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After the tough battle of the thin pass, Quint's group then take a brief pause, hoping for a night of rest after being pursued for the last couple of days by the Ankris army. They take shelter at a nearby village for some rest and recovery, finally having some time to take in a nice inn for once.

Fire Emblem

The Casting Shadow

Chapter 14

Beyond the Pass

Quint awoke to the sun lightly kissing his cheeks and eyes, through a small crack in the windowsill. Warming him up in the cool inn room. Opening his eyes Quint then yawned deeply and stretched his back, while still in his cheap bed. While it was one of the poorest beds he had ever slept on, after sleeping on the ground for the past couple of weeks, to Quint it was far better then a bed of feathers.

Still a bit of sleep grabbed his body, and he was reluctant to move. He had the room until noon, and he intended to use it. After his glance drifted around the room, not really looking at anything particular, he then pulled out the small bag that he kept around his neck. He then pulled the stone out of the bag, and held it between his hands. He then shook his head at what he held.

A Fire Emblem. The cause of all of these wars.

Roland then sighed deeply in thought, he reminded himself that he did not know what he had in his hands. There were just the same number of genuine fire emblems to the fake ones it seemed. Plus he had found it at an old man's pawnshop, for 100 worths. Hardly boosted credibility for it being if was real. But the stone alone drew dozens of unanswered questions. But what if it was real? How could he tell?

Too many questions… and not enough answers. Quint then shook his head, it was pointless to ponder on mysteries that one could not answer without more information. Putting the stone back into the bag and putting the bag around his neck. Quint then got dressed and walked down to the first floor of the Inn. Where the smell of what was the group's breakfast encouraged him to walk down the steps.

The group had left the pass the day before yesterday. They arrived at the inn, in the village that Veriden mentioned, yesterday and could not resist what it offered them. Fresh food and warm beds. The group had often to leave of where ever they were staying that most of them had not slept in a bed since they started the journey with Quint. Quint himself was weakened from the day before with the previous engagement, and a bed sounded beyond heavenly. So the group stayed there for the night. Even Miland, while not an official member of the group, was invited in. Quint paid for his room and board to replay him for helping them. And the knight couldn't resist a free meal and bed, so he stayed.

After reaching the bottom of the stairs, Quint noticed most of the group was already up and was polishing off the remains of their breakfasts. Quint then quickly grabbed some of the broth before the innkeeper took it away, Quint the sat in an open seat where Miland and Cid were.

When Quint sat at the table, he looked at Miland and asked, "So, Miland. Were are you off to now?" The brown hair knight shrugged, as if he didn't know himself. "Dunno," he said leaning back into his chair, he then he laughed, "I was actually toying with the idea of asking you to let me stay with you and your group."

"What made you decided this?" Asked Quint, curious of the knight's motives.

"Well I certainly seemed to have been in more fights in a two day period then I have the past year. I feel I could learn a lot from you guys." Then the pointed to Cid, "especially from him, what being a real knight after all." Quint nodded, then smiled he could not turn down free help, and another mounted fighter would help. Even though they were out of Ankris and of the frying pan, Quint couldn't shake the feeling that any and all help was needed. "Very well. It's your choice." Said Quint.

When Quint had finished his meal he then went out of the inn to the small village that they had settled in for the night. It was a small shop and armory in the town, perfect places to sell the red gems that the group recovered from the outpost just before the pass. They will add much to the company's funds, which needed any and all sources income.

After browsing the armory's wears, Quint then stopped by the shop, sold the gems that they found within the outpost and picked up a couple of vulneraries, since he had used his remaining one in the battle of pass. He also found a half used Thundria tome, which Quint could then bind to his present tome and almost refill the pages that he had used since the journey began. He also found a few spell pages of a very rare defensive spell, Aquadia. A water defense spell, and decided buy it to add it to his book. With that, Quint left the shop, now with a decent profit in his coin purse, and then began to stroll back to the inn.

After starting back, Quint felt uneasy for some reason. Slowly glancing over his shoulders he saw a figure walking behind him. He couldn't turn his head around enough to get a good look at whom it was. But he could feel them behind him. He then continued to walk, making it seem that he was oblivious to the figure. But he changes his direction. Instead of walking towards the inn, he then went past the inn and into a small alleyway between two of the houses.

As soon as he entered into the alley, Quint then sprinted as fast as he could down to the other side of the alley and ducked behind one of the buildings, peering into the alleyway behind him. The figure then entered in the alley, it was a cloaked figure, the same one from the fortress in the forest by Noy. What is he doing here? Thought Quint. The figure then walked half way into the alley before realizing Quint was nowhere to be seen.

Pausing dumbfound, the figure then looked around at both sides of the alley. Realizing he had lost Quint the figure then removed his hood and revealed his face. It revealed a man with long black hair, and deep auburn eyes. A Manakete, thought Quint. They were a separate race from the Laguz altogether. They tracked their bloodlines all the back to when to the ancient dragons and drakes that once few in the air. But took on human forms in order to prevent conflict with the humans. They were known to live in the northern part of Brath-Shall called the Drake Mines, their ancestral home.

The figure seemed that there was a "dark" presence about him, but yet something made Quint doubt that for some reason. The man looked around again to see if Quint had hidden himself in the alley. Scoffing to himself, the man the turned and walked out the opposite way of the alley.

After letting the figure leave the alley, Quint then slowly crept up the alley and peering over the side the figure took. Looking down the street, Quint could not see the figure any longer. Stepping out of the alley, Quint then scratched his head in wonder. The cloaked man's presence here brought with it a flood of questions in Quint's mind. But like the stone that hung by his neck, the answers would have to wait.

Else where in the city, Shadow and Lily were exploring the city. Shadow was not exactly happy she was walking around with Lily. The pink haired cat Laguz wanted to explore the village a little before the group left, but nor did she want to do it alone. Fang was no where to be seen, and Micias was busy with his account work and checking the wagon. That left Shadow as the next best candidate: she was sitting alone in the inn, glancing at one of the patrons in the corner.

When Lily first asked her, Shadow said "no." But the answer was not enough to deter Lily. She then grabbed her arm and dragged her out of the inn. Literary. So she was forced against her will to go with Lily. It would make anyone unhappy.

But her mood didn't deter the cat Laguz. Wide eyed and excited, she then began to pounce on every small market stall, browsing their selections. Shadow just tailed her at a distance, not really wanting to be associated with the excited Lily; often shaking her head when Lily did something to embarrass herself.

Lily continued to snoop through the stalls looking at all of them, seeing if there was any scent or sight that appeased her. As she browsed, she caught the scent of something that perked her ears up. It was the smell of apples dipped in honey. Seeing it in a nearby stand, her month began to water. She quickly grabbed for her coin purse, but found nothing there. She had forgotten to take it with her. Her ears then dropped in disappointment. She really wanted the honey apples.

Then a voice came from behind her, "Would you like some of those honey glazed apple slices, girl?" Lily looked at the source of the voice; it was a man in a black rode with auburn eyes, he looked at Lily with a smile on his face. Lily paused in surprise, taken aback by the man's question. But she recovered quickly. "Yeah," she said disappointedly, "I was going to… but I forgot my coin purse." The man just chuckled, not at her but more of a "how cute" kind of laugh. He then turned and bought a small bunch of honey-glazed apples, and handed them to her. "Here," he said with a smile.

Lily's face glowed with joy. She then snatched the apples and began to munch on them. "Thank you sir!" The man just smiled, "Since I did you a favor, would you mind doing something for me?" She then shrugged, "depends on what is…" Normally she would demand some sort of fee for her to do something, but since the man was will to pay for the apples first she felt that she could trust him.

"I understand that a man named Quinthantheus is in the city. Is this not correct?" "Maybe, we have a Quint in our group. Maybe he calls himself Quint for short. Why?" "Well, I have a message for him. It's very important, and I must deliver it to him. Do you know him?" "Yeah, I do. Do you want me to take it to him?" "Would you be so kind?" Said the man with a smile. He then pulled a piece of parchment from his belt, it was folded into a letter, and sealed with a red wax. "This is it, please make sure it gets to him." Lily then stared at the letter curiosity, it was very "official" looking. "Sure I'll do it." She nodded. "Ah, thank you very much."

Lily then turned to head back to the inn, but then swung back around saying, "By the way I didn't get your nam—" she got no further. The man in the black robe had disappeared completely. Lily then looked around, confused at what had just happened. She then slowly turned around and began to walk back towards the inn, and where Shadow was standing; examining the letter that she was handed carefully in one hand and holding the glazed apples in her other hand. As she walk towards Shadow, the letter had perked Shadow's interest enough to ask, "what is that?"

Lily shrugged, "I don't know. A man bought me these apples in exchange for delivering this letter to Quint." Shadow looked at the letter suspiciously, and sniffed at it. It had a familiar scent… but she could not recall were it was that she had smelt it before. "Weird, huh?" Admitted Lily, then she added. "Is Quint's full name Quinthantheus?" "Why?" Asked Shadow. She was one of the few that knew of Quint's full name. Lily motioned back to were she had run into the man, "The man there said he was looking for him, but when I told him that we had a Quint, he seemed to believe they were the same person."

The name then jogged her memory, and she then recognized the smell. The clocked man from the fortress! She then glanced over to were Lily had been when she had ran into the man. She saw nobody else in front of the stand. Whoever it was, he was long gone. No doubt disappeared like before. "What is it?" said Lily worried. Shadow sighed, "nothing. You better get that to Quint… He'll want to read it…" Lily and Shadow then headed toward the inn.

At the inn, Lily was able to find Quint at the nearby stables, brushing Prince Buthald's horse. The poor thing had followed them since the village and Quint decided to keep him. While it had been years since he had ever ridden a horse, he was open minded to try it again. After all the horse was a fine animal. No doubt it was the princes because of how fine it was.

Lily then walked up to him and said, "there you are, Quint!" Quint smiled, "Oh, Lily. What brings you to the stables?" "I have a letter for you." "A letter?" Who would send me a letter? "Who was it from?" Lily shook her head, "I didn't get his name, he just disappeared after giving the letter." She had giving him the letter. "Disappeared?" Said Quint taking the letter from her. He looked the front of it, nothing to show who it was from. Then he flipped it over, it bore a red wax seal. Quint recognized it. It was a Brath-Shall seal, often used by princes and princesses on official business. "Could you describe him? The man who gave you this letter." Lily shrugged, "he was nice. He bought some honey-glazed apples for me." "Physical features?" "Tall, black hair. And bright…" she struggled with the color of his eyes. "Auburn eyes?" Guess Quint.

"Yeah! I thought he had weird eyes!" Quint then shook his head; it was the man from the alley, the same one from the forest fortress. Quint's mind then jumbled with questions. But then he looked at Lily and smiled, "Thanks Lily."

He then put the letter in his pocket. "Aren't you going to read it?" She asked. Quint smiled, "later, maybe. Right now I have to tend to this horse." Lily sighed disappointed, she wanted to know what the letter was about. "Ok, suit yourself." Quint smiled again and returned to brushing the horse, while Lily walked out of the stables and back towards the inn.

When she was gone, Quint put down the brush and broke the seal of the letter. He carefully opened the letter slowly pulling back each flap of the folded paper. When it was completely open, Quint saw the writing of the letter. It read:

To Quinthantheus

I was hoping to speak to you directly, but it seems that I received only your distrust and avoidance. And under the present assumptions that we have met each other under the first time, it is understandable why you would wish to avoid me. So I wrote this letter so you would have to hear me out.

I have tracking your progress thus far and must say I am impressed with your performance. Not everyone can save a village and lead their troop successfully out of harms way. You certainly have proven yourself to be a brilliant strategist and fighter at the same time.

But this letter is not to only give you praise. I have news that you might be interested to know. I am sure you are aware of the news of the 4th Prince Percious Weson Burtion's assassination in the recent conflict. But I doubt you have heard the news that the 3rd Prince, Vertious Newert Burtion as also been assassinated. In a very similar way as his half-brother. The court is very concerned, and is trying to find the culprit. Many believe it is the former 5th prince. The one disowned many years ago. But you cannot believe everything you hear; you know this to be quite true…

But there are many of us, including my master and myself who disagree with this. We believe that it is the work of another group of masterminds, who are also the plotters of these many conflicts across the land. The ones who seek the tablets. And we have able to confirmed one of you no doubt lingering suspicions. Sothis is one of them. And he is one put of at least four we have heard of. So be cautious. You have quite a fight ahead of you.

I also wish to warn you of a more present danger. The prince of Ankris, the one whom you stole his horse, has employed a company of mercenaries and is traveling with them to pursue you though the pass. Presently they are in the north woods outside the village, and laying in wait for you and your group. I would recommend you attack them before night fall. They seem quite intended on attacking the village then of you do not leave today. And I fear they have bribed the village guard not to rally if they should attack you. So you will be on your own. But I doubt they will that much of a challenge for you.

Please heed my warnings. Although we first met under questionable circumstances, I just want to stress that we both seek the same goal. I do not want or need to be your enemy. And I hope this letter will help you to come to trust me. I doubt the ax man that I injured will, but he does not know the situation like you do.

Please take care of the tablets you have collected. They will slow down our enemies' progress and keep them in the dark like us.

Best of Luck…

Quint slowly read through the letter again to see if he could pick on any little sign as to who wrote it. The writer was very cautious to be as vague as possible. It was clear that he knew a lot of the group's progress, and about Quint. But how much did he know? And the sudden remorse of what he did back at the fortress to Brath? Why now was he trying to communicate with them? The day had been merely one progressing from set of questions to another. But Quint could say one question was answered, "Why was he here?" He wanted to warn Quint it seemed.

"Must be important… if it has caught this much of your attention…" Came a voice outside the door of the stables. Quint looked up from the letter, it was Shadow. "I take it you know who it is from the scent on this letter alone." "You could say that… Quinthantheus." "Please do not call me that." Requested Quint.

Shadow then walked into the stable, "what does it say?" "It seems to be a warning. Apparently the man was trying to warn of a group of mercenaries that are lying just outside the village waiting for us. Can you smell them if they are nearby, Shadow?"

The wolf laguz then closed her eyes and inhale deeply. After a moment of deep sniffs of the air around her she then looked at Quint. "I cannot do it from here." Quint sheepishly grinned; he knew he was asking to much of her abilities. "I guess we will find out when we leave," he said optimistically.

Then a scent caught Shadow's nose and her ears perked up. She then began to glance around quickly. "What is it?" Said Quint concerned. "Someone is here," she said quietly. She sniffed it again, and found the source, up in the hayloft. "I know you're up there, you cannot fool me." Quint watched the hayloft suspiciously, nothing happened. The there a came low grunt and a complaining voice, "aw why'd you have to ruin my hiding spot!" Quint sighed he recognized the voice. It was Lily.

The pink haired Laguz then jumped down to the stable floor, strands of straw and hay caught in her hair and clothing. Quint guessed she had covered herself in it to hide her scent form Shadow. It worked, for a little bit.

"Why were you spying on us?" asked Quint. Lily then smiled guiltily. "Really was I? I didn't even realize—" "Lily," interrupted Quint. Lily then sighed, "I wanted to hear what the letter was about. I mean I had every right to know. I delivered it!" Quint then shook his head. "The man wanted to warn us about some potential mercenaries on the edge of the village waiting to ambush us."

"But what does that have anything to do with Quinthantheus?" "Who told you that word?" Asked Quint. He only recalled Clare and Shadow knowing about it. "The man told me he was looking for a Quinthantheus. I assumed he meant you." The she smiled, "turns out I was right." Quint couldn't argue that she was wrong. She probably had heard Shadow say it and his guilty reply to her.

"It was a name I was once called. A long time ago… before I was a slave." "I see…" said Lily. "I didn't mean to pry…" she now felt guilty. She had forgotten about his past. "Lily," said Quint. "Could you please keep that fact to yourself… I'd rather not have the entire company know about my old name." "Sure," said Lily.

Then from behind them a man walked into the stable. He was middle aged with grey in his red hair with a concerned looked "Excuse me," said the man politely, "would you be heading to the north of village, by chance towards the woods?"

"Perhaps," said Quint cautiously, "what is the matter?"

The man stepped forward. "Please, it's me boys. My sons. They went out hunting yesterday and have not returned to the village yet." "So you want us to check to see if they are ok? Should we bump into them?" Guessed Quint. The man nodded, "if it's not to much trouble. They're names are Larn and Serg. I went to the town guard but they said they could do nothing. Some of them were their friends! I do not know what has come over them!" Quint quickly exchanged a quick glance toward Shadow, and then answered, "we'll do what we can."

The men the thanked them, and went back into the street. Quint and Shadow exchanged glances, "You thinking what I am think?" Asked Quint. Lily looked back and forth between the two. "What's going on?" Quint the explained, "If the villager's sons have been delayed somehow from a hunting trip to the woods, wouldn't one of the possible reasons why they are late is that they ran into a band of mercenaries laying an ambush for us, and had to be "silenced" until the ambush was over?"

"You don't mean…" said Lily realizing. Quint shook his head; "I cannot say for sure that is the case. It could just be that there is no ambush and that they got lost somehow. It just means we will have to be careful." He then smiled, "We'll find out soon enough."

It was a shame that Quint was right… well half right. There was a troop of mercenaries set to ambush Quint's group, and they had run into the two brothers out hunting. But they were "silenced" by being tied up and put in the back of the ambush.

At the very back of the ambush, was Prince Buthald on his replacement horse and the dark haired mercenary, who introduced himself as Otern. The black haired man was a tall and muscular man, with scars all over his body and face. He wore a thick jacket over a blue cotton shirt, and carried a large ax.

"Are you sure this will work?" Asked the prince with reservations in his mind. The big man smiled, "Ya have nothing to worry about, Mi'lord. My men will take care of them. We got a little bit of everythin' to throw at them. Mounted men archers and even a mage or two. We are ready for them." The Prince had his doubts but he didn't know a thing about planning for a battle. So he just relied on Otern's word. He had been very helpful to the prince, and had asked very little, even for payment. So the prince couldn't help but trust him, he was behaving how the prince felt a true servant should.

"Very well," said the Prince. "Will the battle be nearby?" "Oh, very nearby Li'lord. It may be were ya are standing. One can never tell how a battle will go until it happens." The prince then shifted uneasily in his saddle, "I see… then I will get away from the potential battle ground to, tactically observe the battle." "Good, idea Li'lord," said the chief mercenary, "ya might need a body guard. I better come with ya." "Are you sure?" "I'll leave my best man on the job!" Otern then left the prince and walked over to one of his men and said, "Oi, Pan. Yer in charge. I gotta look over our little coin purse." He said it quiet enough so that the prince didn't hear him.

The man he was talking to was another buff man like the other. He had a bald head and a lot of scars like Otern. "Got it boss!" "Take 'em if ya can. Got it? Then look fer the tablets, they're probably in the wagon that they have." "Right!" And with the Otern turned to the Prince and said, "Shall we, Li'lord?" and the two of them then went deeper to avoid the battle.

Pan then turned to the two prisoners that they had. Both of them had bright red hair and deep blue eyes. One seemed to be a few years older then the other, and the bandit could tell they were family in some way. Seeing the elder struggled against his bindings, Pan then yelled at him, "Aw quit ya struggling. We ain't gonna hurt ya!" "Then what's with tying us up? We were just hunting, we were not doing you any harm," protested the elder. "Yeah, but ya saw us… and we gotta keep ya here until ours job's done." "Are you going to do anything to the village?" Asked the younger one almost in tears. Pan shook is head, "we ain't gonna do anything to the village! We just want a group that settled in there. Now you two better not say 'nother peep today."

Pan then went up the rest of the men, leaving the two brothers bound behind them. The elder stared after the bald mercenary with angry eyes, while the other just crouched in fear, "I'm scared Larn…" he said whimpering to his brother. Larn then broke his stare and smiled at his brother, "It will be ok, Serg. I promise…" "Ok…"said the younger brother meekly. "But we have to get away from here I don't trust them. If we can get to our bows, and our horse we can get away to the village." He then struggled against the ropes, "first though we have to get out of these ropes first."

"Larn," said the younger brother, "how can do that?" "Do you still have your knife?" Serg nodded, the bandits didn't search his boots and found a hidden dagger in it. "Ok, we will use that…"

Quint and the rest of the group had left the village without being the cause of some sort of scene, for once. But Quint had informed the group of what most likely waited for them outside the village and they were prepared to meet them head on. It was not the first time they expected to be ambushed. Quint joked in his head, it's like we are used to getting ambushed. A sad realization for him. (And for me too realizing how many times I have used an ambush situation…).

The group was heading north, towards the woods that blanketed the land between the village and the capitol city, Rifen. Quint was ahead, but this time he really could not come up with a plan. The village itself had a good 500 yards between the woods and the outer buildings. If he sent anyone around the woods to try and flank the mercenaries, they would be spotted in an instant. The only plan that he could devise was to go in expecting an ambush and be prepared for it; a rather weak plan but the only one available. He kept more of the heavy hitters of the group in the front and back, leaving the more weakly armored persons in the middle with the wagon.

Moving closer and closer to the woods, the group's pace became slower and more attentive towards their surroundings. Then they entered the woods and followed the main road to Rifen. Everyone was one there toes. Quint had Shadow next to him, to sniff out any mercenary to let them know when they were getting close.

She then motioned Quint to stop the group, and they stopped in the middle of the road. "What is it?" "I smell a group of men heading our way." "Where?" "They're coming down the road now."

Then from above, Skye came soaring down low and yelled, "Quint there seems to be two riders on a horse coming down the road toward us, they are being chased by a group of men!" "It could be the hunters," said Quint out loud. He then nodded, "alright lets go!" then group then rushed down the road, to help the two hunters from their peril.

"Come on! Go!" Urged Larn to his horse. His brother, Serg held his brother around his waist behind him. Glancing back Serg then cried, "they're gaining on us, Larn!" Larn cursed under his breath, the horse was going as fast as it can, and yet it couldn't out run the faster horses of the mercenaries. If they could get to the village, hopefully they could get away from them and seek shelter. But Larn knew that was unlikely, they were gaining on the brothers quickly.

"Blast!" Said Larn under his breath. He didn't know what to do… Whoosh, came a noise above his head. Larn's head shoot up and he saw two Pegasus riders diving towards him. He then turned pale; he did not realize that they had Pegasus riders. He saw one of them ready a javelin and he held his breath expecting to get hit. But the riders aim above Larn and threw the weapon at the riders pursuing them.

He heard the javelin, bend the air over his head, and pierce one of the mercenary's armor. Quickly looking behind him he saw the mercenary with a javelin in his chest fall off of his horse and land on the ground. They're helping us? Thought Larn confused. Then he looked head and saw a group of armed men walking directly towards them. He could hear the other riders began to slow down and back off, the two parties it seemed to Larn were not friends. They must be the ones the mercs wanted to ambush…

As they rode up to the other troop of men, they slowed down and stopped in front of a brown haired young man. "Larn and Serg, I take it…" he said. "Who are you?" asked Larn. "I'm Quint. You father told us you were late getting back. He asked us to keep an eye out for you two. Are you two alright?" larn then looked back at his younger brother gave a shy nodded that he was fine. "Yeah, we're fine." "Good," said Quint. Quint peered over to the two brothers and saw the mercenaries behind them. It seemed like the entire troop of mercenaries came out of their hiding spots and now were in the open. Thanks to the two hunters the mercenaries were now out of their ambush spots and out in the open.

"You two better get out of here," said Quint. "It is going to become dangerous here soon enough, I'd rather not have you become injured." "If you think I am going to let a group of thugs tie me and my brother up and get away with it, you do not know me very well!" Said Larn angrily. Quint then looked at the red haired hunter, "can you fight?" "I've hunted all my life on horseback. I can ride a horse while hitting a pigeon!" "Hunting and fighting trained men are two different things." "But they are not that different…" countered Larn not budging from his offer.

Quint shook his head, he doubt the hunter could be convinced other wise, "Alright." Quint said giving in. Larn then helped his brother off his horse, and said to him, "Look Serg, I want you to run back to father as quick as you can. Don't look back, I will be back shortly, after I help these people." "No…" said the brother quietly. "What?" asked the brother not hearing him clearly. "I want to help. You were not the only ones that they tied up, I want to help you brother." "Serg, go back home!" Ordered Larn. But Serg meekly shook his head. "I'm staying brother. Were you go I go!" "Serg…" sighed brother.

"I hate to interrupt," said Quint hastily pulling his sword from it's scabbard, "but this is not the place to be having a family argument. He then stepped in front of the brothers and looked at the younger one, "can you fight as well?"

"I'm decent at the bow…" he said meekly, "It's the only thing I know how to do…" "That will do," said Quint. It looks like the younger brother was staying. "Stay behind the guys with swords and you will do fine," he said assuring the young hunter.

Quint then turned looked at the troop of men opposite them. They seemed to be a random gathering of fighters rather then a unified mercenary company. But Quint knew better then to assume other wise. They had a couple of mages, one or two archers, ax men swordsmen and men on horse back, minus one that Skye had taken care of. They numbered about thirty, but all seemed to be well trained in their job and their certain job in the company.

The two troops of fighters then just stared at each other, neither on making a sound or unnecessary move. Then another Whoosh, came from the sky and a poorly aimed javelin came down for the sky and landed between the two parties; providing a "signal" to start the attack.

Both sides rushed into each other with a loud clash. It was so loud that the village could hear it, and was perplexed as to the noise; they had never heard the sound of a battle before.

As they rushed towards each other, Quint singled out one of the mages that was in the front row of men charging. The mage stopped about half the distance from Quint and pulled out his tome. The mage then readied the page, but Quint did not hesitate and kept charging. The mage then called out the spell name, "Elfire!" and a larger hotter fire ball pop from the page and launched towards the charging Quint.

Quint was surprised to see a much larger and more powerful spell coming towards him fast. Thinking quickly, he tucked his head in, jumping into a roll and went under the fireball, dodging it completely. He then got on his feet effortlessly and continued to rush towards the mage. The mage fumbled with his book trying to get open and cast a new spell. But Quint was already at the mage's face and quick punch with his free hand into the mage's head. The mage then blacked out and fell to the ground motionless.

The rest of the battle was going well for Quint's group. Anatak and Roch were ripping apart the axmen, while the three horse riders, Cid, Miland and their newest addition, Larn, were teaming up and taking down fighters one by one. First one of the cavaliers would strike at their target, dealing some damage. The Larn would strike at then with his bow, riding right behind the first cavalier, and he was followed by the second cavalier who was there to finish the man if the first one or Larn's arrow didn't finish the job.

The hunter's brother, Serg was not quite up to par with his brother. He was a novice in every sense of the word. He had trouble drawing his bow, and could keep the arrow straight. Cathlyn was a far better archer when Quint had first met her. Quint then guessed this was his first hunting trip with his brother.

Gwen and Monty were taking on a group of three mages that had singled them out. The mages were using the plan to beat Monty first since light magic was weak against element magic, and then focus all of their remaining attacks on Gwen. While she possessed weaker spell pages then the others hers could do just as much damage as one of other mages more powerful fire spells. She was a threat and the mages needed to finish either one or the other quickly.

At first their plan seemed to be ineffective. Gwen and Monty were both resistant to their attacks, and did not take much damage from the first hits. Gwen even deflected one of their Elfire spells back at the mages and had knocked him to the ground in surprise. Thus there were only two mages left. But then the mages caught a break, one of then casted a critical spell and hit Monty in the chest. He then kneeled to the ground and held his chest in pain. Now it was two on one, Gwen was in trouble.

She then hastily casted several Fire spells trying to knock out another one of the mages, but which ever one she targeted, the other would attack right after she did. And when she became defensive, the mages would double-team her. The mage's plan worked.

Gwen then slowly stepped back, trying to slowly retreating as to buy time. For what though she did not know. As a mage readied to attack, Gwen readied to counter. The fire spell was slow to Gwen and she was able to put her hand under the fire ball and deflect it back towards the mage. But on the turn she failed to notice a second fire ball come at her behind the first. As she released the mage's fireball, the second one struck her in her back. The impact then sent her flying a foot backwards into the cool forest ground. Her deflected fireball however struck the second mage, the who had cast the fireball that hit her, and knocked him out. Leaving only the mercenary mage standing, while Gwen laid face down in the ground in pain. Struggling through the sharp pain in her back, she managed to turn around on the ground and see the mage. He was walking towards her, slowly pulling a page from his tome with a victorious grin on his face.

Gwen tried to get up, but her legs had lost all strength and she could not move away. The mage then stopped twenty feet from her and readied the page, it looked like he planned to finish her off. Gwen then turned her head and closed her eyes saying, "Father… Clare… I'm sorry…"

The she heard the mage taunt her, "Heh, goodbye pest!" The he shouted "Fire!" and the Gwen then prepared for the impact.

Aquadia! Came a voice. Gwen eye's then shot open and she saw a bubble of water surround her. Outside the bubble the fireball headed for the bubble. When the two made contact with each other, the bubble then seemed to burst into a large cloud of misty fog that covered Gwen and the mage. Gwen, perplexed as to what had happened then heard running footsteps to her side. Then through the fog a figure came running through to her, it was Quint with his sword drawn.

"Are you ok, Gwen?" The green haired mage nodded. Quint sighed relieved, "good." He then reached in his bag and pulled out one of the vulnerarys he bought earlier that day and handed it to her. "Here, tend to your wounds. I'll take care of the mage." Before Gwen could say anything, Quint had handed her the vulnerary and disappeared into he fog. Gwen then stared ahead and saw a brief flash of a flame, then heard a scream of pain come from ahead of her. It was either the mage or Quint.

Gwen then slowly rose to her feet and removed the top of the vulnerary. Before she could see a figure walking through the fog from in front of her. Gwen narrowed her eyes and saw that the figure carried a sword: it was Quint.

Quit then stopped right in front of her and said, "One more down." Gwen slightly smiled, but then her back made her clench her teeth. "Can you help?" Asked Gwen. "Where are you hurt?" Asked Quint putting away his sword. "On my upper left shoulder… I was stupid enough to turn my back on the two of them… and one of them got lucky." She said handing Quint the healing potion. Quint then looked at the burn, it was worse then he was expecting. It had burnt threw her cape and blouse, leaving a black burn on her back and around the blouse were the burn was. The vulnerary would heal it, but Quint was surprised that she could take a hit like this and still be awake.

In order to treat the wound, Quint had to pull apart the charred cloth off her blouse, so the medicine could treat all of the burn and damage skin. "I'm going to pull the burnt cloth from you skin. It will hurt…" he warned her. Then he offered, "If you want you can head back and have Clare do it. It will be less painful then a vulnerary."

Gwen shook her head. "No, I'm fine Quint. Go head." Quint sighed, "Alright." He then gripped the cloth around the burn area and gave it a hard tug. The black part of the cloth that was fused to Gwen's skin was separated from her body taking with it a layer of skin, casing blood to begin to flow down from the areas where the skin and the blouse where fused. Gwen then let out a sharp exhale of pain, and then groaned, but did not raise her voice. She has gotten stronger, thought Quint.

Now that the blouse was separated from Gwen's wound, Quint could now apply the vulnerary to it. He poured the liquid on her wound and the burn in the middle of it. Gwen again let out a small groan in pain, but it was less severe then the previous one. Rubbing the liquid into her skin, Quint then saw the open wounds from the blouse steadily closing in front of his eyes.

Gwen was slowly regaining her energy, and started to fell the pain of her back diminish. "Quint," asked Gwen staring into the fog that surrounded them, "What was that spell from earlier? And why did it caused this fog?"

"It's called Aquadia, it's a water defensive spell. It creates a water barrier that protects a person from one attack." "Did it cause the fog?" "When the spell comes in contact with a fire spell, the bubble then dissipates and forms into a think fog, like now. It's only temporary, and it should be ending soon." Gwen then felt Quint's hand leave her back, and said, "I wish I could do defensive magic." "You probably can," said Quint smiling. "You seem to be a lot stronger then you once did." "Really? You think so?" "Gwen," said Quint, helping her to her feet, "you just took an Elfire fireball to your back and lived, I think this proof enough you are skilled enough to learn some defensive spells." Gwen smiled, happy that Quint noticed an improvement in her.

As the two of them stood there, the fog started to lighten, the two looked around and saw a figure in the fog. As the fog lifted, the figure was then revealed to be Monty. "There you are, Gwen! I feared the mage had won." "Almost," said Gwen, "But Quint was able to stop that. How is your chest?" "Better," said Monty. "I had a vulnerary and was able to treat the wound. It hurts to breathe but I can still fight."

Quint nodded, "good."

Monty's eyes then filled with shock, "Quint, behind you!" Quint then swung his head around and saw a bald man, Pan, winding his ax up behind him and Gwen, as if he intended to strike the two of them down in one blow. As the ax started to come down, Quint then tackled Gwen and the two rolled to the side and out of the range of Pan's ax.

After rolling to safety, Quint then pulled out his sword, while Gwen and Monty readied their tomes. It would be three on one, but he odds did not matter to Pan. He then began to slowly walk towards the three of them.

As Pan walked toward Quint and the others, an arrow flew past his feet and landed to the group. Pan noticed this and looked to his side at for the source. It was Serg, the red haired hunter boy, standing about ten feet from him. His recent attack with the arrow proved how inexperienced Serg was as an archer, not even being able to hit a target ten feet away. Pan smiled amused at the boy's attempt of a shot, and shifted his body to walk towards the boy.

Serg, now in a staring contest with the mercenary, began to shiver in fear. This was his first hunting trip, and his first fight. He was not used to this. As Pan got closer to him, the young boy became more scared. Serg then tried to reach for another arrow, but his hands were shaking so bad that he could not grab one. Now Pan was five feet away. "Serg! Run!" Shouted Quint making a made dash towards them, but he knew he could not get their in time.

As Pan raised his ax over his head, tears began to fill Serg's eyes from fear. "I don't want to die…" He whimpered. Pan heard this and smiled; in his own humor he found it funny. As he was about to swing the ax down on the young boy, a sharp pain from nowhere sprung from his shoulder, causing him to drop his ax. Pan then turned and saw Larn on his horse with his bow.

Larn then drew another arrow and shouted, "No one threatens my family!" Pulling it arrow back in the bow, Larn then released the arrow at the bald mercenary. The arrow flew steady and on target. Unlike his brother, Larn's arrow proved that he was a skilled marksman. The arrow hit it's mark, the man's heart and went into the chest easily. Pan would have screamed in pain, if he had been alive. Pan then fell to his knees and slouched over. But everyone knew he was dead, but Larn was not stopping.

In a blind rage, Larn continued to launch arrows at the man, yelling at the dead body. He finally was stopped by Quint grabbing Larn's bow and saying: "that is enough! He's dead! You're just wasting arrows!"

Larn looked at Quint with anger in his eyes, but Quint didn't back down. "Tend to your brother… he needs you. Much more then that body needs another arrow." Larn then looked at his brother. He was still standing their, staring at the mercenary's body, shaking uncontrollably. Larn lowered his bow and motioned his horse to walk to his brother.

Quint watched in silence as the elder brother, began to try and calm down his younger brother. "You think he will be alright?" Asked Gwen walking up to Quint watching the brothers. Quint nodded and said not talking his eyes of them, "the younger one will have nightmares for a few nights, but he will be fine. I'm more scared for the elder." Gwen the looked at him confused. "You're an only child Gwen, so you wouldn't understand." Quint's tone then seem to talk from experience, "an elder brother feels a certain obligation to the young one. He always need to protect them, since they often cannot defend themselves. And when the youngest ones can fight back, that oblation remains for the elder ones. It doesn't go away…" He then sighed, "He will feel very guilty for leading his brother into danger."

"Do you have a younger brother?" asked Gwen curious. The question seemed to startle Quint. "I ask because it sounds like you are taking from personal experience." Quint sighed, he was careless. But then he smiled, "Yes. I have a younger brother." But then he closed the conversation by saying, "But it has been over ten years since I've seen him. So I do not know what he is doing."

Quint then looked back at the brothers. It seemed like Larn had calmed down the youngest. The two of them then walked over to Quint. Larn looked at Quint and said, "I wanted to thank you. All of you. You helped my brother and I escape from these mercs."

Quint smiled, "Your welcome." Larn then stared at the ground. "What is it?" Asked Quint. Larn then swallowed hard, "I wanted to ask if you could use an extra bow." "Why, are you offering yours?" The hunter nodded. Quint shook his head, "Why would you want to join us and abandon your brother?" The hunter shook his head, "It's because I need to get stronger. My brother almost died because of my lack of skill. Because of me… I won't let it happen again! I will never get any better from just hunting in the woods all of my life! I need to fight! Please let me join!" Quint looked into the hunter's eyes. He could see the stubbornness in his eyes, and Quint doubted there was nothing he could do about it. "Alright, but you have to ride back into the village and check with your father first. If he says "no" that is the end if it and you stay. Deal?" The red hair hunter nodded. "Alright, we will be around here for a little bit still. We'll leave just before the late after noon, you have 'til then to catch up." The hunter nodding understanding, and mounted up with his brother and took off into the village.

The fight between Quint's group and the mercenaries were pretty much over, the death of their boss, Pan. Made the entire troop flee in fear. But there was no sign of the prince, which made Quint assume he had fled. After they all gathered around Macias's wagon, Quint went looking thought the bodies for anything of value, particular an Elfire spell that several of the mages cared. Quint thought it would be a nice addition for Gwen.

As he searched through the mages bags, he found several things of interest. He found two Elfires and a Thunder that Gwen could use, but he also found a Bolt spell, a long ranged spell that could be casted from a distance away; a very rare spell. Quint also found a Mend staff, a powerful staff that could heal great injuries. Clare could use this, thought Quint.

As he shared the loot with Clare and Gwen, Larn came riding back to the troop. Quint noticed that Larn was riding back to the troop with is brother. It made Quint wonder what happened. "What did your father say?" asked Quint as Larn rode up to him. "He said I had his permission to travel with you." Quint then nodded to Serg, "why his he here?"

Larn looked to the ground, "He… he wanted to come." Quint looked at the boy, while still scared the boy seemed to share the same look as his brother did. Larn then turned his head embarrassed, "I tried to talk him down, but he can be as stubborn as me sometimes. He said he would follow us if he had to… and if he couldn't join he'd run off and join some other troop of mercs." "So you'd rather him come with us where you can keep and eye on him. Right?" Larn nodded, "yes."

Quint then exhaled sharply. "Ok, he can come but he'll have to earn your keep. Ok?" Larn and Serg both nodded. "Good. We're heading out." "Were to?" asked Larn. "Rifen."

The port of Abia in the nation of Jadis was busy as always, trying to prove its claim as the second largest port in the nation right behind Kethy the capitol. It's sister and rival city just across the horse cape Idia also shared that claim, and since then neither port city got along with each other.

Even as the day begun to end down, the city did not stop or even slow. Even the docks were packed full of people running errands and shipments, talking trade, and making deals.

Amidst the crowd and all of the commotion that the port brought, three figures stood apart from it. All three were mounted and dressed in armor. Two of them were paladins, with heavy armor and spears made of silver. One had bright silver hair pulled back to hugged his head; he seemed aged and wise but also intimidating. The other had straw yellow blonde hair that was curry and seemed hard to manage; he had a bright look on his face but also an arrogant grin that never seemed to go away. They rode to the side of the third, who was very odd by comparison.

The rider was younger then the two, not more then seventeen years old, he had silver blonde hair that was held together by a small golden headband. He wore lighter armor then the paladins, but also had a finer steed then the other two. He had bright blue eyes and an innocent face what was without blemishes. As he rode on his horse an aura of importance seemed to shine form him, a young man of importance.

As they rode through the city in the late afternoon, they came across an inn. When the blonde paladin saw this he turned to the young man and asked, "My lord, may we rest here for the night. The vessel's bed was hardly comfortable and a nice bed on the land would make all the best for a good nights rest."

The elder one then looked at the young man to, "It would be a good time to catch up on your sleep my prince. You did not sleep very mush during the voyage over here."

The young man smiled slightly, "Thank you for your concerns, Sir Gordon. But I can assure I am fine. The voyage was not that terrible."

"But may we stay at the inn tonight?" Asked the blonde haired knight. The prince shook his head, "No Sir Torn, we will head out towards Ankris tonight. I'm afraid my duty as the now Third Prince of Brath-Shall must come first." Then he looked at both f them and reminded them, "I came over here in order to find the fallen prince and see if these rumors of him raising an army against Brath-Shall are true." "And if they are sir?" The Prince then shifted uneasily in the saddle, it was obvious he hated to think about it. He swallowed and repeated his mission as if he had memorized it, "Then it is up to us to capture him and bring back my brother—former 5th Prince of Brath-Shall, Quinthantheus Cesairs Burtion—for a trial of treason." He then turned to them and said, "is that clear?"

Both paladins answered in unison, "Yes Prince Chaserton!" And they rode by the inn without even looking at it. As they approached the city gates, the three stopped and looked into the foreign darkening landscape. They paused to take in the fact they were now in a different and unknown land to them. As they looked at the landscape, the prince then whispered to himself, "I hope for you sake, Quint… that these rumors are false, brother…"

Then the three motioned their horses forward and entered into the darkening countryside. To seek a former Prince of Brath-Shall.

-End Notes-

Serg's Class

Serg's class is another recruit class, one that made up for this story: a hunter class. A Hunter class is the weaker version of an archer and can upgrade to either an archer or a nomad. I thought it would be fun having another type of recruit one could upgrade.

Anyway, review if you have something you have to say or like.

Thanks again Zorkandpals321 for proof reading for me.