Farina's Aid is 14. Hector's CON, upon promotion, is 15. Uh-oh...so much for that plan. Victory or Death may take a while now...
Matthew and Jaffar return from wherever they'd vanished to. Without preamble, Matthew explains he'd planned a murder, eye for an eye. He'd managed to get the drop on Jaffar—our humble thief is more skilled than I'd thought!—and, just to be sure, lied to him that companions of his held Nino hostage. But then...Matthew glances down, as if ashamed. "I couldn't do it..."
He looks up again, eyes clear. "It's not what Leila would have wanted."
This must have been what Hector referred to when he said one of his "henchmen" had an important decision to make. Or...perhaps not. I see him walk away from Oswin, his expression troubled...
Ninian's been kidnapped by Nergal. There's little we can do about it at the moment, so we continue as planned. I'm at a cave in the West Isles with Hector, Athos, and Pent, on a mission to retrieve the mighty axe Armads.
We left Vaida in Bern. If she truly wishes to repay us, she can provide warning if the consequences of our travels prompt the king to move against Lycia. That will be a more helpful service than merely another warrior, since Nergal no longer has an army of assassins at his beck and call.
With our supply of axes running dangerously low, Hector picks up the iron blade, a similarly weighty chunk of metal. You can hardly call it swordsmanship, but with the power the Heaven Seal gave, he can swing it hard enough it makes no difference.
The path west, through poisonous fog and towering stalagmites, slowly wears at him, although he drinks an antitoxin after Pent retrieves it. Although the knights are little problem—the iron blade was a good choice, countering their axereavers—two mages and the noxious atmosphere leave him weak as he climbs the steps to Armads' resting place. He grits his teeth and prepares to fight, but...someone's already beaten the last guardian.
Follows in Hector's wake in case his strength is not enough for this trial. After a thief from the local bandit clans steals Hector's antitoxin, Pent blasts him with Elfire and hands it back. Waiting near a chest in the southwest corner of the cave, he plans to ambush a second thief chasing him
and relieve him of his pure water, but that plan is thwarted when the thief wisely runs north instead. At least he got an elixir.
Unbeknownst to us, and against my explicit orders, Farina sneaks in for some impromptu treasure hunting. Pent healed her after the hard-fought battle with Linus, but magic can only do so much without taking some of the body's own strength.
Farina leads her pegasus Murphy behind our backs, then remounts to glide silently north. Stifling a yawn, she tosses a javelin at a rival hunter, then claims his key to open a chest...and find a Wolf Biel, Hector's favorite axe. Guess they were popular in the days of the Scouring, too.
The sluggish knights and weak mages can't keep up with Farina, even dragging from prior blood loss, but to the west she encounters axemen who inflict heavy damage. The rush of adrenaline spurs her to victory and she claims another ancient Wolf Biel.
VS Kaim, Guardian of Armads:
Topping the steps, Farina finds a ghostly figure waiting for her. It looks surprised.
"You...are not who I expected. ...Do you seek Armads' power?"
Farina thinks it over. Spinning her battered axereaver into position, she nods. Kaim, an honorable warrior even in death, bows, and in that moment, Farina strikes. She knows she is tired, and her weapon will not last long...but it will be enough. The warrior had obviously prepared for an axefighter like himself, and cannot touch the agile knight.
In the last moments before his defeat, the whirling, razor-sharp tomahawk, against the odds, takes a long slice out of her armor. Farina feels a brief spark of panic, but resolutely plunges the lance into Kaim's chest, shattering it.
Hector, reaching the top of the steps, exclaims in surprise at the sight of Farina:
"Whew... ... ..."
"Hey, Farina! We have to talk... Huh? Whatís wrong?"
"... ... Ah? Ah! Lord Hector!"
"You seem tired. You should rest— wouldnít want you collapsing on me."
"Hah! Donít try playing the kindly employer! You wonít trick me that way! Iím not giving back the gold I was given!"
Is that why she's here? Did she think we would revoke her contract, and wanted a chance at some final loot?
"Iím not talking about money, you dummy. You know, you keep saying stuff like that, people are going to suspect you!"
"What should I care? As long as Iím paid... Those who think clinging to money is wrong have never been poor!"
"Well... Well that may be, but... Some things you canít buy with money!"
"Why would I need anything like that? I must be off now. Murphy? Letís go."
Wobblingly bending over to pick up Kaim's tomahawk, Farina nearly trips down the stairs, a poison-weakened Hector barely catching her.
"S-Sorry! You OK?"
"E-Even though you know Iím tired... How dare you make such advances!"
"Hey! Thatís not it! W-Wait— I said Iím sorry! I mean, hey! Youíre the one that fell on me! That hurt! You and that Florina, man... I donít get it."
"My! You have venom enough for me and my younger sister, I see!"
"Gimme a break! And get away from there."
"Oh, I see whatís going on. You saw us three sisters... Fiora, Farina, and Florina, the beauties of Ilia... And you thought to take us all for yourself, didnít you!"
"Donít make me part of your wacky fantasies!"
"All you nobles are the same. You treat us mercenaries as...as objects!"
"Aw, címon, Farina... Man, that ladyís got a screwy head..."
I would say so...she must still be a bit delirious, Fiora and Florina have been gone for a while. I'll have Serra look her over again.
Before we turn to leave, Pent stops us. In a moment, I feel, with a chill on my spine, massive
power, barely chained, manifest behind us.
The Berserker, Durbans, now called Armads...Hector acts brash and flippant at first, but I hear steel in his voice when he accepts the axe of thunder. He accepts with it the doom Durban speaks of, for the sake of his friends—to know no peaceful death.