1367: Fire Emblem: ReAwaken – Chapter EighteenPosted: March 24, 2016
Title: Fire Emblem: ReAwaken
Media: Video Game
Topic: Fire Emblem
URL: Chapter 18
Critiqued by Herr Wozzeck, Sura T’Lenya, and Crunchy Raptor
Ugh… What the hell happened last time…?
Crunchy: Oh good, he yet lives.
Sura T’Lenya: And you doubted me for a second there.
Ugh… What happened…?
ST’L: Well… You hulked out on something that I’m not going to repeat here, and you kind of went unconscious mid-riff.
Oh… Well, shit… Anything crazy happen while I was gone?
C: Just some villainous grandstanding from our mage Awesome McEvil. His name is Malus, for the record.
… Man, isn’t that rather on the nose?
ST’L: Still the same as ever, eh?
No kidding. Anyway, I guess we’re up for more snarknig?
ST’L: I think so. Right, Crunchy?
C: Of course.
Cool… Let me just wake up a little, and we’ll get started. In the meantime, update?
*A Few Moments Later…*
Oh. Well, that’s… uneventful as hell, really.
C: Of course, parrot. What did you expect?
Action? Speaking of which, what do we pick up with?
Also, a bit of a warning about this chapter: There may be some parts near the middle and ending that might be a little on the disturbing side. I know everyone’s got their own way to react to certain things, and personally I think it could have been worse, but I just want to give fair warning in case, well, you don’t like disturbing things… Just a little warning in advance.
ST’L: Oh no, he’s got a content warning.
Hey, at this point I’m fairly certain MaesterDimentio isn’t going to try to trivialize it.
C: You forgot about the anxiety plotline.
… Goddammit, Crunchy.
Anyway, we cut to the guys on the road. We go along with a description that goes around being all “Garrett got hung over”, and—
Apparently, at some point later in that night, he’d woken up, managed to sneak out of his room without Albert waking up, and had ordered more drinks than I cared to count. We were afraid to get close to him in case we ended up getting buzzed off of his breath. Of course, the innkeeper just couldn’t have a man lying on the floor, drunken out of his mind, as it would be ‘bad for business,’ even though it was their fault for serving him so much booze, so we had to all drag him into his room.
C: This is quite bad form for one who claims to be strong.
No kidding. Like, why is Garrett being allowed to go on the mission? If he’s drinking this much before the mission, who the fuck knows how his feelings are going to get in the way? Like, what’s to say he won’t pull a Kale on our guys here and run at the next opportunity to do so?
ST’L: Especially if he’s still hung over. How hung over is he, anyway?
At least Marco decided to just let him lie on the floor after he’d learned how big of a tab Garrett had managed to get.
“Stop complaining and keep walking!” Ah, speaking of Marco, I see him turn his head and bark an order at the ex-bandit, who groans slightly more loudly than before. “If you hadn’t decided to drink all of that ale, we wouldn’t be having this problem, now would we?”
“Can’t – URP – Can’t Krysta… Can’t Krysta at least – Oh gods…” …And there are the dry heaves…
… He’s still vomiting.
ST’L: So the question is left standing even more than before. Now he’s not 100% there physically, so how the hell can he be expected to carry his weight?
Seriously, Garrett, I know you’re afraid of this guy, but this is taking it a bit far, right?
So then we get a bit where Krysta goes on about “staves don’t cure hangovers”, before Krysta offers to hit Garrett with her staff. Garrett refuses, and then Kale wonders about what Genevieve and Myra did back at the monastery. It then segues into a random conversation between Arashi and Kale where—
Those are their personal problems – not mine – so they can work them out.
“That’s likely for the best… From what I’ve gathered from your memories and experiences, meddling in another’s affairs becomes rather messy, does it not?”
“You have no idea, Arashi… No idea whatsoever. Try having a few people who start thinking you’re depressed just because you’re trying to think.” Memories of awkward lunchtime situations come back to me and a mix of nostalgia, sadness, and relief washes over me. “It’s nice to know someone cares about you, but sometimes it gets to be way too much.”
ST’L: … I’m not sure I follow the logic of the conversation. Arashi is like “meddling in another’s affairs becomes messy”, and then the turning point there is about how “trust me, folks think I was depressed ‘cause I was trying to think”.
Yeah, like, what’s the connection? I don’t really see how that link works. I just… what?
We then get a small infodump about how Arashi views Kale’s memories and how it works like “think of a specific image, everything related to that gets plopped in front of him”. After that, Kale asks if Arashi has found anything about his body, which I think you have an obvious answer to that. He then gets so lost in thought that a shout by Krysta is enough to pull him back to—
…And suddenly I have the taste of dirt in my mouth. Delightful. “You might want to keep your head out of the clouds long enough to look ahead of you,” I hear Albert offer from above me. “It’d probably save you from tripping over logs lying in the middle of the road.”
C: The King of the Basics gets so lost in thought he loses track of his surroundings? What sorcery is this? You would think men would not lose track of their physical surroundings so easily, no?
You’d think. You’d think, and you’d be wrong.
…You know, maybe it would be best to just go with the flow instead of pondering all of this stuff. Save myself a little pride and dignity, you know?
Standing up, I spit out the clod of dirt from my mouth, dust myself off, and hope there’s enough earth on my face to hide the red that’s appearing on my face.
ST’L: Wait, so you actually want to be dirty right now, because it’ll hide your face. Hygiene certainly isn’t one of Kale’s strong suits, is it?
C: He neglected to clean his blade of blood earlier in the story, what do you think?
ST’L: Fair point.
Anyway, we then get a line break, and we cut to…
Standing in a large and spacious room, with a throne raised on a dais positioned on the far end from the doors, a man laughed with glee as the sounds of horrified screams drifted up to grace his ears. “Oh, come on! Being chow for Mange isn’t so bad! Look at it this way: you’re sparing some other poor fool the same fate,” he laughed, looking down the metal grate that gave him a glimpse into the little heaven that he’d made there. “Serves you right anyway! Trying to cheat Harker out of your weekly protection fees – fees that I was already being quite generous about, too!”
C: *le gasp* Another Awesome McEvil! Is there no end to the amount of Awesome McEvils this fic generates?
Well, it is Fire Emblem. It does tend to be a little obvious about character alignments for the minor villains.
C: Good, good! I shall see what happens here!
“Lord Harker,” a bandit called from outside the throne room, “the messenger from Ponlac is here. Should I send her in now, or-”
“No, wait until I’ve grown old and have no need for her anymore,” the man, Harker, answered in a voice that made no attempt to hide the sarcasm behind it. Sarcasm, and a hint of malice as well. “Hurry up and get her in here! …People tend to do better in matters of business when they hear what could happen to them.” Turning towards the other end of the room, Harker cast one more glance down to the torture chamber and sneered. Of course, I might decide to play with them a little anyways…
Yep, this guy is definitely an Awesome McEvil.
ST’L: Try not to have an evilgasm, raptor.
C: I cannot guarantee that. I mean, a man who enjoys listening to the tortured screams of his prisoners? A man who sarcastically asks to see messengers? Taunting tortured prisoners? This man is quickly gaining points with me.
Well, up until he displays tactical stupidity.
C: Must you rain on my parade with such speed?
Yes. Yes, I must.
As the doors opened and the messenger stepped through them, Harker sized her up quickly: bright red hair – almost pink – was tied back into a ponytail that fell back to the middle of her shoulders, eyes that were a mix between light brown and yellow that held a little bit of fear – something that she should be rightfully feeling at the moment – and some hints of disgust, perhaps even a form of loathing mixed in. She wore a simple yellow dress with white sleeves, which suited her modest figure, and as she approached the man sitting on his throne, she forcibly curtsied.
Uh-oh, a character just got their clothing described!
ST’L: How much do you want to bet she’s an important character in all this?
C: Put me in the pool.
Hm, I dunno. Harker has kind of been built as a major force, and we haven’t gotten him a long-winded description yet.
Harker smiled as pleasantly as he could, moving a strand of dark blonde hair from out of his face. It’s strange how a man could be so devilish, yet look as handsome and charming as a noble. His hair was cut short, just above his ears, and his features were soft. The silver armor that he wore only helped reinforce his looks, with a breastplate and two pauldrons over a red shirt with gray sleeves. He gave her a small wave with his right hand, the one covered in a white glove, and stood from his throne. By all purposes, he looked to be the perfect gentleman…
Until one saw his eyes.
They were a cold, dark blue – nearly black – and there was a wicked light in them; there were untold depths of malicious intent behind them and they seemed to light up as a scream tore from the room beneath.
Ah, there it is! Though… That’s a bit of a break from typical Fire Emblem character design, isn’t it? The Awesome McEvil actually looks attractive, for once.
C: But there are plenty of attractive villains in Fire Emblem.
Yeah, but usually those guys tend to be the more complex villain characters. This is a bandit character who is essentially the Disc 1 final boss. Those guys tend to be ugly as fuck in terms of concept art. Still, I’ll take it: it’s interesting to see one thing different about that.
The girl couldn’t help but shiver as those eyes scanned over her body. “Ah, Rebecca, what a pleasure to see you again!” Harker cried, throwing his arms up into the air as if she were some great surprise. “…Though I must admit, I think I’d prefer you… without the dress,” he added, lowering his arms and resting his right hand on the pommel of his sword.
“Perhaps… another time, lord… Harker,” the young woman said, forcing the words as she spoke.
C: And our newly anointed Awesome McEvil even makes a pass at our obviously innocent little girl. Rather poor form, though: I should think he would have reached for something that was not the pommel of his sword.
I thought swords were Freudian phallic imagery, though.
C: But this is not a dream, now, is it?
ST’L: He’s got a point.
“I’ve come with this week’s payment; I left the money with Hugo, as you’ve usually requested us to do.” She flinched as another pained scream rang out from below, hiding it as best she could. Mercifully, this one was short – it had been cut short, and some liquid, bubbling noise replaced it. “…I… see that someone… has forced your hand, lord.”
Harker chuckled, like he’d just remembered an old joke. “Ah, they never quite learn, do they? Just because Hugo looks as dumb as a rock – actually, he is, but we can’t help the way we’re born into this cruel world, can we? Still, he’s excellent at carrying out simple tasks, such as weighing a bag of gold to see if it feels right… or taking someone down to the playroom whenever it doesn’t.” He shuddered for a moment, closing his eyes and letting out a small cry of what sounded like pleasure at whatever thought was running through his mind.
C: Oh, hold, why is he allowed to have an evilgasm, and I am not?
ST’L: Well, would you want his present evilgasm? I would say it’s a premature evilgasm, to be honest.
Yeah, I would too. Like, we’re only halfway through the scene, why is he moaning in pleasure now?
“Oh, right…” Rebecca said softly, fiddling with her sleeve. “Well, just to make sure that didn’t happen this time, we were sure to put in a little extra, so that Hugo would have no doubts about the contents of the purse.”
“How thoughtful and considerate of you!” Harker exclaimed, bringing a hand to his mouth. “Why, it fills my heart – black as it may be – with a warm, fuzzy feeling whenever someone acts so considerately towards that poor fellow. Of course,” he slowly brought the hand away from his mouth, revealing a toothy grin, “Hugo does have a dreadful memory… Why, he might mistake the same amount as today’s as being too light! And since no one in this blasted place can count past… oh, however many fingers or toes they have left, it’s simply not possible for me to contradict him.” Stepping down off of the raised platform, he brought his gloved hand to Rebecca’s face. “Of course, I’m sure you’d never make such a mistake, and if you did, there are always… other ways, to recompense me,” he muttered, placing his left hand on her hip. A furious blush rose on her face and she turned her head to look away from him.
ST’L: *facepalm* Oh, come on, really?
C: Ah, and he asks for sexual favors as well, hm? I thought he would keep it at hitting on them, but I was wrong. Ah, the folly…
Doesn’t make him any less of a McEvil, does it?
ST’L: I just hope this doesn’t mean the girl goes along with it.
“O-of course, my lord,” she agreed, her voice quivering, “anything to keep my home safe.”
ST’L: And there’s the uncomfortable subject.
Hey, you know what, I’ll at least take comfort in the fact that we’re supposed to see the disgustingly sexual creep as a disgustingly sexual creep. Do I need to remind you about what happened the last time we had a disgusting creep make passes at a female character in a Fire Emblem fanfic?
ST’L: … I just hope she isn’t planning on going along with it…
Suddenly, she looked up at him and, before he could react, spat directly into his face, catching him off guard and making him reel back in surprise. “And I mean anything!” she growled, slipping a small knife that she’d had concealed within her sleeve into her hand. “Go to hell, you bast- AAH!”
A black shape shot from seemingly nowhere, knocking her to the floor and the knife from her hands.
ST’L: Oh good, she wasn’t. It wasn’t successful, but hey: brownie points for trying.
True. Though I do have to wonder what the hell made her think it was a good idea to spit in his eye first. I mean, he was close enough to put his hand on her hip! If you’re close enough to do that, you’re close enough to move quickly enough to stab the fucker, especially considering the blade shot out of her sleeve and all that.
C: Ah, another case of an Awesome McEvil being allowed to live because the hero made a stupid decision.
I’m wondering why she didn’t wait until they were already in the bedroom. Most versions of the Floria Tosca playbook are only successful when the heroine waits until the villain is already in a private space about to do the killing, so…
ST’L: Well, to be fair, she might not be a trained assassin. She might not know you’re not supposed to showboat before killing a target. She does look like a random villager, to be honest.
And why did they then give her the job of killing this guy? Unless she went in on her own (which, granted, might be true considering how they recruited Kale and friends), I call bullshit.
Looking up, she saw a massive black dog above her, its fangs bared and bloody foam falling from its maw. “You… BITCH!” Harker roared, stomping over to her. “Keep her still Mange! If she tries anything, bite, but no killing!” he ordered the animal, which seemed to nod in response.
Wait, black? But Blanc Mange is a white wolf!
… Oh wait, not that mange. Carry on!
Kneeling down next to her, she couldn’t help but cry out in fear as she saw the mad look in his eye and the sadistic smirk on his face. He held something up, something familiar, and studied it with a keen eye. “…A fruit knife,” he commented in a deadpan tone. “You expected to kill me… with a fruit knife.
Hey, don’t underestimate fruit knives! Those things can be surprisingly sharp, you know!
ST’L: A medieval fruit knife?
Girl, have you seen how hard it can be to slice through certain fruits? It’s not like fruit knives discriminate between fruits, either. Hence, that thing is probably sharper than Awesome McBandit realizes. Besides, fruit knives are used in Fates anyway!
C: But they were not available during Awakening, no?
Yeah, but… I feel like the point still stands, you know what I mean? Fruit knives are sharper than you give them credit for.
ST’L: I guess that’s true. Still…
…I’ve been called bananas before, but I think this is pushing it a little, don’t you?”
C: And that is another funny quip from someone in this fic.
Hey, you gotta give MaesterDimentio credit, he’s been killing it on the quip comedy lately.
A pair of bandits rush in, and then Harken gives some orders. And then…
“You know… that little trick of yours… you spit in my eye, you know that? I… I didn’t really like that, not at all. So… would you like to know what I’m going to do to you?”
Leaning in close, he whispered into her ear, “I’m going to find out how similar a grape and an eye are, especially when it comes to peeling them with a fruit knife.”
C: Hm… It appears our Awesome McEvil has a penchant for behaving like a Mexican drug cartel boss.
Yep, looks like it. But I’m still not sure why this warrants being amazing in battle.
ST’L: I don’t know: if he can afford to go on like this, he might have something that warrants that reputation.
After that, we cut back to Kale, who talks to Daven about how he’s not particularly hungry for grapes.
ST’L: Using grapes as a transition? Ha, I see what you did there, author.
He then offers the grapes to Daven, who takes them rather quickly. We then start on this:
After about another… oh, I’d say hour, hour and a half, of walking, Garrett finally stopped moaning and groaning. Which was good… until Genevieve had screamed that he’d collapsed. In hindsight, maybe we were pushing him just a little too hard…
Gee, you think?
On the other hand, it is his fault for basically assassinating his liver with all of that booze, so blame who you will; I know I’m blaming the beer. The stuff ruins lives… and marches, apparently.
ST’L: Hey, at least they didn’t have ryncol on tap. Now that would’ve killed him.
So then he goes into how “this meant we made camp for the night”, and then it talks about how Genevieve apparently stole some grapes. Kale then makes an off-hand comment about marching and stamina, before Daven is like “um…” and Kale is like “oh right, shit, you’ve fought the undead…” That segues into a long monologue about how Daven is better than him at swordplay, and how—
Which… looking back on it, I feel really disappointed in myself for not being a better challenge for him. I mean, when the other kids from the future get here, their parents will be keep up with them – hell, if I remember right, that was the basis for Lucina and Chrom’s support!
Yes, and your point is? The parent characters are basically in the middle of a war when the other child characters start to be recruitable, man; by that point, they’ve gotten way more experience than you have now! So what the hell comparison in that!
ST’L: I don’t know, but it’s not that important, I don’t think.
…Even with the dream-time training sessions, am I really going to get good enough to be able to catch up to everyone?
…No, I’m not.
Dude, you got at least a couple years to go on that front. I mean, shit, an entire war still has to be fought (and that hasn’t heated up yet, so who knows how long that’ll take), Chrom’s wife has to give birth to a baby girl (which takes nine months), that baby girl has to grow a little bit (which will take some time)… Really, dude, calm down!
C: It does seem rather a pointless endeavor. Particularly considering this is the same man who took down a large army all by himself. And no, I do not wish to let that go.
Nor should you. Seriously, if it’s been shown that he could do that, then what the hell is the point of all this tension going down here? Like, what is the point of all this?
Not without some seriously extreme measures! “All right, that settles it!” I do a quick kip-up, surprising Daven and making him drop his grapes. “Daven, I need your help and I need it now!” Before he can say anything, I draw my sword and point it at him. “We’re going to fight and we’re not stopping until one of us drops from exhaustion, got it?!”
ST’L: Ah yes, because that won’t backfire at all when you face off against the horrifying demon bandit you’re marching to fight!
“Wha- Father!? What are you- What is- What’s gotten into you all of a sudden?” he sputters.
A desperate need to be seen as someone who isn’t a Stu.
I narrow my eyes at him and bite my tongue; he better be glad that we’re a bit of a ways from camp, otherwise we’d have some explaining to do. As it is, I can already see a couple heads looking towards us. Following my gaze, Daven winces. “…Kale, what are you talking about? Why do you want to fight me?”
“Who trained you?”
“I asked who trained you!” I snap, my patience thinning. He flinches, not that I can blame him, since I’m actually kinda worrying myself with how aggressive I’m sounding. At the same time, I feel like this is my best shot at getting stronger, so I have to take it! “It was me, wasn’t it?” I ask, lowering my voice.
“Y-yes, but why-”
I silence him with a quick gesture. Perfect! It’s just as I thought! Okay Kale, just keep it up and you can do it!
See, there you go. What the fuck were you just going on about, Kale?
C: Back to being the King of the Basics again.
At least the subject changed.
C: Yes, at least it did.
Anyway, Kale then expounds on the whole feedback loop this brings up, which Kale doesn’t really get. Kale then is all “look, train me, and I’ll be stronger than the Kale that trained you”.
As soon as I say ‘time’ his eyes start to widen. “B-but that could alter something important! Father, I can’t… It’s just not right!”
ST’L: And I hardly think that’s a problem, considering that whole thing where you were sent backwards in time to prevent a prospective future from happening. I really don’t think you’ve got any room to worry about altering one little thing that could change something else.
Shaking his head, he turns away from me… Damn, just when I thought- “But wait…” Slowly, he stands up and turns back to face me. “…We were sent here to find a way to stop Grima from returning… and we weren’t told the necessarily best way to do that, so…” A grin spreads across his face, and I feel one spreading across mine at the same time.
ST’L: Oh good, he remembered that.
I was about to say…
“Well, I’m guessing that means you accept? You’ll train me?” I offer him my hand…
…and he takes it! “It’d be an honor, Father. Just don’t be surprised if I’m a little rough – you were too, I’ll have you know.” Huh, figures as much. Of course I had to be a rough-and-tough kind of- Well, that’s funny. I’m feeling kinda warm, like I’m on fire- Wait, isn’t this- IT’S THE SAME SENSATION AS BEFORE! THIS WAS A SUPPORT!
And there’s the whole stupid “support conversation feels” thing again. Whoop de doo…
“Uh, Father, are you… okay? You tensed up a bit and you looked a little off, so I was wondering if you were okay-”
I raise a hand and cut him off. My first support with one of my children, huh? You know, I’m happy with this. I let go of his hand and cuff his shoulder. “Never been better. Now, how about we get started?” Taking a few steps back, I raise my sword and settle into a comfortable stance. “Come at me when-” Wait, where’d he-
…Ow. “The first lesson: Never take your eyes off of your opponent, even for a second!” His hand enters my vision and I take it. I pull myself up and- Why am I back on the ground?! “The second lesson: Never trust your opponent.” Propping myself up on my elbows, I counter the smug look on his face with a spiteful glare.
…Yet I’m actually looking forwards to training more with him.
ST’L: No doubt because he’s actually telling you things, instead of just swinging at you and hoping you get it eventually.
C: Indeed. I do wonder what we shall cut to now…
At Harker’s Fortress…
“The sound of sizzling flesh and piercing screams – gods, it’s like music for the soul!” Harker shouted gleefully, his sick smile widening as he turned away from the table Rebecca was being operated on and back to his ‘playmate’: one of his own men, the one who had failed to find the fruit knife on Rebecca’s person earlier.
C: Ah, and there is Awesome McBandit again, torturing his prisoners. I have the feeling we are about to see more of his Awesome McEvil reputation.
ST’L: And not just as a conversation tag from Garrett.
C: Far better to show these things.
Currently, the man was shirtless and shackled to the wall, screaming and thrashing against his restraints. “Now,” he started, moving to the guard and removing his blade from its sheath, “do you know what the price to pay for failing me is?”
“Please…” the man cried. “Lord Harker… Please, forgive me!” Any further cries were silenced by Harker himself, who firmly grasped his lower jaw and held it shut.
Leaning in close, he tut-tutted like a parent scolding their child. “Now, now,” he chided, “when have I not been forgiving? Honestly, I just wanted to have a talk with you about how disappointed I was with your performance. Honestly, for what I do for you all, I expected better and, personally, it hurts me to think you wouldn’t be doing your best for me.” Looking up towards the shackles, he smiled. “You see, this is simply to scare you into doing better; nothing better than a little negative reinforcement to inspire the troops, now is there?” There was a brief look of confusion on the man’s face, followed by what seemed like relief.
C: *le sighs*
ST’L: Oh no, don’t you get started on the evilgasm, too!
“Oh… Oh, thank you… Harker, may the gods bless-”
“I’m sorry…” At that moment, the bandit felt what hope he held shatter as Harker lowered his head, trembling as he grabbed the man by the throat. “…but WHAT DID YOU JUST CALL ME?!” he screamed, tightening his grip and cutting off all air to the bandit. “I… am… LORD… HARKER!” With a roar, he released the man’s throat and grabbed him by the face, slamming it back into the stone wall repeatedly. “I… AM… LORD… HARKER… AND… YOU… WILL… ADDRESS… ME… SO!” Each word was punctuated by the sound of a skull hitting stone, until finally the bandit leader released the man. “Now…” he chuckled, bringing his sword up until it was level with the man’s chin. “…what’s my name?”
“L-l-lord… H-h-h-h-Harker…” the man breathed, barely conscious. Harker seemed to realize this, and his eyes relit with fury.
“Don’t… ignore me…” Like a man possessed, Harker began to slash repeatedly at the captive, carving red lines all across the man’s chest and arms. All the while, a cold laugh bubbled out of his throat, drowning out the screams of the man before his and echoing across the chamber. After what seemed like an eternity, he stopped, panting heavily yet still laughing. “Oh… What am I doing…? I almost forgot to feed my pet…” Turning to a corner of the room, he blew a sharp whistle, making the sleeping Mange lift his head and look in his direction. “Mange, it’s dinner time,” he crooned.
C: Ah, yes. Relentless, excessive torture for such trivial matters. Not to mention, he feeds his dog the corpse. Ah, yes, this is exactly the over the top that I was looking for.
No kidding. Like, seriously, this dude is straight out of fucking Hostel, what the hell is he doing in a Fire Emblem plot?
Normally, Harker would have watched as his pet began its feast, but he was, at present, more concerned with the other ‘playmate’ in the room. “Hugo, is she still breathing, or is Mange getting a second helping today?” he asked the large man who was standing next to the still figure of Rebecca.
“…Alive…” the man replied slowly, his lips seemingly having trouble forming the necessary word. The man was, for lack of a better word, massive. Not height-wise, though he was fairly tall, but in sheer muscle structure. He hardly had a neck; his head looked like it was sitting on a mound of muscle. His beefy arms – and beefy likely would be a vast understatement – were covered in various scars and injuries, with two large, bronze gloves covering his hands. His chest was covered by a massive sheet of bronze, which was held in place by thick leather straps. Rubbing a hand across his hairless head, he looked at Harker with confusion in his gray eyes. “…What do…?” he asked.
Oh. Shit, Hugo actually can’t talk that much.
ST’L: Bandit characters aren’t always this stupid, are they?
Well… That’s the thing, though. Fuuin no Tsurugi had Gonzales, who did kinda talk like this. Also consider the fact that he’s pretty much the only recruitable bandit in the franchise’s history…
C: Was he not a minor character in a game that was released only in Japan?
Yeah, but at the same time, I wonder… Hm… Well, we’ll see, I guess. If Hugo turns out to be one of the reader-created characters, then I’m wondering if the guy who submitted him was aware of that. If not… well, we’ll see.
Harker pursed his lips for a moment as he looked down upon Rebecca, noting with some degree of disappointment that, indeed, her chest was still moving up and down. “Hmm…” Stepping around the table, he came to stop above her head and looked down at her face. He had done his work on her, that was for certain. “…You know, I believe it’s been a while since we’ve set the boundary markers for my territory… And really, who better to serve as a warning to all who would oppose me?” Turning to Hugo, he smiled sweetly. “Now Hugo, do you still remember how to set boundaries, or do I need to remind you?”
The mountain of muscle slowly shook his head, and pointed at the girl. “…Nail tree…”
C: And I imagine your Bible bird would have an objection to that.
Hey, he said “nail tree”, not “crucify her”. I’m pretty sure you can nail someone to a tree in any position.
Harker’s smile turned into a twisted sneer. “Honestly, I just don’t see how people can stand to call you dumb. Especially when I know what you do to those who do.”
ST’L: Oh man, isn’t that a great line. I sure hope Hugo doesn’t find out you’ve been doing that behind his back constantly, that would probably end very badly for you…
C: Are you kidding? This Hugo has basically been coddled by Awesome McBandit. There is very little chance of that. And truly, with how over the top it was, can you blame him?
Anyway, Harker then gives Hugo orders, and Hugo leaves to fulfill them. We then cut back to Kale as he wakes up back in dream-land where—
“…You know, I was having a pretty good day. Nice weather, we finally get to start doing missions, a few funny moments here or there – Garrett’s little problem not included – that really made it bearable, I get some exercise, and have a support conversation with my son. And what happens when I fall asleep?” I immediately thrust a finger at the mysterious figure. “You, of all possible things, show up in my head!
Oh for fuck’s sake, it’s this guy again.
ST’L: We really are supposed to look at this guy as someone important, aren’t we?
Kale continues on his rant being all “look, leave me alone”, before the guy then says “look, I just wanted to talk to you”.
“Simple enough questions, each with the same answer: because I wanted to speak with you.” Slowly – almost theatrically – it raises its hand and snaps its fingers. …and nothing happens. I sigh and shake my head – wait. Why can’t I sigh or shake my head? Heck, I can’t do anything! I can’t even blink. “Just something to keep you from interrupting me, as I do feel this is quite important.
C: And you think to do that by forcing him not to move at all? Can you not trust him not to say anything?
Really? You get to the climax of your evilgasm with over-the-top torture involving having the Disc 1 boss’s dog eat his henchman, and this is what makes question life?
Fuck’s sake, Crunchy…
You see, Kale, despite you believing me to be some malevolent entity out to destroy you, there is nothing farther from the truth. In fact, I could hardly care about you. You’re an insignificant little grain of sand lying in the desert, easily missed and easily forgotten. In fact, I would have never looked in your direction had you not interfered in this world’s affairs.
Which involved saving a baby. Oh, by the way, you wanted to kill him for that at one point. If you’re trying to convince him not to worry, you’re giving him all the reasons not to trust you.
And that, dear Kale, is what I do care about. As you already know, this is not some mere fantasy dream – no, it is much more than that. This world… This world is as alive as the one that you hail from. The people within it are much more than what you saw when you played your little ‘game’ with their lives. They are real people, with real lives and real destinies.
Destinies that have been irrevocably changed due to you. You are an unseen variable, one that changes the entire equation. Because of your actions, this world has been set off of its destined path, and things that should never have been unleashed shall now roam free across the lands. People who should live shall die and those that should die shall live – some may never exist altogether. And there are some who should never have existed in the first place.” It waves a hand and suddenly, a carbon copy of the masked mage is standing next to it. “This… creature is the result of what you have unleashed; like you, it is an unseen variable, one that was born within the equation and that seeks to destroy it entirely.
Yes, and I believe we’ve talked about the fallacy involved in this whole plot thread the last time you brought this up. Seriously, if you’re just going to go on with your typical John Galt routine, can you at least vary it up a little? Come on!
C: Particularly now that there are other variables. These variables did not require Arashi or anyone like that, no?
Which is why I come to you at this moment, Kale. As I stated before, you are of great interest to me, and while I believe you shall still cause the ruination of this world, I fear that this demon shall do the same, only willingly. I… don’t wish for that to happen, so I will offer you a deal, one that will benefit the two of us greatly. You stop whatever malevolent desires this monstrosity has in mind, and I shall grant you what you most desire:
A way back to your world.”
C: Why is this even a bargain?
No kidding, right? I mean, the dude’s Grimleal, Kale’s already fought him, he’s seen what this guy is capable of and how fucked up it is, and he knows that this mage dude fucks Daven’s day up royally already. Like, he already has enough reasons to want to kill the mage guy, why the fuck are you offering him this?
ST’L: I’m starting to see why the author himself is like “I didn’t like where I was going to go with the character”.
Anyway, God-guy here then is all “I won’t contact you again, before Kale is woken up by a scream.
“MYRA!” I hear Marco shout, and I immediately shoot up- AH, and immediately regret it… Daven really knows how to put someone through the ringer… Willing myself to my feet, I stumble over to Marco, who’s looking quite frantic. “That was Myra! Something’s wrong!”
Isn’t this like the second or third time that she’s had them go running off to save her?
While I am worried for her, I can’t help but feel like we’ve been through this before. Isn’t this like the second or third time that she’s had us go running off to save her?
Thank you, I’m not the only one who noticed this!
ST’L: Should we discuss the problem of Myra turning into a Princess Peach type? You know, in how she’s shown she can hold her own in a fight yet she somehow keeps getting kidnapped anyway?
Maybe not right now. There’d be no point, to be honest.
Kale and Arashi have a pointless conversation about that which doesn’t last very long, before they finally bump into Marco.
And there’s – a… very good reason for screaming like that. Myra’s sitting on the ground, staring up at the same exact thing that I am.
ST’L: Oh, so she wasn’t in danger. It was the horror movie scream.
*shrug* Guess it was. That’s a relief…
Out of the corner of my eye I see Marco kneel down in front of Myra, muttering for her not to look at it, but I don’t think that she’ll be getting that image out of her brain for a long time. I… I… I can’t believe this…
This image… This image of…
The brush behind us rustles, followed by everyone’s assorted cries of shock and fear. Everyone except for Garrett, who swears angrily. “…can’t believe it… He’s moved his territory out this far? We shouldn’t have reached it for another half a day…” I turn to Garrett, I think we all do actually, and just stare at him. “…I warned you guys,” he mutters as he looks at the ground. “I told you that Harker was sick and twisted and that we shouldn’t mess with him.”
Yes, I’m sure you’d love to bitch about that, but can you tell us exactly what it is you’re actually looking at right now?
“Garrett,” I start, trying to keep my breathing even, “just what the hell is that?”
ST’L: Yes, I would like to know that as well, please.
He’s quiet for a moment. “You know how bandits have territories?” he asks after a few moments. Most of us nod – the ones who aren’t in shock from what we’ve just seen. “Well, some just use fancy carvings or flags or what have you… Harker, though, he wanted to be different…”
“So he decided to use a corpse to mark his territory!?” I scream, turning around and pointing at, yes, a corpse, and not a fresh one. From the way pieces of it are missing, the flies buzzing about it, and the horrible, horrible, horrible smell, it’s been here for a while, and while that would be bad enough, there’s one thing that makes it worse for me…
…It’s just a child. Probably no older than ten, and its hanging from a tree, a nail pounded through both of its hands that are above its head, one over the other. And I don’t like calling it an it, but I can’t even tell what gender the kid might have been. What kind of sick, fu-
Suddenly I’m not so sure I wanted to—
C: Excellent! This bandit just keeps getting more and more over the top! I love it!
ST’L: Oh no, here we go…
“He doesn’t use corpses.” …what did you just say, Garrett? I turn back to him, my heart thudding against my chest. “…Harker… likes to make sure people know where he lives, so… he hangs ’em up like that live, so they’ll scream. That way, people won’t come near.” He turns away from all of us, but before he does I catch a glimpse of his eyes; they’re moist. “I-I would know,” he chokes out, “seeing… seeing as I’ve been on the damned job ten times!” With a roar of half sorrow and half anger, he punches a nearby tree. “You see why I said we shouldn’t go up against this man? It’s not because he’s dangerous – it’s because he doesn’t care! Man, woman, child – he’ll kill any one of them, and laugh while he’s doing it! He wears armor that’s silver just so he can see how much blood is on him by the end of a battle! We aren’t dealing with a man here! We’re dealing with a fucking demon and he’s going to kill us all!”
C: Yes! Yes! Let the fear consume you! Soon, it will allow Awesome McBandit to take over the entirety of Ylisse! And then it will be ours! Ours! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA—!
ST’L: There’s a tranquilizer gun with your name on it, you know.
C: Be quiet, asari, this level of evil showboating must be given its proper honors. After all, Harker has indeed become a demon, that most accursed of Awesome McEvil rankings! And to think, this is only the Disc 1 final boss! Can you imagine what the other villains must follow?
They’ll likely be disappointments compared to this guy, though.
C: Yes, and—… Wait, what?
No, really, think about it: we’ve got all this information about how sadistic Harker is. He’s shown he tortures prisoners, he crucifies them—yes, I’m going to use that term now because he does it while they’re still alive—he takes great joy in it, and he enjoys his sadism. He’s an Awesome McEvil, sure, but he’s actually more of a McEvil than a lot of bigger Fire Emblem sadists. Valter from Sacred Stones, Izuka from the Tellius-verse games, Aversa in Awakening, Manfred in Seisen no Kiefu (yes, even fucking Manfred)… those guys were nowhere near this crazy, and they were major villain characters! Meanwhile, Harker is only a bandit! So if MaesterDimentio wants to make a bigger bad than this, he’s either going to have to push the Awesome McEvil side on mage guy so fucking hard he becomes impossible to take seriously, or he’s going to have to go on the full moral ambiguity thing.
C: Are you suggesting MaesterDimentio blew his load too early?
Yes. Yes I am.
C: … *sniffle* You have killed my evilgasm.
ST’L: Thank you. I was worried it would—
C: You betrayed me, Awesome McBandit! *runs out crying*
… Jesus, I didn’t think I’d make Crunchy weep.
C: *from outside the snarking chamber* I do not weep!
ST’L: *sigh* I’ll go see what’s up with him.
You do that.
… Well, I guess it’s just me in the snarking chamber right now. So let’s keep going.
At this point, the entire forest is silent, save for a few birds here and there and the buzzing of the flies. Maybe… maybe he’s right. Maybe we shouldn’t be trying to take this guy on. Hell, who the hell are we even? A bunch of people trying to make money? Looking around, I can see on everyone’s faces that, unsettlingly enough, they’re thinking the same thing. An airheaded thief, an idiot cavalier, an ex-bandit, a shy cleric, a scared mage, a Plegian willing to die to protect his sister, a guy from the future, and a guy who doesn’t even belong. Yeah, we really sound like ace material for taking this guy on.
“Kale, you have to think this through! No doubt Harker does this as a way to demoralize the enemy before they can even get near him! You can’t let him intimidate you with such a tactic, not when you’ve come so far,” Arashi begs from within my mind. “You can’t let fall for such a ploy!”
Thank you, Arashi, for pointing out the obvious issue with Awesome McBandit’s brand of villainy. A lot of it seems based on intimidation more than combat expertise, and that can be deadly…
So then they start considering telling the Shepherds about Harker, before—
“HELP ME!” What the- That was a girl! She sounds like she’s in trouble… And I have one guess as to who’s causing it… Out of instinct, I take a step forwards, only to be stopped by a strong grip.
“Whoa, where do you think you’re going?” I hear Garrett ask me. “Just a second ago you were looking ready to pack your bags and head for Ylisstol, and now, just because someone’s asking for help, you’re going to run right into the lion’s den? Wouldn’t it be better to send someone who knows how to do this stuff in?”
You know… He’s kinda got a point there. Needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many and all that, and plus get someone with more experience in there.
“But-” any objection I may have is cut short when I realize something: he’s right. He’s right, and that’s the part that hurts the most I think. The only reason I’m willing to move forwards is because I heard someone screaming for help. Just because you hear someone screaming inside of a burning building doesn’t mean you rush in. You wait for someone with experience, someone who knows what to do, to get there, even if you’re desperately wanting to do something about it, because what’s the point of rushing forwards to try and save someone only for both of you to get killed?
Yeah, Kale, something like that. You know how—
What kind of reason is… reason… is…
And you’re going in anyway, aren’t you?
“…it’s my reason…” I whisper. And I’ve got to – no, I’m going to follow it. Maybe they will too… Closing my eyes, I breathe in deeply. “Marco, you remember the night you, Myra, and I met?” I don’t wait for him to reply. “We met because I heard your sister screaming in fear, and I wanted to make sure she wasn’t in trouble. And Garrett, what about you? We met you because you were in the middle of a screaming mob that wanted your head, desperate for a second chance.” I hear the big guy grunt like he’s been hit but I go on. “Krysta, I did everything I could to save you when you were in danger. Genevieve, you ran into us and we helped you. Albert did what he thought was right to try and save his fellow knights, and Daven nearly died trying to help me.” Shaking my arm free of Garrett’s grip, I turn to face all of them. “At some point or another, we’ve all been there to help someone or we’ve needed help ourselves. Now, just because this guy’s a bit scarier than who we’ve faced before, we’re ready to turn our backs on someone who needs help? We weren’t afraid when we ran into the manor to save Krysta, even though we knew that mage was in there! How is this any different than now?” Turning away from them, I draw my sword and breathe in deeply. “I’m not going to let some bastard who nails people to trees go free, and I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ll die fighting to protect others if I have to! That’s why I fight!”
Huh. He actually brings up a good-ish point. There’s still the whole issue that someone with experience would likely not get themselves killed, but… I guess he is right that they have beaten some odds. Still a dumb shit, but at least now he’s graduated to being a brave dumb shit. Brownie points, bro. Brownie points.
After this, we get the predictable “everyone rallies behind the Stu” bit, and even Garrett gets involved. So then, they all go straight for the lion’s den.
And that’s where the chapter ends. Of course, we still have one more thing to deal with:
…Okay, I’m not even going to try and deny that that little speech at the end there wasn’t a little on the cheesy side. Heck, it was so full of cheese that I can practically taste it, but I feel it was somewhat justified. After all, going up against someone who’s willing to nail people to trees as a ‘Keep Out’ sign is going to be kinda terrifying. Someone’s going to need to snap some sense into everyone. Kale, being the guy who wants to protect people, just fit the bill to do it I suppose.
Eh, sometimes you need cheese, MaesterDimentio. It’s one of the reasons you’ll find me listening to Rachmaninoff on a few occasions. Musical cheesecake, but it can be cleansing in some ways considering the stuff I like to listen to.
Also, I’d like to apologize for any major discomforts I may have caused with some of the imagery or implications in this chapter. Yes, I know, it’s messed up – I’ve been reading a lot of Stephen King lately, if that helps explain how screwed up some of it is. At the same time, I needed to give a valid reason as to why you’d be want to be afraid of Harker, and there are people in the real world who are that messed up. Sorry if I offended anyone, but just trust me: I’ve got a very satisfying end coming for Harker.
… Wait, a little bit of over-the-top torture, plus a scene of implied sexual harassment, was enough to warrant a warning?
Dude, you realize I’ve watched the entire Saw franchise, right? Stuff like this is small potatoes compared to some of the gore in those movies. Well, the later installments, anyway. And don’t get me started on the Hoffman traps. Dear God, if you thought Harker was bad, Hoffman could probably teach him a thing or two about being over the top and evil.
He then talks some more about things, and then ends the author’s note.
And on that note, I think I’ll leave it here. Now, to see where Crunchy has run off to…