Chapter 32 -- Victory or DeathYou are Montago...This army's general, right? What? A tactician? Well, either way. Don't be shy, if you need work done, use me. I do not enjoy battle...but I have my skills.
Time is of the essence. If we reach Dragon's Gate after Nergal's summoning is complete, victory will be that much harder. I'm going to give him a taste of his own medicine...
Bartre and the swordmasters, northwest. Try to look like the main thrust of the attack. Farina, Lyn, southeast, as fast as you possibly can. Hector, Pent, Louise, up the center; time to break in that Warp staff Murdock gave us. Everyone else, remain here. We'll keep the vanguard from being encircled; Nergal's probably got additional morphs behind us.
Jaffar, Legault, Nino, Eliwood, Oswin, Merlinus, Nils:
Keep a wary eye on the forests behind. Eliwood knows Hector's attitude isn't natural:
What is it, Lord Eliwood?
It's Hector. Has something happened?
No...Nothing really. Why do you...
He acts as if nothing is wrong and yet...Yet...I know. That's how Hector's been since he was a child. This is how he acts when something's troubling him.
Bartre, Karla, Guy, Karel:
Bartre and Karla take point together, cutting through the swarm of archers, nomads, and knights in their path. They both appear to be keeping score. The Light Brand I gave Karla comes in handy several times. Eventually she's injured and the two of them break off to the east, in range of Pent's healing magic.
Everyone on that flank was supposed to attack together, but the latter two have been lagging behind from the start. It seems Guy's apprenticeship is at an end...
Master! How goes my training?
I really think I am getting the hang of it. Maybe I'm, you know, gifted or something? I'm still no match for you, but soon...
Your training is over.
You are strong enough. If I teach you any more than this...Then I will have to cut you down where you stand. I would cleave you in two before you could take a single breath.
Even now, I can barely restrain my blade. It longs to bathe in your blood, to test your steel. The thought alone makes my blood roil.
Leave. Never speak to me. Forget your offer to seek me out in a year's time.
M-Master! Thank you! I owe you so much. But when I said I would challenge you, that was no lie. I will grow stronger. I will beat you.
...So be it. When next our swords cross, we will see. Let us meet one year from now. Then I will know your skill. Until then.
Exuberant at his master's...praise...Guy charges ahead, filling in the gap. Karel turns and vanishes into the forest, reappearing briefly at our camp requesting leave to depart. I suppose that's alright; Bartre met that bishop, Renault, again, wandering in the ruins. Don't want him getting hurt in our battle, and he'll require an escort back to Fargus' ship.
Murphy's top speed is swift indeed; Farina is soon far ahead of both Lyn and the approaching band of cavalry and warriors. She takes shelter in a musty temple.
Eww...what a dreadful place. If I see even ONE ghost, I'm leaving. Really...
......Um...I...I'm sorry...for...my mistake.
I'm...from Arcadia...I wanted to speak to...the Archsage...um......but...he's...not...here...is he?
Aaaaahh—huh? You want to give me something?
...We want...you all...to do your...best....For the future...please don't lose...If the light is strong enough...it can dispel...darkness...
She's gone...OK, that was scary.
Emerging into the bright sunlight again, Farina blinks at the horde attracted to her shrieks and draws a slim sword. Lyn jogs up a few minutes later to find nothing but a cloud of dust and a few bemused morphs, quickly dispatched.
Meanwhile, as part of my plan, Farina is already far to the north of the battlefield, where she'll rendezvous with Hector shortly.
Hector, Pent, Louise:
Before the enemy is in position, Pent initiates the first Warp jump, depositing Hector near the northern forts. On their way to meet him by foot, Louise wonders where Athos is:
Lord Pent, where is the Archsage?
He's performing a ceremony in Arcadia. He said he would make the Dragon's Gate in time.
About Lord Athos?
Yes. During my stay in the Nabata wasteland, the Archsage...He would not eat unless I suggested it first. Left alone, I'm sure that he will not have eaten anything.
Ha ha...There's no need to worry. Lord Athos has long ago surpassed the needs of human flesh. He has need of neither food nor rest.
Oh, is that so? Yet if he partook in a delicious meal, he might be even more vigorous...
That he might. After all, a good meal is more than just nutrition, is it not?
The same goes for you, Lord Pent. When you're deep in research, you lock yourself away from all concerns. Even if I prepare meals and wait, you don't eat for days...
It appears I've left you lonely....I'm sorry. When this battle is ended, I will amend my bad habits.
Yes, of course.
Then I have a request. When this journey is over, let us spend some time at home. We'll take tea in the parlor and spend entire days together.
Very well. I promise.
You make me so happy, Lord Pent.
Louise clambers into a ballista and supports Hector from afar while Pent hurries to teleport him a second time. -sigh- Why didn't I learn my lesson back in the Bern mountains? Those things are deathtraps...
Fortunately, Hector's sudden reappearance far behind enemy lines throws the morphs into disarray, and most instinctively rush him in a disorganized swarm. Still, the lone wyvern and axefighter that don't follow the crowd nearly kill Louise, before her close-range shot and one of Pent's fireballs end their pale imitation of life.
Meanwhile, Hector hacks down a multitude of enemies attempting to block his path, struggling on through the forest and gulping pure water the whole way.
Soaring ahead of a line of thunderbolts, Farina dives on a ballista crew. Hector lowers his gaze and pushes aside another branch, sweat dripping down his face. Too hot; shouldn't the weather be appropriately dramatic and gloomy?
Behind him, the crumpled wings of the last wyvern sag to the ground, reins tangled around the neck of a warrior who'd desperately tried to engage Hector simultaneously. Those morphs hadn't known what hit them. Neither would Limstell—
A mighty oak crashes to the ground beside Hector, knocking him down. He rolls aside before another arc of electricity strikes from the blue. No more subtlety. So close...but with the forest shaking itself apart, it's all he can do to orient in the right direction.
Farina slows to hover in place. The lightning has stopped tracking her; Hector must be approaching. This morph is more cunning than the simple drones; another like Sonia, perhaps? Time for a tag-team. Darting in from behind, she rushes the mage. Focused on Hector, Limstella takes the hit, although the eldritch energies encircling her reduce it to a glancing blow.
This seems almost too easy...
Going to a full sprint almost from the moment he fords the river, Hector is nonetheless slowed by the weight of mud unnaturally clinging to his armor. Even from here, the scene doesn't look right. Limstella is barely trying to dodge. Luring Farina in...
Limstella gracefully forms an occult sign in the air, frost trailing from her fingertips. The air ahead...shatters, a previously solid veil cloaking towering warhorses. Farina attempts to flee the trap, as the power of a hundred blizzards gathers above her head.
With superhuman effort, the new Marquess of Ostia blitzes forward, ignoring surviving archers. No more will die! NO MORE!!
The ancient Wolf Beil, legacy of an unknown soldier of the Scouring, rips through Limstella's cavalry like knives cutting paper. Bereft of her guard, Limstella falters.
Cheeks rosy with rapidly-developing frostbite, Farina strikes true. A thousand shards of ice hanging in the air soften to purest snow, drifting around the fallen sorceress.
I am not human. This body and this heart are constructs. Yes, as is this sorrow.
Shortly after Karel departs, I remember I'd never introduced him to Karla. Too bad; speaking to her after the battle I learn she's been searching across Elibe for her lost sibling—a man who bears the swordmaster's name. I knew there was a family resemblance...well, there'll be time for reunions on the ship. If we all survive.
9 turns base, +4 for Karla, so 13 total.
Let the record show that I had no reason to do that and thus could have had the lowest turncount here.
Hector, Pent, or Farina. They all worked together to reach Limstella as quickly as possible.
This is actually the first time I've ever
used the Warp staff; usually I hold onto it because it's the only one of its kind.