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Chapter 28 -- Battle Before Dawn
Karel knows a quicker route to the prince's manse from here, so we follow his lead out of the mountains, retrieving Oswin and the others from their camp in the alpine forest. Back in the lower foothills, he takes his leave of us to investigate rumours of the aloof swordwoman we heard about earlier. His interest seems more than that of a master seeking a Worthy Opponent, although I can't imagine the "Sword Demon" caring about romance. He promises to return later; in addition to Hector, Lyn and Guy have also caught his eye. As proof he leaves us his Wo Dao; a rare sword indeed. I don't suppose he'll mind if we use it in battle...
Even with the shortcut, we barely arrive in time. Night is falling, the perfect time for deeds most foul. As Farina ferries us past the towering wall around the prince's estate, a distant thunder is heard...from within the manse. Our path lit by a pale half-moon, we sprint to save the prince's life. If it's not already too late. But the sounds of battle continue. Who are the prince's defenders? The king was supposed to have called away most of his bodyguards on some pretext or other...
Pent, Louise, Guy, Matthew: We split into two groups, the first going down the west wing. Matthew opened the door, and the group proceeded down the hall uneventfully, most of the enemies focused on the prince's mysterious defender...until Maxime emerged from the shadows to attack Louise, after she shot a thief. Guy artfully toppled the Black Fang paladin from his horse with two strokes of the lancereaver, Louise moving down the passage he had ambushed from in search of additional reinforcements. She found one, and nailed the shaman with her silver bow. Pent advanced with Matthew, using the Bolting tome we'd recovered to zap a thief who'd taken the Brave Lance. Matthew raided the vault for a pair of seven-league boots (hyperbole, I'm sure), the other treasure the thief had nearly grabbed—surely Zephiel won't begrudge us a few trinkets for saving his life? Entering the fray on the flank of assassins pursuing a gray-cloaked figure, Pent descended like the wrath of God. Eldritch sigils appearing in the air around him, his surprised foes were consumed by wave after wave of fire and lightning. Louise countered a final shaman with her longbow as he prepared a spell against Matthew, and the fight was as good as won, bar a few laggardly reinforcements that Guy mopped up. I almost wish I had sent Pent to the other wing; the Mage-General of Etruria facing the blue-haired valkyrie on that end of the manse, one of the Four Fangs, would have been a spectacle for the ages. Hector, Lyn, Bartre, Legault, Farina: The east group had a more difficult battle. Farina speared an axeman, but Legault, spotting a Hero in the gloom, advised her to switch to a lighter slim lance. Seeing he no longer had the advantage, the Hero chose to duel Hector for several minutes, a hard-fought struggle ending with Hector dropping a broken silver axe, multiple dents battered into his weathered armor. Meanwhile, Lyn and Bartre opened the door and battled several magic-users. While Hector and Bartre held off mercs and Legault stayed on overwatch, Farina and Lyn rushed down the dark hallway. An archer appeared to give Farina the fright of her life, but she borrowed an elixir from Bartre (who never needed it) and proceeded while Bartre and Lyn took care of the archer and his mage friend. VS the Blue Crow: Without warning, a massive, lethal bolt of electricity crashes to the ground inches from Legault. The blinded thief stumbles back, blinking his eyes and tripping over his cloak. I think he'll be okay with some healing from Pent, but he's done for now. More lightning abruptly lances out from the darkness at Farina. Just in time, she and Lyn down the last of our stockpile of pure water. The lightning fizzles out, but Farina is still thrown back in her saddle by the blast. Shaking it off, she and Lyn race down the stone corridor in search of this perilous sorceror. It's the Fang who gave us the Hammerne earlier, Ursula the Blue Crow. Not as adept in close combat as the Reed brothers or the Angel of Death, she instead packs a powerful punch from afar. No longer our benefactress, her death glare would fry the girls in an instant if it had the force of her lightning. She tauntingly calls out, asking if they are afraid to die. Her bodyguards rush in to block Farina's path as she pelts the mercenary knight relentlessly from behind her melee screen. The air sizzles with magic, almost as bright as day, and stained-glass windows near the Crow blow out from the constant changes in air pressure. Farina grits her teeth and continues to wield her lance with grim skill, felling the Crow's bodyguards one by one. Suddenly, Lyn catches up. With a boost from Farina's pegasus, she vaults over the mercenaries and slashes at the surprised Crow. Ursula's horse rears in panic, throwing her. She struggles to rise, another massive electrical charge forming between her hands, but Lyn's blade is too quick. The uncontrolled energy fizzles out, small sparks illuminating the clothing of the fallen Fang. Pausing a moment to exchange an exuberant high-five, Lyn and Farina set off to rejoin the eastern group, arriving on the scene to witness Bartre dealing an Offhand Backhand with his axe to a lone enemy while struggling to open a door. Nino: Rounding the corner with Bartre to rescue Zephiel, Hector encounters the girl we saw earlier, Nino, kneeling over the corpse of a Black Fang monk. Already had a change of heart, or simply mourning a dead ally? A short conversation proves the former to be true, although she is no doubt saddened that she was forced to kill—like Uhai, she seems to regard the Fang almost as family. Now with an escort, she runs to the prince's protector—the assassin Jaffar. I don't understand what's going on here at all, but without his help I'm sure Zephiel would be dead. Jaffar: Took a lot of hits early on from Swordreavers, but after retreating and using an elixir, was fine. Broke his killing edge with one mage left, Farina arriving from the east to slay the final enemy threatening the Angel of Death...then levelling her lance at him. He's a dangerous man, and there's a remote possibility this could still be a trick. Zephiel: Criticalled the lone merc who attacked him. What.
After the battle, I wonder for a few moments what Ursula was doing there. Observing Jaffar, perhaps...but why take so many troops for what was supposed to be a stealthy assassination? Then the answer dawns on me...after we broke Jerme's magical barrier, Sonia must have been alerted somehow. On the chance we might have overheard her plans, she sent Ursula to lay in ambush at the prince's manse. If Jaffar's treachery had not forced the Blue Crow to show her hand early, we might have fallen to knives in the dark while attempting to save Zephiel from the same fate.
...I don't know what to make of the silent assassin. Like Hector, I'm still furious at the acts the Black Fang has perpetrated under Nergal's influence, both against us personally and against the whole of Lycia. But, like the mirror of Jerme and Karel, there's again an odd parallel. Hector's own words, referring to Jaffar as nothing more than a tool...and Eliwood, in his righteous fury, asking Queen Hellene if she considers Zephiel the same. "...What is His Royal Highness Prince Zephiel to you?" "I...beg your pardon?" "His Highness Zephiel is your trueborn son, isn't he? Or is he, like the Fire Emblem, nothing more than a tool for securing the throne?" In time, could even the innocent prince of Bern be twisted as dark and ruthless as this man Jaffar? Something to ponder...
Everything gone on turn 9, all loot taken, just needed to have Nino and Jaffar talk and wait it out. Also had Hector and Zephiel talk for the fun of it. 16 turns, I think; all enemies were dead, but Jaffar still had his movement phase after my fifteenth turn. MVP: Pent or Farina. Pent with Bolting saved the Brave Lance from a thief and cleared out the southern section. Lyn's Mani Katti 2HKO'd Ursula, a mounted unit (IT'S SUPER EFFECTIVE!), but she couldn't have gotten there as quickly or easily without Farina soaking up Boltings and clearing out Ursula's guards. I was hoping she'd get the boss kill, but Farina did finally promote to Falcoknight at least.
I liked the teamwork in that fight! Lyn vaulting over Farina's Pegasus, and then scaring Ursula off her horse before finishing her was interesting to read, and the exploding stained-glass windows was a nice touch!
"In time, could even the innocent prince of Bern be twisted as dark and ruthless as this man Jaffar? Something to ponder..." I think that line was a bit thick on the foreshadowing, tbh. I did like the Farina+Lyn High-Five though!
Probably overkill, yeah. It was honestly something that struck me this time around though. Also, I know I'm taking forever to get up the next installment, sorry about that to anyone else who's reading.
Also had Hector and Zephiel talk for the fun of it. Oh, ha ha. It's funny because Zephiel is gonna kill Hector in the future.
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