for Ike personally. Nothing's going to befall our new rookie on my watch."
"I don't need a babysitter," Ike complained to both Titania and Boyd.
"Still, it may be better if you do stick by Boyd for this mission. Just for this mission so you can get acquainted with how things work. If we have nothing else to worry about…Greil Mercenaries, move out."
Oscar, Boyd, and Ike both nodded silently back as they began to follow Titania into the town. It didn't take long for Ike to tell exactly why they had been called there. Homes and stands for marketing alike were in absolute shambles. The ones that weren't destroyed had their windows shut and lights out, though Ike could immediately feel the weight of many eyes falling on him as soon as he walked into Caldea. Inspecting further, he noted that it seemed that no one had even bothered to try and repair or clean up the damages that had been done to the town. He spotted a turned over apple cart down the road that still had its fruits spread out across the ground, though some seemed to have been half eaten, their cores thrown to the ground carelessly.
"Slightly worse than I expected," Titania said, looking around at the town as well. "Though not as bad as others I've seen. It's no wonder why we've been called here. Keep a sharp eye out…"
"Hey! Ya four!"
Ike's hand gripped the iron sword that was in his sheathe tightly, turning his attention to his right. Standing across from him with an axe resting on his shoulder was a very large man, nearly a foot taller than either Ike or Boyd. From down the road, his beady eyes darted from the four of them and then to their weapons, eyeing them suspiciously.
"I'd advise ya to get on outta here," the man said, gripping his axe tightly. "You ain't welcome in this here town. The only thing that you'll cause here is trouble…"
"By the looks of this town of yours, it seems that trouble has become a problem long before our arrival," Titania responded. Her voice was firm and proud, but she did not grasp her own axe in response. "We are the Greil Mercenaries!" she warned the man. "Inform your leader that he and any that follow him are commanded to leave this town at once. We wish to avoid a conflict here if it can be helped. Leave and you will go unharmed."
The man burst laughing at Titania's commands, seeming to find the remarks hilarious. Ike's hard scowl hardened in the direction of the man. "You aren't familiar with our little ragtag bunch now, are you?" he bellowed back at them, placing the arm that didn't grip is axe to his large stomach. "You see, we don't hurt nobody. Not if there ain't trouble or nothin'. All we do is show up in a town, spend some time there fer a month or so, then move on and go onto the next one. This ain't the first time that we've 'visited' this shit hole anyways. They know the drill, why do you think there ain't no one out to oppose us?"
"I believe I know exactly how your group works," Titania scowled back. "You take a town hostage and not allow anyone to leave their houses. It doesn't matter if they need to go to the bathroom or need a doctor for a serious injury. They are not to leave their houses under any circumstances. While they are tucked away and not giving you trouble, you exhaust every resource that they have. By the time you're done, the people are in bad enough shape as it is for lack of food and water, but you also leave them nothing to sustain themselves. Your axes may not be causing deaths here, but rest assured you are causing more pain and suffering than you could possibly be aware of!"
"Watch yer mouth," the man growled, suddenly looking much more violent after Titania's speech.
"…And let's not forget to mention the women here." Titania's voice had gone down to a near whisper, just loud enough for the man across from them to hear. "Tell me, how many of them have you defiled…?" Her axe was then in her hand, raised up and pointed in the bandit's direction.
The brigand did not reply this time, only staring at Titania in hot rage. "Well then, it's too bad that it has to come to this," he finally spoke, giving an insignificant hand gesture in their direction.
"It's a trap!" Titania shouted suddenly, understanding the gesture
Two men suddenly leapt out from behind a bush that was beside them, ambushing the group. Oscar and Titania's horses each reared back, caught by surprise from the sudden appearance. Thinking fast, Boyd leapt out of the way of one of the bandit's axe swings and tackled him to the ground, becoming entangled in a wrestling match. The other brigand ran at Ike. Still caught off guard, Ike hastily drew his sword while sidestepping the man's strikes. Leaping forward again, the large man raised his axe high over his head, no doubt with full intent to take Ike's head clean off of his shoulders. Ike's arm reacted far sooner than his brain did. One powerful swipe of his sword later, the air turned crimson.
The man howled in agony, clutching the bloody stump that had been his axe hand. He whimpered pathetically as he dropped to his knees and looked at his dismembered arm lying on the blood stained ground. A moment later, his whimpers suddenly became a furious bellow as he grabbed his fallen axe with his other remaining hand, rushing at Ike. The swordsman though was easily able to dodge the brigand's attacks, being completely blinded by both pain and rage. Bringing his sword up again, he sliced into the man's stomach, once again littering the ground with blood. The man looked down once more, watching his blood drain out of his body, and then finally collapsed to the ground, moving no more.
For a moment, Ike just stared down at the man's body with his sword still gripped in his hand. He looked over to Boyd just in time to see his old friend snap his opponent's neck with his bare hands. Ike turned his eyes back to the man who they had been addressing just moments ago, still staring down at his fallen comrades at their feet.
"…We're under attack!" he finally yelled, turning back to the village. "Alert Boss Zawana! We're under attack by merc-"
His sentence was cut short as an axe whizzed by Ike's head and sunk deep into the mans back. The man doubled over for a moment, and then also collapsed to the ground like his comrades. Turning back, Ike saw Titania staring at the bandit with cold, green eyes, her arm still outstretched from throwing her axe.
"Ike," she said calmly to him. "I can't reach that far down while atop of my horse. Would you be able to fetch it for me, please?"
Ike nodded silently back before looking back one last time at the man that he had felled. He had been taken by surprise. He had expected many things for the time when he would inevitably see someone die before him. He had thought it once to maybe frighten him, to see a life snuffed out. He even thought that maybe he would become nauseous from the experience. But instead…he found himself feeling near nothing. If anything, he felt slightly numb. There was also the slight notion that this was not a new experience…almost as if this was not the first time he had seen someone die. But that could not be. There was no chance that he would ever forget experiencing something like that. But even so, why did this feel so familiar?
Still lost in his thoughts, he walked over to the man that Titania's axe was buried in and grabbed the hilt of her axe. With a sickening squelching sound, he pulled it loose from the man's spine and looked at it, wondering if he should wipe off the blood on the ground before giving it to her.
"Thank you, Ike," Titania said kindly as she took her axe, bringing out a red handkerchief from one of her pouches and wiping the blood clean from her blade. Ike wondered for a moment whether the handkerchief had always been red.
"I presume that a peaceful solution to this situation has become out of reach," Oscar said solemnly, having finally been able to control his steed again. He took his spear and thrust it into the man on the ground's flesh, double checking that he was dead. With a satisfied nod, he yanked it out of the brigand and turned back to Titania.
"It seems that way," she said back with a nod. She turned back to the three young men accompanying her and then around at the village. "…Alright, there's no telling how many more of those men are still around. These sort of men are too cowardly to do this sort of thing with small numbers…I'm estimating perhaps five to eight more men that are still needed to be taken care of. We'll get the job done faster if we split up. I'll take the west part of the village. Oscar, you'll go east. Ike and Boyd, you two will take the north part of the village. Now I'm going to remind you this only once more…don't get over your heads. If worse comes to worse, fall back and regroup with the rest of the company. No heroics."
"Got it," Ike said back.
"Don't you worry about a thing, Titania," Boyd said cheerfully, seemingly not at all aware of the bloody nose that he had received during his brawl with the brigand he had killed. "You have nothing to worry about when me and Ike team up. Just you watch, we'll be the best duo since Shinon and Gatrie."
"You have a lot to live up to then," Oscar said, still smiling at Boyd below him. "Just be sure to heed her advice, Boyd."
"Yeah, yeah, worry wart," Boyd said waving his arm back at his older brother. "Let's just get this job over with already."
With one last exchange of nods, the four mercenaries set out to their assigned sections of the village. To Ike's surprise, he and Boyd could find no trouble at all as they continued to sneak their way down the road. Each corner he poked around, he found nothing. The two made sure to be constantly aware of where the other was, ready to leap to each other's aid at a moment's notice. The same pointless destruction that they had seen when they had first arrived to the village continued as they traveled farther in. Ike regularly spotted several broken windows in many houses, and some of them even had their very doors savagely hacked down to gain entry. At one point, Ike could have sworn that he saw a small face peek out from one of the windows, but it quickly disappeared into the darkness once more before he could catch a good look at the figure. The silence was enough to realize just how terrified the villagers were of the bandits, and perhaps even mistakenly him as well.
As time wore on, Boyd's nose finally stopped bleeding, but Ike couldn't help but think that it was slightly more crooked than usual. When he had asked about it, Boyd replied calmly that if there was anything wrong with it, Rhys would be able to fix it up in no time when they got back. Ike took his word for it. Ike had gone to Rhys himself on a number of occasions to fix up some injuries he had received while training with his father.
"Alright, Gus, you're with me!"
Ike and Boyd quickly ducked into a side ally way and waited in the shadows as they heard the voice. Hesitating for only a moment, Ike slowly peeked out from where he was hidden and took a look. Not much farther down the road was the biggest house that Ike had seen yet within the village. It also seemed to be the most destroyed he had seen as well. In front of it was a man that was even larger than any of the three men that they had fought at the front of the village. He had dark, forest green hair that was brushed backwards and his puckered lips seemed a slightly too large for the rest of his face. Even at this distance, Ike could notice the beady eyes of the man. Strapped to his side were both a sword and an axe, though he rested his hand on the later of the two weapons. Beside him was another man with an axe who was slightly shorter than the first, though he was still by no means small in any sense of the word. Only two men…after defeating three of them at once, it shouldn't be too difficult.
He turned his head as he felt a tap on his shoulder. Boyd silently began going through some basic hand gestures that his father had taught each of them in case words became too dangerous to speak. The first two were decoy and flank, pointing at himself. Next he pointed at Ike, signaling stay, wait, and ambush. Ike nodded in understanding. Nodding back, Boyd quietly slipped down the alleyway and disappeared around the corner.
"You saw them get cut down with your own eyes?" the largest man asked the other. Ike supposed by the way that the other two men were speaking that he was the leader.
"Well, no. But I saw their bodies right by the town entrance and ran here as fast as my legs could carry me. Dead, all three of them. I didn't have to get any closer to tell that much. Three more of our men are out who-knows-where as well. They could be dead too," the henchmen replied back.
"Curse the Goddess for our bad luck," the leader shouted angrily. "We may have to cut our fun a little early to make our escape if-"
A sudden crashing of wood shushed him, causing the leader to turn his head over to where the sound had come from. Without even uttering at command, the shorter of the two men rushed over in the direction of the crashing. Ike's heart began to race rapidly as soon as he heard the sound as well. If that sound had been Boyd, then they, needlessly said, would be at a serious disadvantage. Boyd was good, but Ike wasn't sure that he was good enough to take on two angry and desperate men by himself. Would he be able to hold out long enough for Ike to make it too him to give him some decent back up? For once, Ike wished that Shinon was around. With his bow, he'd be able to take down any number of men from this distance. No sense in wishing for what was not so though, Ike realized.
A moment before Ike darted out from around the corner, the man came back out with his prisoner. Ike froze when he saw that it wasn't Boyd. It was a man, probably only a few years older than he and Boyd, but much shorter than either of them. The bandit had a firm grip on each of his wrists, not allowing him to use his arms in any way. Though the man seemed to be trying to get away, it was apparent that he wasn't going anywhere.
"Found him snooping in the back alley," the man said, grabbing their prisoner's head and yanking it up so the leader would be able to get a good look at him.
"...I was just trying to find some food," Ike was barely able to catch from the man. His voice was shaking in so much fear that Ike could hardly understand him.
"Right," the leader said, unsheathing the sword from his side and taking a small step forward. The man suddenly stopped struggling as soon as the blade came up to his neck, though his shaking became much more violent. Ike narrowed his eyes slightly. Even from this far, he could tell that the way that the man was holding the sword was the complete opposite of what it should be. It looked more like he was holding a broom instead of a lethal weapon. Did he even know how to use a sword?
"He may be a part of that mercenary group that's come to attack us," one of the men said, ignoring the frantic head shaking from the villager.
"Yeah, I actually think I saw someone enter the village that looked like him. He probably ditched his sword in that ally hoping we wouldn't mess with him. Too bad we're too smart for that."
"Well, we know how to treat heroes like you," the leader said sneering. "Sorry if you really aren't one of them, guy, but we can't take any chances. You understand, right?" The bandit holding onto the man's arms suddenly kicked him down to the ground and placed a boot on his back, not allowing him to stand again. Looming above him, the leader sneered savagely as he raised his blade over his head with the obvious intention to cut the other man's head off.
This wasn't good. Ike couldn't bring himself to stand around any longer. "Stop!" he yelled, jumping out from his hiding spot. All three of the men turned in his direction suddenly, each halting what they had been doing. "He's not one of us!" Ike yelled. "Let him go!"
"…Well, Jon, looks like you were right. There was someone hiding out here," the bandit with his foot on the man's back said with a dark chuckle, removing his boot from the man's body. Ike's blood suddenly ran cold as the man who had once been pinned on the ground stood back up with a snide sneer on his face, taking the sword from the leader with his outstretched hand.
"I thought that these kids were soft hearts. I saw this one snooping around farther down the road…good thing I got to you guys before he did. So boss…what you want us to do with him?" the man asked, his attitude doing a complete one-eighty from before. "Can I kill him? Oh, please, can I kill him?"
"Just get rid of him and make it quick. Let's not waste anymore time than we already have."
"Got it, boss," the two men said in unison, dashing forward in Ike's direction.
Ike prepared his blade as the two men approached. Things were not looking good. Most of his practice sessions he spent with his father focused on one on one duels with usually no outside interference from others. He had only practiced that sort of scenario when someone like Titania had some free time on their hands to help out. He would have to make due with what he knew though and hold out while he could…the fake hostage hadn't said anything about Boyd while talking to the leader. Maybe they don't know about him yet…
The swordsman got to Ike first. Needlessly said, his attacks were much quicker than the ones from the brigand that he had fought at the entrance of the village. Their blades struck each other with as much force as each could muster, pushing each other back until they both retreated backwards from the strain. Before he could launch a counter attack, Ike had to duck out of the way of the axeman's attack this time. He was caught by surprise though when the bandit's fist suddenly rose up and caught him straight in the jaw, causing Ike to just barely keep his balance and stay on his feet. If he was on the ground, he would be as good as dead while facing two enemies.
Again, the man with the axe charged at Ike with his axe raised over his head. Ike was about to make a counter attack, but froze as a large figure dropped out from the sky, landing behind the bandit. Before he could react, the man's body went rigid as Boyd's axe sank deep into his spine. Ike realized that Boyd must have made his way to the roof of one of the nearby houses to make his sneak attack. Boyd had always been good at performing surprisingly unorthodox, yet at the same time effective, methods of attack. With one last gasp of breath, the bandit dropped his axe and collapsed to the ground in a heap.
Ike's eye darted to the swordsman, who was still staring down at his comrade in disbelief from the sudden attack. Charging as fast as he could, Ike thrust his sword just in time before the myrmidon could react, sinking his blade deep into the man's gut. Ike quickly brought up his boot and kicked the man off of his sword, not even taking the time to watch him fall to the ground. Now there was but one man left, the leader himself. He glared at both Ike and Boyd, his knuckles whitening around the grip of his axe.
"You think you two are so tough, eh?" he shouted, brandishing his axe. "I'll show you maggots! I am Zawana the Bear, the most powerful man you'll ever meet in your lifetime! Run while you still have the chance, whelps!"
"You have no idea how many times I've heard that stupid speech," Boyd said with a sigh and shaking his head. "Hey, Ike. Why don't we take this brute on together? Sound like a plan? …Bet I can take him down before you can."
"Sure, whatever you say, Boyd," Ike said with a grin. "Oh, and you're on."
Zawana let out a barbaric battle cry as he charged forward toward Boyd and Ike who both prepared themselves for the attack. Just as Zawana was upon them, they both separated from each other, out of reach of their opponent's attack. Ike bounced back and swung his sword downward, but was surprised to find that it was blocked by the other man's axe. Apparently he did have some skill after all. Ike withdrew his sword and attempted another strike, but his weapon was once again batted away by his opponent's superior strength.
Boyd suddenly ran by him and attempted a strike of his own, but their opponent spun around him with astonishing speed and making a swipe toward Boyd as well, who side stepped around the attack. He was once again caught by surprise though when the brigand's boot caught him in the gut, sending him tumbling backwards.
With his opponent's back turned, Ike saw his chance. With as much speed as he could muster, he dashed forward toward the brigand who was looming over Boyd who was still recovering from the unexpected kick. If Ike didn't get there in time, it would be over for Boyd.
Just as the bandit leader raised his hand over his head to bring it down on Boyd, Ike let out a fierce cry and sank his blade into the brigand's back, digging it in far enough so that it was visible from his chest. The bandit let out a choked, startled cry as the blade sank into his flesh, watching the bloody blade slide out of the opposite end of his body. With one final curse to both Boyd and Ike, the bandit fell limply to the ground, bringing with him Ike's sword which was still lodged within him.
Ike's breath was heavy as he looked down at the bandit that he had slain. Looking over at Boyd, he found his friend with an expression that seemed to be a combination of surprise, gratefulness, and awe. Walking over to him, Ike offered his hand to Boyd which he thankfully grasped back, rising to his feet.
The two young mercenaries turned in unison as Titania galloped up to them with Oscar close behind her. Small patches of blood splattered Titania's armor, but none of it seemed to be hers as she seemed completely uninjured. Oscar was in the same state, his lance still at the ready in case of an ambush.
"I see that the two of you have had your hands full," Titania said, looking at each of the fallen bandits in turn.
"More than you know, Titania!" Boyd said, tucking his axe back into the leather sheath at his side. "That big guy right there, that's the leader. Me and Ike took him down together."
"You mean I took him down. You were too busy being dazed underneath him to do anything," Ike said back with a sly grin.
"Now that I believe," Oscar said with a chuckle while Boyd looked at Ike in frustration.
"Are you sure that he's the leader of the bandits?" Titania asked, jumping off of her steed and kneeling next to the bandit who still had Ike's blade protruding from his back, checking if he still had a pulse.
"He was giving those other two orders a little while ago," Ike explained, motioning to the other two mercenaries.
"Well, good," Titania said nodding. "Without proper leadership, the rest of the bandits will most likely retreat back to their base. They're all alike in that way."
"So you mean that our mission is complete?" Ike asked.
Titania let out a light chuckle toward Ike and nodded over at him. "That's right Ike, your first mission has ended not only as a complete success, but you also made it so by slaying the bandit leader. Not bad to say the least."
"Not bad at all," Oscar said approvingly, offering his hand to Ike which he shook gratefully. "Congrats on your first completed mission, Ike. Now you really are a full fledged member of the Greil Mercenaries. I'm just sorry that I had missed your performance just now. It looks like it had been really something."
"Eh, it was alright," Boyd said slapping Ike on the back in friendly congratulations. "Just so you know though, I took down that other big guy right there when Ike was ambushed. Make sure to remember that I was the one who saved your sorry ass before you took that big guy out. You owe me one now, rookie."
"But then I saved yours right after that by killing the leader when he was about to hack off your head. Doesn't that make us even?"
Boyd stood dumbstruck for a moment, seeming to have forgotten about said recent event. With a sigh, he shrugged back reluctantly and offered Ike his hand, which the blue haired swordsman shook. "Alright then, Ike. We're even for now. Just don't go getting yourself in trouble a habit. I'm not always going to be around to save you."
"Same," Ike said back, gripping Boyd's hand which his friend returned. With a final nod, Boyd walked toward his brother and began discussing with him how the mission had ended.
"Ike," Titania said, bringing his attention to her. When he looked over, he suddenly felt some slight worry. The paladin's usual gentle eyes had hardened slightly as she beckoned him over. With only a moment's hesitation, he made his way toward her. "Boyd said just now that you had been ambushed and he had to 'save you'. Care to explain?"
Ike's feeling of accomplishment suddenly diminished in a heartbeat. Why did Boyd have to mention that part of their battle? Though he definitely wished that he could find a way to let the matter go, he knew that it was impossible and obediently related the battle to Titania, as well as his mistake with the swordsman's identity.
"I see," she said when he was finished with his story. Instead of scolding him as she usually did though, she instead raised her gloved hand and placed it on his shoulder, squeezing it in reassurance. "I don't think that we need to tell your father that part of the story about your first mission." Ike had never felt more grateful toward Titania in his life. He opened his mouth to voice his thanks, but he was stopped when she lifted her hand off of his arm and put it in front of her with her palm towards him, silencing him. "But just know Ike, this was exactly what I meant when I told no one to be a hero. If I hadn't assigned Boyd to go with you, who knows how this would have ended up. I expect you to act more responsible in the future. If something like this happens again, I can't guarantee that I'll be there to vouch for you. Next time, it could be Shinon who learns of your mistake, and you know exactly how forgiving he is."
Ike knew that in his case, he had a better chance of Shinon giving up archery than him letting Ike slide by with a mistake. The swordsman nodded back in understanding, which Titania returned, her soft and gentle smile once again returning. "To be completely honest," she continued as she beckoned him to follow towards the entrance of the village where they usually collected their award, "I'm pretty impressed at how much you've matured in your swordsmanship. You really are your father's soon after all.
"I've still got such a long ways to go though," he responded back, turning his eyes to the ground. "I need to keep getting stronger until I can defeat him."
"Well, that's asking for a lot. Especially considering how he's-" Titania suddenly stopped herself I mid sentence, which Ike took immediate attention of.
"Huh? What about my father?" he asked. It wasn't as if this was information that he needed or anything. It was just that a small, childish part of him was still curious as to his father's heritage and past. Wasn't that the kind of information anyone would want to know?
"Oh sorry, Ike," Titania said with a nervous chuckle. "Just don't worry about it for now."
Ike was half tempted to pursue the subject further, but he already knew that it was foolhardy to do such. If Titania didn't want to talk about it, then that meant that she wasn't going to. She was without a doubt the strongest woman he had ever met, so she would keep her secrets if she wanted to. Not to mention that he didn't want her to reconsider covering for him when they got back. He'd learn in time. He'd just have to wait for the opportune moment, and he'll eventually learn…
And there you have it folks, my second chapter. It was decent enough for perhaps the most uneventful chapter of the entire story.
Yes, I know that Oscar kind of took a back seat in this chapter. I'm going to try to focus on two or maybe three "minor" FE characters each chapter (this time it was mostly Boyd and Titania). Oscar will get his chance…I've even got a romance partner planned for him (no fangirls, there will be no Oscar/Kieren in this fic).
Well then everyone, that's about all I have to say. Tune in next time for another action packed (for the most part) chapter of Fire Emblem! See you then.