1379: Fire Emblem: ReAwaken – Chapters Twenty and Twenty-OnePosted: April 7, 2016
Hello folks, I’m Herr Wozzeck, and today—
Sura T’Lenya: Two chapters today? Are you losing your mind?
… Yeah, that is one more than I usually do with this fic, innit?
Well… To be honest, it’s been a little hard finding things to make fun of in this fic as of late. And as a result, it’s just beginning to become a slog. Like, it’s no longer bad enough to be funny.
ST’L: But that means he’s getting better, right?
Well, obviously, but how do you mock that?
ST’L: Good point. So I’m guessing this is the part where we highlight reel the rest of the fic?
Somewhat. We still have four chapters left, so I think we should down them in two-chapter long installments. Sound like a plan?
ST’L: Works for me.
Great. Let’s get going, then!
So we open our next chapter with this:
I’m not sure how long it took before I finally saw the smoke on the horizon, but I immediately sped up and unsheathed my weapon. “There’s the village! Let’s get going!” I call back towards Myra. I receive a ‘Hmph’ in reply, and I have to stop myself from snapping at her. Seriously, what’s up with me? I’ve gotten grouchy over headaches before, but never like this. It’s actually starting to worry me a little… I really was an ass back there, wasn’t I? Maybe I’m wrong; maybe this isn’t just a normal headache-
Focus on what’s ahead of you and worry about headaches later, I tell myself as I continue onwards.
ST’L: Well, at least he’s recognizing he was unusually asshatty about this headache of his.
Yeah, better now than later, right?
Anyway, they show up at the village and bump into a bunch of bandits. Of course they confirm it, before saying “shit, you work with that swordsman!”. They then start fighting each other, and Kale helps take them out while—
I hear something flying through the air behind me, and a moment later one of the bandits is on the ground, on fire and screaming.
ST’L: Oh hey, Myra finally gets to be useful!
Wait for several cut paragraphs later…
Three down, one to go-
“Get back!” Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me! Spinning around, I see that, indeed, the last bandit made his way past me while I was dealing with his friend and, predictably, he decided the mage would be an easier target than the guy with the sword. Growling, I clench my fist and rush towards him. “I’m warning you! Get away from me, or else!” Myra, stop talking and do something, dammit! Finally she raises a hand, and I can see the fireball forming, which is good.
Except it seems the bandit saw it too and lunges forwards, surprising her. The fireball fizzles out and he tackles her to the ground, knocking her Fire tome out of her hands.
There it is.
ST’L: Goddessdammit. Of course she’d be useless.
No kidding. Watch, it’s going to trigger rage pouting and shit.
An angry yell escapes my throat, surprising me by the sound, and I leap at the man, tackling him from behind. We tumble to the ground, with me somehow getting on top of him. Looking down at him, I can feel something tickling the back of my mind and the blood rushing to my head and I feel my fist rear back and-
“Kale! Kale, stop it!” I blink as I hear Myra. Looking up, I see her standing in front of me, her tome clutched to her chest. She flinches when our eyes make contact and she looks… Well, she always looks pale, but somehow she actually looks paler than usual. “W-why did you do that? What were you thinking! You didn’t have to go that far, you idiot!”
I shake my head in confusion. “Wha- What the hell are you talking about? Just what did I do-” A groan from below me cuts me off and I look down- “What the hell!?” I scream, falling backwards off of the man. He looks like someone took a meat tenderizer to his face!
ST’L: And he blacks out to do it, too. Well, I’m suddenly sad Crunchy is missing this.
No kidding. You think that talking sword has something to do with it?
Anyway, he’s all shocked about it, he asks Myra to check his head, and he realizes he’s not bleeding before standing up and being like “we’ll talk about this later”. They then proceed to a scene change, where they come in to town to see a bunch of bodies, which have been more bandit than civilian. They hear a scream, and then Myra runs off to check it out. Of course, when Kale catches up…
“It’s him,” Myra whispers, a hint of awe in her voice. I just nod dumbly as I recognize the masked swordsman, standing in the middle of a group of bandits that must have been larger at some point if the bodies littering the ground are any indicator. He hardly seems concerned by the fact that he’s surrounded; in fact, the bandits look like they’re the ones who are surrounded. As for himself, he’s just standing there, sword lowered as he looks at the people surrounding him.
“Are any of you going to make your move?” the man asks, finally breaking the silence, and I see a few of the bandits step away from him. “Or shall we just wait until we turn to skeletons from waiting so long?” I hear laughter, and realize that it’s coming from him. “Then again, I don’t like that idea so much. It’d be rather boring, don’t you think?”
ST’L: Wait, so this is the swordsman that’s saved more folks than our Stu?
ST’L: He’s witty. I like him.
Of course, we then get an action scene where the swordsman pretty much turns into Christian Bale in Equilibrium.
ST’L: Minus the gun fu, of course.
Obviously. He gloats about it a bit, and then we get this line:
“Oh well. I suppose you were a bit of a good workout anyhow, and I’m sure I put on a good enough show for the two of you hiding behind that fence there.”
…Wait, what? He turns to face the two of us and gives us a small nod. “If you don’t mind, I’d prefer to save the pleasantries for later,” he tells us as he lifts the blade from the man’s head. “I’ve got a bit of a pest problem to deal with. Bunch of nasty rats, covered in fleas and filled with diseases, you know?” Somehow, I can see the smirk underneath the mask as he says this.
*snort* Okay, that’s pretty funny.
ST’L: No kidding. Man, what I wouldn’t give to have this guy instead of Stupard in Parallel Realities.
Yeah, it’d be about ten times better.
So he owns a couple more bandits, and then the swordsman approaches Kale and Myra as soon as that little fight is done. Kale fanboys about him a bit, but he also gets a bit jumpy at the swordsman. After tossing some snark at Kale, Myra apologizes for that, and then Kale struggles for words of apology. So then the swordsman asks them what brings them there, and where the companions were. Kale is just like “well, we were gonna save ‘em but you beat us to it, so…” And we get a bunch of narrative rambling, before he’s like:
“As for where the others are…” I trail off, not sure if I should really tell this guy where the rest of the group is. Stranger Danger, after all.
ST’L: Really? Stranger Danger at a time like this? You’d think saving your hide more than once would do the trick!
Hey, to be fair, they may not know this guy saved Marco’s skin that one time.
ST’L: Ah, that’s true, isn’t it? Eh, I guess any excuse to get this guy to introduce his name so we don’t have to call him “swordsman” any more…
He offers me a hand. “I go by Caine. Good to meet you.”
Oh, good, he has a name!
ST’L: Don’t they always?
Slowly I accept his hand. This Caine’s friendliness is a little off-putting, I admit. I mean, one second he’s toying with bandits, and now he’s wanting to shake hands and tell us his name? It just doesn’t quite feel right.
If this fic is trying to lull us into suspecting Caine may actually be evil, then why the hell did it show him saving Marco’s ass earlier in the fic? I’d imagine that whole thing would actually work if we hadn’t seen that bit of heroism earlier, you know what I’m saying?
ST’L: Yeah. I mean, Kale doesn’t know he’s not evil, but we do. So I’m just wondering why the narration is going on about that.
Eh… Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, in this case. I could see why MaesterDimentio did it this way, but… Perhaps it would’ve been better not to show how Marco got out of that Risen situation earlier?
Anyway, Kale goes all:
Still, better to not upset the man who toys with bandits, so I grab his hand firmly. “I’m Kale, and this is Myra.” I gesture to her with my free hand.
I cringe as she ‘Hmphs’ in annoyance. “I can introduce myself, you know.” Yes, I’m sure you could. And he’d probably want to jam one of those knives down your throat from how annoying you can be.
ST’L: And not from how useless she generally is? That’s a first.
So then Myra asks about how Caine knows Kale, and then Caine is all “well, you remember that manor? Yeah, there.” And then he name-drops Malus to them, and Kale and Myra are like “um, what?”, before they’re called into a meeting with an old dude from the village. We then get another line break, and we cut to inside a house with a forge. The owner of the house (who is not the old guy) introduces himself as Keith, and we get some things about how he was looking at them funny looks when they Kale and Myra try to speak up, before Caine introduces himself.
The blacksmith then brings up that Caine already introduced himself, and then Keith asks their names by saying:
“I don’t know who ya are. Ya got names, or should I just call ya Mister Goldie and Miss Pasty?”
ST’L: *snerk* I like this guy’s quips.
No kidding. Almost makes you think what it’d be like if MaesterDimentio decided to write a Fire Emblem fanfic in the style of a Quentin Tarantino movie. I mean, he could just pull it off!
ST’L: You really think so?
I mean, yeah! He’s got all the trademarks down: plot that plays with genre conventions, over-the-top villain characters, quirky style of dialogue, extreme and over-the-top gore… He just needs to get better at writing his hero characters and we’ll be golden!
Anyway, Myra gets all offended, but basically does this:
“How dare you!” the albino harpy next to me shrieks. “Maybe instead of Keith, I should call you Mister… Mister…” I look over at her as she trails off, and admittedly feel a bit of satisfaction as I see her thinking, trying to come up with an insult. Failing at it, from the look of things.
ST’L: … How do they not know she’s a royal?
Hey, don’t ask me! I’m not the one in this story!
Though, from the way he’s staring at her, I think it’d be best to say something before Keith decides to strangle her. Of course, I did tell her she shouldn’t expect me to come to her rescue…
“Girlie, I don’t know who ya think ya are, raisin’ ya voice like that, but let me warn you: I’ve dealt with my share of grandchildren, all of ’em little hellions, but I made sure they knew not ta act up around me after I gave ’em a good hard spankin’. So don’t you think for a second I won’t reach across this table, pick ya up, an’ bend you over my knee just because yer older than they were.”
ST’L: “Ah, yes, let’s threaten to spank you for getting offended at what I just said.”
Hey, remember, he was joking.
ST’L: Oh, I know. I just thought I could string you along.
Sorry, Sura, but you’re out of luck there! I’m a bit smart for that, you know.
Anyway, we then get this description of how Kale is so satisfied, and then, Keith is like “siddown”.
And that does it. I throw my head back and start laughing, holding my sides from how painful it is. And looking over at Myra just makes me laugh harder because of how angry she’s looking!
ST’L: And now he’s laughing at her misery.
Well, duh. What else would you expect him to do, get called out for it?
God, if I don’t stop, I’m likely to fall out of my chair and-
“Just who’re ya laughin’ at, boy? I’ll do the same ta ya fer laughin’ at her like that. Didn’t yer mama teach ya to respect a girl?”
And I’m just going to sober up now. Sitting straight up in my chair, I fold my hands on the table and nod. “Sorry about that, Mr. Keith. We-”
“An’ don’t ya start callin’ me ‘Mister’, or I’ll knock the word right out of ya skull!”
“…okay,” I say in a very, very small voice.
ST’L: Thank the Goddess for that, too.
Anyway, Kale then introduces themselves, and then Cain asks why they’re in there. Keith then goes on about the history of the village Ponlac and how it was peaceful before Harker made a mess of it. He then pulls out a note from his granddaughter, and then Caine reads it and is all “well, your granddaughter’s courageous, but her plan failed,” and that prompts Kale to read it.
Before we can get too much description apart from “my gut wrenches at what I read”, though…
“By the time you will have found this note, I will have already set my plans into motion.
ST’L: We start with the note.
Hey, show don’t tell and all that shit, right?
ST’L: True enough.
Anyway, we then get Rebecca’s plans, which basically involves the Floria Tosca playbook. Of course…
“However, I realize, as I right this, that I may fail. There are so many things that could go wrong – the guard could suspect something and finds the knife, I fumble for the weapon and waste my chance, my nerve gives out before I can do it, or I strike only to find that Harker has no heart, just a black pit where it should be.
“That last one seems to be the most likely.
ST’L: Well, at least she was realistic about her chances.
So then Rebecca is just like “so watch the roads, and if I’m not there, stop him”. She also goes on and is all “please believe in me, and I’ve always loved you”.
ST’L: So basically, like any other last confession that might possibly end in the person being dead.
ST’L: So that’s why we’re skipping it.
And jumping to…
I slowly put the note on the table and cover my eyes with a hand. Dear God, I felt like I just read a suicide note! I’ll admit that Caine’s right about her being brave, but… Damn, I just don’t know what to say about any of this.
ST’L: Maybe don’t call it a suicide note? It was a bit brave for a suicide note.
Eh… you know how it is.
So then Keith is all “well, Rebecca isn’t back, and now Harker’s here”. So then Keith begs Caine to kill Harker after going on a long speech about how Harker’s reign of terror needs to end, even going so far as to be all “NAME YOUR PRICE AND WE’LL PAY IT!”
So then, we get this annoying little aside where Caine makes a show of refusing which leads into a rant from Keith, before Caine is like “no, as in no payment”, before going on about how he wants to see Harker bleed out himself. Myra then chimes in and is all “we’re in this too, thanks to the Exalt”.
Kale then says:
“Though, we could actually use a bit of help too,” I chime in, remembering something that Myra forgot to mention. “We found someone that Harker’s goons were nailing to a tree and managed to rescue her. She’s hurt bad, so we were wondering if you had any doctors around.” As I’m speaking, I can’t help but feel that I’m overlooking something… Something that I really should be getting, but its just not coming to me, even though it should be obvious.
ST’L: What, that Rebecca’s alive?
“She’d messed with Harker and-” And it clicks! “Rebecca’s alive!” I shout, jumping out of my chair.
“What?” Keith breathes, his eyes wide. “D-Don’t be tellin’ me lies now, boy! I-I won’t have that!”
ST’L: Keith, this is a fanfic. What did you expect?
Her to be dead?
ST’L: Well, true, but still!
Kale then confirms it, to Keith breaking down and being all manly tearsy and shit. And then someone rushes in and is all “DUDE, SOMEONE CAME IN WITH REBECCA”. Keith leaves the building, and then we get another scene change to find Genevieve, Daven, and Albert all showing up with Rebecca. Marco and Garrett aren’t there, and before we get much more Daven tells Kale to avoid Marco for a bit.
Daven and Caine then banter a bit about how they met previously, before Marco comes stomping in calling Kale out for
“Apparently you weren’t worried enough to wait for me to get back.” I take a couple of steps back at the sound of his voice, but he grabs me by the collar and drags me back. “Just what the hell do you think you were doing, dragging my sister with you to take on all of those bandits alone!? She could have been killed! You could have been killed! I trust you to watch over everyone and then you go and do something like this? Just what were you doing?”
“My job!” I push myself off of Marco, nearly falling over in the process. I look up to see him looking shocked, and it takes me a moment to realize why. I’d just managed to break out of his grip with a single push. At least I’m guessing why he looks shocked. Shocked me at least. “The Exalt told us to stop Harker, right? Then if I’m told that some of his men are attacking innocent people, what am I supposed to do? Let it happen? And as for Myra, I didn’t drag her along, she followed me!” He gives me an odd look. “Yeah, apparently she’s a big girl and she can handle herself. She told me that herself, so don’t go blaming me for her being here!”
ST’L: Really? She’s a big girl and she can handle herself? I wasn’t able to tell from how useless she’s been this whole time.
We just stare at each other for a moment, not saying anything. He looks conflicted, and I’m a little on the angry side of things. And this was horrible for my head… Why is this one so bad? I haven’t had one so bad since… since… I don’t quite remember, actually. I know I’ve had one, but when? I frown at what I’ve just realized, and I hardly hear what Marco says, moving past him to find a chair.
I’ve got some remembering to do.
Why do I get the feeling this headache is plot convenient?
ST’L: Because it is?
Anyway, we then cut to Hugo, who is having a flashback about fire and how traumatizing it was for him to have been in there. This leads him to think about Myra, and then he gets all pissed off about that because…
She was responsible for him remembering the memory that wasn’t his.
ST’L: That’s… unusually edge-lordy for an unintelligent character.
Hey, I’ll take this over the actual edge lords, thank you very much!
So then Hugo hears a commotion in his brief bout of rage, and then he pulls out a man who is at first scared and then relieved it’s Hugo who got him out. He specifically mentions the guy in the gold coat, before Hugo asks about the white witch.
“Uh, yeah, there was a really pale girl with him. She had a fire tome – blasted Jess with it. Burned him to a crisp.” He shuddered at some memory. “But she was merciful compared to… him.” He raised a hand and pointed at his face. “He did this to me, Hugo. Beat me senseless, screaming like a madman the entire time. The girl, she was screaming too, begging him to stop.”
… Wait, what?
ST’L: How is this guy still alive? I’m pretty sure you don’t survive that beatdown and live.
It’s a bad fanfic, Sura. Anything is possible!
Anyway, Hugo asks where she is, and the guy points him at Ponlac. Hugo then ends the chapter with this:
“I’ll kill… the witch,” Hugo said, speaking his first complete sentence in over 10 years.
And that ends that chapter. On to the next one?
ST’L: Hey, I don’t mind speed-reading as long as it’s actually speedy, so I’m down.
We start the next chapter with this:
The sound of dying screams and clashing metal filled the air, creating the perfect symphony for this act of massacre.
ST’L: Wow, talk about overly purple prose.
*shrug* Eh, that’s really not that purple, Sura. It really, really isn’t.
Anyway, we get a bit of a description of massacring stuff, and then we get some description of one particular dude killing a horseman and a woman and all that jazz. We then get this:
“What have you done?” The swordsman looked up to see five figures standing in front of him. There were two large men, one carrying a sword and the other wielding an axe. Another man held a sword, and seemed extremely nervous. Behind them were to girls, one clutching a tome while the other wept quietly, one hand covering her mouth. “We trusted you… and this is how you repay us?!” the large man wielding the sword screamed in anger. “No more… This ends now!”
ST’L: Let me guess: more fight scene.
You guessed it!
So then this swordsman pretty much owns all of them, and while that’s going on it’s implied that it’s Kale killing all his friends, and then outright stated when:
Something flashed in the madman’s eyes, and he let out a scream of rage before dragging his blade across the young woman’s throat. The man in front of him let out a small cry as he watched the girl crumple to the ground, her hands flying to her throat. He rushed over to her and caught her before she landed, cradling her body in his arms. “Myra, Myra, no, no, NO!” Marco’s sister looked up at him with eyes filled with pain and fear, and she reached for his face as her lips moved, mouthing words. “Don’t go, please!” the man pleaded. Her eyes began to close slowly and her hand fell limply to her side. Marco began to vigorously shake her, trying to keep some hope alive in his heart that she would live, when he felt cold metal get placed under his chin.
As the swordsman, Kale, forced Marco’s head up, the broken man had only one question to ask: “Why did you do this?”
Kale grinned and replied:
“I don’t know.”
There was a quick motion, and the swordsman was suddenly the only living person in the area, his coat covered in the blood of himself and others, his blade hanging listlessly by his side. He looked up at the dark sky and began to laugh, quietly at first, then louder and louder. He began to speak, repeating three words like a mad mantra.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know!”
ST’L: And cue the part where he wakes up in three… two… one…
I wake up, sweating and breathing heavily, the imagery from that nightmare still fresh in my mind. What the hell caused a dream like that? God, I can still hear the screams, I can actually smell the scent of blood in the air. A quick look around assures me that it was just a dream, but that doesn’t help much.
ST’L: No kidding. Seriously, who has vivid dreams of that?
Probably someone with a lot to be scared for. To be honest, after he blacked out while beating that soldier to a bloody pulp last chapter, I would not be surprised. ‘Cause remember, this wouldn’t be the only time he lost control of his faculties.
ST’L: Ah right. That.
Kale then ponders about where he is a little, before he’s like “I shouldn’t consider slaughter after that dream”. He asks why he had it, and what it meant, and…
…why am I looking so much into a dream?
Because dreams have the weird distinction of being the one thing that everyone looks into as windows to the soul, that’s why. Don’t worry, it’s been a topic of narrative since narratives existed.
ST’L: Doesn’t mean it’s not painfully contrived, though.
He then turns the subject to Arashi, and how he couldn’t contact him in his sleep. He ponders what is wrong with him, before Caine knocks on his door and says “so Harker’s sending folks to attack tonight”. Kale asks how he knows, and then Caine explains how he’d know that in terms even an idiot could understand. Of course…
“Now, normally, this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, since it takes a day or so to get from here to Harker’s on foot,” he continues. “But, the problem is – Actually, you look smart, so why don’t you try and tell me why it’s a bad thing.”
I glare, but it doesn’t seem to affect him. Of course, he is wearing a mask, so how would I even know. Looking down at the sheets, I go over just how this could be so bad – Oh. “They didn’t get here by foot in the first place, did they?”
“Not bad, only took you a few seconds. No, they didn’t.” He lets out a sigh and turns around in the chair, folding his arms behind his head before continuing. “Apparently, Harker learned that using horse-drawn carriages is a faster way to move his men around.
ST’L: Horse-drawn carriage? It’d take them faster, sure, but wouldn’t it telegraph them?
You forget, Sura, these are the days when you can’t exactly look into a carriage and tell what’s in there. Chances are, they were hiding out in the carriage and waiting to ambush them.
ST’L: True, actually…
Caine postulates one of the horses got loose, and they were spotted. So then he provides a headcount and is all “there were 30 men yesterday”. So then Kale asks how many they can expect.
“Well, we asked ourselves that very same question, and we came to the answer piece by piece. You see, according to Keith, Harker doesn’t keep all of his Hounds in one location – no, he has them spread out over the entire area in camps that range from around 10 to 25 men in total, with a larger group in his main hold.
Are we sure this guy is a bandit, and not Vito Corleone? Because this isn’t sounding like a bandit group so much as a highly organized crime syndicate that gets their jimmies off on watching people suffer.
ST’L: Well, that would depend on how many of those camps were set up, where they were spaced… Get enough of them spread out… Keep a tally, would you?
Okay, works for me. So, let’s see: according to Caine, we know the camps consist of 10 to 25 men, so we can safely assume that with the thirty men they mentioned off-snark, that’s at least two to three of these camps. For the sake of argument, let’s ignore the possibility that any of these men were from the main compound (after all, Hugo’s group was not part of the force that attacked Ponlac since they were caught by surprise nailing Rebecca to a tree).
So, Caine, how many are you expecting?
We figured that yesterday’s raid likely drained one or two of his nearest camps, maybe three if we were really lucky. Your friend Garrett said he’d likely double the amount of men he sends, so we’re expecting somewhere between 50 and 60 men to show up tonight, ready to take our heads and burn this place to the ground.”
So fifty to sixty people. So that means that at the very least, you have eighty men, at the most you have ninety men… And that’s not counting the guys in the main compound, which remains uncounted since it wasn’t specific just how many men constitutes “more” over there. So you’re looking at anything from four to nine camps there.
That’s still a lot of men to keep track of. Do most bandit companies even keep that many men around in the Fire Emblem universe?
ST’L: Hey, I wouldn’t complain. This does sound like a force that could terrorize villages into submission.
That’s a fair point. It at least can fulfill the role it’s supposed to fill, unlike a certain other overly big company…
ST’L: Though, really, if that constitutes all their forces… Wouldn’t that backfire?
He makes a small sound, and I realize it’s a laugh. “Believe it or not, this is perfect for us.”
“Perfect? Perfect how, for getting slaughtered?”
“Perfect for clearing a path straight to the bastard’s fortress.” Both of our attentions are turned to the door, where a smug-faced Garrett is standing with his arms folded over his chest.
Oh hi Garrett. How lovely to see you!
“I asked Keith to draw up a map of where the camps were, and Ponlac here just happens to luck out; there aren’t nearly as many camps here in this area as there are in other places, so if they’re empty, we’ve got a straight shot to Harker’s fortress.”
ST’L: And there it is. Bad tactics that benefit the heroes? Check.
So then Caine explains the plan, which actually isn’t bad: kill the bandits, take their clothes, step inside, present the loot to Harker, and kill everyone. Garrett even suggests they act like they’ve captured him.
I look between the two of them, not sure if I should applaud them or criticize them for coming up with this plan.
“You’re all crazy,” I eventually say, deciding to go with the latter. “You think that we’re going to be able to get enough to Harker to try and kill him if we sneak in like that? Damn it all Garrett, we’ll be right in the middle of his base, surrounded by his men and with no way to get out! Somebody could get killed!”
And you have any better ideas? Oh wait, of course you don’t: you don’t like giving tactics, and the tactics you could give would suck even more than this plan!
The ex-bandit is red in the face by the time I’ve finished. “Hey, it’s not like we’ve got a tactician or something! We’re having to come up with this stuff as we go, so don’t complain if it sounds a little half-assed! I don’t see you doing much, aside from sleeping in bed all day long!”
ST’L: And again, all that business about your last use of tactics failing. That too.
Anyway, Kale is then told that the villagers are willing to risk death to get in there, especially Myra. Caine then goes off to get ready, and then Garrett points something out:
“You know, I just don’t get it. Yesterday, you told everyone that you didn’t give a damn what happened to you if it meant helping someone in trouble. Now we have a chance to help a hell of a lot of people, and you’re afraid of one of us dying? What happened to the boy who managed to inspire this big idiot to face his demons?”
ST’L: He started blacking out and randomly killing folks. Which is strange, since that sounds like it came kind of out of nowhere…
No kidding. I’m glad I’m not the only one who noticed how out of nowhere that little plot element came!
Anyway, Garrett mentions Marco put him in charge, and then he steps out to go make sure everyone’s ready to go with that. Kale is like “I don’t know what’s going on”, and then we cut to Harker as he eats his food. He asks his dog why he’s surrounded by fools, and feeds his food to his dog.
Said meal happened to consist of one of the bandits that had fled from Hugo’s force, apparently due to the appearance of a person that made Harker seethe in anger at the mere mention of his name.
*facepalm* Okay, Harker, I know you like your own McEvilness, but come on! You don’t have to take a page from Dr. Lecter’s book!
ST’L: And I’m kind of glad Crunchy isn’t here. He’d have an evilgasm right here.
He then bitches about Garrett a bit, before someone knocks on the door and enters. Someone comes in and tells him Hugo is missing, and then Harker is all:
“So?’ he asked. “This is hardly the first time that it’s happened. He probably went out to the woods for some reason or another, not that I can even begin to understand what’s on his mind – oh, who am I kidding? He’s as brainless as the two of you are, though he’s been blessed by the fact that he can’t speak any of the nonsense I hear you two babbling right now.” He waved them away and turned his attention back to the bottle in his hands. “Now go before I decide that Mange is allowed to have fourths for tonight.”
ST’L: Is this man even real?
I really don’t know, but I get the feeling MaesterDimentio is now hitting the point where he’s trying way too hard to make Harker look evil. Thank you, we got the impression that Harker was a sick fuck when he ordered Rebecca to be crucified after feeding his henchman to his dog.
The bandits then mention that Hugo hasn’t come back. We then get Harker thinking aloud, before he realizes “shit, this is bad”. Which of course means…
“Treachery!” the bandit leader screamed. He stabbed downwards with this sword, driving the blade straight through the bandit’s neck and nearly severing his head. The other bandit gasped in horror, which, unfortunately, had the effect of having Harker’s attentions turned to him. “Do you know what that bastard has done? After everything I’ve done for him – given him a home, fed him, clothed him, gave him purpose – this is how he repays my good-will!? By betraying me?”
Wow, Harker, way to jump the gun there. You have no explanation for why Hugo is gone, and the first place your mind goes to is betrayal.
ST’L: Yep, this guy is trying way too hard to be an Awesome McEvil. He’s got everything, cannibalism, paranoia, sudden outbursts of rage that lead him to kill literally anyone nearby…
He’s basically the R-rated, low class version of this:
Harker then orders a search party gathered to kill Hugo. Of course, one of the soldiers then asks Harker how he’s so sure Hugo betrayed him, and then he says this:
“Because, you damned fool, Hugo owes me his very life. I saved him from his miserable existence after coming across him one day, and helped him slay the men who tormented the fellow due to his… weakness. Hugo has been a faithful servant to me ever since that day, always returning to my side the moment he finishes a task I set before him. Considering he’s not here and he’s not dead, and if they can’t kill him, there’s no way they could capture him, then there is only one possibility left. Somehow, someway, he’s managed to think for himself and decide to go against me!”
ST’L: Which of course ignores the possibility that he could’ve possibly gone off on his own to exact vengeance on someone. Or decided to go after your enemies without telling you anything because there was no time to react. Because why would that occur to a paranoiac like you?
Well, I’m just glad we’re supposed to hate Harker. I don’t think I love to hate him, but I’m glad we’re supposed to hate the little fuck.
He then orders them off, but before we can end the scene:
As the man fled the throne room, Harker fell back on his throne, his eyes falling to the shattered glass on the floor. “Why is it, that now, I feel as though everything I’ve built will soon come to look like you?”
The psychotic leader of Harker’s Hounds sat on his throne, his own words chilling his blood.
ST’L: Hey, nothing lasts forever, right?
We then cut back to Kale, who is feeling absolutely terrible. We get a long narrative aside about how everyone is looking at Kale, what everyone else was doing, he ponders what Marco might be doing, and of course:
Ugh, Marco… There’s something else I’m feeling bad about right now – the way I snapped at him last night. I mean, really, when I look back and think about it, he was just worried about Myra and I, so I can’t really be mad at him for that, can I? Plus that was his sister that came with me. I’ve got sisters, and yeah they’re older than me, but I’d still be freaking out pretty bad if I though one of them might be in danger.
ST’L: Well, I’m glad he’s not thinking like an entitled little bitch right now.
Yeah, that’s progress, at least.
Of course, as he ponders about this, he hears noises, and then almost misses an axe to the head as Marco suddenly shows up.
I ask, shakily climbing to my feet. Then I notice the axe that he has in his slung over his right shoulder. It’s not like any of the axes that I’ve seen Garrett wield. It’s way taller, almost as tall as Marco himself, and the blades look taller and thicker than the ones on Garrett’s axes. Though, I can’t help but wonder, and ask, “Why are you using that axe?”
He shifts his eyes to look at it, and I see him cringe slightly. What, does he not want people to know he fights with an axe? “I… needed to see just how rusty I’ve gotten with one. I haven’t had the chance to fight with one, not since Myra and I left Plegia.”
… So Marco is the Jeigan archetype of this little group.
The prepromote of the group, who soaks up all the experience. Because that’s the only way to explain why he uses swords and axes this early in the story.
ST’L: But this isn’t the game.
Yeah, it’s not. So that’s why I’m going to tell Marco he should use those axes.
Sighing, he lifts the axe off of his shoulder and grips it with both hands, almost like he’s presenting it to me. “Truth be told, this style of axe is the weapon I’ve had the most training with. My father himself, he’s the one who taught me how to wield this style of axe.”
I let out a little ‘Huh,’ and look at the axe a little more. “So, does this mean that you’ll be fighting with this-”
Blinking in surprise at how sharply he cut me off, I look up at him, confused. “No? Why not? If you’re better at using this than your sword-”
“It’s because I’m not better at using this axe, at least not this specific axe.”
He shakes his head and plants the butt of the shaft on the ground, using his free hand to rub his temples. “How do I explain… This is the closest thing that resembles the actual axe that my father taught me how to fight with that I could find back in Ylisstol. The design of the actual axe, my father’s axe, is different enough that, if were to try and fight with this,” he motions to the weapon in question, “I’d likely end up getting myself and everyone else injured.”
ST’L: I don’t get this. Like, sure, different pistols have different recoil and power, but it usually takes adjustments that can be made in a few seconds to get used to that. How is an axe so radically different from another axe that you could hurt yourself using it?
I mean… Taco, Fraug, correct me if I’m wrong on this front since I know nothing about handling weapons (and I’m probably gonna be totally wrong here), but if it’s anything like handling someone’s instrument that isn’t your own, it usually just involves making a few adjustments, right? It’s not like the difference between a sword and a katana where they fulfill different functions and you need to relearn it, right?
So then we get Kale being all “so you know what specific axe you need”, before Marco asks where Garrett is. Kale then mentions Garrett is super tired, before Marco is all “I’ll talk to him, see what’s wrong.” Kale then asks Marco why he put Garrett in charge. Marco’s reply?
“I just figured that Garrett would be able to handle this better than I could,” he says in a very small, very un-Marco voice. It sounds, for lack of a better word, weak. “I just thought he might be able to lead this group a little bit better than I could, so I decided to give him a chance at it.”
ST’L: Okay… why did you do that? Was it because he knows Harker better than you? Was it because he can rile up anger against Harker? Sorry, Marco, you need to try harder than that to get a good reason to tell Garrett to lead a group.
“Since when have you doubted your ability to lead? Marco, you’ve led us ever since I met you and Myra in the forest! You led us when we fought Garrett’s old boss – whose name escapes me – and you led us when we fought against an army or Risen! How could you think you aren’t a good leader?”
“…because I left you in charge.”
ST’L: Oh. Well, in that event, that’s reasonable!
I’m sorry, but WHAT!? I feel my body seize up and my fists clench. Those, right there, are fighting words, and even though I’m sure he’d beat me into the ground, I’m not going to let that slide.”That’s not how I meant it, Kale. Then again… gods, I don’t even knowhow I meant it.”
“There’s not a whole lot of ways you can mean that, you know. What, did I really do that bad of a job?
I mean, you almost got your friends killed a couple times, you left them to die in the middle of your anxiety fit and then left them to get their asses captured by Lackey McEvil when they didn’t die… Really, is he wrong?
Are you this upset over how I decided to do my job that you’re saying you made a mistake to leave me in charge, so you shouldn’t be leading us?” Agh, why is my headache deciding now is a good time to flare up?! Fucking seriously, I don’t need this right now!
“It’s because I wasn’t the one who did my job!” he shouts, sounding very frustrated. “Why did I leave you in charge of the others? Why didn’t I just send you out with Genevieve and Daven to pack up the campsite?” He lets out a sharp breath and turns away from me. “A leader is supposed to put himself ahead of his followers; he is the first to enter the battlefield and the last to leave: that’s how I was taught a leader was supposed to act, and I failed! I made you do something that I should have done. Cleaning up camp was easy – a leader isn’t supposed to take the easiest jobs!”
ST’L: Oh, so he’s just annoyed he wasn’t on the front lines with his troops. Calm down, buster: I’m pretty sure you weren’t aware Ponlac was right there.
Yeah, this is starting to get a bit overblown, innit?
Anyway, Caine shows up, and then points out that “leaders don’t let mistakes ruin him”, before pointing out he’s made enough mistakes that he wears his mask to hide his shame. Caine then is all “it’s almost night, you should lead the allies to battle”. Marco protests, to which Caine points out that Garrett is a fighter, not a leader.
Marco turns around, glaring over his shoulder at the man as he clenches his fists. “If you know so much about leading, then why don’t you do it!?”
ST’L: Hey, why doesn’t he do it? With a childish outburst like that, Marco’s pretty much disqualified himself from leadership.
Caine laughs loudly, enough to make me jump again. “Well, aren’t we just trying today? How do you think they’ll react to having someone who is a complete stranger to them telling them what to do in the middle of combat? I assure you, they wouldn’t listen to a word I say.”
Even though you were the first guy at this village, and you were the one kicking all the ass even when Kale and Myra finally did show up. Right, because that makes sense!
He chuckles darkly and stands up. Walking past me, he places a hand on Marco’s shoulder. “I suppose if you won’t listen to fair reason, then perhaps you’ll listen to blackmail: Lead your friends into this battle, or I’ll reveal your little secret to everyone in this village, Marcellus.”
ST’L: *facepalm* Well, this guy just became an unlikable asshat. He can’t get Marco to listen to reason even though the conversation wasn’t done, so instead of trying to point out more logical things he goes straight to blackmail.
No kidding. I mean, I wouldn’t mind the whole “morally ambiguous friend” angle, except you have to actually, you know, build it. What we’ve seen of Caine before this point is a righteous swordsman who was a bit of a snarker, but that was really about it. Nothing he’s said or done thus far would point to the fact that he would do this!
ST’L: Is there anyone in this story who is still likable?
ST’L: Fair point, fair point.
Kale displays some confusion, but after that, he says that Caine is still kind of right, before pointing out:
I’ll fully admit that I was wrong to run off like I did, and I could’ve made Myra stay behind if I’d just thought to. You aren’t the one who made the mistake yesterday, I was.” I sigh as I finish. Even when you’ve admitted them to yourself, it always seems to hurt the most to admit your mistakes to someone else. Or, at least it has to me.
Believe me, at least you’re doing it. And not blaming it on an entire community.
ST’L: Careful, your issues are showing.
Anyway, Marco finally snaps out of his funk, and then Marco leaves. Before Kale can follow, Caine tells him the village gossip overheard him dreaming the previous night. Caine then tells Kale to talk to his friends about it, before he’s all “now let’s get ready for battle.
We then cut to the site of the battle, with Daven lamenting how outnumbered they really are. We then learn that twenty-five villagers stepped up to the plate, and then they see soldiers rush forward. Of course, we then see a bit of a major problem:
“Look! There’s someone leading them!” someone cries out. I squint and-
Oh God, that’s bad.
“Hugo,” I whisper, just as the mountainous man raises his axe into the sky and bellows out a war cry. His men echo the cry and charge.
ST’L: Man, isn’t this going to be awkward when he finds out Harker’s sent guys to kill him for his supposed betrayal?
“Stand your ground!” I hear Marco shout from the front of our group, stopping the few villagers that were beginning to turn away. “We will not fall here! Harker will pay for his sins, and these men will not stop us from making sure he receives justice! Prepare yourselves, everyone!”
As the enemy closes in, I hear the sound of a sword sliding from its sheath. “Time to see what your leader is made of,” Caine says before rushing forwards. I don’t even try to stop him, and instead get my sword ready to fight. As their force is about to meet ours, I join in our own collective war cry and rush forwards.
The Battle of Ponlac has begun.
And thus, the chapter ends.
ST’L: Good, we got through those two chapters. Do you think we’ll have both the next two chapters out by next week?
I don’t see why not. I mean, we did it this time, so next time won’t be so hard, right?
Anyway, guys, that’s all for this week. I’ve been Herr Wozzeck. Stick around for when we hopefully finish this fic next week.