I don't own any of the drivel you're about to read. Actually, several of the characters here are OCs, because I don't want to mangle any of these characters too brutally, and all the bad guys are dead. Character development, sure, but I'm not planning to turn Brom into some omnicidal maniac, or make Volke do charity work. You have been warned. Go nuts.

As a side note, this is the prologue, so chapters are obviously going to get longer, starting with the next one. I just wanted to put this out here, get some publicity while I get to work on the main part.


PROLOGUE

Eight people, all clothed in little more than ragged scraps, arrived at the shores of Crimea in the early morning, before most had awoken. As such, it was no surprise when they were stopped by a young woman holding a torch.

"May I ask what you're doing?" She asked softly. A horse whinnied from somewhere behind her.

One of them glanced at the others, then chuckled.

"But of course! Astrid, is it not?"

"I'm Astrid, yes. Of the Royal Crimean Knights."

"Of course. My name is Taureneo. These are Soren, Mia, Rolf, Zihark, Gatrie, Boyd, and Volke." He gestured to his companions one by one. "May we speak with Queen Elincia?"

"Taureneo? The Steadfast Rider of Daien?" She nodded, then extinguished her torch in the dirt and vaulted over her horse. "Very well, then I will take you to Queen Elincia. Erm... Sir Makalov?"

"Huh?" Somebody grunted from the shadows.

"Sir Makalov, we need to deliver these travelers to Queen Elincia."

"You go. I'll stand guard."

"I... I suppose." Astrid patted her mount, and it snorted, then began trotting off, closely followed by seven travelers. After a moment, one of them frowned, then glanced back at the eighth.

"You coming, Volke?"

"One thousand."

He scowled. "Fine. Go back to wherever you live."

Rolf didn't understand Volke. Was he in debt to somebody, or just greedier than Oliver, the fat pig who tried to keep Rafiel as a pet? He sighed, then squinted, trying to figure out where the others had gone.

"It's very early..." Astrid said after about a half hour of travel, her mount moving in a slow canter. "I don't think Queen Elincia will be awake yet. Is this very terribly urgent?"

Taureneo shook his head. "We've been gone years. A few hours can't hurt."

"I'm sure Geoffrey won't mind if I let you rest in the... erm..."

"Something wrong?" A broad-shouldered, blond young man asked after a moment. He wore a tattered yellow cape in addition to the brown-grey rags they all wore. Gatrie, the mercenary marshal who had spent half the Dawn War drooling over Laguz.

"I... I'm sorry, but the only place we have that you can wait overnight in is the gatehouse, so..."

"It's alright, Ma'am." Taureneo flashed a smile. "We've spent the last seventeen-"

"Fourteen months, two weeks, three days, and fourteen hours." Another of their group said softly.

"But who's counting, right?" Another, the only female, laughed. "Soren, just because you didn't pack enough books to spend the entire trip reading doesn't mean it was a horrible experience."

Taureneo sighed. "May I-"

"It was for Ike." Soren interrupted solemnly. "Damn that filthy sub-human."

Everybody froze.

"I thought you were-"

"I am Branded, yes." Soren interrupted Zihark angrily. "I have Laguz blood mixed with Beorc. But there is nothing - nothing! - that justifies what happened to Ike."

"Ike?" Astrid piped up. When they turned to look at her, she shrunk back, blushing furiously. "Of the Dawn War?"

"Yeah. Ike. You were there, remember?" The last of their group, a giant of a man wearing what looked like several rags stitched crudely together, spoke with a rumbling voice. "You, Geoffrey, the redhead dude. All the Royal Crimean Knights were there, fighting Ashera. Come on, you gotta remember that!"

"I just wanted to make sure it was the same Ike." Astrid whimpered.

"It was." Soren said gravely. "That damned sub-human blew him to pieces."