Chapter 5: Countryside at Tension
"Why do you keep doing this? Just leave it."
Darren gave a sigh. It was a question he answered many times. "I promised your mother I would look after you, and I will keep to it."
But Garrus would always find very little hope behind those words. The two could never be seen together in public. Darren could not help his son out of threats. Garrus came home almost every other week with a minor injury at best. Garrus couldn't even approach the windows or walk through the front door of their own home in fear of a bystander possibly discovering where he lives. They were separated by society's barriers.
This time, however, Darren was mending a cut on Garrus' arm, the result of a person being "careless" with his knife.
"You never talked much about her," Garrus noted.
Darren shifted a little. Garrus tried many times to know more about his mother, but his father would drift into a solemn state and become disturbingly quiet. It was a very sensitive subject. The most Garrus could get was his mother was a red dragon Laguz, who came with his father from Goldoa when he was still an ambassador to the Begnion government. She quickly left Begnion within a couple years when the country decided to put Laguz prisoners into labor camps.
"Begnion became dangerous even for a dragon. If your mother was captured, it would have sparked an uncontrollable political disaster," Darren explained quietly. "Relations between the Beorc and Laguz were hostile enough as it is, but angering Goldoa would bring the entire continent to ruins."
Garrus heard this story before, only with more of a vague description. Darren would slowly let out more details as time passed, but he still left out some important ones.
"Your arm is good now," Darren said, finishing the bandage. "You best be going. Don't strain it too much."
Garrus stood up and gave a big hug. "Thanks, Dad."
"Know that I will always love you," Darren smiled. "Stay safe."
Garrus gave a big smile in return.
Garrus woke up against large tree on top of a hill overlooking the Crimea countryside. The dawn revealed rolling hills coated in lush grass, broken by small villages and crops. A constant breeze blew by, bringing in foreign yet refreshing air to Garrus, with an occasional bad hint of manure from ranches. Garrus had been traveling on foot for several days since he left Navassa. Crossing into Crimea, he was nearly bewildered by the sudden change in view. Crimea appeared to be very peaceful and full of life. It was a sharp contrast to Daein, and surprising given the Mad King's War three years earlier. Within the villages, there was a different tone: tension. Through the two villages that Garrus traveled through so far, he heard quiet rumors of a revolution in the works against Queen Elincia, mainly among young men who can't keep their voices down. It was a surprising find considering the country could have been sacked during the war. Garrus also found that the same young men constantly glanced at him and asked for combat methods due to his hardened look and well-forged armor. His appearance was not subtle in villages.
Garrus stood up from the tree and looked west. Sitting on top of a taller hill was a castle overlooking the many farms and vineyards of the area.
"Castle Falirae," Garrus muttered. Among the rumors, he also heard of a Lord Ludveck of Falirae being head of the revolution, but there were only rumors that couldn't be proven true, yet. Garrus picked up his lance, attached it to his back, and proceeded down the slope towards the castle.
Upon entering the town just down from the castle, it was apparent that Falirae was a center of command. Soldiers were everywhere; it seemed for every civilian, there were two soldiers. Disturbingly, the civilian population consisted of mostly women, children, and elderly, much like Daein before the liberation. The difference was nearly every able-bodied man in the town seemed to voluntarily join the rebel army. Equally disturbing were the number of eyes watching Garrus as he entered the town. In the town full of soldiers wearing white armor and helmets, Garrus stood out with is dark red plated armor, red hair, and lance on his back. He quickly made his way into an inn, where it was equally obvious it was impossible for him to blend in. He remained in his room for the next few hours, resting and waiting for the time he could leave with minimal fuss. But mid-afternoon brought a commotion outside. He checked out the windows and around the inn to see if the commotion involved him. It didn't. Garrus slipped outside, proceeded to the area near the entrance of the town where people were gathering. He peered over the group of people. He couldn't see what the gathering was about, but it was clear a group of importance entering the village caught much attention.
"One of the Queen's closest friends is here. Lady Lucia is here," one man said to his friend. "Who are those with her?"
"Looks like some fighters, a Heron princess, and a few Laguz," replied another.
Heron princess? Garrus thought.
"Laguz, huh? Still don't trust those sub-humans."
Garrus winced at the statement. Night came quickly, and it was easy enough for him to get some shuteye. Considering he was an armed stranger who just happened to walk into town and hadn't spoken a word, he could be questioned soon. He was awoken late at night by voices outside on the other side of the wall in his room. The muffled language was not very distinct, but words could be made.
"My lady, you must keep your voice down," an old voice whispered urgently. "We cannot be found sneaking out at this time."
Garrus quickly grabbed his belongings and snuck out of the inn. Upon leaving the building, he barely caught the sight of two winged Laguz quickly heading south. Even with low light, Garrus noticed one wore a white dress and had angelic white wings.
Heron princess… he noted.
He followed, staying in the shadows made by the moonlight and buildings. He could make out the other Laguz had really racked up the years, likely a raven, but could not find out more. They were heading out of the town through the south exit, but quickly took a somewhat obscured path that wound back northward into the steep hills just southwest of Castle Falirae. A cave was at the end of the path. As the two Laguz entered the cave, Garrus listened in for any voices. He could hear a young girl speak excitedly, but it was not in the Beorc language. The next voice could not be heard clearly, but it was in response to the girl's raised voice. He walked into the cave, feeling the walls through the dark. Garrus began to hear a third voice speak softly in the echoing cave, but still could not make out any words.
Suddenly, he heard a voice echoing from behind him.
"The red-haired mercenary you told us to keep an eye on went into this cave, sir."
"He is certainly one of the Queen's spies. Items of value to Lord Ludveck are stored here. Find that mercenary and kill him."
Garrus breath went short and he turned towards the cave's only entrance. He saw torchlight approaching.
"Shit…" he cursed under his breath.
He pulled out his lance, quickly found an indent on the cave wall, and stood in. The torchlight continued to approach, and Garrus remained frozen. With the light just about to expose him, he held his lance tight. The soldier came next to Garrus and looked over.
Alarmed, the soldier yelled "I found him!"
Without any hesitation, Garrus delivered a hard kick against the soldier's abdomen, knocking the soldier off balance and onto the ground. Garrus proceeded to drive his lance into the soldier. He heard armor clattering towards him, and darted towards the cave exit. An armored group quickly blocked his path, their attention at him. Almost immediately he noticed a sizable group coming from the side led by a young blue-haired woman. Caught off guard, the rebel soldiers were jumped. Among the friendly group, Garrus saw the Heron princess…and a solider with a large weapon lurking in the shadow next to her. Garrus sprinted.
"Watch out!" He yelled, and tackled the Heron, causing the weapon to miss by inches. As he and the Heron remain down on the ground, the clash of weapons and magic continued for a several more seconds before coming to a sudden halt. Certain that the clash was over, Garrus quickly got on his feet and helped the Heron. He looked up and saw a group consisting of a few Laguz and a few Beorc. It was easy to identify the young blue-haired swordswoman as the leader. She had a suspicious gaze on Garrus. The Heron Princess stood ahead of Garrus with her arm in front of him. She spoke again in an unfamiliar language.
"Leanne says he saved her," the old raven Laguz interpreted.
The swordswoman lied down her guard slightly. "What is your name?" she asked.
"Garrus," Garrus answered. "I…am a mercenary."
"What are doing in this cave?"
"I…uh…saw her and was hoping to find you to see Queen Elincia." Garrus motioned towards Leanne.
The swordswoman found the reason somewhat awkward. "For what business?"
"I cannot say," Garrus stated shortly.
"Not a very talkative man, is he?" one of the cat Laguz remarked.
The swordswoman gave some thought to the request. "My name is Lucia," she introduced. "I am a close friend to Queen Elincia. I can grant you permission to see her. If you want, you may travel with us back to the city. However, you must understand that we will be keeping an eye on you, stranger."
"That's fine," Garrus said. "Thank you."
"We must hurry out of the area and get the evidence to Elincia. It won't be long before Duke Ludveck's men finds out about this." Lucia started towards the cave exit.
The Heron princess turned to Garrus. There was an uneasy look to her green eyes as she looked at Garrus' eyes.
"Trouble…heart," she struggled out in a whisper.
Garrus tried to smile back to hide the problem, but realized nothing was getting past Leanne. He gave a light sigh. "I know."
They walked quickly to catch up with the group.