A/N: Geez, its pretty amazing what some good reviews will get yah. Writing this for 'youdon'tknow' who reviewed another one of my stories (Dueling at Dawn, a Mia/Soren fic) and told me about this idea. So yep, I've decided to write it. I must admit, once I started to think of the Dawn Brigade meeting/fighting/running from the Mercenaries, it was fun to think up things I could do. Still, I haven't written any Brigade stuff yet, so they may be a little OOC for the first two-three chapters. Still, enjoy your 'Mercenaries vs Brigade'!
Warning: Swearing and guy/guy pairings. If you're alright with that, continue on. Nothing heavy though, I swear.
"Where are they? Sothe and Nolan should be fine, but they're taking forever to get here!" Edward moaned, walking between two stacks for supplies. His pacing seemed to be causing Yune to go crazy, she was flying all over the small base. Leonardo was practicing his shot in a straw dummy, but he kept glancing at Edward and then Micaiah. His gaze seemed to tell her to get the myrmidon to stop moving, and to shut up, please.
Micaiah could understand why, but she just shrugged. What did Leo expect her to do anyway? Chide Edward for worrying? Although, truth be told, Micaiah was already worrying herself. Sothe and Nolan were, easily, the two best fighters in their group. So what was taking them so long?
"Micaiah! Edward! Leonardo! We have to go now!" Sothe ran into the room followed by Nolan, who set himself to grabbing supplies. Micaiah jumped from her seat as Sothe ran around with a bag, throwing things like food inside.
"W-What? What's going on?" As if to answer her question, Yune landed on her shoulder and Micaiah felt a jolt of fear run through her. But, right before she could tell the others, an arrow flew through one of the holes in the roof and landed on the table.
"Damn! They're faster then before!" Sothe's voice pierced their shock like a hot knife through butter. Leonardo quickly grabbed his things, helping Edward (who was grabbing clothes and other not-necessary but important things), but Micaiah could see his eyes widen when the arrow landed. That shot... Even the light mage knew that it would take a master archer to even try that kind of attack.
"Micaiah! Come on!" Sothe ran to her and pulled her close to him. "It'll be fine, but we must leave before they surround us." His voice was comforting and Micaiah nodded. Nolan looked at them and, once they left each others embrace, called out,
"We have everything we need, we can leave now." Sothe nodded and headed to the back entrance. Edward was right behind him, and Leonardo behind him. Micaiah felt a tremble of fear as Sothe kicked open the wooden plank that was sloppily held there by old nails. Only one arrow shot out towards them, but Sothe easily batted it away.
"Now, go!" Sothe shouted, running forward with lightning speed. Edward and Leo sprinted out after him, and Micaiah and Nolan finished up their small group. It looked like everything was going well until two people on horses (one in green, the other in red-gold) burst out of the trees roughly three hundred yards away. Micaiah could hear Leonardo and Sothe cursing their luck, and silently sent a prayer to the goddess. They were in no condition to fight these people, whoever they were, and they obviously could not outrun them.
Sothe suddenly turned and threw one of his knives out at the rider with red hair, hitting her in the left arm at the elbow. An amazing shot, but the important thing was Sothe kept running, but the rider stopped. Micaiah felt a rush of relief. Maybe the three attackers would stop, seeing their comrade hurt. That relief disappeared when Micaiah saw a figure in black appear at the entrance to the forest. He stood there, for several seconds, but then a rush of wind shot out at them and Micaiah felt herself be throw aside before the spell hit.
A mage? No, too strong. A sage, definitely. Micaiah forced herself to her feet, chanting as she went, clutching her tome tightly. She cast the spell back at the sage, but, although he was hit, all he did was stumble back a little.
And then an arrow shot throw the air and hit the man in the lower chest. Leonardo glanced at Micaiah, who nodded. He was always a good shot, when his friends were relying on him. Sothe ran over to check on Micaiah, who said,
"We should keep running, we can go right past that man into the forest and they won't be able to catch us." Sothe nodded as Edward and Nolan (who had gathered their tossed supplies) ran up. Leonardo was keeping a lookout for anymore problems. The figure in black who Micaiah had last seen falling to the ground was gone, and no arrows shot out from the bushes. It seemed they had stopped their attack.
So, it was with the thought of something being hunted, that the Dawn Brigade left their last base and ran into the forest, slightly injured, and very much confused. Just who were those people?
"Dammit! How did we not see that before we attacked?" Ike slammed his fist against the weak wall of the shelter as he looked at the impromptu door, or the hole in the wall that ruined Soren's plans and was the source of his headache. Well that, and the sound of said sage shouting at an uncaring sniper.
"You were not supposed to attack them or risk killing them, did you loose what little intelligence you have in the two minutes before my plan started? We were going to capture them at arrow, lance, and ax point! And now, because you decided to take pot-shots at their feet, we have to go people-hunting across Daein! You have no idea how close I am to taking all of your pay for the next year, and keeping it for something useful! Like, supplies!" Ike started to tune Soren out, as he felt Shinon was. For someone who had an arrow in his chest just moments ago, he sounded alright. Of course, his way for dealing with things tended to be shouting at someone. Mist ran up to her older brother, a little pale from being so tired, but otherwise alright.
"How is Titania? Is her arm going to be alright?" Mist nodded, wiping some sweat off her forehead. "That's good. Is Rhys good enough to move, or should we leave someone with him?" That was part of the reason their full force wasn't out- Ike had decided to leave Gatrie and Mia to protect and watch over the bed-ridden healer. Well, that and...
"How about Rolf? Is his arm any better?" Mist sighed and shook her head, kicking some dirt around on the ground. "Great. Just great!" Titania would be fine to fight tomorrow, but Soren was obviously strained (he was paler then usual, and was shouting at Shinon from his seat inside the shelter) and Ike didn't want to risk any permanent damage by having him fight too early. Rhys was more likely to vomit over everything and everyone then be useful, and Rolf's arm had been next to useless since a wild bear had attacked him and Shinon while out hunting.
It looked like, to the hero, the world was out to get him and wouldn't mind going through his friends to get to him. And now, another headache to annoy him even further (as if his head didn't hurt since the mercenaries recent health problems).
"And can anyone tell me why the goddess Sothe was there? He might be taller and stronger, but since when did he help Daein? He was on our side three years ago!" There was the sound of someone moving from inside the shelter, and Shinon walked out, followed by a limping Soren. Mist tried to get him to sit down again, but Soren ignored her.
"Soren, sit down and let Mist take care of you. You of all people should know we can't afford to let anyone else go down." Soren sighed and sat down on a barrel. Mist and Ike pointedly ignored the fact that his feet nearly didn't touch the ground, though Ike wondered if Soren was really that short.
"Honestly? I expected Sothe was from Begnion or Crimea, the thought of him being Daein never occurred to me. However, that changes little. We just have to be more careful then before, especially since he knows all of our strengths and weaknesses." Soren took a breath in as he winced- Mist was healing him but the arrow wound would impede him for some time. Ike nodded.
"Alright, I expected that much. But who was that light mage? I've never seen someone like that." Soren shrugged.
"I expect it is the 'Maiden of Dawn ' we were told about. Obviously when the Begnion men hired us they could have given us better reports. Still, judging from their appearances, I will be surprised if any of the others are as skilled as Sothe. The archer, for example. That was a lucky shot." Which Ike was inclined to believe, if just to not cause Soren's pride to be hit anymore. It was already clear, from him chewing-out Shinon, that he was furious his plan had failed. Ike looked behind him as he heard the sounds of a horse trotting towards them.
Oscar was unmounted, but lead his horse towards them. He paused when he met with Shinon, but the sniper just ignored him and continued walking. Some distance away, where Mia, Gatrie, and Boyd were setting up camp (the mercenaries were in no condition to move), Gatrie paused in his work to try to talk to Shinon. The red-head just shook his head and walked off, towards where Rolf and the other injured would probably be.
"Ike... Can I talk to you?" Oscar had an uneasy look on his face, though he still had a slight smile for appearances. Ike nodded and glanced towards Oscar's horse.
"Is your horse alright?" Oscar nodded and, petting the mane, the horse letting out a soft neigh. "Mist... Soren... You should probably make sure everything is going alright." Soren nodded and forced himself to stand. He hesitantly took Mist's aid as he limped towards their makeshift camp. Oscar gave Ike a thankful look. "Is it about Rolf?" Ike asked, not wanting to dance around the subject. Oscar sighed and nodded once. Oh.
Ike felt like he did a month ago, having to tell Oscar about his brother's injury. As it was, it was amazing Shinon had been able to kill the bear and carry Rolf back fast enough to save the arm. It would still be months before Rolf could even think about picking things up with his arm.
"He'll get better, he's tough for his age. And Mist is a great healer, and you know I won't let anything happen to him." Oscar sighed again, and Ike felt like he was making things worse. But what could he say? Although no one said it, Rolf and Rhys would slow them down a considerable amount. And they were already chasing a much smaller and more intelligent (as in the land in Daein) opponent. Still, Ike had refused to leave a skeletal guard in the fort and leave behind some good fighters. It wouldn't be fair to them. Besides, it would help keep some of the worry down.
"I know, its just... He won't say it, but I'm his older brother. He's in a lot of pain, and even Mist's healing... Well we could use a heal staff every day but I doubt that would help much. Moving around so much... Its not just him, and I'm not the only one worrying. Boyd's been running himself ragged. Titania's distracted. Even Shinon... Of course he won't say anything." Oscar let out a slightly forced laugh. "Shinon could have killed all of them without a second thought. But he didn't, he didn't even hit them. I know you can't do everything, but I decided I should bring it to your attention." Ike nodded and looked at the camp as it was being set up.
He couldn't see Shinon, or Boyd. Gatrie was struggling to raise a tent and Mia was dashing across the field... Towards them.
"Ike! Oscar! We've got a problem!" Oscar and Ike only glanced at each other before the knight climbed onto his horse and road towards Mia, Ike running behind him. "Mist says its something with Soren!"
"We have enough food for three days. Five if we skip a meal, ten if we only eat a little every day." Edward glanced towards Leonardo and Nolan, who were trying to set up the two tents they brought. Sothe had gone out scouting and, though he didn't say, to try to get some more supplies. Micaiah closed her eyes and held her face in her hands. She was sitting on a low tree branch on a bent-over tree, Yune perched on her shoulder.
This was an utter nightmare. Nearly no supplies, outclassed in every level, and outnumbered and being hounded by an unknown enemy. No, they did know who was chasing them. The famed Greil Mercenaries. Half of Micaiah's mind wished she didn't know who was chasing them.
"At least Sothe knows their weaknesses and strengths and stuff." Edward said, guessing what his leader and friend was thinking. Micaiah smiled slightly at the young myrmidon. He was tired, you could see it in his eyes, but he refused to rest. They couldn't, at this point, afford to have anyone not pull their own weight. "We'll be fine! We haven't been caught by the Begnion troops yet, so how can these mercenaries be any different?" A flash of green jumped out of a tree and landed at the base of Micaiah's.
"They're more dedicated, but there's no way they know what Begnion is doing. Comand- I mean Ike has more morals then that." Sothe looked up at Micaiah and smiled, though his eyes had a gleam of exhaustion in them.
"Sothe! What did you see?" Micaiah asked, climbing down easily. Leonardo and Nolan (having finished setting up the tents) came over as well. They were in a loose circle and Sothe shook his head, rolling his shoulders and yawning.
"We should sit down so I can explain everything easier... And I'm pretty sure we're all tired. We could use some sitting." Micaiah nodded and followed, sitting next to him on a patch of leaves. Leonardo and Edward sat next to each other, on some dirt. Nolan knelt as Sothe started to speak.
"They're all there, and if we get into a long fight it wouldn't be a battle, it wouldn't even be a skirmish for them. Ike alone could take us all, and they have more people then the ones you all saw. Um, they have the two paladins, a general, a swordmaster, a fighter, and two snipers. Oh, and a sage plus two healers..." Micaiah could see Edward's eyes grow wide at the thought of another sword-wielder. Leonardo hid his surprise more, but he trained constantly and was still an archer. Two snipers on one team? That alone could, probably, beat them.
"So what you're saying is we can't get tied down in a fight." Micaiah said quickly, not letting the shock and fear engulf them. Even Nolan looked a little worried, and he was pretty positive. Sothe's eyes widened, realizing what he had said. Quickly after he shook his head and nodded.
"Yeah. But the only reason I know this much is because I fought with them... But here's the thing. The sage just had an arrow in him, so we can safely say he won't be fighting soon. I'm not too sure about the paladin, but we could get lucky. One of their snipers wasn't there, so its safe to say he's injured or sick. Same with the general and swordmaster. Now, what I can guess from that is that Ike doesn't leave his camp empty. I can't say why, but he'll definitely won't now that his sage was hurt." Edward cocked his head to one side and Leonardo looked puzzled. Nolan spoke up.
"Why? Sure, supplies are important but he can't seriously believe he'll be attacked by us. Besides, the sage could just hang around the back lines." Sothe gave Nolan a weak smile. Micaiah noticed Yune was missing. Nothing too bothersome, but Micaiah knew she would have to lead her friends out of trouble and could use all the help she could get.
"Ike's very close to his tactician. And that same tactician is extremely careful... But I can confidently say we won't be killed by them, probably only captured to be killed by Begnion." Now Micaiah was wondering just what magic hat Sothe was pulling his ideas and thoughts out of. Edward was leaning back, holding his head. Leonardo was handling it a little more maturely, but Micaiah could tell he was uncertain. Nolan just shrugged when Micaiah looked at him, as if to say, 'don't look at me, I don't know'.
"How can you say that? They took a shot at you Sothe! You can't say they aren't serious!" Micaiah was well aware her voice was ridiculously high and sounded like she was desperate. But she was, she had her friends to protect and now Sothe's old war 'friends' were coming after them! Did they have any idea that Sothe was even with them? Surely they did- just how many green-haired left-handed people could their be in Tellius? Sothe ran a hand through his hair and looked away.
"Its getting dark." He said, avoiding the question. Sure, it was. But Micaiah felt hurt when he refused to meet her eyes. "We should start a fire or set up a watch. Maybe have a little something to eat, as we missed lunch." Edward glanced at Leonardo who shrugged. Leonardo seemed to be the one Edward went to if he wanted to have something confirmed, or if he wanted to show off a new skill. They seemed pretty close, as far as Micaiah could tell.
"A fire? Is that safe?" Nolan asked, standing and leaning on his ax. Sothe shrugged and made a circle in the dirt with his dagger. Micaiah stood up and sighed.
"I'm alright with it if you can be certain we won't be attacked. I don't think any of us want to be running around in the dark." Sothe looked hesitantly at his longtime friend, his eyes ragged from running around most of the day. Micaiah couldn't help but feel bad- how hard had Sothe been working to try to keep them all safe? And here she was, thinking he was being overconfident and thinking too highly of Ike. Even if he was idolizing the 'hero'.
"... I suppose I can't be certain." He stood too, leaving only Edward (who was lying on the ground, looking up at the canopy) and Leonardo (who was looking at the sky while he was held up by his arms) sitting. "I can take first watch then-" Nolan shook his head.
"You need to rest Sothe. You've been running around all day. I'll take first watch, but first we can eat some crackers." Sothe hesitated before nodding and Micaiah leaned close to Sothe as Nolan went to get the food (Leonardo and Edward weren't paying them any attention, all wrapped up in their own thoughts). Sothe put his arms around her, and Micaiah closed her eyes and she breathed in and out.
"It'll be fine, I promise... I'll die before they hurt you, I swear. I'll never leave you again." And as he lightly kissed the top of her head, Micaiah knew he was telling the truth.
"You have got to be kidding me! Is there anything else that hasn't gone wrong?" Ike looked close to punching someone or something. Mist was positively shaking, though it could be from exhaustion or fear.
"It'll be alright Ike... Its just a- ah- minor complication." Soren was lying down on as many blankets they were able to find, his entire middle covered in blood. The reason why was currently next to him on the blankets, too covered in Soren-bits to be very noticeable. An arrow-head, Mist hadn't seen when she healed Soren at first. Which meant she had to cut him open again (while he was being held down by a panicking Ike) and pull it out, and then re-heal him.
"Minor complication?" Ike yelled, starting to pace back and forth. Titania was lying several yards away, sitting up but not standing so she could keep her stress-levels (which had reached all-new heights recently) somewhat down. Mist was glad Rolf and Rhys were being kept in another tent.
"You just had an open surgery! That's not minor! You won't be able to travel for ages!" Mist was looking at the ground nervously, rocking forward and back on her heels. Soren had what could only be described as a pouting look.
"I can too! Just put me on a stretcher or some other contraption, like we've been doing with Rhys and Rolf." Ike scowled. It was clear he didn't care if Soren could travel, he just didn't want him to.
"Ike? May I speak?" Usually Titania wouldn't need Ike's ok, but with the mood the bluenette was in, it was safer to check.
"Huh? Alright Titania..." Ike glanced over at his friend. She was in a much better condition then Soren, and she would be able to travel in the morning.
"We don't have to have everyone move. We can leave two or three people with Soren, Rolf, and Rhys... Maybe Gatrie, Shinon, and Oscar? The rest of us can go ahead and just meet up with each other in a pre-planned location. Or, Oscar's an alright tracker. I'm sure he could follow us if we leave a few signs." Ike had a hesitant look on his face, and Mist could understand.
"Splitting our group wouldn't be a good idea... But we can't afford to loose time..." Mist reached out to hold onto her brother's arm.
"Brother! It would only be a few days. But Gatrie and Shinon? I can understand Oscar..." Mist looked at Titania as she let go of Ike's arm, going back to cleaning up Soren and wiping off the blood and gore. The mass of it all was already gone.
"Either way, this conversation can be held another time and you both," Ike looked at Soren and Titania, "need to rest. Dinner later, I'm pretty sure Oscar is cooking right about now." Before he could leave with Mist, Titania struggled to her feet. Mist ran over and helped her steady herself.
"You should rest Titania! You need to conserve your strength!" She complained as the paladin worked her way to the tent entrance.
"Don't worry about it Mist. I want to go see Rhys anyway... I'm fine, I'll rest later." Knowing that arguing with Titania was futile, Mist sighed and helped Titania out of the tent, leaving Ike and Soren. Ike looked back at his friend, who gave him a stern gaze from his bedroll.
"You should eat Ike... Ah, I'll be fine... Understandably, I would like to not have anything to eat tonight... If that's alright with you?" Ike felt his mouth go dry and swallowed to try to fix that. He nodded and said,
"Y-Yeah... That's alright. You better keep yourself well Soren. For us... For me..." Soren was just able to manage a nod.
"I know. What would you do without my tactical brilliance?" Soren asked, smirking slightly. Ike gave him a smile and left, but he couldn't help but feel that smile was hollow inside.
"So then I took a shot at the green-haired brat, but, damn, he can move fast. He knocked it away without even blinking... No way I'm loosing it though, I've just been thinking a lot more then usual..." Shinon wasn't quite sure what he was doing, talking to a sleeping Rolf. Rhys had gone out to get food for the three of them (with Titania's help) and Soren was staying in another tent (surprisingly he was sharing with Titania- Shinon wondered what it had taken to get him to agree to that) so Shinon was left alone with his pupil.
He was hardly allowed to see Rolf while he was awake, a little bit because he pretended to only be a little worried (taking his anger out on targets) and mainly because everyone was worried that seeing him would cause Rolf to become too excited and tire himself faster. Because, only a week after he had gotten in a stable condition, he had asked for an unstrung bow so he could practice stringing one.
And when that had been denied, he stopped. Until the next week, when he asked again. Every since then, whenever Shinon would stop in to see how he was doing, he would pull out the puppy-dog eyes (which still worked as well as ever, if not better) and try to beg a bow out of Shinon. Who could not, honestly, say it hadn't worked. Sadly.
"I hope you like beef and potato stew." Oscar's voice broke the silence, and Shinon was thankful he hadn't been talking. Shinon didn't look up at Rolf's older brother, but he did accept the food and started to eat it, silently. Oscar probably wanted to say something, but he didn't. Shinon could have thanked him, should have, but he knew he wouldn't. After several spoon-fulls, Shinon asked,
"Where's Rhys and Titania?" He didn't really feel like being rude, so his voice just sounded normal. Maybe a little tired, a little worn-out. Maybe a little like someone trying to do too much at the same time. Hopefully not.
"Rhys is feeling well enough to eat by the fire, so I offered to bring your food, and Rolf's... And I wanted to talk to you." Shinon felt something catch in his throat, but it wasn't food. Oscar sighed and put his food down, Rolf's bowl cooling by his. "It wasn't your fault." The silence could have been stretched, pulled out as far as possible. Shinon didn't.
"I know. Do you think people haven't told me that already?" Shinon could tell his voice was getting sharper, could tell he sounded like he didn't care, didn't want to hear it. Good, tell the stupid paladin I don't need to listen to him.
He had already gone through the guilt-ridden stage (damn, that had been the worst, like a hangover that refused to leave), but he was now in the aftermath. The bear... Damn, why'd he let Rolf take the shot? And when the stupid animal roared... It had scared him, caused the arrow to sink into the shoulder, not the head. Shinon hadn't been fast enough, strong enough, didn't have the will power to shove Rolf out of the way so he'd be safe. Didn't have the will power to take the hit himself.
"Nobody could have seen that happening. Nothing could have been done- even you miss shots sometimes." Shinon stood up suddenly, the only thing stopping him from jumping to his feet a bowl of stew. He curled his hands into fists, glaring at the startled man.
"I don't miss. I let them get away." And, with that, stormed out of the tent. Oscar sighed as he heard his younger brother stir and slowly sit up, yawning.
"W-Where'd Uncle Shinon go?" Oscar looked at his brother and smiled, handing him the bowl to put in his lap, the spoon making circles in the liquid.
"Here. Eat." Oscar didn't answer the question. Because, honestly, he really couldn't. Who knew what was going through Shinon's mind nowadays?
"I shoulda grabbed 'nother tent... Agh! That's my back your elbow's digging into!" Edward let out a soft yelp as Leonardo dug his elbow into his back. Nolan was sitting somewhere outside, but all he could probably hear were the two friends muttering at each other. Knowing Sothe and Micaiah, they were probably cuddling up in their tent.
"I know that!" Hissed the archer, kicking the myrmidon's legs, but missing. They usual had four tents (one for everyone except Sothe and Micaiah, who were perfectly fine to share) but they were small and not meant for two people. One person at most, so it was pretty much hell when a tent grew a hole too large to ignore and had to be used as a bag. Then someone was stuck sharing a tent.
"Why do you think I'm doing that? AH! Get you're freaking head off my neck!" It was, nearly always, Edward and Leonardo sharing. The two could be the best of friends, but when it came to room it was just awkward. Leonardo couldn't help but slightly enjoy being so close to his friend, especially since they were a little more then friends.
But that didn't change much, considering they had to be careful (Nolan had to sleep somewhere, and the forest floor and trees didn't count) and Leonardo flat out refused to tell anyone about them.
"Make me, Leo." Edward muttered as said archer couldn't stop a shudder run up his spine at Edward's cool breath on the back of his neck. Leonardo then did 'make him' by elbowing him in the stomach. Edward let out a hiss of pain and muttered, "You're no fun," before withdrawing as far as he could away from him and still be in the tent. Which was not very far at all.
A somewhat awkward silence fell into the darkness, the only sounds being night birds like owls and Nolan pacing as he kept watch. Leonardo could feel Edward's quivering figure behind him, and felt a little bad. He was usually the one snapping at the myrmidon, and he never held back. If he did, Edward might go soft. Of course, that didn't mean Leo didn't feel bad about the whole thing...
"When will you let me tell them?" Edward's voice was so soft, Leonardo nearly thought he was imaging it. Then, said sword-wielder shifted position so he was sitting up, his head tilted towards his friend. Leonardo tightened his grip on the blanket that coated the ground, letting out a breath. It came out as a puff of steam, showing Leonardo just how cold it was outside of the warm blankets and the warmth of another body. Before he was able to answer (answer how? That's the real question) the tent flap opened and Leonardo saw Edward squint as the moonlight (a full moon- good or bad?) poured in. Leonardo pretended to be asleep.
"Your turn Leo..." He felt himself being shaken lightly. "Do you need to go out?" Nolan's deep voice asked Edward. Leonardo couldn't see, but he could guess Edward shook his head and lay back down. Leonardo yawned, for real due to the lack of sleep he had had, and sat up.
"Alright Nolan... G'night. Sothe's next up, right?" Nolan nodded and backed out (though only his chest could really fit inside with Edward and Leonardo inside anyway) so the archer could get out. Outside, in the cold, the first thing he did was shudder. Dang, it was really cold. Leonardo let himself hop around as Nolan crawled inside of the tent. Once he was inside, Leonardo sucked in some cold air and prepared himself for a long two or three hours of nothing but the cold and the moonlight.
"... Good night Edward... Hopefully soon..." It was muttered, and there was no physical way anyone could hear it. But, somehow, it made him feel better. A lot better.
Inside the tent, Edward took in a deep breath and let it out in an equally deep sigh. He shuddered as the tent seemed to get colder, despite the fact Nolan was larger then Leonardo and should give out more heat... Edward mentally shook his head. He just needed to sleep off the day like it was a bad dream; a bad dream that was both real and wouldn't go away.
Shinon couldn't get himself to sleep. He rolled all over his sleeping roll, tried to pace for several minutes to let out some excess energy, and even thought about taking over Mia's watch for the last thirty or so minutes of it. Thought about it, being the key words there. The cold was a good enough deterrent to cause that idea to fly out of his mind quicker then a bird laguz.
"Ngh... Where yah off tah?" Gatrie was half-asleep, and Shinon nearly left anyway but then the bulky figure shifted so an arm was able to grab the back of his shirt. "Don't... Don't tell me yer leaving fer... fer some dumb reason." Gatrie was so tired from setting everything up (he probably had done more then Shinon had, that's nearly certain) but he must have woken up when Shinon threw his blanket off. Crap. Shinon had half a mind to slap Gatrie's hand away; instead he gently pried his fingers off his winter shirt. It was spring in half a month, but nobody had told the weather that and it still was cold enough to lightly frost everything and nearly freeze their water.
"Go to sleep. We're going to be up early in the morning and you need to rest." Shinon was nearly out the door when Gatrie replied, his words slurred and lazy. Yes, the general was more asleep then awake. Again, not surprising. He slept like he was still growing. Well, he probably was.
"Ser... Ser do yah... Shenion..." Gatrie was right, dang him, but Shinon wasn't about to give up that easily. He opened up the tent and hissed as a rush of cold air ran in, causing his breath to turn pale in the air and Gatrie to wake up a little more. "Where are yah off too? If yah uncomfortable... Yah can sleep wit me?" Gatrie shifted so he was able to get a good look at Shinon. Hair down, the sniper was well aware he looked more like a mess then the tough sniper he looked like elsewhere. That's why he liked having Gatrie as his tent mate- plus it helped him not be paranoid and think Gatrie was running off to go sleep with some girl. In his defense, it was a perfectly reasonable fear.
Shinon turned towards his close friend, one hand on his hip. The other was hanging down- usually he would be holding a bow. A very dangerous bow that could be used to strike fear in the heart of others. And a bow that usually never failed its owner. The last image of Rolf's arm (a twisted mess still, as the muscles healed) hit Shinon and cause him to feel a little weak.
"I don't feel like it Gatrie. Get yourself to sleep before I knock you out myself." Shinon snapped, glaring at the blond mess. Gatrie moaned as he rubbed his face, blinking as he cleared his eyes. Any other night, Shinon might have taken Gatrie's offer. But tonight wasn't any other night, he wasn't in a good mood whatsoever.
"Shinon... Waz wrong?" Shinon glared at his half-asleep friend for several seconds, before heading outside without a second thought. "Shinon?..."
It was too freaking cold, that was the first thought running through the sniper's mind. The second thing was, 'where is Mia anyway?'. She was the watch, but it didn't look like she was anywhere all too visible. Shuddering and rubbing his shoulders with his arms, Shinon let out a warm breath as he looked around. No snow on the ground, thank the goddess, but it would be frosty in the morning. That would be good to remember, so he didn't stumble out and nearly kill himself on the ground.
Starting to walk around, Shinon saw the entire place was silent and somehow more peaceful then the fort. Maybe it was because it was a new place, or maybe everyone was too busy shuddering in their tents to make noise or go outside. Like you are, idiot... Shinon shook his head and started to pull up his hair as he walked, holding his leather strap in his mouth.
"Hey Shinon, what're you doing up?" Shinon nearly jumped out of his socks (probably would have been smarter to put on boots) as he spun. He glared at Mia who, despite the cold and wearing her trueblade outfit, seemed fine in the cold. He didn't reply until he was stringing his hair up, a rough minute later.
"... I couldn't sleep. Who's next for lookout?" He asked curtly. Mia thought for a moment and then shrugged. "You're not sure?" Shinon nearly dropped his strap of leather- it was an untold rule to always remember who was next for lookout. Or you could end up waking up the wrong person who might send a fireball your way (Shinon would never get the smell of burnt armor, Gatrie's armor, out of his mind).
"Well... Boyd woke me up, and he said it was Soren... But who wants to wake him up? Anyway, I'm not really that tired." Shinon might have believed her (the cold could keep anyone up) but then she forced down a yawn and Shinon found himself smirking even wider at her.
"Sure. Heh, I'll take over then and wake up Soren in an hour or something." Mia raised an eyebrow but shrugged, yawning again. She didn't look like she minded that much.
"Alrighty then. G'night Shinny!" Shinon's eyes narrowed, his 'shut up' glare. Mia laughed and ran a hand through her hair, heading away. As she started to walk away, Shinon walked in the opposite direction.
"Don't call me that- Rolf calls me that."
"Ah... Good morning everyone... Good night sleep?" Obviously Edward hadn't slept well, from the bags under his eyes and the fact he was putting his left boot on his right foot. Leonardo, seeing this, glanced at his own shoes. Good, left on left and right on right. Rubbing his eyes Leonardo squinted as he looked at Sothe who was outlined by the few rays of sunlight that managed to push themselves over the trees.
It was so early, earlier then Edward or Leonardo usually woke up. Micaiah had woken them up once it had gotten bright enough to somewhat see. They needed to move as fast as possible, so the bloody Greil Mercenaries wouldn't get them and send them off to Begnion. That would be bad.
"Betta' then yah, Ed. Your shoe's on the wrong foot, dummy." Nolan yawned and was running his fingers through his hair in a vain attempt to comb it, looking tired by alright. Of course, he had an amazing ability to fall asleep on command, while Leonardo spent most of the night cold and nervous. Still, he seemed a little curt from yesterday's chaos and last night's lack of sleep.
"Ah... We should all get moving soon..." Micaiah was leaning against Sothe who was, eyes closed, putting on his clothes. He already had his shirt and pants on, of course, but his scarf and boots and such things. They were sitting on a well-sized rock Leonardo could remember tripping over during the night. Leonardo was sitting on his bag as he finished up with his shoes and strung his bow, checking his bag and supplies.
Edward, hearing Micaiah's words, groaned rather loudly and in an annoying tone. He was taking his boot fully off and dropped it, holding his head in his hands as he leaned back on his seat on a 'dry' patch of ground.
"Mic-ai-ah... Wh-h-h-h-y? Ten minutes!" Edward might be the youngest in the Brigade, but that didn't give him a total moan-and-groan pass. This was enough, and Nolan tapped him slightly hard in the back with his boot (being nearly finished with packing) and curtly reminded him,
"Shut up. The rest of us are tired too." Nolan yawned and strapped his steel ax to his waist. Leonardo threw his quiver over his back and forced himself to stand up, nearly falling over from a lack of sleep. He shook his head and grabbed his bag as Sothe woke up enough to speak.
"Ten miles 'fore we can lunch. Few bites now then?" Ok, maybe 'speaking' was a little bit of a stretch. Half-awake sentences would be more correct. Leonardo suppressed a yawn, although he was quite awake compared to everyone else in their little group. Micaiah was, literally, nodding away but was gently shaken by Sothe to wake up. Sothe would have looked awake from the back or side, but his eyes were closed and he swayed slightly. Edward was lying on the ground looking a little pathetic. Nolan's eyes were closed but he nodded numbly and grabbed his bag.
Nolan nodded and pulled out some cheese and jerky as well as a knife. A good choice- you could eat bread walking but cutting cheese? Maybe Sothe could do that, but Leonardo doubted he could. Being so tired as he was, Nolan nearly cut through a slice of jerky before noticing the cheese was, indeed, cut. He passed it around, eating his slice of cheese and jerky easily.
Edward closed his eyes as he ate, leaning back (he had sat up to get his food) so far that he fell over. Leonardo tried to suppress a laugh but failed and it slipped out- as a small giggle. Which was followed by a bleat of laughter from Edward.
"W-Was that yah Leo? Ha, ha!" He didn't even try to sit up again, and the others watched the friends messing around and try to shake off their wariness. "You call that a laugh? That's a little girl's giggle!" Leonardo coughed as Edward pointed at himself.
"Now me? I'm the total model of a man! Tough, hard, and strong!" Micaiah laughed and Sothe raised an eyebrow.
"Since when were you any of those things?" The rouge asked, eating his food as he stretched his limbs. Probably a good idea, but Leonardo was hardly able to stand straight and not become dizzy. Maybe he should have slept more then he had, but he didn't want to. For some reason, last night, the idea of being in a closed area with another had scared him. Maybe he just was used to his personal space. More likely, he just didn't feel like going to sleep but was feeling the effects now.
"That's a good question Ed. The toughest I've seen you certainly isn't now." Leonardo couldn't help but poke fun at his boyfriend (technically, though nobody really knew about it) and laughed at the scowl in return.
"Come on you guys, don't make so much fun of Eddy..." Sothe managed to keep his face somewhat straight up to then, but it cracked and Sothe started to laugh. "Leave some for me!" Laughter grew around the loose circle at Edward's cry of protest.
"Ah, Edward, we're just messin' with you!" Micaiah yawned and stretched her arms as she looked around the group. "Are you all ready to get moving? We should leave now, if you are." A mood of seriousness replaced the joyful mood that had been taking over the Dawn Brigade. Leonardo sighed and stretched his limbs to prepare for a long day of walking, and possibly fighting.
"I'm ready when you all are..." The archer found himself being leaned upon by his favorite myrmidon. "Ed-Ward! What's wrong with you standing up yourself?" He moaned, mostly only complaining because he hardly had enough strength to stand up himself.
"I'm too la-zy Leo... But I can walk if yah help me..." Edward gave Leonardo his puppy-dog eyes as Nolan snickered. He probably guessed the relationship between the two, but he had never asked about it.
The fighter hoisted his ax on his shoulder and rolled his shoulders. Sothe had two knives out, and Leonardo took a few seconds to string his bow and put it over his shoulder, within easy reach. They weren't going to take any risks- they could be attacked any second.
"Well let's get goin', if yah aren't gonna slow us down Ed." Sothe was yawning as he spoke, but glanced around at the ready Dawn Brigade.
"Alrighty! Let's get going!" Micaiah's smile looked a little forced, but it was there. And at that, they started following Sothe deeper into the forest.
They would leave Oscar, Titania, and Gatrie behind. Anymore and further injuries would be hard to handle. Any less and Ike wouldn't feel comfortable in Soren's, Rhys', and Rolf's safety.
Oscar would go because he refused to leave his younger brother behind. Titania was slightly injured, but would heal, and would be great to protect Rhys. It was a well known fact that they had feelings for each other. Just how far their feelings went wasn't such a well known fact.
Ike had finally chosen Gatrie to provide a good, solid defense so the paladins could use their range of movement without worrying about leaving a weak defense behind. It was logical, and Soren would have picked the same. Except, of course, one person who was lacking in the party that would be left behind.
"Ike..." Soren spoke softly as he lay on the ground, his stretcher comfortably wrapped in several heavy layers of sheer wool and heavy cloth (he had insisted on 'seeing Ike off'). Ike was on his knees so Soren wouldn't have to speak too loudly. Nearby, Ike could see Oscar and Boyd talking with Rolf. The youngest of the brothers was noticeably upset, and Ike assumed Shinon was as well. He hadn't seen the sniper since he dropped something off for Rolf, then he went to talk with Gatrie (who was also nowhere to be seen).
"You'll be fine Soren... I fully trust the people I'm keeping with you. I know you want me to stay behind but..." Ike couldn't finish his sentence because Soren forced one of his hands to grab onto Ike's. Soren was so cold... "Soren, you should get inside before you catch a cold." Soren frowned and shook his head slightly.
"N-Nonsense. I'll be fine... T-This is nothing." Maybe if he hadn't started shuddering, and if his face was bright red from the cold, Ike might have believed him. As it was, Ike was prepared to hurt some feelings if it would save Soren from a cold later on.
"You're going inside, whether you like it or not." Soren opened his mouth to start complaining, but Ike stood up and looked down at his friend. "You'll be fine Soren-"
"I'm worried a-about you! I-Ike... You know your safety is the... The only thing I really c-care for." Ike hesitated from calling Oscar and Mist over. Oscar could, easily, carry Soren himself. Mist was just there to make sure Soren's wounds wouldn't be aggravated.
"... Soren..." Soren shook his head, and Ike stopped speaking. Soren looked frail today, or maybe it was just Ike. Soren had lost so much blood the other day, it was no wonder he was a little pale. His red eyes still retained their bright fierceness though, and his eyes gleamed in the early morning light.
"You better stay safe Ike! O-Or... Or I'll never forgive myself!" Ike blinked in surprise, but nodded somewhat numbly.
"I... I promise I'll stay safe. But you need to rest too Soren... So I'll stay safe, if you stay alive." Soren gave Ike a small smile. "Oscar... Mist... Soren should get inside, and the rest of us should leave now." The two came over and carefully picked up the sage. As he was brought away, Ike could still feel Soren's eyes on him.
"Ike? I'm ready to go now." Boyd's voice was soft as he looked at Rolf. The young teenager's arm was in a tight sling, not moving as the green-haired archer talked to a red-haired sniper. Ike glanced over at Boyd and raised an eyebrow.
"Are you sure? Its not to late to go with your brothers." Ike knew how close the three were, though he didn't know the exact details. Boyd sighed and ran a hand through his hair, smiling slightly as Rolf turned towards them and waved. Shinon scowled and looked away.
"Rolf's growing up, and Oscar can take care of him... Nah, its just this entire thing. I'll follow yah everywhere, y'know that... But I don't like how we're already down two people in one day." Boyd didn't need to bring that to Ike's attention- he knew the problems they were already facing. Soren was the brains behind everything, and he was already out of commission. Who was next? Ike had an uneasy feeling that he was going to see more of his friends hurt before this was all over.
"I... I know Boyd. Do you mind seeing if Mist is ready to leave? I know Mia's been ready since dawn, and Shinon already told me we can leave." Boyd nodded and walked away, Rolf running up towards Ike. Shinon followed behind him, much slower.
"Ike! I wish I was able to help... But I know you can get this whole thing over soon. I'll keep everyone safe, and I'm sure my arm will heal soon!" Ike couldn't help but smile at Rolf's carefree and easygoing personality, his positive attitude helping calm the tension in the air.
"Bah, you just need to stay safe Rolf. Little Ikey's gonna be fine. Now go bug Oscar or something." Rolf scowled at Shinon who patted the top of his head as he turned him towards the remaining tents. As Rolf ran off, Ike raised an eyebrow at Shinon.
"You seem to be fine, leaving him behind." Ike commented. Shinon shifted his position a little, looking at Rolf as he ran away.
"He'd just slow us down, and right now he can't fight. Why would I not be fine, leaving a useless person behind?" Shinon snapped at Ike, eyes narrowing. Ike shrugged as Mist and Mia ran towards them.
"We're all ready brother!" Mist was holding her bag and a heal staff. Behind them, Boyd was returning as he talked with Gatrie. All four of them were bundled up with winter clothes atop their usual garb. Ike waited for Boyd and Gatrie to get within hearing distance before he talked.
"Alright. We should get going... Now, if anyone wants to join the smaller party, or if anyone's having doubts in general... Well, speak now or forever hold your peace. We're going to be chasing after a pretty smart enemy who we've fought with before. For those of you who don't know, that green-haired young man was Sothe." A lack of any response to that sentence made it clear everyone had already known. Well, one thing down.
"So... Is there anything anyone wants to say?" Boyd raised his hand and a small roll of laughter went over the mercenaries. Oscar and Titania joined them as Boyd started to speak.
"Yeah. I say we grab Sothe, kick his butt, and knock some sense into his spiky-head!" The laughter came back and was noticeably louder.
"Here, here!" Gatrie said, and Ike could have sworn Shinon muttered 'hell yeah'. Ike felt a grin flash on his face. He was with his friends, and here they were, ready to fight to finish a job he had taken on. How could he have doubted them?
"So say your last goodbyes, we're heading out!" Ike shouldered his bag and started off. He didn't need to turn around to know his friends, allies, and companions, were following.