Once, dragons and men coexisted. They shared a peace forged in wisdom, a peace that lasted many generations. This peace was lost when mankind disrupted the balance in a sudden onslaught. Man fought dragon in a savage war that shook the foundations of their world. This war was called "The Scouring".
Defeated and humbled, dragons vanished from the realm. In time, man rebuilt and spread his dominion across the land and on to the islands beyond.
A millennium has passed since those dark days ended.
Time has begun to repeat. A dark druid named Nergal plans to summon the dragons back into this world. The only obstacle to his success is a small army led by three lords and directed by an amateur Ilian tactician named Mark. Their journey led them to the Dragon's gate on the Dread Isle, where the last of the dragons were sealed away by the legendary hero Hartmut. The battle against Nergal and his forces was prolonged and fierce, but eventually the lords stood victorious and the dark druid was felled. Now the finale begins...
Mark stood over the dark druid's body. Blood pooled beneath Nergal from where Eliwood ran him through with Durandal. Compared to the mighty figure they had just faced, Nergal now looked nothing more than a feeble old man. No one knew his intentions and no one ever would. Was it power? It appeared so from his actions, but his last words intrigued Mark. With his last words, Nergal said a name, a female one. Did Nergal want power to bring back a lost love?
Mark sighed. It didn't matter now. Nergal was dead and Elibe was safe from his terror. Mark had managed to lead his comrades safely to victory, almost miraculously considering his inexperience. Taking a look around, he saw his comrades rejoice. Hector was shouting cheers of joy, Lyn was laughing, Eliwood smiling, the first since Ninian's death.
Watching his comrades celebrate from afar, Mark laughed in relief.
"I actually did it, didn't I…? Spending every night going over my plans to make sure they were flawless, advising all of the troops and keeping morale up. Moving everyone through all of the sadness, happiness, victories, losses and even love…"
Mark looked at the various couples that had formed along the journey.
"Despite the danger, love had managed to blossom between some of the troops. Even the most unexpected couples had formed, such as Barte and Karla. Heh, I'm happy that I was there to see it all despite the accompanying stress."
Mark took out his worn-out journal and set it next to Nergal.
"My role as a tactician dies with you Nergal. I broke many of the tactician's codes of conducts, but it was worth it. Unlike you, I could never use people like pieces in a chess game. I don't know why you decided to start this war, whether it was for power or love, but I hope you achieve some happiness in your next life. Farewell."
With those final words, Mark turned his back on the fallen druid and returned to his comrades. This journey had ended and a new one would now begin. But as Mark walked away from Nergal, he failed to notice the aura of dark magic gathering behind him.
A weary voice echoed throughout the chamber. "Not yet… With my last..."
Mark looked around, befuddled. "What?"
"Mark! Behind you!" Lyn yelled.
Mark turned around and jumped back in surprise at what he saw.
Dark magic suspended Nergal's body in the air as a substance of some kind spilled from his body into the Dragon's Gate.
From the corner of his eyes, Mark saw Athos stagger. Mark turned towards him. "Lord Athos, what's happening?"
Athos, the living legend, he of the legendary eight heroes, was horror-stricken.
Mark felt a cold chill at the sight. He took a step back and spoke again. "Lord Athos?"
His words seemed to break the trance Athos was in and the archsage rushed forward. "No! Everyone get back!"
A mighty roar shook the cavern as flames, a torrent of heat that turned the stone tiles a brilliant white, surged through the Dragon's Gate. Athos called forth his own flames from his tome, Forblaze, to combat the fire.
It was a sight to behold, flames that were as those of purgatory clashed against an equal, if not superior fire. And then Mark saw it.
From within the flames, ominous shadows emerged, those of creatures long forgotten to this world. It was a nightmarish sight, a bleak outcome Mark had prayed would not occur. The heat gave the creatures an illusionary appearance, shimmering and fading within the flames. But they were very much real.
Mark stumbled backwards, tripping on his cloak. He crashed onto the ground but could only continue staring at the flames, transfixed by a morbid fear.
"After all of our trials, we still could not stop it?"
At last the flames ceased. But the sight they revealed was no better. Dragons, a trio cloaked in flames as hot as the sun had emerged from the gate. Enormous tremors shook the ground as they approached, heartrending roars echoing through the cavern.
Mark blanched. He had a scenario for every situation, every circumstance, every possibility. But for this, no true victory was possible. He wracked his mind, hoping, praying that there was an obscure fact he could recall, a hidden weakness of the dragons he could exploit. Nothing.
This was it, the end. The archsage stood at the fore, ready to repulse the dragons' flames with his own. And yet, that would not be enough. Even his legendary might was not enough to fell a dragon.
Mark rose to his feet but his shaking legs threatened to send him once more to the ground. There was just nothing he could do here.
"Is this it? Where we meet our end? Were our efforts in vain? All for naught?" He shook his head. There was still a chance. For now, a retreat. Reinforcements could be gathered and together the dragons could be slain.
Footsteps echoed from behind him. A gruff and yet cultured voice spoke, one that Mark knew all too well after meeting him in the man's plight to aid his friend.
"Dragons… I guess the fun ain't over yet is it Mark?"
Hector approached, Armads slung over his left shoulder, and stood at Mark's right side. He clapped Mark's shoulder with his free hand. "It's been a pleasure working with a brilliant mind like yours."
"Hector…" Mark could only watch as the Ostian Lord walked away and took his place next to the archsage.
Mark felt a slender hand grab his shoulder and turned to see Lyn standing by his side.
"Mark, it was fun journeying with you. If I had never found you on the plains that day, I would still be there. Thank you."
She gave him a quick hug and then took her place by Hector's side with the Sol Katti and Mani Katti in both hands.
Mark felt his heart fall, an unpleasant sensation settling in his chest.
And then another spoke, a quiet voice that Mark had come to associate with resolve and nobility.
"Mark. I also wish to thank you." Eliwood, the fiery haired Lord of Pherae, bowed in front of Mark.
"No Eliwood- You needn't… I'm only a tactician!" Mark shook his head frantically at the display.
Eliwood smiled and returned to an upright stance.
"Though we could not save my father, it was because of you that I could meet him once more. You might be 'only a tactician'… but I will forever be in your debt."
Eliwood shook Mark's hand and gave him a melancholic smile. "May we meet again. Farewell." With those words, Eliwood took his place next to the other lords, Durandal drawn and held at his side.
Following their lords, the other warriors gathered in front of Mark after saying words of thanks. They were valiant warriors facing impossible odds. But this time Mark could do nothing to help them.
Making a final stand for the world and their leader, these heroes took their places and waited for the unspoken signal to begin the true final battle. But once it was given, there would be no going back. This was a battle from which none could return.
Mark couldn't let that happen. He had promised to bring everyone home safely. After miraculous victories, he couldn't let them march towards their deaths.
"No!" he screamed. "You can't do this! Everyone, stop! These are dragons! We can't win!"
Eliwood shook his head. "You're wrong Mark."
"Yeah," Hector added. "Who was it that told us 'We'll win even if the world turns against us'?"
Mark shook his head. "No… That's different! These are dragons! Even with my best plans we wouldn't win!"
"We know that," Lyn said. "But you've always been there for us Mark. It's time we returned the favor."
Lyn shook her head.
"This is where our fates diverge. You once said that war was a game where the tacticians were the players and the soldiers were the pieces. Well, it's time for the player to resign."
Mark looked around at his comrades, searching for any sign of doubt, anything that would make them stop. But there was none. They were resolute, willing to give their lives for this boy that had somehow become the center of their web of lives.
"Farewell." A final sentiment from his friends, the brave souls that he would never forget.
The last thing Mark saw was their valiant charge before everything turned dark.
When he awoke, he found himself inside of a large stone temple. Elaborate carvings and glyphs lined the walls and pillars, but when Mark tried to focus on them they went out of focus.
Mark was standing in the middle of a large chamber in front of an ornate water fountain. Two columns of water shot from either side of it into a large pool in the middle. Curiously, each column was a different color, white and black respectively. The white column of water seemed to be weaker than the black one.
"They are, aren't they?"
Mark's heart pounded and he spun around, his hand reaching for his pouch. He didn't have any weapons on him but he found that a well placed mine in the face worked just as well at felling a foe.
The speaker, a woman in saintly religious garments, had a flicker of amusement on her face as she observed Mark.
"And just what were you planning to do with that?"
Mark looked at her and at the mine in his hand. He laughed and tucked it back into his pouch. "Sorry about that madam, I've had too many encounters with the unsavory sorts in my lifetime." He scratched the back of his head and gave her a sheepish smile.
The lady, who Mark now realized was evidently beautiful, walked towards him, her golden hair drifting behind her as she did. She was smiling, a radiant smile that seemed to lighten and sanctify the very air.
"Of course you have Mark. But regardless, welcome to the Temple of Balance. We've been expecting you."
Mark opened his mouth to speak but the woman held out a hand in silence.
"I am sure you have many questions, but we do not have much time. For now, just listen to what I have to tell you. I'm sure you can do that, can't you?"
Mark was stunned at the woman's sudden authority and did the only thing he could in face of such a force. He nodded.
"Very well. It appears that someone has intervened in Elibe's timeline. The aid that was to come in the final battle did not arrive. As a result, the balance between light and dark has shifted and other realms are succumbing to the dark. We cannot allow this."
Mark was confused. "Dark? Light? Other realms? We?"
The woman shook her head.
"That I cannot tell you. We are already taking a large risk by pulling you out of time."
She turned and gazed off in the distance for a bit.
Mark was curious. He considered questioning her but thought better of it.
After a moment, the lady returned her gaze to Mark and spoke.
"Mark. If we sent you back in time, would you be able to lead Elibe's heroes to victory?"
Those words rattled Mark as the recent events replayed in his head.
The dragons' emergence and everyone's sacrifice… if he was there again he could- no. He would never resort to that. He would not use people as pieces on a boardgame.
Mark shook his head.
"I don't think I can do it. In the face of the dragons, I couldn't do a thing. No plans, no countermeasures, nothing. I could only beg everyone to run and even then they didn't listen. If it ends up like that again, what's the use?"
The lady smiled at his words.
"Mark… you are brilliant. It's no wonder that you were able to lead them to victory."
Mark raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
The saintly woman gave him a knowing smile.
"Previously, in the face of overwhelming odds, you could find a route to victory. But this time, you could not. You acknowledged not only the overwhelming odds that faced you and your allies, but the fact that even if the dragons were vanquished it would come at a heavy price, did you not?"
Mark sighed. "…It doesn't matter. Even if the world was saved, it wouldn't be worth living when everyone else had died to save it."
"I see… Well, we have a few gifts for you to prevent that. Close your eyes."
Mark was skeptical but did as he was told. The moment he did, a flash of light that would have blinded him filled the room.
He gasped as a surge of magic flooded his veins. "A class change?"
"Yes. The rules have changed Mark. With the death of Elibe's heroes, the Dark has gained a large amount of power. They are also aware that we are trying to correct the timeline and have no doubt sensed your absence. Because of this, you will have to take a larger role in battles from now on. You can no longer stand behind your comrades and lead from a distance. You must engage in battles yourself, which will now be more numerous, dangerous and fierce."
As the woman spoke, Mark could feel years of combat experience settle within his mind. Axe, sword, bow and spear. How to use each weapon type, how to maintain them, which were the best scenarios to deploy each. Knowledge of that and more filled his mind before it became second nature. He could also feel his frail body suddenly becoming stronger, more… fit.
Mark recalled the feeling of helplessness he always had when his comrades leapt into battle without him. It would be different now. Even if the battles would be more rigorous, dangerous, as long as he could be by their sides, Mark knew they would succeed. "That's fine with me."
Eventually, the light faded.
Mark opened his eyes to see that an axe, sword, lance, bow and quiver were now lying on the ground in front of him. Each had an emblem of a dragon encased within a shield with a sword and axe behind it. They appeared to be standard iron weapons but different in a way.
He looked at the weapons for a moment longer and then looked up at the lady. "I assume these are mine?"
Mark stepped forward and picked each up. As he did, he noticed the woman had turned again to gaze at something in the distance.
"Already?" she muttered.
"What? What's happened?"
The woman shook her head.
"It appears that we cannot keep you here any longer."
As she said that, the floor beneath Mark began to shimmer and shift.
At first, he thought it was only the floor, but then he realized that everything he saw was shifting out of focus as well.
"Mark. You are our- no, Elibe's last hope. You must not fail."
It was dark now and Mark could only see the barest hint of the woman who had given him another chance.
"I know." A curt response, yet the only words that needed to be said. An acceptance of his duty and affirmation of his will.
Mark glanced downwards and saw the familiar plains of Sacae fast approaching.
He stared in brief bewilderment before he understood. "Wait… You aren't planning to DROP me there are you?"
The temple was completely gone now, along with the woman. Instead the clear sky and air of the Sacaen Plains surrounded Mark. But even then, Mark could have sworn he heard her laughter as he fell through the sky.
Mark sighed and braced himself for impact. At least the plains were soft this time of the year.
Lyn was on her way to the copse of trees near her home to get firewood when she saw someone lying on the ground.
Curious, she approached the person. It was a man, but he looked badly bruised. From the looks of it, he had taken quite a fall. Not only that, he was face-down and not even breathing.
She gasped and dropped the basket she was carrying. "Is he- is he dead?"
Her fears were assuaged, however, when the person rolled over and groaned.
Lyn sighed in relief. She checked him for injuries and felt for broken bones. Seeing that it was mostly bruises from where he had landed on his weapons, she decided to take him back to her hut. It wasn't safe to lay out in the plains these days and it was her duty to take care of any passing travellers. Besides, the man might have an interesting story to tell.
And thus the journey began anew.
A/N: This is a rewrite of my original tactician story posted way back when I was still starting out as a noobie writer. It has been revamped and edited as of 10/4/2012. Not finished, but details and the such ironed out.
This is not my primary story at the moment, but I needed a break from my others and so decided to bring this up to my current level of writing. I apologize if you were expecting an update, but I seriously needed to edit this story. It was bugging me. Too childish and just... bland in nature. Still good, but it could be better. Which is why I'm fixing it. The next chapter too.
So I'm sorry if you were expecting an update and apologize for removing the other chapter, but I felt I had to.