Hero and a Priestess
The sky began to turn grey as dawn's approach neared. Ike stood atop the outer walls of Nox, gazing out in the direction of the Daein encampment. The dragon prince, Kurthnaga, had gone out the night before to try and stay the imminent threat of battle. It was a useless effort though. Even if Daein could be convinced to back down, Ike knew that his troops would never allow the murder that had transpired at the peace meeting to go unanswered. Within the walls the joint forces that made up the Apostle's army was preparing for battle. This time the objective was to completely eliminate the enemy so that they could no longer be a threat. It wasn't what Ike wanted, but it was nearly a unanimous decision by all the officers and representatives of each country. Also, there had been rumors that events in Begnion were getting increasingly violent. There was news of riots and soldiers killing civilians to drive the mobs away, some rumors even said that the capital was on fire. Empress Sanaki had not stood still since she had heard all of this despite Sigrun's best attempts to reassure her that such tidings were the talk of the small folk, and they often told fanciful tales. Still Ike had seen the uncertainty in the eyes of the Holy Guard's commander. The look of apprehension was the look that near every Begnion soldier wore since they had heard those disturbing rumors. They cried for blood so loudly during the last meeting that even Queen Elincia seemed ready to just give them the carnage they desired.
Ike gazed down at the masses of soldiers and knights that were rushing about the yard as they made their final preparations for battle. It was strange how they all wore the same grey armor in the pale light of the predawn. Perhaps even Daein soldiers would blend in to the sea of grey men. The mercenary sighed and turned his gaze back towards the enemy encampment. The Daein army did not stand a chance in the open field. Tibarn's hawks, Sigrun's pegasus knights, and Haar's wyvern riders had decimated nearly every single flying unit Daein had. The laguz had seen to the destruction of the majority of Daein's heavily armored knights and infantry units leaving them with mostly cavalry. Still, the Crimean's were far superior in both numbers and abilities when it came to mounted fighting. Daein did not stand on equal footing in any aspect. The terrain was flat and mostly open and they lacked the numbers to take on a force as large as the one Ike commanded. He simply couldn't understand why they decided to fight even when faced with such staggering odds. Micaiah wasn't stupid, neither were any of the other Daein officers that Ike knew, but what they were attempting to do was sheer madness. None of it made any sense. The mercenary thought back to when he held Micaiah captive. He had gained nothing from that short time. He should have pressured her more. He should have not stopped until she had revealed to him why Daein was fighting for the Senate. Ike cursed his lack of focus as he thought of all the time he simply wasted enjoying Micaiah's company instead of trying to get information out of her. He didn't realize someone was trying to get his attention until she touched his arm. The mercenary suddenly whirled about to find Queen Elincia standing behind him. Ike couldn't help the frown that came to his face. This was the last person he wanted to see right now.
"My Lord Ike-"
"I'm not yours and I'm not a lord," he corrected.
"M-my apologies. I just…" Elincia looked around as if the words she wanted were floating in the air somewhere. Ike crossed his arms impatiently as he waited for the Crimean queen to find her tongue. "I didn't mean for this to happen. When I came here, it was to make peace, not war. I don't know what came over me when I… I don't hate Micaiah or think ill of her. Maybe I'm still harboring some hatred for Daein for what they did to my country and my family. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm sorry for this mess I've created."
"If you're sorry then you should go around the castle and start apologizing to everyone who is going to die today because you called your troops off during the last battle," Ike replied as coldly. "And once you finish here, you can go over to the Daein camp and begin apologizing to them as well. Do you even know what it is you did that day? We had Daein cornered! They had no place to run to! And you come along and open a door for them! If it hadn't been for you, they would have surrendered and that would have been the end of this war. But you called off every single Crimean soldier. The Begnion force on its own was nowhere near large enough to contain the fleeing Daein army. Now, thousands more people are going to die today. Their blood is on your hands."
"Ike, you know that I never intended for this to happen! I-"
"Don't belong here," the mercenary finished for her. "Everyone knows their strengths and weaknesses here. Skrimir doesn't try to come up with battle plans because he knows that he is a better fighter than strategist. Empress Sanaki isn't out here leading the troops because she knows that the laguz do not entirely trust her and she lacks any real battle experience. You, on the other hand, think you know how to lead an army. You think that we didn't know what we were doing and intervened. You should be back in Crimea ruling your people, that is your place."
"I'm not going back," Elincia whispered as she lowered her gaze so she didn't have to look Ike in the eyes.
"Very well, but you will not interfere with our battles anymore. If the chance for a peace talk ever arises again, I will call for you. Otherwise, stay here."
Queen Elincia mumbled an inaudible reply as she turned to leave. Ike watched her go and couldn't help but notice how much white the queen wore. Her armor and robe were white. The mercenary growled in anger at that. White stood for innocence, but the Crimean queen was more ignorant than innocent. She could claim that her actions were done with the best intentions, but that didn't change the end result. Still, the people would blame him for the deaths. Most people wouldn't even be aware that the Queen of Crimea even had anything to do with the last battle so naturally he would be accused of allowing this war to drag on longer than it had to. Ike let out a frustrated sigh. The world wasn't fair. Royalty, lords, ladies, people of the court, they all lived a life free of consequences. It was the common people who suffered for their mistakes, just as they were about to die for Elincia's mistake. Below, the gates swung open and all three armies were ready to march. Ike took one last look across the frozen fields to where the Daein camp lay, just over the horizon.
"Ike!" someone called out. He saw Ena, the pink haired dragon girl, rushing towards him. "General Ike, I've got bad news," he groaned at the prospect of more bad news. "As you know, last night Prince Kurthnaga went to the Daein camp to try and talk them out of a fight. Unfortunately, he seems to have joined sides with them instead."
"That's just wonderful," Ike growled. "One of the supposedly neutral dragons of Goldoa has taken sides with our enemy, and he's not just any dragon either, he's the prince! Not to mention he isn't the only one who changed sides. The herons and hawks have been frantically searching for Prince Rafiel since yesterday, and wherever he goes Queen Nailah is bound to be nearby. That's two more dangerous enemies and one complicated matter."
"Ike, I would be very much indebted to you if you would allow me to try and meet with the prince to talk him out of this foolishness."
"You can do as you like." Ena bowed and thanked Ike for his kindness before rushing through the gates. The mercenary let out a sigh. Things were only getting more complicated with each passing day. Now, with the added strength of the dragon prince and the wolf queen Daein stood a chance of surviving today's battle. It didn't help that most of the laguz were about ready to lose their minds to Chaos. Plus, he now had to make sure that the heron prince, Rafiel, didn't come to any harm during the battle. Ike put all of that out of his mind as he turned to face his army. "Alright, listen up! Today is the final battle with Daein. They have pushed for this fight and now they've got it! However, this will be no simple battle. Prince Rafiel of the heron tribe has joined forces with the Daein's. He is not to come to any harm! Neither are any of the Daein leaders. That means you are not to kill King Pelleas or General Micaiah! If either of them dies, we have no hope of peaceful relations with Daein after the war. Is that understood?" The soldiers massed below Ike gave varying responses. Some cheered, but those men were few. The majority mumbled or stayed silent. The mercenary ignored that and pressed on. "All flyers will follow King Tibarn and General Sigrun up the right flank, the laguz will follow Prince Skrimir up the left flank, and the cavalry will follow Commander Kieran around to Daein's rear. I will lead the charge up the middle with the remaining soldiers. We end this today! Move out!"
"Please, you can't do this!" Micaiah pleaded with her friends as they readied themselves for battle. "Most of you barely escaped death back in Nox, why throw your lives away now? Answer me!" The tent was dark and silent. The members of the Dawn Brigade merely went about their business as if their silver haired counterpart was not there at all. Most of them limped or staggered about still weak from their wounds. "Sothe, you barely managed to rise out of bed today, how do you plan to fight?" Silence. "Aran you broke your arm. You can't wield a lance properly! Leonardo, you can barely pull back a bowstring in your condition. Edward, your-"
"That's enough Micaiah!" Laura finally cried out. "I know they're hurt, they know they're hurt, everyone knows it. We are the leaders of the Daein army though. We have to look strong. If we don't, how can everyone else be? I don't want to see my friends die any more than you do, but you aren't making this any easier."
"It's not like we could escape this fate anyways," Sothe's voice was barely louder than a whisper and the rogue was swaying visibly. "Maybe we should have just joined with Ike from the start. Maybe that would have been less bloody than this futile resistance is proving to be. Oh well, that chance is long gone. I guess today is the last day we get to see the sun. It's been nice knowing all of you. I honestly mean that too."
No one argued that they might actually survive the day. None of them believed they would. Their numbers had barely exceeded 10,000 while at Nox, but now… There hadn't been an official count as of yet but only about half of their men made it out of the castle. Of those that survived, more were wounded than not. It didn't help that Ike had them overwhelmingly outnumbered. Micaiah watched as her friends shuffled past her out into the crisp morning air. She could feel tears start to well up but she fought them back. Laura was right; it would do no good for her to look defeated in front of the men. She could at least give them hope, which would be as good a paper shield and a wooden sword. Micaiah took a deep breath and went out to face what she expected to be her final day. As she stepped out of the tent, she was practically blinded. She closed her eyes and simply bathed in the sun's warmth and radiance. The wind swirled around her and played with the silver strands of her hair. She inhaled the fresh, cold air of a winter morning. Micaiah simply enjoyed the feeling of being alive for a few moments. When she finally opened her eyes again the world before her was more beautiful than she ever remembered it. Everything glistened and sparkled from the layer of snow that covered the trees and ground. The sky was clear with only a few puffy, white clouds floating by. It was calming. Why did so many people have to die on such a nice day?
Micaiah listened as General Tauroneo gave the troop an encouraging speech about how their sacrifice bought Daein a new day. They cheered and shouted as if winning today's battle was an actual possibility. The sun played off his enameled plates and silver weapons giving him an especially heroic look. Micaiah smiled to herself as she thought of how the old man would be remembered as one of Daein's pillars during the reign of King Pelleas. She was simply just a figure head now. Ever since she had been brought back she noticed that her voice didn't carry the weight that it used to. Sothe General Tauroneo seemed to be the ones making most of the decisions along with Nolan. Not even King Pelleas could influence those three once they had decided on their battle plans, although she doubted that he would be able to help anyways.
Micaiah was almost surprised when the king himself made an appearance after General Tauroneo had finished. She, and the entire army included, knew that Pelleas was camped with them but none of them expected him to actually say anything before battle. The king stood silently for a few moments as he scanned the crowd. What came next was the worst possible thing he could have done, yet no one had expected it. Pelleas broke into tears as he began apologizing for the war and the soldiers that had died. His mother, the queen, quickly rushed to her son to comfort him. Micaiah could only gawk at the utter foolishness of the scene. Whatever the king had hoped to accomplish had not worked. All the fire and fighting spirit that Tauroneo had breathed into the men was put out by the tears of the king. There was no time to get them riled up and motivated again. They all looked like condemned men being ushered to the gallows, as they marched out to battle. The young king followed behind them, without his mother fretting over him. The dragon prince, wolf queen, and heron prince were all with him in place of Queen Almedha. At least those three individuals would have a positive influence on the battle.
Micaiah fell in behind everyone else. She let her mind wander to whatever it fancied. At first it latched onto the idea of dying. Oddly enough, the silver haired maiden felt rather tranquil about the whole concept but it depressed her to think about her friends dying so she tried to think of something else. Ike came to her, as he usually did when she sought to escape the troubles of life. Micaiah wondered if the mercenary would be able to save her. He was stronger than any man had a right to be, but his true power was his charisma. Still, thinking of Ike reminded her of how he had cut her friends down without hesitation. She couldn't really hold that against him but it still nagged at her. In the distance Micaiah heard the sounds of battle and that brought her back into reality. She was on a battlefield and here she and Ike were sworn enemies. Could she attack him when the time came? Micaiah wasn't sure. Would he understand if she did? Would he forgive her if she did? Would either of them even live to see the end of the day?
"No, focus!" Micaiah whispered as she tried to clear her mind and prepare for when the foe would reach her. Try as she might, her mind kept wandering and the world around her began to grow hazy. This is not how things should happen. You must stop this! Follow me. Hurry! Micaiah turned around and saw a translucent figure in the snow urging her to follow. It looked like a little girl but the Daein general wasn't entirely sure. "Wait, wait for me. I'm coming."
Micaiah chased after this ghost like image and it led her further and further from the battle. She kept hearing its voice calling to her as from nowhere and yet everywhere at the same time. The silver haired girl did as the voice bid for what seemed like hours and she was growing tired when it suddenly stopped calling to her. She looked up and noticed for the first time where she was. Before her loomed the outer wall of Nox. This was deep in enemy territory and for a moment Micaiah panicked but then something strange happened. She felt a powerful force grab hold of her and she collapsed in the snow. There was something inside her, she could feel it was it took control of her body and forced her into submission. I'm sorry about this. Don't struggle. Everything will be fine. Micaiah wanted to speak, wanted to ask this voice questions but found that she could not talk. Her body rose from the snow without her commanding it and began to walk. Micaiah tried to fight back. She wanted control of her body again. At first, she felt as if she was winning but then the voice spoke to her again. I told you not to struggle. This would have been easier if you just didn't struggle so much. That was the last thing Micaiah remembered as her world suddenly went black.
When she finally woke again she was deep within Nox. Someone was singing. No, she was singing a song she had never heard before. Micaiah tried to look around but couldn't. Before her lay a bronze medallion engulfed in a raging blue inferno. As her body finished singing the song the flames subsided and eventually went out. The voice that had guided her and another voice began to speak to one another. Micaiah didn't understand what they were saying but she could tell that the familiar voice was upset, almost angry it seemed. Suddenly, a blinding light descended upon the world leaving only silence in its wake. All the leaders from the Apostle's army were in the room with her and even Empress Sanaki. Micaiah noticed Ike as well. They were all discussing something but their voices sounded muffled and far off. She tried calling out to the mercenary only to find that her words never passed her lips. She watched as Ike dashed out of the room, her body followed at a much more leisurely pace. The silver haired girl desperately wanted to run after Ike, he seemed terribly concerned about something. She eventually caught up with him outside on the battlefield. It was a colossal sculpture of war now. Everyone had been turned to stone. She could see the pain frozen on the faces of the dying and the fear in the eyes of those that had not suffered any fatal injuries. Dead bodies still made of flesh were sprinkled in with the statues.
Ike whirled about suddenly and pointed an accusing finger in her face. He looked furious. Micaiah didn't understand. None of this had been her doing. She tried to explain only to be reminded that her body was not her own. She felt like crying. Don't worry. He is not mad at you. That man knows who I am. He thinks that I did all this but, just like you, I am innocent. I'm sorry for using your body like this but I had no other choice. It will be returned to you shortly. I'm Yune. Micaiah simply allowed for the rest to just happen. The name 'Yune' confused her though. She named her bird that. Surely the voice didn't belong to her pet. Did it? All of a sudden, Micaiah felt a huge drain on her strength and her body was immediately returned to her control. She was so startled that she didn't have time to try and maintain her balance and she found herself falling.
"Be careful," Ike said as he caught her. She looked up to find that the mercenary was different than he had been a moment ago. His arm was covered in thick plates of steel and his cape was red once more even though she still wore his original red one. "Are you alright? Yune? Or are you Micaiah once again?"
"It's Micaiah," she barely managed to finish before the mercenary embraced her with his right arm. He did so gently to avoid hurting her since he now wore a chest plate as well. "What's going on? I don't know what's happened."
"To put things simply, we don't have to fight each other anymore," Ike released her and she saw that he was grinning but that quickly faded. "Unfortunately, as you can see, not everything is well. We've got ourselves a new war to fight. Turns out the Goddess Ashera turned everyone to stone. We have to go set everything right again. The Goddess Yune is the one leading us and was the one inside your body. She gave us a few days to rest and recover from the fighting we've been doing until now. Your friends need it the most. Come on Micaiah, the rest of the day is ours."
Ike stood up and pulled Micaiah up with him. Despite the situation, she smiled. Their new task was a daunting one, but at least everyone would be fighting together now. The silver haired girl laced her fingers with Ike's larger ones and walked beside him as they returned to Nox. She could feel a power pulsing within him and thought 'this is the man that will change the world.' Micaiah leaned in closer to the mercenary as she walked. 'He will shape my future as well' she thought.
Okay so this was a shorter chapter than my last few. I know it's a little later than I hoped it would be too, but the holidays are a busy time. Anyways, I have an announcement for all of my readers. There won't be a new chapter for about two months. Sorry about that. I'm going away for a while and won't have any internet access. I'll have a new chapter as soon as I get back. In the mean time, leave a comment on this chapter. I love hearing everything all of you have to say about my work. Until next time.