Another new chapter! Don't expect me to update this regularly though. The only reason this chapter is out so soon is because I decided to split it in two after I accidentally ended up writing way too much. Anyway, this is probably the first ever two-part support chapter, especially since I've found out how useful they are for character development. Today's line up, albeit a small one, includes...
Vesper + Matthew
Lyn + Wallace
And that's about it... Yeah... I was surprised by how long those two dragged out. Don't worry though, the rest of the crew will get their moments next chapter. Also, there's a large twist at the end of this chapter and, unless I end up splitting the next chapter into two as well, there's going to be an even bigger, game-changing twist next chapter.
"Hey Lyn, have you seen that notebook?" Vesper asked. "I haven't seen it anywhere."
"Huh?" Lyn seemed to be preoccupied with something. "Um, no I haven't. I'm kinda busy at the moment."
"Oh, okay." Vesper let out a loud yawn. "I suppose I can look for it later, after I've had a nice long nap on the-" He paused a second. "What happened to the supply wagon?"
"Come on, you lousy maggots!" Wallace roared. "I want to see at least 10 more laps before you can break!"
"Dammit, why I am I being forced to run! I'm just a tactician!" Vesper yelled. Or at least that was what he was trying to say. He was so exhausted that it came out more as a "Gnuuuuh..."
"Come on Vesper." Lyn jogged up alongside him. "You really haven't run that far."
"Gnuuuuh..." Vesper moaned, which roughly translated to "Shut up."
"Everyone else is doing just fine." Lyn pointed out. "Well, except for Nils who tripped and accidentally smashed into a tree. And Matthew, who just didn't show up. Personally, I think it was a great idea to put Wallace in charge of personal fitness."
Lyn wasn't sure what that one meant, but she guessed it wasn't exactly polite.
"If you want, I can try and get you excused." She offered.
"Gnuuh! Gnuuh!" Vesper slowly, and tiredly, nodded his head in agreement.
"But only if you say pretty please." Lyn grinned.
Vesper simply collapsed, flopping on the ground like some sort of fish.
"Are you okay?" Lyn asked.
"I'm sorry Lyn..." Vesper groaned, as if on his deathbed, his voice suddenly clear. "I guess this is where we part ways... I'm sorry I couldn't help you save your homeland... I guess I can finally see you again, Saria..."
Then he lay still.
"Alright, alright." Lyn gave Vesper a sharp kick. "I'll go talk to Wallace."
She stormed off muttering annoyed curses under her breath.
"Thank God for that." Vesper sighed.
Too tired to get up and move, he slowly rolled to the side of the path and came to rest against a tree. At least now he could get a nice, long na-
"Look out below!"
Matthew suddenly dropped down from the tree, almost flattening Vesper, who barely even flinched.
"Hey Matthew." Vesper greeted.
"Wow." Matthew was surprised at Vesper's calm reaction. "I guess you've finally gotten used to my surprise entrances."
"Hell no!" Vesper chuckled. "That was friggin' terrifying! I'm just way too tired to react to anything, right now."
"Really..." Matthew suddenly had a sly grin on his face. "So you won't mind if I do this?"
He began poking Vesper in the cheek.
"No, I can't do anything to stop you doing that." Vesper corrected. "But, it's still pissing me off beyond imagination."
Matthew, naturally, continued poking.
"Seriously," Vesper growled. "Continue doing that and, in our next battle, I'm sending you to battle an entire cavalry unit head on. Armed with a twig."
"Bit harsh, don't you think?" Matthew grinned. "You've been really grumpy lately, you know. Ever since we left that Black Fang base."
"Well, discovering a mass-grave didn't exactly lift my spirits." Vesper sighed.
"No. It's not that." Matthew's face took on a more serious tone. "There's something else. Something more serious."
"Since when did you start taking psychology lessons?" Vesper joked, but Matthew wasn't smiling.
"It's written all over your face." He said. "Do you want to talk about it?"
"To put it bluntly..." Vesper pretended to think a moment. "No. Now stop bothering me, or I'll tell Wallace where you're hiding."
"Suit yourself." Matthew shrugged, getting up to leave. "Tell me if you reconsider."
Vesper watched Matthew leaving and sighed.
"Why would I share my suspicions with my prime suspect?" He muttered, under his breath.
When Vesper had first entertained the idea of a traitor, Matthew was the first person who sprung to mind. After all, anyone who spends several days following you must have some ulterior motive. That was precisely the reason that Vesper had let him join the group in the first place.
One of the first lessons that Vesper had learnt from his teacher , when dealing with spies, was that torture and threats were never the right way to go. Not because of any real moral reason but because information gained under torture was notoriously unreliable. People will say anything to lessen their pain, whether it's true or not. A much more reliable way to gain information from them was simply to let them stay close and analyse their actions. There's a reason you're supposed to keep your enemies closer than your friends. As such, Vesper had tried to spend most of his free time with Matthew, hoping he'd slip up a little and reveal something important.
Vesper had gotten absolutely nothing from Matthew. He still wasn't even sure who he was working for.
The only useful thing he'd found out was that Matthew had been present the night he had been attacked by Ephidel and even that wasn't of much help. Matthew had an annoying habit of disappearing for hours on end, which most people assumed was because he was trying to skip work, but Vesper he was reporting back to his spymasters, whoever they were.
However, there was one slight slip-up Matthew had made quite recently. He had given Nils back his sister's ring.
Matthew had convinved Nils not to tell anyone so, naturally, by the end of day, everyone knew. When Vesper heard the news, he thought it incredibly suspicious. The entire base had been stripped of anything valuable, so why would they leave an expensive looking gold ring? It only served to convince Vesper that there was a traitor on the team, who told the Black Fang of their objective and, as the one who found the ring, Matthew was the obvious suspect. However, mmuch to Vesper's chagrin, he didn't have anything concrete. It was perfectly possible that Matthew found the ring by coincidence and, until he could be sure, Vesper didn't want to do anything to him. However, Vesper had a feeling that Matthew had figured out Vesper's suspicions towards him, which was good an bad. On the bad side, Matthew would put more effort into not being discovered. On the other hand, the added tension would mean he was more likely to slip up.
It was just a matter of time.
"Lady Lyndis!" Wallace grunted. "What brings you to my humble training post? Need a break?"
"No, I'm fine." Lyn assured him. "Vesper just wanted me to tell you that he's too tired to train today." After a pause she added, "But he's volunteered to do double training tomorrow."
"Who's Vesper?" Wallace looked at her with genuine confusion.
"Er... I mean, Buck."
"Oh, okay." Wallace brightened up. "You know, I'm surprised he didn't ask me sooner. I would've thought he'd have tactical stuff to do, or hunting down spies. I would've been perfectly willing to let him off training for that."
"Uh, I'll be sure to tell him that." Lyn nodded.
"He could still use some exercise though." Wallace continued. "I mean, look at his weedy frame! How are you supposed to fight your way through swarms of enemies, when you're about as strong as a twig! I blame all those trips in the supply wagon. You should stop him riding on that."
"Well, considering you headbutted a tree onto it, I don't think that'll be much of a problem." Lyn assured.
"Bah." Wallace snorted. "You sound like Hassar."
"My father?!" Lyn was taken back. "You knew my father?"
"Knew him!" Wallace laughed. "I trained him myself!... Well, trained with him, but it's the same difference."
"What... what was he like?" Lyn asked.
"He was a great man." There was a wistful tone to Wallace's voice. "There was no-one else I'd trust to have my back. Certainly not the slimy nomad we have at the moment."
"You shouldn't be so hard on Rath." Lyn said, to her own surprise. "I really think he regrets what he did."
"I guess..." Wallace admitted. "I suppose part of me keeps comparing him to Hassar. Hassar wasn't the sort of guy who could just be replaced. He was a true warrior."
"I... I suppose you heard about his death." Lyn managed to keep tears out of her eyes.
"Aye." Wallace nodded grimly. "Actually, that's the reason I came out here in the first place. After I was forced into retirement, I set up a peaceful little farm in Ilia. It was a pleasant life. Planting crops, tending to fields, fighting off attacking bandits, hunting down attacking bandits, beating the leaders of bandits to bloody pulps, taking control of the bandits and setting them to do all the hard work in my fields. Very pleasant."
"I-I can imagine..." Lyn lied.
"Anyway, when I heard that your father had been killed, I gathered up me mates and went on a hunt for revenge." Wallace growled. "Unfortunately... we had no idea where the Talliver Bandits were. We thought we found them a couple of times and went kamikaze on then, but they turned out to be normal villages. Anyway, somehow we earned a reputation as vicious bandits who would attack anyone. I've no idea why."
"Then, while we were searching, I was approached by someone..." Wallace looked uncomfortable at the thought.
"Who... asked you to kill me." Lyn put two and two together.
"Aye..." Wallace's face took on an angry tone. "I very nearly snapped that sleazeball's neck there and then but I figured, if I didn't take the job, he'd just get someone else to do it. And there was no way in hell I was gonna let anyone touch my friend's daughter!"
Lyn couldn't help but smile a little. "Thank you for that. I really appreciate it."
"Least I could do." Wallace took a deep sigh and sat down. "You know, you look a lot like your mother."
"Huh?" Lyn was surprised by the emotion in Wallace's voice. "You knew my mother as well?"
"Well... not that well." Wallace admitted. "I only saw her a few times in passing, but Hassar...?" He had a wistful smile on his face. "I guess, for him, it was love at first sight. He couldn't stop talking about her. Even during training! I tried tellin' him that a woman would only slow him down as he charged his way through swarms of enemies... present company excluded."
"It's cool." Lyn reassured him. "Go on. Tell me more."
"Anyway, he wouldn't listen to me." Wallace snorted a little. "And he only got worse once the two started seeing each other. Turned out it was love at first sight for Madelyn too. Of course, it was a complete secret so, naturally, the entire camp knew. But we would never rat a fellow knight out. Heck, we even covered for him for a couple of guard duties. Then, one night, Hassar and Madelyn both entered my tent." Wallace's face turned dark. "They were planning to run away and wanted me to come with them. I tried to talk them out of it, but they couldn't be persuaded." Wallace let out a deep sigh. "To this day, I regret not going with them..."
Wallace sat silently, staring into the distance. Lyn found herself placing her hand on his shoulder.
"You couldn't have prevented their deaths." She said gently.
"I know..." Wallace sighed. "I know..."
"Hey, what's that?" Lyn tried to change the subject, pointing at something loosely pinned to Wallace's armour.
"Oh, this?" Wallace unpinned a small badge from his clothes. "It's a Knight's Crest. Hassar gave it to me as a leaving present. I've no idea what it does, but it looks nice."
"Maybe Vesp... Buck knows what it is." Lyn suggested. "He's pretty knowlegable about these sort of things."
"Lyn..." Wallace looked at her worryingly. "How well do you know Vesper?"
"Huh?" Lyn was taken back. "Well, I know him better than I know anyone else in this group. I mean, we started off travelling together..." She suddenly realised what Wallace was implying. "Do you think Vesper's the traitor?!"
"No." Wallace admitted. "If you trust him, then that's good enough for me. But I'm worried about him. Or, more specifically, what he'll do."
"I don't know what you mean." For some reason, Lyn felt incredibly nervous.
"I've met people like him." Wallace explained. "The type that think way too much. While, at first, they seem fantastic people to have on your side, every battle slowly takes its toll on them. They begin to blame themselves for every minor mistake and casualty, no matter how out of their hands it is. Then, when you need them most... they break."
"Vesper isn't like that!"
That was what Lyn wanted to say. That was what she tried to say but, deep down, she knew that Wallace's words had a ring of truth to them. She couldn't help but think back to what Vesper had said in Araphen.
"How do you think I feel?!"
"What should we do?" She asked instead.
"There's nothing we can do." Wallace sighed. "Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe nothing will happen. But maybe, one day, everything will finally take its toll on Vesper. If that does happen..." Wallace's face took a grave tone. "Pray that it doesn't cause our deaths."
"Relax Marcus, I'm sure Lyn, Vesper and their companions will be back soon." Eliwood assured his bodyguard as the two wandered through the old village, in which the two groups had met. "So stop worrying."
"There's just something I don't like about this country." Marcus growled, drumming his hand nervously on his sword hilt. "A dark shadow hanging over it... I've never been wrong about these things before."
"What about that time in the Western Isles?" Eliwood questioned.
"...Okay, that one I concede." Marcus coughed, embarrassed into his hand. "I still blame it on Lowen's chestnut pie."
"You need to lighten up and stop worrying, Marcus." Eliwood smiled, approaching the old cottage in which the two were staying. "It's not like danger's lurking around every corner.
He opened the door to find several lances pointing as his throat.
"Lord Eliwood!" Marcus drew his sword, but he was surrounded by guards, before he could do anything.
"Drop your sword, Marcus." Eliwood ordered calmly.
"But, my Lord-!"
"I said drop it." Eliwood repeated. "I'm certain these men mean us no harm." He turned to one of the men inside the cottage. "Am I correct?"
"We'll see." Lord Lundgren sat at the table, casually chewing a chicken wing. "Now, I believe you've met my blasted niece?"