Struggle of a Fiery Heart
Chapter 10 Feral Ones Stronghold
Titania woke up, feeling the tears cascading down her cheeks once more as they have always done.
Ike and Greil…two men who have touched my heart. I will never ever forget them; they will always be in my heart. Titania thought as she got herself together and left her room slowly, feeling a heaviness over her heart and movements.
Suddenly a sound made Titania look up as she saw Boyd walk over to her, an elated look in his expression.
"Boyd? What are you doing here?" Titania asked, her sadness disappearing instantly.
"The Wolf Laguz Nurse told me that I am good to go now. The fever is gone and my chest wound has been fully healed." Boyd explained and suddenly Oscar was outside his room in a flash, gripping his younger sibling in an embrace
"Boyd! Thank the Goddess above you are better!" Oscar exclaimed happily and Boyd shrugged out of his older brother's grip.
"Yes, I am better. Thanks to the Wolf Laguz." Boyd replied and Titania felt a small bit of sadness return to her. Boyd doesn't know that I saved his life by giving him the Kalvark vulnerary… It's better off that way…
"Boyd?!" Mist burst from her room, still in her sleeping clothes and Boyd turned to see his wife there.
"Mist…" Boyd trailed off as Mist made a small sob sound and catapulted herself into her husband's arms, tears leaking down her cheeks.
"Oh Boyd…I prayed so much… I wished from the very bottom of my heart that you would be all right." Mist said tearfully and Boyd shushed her, rubbing her back soothingly. Then they kissed and Oscar's lips made a smile, his eyes creasing with happiness.
Shinon, Rhys, Rolf, and Soren soon left their rooms and saw Boyd there with Titania and Oscar.
"Well well well. Look whose back from the dead." Shinon smirked and Boyd chuckled at the reddish-pink-haired marksman after breaking the kiss.
"Back indeed." Boyd replied.
"Boyd, does this mean you are rejoining the group again?" Soren asked and Boyd drew away from Mist, whom began to wipe the tears away from her eyes.
"Yes. Nothing will stop me from rejoining the people who are my family." Boyd replied and Mist made a happy gasp.
"Welcome back Boyd." Titania said, a small bit of emotion in her voice. She proceeded to give Boyd a quick hug.
"So what is the first order of business?" Boyd asked, startling Titania slightly as she stepped away from him.
"Are you sure you feel well enough to start training with the Wolf Laguz elite fighters?" Titania asked, a note of concern in her voice.
"If I survived being on the brink of death most certainly I can survive training again." Boyd replied and Mist giggled at him.
"Titania." came a voice and everyone turned to see Queen Nailah stride over, interrupting the reunion. "The training will be called off for today."
Titania cocked her head to one side in bewilderment but Queen Nailah only blinked, not delving into further detail.
"After breakfast today you mercenaries are to meet me in the entrance hall of the Stronghold. I will explain things then." she said before leaving to go back downstairs.
"Hm…I wonder what could have made her cancel the training." Oscar wondered aloud and Titania nodded, halfway lost into her thoughts.
"What could have spurred Queen Nailah to cancel today's training? What has she decided to do with us now?
"Titania, impeccable timing. We were just going to call for you." Queen Nailah said as Titania and her expanded group of mercenaries made their way down the stairs to the entrance hall. Queen Micaiah and King Sothe stood by Hatari's queen and they gave Titania a nod.
"Titania, as I have said before the training is cancelled today. I will explain why that has come to be; Queen Micaiah and I had conversed last night on this topic with the Feral Ones. I am sick of them treading my desert and trespassing my territory; to sum it all up I am fed up. So I have decided to give you mercenaries a mission. I want you to go traverse the desert and find the Feral Ones Stronghold and clear the Feral Ones out of it. If you recall Titania I have explained to you that my guards have spotted this stronghold, so it mustn't be too far away." Queen Nailah continued. "Do you accept this task I am entrusting you with?"
"Yes Queen Nailah, we'll gladly do it." Titania replied and Queen Nailah nodded.
"Good answer. I have provided you with your mounts outside and a sizeable supply bag with water and some nourishment. If you mercenaries truly possess the power and skill I have seen in the War of the Goddess then this shall be an easy task. Don't prove me wrong, Titania, good luck." the Wolf Laguz Queen said before walking off to the stairway to begin to ascend it.
If Ike was here instead of me this mission would be a piece of cake…but instead my mercenaries have my underpowered skills to fight alongside with…
"…so you shouldn't worry about a thing." Queen Micaiah said and Titania flinched as she was erupted from her thoughts. Titania realized that Daein's queen had been speaking to her the entire time she was thinking.
"I'm sorry Queen Micaiah, what was it you were saying? I seem to have blanked out." Titania asked and Queen Micaiah looked into Titania's eyes before repeating herself, "I said that King Sothe and I will be coming along with you on this mission, so you shouldn't worry about a thing."
"All right, good, that will be fine. Titania stammered, still feeling slightly embarrassed at fazing out on Queen Micaiah. "We will leave now."
Titania led them outside where seven Wolf Laguz fighters were holding the reins to horses.
"It has been a while since I've seen broad daylight." Boyd remarked, a gaily tone in his voice. "It is so nostalgic."
"You know, I much rather enjoyed the silence when you were knocking on death's door." Shinon growled and Boyd chuckled.
"Well too bad, death rejected me. You're going to have to deal with-" Boyd's cheeky reply stopped as Titania swung her head to glare at him dangerously.
"I don't want to be hearing anymore bickering from either of you for the rest of the duration of today. Do you understand me?" Titania snarled her inquiry, her voice dripping with pure anger and Boyd's eyes widened at her tone.
"Yes Titania. Sorry." Boyd replied and Shinon snorted with a soft chuckle to this.
"Good. Now Queen Micaiah, King Sothe, Lucia, Bastian, and Boyd. I understand you five do not have mounts. Just choose someone to ride with so we can get going quickly while it is still early morning." Titania instructed and the five nodded before choosing who they would ride with.
"Thanks." Titania said to the Wolf Laguz fighter nearby as he handed her the reins to her horse. With ease she leapt into the saddle and waited for everyone else to do the same.
"Are we all set and ready to go?" Titania asked and after seeing everyone's nods Titania clucked her tongue twice, urging her horse into a walking-trot. Everyone else did the same and soon they were moving, the desert sun beginning to blister them despite it being so early in the morning. The cirrus clouds in the periwinkle sky didn't appear to move from their original positions; it seemed they wouldn't dare cover the sun.
"Did Queen Nailah give you a specific on where this Stronghold will most likely be located by?" Titania asked Queen Micaiah as Mist's horse pulled up beside hers, seeing Daein's queen behind Mist.
"No, she and I were speculating on that at length last night. However big Hatari is the Stronghold could be anywhere. However I do have a revelation." she replied her golden eyes bright.
"Which is?" Titania asked, prodding Queen Micaiah to explain.
"Those Feral Ones yesterday had arrived at Nailah's Stronghold quite quickly on my observations. I figure they should be close by, as Queen Nailah had said, possibly closer than we think."
"Hm…you make a valid point there, Queen Micaiah. That may save us a few hours of searching."
Suddenly a roar sounded and eight Tiger Feral Ones raced over, the bloodlust of killing in their eyes, startling the mercenaries.
"Everyone quickly ready yourselves for attack!" Titania called out the injunction and she advanced over to the Feral Ones, intent of taking one or two out before they reached her mercenaries. Oscar was right beside her and the both of them looked at each other, before raising their weapons and attacking the nearest Feral One. It roared in pain before collapsing blood already spilling from both its wounds.
The fight ended quickly much to Titania's relief. The thought of any of her mercenaries getting hurt like Boyd had made her feel nauseous.
Once more they continued on northeast stopping occasionally to make sure their direction was correct or to take a quick swig of water.
Titania heard a hiss and this time five Cat Feral Ones were launching into battle with the mercenaries. Once more blood splattered the sand and Feral Ones' bodies were strewn about, some entrails hanging from open stomach wounds.
"This is too easy…why did Queen Nailah make us go through all that trouble to 'train' us up? Personally I think she was just being judgmental of our power." Shinon scoffed as he inquired the question.
"Queen Nailah felt it was in her best interests to do so. Killing them seems easy because we had been trained up." Soren replied and Lucia bobbed her head.
"Yes, there is nothing wrong with training, Shinon. However much you are experienced a little bit of training goes a long way." the blue-haired swordswoman imputed and Shinon muttered incoherently to himself. Titania wiped sweat off her brow and they continued on their way. Another hour passed before Titania suggested that they head back the way they came.
"We aren't getting anywhere…this desert is just stretching for miles without end." Boyd remarked and Titania gave a nod in reply.
"Wait Titania…over there! Is that it?" King Sothe asked and pointed ahead. Titania turned her head and saw a huge Stronghold that was silhouetted from the haze and heat.
"That is one big Stronghold. It's even bigger than Queen Nailah's!" Mist remarked, her eyes wide.
"Well, that's where we have to go, so let's get to it." Titania replied and everyone nodded before following behind her.
"There must be hundreds of Feral Ones in there. How are we going to get out alive to tell Queen Nailah we did the deed?" Rolf asked, a small quiver in his voice.
"Buck up Rolf. We've been through worse than this. Show some spine." Shinon retorted and Rolf fell silent, swallowing slightly.
They soon reached the opening of the Stronghold, which fell away into darkness. The Stronghold itself looked akin to Queen Nailah's, but the stone looked newer and much thicker. Some cracks could be seen here and there on the stone wall's face and there was a musty smell in the air. It made Titania's skin prickle into goosebumps.
"Everyone dismount off your horses. We are going in on foot." Titania commanded and everyone followed suit, Shinon, Boyd, Soren, and Bastian, sighing in relief.
Titania led the way inside to find it wasn't as dark as she perceived it was from outside. In fact it was slightly darker inside but not by much however the air was muggy and heavy.
"Keep on guard. There could be Feral Ones watching us now as I speak." Titania warned and suddenly a cold sweat prickled her lower back. What if I lose my mercenaries in this place? What is someone gets hurt and I am unable to help them?
A crescendo of growls, hisses, caws, and screeches entered the air as thirty Feral Ones entered into the large main hallway Titania and the mercenaries were in. There were Hawks, Ravens, Cats, and Tiger Feral Ones and all of them were morphed into their second forms.
Titania cursed and raised her Silver axe into a fighting position before surging off to meet the Feral Ones up ahead. They roared together and raced to her as well, claws, maws, beaks, and talons outstretched.
"Titania!" Oscar called out in alarm, then he King Sothe, Queen Micaiah, Lucia, Soren, and Boyd dashed after her.
Titania didn't care about anything but the task in front of her; to kill all the Feral Ones before they had a chance to kill or wound any of her mercenaries. She gave a roar and slashed at Feral One after Feral One, making sure to dodge hefty swipes and talon grips. She became a whirlwind of axe and body cutting through any twisted Laguz's body in her way or sight.
Perhaps Queen Nailah's training did do a good number to my fighting skills. I am not usually this quick. Titania thought as she avoided another Cat Feral One's claws and managed to split its head open before it could react.
Out of the corner of her eye she could see a column of Soren's wind magic rise up and kill three Feral Ones that were coming at him. She could also see Oscar and Lucia working together, back to back, slashing at the bodies as well. Volug and Queen Micaiah were working together, Daein's queen darting to and fro while Volug took on the distracted Feral Ones.
Titania then saw a Raven Feral One flying at break-neck speed to her and she raised her axe to slash it out of the air only to see it plunge to the ground at her feet, an arrow between its eyes.
"A single arrow, right between the eyes? Who else could make a shot like that? No one, that's who!" a voice boasted and Titania whirled around to find Shinon arrogantly smirking at her before stringing up another arrow and shooting it at a Hawk Feral One nearby him.
"Hiyahh!" Boyd cried out as his Silver axe cut right through a Cat Feral One's head, blood drizzling all over his axe and onto stone floor below. His green eyes glittered and his body moved with the brawn he had before he was wounded.
Titania spotted Rhys having trouble with two Raven Feral Ones and hurried over to slash their chests open. They screeched before folding in their wings and dropping to the floor like deadweights.
Soon the fight was over, King Sothe taking care of the last Tiger Feral One by slashing it from chest to tail. It roared as its wound exploded with blood, exposing its insides, then the roar turned to a mewl of pain before it collapsed and gave its last breath.
"That was trying." Soren remarked as he stepped over a dead Feral One to come over to Titania.
"Boyd, how are you feeling? You aren't hurt or feeling out of breath?" Titania asked the green-haired fighter and he shot her a grin as he made his way over as well.
"Who are you kidding? I feel alive again!" Boyd replied and Titania knew that his words were true.
"Any casualties? Any major wounds I should be concerned about?" Titania asked Rhys and Mist and the two healers shook their heads.
"Everyone's fit as a fiddle, Titania. No need to worry." Rhys replied with a smile and Titania gave a sigh, releasing her contained relief, her worry disappearing.
"Now I believe we should head back and tell Queen Nailah the good news. I don't think there are any other Feral Ones in this Stronghold; they would be been here already." Titania suggested and everyone agreed. Suddenly Queen Micaiah cocked her head to one side, her gaze looking haunted.
"What is it Micaiah?" King Sothe asked and suddenly Queen Micaiah shuddered.
"I hear them! They are here!" Queen Micaiah gasped, then she pelted off, startling everyone into following her.
Queen Micaiah dashed down the nearby staircase and everyone was heaving for breath by the time they caught up to her. It was a dismal place; torches and lanterns were lit in certain places and the air was gloomy and full of fear. Pleading sounds, whimpers, and scuffling sounds were heard and Titania suddenly knew where they were.
"This is the Catacombs…" she trailed off as she noticed the cells that were holding people inside.
"Queen Micaiah! It's Queen Micaiah! She has come to liberate us!" a sole voice rang out, then other voices started up, cheering and crying with relief.
"Are these the guards that were taken from you, Queen Micaiah?" Titania asked Daein's queen and she nodded grimly.
"Yes. Sothe please open these cells, I feel my guards have been in here long enough." Queen Micaiah ordered and King Sothe nodded before getting to work. Soon twelve guards were freed and they bowed to Queen Micaiah.
"All hail the Silver-Maiden!" one of the guards called out and the others followed suit, repeating.
"What happened to you men when the Feral Ones captured you?" Queen Micaiah asked them and they quieted down, some grimacing while others swallowed nervously.
"Once the Feral Ones captured us they bound us in chains of lead and bronze before forcing us to travel the desert without rest. Some of the guards died along the way…" one guard explained, his voice trailing off.
"We weren't whipped or abused, but we haven't seen the sunlight in weeks. They barely fed us either…. A Dragon Feral One sometimes came down in here to mock and scorn our beliefs…it was awful." another guard finished the other guard's sentence.
"That Dragon Feral One even scoffed that you would never come and liberate us. He called you a harlot and many other evil things." a third guard spoke up and Queen Micaiah's eyes burned with hatred and horror.
"Those Feral Ones…how dare they do this to you all!" Queen Micaiah's voice was full of rage and it startled Titania with its intensity.
"They will pay," King Sothe growled and Daein's queen nodded, taking a huge breath to calm herself.
"I have the feeling that there may be secrets in this Stronghold. Titania, do you mind if we stay here for a bit and check this place out to its entirety?" Queen Micaiah asked and Titania shook her head.
"Not at all. I was thinking along the same lines as you. Perhaps we may find battle plans or any other clues. We'll stay here, but only for a brief time. It will only help us; we are in no rush to head back to Queen Nailah's Stronghold as of yet." Titania replied and King Sothe nodded.
"That is acceptable. Thank you Titania." Queen Micaiah replied and the paladin forced a small smile on her face.
"Anytime Queen Micaiah. Why don't we get these guards upstairs to experience the daylight again?"
"Yes, come along my loyal guards. Come be men once again under your queen and king of Daein!" Queen Micaiah called and the twelve guards roared their approval before following everyone up the stairs and out of the Catacombs.
A/N: There goes another chapter. Once more if there are any typos, errors, or any criticism that you want to tell me please don't hesitate in doing so. It only will make me a better writer (Which I want to be XD). Thanks for reading! Ciao! Till the next chapter. :D