Part 4: Finding Their Way
Kels brought a hand to her chin as she looked upon the still-moving blips that represented her missing warriors. There had to be something they were missing. If Breidablik was able to show her and her allies where missing heroes she'd summoned were located if they vanished from Askr's continent of Zenith, there had to be a way they could use this power to bring them home.
"Well, I think all we can do is keep digging," she then said. "Maybe return to the library and keep searching the books or seek a source outside the castle. There has to be a way we can use the power we just discovered to save the other Ike and Frederick. Otherwise, there'd be no point to it!"
"I agree," Anna replied. "This can only be half of the answer we need. Whatever someone from Muspell did, it was surely a magic we've never seen. Perhaps we can find a counter spell somewhere."
"We've searched through hundreds of books already though," Alfonse pointed out. "I don't think our library has the remaining information."
"Then... We really do have to look elsewhere, don't we?" Sharena deduced.
"If that's the case, let's do it then," Kels agreed.
"I would say all of you are right," Anna seconded. "However, someone will have to stay here and keep watch on our missing comrades, in case something happens while we're gone. The map should stay open as long as Kels doesn't re-activate Breidablik to close it."
"Good idea," Kels replied. "Ephraim, you're the only one here that knows Magvel since it's your home. Can you remain here and keep an eye on those two?"
"Of course," Ephraim agreed. "I was going to ask to do so anyway since as you said, I know my homeland."
"Thanks! If anything happens, you can have a report sent to Anna. She'll get it soon enough."
"Well, where do we go first?" Sharena wondered.
"We'll ask around Askr," Anna decided. "There are churches, temples, and other places in some towns here that may have people with knowledge on magic not seen here. It could take quite some time to ask all of them, but... It's our best hope."
"In that case, we'll bring a few teams of heroes with us in case we run into trouble," Kels decided. "Frederick, Ike, that means we'll still need your help!"
"It shall be done," Frederick agreed.
"I'm ready to get to work," Ike added.
"Great. Let's go save...yourselves! Heh heh."
Ike merely rolled his eyes while Frederick let out a light chuckle. The group then departed the area, leaving Ephraim to his assigned duty.
In the Darkling Woods, the missing Frederick's voice had repeatedly begun crying out in terror as he clung to the Ike that was with him as tightly as he could. Ike still had control over the centaur beast, but it was moving very fast and there wasn't much else Frederick could hang onto.
"Oh, will you PLEASE knock it off?!" Ike demanded. "You're getting on my nerves!"
"If you would allow us off of this monstrosity, maybe I will!" Frederick retorted, tears flying from his eyes.
"Well, the woods are thinning, we're almost there," Ike replied. "So stop whining!"
Frederick merely grumbled, tightly gripping Ike's waistline and cape.
As the woods thinned, however, the area also grew lighter since with fewer trees, more sunlight reached the ground. Almost suddenly, the centaur jerked to a halt and reared back on its hind legs as it turned around.
"Yaaaah! Whoa!" Ike cried, almost getting thrown off as he nearly lost his grip on the creature's mane. Frederick bellowed in terror, his legs flopping about upon the creature's rear end.
When the creature turned to face the woods, however, it reared once more and this time successfully sent its riders sprawling. Their cries rang out loudly as the centaur then ran off back into the woods. Frederick's was arguably louder.
"Agh!" Ike yelped as he landed with a thud, dropping Ragnell next to him.
"AUGH!" Frederick bellowed. It felt like he'd landed on something that was...stinging him.
Ike groaned as he slowly got to his feet and picked Ragnell back up. He then turned to Frederick to see if he was alright.
"Sir Ike... You are...a MADMAN. What in all the worlds WERE YOU THINKING?!" Frederick demanded between breaths as he slowly rose as well.
"I was thinking of getting us out of there quickly! And I did!" Ike replied in annoyance, pointing ahead of them. "The way is almost completely clear here. The monsters must not like light, which is probably why they're living in those woods. It's darker in there."
"Well I--" Frederick began, until he felt a sharp pain in his torso. He grimaced hard as he stood up, pressing his hand to his stomach right below his chest. When he took away his hand, it was covered with...blood. The knight gaped in shock and annoyance.
"AAAGH," he loudly groaned. It turned out that he had fallen on a jagger branch and it managed to pierce him. It was lucky the branch was lying mostly sideways, or else he might've been completely impaled on it.
"And NOW look what you've done!" Frederick opined.
Ike's eyes widened when he saw the gash and the blood now staining Frederick's blue hoodie.
"Damn it all!" he replied in irritation and rushed over to help the knight.
"THIS IS YOUR FAULT!" Frederick spat at him.
"Yeah, I know! And I'm sorry! But at least we're alive and out of those woods! I'd rather us be injured than dead!" Ike retorted.
"And how do you know I won't bleed out before we locate a healer?! YOU'RE A FOOL!"
"We will, just stay with me and keep pressing that wound!" Ike insisted, placing his own hand upon the injury as well. "I don't think an artery got clipped, you're not losing blood that fast. And there has to be a town or village nearby."
"But I am still losing blood! You'll be fortunate if we do find a healer before I lose consciousness or this wound becomes badly infected!"
"ALRIGHT ALREADY! STOP SHOUTING! Geez! By the way, I don't think Chrom would like how much you're losing your composure here. This is yet again not like you."
"Well I apologize that this entire situation has flipped me upside down! Between the trauma resurfacing, that reckless stunt you pulled, and this injury, can you really blame me for coming this close to losing my sanity?! And trauma alone can certainly cause a person to exhibit out of character behavior."
"Okay, whatever. Come on. We'll move as fast as we can."
Frederick grimaced again as he and Ike began moving away from the woods and across a grassy field with a faint dirt path a few steps away. They chose to try following the path in hopes it would lead to a town or village.
"Owww! Careful! You're hurting me!" Frederick protested a moment later.
"Sorry! I'm not experienced at this!" Ike replied. "Oh yeah, as soon as we reach the town or village, we should definitely spend the night there so you can recover. You can't go far like this."
"Yes, you're right. Good idea. And... I do owe you a thank you for aiding me, in spite of everything else."
"Of course. I couldn't just leave you there bleeding. You're...a comrade. And regardless, Kels would slaughter me if I did."
"...Heh, that is for certain."
Despite Frederick's injury, the two warriors did their best to appreciate that they were finally out of the Darkling Woods and taking in fresher air and sunlight. The sun was setting, but could still be seen at the horizon behind them. It was probably a good thing that they were going to rest in whatever town they found first, as they might not have made it to another one before dark anyway. Silence ensued for a few moments as Ike did his best not to irritate Frederick's injury again. He was vainly wishing Mist or one of the other healers Kels had brought to Askr were with them. Though at the same time, he would've never wanted any of them to face the Darkling Woods monsters either.
Frederick broke the silence after a fairly short time.
"Well... At the very least, my wife isn't here to see this," He said. "She would be going closer to insane than I've been."
"You're married?" Ike replied. "I never saw a wedding ring on your finger."
"I removed it so it wouldn't be lost while on the beach. My wife did the same with hers. She always worries a lot when I get injured like this. But yes, we were married not such a long time before that beach trip."
"I see. She really loves you, I suppose."
"You do not know the half of it. I don't know what I did to deserve all her affection and love. But she gives me so much of it. To some, it may seem like too much. But I lost my heart to her. She gave new meaning to my life, you know. No one else wanted to spend time with me like she did. Assisting in my duties, pairing up in battle... No one seemed to appreciate me the way she did either. Not even Chrom and Lissa. "
I see... That sounds a bit like Kels when she's around you, now that I think about it. She admires me a lot as well, but with you, for some reason, it feels...a bit different."
"You're right. And she is quite fond of me. I feel...a strange connection to her as well. Like I'm compelled to be fond of her in the same way. She does have some differences, and yet also various similarities to my wife. They share the same name too, albeit with different spellings. I wonder..if they're sort of the same person in different incarnations."
"I suppose that's a possibility," Ike commented. "I'm not with anyone. Although..."
"I do think that...I'm in love with someone."
"Oh?" Frederick said, and then flashed a grin. "It wouldn't happen to be...Lady Elincia, would it?"
"...Uh!" Ike suddenly uttered, his cheeks turning a rosy color.
"I've seen how you look at her at times."
And I also happen to know that you marry her in at least one reality, and raise two children as well. But I shouldn't reveal that, I think, Frederick opined to himself. It may needlessly complicate things.
"Well...yes, I guess you got me there," Ike admitted. "At first I wasn't sure what these weird feelings I'd have around her were. Then Titania told me. I figured she would be the most likely to know since...I always suspected she had a thing for my father. Despite that my father was already married. She respected that though. I suppose, even though I could see if someone else was in love, I had no idea what it felt like to love anyone myself."
"That's understandable. You never really were educated on things like this, were you?"
"With little memory of my deceased mother, a father that was mostly distant and secretive, and mentors that trained me in combat more than anything, yeah," Ike said. "I didn't even have a lot of education period. I only learned sword combat, outdoor survival skills, leadership, and war knowledge."
"I see. Well...if you ever desire, I could help you expand your knowledge. But of course, I will not force you if you don't want to."
"Oh, I wouldn't mind that, actually. I might find some of the things you could teach me useful."
"Ah, that's good to know."
"Say... We must've spent so much time arguing during battles that we never actually took the time to really get to know each other," Ike realized. "Maybe Loki actually did a good thing here."
Ike then turned his gaze towards Frederick's torso, and then his arms. He'd actually noted before that the knight had very visibly sculpted abs and pecs, and he'd also seen that Frederick had the biceps to match as well.
"By the way, you have quite a built body," he commented. "You must train and work out a lot."
"Vigorously, yes. I have to be in the best possible condition if I'm to protect my liege efficiently."
"That makes sense. I train hard myself. I don't find many that come close to my strength, though. But you might actually rival me there. Have you ever done an arm wrestle?"
"I believe I've heard of that. But no."
"We should try one later and see who's stronger. I feel like you could give me a run for my money!"
"Heh, alright then. But I need to get this wound treated first."
Silence came again as the two then shifted focus back on looking for a town or village. They had to find one soon, Ike had no idea how to treat a wound himself beyond just using a powdered medicine called a vulnerary, and even if he did, he had no supplies on hand anyway. Not even a vulnerary, as he'd already used what he'd had long before. It wasn't long, however, before the pair finally reached what looked like a road. This was fortunate. A road had to lead to some form of civilization. Ike and Frederick made no hesitation to follow it immediately. And when the two thought their luck couldn't get any better, Ike soon spotted what appeared to be a wagon ahead of them and coming from another stretch of road that met with the one they were on.
"Frederick! Look! We might get rescued now!"
Frederick looked up from nursing his torso to see the wagon as well.
"Praise the goddess! We need to hail him!" he said.
With that, the two waved and called for the driver, who was an older man who appeared to be in his late fifties, maybe early sixties. He was wearing a light red robe. When the man noticed the pair, his eyebrows shot up at the blood still seeping from Frederick's torso.
"Please, can you help my friend?" Ike spoke up without a second thought. "He had an unfortunate accident and I don't have any medicine with me. We're also...rather lost."
"Oh my! You're badly injured, sir!" the man replied, looking at Frederick. "Of course I can help! Get in my wagon, quickly!"
"Thank you! You are most kind," Frederick replied. "This injury is extremely painful!"
"I can imagine," the man commented.
"Is there a town close by?" Ike inquired. "We could use a place to rest too. We're not very familiar with this area at all."
"I see. Yes, there is one up ahead, so you're in luck. I was heading there myself anyway. And you definitely look like you're not from around here. And...is your friend here dressed for the beach? What were you doing this close to the Darkling Woods?" the man wondered, raising an eyebrow.
"Erm... It's a complicated story," Frederick admitted. "We aren't from Magvel, no. But we can explain more on the way. We're looking for a way to return to where we came from. As he said, we're...lost."
"Yeah. But thank goodness, we thought we might be stuck in the wilderness all night," Ike said.
"Well, good thing I found you. An injury like that can easily become infected and cause all sorts of problems," the man replied.
"See, I told you!" Frederick echoed.
"Yes, I know that!" Ike retorted. "My sister is a healer, remember. And I once helped save a man who was suffering from brain fever. I'm quite familiar with some of these things."
"Brain fever? Oh my," the man commented. "That's something few people have managed to cure around here. We're still working on making said cure more widely available."
"I'm not surprised. My group and I thought there wasn't a cure at all at first...until we found someone who had one. But anyway, can you tell us more about where we are? We just know this continent is called Magvel."
"Ah, of course. The country you've entered is Rausten, for starters."
"Ah, yes. I do believe I remember learning that the Darkling Woods were close to there," Frederick recalled, and then grimaced. "Agh... This injury!"
"Dear me, I'll try to get to town as quickly as I can. I'm just a merchant, but I do know people who can treat you. Just hold on for a little longer!"
At this point, Ike and Frederick could only hope that even after the latter recovered from his wound, they could find someone that had any idea of how they could return to Askr. Even if it was just a small town in Rausten. And if the answer wasn't there, then maybe someone knew where they could look elsewhere. Anything to shorten their stay in this unfamiliar territory, and to ease the worries of Kels and the others.