Alexander relaxed a bit as he sorted through the documents given to him, his stature that of a recluse, but it was well worth it as two months had passed and his role as the Shepherd Tactician was still valid, just he also had reign over the military branch of Ylisse, building it up carefully for the long healing to come, Phila being one such broken woman who frequented his estate to ease her mind and his presence with the Shepherds was one that she needed direly, Emmeryn was hers and she lost her within moments, the story told to her the events of the gate, how Emm gave her life to prevent the Emblem from falling into Gangrel's hands, how the Risen were conjured up without method, and how all of Plegia witnessed the judgement of a god-like being on their king, snapping them out of that murderous desire with Emm's parting words. It didn't finish there as his guest soon arrived and he went about organizing them into a force without peer, members dispatched across the province to ensure that nothing went amiss and also deal with the Risen, should they attack.
Alex nodded solemnly as he remembered their reaction to the Risen summoned through a Reeking Box, pure terror and horror, even the toughened bandits looked like mewling kittens in fear to the shambling and horrifying monsters of the Risen. He guided them through the conflict, a short battle with lesser Risen in a location that would pose the least threat and away from the minor villages and major towns, but they were stricken with that terror that he felt that he regretted showing them an evil beyond what they ever did, an evil that only wished for death to others without reason. His thoughts stopped as the door to the study opened and Barlowe entered, the first among them to do so as he walked in and spoke. "Captain Barlowe... Reporting for duty, Sir." He stood at attention, but Alex motioned him to ease as he spoke.
"You are at ease, tell me what's on your mind, since you are the first among the Marauders to speak to me now." Barlowe nodded as he cleared his throat.
"I'll get straight to the point..." He looked to the side before facing forward again. "With all due respect, was it wise to have us fight those... things?" Alex hummed before he stood up, stepping around as he answered.
"Truth be told, I could have just had the Marauders fight raiding thugs and conniving thieves to keep their senses sharp, but that wouldn't have happened in the least." His hand smoothed over the wood in its gloved confines, new and modified gloves that could absorb and use the magic with the same enchants as his coat. "The Risen are a threat, one far worse than what man can do, bandits raid, steal, and kill, but the Risen... they are beasts, monsters who hold no sense of being, no meaning of life, no mission other than death." He looked to Barlowe as he continued. "When all is said and done, to have us fight those things is a blessing, to learn how to fight them makes us stronger, bandits will run and cower, but Risen foes are brutal, care not for loss if only they can kill those that they can find, villages and towns would be at a far greater risk if I didn't show all of you what the Risen are capable of doing or what they look like." He sighed as he removed his hand, resting it to his side. "I meant no dishonor or disrespect to you or the men and women that came to learn from me, but I had faced the Risen early on before Plegia started its war, they wandered the land in mindless regard in both Ylisse and Regna Ferox, later reports would tell me that Plegia itself was facing the same threat, despite what Aversa, the High Sorceress, was able to do." Barlowe nodded as it was true, Plegia, doing the war and after, had an influx of Risen in its borders, the Shepherds arriving saved a number of towns, but now that Plegia was unguarded in parts, the Risen have been sweeping through, razing and killing as they sought for, the border guard and militia having little ability in killing the creatures easily, even bandits groups were wiped out before long.
"Aye, I agree to that, I personally have never faced the Risen or seen them beforehand, not until the Exalt's... death." He hung his head as he spoke. "I apologize for that, but it was the focal point for us to see the monsters and the beast in charge."
"All is fine, Barlowe, it is the Exalt who grieves the most." The Mercenary nodded as Alexander continued, rounding back and seating as he spoke. "Now, it was unwise of me to send you all to fight the Risen without proper understanding of the foe, so I have chosen to engage in the endeavor myself, fifteen of those groups at best." Barlowe nearly shouted in horror to the amount that Alex was interested in fighting, but his hand raised as he spoke. "A dire threat, I agree, but I have to make it up to all of you while you and the others handles security in this province of Emmul and Themis, I have reports of bandits terrorizing the lands on the outskirts and I wish for them to be stamped out, my only restriction is no killing, these moves are too precise to be just bandits, someone is guiding them and I wish the Marauders to look into it, is that clear?" Barlowe breathed before he answered.
"I can't follow that order, the Shepherds will know about it when the order goes out, but I own you a debt, one that I have chosen to fulfill as your personal bodyguard, you don't have to pay us anything for your lessons."
"But I feel like I had betrayed you, I must make it right in someway for my lack of guidance this time." Alexander scribed out a message and handed it to Barlowe. "Fredrick of the Exalt's Guard will be coming here shortly, I need you to give this to him, it has guidelines and measures that must be taken before I return." Before Barlowe could object, he found the paper changing hands and Alexander walking past before he recovered and sought to shout, but the young lord was long gone, Barlowe breathing as he mused.
"Guy's got a loyalty complex, not sure if it will save him or kill him..." He looked at the list and his eyes widened, he wants WHAT from the Exalt?!?
Alexander wasn't sure about how he would make it up with the Marauders, as he and themselves have started to call them, but he was not turned away as he continued, his horse trotting into the frozen terrain of Regna Ferox before he came to a halt as a large group of people rested at the side of the road side and he trotted up to them as the lead merchant spoke, dressing the wound of a severely wounded soldier. "Blast... It seems all hope is lost. Still, hold fast. I'll treat your wounds..." The soldier groaned as he spoke, his hand lightly gripping the man's wrist.
"Ngh... It's t-too late..." He coughed some and passed out, meaning that he was on a limited clock as Alexander spoke, addressing the merchant.
"What has happened here?" The man stood up as another dressed the wound, doing their best to keep him living and he was on that limited amount unless there is a village close by and he received better aid.
"Nothing but death ahead, traveler. I'd turn back if I were you... Whatever your business here, it will have to wait." Alexander shook his head as he rubbed the horse's neck and asked again.
"Just tell me what happened." The man held a remorseful look as he spoke, motioning with hands as he explained it out.
"Bandits have blocked the road ahead. They're demanding a king's ransom in illicit tolls for all who wish to pass." Alexander hummed as he looked forward, the distance great, but he could tell the appearance of bandits.
"They think to profiteer on refugees? Deplorable." Alexander looked again to the members and they looked to be from Ylisse, maybe a small band that thought to run when Emm perished.
"Our caravan's livelihood is at stake. We'll do no business in this country now..." The tactician shook his head as he answered.
"The flow of goods will be secured, even by my hand." He reigned his horse as he headed forward. "You and your caravan can wait here. I will let you know when it's safe." The man did not stop him and Alexander held to his faith in strength and will that the bandits spotted him, but quickly were drawn to fear as he came to a halt. "If you value your lives deeply, then you will open the road to all, else I will ensure that all that will remain are ashes in the frost." He stared with hollow eyes and the bandits started to back up before they attempted to surge back as he jumped off, but they were not prepared as he blasted two, their bodies dropping with hole in opposite sides and he stepped toward them, over the dead, as he spoke. "Anyone else wishing to share in their fates?"
"W-W-We ain't s-scared of you, we were charged..." Alexander huffed and the bandits flinched as he looked at them again.
"I will not kill if I choose it, but if you don't give in and tell me so I can keep the lines straight, we will have trouble and dare I ask if the Khans are EVEN aware of this, I have seen Basilio and he has ALL the time in the world to purge his home of bandits." At this, they straightened up in fear, Alex himself not needing anymore to say as his gaze was strong enough to send them scrambling away as he pressed on, halting only once when he spied a red-haired female merchant in Trickster attire, being cornered by more of the bandits that he merely sighed to their behavior, opening a odd tome and spoke before he disappeared, appearing behind the merchant, her eyes widening to the presence of this new figure as he spoke, the tome closing. "Do not doubt my intentions here, Secret Seller Anna, I come as a friend and ally, but drive too hard a bargain and I am willing to let you fend yourself in this cold world." Anna laughed a bit as Alexander's steel was drawn.
"Are you hitting on me?"
"None of the sort, sadly, I have a long way before I call any my love." Alexander finished up with a smile. "Beside, this is business to you, now let us cut prices and thugs in half." Another laugh left Anna's lips as the pair engaged in combat, the bandits not holding on as the village provided a powerful staff that could mend the condition of weapons, be they steel or page, a welcome addition to the priest and cleric as they finished up and killed their standing leader, a Berserker named Victor, and the roads cleared up to Alexander's aid and the convoy leader bowed in thanks as he spoke.
"A thousand thanks, good sir." The man bowed and the solder looked a lot better with the aid of the villagers there. "I'd feared our goods would spoil before reaching market. I'm certain the townsfolk will be happier for the fresh food as well." Alexander nodded as the man left and he received a solid slam to the back as Anna spoke next.
"It seems you've done a kindness to my fellow merchants." The red-haired woman smiled as the tactician straightened up as she went into introduction. "The name's Anna. Some folks like to call me the Secret Seller. Next time we meet, I'll be sure to cut you an extra-special deal."
"I will only pray that such a day never comes, any merchant with the name of Anna clearly has OTHER plans in mind." Alex commented with a smile, not even sure how he actually knew of Anna beforehand, but she was not too put off as she shrugged.
"Can't say I didn't try, but still keep a girl's heart open, she has to keep her charm up somehow." Alex rolled his eyes as Anna lifted her gear and headed off, waving farewell as she shouted. "Until next time, happy shopping, and may the gods of the open road keep you!" He waved back as Amirg appeared and surged to the right as he questioned.
"I will be blunt, are we sure to trust someone called 'Anna' like that?"
"Certainly, it is by the small measure of observation in history that one will always find an Anna, a guide, a shopkeeper, or just a remarkable ally, they have been through time itself and bore witness to events of history foretold, like the rise of Elincia and the young ranger Ike, the legend of Lyndis and her friends, even that of Marth himself and his hidden friend in the shadows of history." Amirg gave the notion of shrugging as Alex mounted up once more and they continued, the hefty packs on the mount giving a sense of dread in both person and animal, but Alexander was turned as he halted a distance from the village and pulled out the first of many in the packs, a ancient box that was cracked open to black fumes surging out and he smiled as the unearthly dead arose and stumbled toward him as he dismounted. "Now then, Amirg, let us test ourselves upon these foes, I am willing to test my own endurance and will, do you accept?"
"By the breath of man's despair and the song of the maiden goddess, may my strength find value." By sword and magic, Alexander struck, fending his foes to his tone and using the skills that he believed true, the technique of Mercenaries and a hidden loot of Barbarians, as he fought off those horrors and came out the better...
Barlowe didn't mince his own understanding of the issues provided and his instructions and learning was on par as well, the brigands on the outskirts were operating like a unit, they were not doing the deeds by accident, they were hitting a number of towns and villages that found homage in Emmul and Themis, in areas that would be impossible to deal with for the roaming or private guards of the lords and ladies, too bad for them, the Marauders were more than just 'common' as he reviewed the battle logs, though he was not ready for the feuding lords that sought out to take Emmul, stating that Alexander was unfit to rule as he rested the sheet down and huffed. "If you have any complaints about my lord's power and authority, then you must take it up with the Exalt, he is the one who gave the land and role to him and it should be by the Exalt's own command to take it away." Ylissian politics were just a list of spanning wants, desires, and interests, some even wanting a war to continue, a thought that both angered and scared Barlowe as the first lord shouted in rage.
"And what do you claim to know, Plegian, you and your vile filth will not be allowed in our lands!"
"You have the audacity to say that the moronic tactician had ALLOWED your kind in our borders, you dare to even speak in our presence!" Barlowe groaned as he was not versed in handling this issue, he was meant to be on the frontlines, but here he was, listening to a bundle of blunder mouths as they continued. "Why, if I was in charge, I would have..."
"You would have what, exactly?" A new voice joined as the tactician returned, his brow frowned as servants rushed about in panic as he entered fully with the large doors to the boardroom closing like a silent omen. "Please... DO go on, don't leave me in the dark for too long before I start to poke." The lords quickly backed up as Alexander approached Barlowe and took up the sheet offered, the bodyguard standing up and moving to the side as Alexander peered over the documents before he lowered it. "Well...?" None wanted to speak and it made it more terrifying when the room started to endure a sudden frost. "I am waiting, do finish your sentence." The peered lord cleared his throat as he continued his threat.
"If I was in charge, I would have exiled each one of these Plegian filth back home and razed it all to the ground!" Barlowe nearly sneered, but Alexander's words were more cutthroat as his eyes slightly glowed from brown.
"So, you are telling me that you would risk a political matter just to attack Plegian members on the grounds that 'their filth is not allowed in our country' while mere villages and towns SUFFER from the threat and attack of Risen, horrors that YOU and all of the other lords in here have done NOTHING about!?" They visibly backed up as Alexander stood back up and stared, his eyes seemingly like the demons from Magvelian legend were ready to strike. "If any of you, ANY of you, return back to this place and dare to accuse me of conspiracy and treason when you have done NOTHING, I will not pause in judgement, even for those souls who believe themselves 'righteous' in the Warren Hunts." This tipped the scales SEVERELY to Alexander as the lords were quick in trembling out, some dropping and tumbling as they scattered in fear, Alex sitting back down as he breathed and smiled. "My, that felt most relaxing, I had a lot of bent-up rage flowing into my soul that it was just unbearable in the end."
"Um... Milord?" Barlowe inquired as Alexander just smiled as he continued to read over the documents.
"Don't worry, Barlowe, the Marauder's cut is in the barracks, go tend to it while I see if I can fix this matter of bandit." Barlowe raised a finger before he lightly shrugged, leaving Alex alone as he read through, finding key words here and there that helped to isolate a reason for the bandits.
The main motive was in the form of money, but not in the minor amounts for hired hands, there was at least a good thousand to five offered up by a unknown client to cause conflict and issues on the borders, one fact unaccounted for was the Risen, some of the bandit groups were wiped out and some of the villages suffer major damages before the town guard and private reserves could drive them out, but just barely. The only places that suffer less than most were the areas that the Marauders had been posted, showing that they faced the monsters and slain them with ease, minor numbers show that they took some beating, but no one was fallen in the battles as he heard the door knocked and a guard spoke up.
"Milord, Mrs. and Mr. Themis have arrived for your aid." There was a sharp thud, but Alexander rolled his eyes as he spoke, putting the sheets down.
"Please come in and, Ms. Themis, I would like it if you DIDN'T attack my hands." The doors swung open and Alexander straightened up to Maribelle and Gaius entering, the thief sporting a few bruises and a glance to the guard yielded that his helm was slightly bent from the hit of something strong, Maribelle's face a glow as Alex huffed and rested his arms on the table, chin resting as he spoke. "Now, now, Maribelle, whatever your issue may be with Gaius at this present time, you know better than to bring a half-beaten man before me, it is not noble..."
"Well... yes, but this... that is... there is a reason..." Maribelle stammered a bit so Alexander turned his focus to Gaius who cleared his throat, removing the sweet from his mouth as he answered.
"Twinkles is looking for some info on the guys that had it out for her dad and put me up to the deed, so I thought that you could help out and give some additional insight on it, Bubbles." Alex nodded as he sorted through his documents and answered.
"Ah, yes, despite the fools that think that I am easy to please or control, I have managed to compiled a SIZABLE collection of details that will make the eager of scholars falter in a swift faint." Alexander looked through the piles of tomes and books that littered his desk before standing up once more and started to search the backwall. "I had titled it with a childish name so that, if anyone was looking for pay dirt on their rivals and foes, they would lose sight of it before long and... here it is...!" Without any further word, Alexander slammed a hefty, five-volume collection of books and Maribelle looked through with surprise and shock before Alex sat down and tapped on the wood, a number of servants rushing over as he spoke. "Do help these two with the copies, I apologize for..."
"N-No need, Milord, we are loyal to your commands!" One male spoke as all bowed and quickly started to load the hefty amount from the table, some aiding in sorting the files and documents to clear up space as Maribelle sighed and spoke, Alexander listening as the duke's daughter spoke.
"I am in your debt, Gaius." Gaius raised a brow, forgoing his wounded image as he inquired.
"Yes. I wrote down everything you told me and sent it to my father. Now he will be able to turn the tables on the dastards who plotted against him, especially with these documents provided by our faithful tactician." Alexander just shrugged as the two were in their own little chat.
"Well, I... I hope it works out for him." Gaius looked unnerved, perhaps having explained the whole thing to the noble, the thief once asked for back up from Alexander on something that he COULD be in deep with.
"If it does, it will be thanks to your willingness to tell the truth. So again, thank you."
"Don't thank me, Twinkles." Gaius tapped his boot in the wood as he rubbed his neck, sweet back in. "I don't deserve it. It was a cowardly thing I did, and a day doesn't go by that I haven't regretted it. I even sent a letter after the trial, but too little, too late, I reckon." Maribelle visibly took a step back in shock, Alex himself surprised that the thief had made and sent a letter about the issue itself, he could have been put into a lot of trouble, but Maribelle was quicker as she seemingly squeak, a fact that Alex kept to himself.
"Wait, that was you?! That letter rescued my father from the headsman's axe!"
"I'm pleased to hear it. But I should have done more."
"Gaius, you saved my father's life!" She grimaced a little as she continued, but she pressed on. "Admittedly, your actions put him in danger in the first place... But still! You wrote that letter, knowing the schemers would try to hunt you down!" To this, Gaius shrugged as he answered.
"That wasn't a worry. I'm pretty good at running away from things." Maribelle looked down as she draw back into place as she spoke.
"I've been very unfair toward you, Gaius. I spoke before I knew all the facts."
"Hey, I'm the one who broke into your royal treasury." Gaius paused before he finished. "...Twice."
"Thief you may be, but you are more honest than half the so-called nobles I know." A fine thing to say, even Alex found some peace in it, though it was not directed at him, but Maribelle was not done as she hummed before adding more. "But, there is still one thing you haven't told me... When the plotters secured your testimony, who did they threaten? It must be someone important to you." Gaius froze before he looked to the side, a touchy part of the subject, but one he came forward with for the duke's daughter.
"Nope. I'd never met her. Never even saw her, in fact. All I knew is that she was a young girl who didn't deserve to die." He looked to the ceiling for a moment before looking back down. "Even if it meant sending her father off the swing." The parasol dropped as Maribelle was speechless, Alexander was too, but he kept his jaw closed as the young woman spoke.
"W-wait. Those blackguard nobles threatened to kill ME?!"
"Yep." Instead of taking the parasol from Gaius when he collected it from the floor in his single word, she held her hands together as she collected the facts in her mind, though it was a lot.
"You testified against Father to save my life..."
"Seemed the best option of a bad lot at the time. And now that I know you, I'd make the same decision a dozen times over." She lightly took the parasol and both headed out, the sound of a horse and carriage went about and Alexander returned to his daily sort, pausing for a moment before he looked forward again, his brow frowned before he turned to the side and glanced, focusing before he spotted it, the armor forming into reality once more in its orange glory and its silent user coming close, the silence now shattered to the arrival of Kellam and Alexander sighed a little.
"Kellam, what are you doing here, what's the issue?"
"Well, it's up at the castle, it's Tharja." Alex grimaced to the sound as Kellam continued. "She was... gleefully laughing and giggling and zoomed right past me, shutting the door to the barracks kitchen before I could get in and see what she was up to, even triple-bolted it."
"Well... that sounds... rather ominous, let me see what she is up to..." Alexander mused as he put the papers away that he was looking over and strode forward, his horse still there and it reacted to his presence just as quickly as he mounted up, the servants bidding him farewell as he made before the outskirts of Ylisstol with standing orders to evict any noble that did not have his seal of approval to enter...
Just as quickly as Alexander made it, he straightened himself out and eased the horse to a peace, a soldier coming to handle the horse as he made for the kitchen, Amirg speaking as he formed in invisible figure. "This could be dangerous, she has been quiet for some time, she may be gunning for someone in the castle or otherwise."
"The thought crossed my mind, but she has been left alone and she has done nothing." Alex mused as his gloved hand rested on the door, its texture still solid despite the magic use he had utilized, normal gloves would have slightly singed. "I am just hoping that she isn't wanting someone's throat right now, her behavior is that of a powerful and anti-social dark mage."
"Be careful, I will be ready on a moment's notice." Alex agreed as he pushed, the locks undone and he ventured in, looking about to the sunlight streaming through the windows and closed shutters and headed into the kitchen area, the sound and smell of baking filling his senses that he was swiftly wary as to what Tharja was actually doing, taking a seat close to the kitchen and moved as he heard the wooden door open with its creak.
"Okay, Tharja, what are..." Any more words were lost quickly as Tharja came out, but with a serious twist. She was still wearing the tiara and heels of her attire, but that is where the familiars ended as she was dressed in a bright white sundress, covering her body with ease, under a apron that had suffered bouts of flour and other things and her face, instead of the normal scowl or frown, was alit with a glowing smile as she spoke, a pie in hand as she motioned with a hand in a wave.
"Why good day, Alex! How fare you? Enjoying this weather?" Alex was SOOOO confused as to the change, even Amirg was like '...Whut' so he found his words, but they were not too there as he asked.
"...Tharja? What are you doing?"
"What, me?" She then laughed with a radiant voice, what has happened and where is the real Tharja right now? "Whatever do you mean. Just a normal greeting on a typical day." She crept closer as she inquired, not the sort of thing that she would normally say or do as she maintained a distance in a moderate fashion. "...Why? Are you concerned for my welfare, good sir?"
"Um, well..." Alexander kicked himself, was he worried? Yes, he was worried that she was aiming to hex someone, but that was the negative thoughts about the dark arts going, he was just concerned that she was still... hurting in a way. "I suppose, in a way."
"You ARE?! Why, how sweeeeeet!" her glee was terrifying, but he corrected himself as he asked, the pie being set on the table and a number of utensils laid on the wooden frame from a few of the apron's made pockets.
"Actually, I'm more concerned about whatever you're planning for me." Alex didn't say anyone else as it seems like that whole place was under the impression that she was up to something and soldiers have been later rather... ill in her heated presence.
"Of course I have a plan for you, silly-billy!" The tactician grimaced as Tharja continued. "Now close your eyes, and get ready for..." He braced for something and Amirg was ready as Tharja showed off the pie. "A slice of liver-and-eel pie!" Both spirit and man stopped in tension with Amirg just going 'Whut' again, something that really shocked the fell dragon clearly was this turn of Tharja. "That's your favorite, correct? Oh, I do so adore baking..." He had some inkling of liver-and-eel pie and always hovered over it for a moment, something about it when it was made was like a lure to him and he enjoyed the pie itself, but it was not ringing home right there.
Alex took the moment to ask as he was worried that her change was first based on magic, if not anything physical. "...Are you SURE you're all right, Tharja? You didn't eat anything strange, did you?" A slice yielded to a shake of the head. "Miscast a hex?" Again, there was a no, so Alex asked if it was something SO common. "Hit your head on a rock?" He nearly facepalmed himself, having a personality turn from a rock hit, that would REALLY be abnormal and she seemed perfectly fine for the most part.
Tharja answered with a laugh as she just remarked. "Goodness me! Such an imagination you have, good sir. I'm sure I wouldn't know anything about anything strange, much less eat it!" She hummed as she continued. "Just a typical day for a typical girl here."
Alexander didn't frown, more like think back to the last time they talked, he must have said something that could have changed her mind. "This is about our conversation from before, isn't it?"
"Don't be silly. Now have some pie!"
"Look, I don't want—" She shoved the piece in and he found himself pausing as he ate it, nothing forcefully to it and his mind cleared up somehow, granting him a vision of a silver-haired woman, beautiful and wonderful, moments of his life that he found... rather peacefully and good, her arms wrapped around as he was fearful toward Amirg, her warm hugs when he was scared, and her mentoring when he and Christian listened and learned about religion. The vision ceased as he cleared his throat, the taste wonderful, but he would have to deal with that flash later. "...Actually, that's delicious."
"Oh, huzzah! I've been working on the recipe every day after normal practice!" Both went with a mental 'Ahhh...', now the root of the change was exposed and Alexander choose to deal with it.
"'Normal practice'...? You mean you've been practicing being normal?"
"Indeed! And it worked! I'm perfectly normal now!" She chuckled a little as she continued. "My yes, so typically normally plain."
"Do you realize that your 'typical normal' is actually very, very unusual?" Alex raised a brow and this caught Tharja as she fumbled with her fingers on the issue.
"Oh my, huzzah?" She was now trapped, caught in the act by Alex as she stood up and paced a bit. "Goodness, I simply must...something?"
Alexander himself didn't waste the chance as he stood up as well. "Tharja, I'm sorry about what I said before." He reached out, halting in place and directing her gaze to him as he reached down to the waist and undid the lower tie of the apron. "You shouldn't have listened to me." He then reached up and undid the upper tie, causing the apron to fall, but that was dismissed for now as he pulled her in for a small hug. "I liked you more the way you were, so can you go back to being the old Tharja?" The fingers dug in, but not too hard as she was trembling in his arms.
"Gracious, I... I have been practicing so diligently as of late, I'm not sure I can stop!" She relaxed a bit as he ran a hand through her hair, careful to not touch the tiara as he spoke.
"Well, let's start with some questions, I would like to hear your reasoning about it." Without any motion of pushing her outside, he seated her down and resumed his spot. "Now, tell me about this normal practice and when did you come up with the thought?"
Tharja huffed as she rubbed her hands in the dress, shadowed eyes glaring at the look like she didn't quite adjust to it. "It... occurred well into a month of the war, you just seemed so... pleased with everyone, even before you became a lord of Emmul, a... nice name for the province, that I felt like I needed to change in some way and your words came a thought, I couldn't be the usual... me, I had to... be more normal, more average."
"Yeah, those words were haunting me to be honest." She spared a glance as Alex continued, munching on pieces of the pies, but not to the same effect as the first. "Romance... was not on my mind around that time and I was suddenly thrusted right back in, every day after the war, I was reminded that in my own lack of understanding something beyond my belief, I ended up not taking into account what happened at the gate and it occurred." He sighed as he paused once more, swallowing the current piece. "No one will say it because I was the Tactician who lead the Shepherds to victory against Gangrel, but deep down, I felt lost, confused and your... rather sudden proclamation threw me further into a loop." He straightened up as Tharja slightly nodded. "Did I see myself as normal, did I wish for a normal life, that answer was impossible to be sure of and even now... I am lost in that tide."
"Ah... So, you WERE thinking about it, but not certain?"
"Yeah..." Alexander mused as his feelings were misted now, did he like her or love her, how he wished to know about it through the idol, never mind his flashes of a past life. "...I mean, can you see me as a normal man after my skills of tactics, my absent sense of romance, or my own failings to understand some things?"
"It has been... that troubling, if I may be honest." Alex spared a glance himself as Tharja straightened up and mused, resting her arms on the table and looking at him. "You are not too forthcoming with your thoughts, you are a closed book of secrets and I want to know you more, you are clearly hiding something deeper than before and I want to know, but my heart... came first than my mind, I wanted to appeal to your physical senses, not diving in to expose what was on your mind." She pulled out a fork, stabbing a piece, and looking at it with some disinterest. "So this 'normal practice' helped me focus on the physical want, like food and clothing, I drew knowledge from watching the other women and gathering what I know, I even asked for aid from... the Queen." She groaned a bit as her forehead touched the wood and Alex shifted to face his body fully toward her as he asked.
"Sumia's sense of tripping?"
"Yeeeeesssss..." Tharja groaned as she continued. "She was excellent, she was the best as I learned how to do some many different sweets and treats, but her accidents in the kitchen, her own narrow-minded absent of understanding my situation just drove me to such frustrations that I couldn't just stop thinking that I can just as well remedy her trips and accidents, she is so ditzy at times, she even brought a novel to the kitchen once and nearly added it to the recipe." Alex knew the idea, she would be so drawn in that she may have forgotten what she was going to do and even went off on a book rant that her staff and fellow members would be clueless to what she was even doing. This silence and thought was broken when Tharja ate the piece and perked up in awe as she commented. "Whoa, that was a rush, what a treat!"
"Of course it is, it is just different for different people." Tharja glowed red as she sat back down in silence, but Alexander was not done. "Though, if you were really trying to appeal to my senses, you could have asked Chrom, Lissa, Christian, or Fredrick about it, the Ylisstol cinnamon rolls were divine."
"Indeed, I asked about it, but I believed that it was more... average to give you a pie, more to eat and no one else seemed to like this sort of pie... some even saying that it was the 'devil's food', sure... felt like... it..." Alexander paused as well as both turned to the other side where a suit of knight armor rested across from them, how it manage to get there and snatch a good half before it stood up and departed from sight, both raising their brows to the action. "I don't recall that silent man to be interested in cooking."
"Trust me, he is in good with Stahl, but that average man is one bloodhound you don't want hounding food." Alexander mused as he continued. "Kellam did us the service of giving some, that will stall Stahl for a bit, but we... don't have long before he puts the pieces together." Alexander was not in any rush as he finished and stood up before extending a hand to Tharja, she surprised as he continued. "Now may be a good time to ask, would you be willing to join me in my manor?"
"YES!" Tharja squealed before she cleared her throat and answered properly. "Yes, I would love to, I can get my stuff later in the week." She took his hand and followed him out, given his coat to wear as he mounted up, lifted her onto the horse, and reigned the horse on, a few soldiers giving him a weird look, but let him pass freely as they headed for Emmul to organize the setting...
Within the following days, Alexander found himself free to wander, to browse about the place of Ylisse, especially with the recent news, Chrom and Sumia were getting married, MARRIED! It turned out that when Chrom got his confidence back, he PROPOSED to the shy Pegasus Knight and everyone was blown away by it, except him who left rather early, but it was also the point of what Christian said, the 'last day of freedom', he was cheering for Chrom's final days as a free man, the Tactician rolling his eyes in disbelief at his friend's easy-going behavior about it, but he was a free man for the most part so he let that slip on by. He paused in the middle of the street in thought before a vendor spoke.
"Hey, are you okay, Son?" Alexander looked at the man and smiled to the fruits and produce that he had.
"It's fine, everything is good, just musing some points." He bid the vendor farewell as he continued on, he also was faced with obstructions, the noble class other than that of Themis were in total vote against him as he looked too 'riff-raff' to stand with the higher tiers, he quietly left the meeting on the new Exalt and needed some air for a bit.
It was true, he had no name to claim as his own, he had not the land to attest his ways, nor did he have the back up of his fellow Shepherds as they were off doing a number of things, reforming the Knights, training the new bloods in battle and war, learning more about their arts than before, and leading powerful fights for their own gains. Alexander shook his head before he stopped, the most dishonorable Gaius was running a shop... a shop, that fact stuck to him as he strolled over and browsed about, the thief smiling as he spoke. "See anything you fancy? I've got silk smallclothes from exotic ports, genuine leather belts, top-quality figs..." They really did, but Alex was not pulled in as he spoke.
"Do you have any books? Strategy books, specifically? I've been hoping to expand my tactical knowledge to better serve the Shepherds." He lightly sighed as he looked about the marketplace. "However, I can't find a single volume in these parts. It really is most strange..."
"Strategy books, is it? Wait right there, Bubbles!" With that, Gaius disappeared like he never was there to start with, Amirg gasping as well as he exclaimed 'mortals can't pull that, they cannot!' before Alex inquired.
"Where'd he go?" He looked about and pulled his hands back just in time as a huge crate of books dropped right in front of him and Gaius not even looking winded one bit. "...Oh, you're back! That was fast."
"Take a gander at this lot, and tell me if any of 'em tickle your fancy!" Alex sorted through them all and found that they were all such books, like... He groaned as he spoke up about it.
"Gaius, this crate is FULL of books! Did you buy every tome in the market?!" The thief shrugged as he answered.
"Sort of. Here, they're yours. Every last one, my gift to you! But that makes us even about the whole "wink-wink" thing!" Alex deadpanned at the notion, did Gaius think that he was trying to blackmail the poor man out of gains and house? He didn't want to think about it as he spoke, resting a hand on the stand as he returned with furrowed brow.
"You are so pigheaded. For the last time, Gaius, I am NOT blackmailing you! Now please, return these books. I can't take them in good conscience." But the thief turned it once more as he countered.
"Oh, I see! Books aren't good enough? Still holding out for something better?!" Alex facepalmed as he stated.
"Sometimes I wonder why I even try..." It wasn't too hard to say no, but he had the feeling that Gaius was holding it against him, but on what grounds as he looked to the side and paused, a remarkable cloak came into view on the next stand and he mused on its texture and design. "Hey, that's a handsome cloak. Looks warm, too."
"You like that cloak? I can buy it for you!"
"Guess not!" The thief chuckled before his face dropped and he spoke again. "So, what are you doing out here, shouldn't you be with Blue right now?" Blue was the nickname that Chrom got from the thief and Alexander slumped his shoulders as he spoke.
"I felt somewhat out of place, the noble class, other than the Themis family, were in total agreement against me, they didn't want to see the 'riff-raff' involving themselves with royalty." Gaius shuffled as he stated.
"Man, talk about bad luck, you are not getting the best of it, I am here and running this place easily, but you are shunned big time." Gaius spoke before he nodded to a few customers and sent them on their way with the things that they were interested in. "Word on the street even started to spread that you were some common brigand and that you threatened Chrom to get in." Alex nodded as he took a seat and he shared it.
"I'm pretty sure if that was the case, Fredrick would have run me through, it's clear that the nobles are fearful of someone new in the circle and they haven't taken the time to learn who I am, worst yet, they eye with suspicion, I feel that I have to just wander the realm of Ylisse for the time being." Gaius nodded as the Shepherds were, after all, divided for now and he could do anything to remedy the issue as the thief continued.
"Well, there is some good profit to be done here, I just... got a job in some channels that need some hand of work." Alex raised a brow as Gaius gave the details. "I admit, I am not the finest of souls, but this could turn that frown around, even with your current 'blade'." The Levin Sword hung on Alex's belt and he nodded as the red-haired thief continued. "A recent convoy was attacked in the wake of the peace treaty, a number of them Plegians and the sane members have asked that we look into it and deal with it, the nobles can kiss it, they haven't even lifted a finger to help out, but if Blue caught wind of it..." The thief whistled loudly in amuse. "Some nobles would lose a LOT in the transaction."
Alex folded his arms as he inquired. "So, you doing this too or am I the sole person in this mess?"
"Take it easy, I am coming, this will help me too, Twinkles is nicking my ankles for something and I need to get out of the city for a bit." Alexander nodded as he sidestepped to Gaius jumping out and pulling down a wooden sign of CLOSED.
"Alright, lead the way, oh thief of friends."
"Will do, Bubbles." The duo headed out and to the location that Gaius was set to do the assignment, Alex taking his time to always face the possible troubles that could come from it...
The vast overgrowth along the road told Alexander plenty that it offered minimal cover for an ambush, several of the plants were of the poisonous variant and would not be a good choice as they arrived to the site, a site of struggle and conflict as there were apparent signs of battle, but from the looks of it, the convoy won as he ran a hand and grinded the dirt between the gloved fingers. "I think I have the basic gist of things here."
"Shoot." Alex stood up and walked as he detailed.
"Convoy came from Plegia, show of good favor from the weighed wheels pulling into the dirt and mud." He trailed the lines as he continued. "Suddenly, stop before shifting into combat form, brigands of twenty, possibly thirty, charged out to attack, but were repelled with ease, yet after the battle, they shuffled before departing toward an unknown direction from the Capital, possible idea of severing the bandit threat in this area before moving on." Gaius whistled as Alex continued to look, something just not adding up as he finished. "But there are no known bandit locations here that could be belonging to Ylisse, my guess is that they are also Plegian."
Gaius rifled through the tracks himself as he questioned. "But why would Plegian bandits attack a convoy from their own country, that is not the brightest idea in the haystack."
"No, it's not..." Alex started to think, the likelihood of Gangrel's forces still causing trouble was possible, maybe some force failed to meet up or were stationed in Ylisse to continue the havoc of the land, but to attack one of their own and put up a fight in the face of such small numbers, met something else was afoot as he spoke, resting a hand on his hip. "Let's find out where the treks lead, we may have a bolder picture if we find out why this had happened."
"Right behind ya, Bubbles." The duo continued on, following the trail through the forest and trees, being cleared out of the way for the convoy itself before they found the location, hiding behind some fallen bark to see that the bandits had ensnared the convoy, a party of eight members while their two wagons were being wrecked and their horses killed off as the brigands cheered in victory, Alex checking it over before he got behind and Gaius asked. "So, what's the plan, we are going to need one 'cause... we don't have an army behind us."
"No, we don't, but we have a squad." Alex gauged the area before he spoke. "The members were caught by surprise, they didn't suspect an ambush away from the main road and it is clear that they went together, all of them are fighters of battle, no innocents to get caught in the middle, so I have an idea, I will provide a distraction, you will free those prisoners." Gaius raised a finger to question, but Alexander beat him to it. "You have the easier task, just sever the ropes and help them get their equipment back, I can distract them away from the area and force the bandits to spend more trying to kill me than keep those members prisoner." Gaius shrugged as he agreed with some words.
"Alright, but if you die, my debt will be unpaid and your girlfriend will KILL me for that too." Alexander shrugged as he crept away, rounding about the clearing before he waited, gauging the chances before he rushed out, hands extended out before blasting two brigands through the chest with flames, the surprise evident as the rest called out.
"We're under attack!!!"
"Get 'em!" The rush of bandits was enough as Alex unsheathed his real blade and fought, giving them a tough time as his skills had improved drastically in the war, these foes were of minor caliber as he slashed and diced through them and gave them reason to attack, drawing them out as they sought to overwhelm him with numbers, heedless of the thief getting in and starting his tricks of freeing the members. His eyes took in their abilities before he dealt them a hand of judgement, some fallen in death while others were hesitate and were knocked out, yet the numbers started to render him tired as he was only one against tens of hundreds at how they surged out to kill, but he stood strong before an arrow cleaved past his leg and he dropped, sword resting as he panted as the shooter spoke.
"All of the men in the world and it is the one that stood beside the Exalt." He glanced up to a female Archer, arrow nocked once more as she spoke, they being the only two remaining, but he could hear more coming as she continued. "What brings the glory hound to this neck of forest?"
"Strange, I could... ask the same of you..." Alexander breathed as he slowly stood up, but it was in vain, biting down on his teeth as another arrow found his knee and he was forced back down.
"Fool..." The next arrow was primed for his skull as it felt like inches from the shot, no way to dodge at that close range. "Our King fell to such a weakling, you are nothing short of a maggot and you will pay for your treason against him."
"Treason says that I was his ally before his foe and I would remember if I was such a member of such a corrupted land." He stared up with glowing green from brown to look at the arrow and archer with resolve. "As it stands, I was never his friend nor his ally, so weakness is not seen in my eyes, only fear fills yours." The string grew taut and he just stared before someone shouted.
"I got ya, Bubbles!" Like a speeding arrow, Gaius appeared from the side, the bow shifting to catch the thief, but he was faster as he slash, cleaving the bow in half and came back around with a slash to the gut, the archer falling backward in death as Alexander remained before closing his eyes and falling... falling into the abyss of his combined soul, muffled voices filling his surrounding like water clouded his senses...
Light filled his vision once more before he looked up, staring at the ceiling as he breathed, slightly relieved to the sound as he gauged the surroundings, the barrack and Gaius first in view as he spoke up, another sucker in his mouth while the fourth, from the looks of it, was deposited in the garbage. "Hey, good to see you breathing again."
"Me too, Sweet, me too." Alexander groaned as he slowly pulled himself up, dressed in a loose shirt as bandages and gauge covered his body, Amirg slumbering from the sound in his mind which explained not much, but that he helped push and cause the small bout of fear in the bandits. "Looks like we're back in Ylisstol..." He sighed as he rubbed his temples. "How long was I out for, Gaius?"
"A decent hour, me and the convoy quickly got you back when you just stopped breathing for a moment and got you fixed up." Gaius rubbed his head as he continued. "No one knows what went down, but shortly after we got back, the lead headed off after dropping off the goods and came back for you, saying that he would like the approval of the 'Marauder Chieftain'." Alex raised a brow before he turned to the other figure in the room, a stout-looking man with a sword on his belt, his appearance that of a Mercenary as he kicked off the wall and walked over before he bowed.
"My name is Barlowe, former Captain of the Southern Guard of Plegia, pleased to make your acquittance, Milord." Alex waved his hand in ease as he spoke.
"Just call me Alexander, titles do me no good as I am but a man without land or name to his person, at ease, Barlowe." But he remained as Alex looked to Gaius. "Am I not such a person, Gaius?"
"Yeah... That's the thing..." Gaius rubbed the back of his head in unease. "Blue, upon learning that you were being scorned out and that the nobles would not entertain bringing you back to health in spite, cracked down on ALL of them that bad mouthed you and they currently... were exiled to Regna Ferox, he sending a personal message to the Khans that he wanted them trapped there for a month and until they learn their lesson of trust. He also went ahead on giving you some land near the capitol and naming you 'Lord' of the new piece given." Alexander's face lit up as he turned back and spoke.
"Barlowe, you have much to gain, but for now, you will help me in finding this land that Exalt Chrom has given to his Tactician." The Mercenary nodded as he strolled over and helped Alex to his feet as he continued. "Gaius, if you want, you can join us at the point to see what's going on."
"No thanks, Bubbles." Gaius tapped his head as he spoke. "I got some work that needs to get done, maybe later, I will see your new land, for now, see you around." Alexander nodded as he was hoisted out of bed and he slowly made his way to a horse and mounted up with Barlowe guiding the animal on their way. They walked past Ylisstol's streets as the people continued on, the duo continuing as they soon arrived and Barlowe rushed ahead as he shouted.
"Milord, there are brigands attacking the people!" He nodded as they reached over the crest and took in the bandits hooting and howling as they primed for battle as the town guard mobilized to stop it, Barlowe nearly pulling his blade before Alex spoke.
"No need, I will handle this one..." He breathed as he pulled out an Elthunder tome and raised his hand, the clouds darkening before he slammed down, the field suddenly riddled in the power as the bandit ranks broke to pieces and cowardly retreated with the small numbers remaining, he riding ahead with Barlowe amazed before he joined and Alexander stopped before the guard. "Who is in charge of this village?" The people parted as a shy priestess approached and she spoke.
"It would be I, S-Sir!" Alex nodded as he continued.
"Spread the word across this province, the Exalt's friend has arrived to claim his gift." Sharply, she nodded and the people rushed about as Alex continued on as he spoke to Barlowe. "Your desire to join the Marauders is sound, but I want you to prove you have what it takes, join me with the others and test yourself against the gravest threat that this land has to face, learn to fight that which has no purpose other than death and destruction." Barlowe saluted as Alex rode ahead and he searched for the area that had his gift and stopped as he beheld a manor of recent construction and came short as guards rushed out and poised themselves to fight as their leader demanded.
"Who are you and what are you doing here!?"
"Rude, to bare arms against me when Chrom himself made note of me..." Alexander rested a hand on the lance and it turned red hot as his eyes glowed and he spoke. "Stand down now, I am expecting several others in this area and it will do you well to NOT interfere with my decision or my interest." The lead shallowed as both released, the metal smoking as the soldiers stood at attention in fear before Alex continued, getting off the horse and spoke, his legs more stable now for the moment. "I respect your devotion and your will to defend this manor, but you don't need to worry too much for my safety, I have plans in the mind to protect not only myself, but all the others of this province, return to your posts and alert me to a group of brigands or Plegians, they will be the guests in my home, is that clear?" The fear eased off as they all saluted and he motioned them to go, his silent command followed as he rested a hand on the horse and walked on to the front door, looking up and smiled before he sat down on the seat and breathed, the horse being lead away by a servant and he just waited before a familiar face appeared, walking past as he stood up. "Ah, my friend of mercenaries, Christian!"
"Alexander, about time I found you around!" Both hugged, but Alex groaned from the pain, he should have thought ahead as Christian released and spoke. "Good timing actually, I realized something that has been evading us, the nationality thing." Alex nodded as he crossed his arms and Amirg listened as well. "This doesn't change much, but looking through the forces and asking about it, we seem to share a more Plegian appearance that has grown in the villages of Ylisse." Alexander nodded as he spoke, hand to his jaw.
"Raised in Ylisse, yet possessing a Plegian build, that would explain our appearance, but why would we forget about it and for what reason?" Amirg could have the answers, but both of them felt into his mind and only felt an abyss, his history muddied a bit and unrecognized which didn't help as he finished. "For whatever the cause, we have aided the young Exalt in his defense of home and have made a spot in his soul of trust, I didn't think we would come this far, but my senses tell me that we have much more to be done." Christian nodded as he departed to survey the grounds, Alexander focusing inward as he asked. 'Amirg, you said that I was meant to be a host for your power, does that fully mean that I was born of Plegian lineage?'
'There is only one country that worships Grima and that is correct, still the possibility that you are from a different nation than Plegia is plausible, but Plegia is the only place with crazy cultists that would want a host of Grima.' Alex nodded as he turned and opened the doors into the main hall, nodding as he continued on.
'Still, we have to be on guard, the world is changing and we still need answers, a few for a start is how Plegia managed to control the Risen, why now does the world suddenly feel on edge, and who is Marth truly, having future events of what is going to happen or was going to happen... so many questions, but with so few answers, we stand in a dire strait and we have to swim out before the tide steals us beneath.' The duo agreed as Alexander looked before he found his place and sorted through the rooms for his organization...
Alexander highwind was sure that Ezra was going to fail, not for his lack of training and belief when the Ghost crew sent him to an imperial academy undercover to obtain a decoder that would lead them to a imperial shipment of Kyber crystals, but for staying 'normal'.
Bridger has the slight behavior of getting himself into trouble for doing something out of the blue, but that could be scoffed at later as Alexander, left to his own devices, sealed up the cargo bay for the time being and started to tamper with both his blaster, which he obtained additional clips for from the Stormtroopers at Stygeon, and an untraceable database search.
The Empire went to great lengths to hide the truth of what happened with the Jedi, even covering up their own former lives as the Republic, but during his own travels across the galaxy for one so young, he had pieced out some... valuable pieces of intel. The first was the former senator of Naboo, one Padme Amidala, people believe that she was killed in the course of her duties while expecting, but something was off the moment he discovered it, personal blame going to his... trainer.
He had a notion and conscripted an active medical droid to help him out, his search yielding fruit as her death was both medical and spiritual, she gave up on life for something and her children likely taken away where the trail was found on the asteroid medical facility of Polis Massa, a safe haven for several special individuals and well-hidden from the Empire, yet it didn't end as he looked further into it to find out more, but the records were expunged from the database and frames, meaning that someone had gone the extra lengths to ensure that nothing was released to the public.
He shook his head as he shut the program down and closed his data pad before leaning forward and thinking, too many variables were active to the mystery, so looking into the kyber crystal was a lot better than wallowing in waiting for Bridger as the pad was opened once more and he looked.
It was no secret that Jedi and Sith often made use of such interesting crystals during their time, living stones that enable the energy of a lightsaber flow through and they differ in colors, red a constant for Sith and their thirst of control, but the hidden cache that he pulled from also tells of blue, green, yellow, white, even violet saber that were used in the Jedi Order, having so much data on such a subject was rebellious, but he lived with it as he continued, the kyber crystals were little, like a grain of wheat, but the Empire needing a convoy for one Kyber crystal is a bad thing. He didn't wait long as he headed up to the helm and listened as Sabine spoke. "Specter-5 to Ghost. Sending coordinates for Imperial jump route. If you leave now, you should still be able to intercept." Hera nodded as she got the data and replied.
"Coordinates received. We're heading out." Alex took a seat as Kanan praised the members.
"Good work, Specter-5, and you too, Specter-6." Sabine paused before she answered.
"Uh, Specter-6 isn't with us." Kanan bounced on it as he demanded as the hyperdrive spooled up to full.
"What? Where is he?" Anymore was lost as the Ghost jumped into hyperspace and Kanan continued as he wanted to know what happened to Ezra. "Specter-5, repeat! Where's Specter-6?" Hera calmly spoke as she noted as well, Alex nodding to her words.
"Kanan, we're out of range. All we can do now is complete the mission and get back as soon as possible." Kanan solemnly nodded as Alex commented.
"Between what Ezra is currently doing besides joining back up with the others and this load, we have to think of the chances of the Inquisitor being on that base and why the Empire needs such a large Kyber Crystal." Kanan was quiet before he stood up, snatching Alex's arm as he inquired.
"Hera, I want to... talk to Alex for a bit, okay?" The Twi'lek nodded as the youth was pulled out of the seat and brought to the center before he started. "Alright, start talking, how did you know about the Force Push Ezra did and what is with the cryptic words?" Alexander paused as he pulled up a leg and spoke.
"I have a... checkered family history, I never told Ezra as he was the first friend I ever got outside my family and knowing how those powers worked... let's just say that I learned several skills from... a relic of the past." Kanan raised a brow before Hera spoke up.
"Kanan, we are approaching the jump point, get into the Phantom and get ready to hit." Kanan glanced at Alex and he headed to the smaller ship, Alex knew that Kanan was not done yet with the chat, it barely even started, but he gave enough detail that he felt on edge about it as he headed up and mounted in the turret as the Ghost arrived and Hera continued. "Kanan, Alex, there are three ships. and we'll only get one shot at this."
"The Kyber crystal resonates with the Force." Alex waited as Kanan must be focusing to find the crystal before he spoke again. "It's in the middle ship."
"I'm sure." Alex nodded as the Phantom detached and the escort ships released their TIE fighters and they engaged, Kanan acting as the diversion as he mused, thumbing the firing triggers as he blasted a TIE out. "Come on, boys. Take the bait." The other shuttle released its fighters as Kanan shouted. "Hera and Alex, you're good to go." Hera nodded as she started the approach.
"Copy that." The shuttles did not give in as they fired on the Ghost, Hera's skills of piloting gave Alexander time to fire, targeting the turrets on the ships before the center ship turned to get out of there through hyperspace jump as Kanan shouted.
"Hera, that transport's gonna be gone any second and the cargo along with it. Take your shot!" Hera wheeled about before firing the main guns, blasting through the side and rupturing the cargo, causing the ship to erupt in a burst of green as the Imperials tried to escape, but their ships and them were vaporized as Kanan shouted. "Hera!"
"I see it! Come on!" Kanan quickly docked back with Hera and the trio jumped to hyperspace, back to the outskirts where Ezra was going to meet up with them with Sabine, Chopper, and Zeb...
Alex sat alone in the ship's cargo bay as he recounted the tale, Kallus was the holder of the coordinates, but the good morale of Ezra came to the sake of two fellow cadets, both having reasons to be in the Academy, but those reasons differ as one was looking for his sister who 'disappeared' from the base while the other was doing it for family, though that was questioned as the Inquisitor was on the base and would have been an issue if Ezra and his duo hadn't stolen an AT-DP walker and busted out, only one stayed to find out more while the other was returned to his parent, he cracked an eye to Ezra who donned his usual outfit. "Well, it's good to see you in color again, I was afraid that white would forever doom you to the Imperial Command."
"What can I say, I have a lot of energy than to be stuck as a faceless guy." The smile dropped as he continued. "You know... I see why Kanan is so puzzled by you, you just give off... a vibe like trying to solve you is a needle in the galaxy."
Alexander shrugged as he returned. "What can I say, I am just... that type of guy." Ezra just looked at him before he continued. "Look, I didn't bother with the Academy thing, but I am not prone to telling my history and past, so just drop it, it is not bad, but I feel... oppressed with it and I like to keep it to myself." After a moment, Ezra nodded and headed back to his cabin, Alex gazing at the ceiling and he huffed a bit. "One day, maybe, but for now, this is my life and I will focus on it..." He dozed off as the crew went about for the next assignment...
"The enemy has taken the field, milord." Aversa spoke with a tone of neutral understanding, her hand burning even with all the healing tonics used to mend it, but it felt better with the arrival of the joint forces, perhaps the one who did such a power was among the members and could heal her right for a bit, though it did little in freeing her mind, whatever control shattered permanently and she remembered everything, but still felt the need to keep in the spotlight, she would face her foes later in life as it stands.
"Back already? Ha! It feels as though we just said our good-byes..." Aversa hated the man deeply, he didn't care that he was suddenly cursed, even more so that he believed that Emmeryn was buried under rubble, her training blessing her insight on the fading light and it was just missing, no dimming or sudden flicker, just gone and it felt like it moved on its own for some reason.
"Our scouts report they are in surprisingly good spirits."
"Since when do you trust our scouts? Besides, what does it matter? They're armed like beggars compared to us! I could break their ranks as easily as I break wind." She rolled her eyes as she knew, the tide of battle was NOT on their side, Ylisse and Ferox soldiers marched for them, heavily armed and more than willing to bring hundreds to death before long, worse yet was the inspiration that Emm left, her wording getting through and while, Gangrel was boasting, Aversa was listening and what she heard was bad, Plegia was going to have BOTH a civil war and an invading army crushing the loyal faction like ants over food, none remaining for a person to eat as she commented.
"I'd love to hear the song the bards make of that."
"Aversa, there is a truth about the world this Ylissean whelp must learn. A man is either strong... or he is dead!" He entered a fit of laughter as Aversa just shook her head, her notions being aided by a soldier charging in a panic.
"Y-Your Highness! Dire news!"
"Our troops are laying down their weapons and deserting en masse! Please, sire... I am but a messenger... Have mercy..." While Gangrel went to town on the man for bringing such false news to his ears, Aversa knew, the one who carried Emm's legacy had come to punish Gangrel, her steps leaving as she dismissed herself, Gangrel can keep holding on to a lost kingdom, she had a different mission in mind, play along with the events of the world, while also lending an ear to the one who had struck her with such a blast...
The joint army marched through the Wastes with the sun slamming hard on them, Fredrick having gone ahead to scout out the status of the Plegian Army and he rode on back, in a huff, as he rode to the side and gave his report. "Milord, I've a report from Khan Flavia. The Plegian army is in disarray." Chrom was surprised as he inquired.
"How do you mean?"
"It seems many of their soldiers are opposed to further violence. There has been infighting, desertion... Gangrel is trying to stamp out the mutiny by force, but with little success. Outside of a few faithful who serve him directly, his army has all but collapsed, and that is not including the Plegian forces to our side that flows in to do battle against the faithful as well." Chrom was shocked as he asked how it was possible.
"This is incredible news. But why...?" His answer came in the form of his sister as he spoke her name, freely and with ease. "...Emmeryn." Frederick nodded as he stated the fact.
"Yes, milord. Emmeryn. The report says Gangrel's men chant her name as they abandon the field and join the rebel faction. Her words, and her sacrifice, have made her a folk hero of sorts." They must also see the event at the gate as a sign that what they did was monsterous and the reason why their own king, a man meant to rule, was struck with lightning many times, his body charred and fried badly, but he didn't care, only for the blood of Ylisse.
Chrom rested a hand to his head as he shook it. "Emmeryn... Why did it take me so long to understand? She believed all people desire peace. She knew, deep down, the Plegians wanted it, too. It just took her to bring it to the surface." Alexander didn't say anything as he listened as well, Chrom breathing as he looked up in hope. "I hope she can see this, wherever she is... Today, we put an end to Mad King Gangrel and bring peace back to the land." The Shepherds nodded and cheered as they rushed in, their forces against those faithful or faithless enough to stand by the fallen king, cornered like a rat, but always boating the victory they envisioned, perhaps chanting it in their dying breath.
"Good day, my little princeling! Still dreaming of your squashed sister?"
"No more talk, Gangrel." The Falchion pulled free as he pointed it to him. "Today, you die, and peace returns to Ylisse and Plegia."
"Pah! Such hypocrisy! You despise me, wretch! You want to cut me down! You don't know the first thing about peace! No man does!" Chrom lightly smiled as he countered.
"I know more than you ever will."
"More than me? More than ME?!" The mad man entered a fit of laughter as he roared "...You ARE me! When life asks you a question, you answer with blood!"
"Maybe you're right... I will never be my sister. I cannot forgive men like you—men who sow nothing but evil. All I have left are words and her memory. Were I alone, I would be driven to madness. ...Or worse. But I'm not alone. My friends and brothers-in-arms stand behind me."
"...Are you done? May I vomit now?" He spat at the ground and laughed once more. "What a flowery harangue! Men are beasts! Nothing more! We fight! We kill! We devour our prey! Beasts do not stand behind beasts, little prince... They use each other only so long as it suits their own selfish purpose!"
"Perhaps this explains why your own soldiers refuse to stand behind you?" A swish of the blade and Chrom got into stance as he spoke in counter. "You are a poison. A festering wound. And I will do what my sister could not."
"Such a clever tongue you have, little prince... It will look quite fetching hanging on my mantle, next to your sister's corpse!" He called for battle as the faithful cheered as well as the dancer arrived and Christian was struck once more as she stammered.
"Milord, I have come! Am I too late? I don't claim my dance as anything special, but Khan Basilio says it renews the spirit!"
"You will have all the time in the world, dear dancer." Alexander shouted as he drew his tome. "Christian, keeping her safe and fend off anyone who dares to tread on our toes!" A loud groan was his answer as he shouted commands, telling everyone to pair up and ready themselves as a small group headed westward and contended with the forts while the main force focused on the foes in front, their march forward reward enough as the zealot members charged to impale themselves on sword, axe, and land and they kept moving forward, but the fighting started to change as the formation broke apart to keep from getting surrounded, a wise act as Chrom called for it, his hand having seen how tactics would work for a start as they did so. Alex kept the distance in his foes as his support was Tharja, her look switching between wanting to close the distance with him or killing the enemies that came for all of them, but through the dust and sand, he caught someone sneaking in to kill her, Chrom too far forward with facing his current foe that the King had flanked from the side in the chaos and attempted to kill the weaker link, Alex not taking the chance as he dashed just as Gangrel swung, Tharja barely seeing it in time, but it was too long as Alex, in the brief moment of shoving Tharja out of the way, felt the sword get thrusted through and he grimaced as the king whispered.
"And thus falls a weakling of a man."
"Based on your reasons, Gangrel..." Alexander smiled as he grabbed Gangrel's shoulder with a glance. "I'm weak, and what's wrong with that?" Before the king could speak, Alex reared his head and slammed it into the man's face, he howling as the sword was also pulled out, its magical alloy shocking Alex badly, but not enough as he drew his blade to the king whose nose was bashed with the slam. "Your standards of a man is flawed, you don't set the line, you bend it how you see it, only a man of weakness needs to bend it so low."
"Clinging to each other won't save you maggots when the boot falls!"
"Then why are you not as crushed as us then?" The king howled as he charged, blades clashing as Alex fended with one hand, his left holding the wound as it spread across his body, but also feeling the statuette shattered, as he battled to keep the Mad King occupied until his allies could come and support him before long, though the hope for that was slim, in the chaos and confusion, it was likely that he stood alone in the arena of conflict as he slid some and caught the lightning with his blade, fighting on an even front as Gangrel despite his grave wound that should have slowed him down, but he personally thanked Amirg for the boost in energy when the blade pierced, the two clashing before he shouted in anger.
"YOU ARE NO ONE, YOU ARE PITIFUL BEFORE A KING OF THE LAND!"
"I serve one, but he would never hold such a title in vain pride, he's a bigger man than either of us." He held his ground on the next blow, but then Gangrel riddled him with blow after blow as if to shattered the blade that he used. He was not surprised as his Iron shattered to pieces, throwing Gangrel back a bit before he charged once more with a mad grin, but his blade was halted with the blade that showed no sign of wear as Chrom smiled himself.
"Mind if I cut in for a bit?" Gangrel growled as Chrom forced him back and he exclaimed.
"Come, princeling! I've sharpened my sword just for you!"
"My sister wished for our people to know peace, Gangrel. But as long as you draw breath, it can never come. For Ylisse!" The duo faced off as Christian rushed over to the collapsing Alex, the dancer dancing to get him back on his feet, but the energy slipped off that Alex was very worried that he needed healing very soon or he would be bleeding to death.
"Well..." Alex groaned as he felt into the blood-stained pocket and pulled out the idol, one of its many fragments, from the pocket and mused. "Not the best way to get a war scar, but hey... first to get one..."
"Quiet, please, Alex, I need to get you to Lissa or Maribelle, right now!" With inhumane strength, Christian lifted his fallen comrade and hauled out of the combat zone with the dancer, Tharja pausing for a moment to take the fragment that Alex dropped, seeing a similar look from it as her own face, the right portion missing as she realized that he must have whittled something in her image and she wanted to find out what as she booked it out as well as Chrom bested Gangrel and the king murmured some parting words.
"F-fool of...a prince... Your people care not for you... You are...alone... As every man lives and dies... alone..." Chrom didn't believe that as he wiped and sheathed his blade, the wound deep and with no healers to save him, Gangrel was finished, the sands allowed to take him as the battle came to an end, the war declared coming to an end within the month...
"Sire, the remaining Plegian forces are surrendering en masse!" Though it was a lie, Chrom saw as well that those rebels forces willing surrendered, they knew their fate, but Chrom proved the stronger man as he forgave all of them and shared with them his sister's vision, to live in peace, thought he admitted to not knowing all of the details yet, as he gave the answer any way.
"Order our forces to cease fighting at once."
"Yes, sire!" The soldier dashed out as Chrom headed to the main fort where the majority of forces met to discuss the end terms, Flavia huffing playfully as she spoke to Chrom entrance, all being rather quiet hen they learned that Alexander was in critical condition, he should LITERALLY be dead from how many blood he lost, but somehow, he pulled through, it being tense.
"Then it's finished. Once their messenger delivers our terms, that's it. We put an end to this bloody business, once and for all." The reigning Khan huffed as Chrom mused the same thing.
"We've won... Somehow I don't feel like celebrating."
Basilio sighed as he rubbed his neck "Victory can be bitter as well as sweet, boy. It's good you learn that now." Flavia nodded as she spoke of the number of troops they lost in the long run, Plegia had venom in gallons before Emm and even with her death, that venom was still poisonous in the small amount remain at Gangrel's side.
"Regna Ferox lost many good soldiers today. We need to see to our dead. Then it's time to attend to the living and rebuild our army."
"I'm sorry, Flavia. Your sacrifice will not be forgotten. Ylisse will compensate your nation in whatever fashion—"
"Oh? In that case, how about you hand over the Fire Emblem and we'll call it even?" Chrom gave a face that said 'really' before Flavia scoffed once more in her playful tone. "Just a little Feroxi humor. Don't worry about our finances, Chrom. Reparations will fall to Plegia, and I've seen their treasury—they can well afford it." Basilio rolled his eyes as he mused.
"Yes, pity the man who stands between Flavia and a full coffer, boy." Chrom chuckled a little as he commented.
"Heh, I'll have to remember that when you come to visit Ylisstol." The trio nodded and Chrom breathed as he raised his hand and slipped it off to look at... it.
Alexander could remember many things, he thanked Amirg for that by letting him free here and there, but this was the first time that he had the physical embodiment of despair nested on his right arm, getting it sore as his coat was hung up, his shirt torn off, and his bare chest exposed with bandages littering his body to dress the wound right, as it turned out, any healing would help deeply, but it was going to be a while before he could move, he had been damaged too deeply and with magic that the wound would still bleed so it was a waiting game for it to heal, Lissa or Maribelle tending to him to ensure that it will do just that, but he got a prize out of it, the Levin Sword that stabbed him. 'I should possibly exchange that with one of the Anna's to get a better one, rather not think of using the blade that just stabbed me hard and with magic no less.' But, for the time being, he was okay, he was fine, still breathing and alive as he turned his eye to Amirg. "Hey, could you look for the statuette?"
"Sure, I can do that for now, better than sleeping on your stiff arm." Alexander rolled his eyes as the entity floated up and started to ruffle through the pockets before pausing. "It's... not here, it's gone!" He floated back over as Alex sighed, laying back down as he closed his eyes.
"Must have fallen out when Christian hauled me out of there..." Alex felt deeply ashamed, not even a single day passed and he already lost the one thing in the days that he craved, its pieces now likely lost among the sands as Amirg settled back down. "Gods, I feel like a fool now, I am here worrying about some piece of wood that I made when I am literally laying in a dying fashion with you as a projected side of my mind if anyone comes by."
Amirg groaned as well as he shared in thoughts on it. "Yeah, those weak in the magical arts will think you crazy, but with a strong enough mastery, one can see me as me, as your powers grows, so too will my strength... I am sorry for the loss." Alex raised a hand and rubbed Amirg behind the ears as he spoke.
"Don't be, we're still breathing, we are still alive, I can make another one any time, but for now, let's just sleep, I am just... tired." The hand flopped down and Alexander fell asleep once more as Amirg just curled up once more, both unaware of the statuette's current holder residing outside the flap and left without a word in the smothering desert heat...
The downpour outside the moving convoy pounded hard on the cloth and on the soldiers outside, but not one wanted to take shelter as they were on the run from King Gangrel, but also to distance themselves from Emm, their death hitting all of them, even the newer members that never learned more about her than the others as Alexander clenched his teeth in binding his hands, his mind telling him that he allowed Amirg free for a moment and it damaged his body badly because he was ill-trained in controlling the power yet. He finished and flexed, the pain subtle, but it was just a lingering ache than a burn now as he looked out, his companions there who watched being the new girl who remained silent and Christian as his pride and image was damaged as well, he fail like the others in saving the Exalt as he started. "Alex, this was never your fault..."
"It's hard to feel that it isn't my fault that we failed." He looked down and opened his hand, bandages hiding the flesh under gauze and cloth. "I had the full plan, how we would have rescued her with the Riders freed, how we broke the honor guard positioned there where all the details I had collected from scouts and spies alike, but..." The hand gripped into a fist as he rested it down. "The possibility that Plegia itself has learned a way to control the Risen is a dire wrench in the plans, Phila is likely to be suffering more from this than any of us." He jumped out as his boots started to plow through the rain-dredged ground, Christian following with the mage between them, neither of the duo attempting to hurt her and she looked more at ease closer to Alex as he continued. "For now... we leave Plegia through a opening by Khan Basilio..." Christian didn't press it before he headed to the front, Alexander himself seeing the effect of the key members that he came to know. Chrom's face was a twist of terror, pain, and restraint, holding it together for now, but he was suffering, Lissa openly sobbed against Maribelle's embrace, Gaius lightly guiding her horse as she tried to comfort the Princess, Fredrick was the hardest as the rain poured over his whole frame, a guardian statue in the weathering cold, but he knew that some of the water falling from his face was not just the rain, Emm's influence was powerful and full of impact on all of them, Alex wondering how deeply it is rooted in, pausing his her observation by a tug and he turned to face the mage, the rain soaking her, but she chose to say something to him in light of the sadden mood.
"Please... understand something..." She wanted to say something about him, a title or a name, but she couldn't as she continued, walking beside him. "Nothing would have stopped him from killing her, but the act that she made and that... being dealing out a judgement upon all there, many Plegians would feel the reaction being far from war with a country, instead it being their own in the face of the mad desires of Gangrel." Alex nodded as she slid a finger up to her face before it turned into a hand. "I... I don't know how to approach you, so I thought that maybe, saying what's on my mind at the gates was perhaps the only way I can say such a thing without being viewed... abnormal." Alex nodded as he rested a hand on her back, she glancing to him as he spoke.
"Maybe, but in my eyes, there can never be certainties, it shouldn't be written to say one thing when I can try to change it." He pulled back and she looked needy for a longer touch. "Keep close, you may have the least reason to stay with us, but I will ensure that you are not rejected without a reason." After a moment, she nodded as Alexander looked forward, soon dashing as Basilio started to sprint with the rest of the company behind him. he catching up in seconds as the burly warrior shouted.
"Hurry! There should be carriages waiting just through the ravine!" Chrom was quiet and Alex understood, but he had to yell to get him out of the trance.
"Chrom, please!" The prince growled, clearly thinking of paying Gangrel back deeply, but for the time being, he had to withdraw with them.
"I'm... I'm coming."
"Quickly! We're almost... Huh? Damn!" Two Barbarians rushed out in a Plegian force as the rest started to mobilize, maybe one of the border patrols that made it, but were able to catch the Shepherds due to knowledge with the land. "Plegians! I knew it couldn't be that easy... They're right in our way! We must fight!" The parties formed once more as they readied for battle, before they could, the Berserker commander called out, a gruff man, but with a hidden look of remorse for the members.
"Ylisseans! I offer you mercy! Surrender to me now and live!" Basilio scoffed as he counter shouted.
"Surrender? Sorry, I'm not familiar with the word."
"Emmeryn would not have wished for this to come to bloodshed." It was a bold move, to use Emm's name to keep from proceeding in bloodshed, but it was too fresh of a wound as Chrom yelled.
"Don't speak her name!" Alex could see the look as the commander spoke.
"Your rage is justified, Prince Chrom. But the meaning of your sister's final sacrifice was not lost on me. I suspect many Plegians who heard her final words would say the same, forgo the presence of such a being in the wake of it. If you lay down your weapons, I vow to protect you as best I can." Before Frederick could say something, Christian beat him to it as he returned volley.
"How can we possibly trust you after what your monstrous king has done? I think we shall take our chances with weapons in hand, to the last man, I am sorry." The Berserker nodded as he raised his axe.
"I suspected you would say as much. So be it, Prince Chrom. I shall endeavor to grant you a swift and dignified end." All the forces formed up and readied themselves, the commander scoffing at the thieves that sought to rob the tombs of the dead for their own plunder, something that Alexander himself could accept either, there was a time and place, they would be among the dead in this battle as he turned to his members that joined him.
"Fight those that wish to fight, give them the choice of retreating or fighting, let's not lose our minds." The members looked at one another in confusion as there had to be rage filling the ranks, but Alex kept a level head as they charged in, the first thieves they found quickly dropping his loot and attempted to dash for it, but Alex snatched him and spoke. "Are you going to fight or retreat?"
"Re-Retreat, sir!" Alex hummed as he released the thief, dropping to his knees in the mud as he bowed to him. "How can I serve you, Milord!?" A hand rested on the youth as Alex spoke.
"I will not stop your looting, but this is hardly the site for such, head for Ylisse and seek out the Tactician to the Prince, he will have use for you there." The young boy nodded as he dashed away as Alex stood and continued on the path, the soldiers low in morale, but they stood as fighters, serving under this General with trust and loyalty that they couldn't turn tail, Alex himself understood as his group made an effort to ease their minds to either continue the fight or find him in Ylisse, the rest were filled with anger, rage that Amirg sadly mused about it.
"The gravest emotion, grief in loss, I see that humans are so prone to emotions that they can do the greatest evil or the brightest of good in the face of the world, the Ylissian family having been crippled for the time."
'Yes, I just hope that we can remedy their souls, free them from the pain.' The battle made its way up the ravines and toward the General as he shouted who he was and what is needed to get past him.
"I am General Mustafa of Plegia. If you wish to keep your lives, then you must win them!" Chrom did not yield as he struck with rage and with anger in his heart as he slashed and blocked with focused will, but he was only the lesser as he only bested Mustafa with the aid of Fredrick as he was pierced through the right side, blood pouring down as he spoke. "Well done, Ylisseans... Hrrggh! Please...spare my men..." Chrom raised his blade to the dying man, but a short moment of contact with Alex brought him back to his senses as he looked at his friend, the tactician speaking with the Dark Mage behind him.
"Leave the fates of these men and women that surrendered to my hands, there doesn't need to be any more blood spilled this day, let me and my friend bury the dead, we wouldn't be long." Chrom didn't say anything as he sheathed the Falchion and headed to one of the wagons that Basilio had set up, his aide being a very lovely Dancer that Christian looked head over heels for when the tactician snapped. "Should I leave you with the Dancer for the time being, Mercenary?"
After a pause, he shook his head as he spoke. "No, we will first bury the dead here, then we will go." Alex nodded and turned to the remaining twenty members, soldiers that surrendered beforehand or gave up once their commander was struck down, the bandaged hand sweeping out as he commanded.
"Any of you that can lift, bring the dead here and help set up grave markers for those that fell, to give them the proper rites instead of letting the rain and mud drown them away." Including their leader, thirty to forty Plegians lost their lives there in the cold, but were buried under the dry patches of a rock overhang, each one praying to give them peace before a Wyvern Rider, the same one who bantered with Mustafa and a soldier, approached Alexander and bent to his knee.
"What is your command, Sirs?" Alex nodded as he commanded.
"After informing those families affect, head for the Halidom and seek out the Tactician, he will use your skills and talents for better, he may not hold the same level of trust and loyalty as Mustafa had with all of you, but also deliver his family from this wasteland, they must know that he died as a honorable soldier." All nodded before they departed, scattering to the winds as the duo boarded the last wagon, the Dark Mage waiting for them before Christian got on and motioned the horses to action, Alexander tilting his head down in remorse as the Dark Mage watched him, the first steps of affection for the young tactician until they could speak on even equal terms, their names given to hers, the name of Tharja...
All were quiet in the halls of Regna Ferox as Alex rubbed his head in regret. "All that... For nothing..." Lissa was sitting in a lone chair facing the blazing fire as she cried, a blanket wrapped around her from one of the more gentle staff in remorse for her as she murmured Emm's name with Fredrick staring out of the close window to Lissa and tilted his head down in the same regret.
"I should have died before allowing the exalt to be captured. I have failed as a knight..." Flavia and Basilio were more aggressive as they both angerly yelled at each other.
"So what now, oaf?"
"Don't look to me—I'm not in charge!"
"Ugh... I picked a fine time to regain the full throne..." Alexander looked back to the falling snow as the makeshift camp of the joint forces as the Khans offered a small fort to house everyone for the time being. His hand gripped once more and he raised it, opening it once more before he looked to Chrom, glancing between the points before he spoke, standing up as he walked over to the Prince.
"Chrom, I'm... I'm so sorry. My plan just wasn't enough." The blue-haired prince looked at him, having been given a few to relive himself for his grief and he still had tear stains after three days straight.
"You did your best, Alex." He stared back into the fire that he was looking at recently as he continued. "...You have my thanks. It's my own failures that haunt me now. Gods, I was just so powerless!"
"It's not your fault either, Chrom." He cupped his face as Alex rested a hand on his shoulder.
"...She did it for me, Alex. So that I wouldn't have to live with the guilt of either choice, she chose for me. She sacrificed herself rather than give up what could one day save her people..." Alexander didn't let it beat him down, realizing that the Halidom will be done in if their new ruler didn't straighten up, this was greater than a simple mission for the Shepherds and he would be damned if he didn't get sense back into Chrom as he moved to his side and spoke, his hand still on its place.
"Chrom... Listen to me. Look at me." Even if he didn't react, Alex just continued as he started. "I was powerless once, too, remember?" He was without memory, without meaning, but with joining with the Shepherds and learning more about himself with his friend, he felt the power erupt in his soul and he vowed to focus it in his eyes. "And yes, alone, I don't think either one of us is half the person your sister was. But together...maybe we can be something more. If you fall, I'll be there to pull you back up. When you fight for your sister's ideals, I'll be by your side." The members there listened as Alex continued, his hand slightly turning Chrom as he pressed on. "You don't have to become your sister, you know. You can still be true to yourself. You just have to give people hope in whatever way you can."
"And what if I can't? What if I'm not worthy of her ideals?" A good question, but there was room for him to learn where his skills were meant to be and where he can give the people hope. "Alex, what if I drag you down with me?" Alexander didn't need to say more as Christian joined the chat, leaning against the chair that Chrom was sitting in, the shift evident enough for both of them to turn to him.
"If you aren't worthy, you'll keep at it until you are. And if we all just fall down, well, that's what friends are for, isn't it, to get you standing once again?"
"That's right." Nowi shouted as she cheered. "I wouldn't be even here if not for you." Tharja was next as she stood by Alex's side.
"You gave me your trust and now you have mine. ...For the time being."
"Were you unworthy, I would have left long ago." Lon'qu spoke up as he straightened up from his place against the wall.
"It took great courage and charisma to unite all of us. ...I knew I possessed such talents, but clearly you do as well!" A number of people shook their heads to Virion's claim, but that was beside the point as Ricken was next to snap Chrom out of it.
"Yeah. We all look up to you! You're like a hero to us." Chrom started to look better as he looked about, standing up for the first time in a while as he thanked all that spoke on his behalf.
"Thank you, everyone. Your words mean more than you could know. My Shepherds... My warriors..." His face changed as resolve filled him once more. "There is work to be done. Gangrel must be stopped so that peace can once again reign in Ylisse. Will you help me?" Lissa was the first speak as she finally had enough of crying her eyes out.
"You can count me in! I'm tired of crying all the time! It's time to start punchin' stuff!" She stood up with Maribelle speaking as well.
"Hear, hear, darling! Our people have suffered enough."
"Gladly would I fight and die for House Ylisse!" Stahl spoke with a smile as Sully scuffed for some payback.
"Gladly would I fight and KILL those dastards for House Ylisse!"
Libra was the same as he nodded. "Our hearts echo yours, sire." Sumia shared in the belief as she stood up as well.
"I will be the the unbreakable shield by your side!"
"I'm with you, too! You know. Just in case anyone...Hello?" Kellam didn't need anyone to tell him that he was involved as Alex nodded to him and the rest joined.
"Teach is here and class is in session!"
"How much you pay Gregor? Hee hee haw! Gregor make joke! ...Why you look at Gregor like that?" Gregor's sense of morale wasn't the best, but it was something as Panne was next.
"Your sister earned my respect. The last taguel shall champion her."
"You have grown strong, milord." Fredrick stated as he nodded with interest. "I may have set a poor example as a knight... but I swear to you, I shall die before any more exalted blood is spilled!"
"...Thank you all. Truly. You honor me with your fealty. I will not falter again." He then started to shout as he increased the belief and morale in his way. "We shall answer this outrage! The Mad King must be stopped!"
"Right! It's time for ol' Gangrel to get a dose of his own vulnerary! The whole of the Feroxi army is yours to send crashing against him!" Flavia cheered with Basilio chuckling to the increase as well.
"Har! You young folk—your passions run so hot! If I had any gray hairs, you would've singed 'em right off. In other words, count me in!" The Dancer was next as she joined the party in the main room.
"I'd like to go too, if I may. The exalt did me a kindness once." Chrom raised a brow as he inquire to that.
"Y-yes, sire. It would honor me to have a part in giving her justice! Although all I can do is dance... And I'm not so skilled at that, if we're being honest..." Basilio said otherwise as he stood behind her with a laugh.
"She's too modest! Olivia is a Feroxi treasure. You won't meet a finer dancer in all the realms! Her moves inspire soldiers to work twice as hard! You'll do well to bring her along, Commander." Christian got an elbow to the gut from Alex whose look told him that he had to behave himself.
Chrom was taken by surprise as he asked why the change in title. "'Commander'? What happened to 'boy'?"
"You've earned your way up from that name, I think. Now, where were we? Oh yes! I was just about to start cracking skulls! Flavia will lead me and the other Feroxi in a head-on assault. That should buy you enough time to take down Gangrel. Hear that, boy! You get the fun part!" Chrom tried to inquire, but Basilio was too much in the lead for it. "You and Alexander have my every confidence. You're a born leader, and he has a knack of guiding troops to victory with minor injures. You both have some growing to do yet, but I can already see you'll grow tall." Chrom smiled as he thanked the mighty warrior.
"All right, enough talk. It's time to raise some hell!"
"Right." Basilio slammed his knuckles as he continued, the morale greatly boosted to a limit that Alex alone could never aspire in people.
"Let's get to it, then! Gangrel may try to hit us while we're still licking our wounds."
"Let him try. This time, I'm ready to dethrone the Mad King, once and for all." All scattered to the tents and cabins in the fort to get ready, Alex himself getting to work with the reports and documents that were stockpiling his table, pausing before he even touched the first sheet to see it... empty.
"What the...?" It was true that he sent spies and scouts out once he arrived to keep an eye on the formation of Plegia's forces, but that was a problem, a new color was added to the forces and this 'lime green' was filing elsewhere and in GREAT numbers, he was almost tempted to say that half of the whole army had snapped out of their murderous senses and saw the world in a different light, but that needed to be discussed later when actual evidence proves it so, rifling through the pages to see what can be and his mind took it all in, looking for any loops in the reports and messages. He got so into it that he nearly missed something, pausing for a moment to realize that he was messing with his coat as if he was burning up. "Why is it...?" He peered about as he sought out what was causing the intense feeling, but none of his candles had done such a thing, there was no one projecting a fire to do it either, at least close enough to make him burn, and the possibility of a enchantment was likely, but it felt... "Nevermind, I think I better take a stroll before all this." Donning his coat once more and walked out, he wandered the camp of tents to see what was going on with the increased morale to deal with the Mad King, his mind debating the likeliness of a rebel faction within Plegia's lands as slim, he had seen the devotion of the soldiers at the gates, but he also had to take into thought the way that Mustafa's men reacted, some fearful, some loyal to the end, but there was a severe shift in behavior, one that Alexander had to take into understanding as he strolled past an active party, Christian somehow roped in with a drunken Vaike as he spotted the Tactician and called out.
"Hey, you want to drink up on the last day of freedom?" Alexander sighed and shook his head as the Mercenary shrugged. "Oh well, more for me!" The brown-haired merc went back to guzzling as his teal-haired friend of strategy continued on to some place to clear his mind, pausing to look behind a bit before he resumed, the week drawing to a close, but in that short time, he noticed an increase of... attention, someone was actively stalking him and he had to know why, even with the recent rouse in belief. He wondered if it was a spy, a bandit, or just a Shepherd trying to get his attention, but couldn't as he entered the makeshift barracks that the company had set up for small meetings and chats, the sight abysmal from the one in Ylisstol, but he forgave it as the Khans told him that it was emptied out recent from a number of decaying weapons, a stockpile that had to be remade for the war, but he paused here as he looked around, shifting his feet as he walked slowly about, sharply pausing to hear it, the click of heels on wood, a metallic click and he knew of one person who wore such footwear, but why was she stalking him right now, the thought of a spy would fit, but she had been isolated and away in her tent or wandering... close by to where he was.
"Tharja?" Alexander spoke as he whipped about, searching the dim lighting of the barracks as he continued. "...Are you following me?" The silence hung over the room before she answered.
"...Maybe." He straightened up as she stepped out, book hung low as she trailed a hand on a stack of crates, her figure just as lit as his as he furrowed his brow to the coy response, did she think he was dumb or something?
"Maybe?!, I've seen you hiding behind tents and wagons all week!" He bit back as that sounded hostile and she has yet to prove an enemy, the silent woman that he approached and spoke to at Emm's death was seen right here as he stood his ground, but she closed the gap slowly, her book hand still down instead of covering over her upper torso before she stopped, a hand raised up as she was inches and rested her hand on the tunic that Alex wore and... smoothed over it in a slow motion.
"So, you finally noticed... my love." Alexander paused from the scold, she just... was she in love with him, when!?
Alex couldn't help sounding like a fool as he inquired to her meaning. "Sorry, what? My... love?" If he wasn't already in close to someone, he would have facepalmed himself as she continued the movement, clearly it was more than just an idle confession, she really found herself in him, deeply in love if not madly, what did he do to attract such a person?
"Oh yes, I realized it the first moment we locked eyes. 'He isn't like the others', I thought. 'He's the one I've been looking for'!" He could see something akin to... fear welling in her eyes, was she afraid, was she scared for this feeling that he had on her and he lightly groaned as the movement halted with the fingernails digging into the fabric. To ease up on the presence and the bit of pain, he lightly took her hand and removed it as he continued, releasing the hand as it slowly flopped to her side with her other hand raised with the book.
"Riiiiiiight. Well, um, thank you? ...I guess?" He took a step back to give some room between them, luckily to not knock anything over as he was never versed in romance and Amirg was rather silent about it, though a notion of a light chuckle cross his mind as he internally scowled to the trolling spirit.
But the distance was closed once more without regard, but she stayed her hand this time as she spoke. "That's why I've been watching your every... single... move." That shy look faded to confidence and resolve, to prove herself in his eyes. "Yesterday, you read two books and part of a third." Alex recalled, he was looking into methods of dealing with regret and stress and stopped short in the third when he felt it was enough to mourn, it was Lissa and Chrom suffering the worse which made him feel bad about it. "You snacked on an apple. And last night, you turned over twelve times in your sleep... Well above average." With that detail, she could have killed him, she knew his routine and where he would be, but if so, she wouldn't be playing the love-struck woman and instead ensure that any detail that she shared was not repeated for others, nor would she get too close to him for such a plan.
His reply was a lot worse as he nearly shouted in panic, not realizing that he was actually taken by her detail of him in the past hour or day. "You've been watching me sleep?!" He grimaced as her face dropped, clearly such hurt by his words as she spoke, her bangs darkening over her face.
"I thought you'd be grateful." Alex sighed as he answered.
"No, I think 'disturbed' is more the word." He rubbed the back of his neck and her face looked up to him as she listened, his reaction a bad one as he asked, turning his eyes for a moment with his next sentence. "You mean to tell me, you've been following me every day since we met?" Tharja paused as she shuffled in place, clearly wanting to turn the chat elsewhere, but she couldn't as she answered.
"...Yes." The simple word filled Alex with fear, no, it was something else, he was surprised by her commitment, but also... He realized that he missed several days of meals in grief and it was coming back to hurt.
"I suddenly feel very ill." He breathed as he sat down, kicking himself on the issue now hitting him, but she looked... a bit happier as she walked over, kneeing down and laying her book on the floor as she spoke.
"Don't worry, I'll take care of you." He felt those hands slip into his own as she continued. "...Veeery good care."
He didn't want to reject her and hurt her badly, that could lead to a bad case problem for him as he mused, not removing his hands from her grip as he spoke. "Coming from a normal friend, I'd probably be happy to hear that..." But what part of their company was normal, they were now host to a Manakete of all things! Did he see himself loving one of those village girls for an easy settle, the idea was absurd to think of even as he continued. "But somehow when you say it, it's not quite so comforting..." Was he really going to do that, gain her heart and shatter it before it can bloom to a true treasure, the hand leaving him and she stood up, but she hummed as she asked.
"Is that what you want, Alex?" He looked up to those same silvery-brown, filled with wonderment in inquiring his tastes, no sign of pain in those orbs as she continued. "Someone... 'normal'?" Alexander pondered the same question, what type of woman would he himself love in the end, would he have such a thing going on.
"Well, I... suppose?" Alex spoke with a rub of his jaw, looking over her as he felt more at peace with her for some reason, was it the split moment between them or the lingering emotion that she showed? "That's to say--" A hand raised up as Tharja answered in her eyes.
"All I needed to hear." With that, she dashed out and disappeared, faster than how Alex himself could bring himself to move at the moment.
"Wait, Tharja! Stay here!" He extended a hand, but it flopped down as he groaned. "...Where I can see you!" But the falling snow and its silence filled the void as he moaned in worry. "Oh gods, this will not end well..." He sprung off the chair and charged out, surveying the layout and dashing about to find her to keep her from doing something crazy, but he could find no hair or hide of her anywhere in the camp, his shoulder falling in regret as he felt guilty over the treatment that he just gave her, she was likely crying her eyes out over his lack of care behind a tree or something as he returned to his tent, knife coming out and started to crave a piece of wood to ease his mind. Sadly, Amirg chimed in with a small chuckle in the craving and Alex found himself craving without pause as the spirit spoke.
"Admit it, you are smitten with her." Alex lightly sighed as he countered.
"And what do you plan I say to her, I broke her heart and I know that I am not some hopeless romantic to go chasing after her when she just doesn't want me involved."
"What happened to the child that changed me and gave me a proper place in his body instead of just a host, you are much more bolder than this."
"I don't know, Amirg, I feel different, but my memories of the past are still faded, missing... gone."
"Sure, sure... now stop whittling your girlfriend and think of a battle plan with the new information." Alexander paused as he lifted the carving, a statuette of Tharja as if she was smiling, gleeful to his act of making it before he slipped it into his coat, in one of the interior pockets and started to work once more, but his mind was filled with his guilt and Tharja that he welcomed the sound of someone entering, he turning to be greeted by Chrom as he spoke, the tension easing as he inquired.
"Hey, Chrom, what can I do for you today?" Without pause, he plopped himself in a chair and ran a hand over his face.
"Alex... I need help." Alex leaned forward as Chrom started. "Before we entered the desert... there was an issue with a few... posters, commissioned by Fredrick." Alex straightened up as he knew what Chrom was talking about, the motivational poster of him and his... glory, so that explains why there was such a thing in his tent, Fredrick must have wanted to promote morale and trust among the company, oh how the titan, upon his pillar, is suddenly toppled with something so insane. "Now, naturally, we have to dismiss this and move on, but I really, REALLY don't like the fact that I have learned that several Shepherds have taken the posters and even now, make a joke out of it."
"Well, I'll start compiling the list of who could be doing this, the real criminals in this force." Chrom nodded and he departed out, Alex huffing as he realized that Christian's profiteering way with his small cabal of allies was coming to a halt, though he made a note to leave Lissa's and Sumia's copies alone, they laugh or admire them too much to rid them of the posters yet, they still needed something to stand by for a bit...