Welcome to 'The World of Dragons.'
This story's earliest iteration started early in 2015 as a crossover between the Fire Emblem games. I didn't get far before I imagined a single scene in my head, an interaction between two characters who were not in Fire emblem. So, months of effort on the Fire Emblem story were thrown away, and re-purposed into a Smash Bros story.
Besides that one scene, a scene which will not be seen for a long time, one of the original goals of The World of Dragons was to have all of the different characters and their games that are represented in the Super Smash Brothers series share a single world. They would not be separated by dimensions or by portals. Having this concept in mind, it took another six months to find the story I wanted to tell.
Join me as we explore this new, old world together.
Chapter 1: From Pain, Awakening
A blue ball-like figure awoke to the sound of an explosive crash, violently echoing through the metal walls that surrounded him. This figure had hands and feet, but they were connected directly to the body, lacking any arms or legs. As the figure opened it's eyes its body was already in motion. Two orb-like yellow eyes flicked to the wall. Hung upon the hooks that dotted the wall were all of the figure's possessions. A mask, a cape, two shoulder pieces , and a jagged golden sword with ruby encrusted into it's hilt. The figure threw the cape onto his back, secured it underneath it's shoulder pieces, and clipped the mask on over it's face. It grabbed the sword off of it's mantle and ran into the corridor. As it moved the appendages simply shifted on his body as something would move through clay.
As the figure moved through another door, another explosion shook the facility. It made it through another door to a balcony on the outside. Below lay the ocean, seemingly endless, but never touching the flying fortress the figure was on. The majesty of the humbling sea was covered by a cloud of smoke, which trailed from the back end of the air ship.
The ball shaped swordsman took a step back from the balcony. As fast as it could it ran and dived over the edge, it's cape transforming like magic into two purple wings, veiny and featherless. The wing carried it swiftly to the back of the colossal ship, and he landed upon another balcony near the back. As it landed, the wings on his back folded once more into a cape. A door slid open automatically as the masked ball approached, revealing the panic within.
Brown furred figures, anatomically alike the swordsman, rushed around the room carrying buckets of water. Their movement could be best described as a well organized chaos, as they weaved around each other to cover everywhere at once. Their target was a flame, roaring and mercilessly consuming in its fury. One group of these furred figures were carrying a metal patch. The swordsman followed them to find a hole, exposing the massive engine room to the elements. Directing these creatures was another, similar to the rest but for a blue Bandanna tied onto it's head, standing on top of a nondescript, nonfunctioning rotary mechanism. The swordsman opened up his wings and flew greet it appropriately.
"Bandanna Dee, what happened?" The swordsman demanded, it's voice deep and unfriendly. The creature, identified as Bandanna Dee, jumped fearfully from the voice, and turned to face it's owner. Even without anything resembling a mouth, Bandanna Dee responded in a bright and distinctly childlike voice.
"Meta Knight! I'm sorry, I have no idea how this happened. Everything was working fine as far as we could tell before it exploded! It happened very suddenly, and caught us off guard!" Bandanna Dee claimed desperately. "Please, I'm sorry."
Meta Knight shook his head. "I am not your King, Bandanna Dee. Contain the damage as best you can. I am going to find us a safe place to land..." Meta Knight trailed off. Or crash, he left unsaid. Bandanna Dee nodded, turning back to the other Waddle Dees working as Meta Knight left him
"We need to contain this fire! Meta Knight will set us down!" The lead Dee commanded "Hey, I see you slacking off over there! If we crash, the King will..."
Meta Knight flew out of the ship, and turned to a ladder on the side. He'd lose the ship if he tried to fly up to the bridge, he knew, so he grabbed on and started climbing. The endless blue sea below was now entirely blanketed in the smoke from the still burning engine.
As he reached the top, there was another explosion, shaking the entire ship. Meta Knight nearly tripped over. The bridge stood tall as a tower built on top of the ship. He ran to the bridge's door, expecting it to open as he neared. He ran into the door, making a crack as his mask hit it. Taking a breath, he tried to pull the door open, to no avail. As he was thinking of a second plan, a voice called out to him.
"Meta Knight! What is going on!" The voice demanded, a voice that attempted to mimic the grace of a bird in flight and yet sounded like a crash. Meta Knight turned to find the speaker, a flightless bird. A penguin. An overfed, overdressed penguin, entirely looking like the king that that he always claimed to be. In his gloved hands he held a giant wooden hammer.
"Dedede, I need your help. I need to get to the bridge, or we will crash, but the door is stuck." Dedede growled in response.
"That's King Dedede to you!" He corrected matter of factly. His beak was open in a bird's impression of a smug grin.
"The Halberd is going to crash. Open it," the swordsman demanded coldly.
"Fine, fine," Dedede said, backing down. He approached the door, and began to wind up. With a shout, he smashed his hammer into the door, denting it. He wound up, and swung again, disconnecting the door from it's slot. The door flew out of it's place. The King wiped the sweat from his face. "Phew, why do I have to do all the hard-"
Meta Knight rushed in, ignoring Dedede's complaints. The bridge's lower floor was empty, all of the crew trying to contain the damage. What had caused this? Meta Knight unfolded his wings and flew above an empty lift into the main bridge. A window overlooked the rest of the ship, and under it lay a series of consoles, all centered by the wheel.
The console that would show a map was flickering off and on. The fire was burning through the power grid then. A glance at his map of the known world told him that everything around the ship was unmapped. Unfortunate. He powered down that console, as well as a few other unnecessary ones. The few remaining consoles flickered less and less as more power was saved for them. One display showed that two of the fourteen engines were inoperable. When he was done shutting down the excess consoles, only the engines display, weapons system and a regional scanner remained online.
There was another explosion from the engine. Engine three was gone and the Halberd started to dip. Meta Knight took a look at the regional scanner and noticed a flicker. Land? Indeed, at the end of the scanner's range was a landmass. Miles and miles away... Meta Knight had to keep the ship in the air until they were near it to have a chance. But if he hit it... That was likely their end too.
He grabbed the wheel, and turned it towards the landmass. Engine eight went next. Then five.
"Will we make it?" King Dedede asked, appearing from the lift.
"We can't lose another engine for a while. Otherwise, if we survive, we'll be absolutely stranded. I'm going to land us in the ocean." Meta Knight said.
"And that won't mean we're stranded? Genius, Meta Knight!"
"Look at the scanner. There's a landmass this way." Meta Knight stated.
"We could survive," Meta Knight answered plainly. "King Dedede, please go help in the engine. The Waddle Dees need their king's guidance."
"King's guidance...?" Dedede nodded proudly. "Well of course! They'd be lost without their great King Dedede!" The penguin left in a hurry, nearly tripping down the empty elevator shaft. As he vanished into the lift, Meta Knight let out a small sigh of relief, before returning his attention to the wheel and the scanner.
As another engine was lost, klaxons began to cry out through the bridge, a sound which was echoed in the engine room. A crash was inevitable.
In the distance, Meta Knight could see the land his scanners had picked up. As he began to dare to hope, there was another explosion. The ship began to twist and shake, and the windows of the bridge shattered, a burst of wind blowing into the bridge. Meta Knight struggled to keep control of his ship, his grip tight on the wheel and his feet firmly holding to the ground. Meta Knight heard another explosion below him, and the bridge began to crumble. The ceiling gave way, falling inwards. Still Meta Knight held the wheel as steadily as he could.
A metal support disconnected from the ceiling of the bridge and fell on top of him.
The ship lost complete control shortly afterwards. It fell into the ocean, landing on it's belly next to the shore. For several minutes it skidded, debris flying in every direction until it came to a halt on the sandy shore.
The Halberd had fallen.
An assembly stood in the long hall of the palace. Voices drowned each other out as nobles and soldiers argued. At the head of the hall silently stood a woman wearing a gentle, patient smile. Her hair was blonde in color, with a crown more reminiscent of a halo hung sanctimoniously over it. Her robes were plain in design, but still heavy. Most noticeable of her features was the mark on her forehead. At her side, another woman stood. She was many years older, with white hair and attentive yellow eyes. This woman whispered to the other.
"Exalted Emmeryn, I implore you, allow me to investigate this anomaly."
"I'm afraid I cannot allow this, Phila," Emmeryn declined. "I need you and the Pegasus Knights here in Ylisstol. If this rumor is true, and the Pegasus Knights were nowhere to be found, the capital could fall into a panic. No, we need a smaller group to investigate."
Rumors, reports, and a large caravan of frightened Ylisseans found its way into Ylisstol in the preceding week. Any one of them alone would have been considered by the spy network of Ylisse, and likely dismissed. Every single one together meant that a larger investigation was necessary. If nothing else, Emmeryn knew that it would comfort the caravan when word was sent to them that it was done.
"Then I'll go." A man responded from her side. His voice carried out through the hall, and slowly the room quieted. The man had blue hair and similarly colored eyes, that were equal parts fierce and friendly. His shirt was missing one sleeve, revealing a large mark on his arm. The same mark which laid upon the Exalt Emmeryn. "Please, sister. The Shepherds leaving town is not so uncommon that it would incite a panic, and I trust every one of them to keep this a secret if need be."
The hall was now silent, looking expectantly to the exalt for their answer. After a moment, she smiled. "Very well, Chrom. The Shepherds have proven themselves time and time again. I entrust this investigation to the Shepherds."
Chrom bowed his head respectfully. "I won't let you down. I will inform the rest of the Shepherds immediately."
"Prince, what if this is related to what happened five years ago?" One man asked.
"And what of this matter with Plegia and these bandits, Prince?" Another older man asked from the assembly. "You should not be so hasty to-"
"Duke Themis, I made my position on the Plegian issue very clear last time we discussed it. Despite my stance, we have not been allowed to act," Chrom answered, shooting a glare down the table. "This ship, or monstrosity, or whatever it may be that lays on our coast? I can do something about it, and I intend to." He looked back at the first man. "No matter what it is." More voices quickly rose to challenge him, but at that point it was just noise. Chrom left the hall, and took a deep breath. He wasn't surprised to see a knight in heavy blue armor standing at attention just outside the council room.
"Milord, was it wise to brush off the nobility, and your sister, so brashly?" The knight asked, or more so accused, Chrom felt.
"Probably not, Frederick," Chrom admitted. "All the same, leaving now is for the best. Verbal sparring is not what they know me for in there, after all."
"Please, milord. This may be a dangerous venture. We know nothing but what a few upset and frightened fishermen told us, plus one restless spy. To echo the good Duke, it is perilous to act so hastily."
"Noted. Now come on. We need to hunt down Lissa and the rest of the Shepherds." Frederick sighed, as he knew this was his prince's method to not take his advice under advisement. Chrom walked down another, less grand hall followed by further sighs, mumbling, and footfalls of Frederick. The hall was still fairly grand itself. In stain glass, scenes were depicted of ancient battles. At the corner Chrom rounded was the image of a dragon slain. Chrom knew the story of the Hero King well, eying the blue haired figure that stood over the beast. He patted the sword at his waist, a gift passed down the Royal bloodline since the Hero King's times, blessed to never break nor dull. Falchion.
As Chrom neared the royal apartments, he heard a familiar pair of female voices from around the corner. One was bright and joyful, and the other was well trained and proper. Somehow, both managed to convey the same level of excitement. He rounded the corner to find two young women animatedly going back and forth.
"Lissa, Maribelle. What has you both so worked up?" Chrom asked. Lissa let out a yelp at the sound of his voice, which he couldn't help but smile at. When she spoke, he almost lost it.
"Oh hey there, Chrom. Um, fancy to... See you here! Haha... Yeah. Did you want to tell us something?" She asked through a poorly forced attempt at being conspicuous. He raised a curious eyebrow at his sister's behavior. Maribelle pinched the bridge of her nose and sighed.
"Greetings Lady Lissa, Lady Maribelle. We did have something to tell you, In fact." Frederick gave a weary sigh before continuing, "but I can only assume you already know."
"What? How could I know? I would have had to have eavesdropped! Would you really accuse your princess of such a heinous crime?" Frederick simply nodded. She stomped the floor, her face a bright red in anger, until Chrom began to laugh. Even Frederick allowed himself to smile as she deflated. "Doesn't this count as treason, Chrom?"
"Sis, calm down. We all know that you're willing to do that," Chrom said, rubbing a tear from his eye, only to chuckle harder when he saw his sister's mock-angry pout. "I needed that. I can only stand the Council and it's ilk for so long." Maribelle cleared her throat, and Chrom sobered from his merriment quickly as he realized his mistake.
"My father counts himself among that ilk, and Prince though you may be, it would do you well to treat those men with the respect their stations have earned them," she declared, stepping close to her prince and jabbing her finger towards his face. The prince backed off, raising his hands in surrender.
"Yes, you're right, of course." He said, giving Lissa a reason to laugh at him instead. Maribelle slowly backed off, though from the look of her skeptical scowl, she was thoroughly unconvinced. Chrom continued anyways.
"As you apparently know, the Shepherds are being sent to investigate claims from a few fishermen by the coast. I am hoping for us to depart tomorrow. Lissa, Maribelle, could you help round up the Shepherds? I need everyone to hear about it."
"You can count on it!" She replied with a nod, and took off without delay.
"Lady Maribelle," Frederick cut in, "if you could inform the princess to send anyone she finds to the barracks before sunset, it would be appreciated."
"Of course, Sir Frederick. Prince Chrom." Maribelle courteously bowed her head before running after Lissa.
"Well, Frederick?" Chrom said, turning to the knight. "Let's go. If they find Vaike before us, Maribelle might leave him unable to join us."
"And how terrible that would be, milord," the knight sarcastically retorted.
As the group left the library, he could see that it was still fairly early in the afternoon. Chrom gave a nod to the guard at the library door as he walked out. The guard gave a bow in return. Close on Chrom's heel was Frederick. Shortly afterward, another figure followed them out.
The enigmatic and scientificly minded mage Miriel's short hair hung from under a largely brimmed hat, and her face was buried behind a book. Despite her full attention being upon the leather bound pages, she still managed to keep up with the prince and the knight as they weaved through the crowds. Neither Chrom nor Frederick gave her impressive display much thought.
Having found her, the three moved now towards the barracks that the Shepherds called home. He passed through the market, waving respectfully back to the Ylissean citizens who bowed at his passing. Frederick's eyes darted back and forth, daring even the slightest threat to emerge. The Shepherds had been formed to deal with the wolves amongst their sheep, and it was Frederick's burden to keep an eye for the boldest wolves.
The Shepherds barracks was situated by the outskirts of town. The stone and brick exterior of the building itself was connected to the city's walls. Despite the unwelcoming and aesthetically unpleasant exterior, Chrom found that he felt more at home here than when he joined his sister in the palace. As he entered the yard just out front of the barracks, two of the Shepherds were sparring in the ring. A man in green armor was being battered into a corner by a training sword wielded by a woman in armor that matched in all but its red hue. Despite her ferocity however, she could not get a good hit in.
Miriel walked around the ring into the barracks, but Chrom waited by the edge. As the spar went on, the woman's swings slowed. The man in green parried a blow and, for the first time since his spectator's arrival, swung at his opponent. She sidestepped the blow and swung again, and this time her slice rang true. The wood clattered against the man's blade, disarming him, and in an instant she had her sword at his throat.
"Ugh, yield." The man managed to surrender between heavy breaths. Chrom clapped from his place at the edge, and both combatants turned to face him.
"Yo, Chrom!" The victor shouted. The man bowed his head tiredly.
This woman, Sully, was one of three horse riders among the Shepherds. Where Frederick was ice, cold and sharp, Sully was fire. Her unchecked language could likely melt steel if it were possible, and her riding ability was just as fiery. Her light mail armor shared the light red color of her hair.
If Frederick was ice and Sully was fire, the green knight Stahl was the earth. He was friendly and calm where his counterparts were not. He was a few years younger and less experienced than Frederick, and not nearly as aggressive with his training as Sully. Many had remarked how Stahl was incredibly average for being a Shepherd, but Chrom found that still put him above the bandits they faced. He was also the best cook that the Shepherds had.
"Not a bad display from either of you. Especially considering you're Cavaliers fighting on foot." Chrom complemented, and he meant it. He had been trained to sword fight by the best generals and trainers that Ylisse could offer, yet he knew that Sully would still run him into a corner. That Stahl managed to hold her off for so long with no ground training besides his spars was impressive. He saw Frederick echo his approval with a nod.
"Of course it wasn't bad, Chrom. Nuts if I let this wimp beat me." Sully responded proudly, brandishing her training weapon with the same pride.
"I'm right here, Sully." Stahl said plainly, doubled over and still trying to catch his breath.
"It was not bad," Frederick stated. Before either could look proud, he added, "However, you both have much to learn still. Sully, you left yourself open on numerous occasions. If you faced most any other opponent besides Stahl, you surely would have lost. Stahl, whilst you did an admirable job holding your ground, you failed to take an opening effectively. You were too nervous too act on the less obvious openings. When you finally did act, it was on a feint."
Stahl and Sully both gave weak 'Yes sir's to their critic and superior. Frederick gave Chrom a nod and a wave to Stahl. The two entered entered the barracks, Frederick lecturing Stahl on his technique the whole way, much to the younger chagrin.
"What an arse," Sully said, accenting her displeasure by spitting.
"No," Chrom answered with a laugh, "that's just Frederick's way of saying he cares."
"Yeah, I know. So Chrom, I heard about the meeting. Sunset, right?" Sully asked.
"Right. Are Lissa and the rest already here?" Chrom asked. Sully shook her head. "Then I guess we've got time to waste."
Chrom picked up the sword that Stahl had dropped. Sully grinned, lunging forward with a fierce shout.
Chrom sat at the head of the dining table as the others slowly flowed in. Everyone was the same in how they reacted, more or less. They walked in curious about the meeting. They stopped and stared at his face, and then took a seat, their curiosity shifting focus. Chrom rubbed the bruise on his cheek. He should have known it would be ill advised to fight in his court uniform.
"Fear not, comrades, the archest of archers has graced your presence." Virion announced as he walked into the room. A perpetually verbose and well dressed man, the self proclaimed gentleman was the last Shepherd to arrive. Captain Chrom cleared his throat and begin to speak.
"So, I'm sure you're-" Chrom began...
"Geez, what happened to you Chrom?" A loud mouthed man asked. This man, Vaike, had spiky blonde hair and an exposed chest which was covered in cuts and scars. Chrom slapped his hand to his forehead and he sighed.
"There was a training accident." Chrom answered with matter of fact tone. After a moment of silence Sully guffawed. A few of the Shepherds questioned her, but she didn't dare to say anything. At least he still held that much respect. The room quieted when Frederick, from his place at Chrom's side, cleared his throat.
"Thank you Frederick. As I was saying before I was interrupted, the Shepherds have been asked to mobilize."
"Have more bandits shown up, because I could-"
"No Vaike, not bandits this time. As I was saying, there has been a series of strange sightings along our coastline. Fishermen have seen strange creatures. Even odder, they claim that a large ship fell from the sky. Normally, Ylisstol would ignore such abnormal claims. However, we have gotten far too many reports of the same information. Emmeryn has authorized the Shepherds to investigate." He eyed the wary and simultaneously curious faces around the table before he continued.
"Our target is an unknown. It could be dangerous, or it could be friendly. As with many of our missions, this mission will be strictly voluntary, so-"
"I'll go!" Lissa interrupted. Her quick answer served to open the floodgates.
"You aren't thinking of going somewhere without me, are ya?" Vaike said.
"These anomalies could be interesting fields of study. I will be coming," Miriel chimed in. Even though she tried to maintain her controlled tome, Chrom could tell that she was absolutely thrilled by the idea of something unknown. Of course she would, Chrom thought. from the sounds of the rumors, there was something never before seen on Ylisse laying in wait, begging to be discovered.
"I'm in." Stahl said.
One by one, each of the Shepherds answered. As he had expected, almost everyone agreed to go. One man, a heavily armored knight named Kellam, seemed to appear out of no where when he agreed. Chrom thought he was hearing things before he spotted the man, just outside of his view around Miriel's hat. Maribelle had to decline, as her father had asked her to join him in Themis when he left the capital. She promised she would be back in the capital by the time they were done.
In an hour, plans had been set and the Shepherds returned to their chambers. Well, most of them. Chrom and one other Shepherd still sat in the hall.
"Sumia, do you need something?" Chrom asked quietly.
"Captain, I... I would like to come too." Sumia said.
"I wanted to say the same thing. You need field experience. However, this investigation could go south, fast. Too much about this situation is unknown."
"Captain, I've never been in a fight before. Any enemy is an unknown."
"Fair enough. Fine," Chrom conceded, "I don't want you leaving the back line if it comes to a fight, however. A battlefield isn't the place to make mistakes."
Sumia frowned, standing up noticeably flustered "Oh? What kind of mistake are you expecting? I have sparred with Sully and Stahl, and I-."
Her boot kicked into a chair. As if in slow motion, her frustration broke into confusion and then into fearful realization as she began to fall. The Prince was already out of his seat, but it was as though Naga herself decreed that he could not reach her in time. Tragically, Sumia hit the floor, face first. Chrom stood there for a second as she laid unmoving.
"Sumia?" He asked worriedly. He got a helpless groan in response.
"I'll stay in the back line."
Chrom helped her up with a pitiful chuckle, and walked her down the hall to her room. Her face was a bright red, but she appeared to be otherwise unscathed. She mumbled something about her boots, but Chrom just laughed off her excuses. He was mostly just glad she wasn't hurt.
Eventually, Chrom got Sumia to her room, which she shared with Sully. Sumia, still bright red, sped through her goodbye and rushed into the room, leaving Chrom alone in the hall. The Prince lingered a moment before walking to his own quarters.
Having royalty amongst them made living conditions a bit roomier, but the quarters still had to be shared. Despite this, as Chrom fell to sleep he was excited. He had gotten stiff after being so long trapped in the palace.
"Hey! Bandanna! Get over here!"
The cry was loud, and it echoed across the coast. The Waddle Dee in question heard the voice from across the shore. He dropped the firewood he had been carrying immediately and took off in a run. If the king was upset, that couldn't be good for him. Making the king wait would be...
Bandanna Dee jumped over a large log being carried by two more Waddle Dees. Through the small makeshift camp that the Dees had been building whilst their king mostly lounged around. No, bad Bandanna Dee. He dismissed the critical thoughts of his king. They weren't fair of him. Dedede was a good King, he just wasn't in the best of states. He gave them direction, and something to strive for. Waddle Dees would do nothing without him.
Thoughts such as these were really put to a halt as he reached his king's wooden hut. It had been the first one that was put up after the crash. They worked tirelessly to finish it, even making a blanket out of the trees of fabric they'd found in the wreckage of the Halberd. Despite their King's mannerisms and priorities, being gluttonous and self-serving, he was well traveled. Which left the most trusted Waddle Dee from Dreamland confused as to what his King needed. He knocked on the side of the cabin before entering.
"Bandanna, come on in," Dedede called him in impatiently. "Did you bring the firewood?"
Bandanna Dee gulped and shook his head. "I dropped it, Your Majesty. I thought you needed help with-"
Dedede frowned. "Dang it! It's cold in here and I needed that firewood! That's why I yelled! Go get it!"
Bandanna Dee nodded and quickly sulked out of the cabin.
It had been two weeks since the ship crashed. The camp wasn't coming out awfully, but it wasn't luxurious either. The King's palaces and castles felt more like an ancient dream than a memory anymore.
Dedede had met some people near where they crashed, but they screamed and ran before he could say anything. One would think that they had never seen a king before! Maybe they hadn't, and that's why they were so intimidated. If he wasn't himself, Dedede was sure he'd scream and run away in awe if he saw something so magnificent.
King Dedede walked away from the door shaking his head. In the corner he approached was a hastily stitched together blanket. Under the patchily stitched together fabric was a round bulge, which rose and fell at a steady rate. When Bandanna Dee returned shortly afterwards, Dedede told him to start the fire. He did so and took his leave. In the center of his makeshift cabin sat a small pit with an burn proof rubber containing it. Smoke rose out of the cabin through a chimney of the Waddle Dee's design. If they were stuck here for long enough, maybe he'd upgrade to something a little bit better. Something temporary, like a mansion.
When the Waddle Dees had failed to quell the flames, the Halberd had crashed. Dedede himself had awoken soaked and washed up on the shore. He was largely unharmed though, much to his fortune. Numerous of his Waddle Dee servants who had been aboard the Halberd surrounded him, many of which were not so lucky. Meta Knight himself had been nowhere to be seen. King Dedede had personally helped scour the wreckage. He found the kitchen, somehow still mostly intact, though it was powered down. Not one to allow waste, the kitchen was considerably less full when he left it.
Shortly after the King had gorged himself, he returned to searching. A Waddle Dee had approached him in a frenzy not long after. He'd rush back out of the ship onto the shore, where the remnants of the bridge laid. They had found Meta Knight underneath a heavy pile of rubble from the collapsed structure. He had not awoken since he was brought ashore.
The sight made Dedede queasy.
"Your Greatness, your meal for the evening." A group of Waddle Dees walked in, carrying a tray with them.
"Leave it by the fire," the King commanded without turning to face them. The Waddle Dees exchanged confused glances before they placed the tray down where they were told. As they left, they picked up another tray that was still untouched. The King turned back to the blanket which gently rose and fell still.
"Pinky, you going to wake up soon?" He asked. The silence was his answer.
"Safe travels, milord. I wish there was more that we could do for you."
"Do not worry yourself, sir. We prepared ourselves for the full trip from the capital. I'm almost worried that we took too much of what you offered," Chrom answered with a smile. Free of the capital's prying eyes, the prince had changed into a lighter, flexible leather shirt. For armor, he only needed his shoulder piece.
"Nonsense. It was Southtown's honor to serve the Shepherds. Free rooms were the least we could do for you considering the help you have been over the years." The elderly man said. Chrom gave an earnest smile.
"In that case, it was an honor to receive your services. As I said, we must take our leave. You take care, sir."
"And you as well, milord."
The Sheperds had been on the road south for two days. Traveling with so many people had slowed them down a small bit, but they were still making good time. They had expected to spend the second night camping in the woods, but Frederick set a taxing pace. When they made it to Southtown, they had been graciously welcomed. The elder of the village himself offered to pay for the company's food and rooms in the inn. Chrom managed to talk him down to just the rooms. The Shepherds practically lavished in the innkeepers dinner before promptly passing out. Some of them had been fortunate enough to reach their rooms.
Early in the morning, Frederick had awakened the full company and a short time after they were on the road again.
The outskirts of Southtown were covered in the wheat fields of the villagers and farmers. The fields were all that the group could see on either side of the road for an hour after they left. Slowly, the fields were traded for seas of green. Trees were scarcer this close to the Ylissean coast. Chrom could vaguely remember his teachers telling him why that had happened, but he couldn't remember.
It would've made good conversation at least.
Throughout the grasslands, animals bounced and thrived. Miriel often stopped to observe this creature or that one, but the rest of The Shepherds just kept walking. She always managed to catch up, writing notes and observations into a book as she moved. Frederick eyed every creature as though it were unnatural. If what Chrom had heard was true, Frederick may very well been correct. One creature, resembling a rabbit on two feet, hopped in front of him on the road. Frederick quickly chased it off. The creature ran off quickly, repeatedly shouting out what Chrom could almost understand as words.
Morning became noon, and afternoon became evening when they at last reached the southern port city of Bathoneo. There, they would rest. The guards at the gatehouse signaled an escort for Chrom to meet with the merchant council of the city. Frederick promised to arrange for quarters whilst the captain was away. Frederick and the rest of the Shepherds broke off into a side street and left Chrom alone with his escorts.
The escort team seemed incredibly relaxed for being around royalty. Their uniforms were pretty poorly maintained as well. One soldier had forgone armor entirely, wearing only the plain white uniform bearing Ylisse's crest. Chrom couldn't help but feel like he was being escorted by crooks and mercenaries rather than soldiers. The leader of his escort team cleared the way through market that stood between the gate and the merchant palace, announcing to the whole city that the Prince was present. A handful of the people stared in awe as he passed, but most went about their business after a short glance.
The city itself was an impressive sight. The buildings in the market were varied from building to building, seemingly built just for the business that dwelt there. The farmer's stalls and fruit venders were painted wood. The one blacksmith that he had passed was a stone building with the full yard in display. The short glances he got into the side streets painted a similar picture. As they approached the center of town, he could make out the merchant's palace.
The label of palace was probably not the right term for the building before him. Compound or estate, maybe, but not a palace. It was certainly grand compared to the shops of the market before it, but Ylisstol's palace was much grander. The merchant palace was stone, with marble brightening the sight.
From what little he knew of the city, the whole place seemed trapped in a spell of complacency. The whole city was run by affluent merchants who were elected by the standing council. Really, they just bought their way in. The blatant corruption was mostly kept in check by how much the merchant's couldn't actually work together. It was a strange paradox that the rich with direct access to power couldn't take advantage of it. Emmeryn had tried and failed to establish a better system in the city early on in her reign, but gave up when the city nearly revolted. Now a different set of merchants governed the city and nothing had changed.
Most of the merchants preferred to look out for their own businesses over actually governing. Seven different districts elected one member to the governing position. Looking at the undisciplined escort team he had been given, it became quite clear to Chrom just how little oversight was being done.
Remembering these facts kept Chrom occupied, if nothing else.
The escort team led him up the marble steps before the palace. At the door, most of the escort team dispersed, with only the leader staying with Chrom. The man nodded to the guard at the door, who gave a stiff nod and opened the door.
At least someone in the city almost followed something resembling protocol.
"Welcome to the merchant palace, Prince Chrom," his escort said. "The council will meet you in the large doors straight ahead."
Chrom nodded to the escort before taking in his surroundings. Men dressed in rich robes and jewelry filled the grand hall. A number of doors littered the room, but that was the least impressive sight. The hall was nearly half the size of the palace, and it rose just as high. A blue carpet with a golden colored rim trailed the center of the hall, leading from the entrance up a set of stairs. At the top of the first set of stairs, the path split in two more half circle sets. They eventually merged into a balcony that hung straight over the entrance, held up by an arch. Chrom didn't need to know anything about architecture to know this room was an impressive sight.
He walked up the stairs unguided, as his escort remained at the gate. Chrom looked over his shoulder to see the man was still watching him from the door. He shrugged it off and entered the doors.
He found a round table, with the seven merchant lords sitting around it. One empty chair also stood, most likely for guests. As he entered the room, the merchants arose from their seats and bowed their heads. One of the merchants, a plump and overdressed man, stepped around the table and bowed to him once more.
"Greetings, Prince Chrom. We, the merchant lords of Bathoneo, are overjoyed to have you grace our halls."
"It is my pleasure to visit your great city," Chrom replied with a smile that he hoped looked genuine. Court manners had never been his specialty, but from the small showing that the merchants put on when he entered, they were expecting at least the most basic of pleasantries. That, or they wanted something from him and thought him feeble-minded.
No, probably both.
"Please, my lord. Have a seat at our table," the man offered. As Chrom thanked him and took his seat, the man returned to his own. "I trust your journey was pleasant?"
"Indeed it was. I take it you were told to expect me?"
"Indeed we were, Prince Chrom," another much lankier merchant answered. "A bird from Ylisstol, arrived yesterday. We weren't told why you have come, I'm afraid. Pray tell, is there something we should be concerned with?"
"Just an investigation. There have been rumors that the Exalt wanted looked into. We shouldn't be in the city for more than a day." It had been his call of course, but making it his sister's will made it easier to keep just what he was doing quiet. More importantly, it might keep his meeting with the merchants brief.
"Oh?" The plump man questioned. When Chrom gave no indication that he would elaborate, the man gave a shrug. "Well, I won't push you. All I'd like to know is if there is anything the city of Bathoneo could offer to help?"
Seeing through the man's thinly veiled bait, Chrom shook his head. Seeing the leading merchant's attempt thwarted, a few whispers began around the table. Gods, he hated this maneuvering. "I'm afraid not. Any obstructions or parties outside of the Shepherds could make things difficult. If our investigation turns up a threat to your city, I can promise that you will be the first people to know."
Judging by the looks he was getting from around the room, he said something wrong.
Oh. The possibility of threats. Right.
This was going to take a while.
The rest of the meeting was much the same as the start. Every side dancing around answers. Chrom had brought up his small concerns with the city's guard, and they waved it off. Trained soldiers, and the most capable mercenaries money could buy. It did little to ease Chrom's concerns, but it was the only straight answer he managed to get from the merchants.
He had meant for his vagueness throughout his meeting to keep the city quiet. One of the merchant lords had different plans. Before he'd even left the chambers, word had gotten out and was spreading through the city. As he walked the city streets, he heard the nervous whispers as he passed by. Unlike the people of Southtown, many of Bathoneo's merchants were far less grateful to see their Prince.
If Sumia had not found him wandering the markets, he might have been lost wandering the city until the next day. It was unlike Frederick to not have something already prepared, he absently thought. Still, Chrom could shrug off the strange oversight. One of the merchants they passed was a book vendor. Chrom noticed how Sumia hungrily eyed the stacks of books behind the smiling man staring back at them.
As evening became night Chrom and Sumia found the inn, the Joyous Retreat, where the Shepherds were quartered. Sumia placed her new books in the wagon.
"Thank you again, Captain! You know... You didn't have to buy these," she said with a tinge of guilt.
"I was happy to. You're a Shepherd after all, and my friend, Sumia," he responded. She gave a bashful smile. Chrom was happy to see that his response had the intended effect. The inn doors flew open, and Frederick dragged an obviously intoxicated Vaike out of the inn.
"We are on duty, Vaike! We do not have time to be engaging in such frivolity now. We will be on the coast to investigate something that could kill us long before your hangover subsides. I know you were trained better than this."
"Hey, now," Vaike slurred, "ol' Teach was pacing himself just fine! You need to get that sssh-tick out of your arse, Freddy."
"Report to your quarters immediately Vaike. You are not to leave it until we head out in the morning." Vaike moved to give a poorly thought out retort before Frederick glared harder at him. "And I will know if you leave it."
Vaike sighed despondently, opening the door to the inn, noise bursting out of the door before he once again shut it. Frederick sighed, turning toward the wagon to find his Prince on the cusp of, as the common man put it, 'losing it', and Sumia gawking at the scene.
"Milord, it is good to see you've found us. I was just going to double check our provisions before making sure the rest of the Shepherds were in their rooms as well. Vaike has proven less than cooperative." Frederick explained with a sigh. Chrom settled for a chuckle.
"It is lucky that the Shepherds have so diligent a caretaker as you, Frederick." Chrom complemented earnestly. His lips turned into a small grin before he added, "Though you weren't there to make sure I found the inn."
"I was led to believe it was being taken care of, milord," The knight said in surprise. "I apologize for this apparent lapse in judgement, although it appears you have found your way in spite of it." Sumia made a quiet sound next to Chrom which sounded like a sigh, but he failed to hear it.
Bandanna Dee had been given a mission. Dedede said it was important to find someone, anyone, who didn't just run from them. He didn't understand why it was important, as they had been just fine in their makeshift huts, but a decree from the king is a decree from the king.
Their coastal refuge was surrounded by trees, a shroud which had served them well, but there was no hiding the Halberd. If someone or something bad found it, they would practically be sitting ducks. Considering their king resembled those Arctic birds that the Allied Kingdoms called a penguin, that would be weird. A penguin-duck?
Bandanna Dee shook his body, much like a human would shake their heads at nonsense. Focus, Dee.
He had crawled out of the thickets and emerged on the opposite side of the trees from their camp a while ago. The grass was long, and tickled his bare feet. He had seen some kind of farmer in the distance, but he didn't bother approaching him. The farmers were all scared of him. They were every time he went out as his king ordered. The past three weeks he had been scavenging for fruits and vegetables from within and around the forest.
Thinking of food made him worried. In the weeks since the crash, the Waddle Dees that brought King Dedede his food had been saying he wasn't eating much. Something had their king deeply upset, and no matter how much of a jerk he could be, Bandanna Dee was going to help his king. He redoubled his pace. Someone, somewhere had to be brave enough to talk to him. His king needed him.
He saw a village in the distance. He quickly hid behind a tree and watched. Maybe... It would be dangerous. He would be outnumbered if the people got scared. Even so, he decided to risk it. He waddled out from his hiding place and took a deep breath. He smoothed the bandanna on his head, and began to walk forward.
He hadn't gotten very far when a gruff, deep voice stopped him.
"Well, what is this we have?" The Waddle Dee turned around to find a very well built pale man looking down at him. "Haven't seen one like this before. You'd fetch a pretty penny."
"Um, you can't sell me. I serve the best king in the world, and-" the man interrupted Bandanna Dee grabbing his head and lifting him up off the ground by the top of his head.
"It talks too? Even better!" The man laughed. He laughed even harder as his victim struggled to get free. "It doesn't even have a mouth! This thing's gotta be exotic! The boss has got to love this one."
Bandanna Dee's eyes widened, fearful for what this man had planned. As hard as he worked now, actual slavery wouldn't treat him well. Looking around, the Waddle Dee saw a long stick on propped against the fence and tried to reach for it. He managed to knock it over and it landed directly on the laughing man's bare foot. The man dropped the Waddle Dee with a yelp. Quickly, Waddle snatched up the stick and made space between him and his attacker. He turned to face his assailant, who had pulled a large axe from his back.
The attacker charged with a roar. Bandanna Dee jumped sideways from a downwards swing and swung the stick at the man's leg, snapping it in two against his leg. His attack left a bright red mark where it hit him. The man fell onto his knees and bellowed his pain, but quickly regained his balance and stood again. The smaller combatant dodged again, this time throwing his stick and running away. He ran towards the village, hoping he could lose his attacker amongst the buildings.
As he approached, his small feet tired and the heavy footfalls of his pursuer closed on him. Bandanna Dee noticed he was slowing down and closed his eyes preparing for the end. It didn't come.
There was a distinct twang from the direction of the village, and a yelp from behind him shortly followed. Bandanna Dee slowed to a stop, and he turned to see his attacker falling to the ground, an arrow in his chest. He landed motionless on the ground.
He turned back to the village to see another man in a purple dress suit with a bow in his hands and a quiver upon his back. The man looked down at the shorter figure and smiled gently.
"Fear not, brave creature. For you are amongst friends now. The world is dangerous enough for man, and nature need not be disturbed." This man, his voice comforting and pleasant to hear, approached the Waddle Dee
"Thanks mister. You have a nice voice. Can you help me with something?"
The man stopped and stared, his eyebrow raised in confusion. There were no pretty words coming from the man now.
"So Virion... You're saying you shot a thug for chasing an animal. You approached this animal, an animal you have never seen before and could have been dangerous, and talked to it as you would a person. And it answered back?"
"Indeed, gracious Captain Chrom. I had merely meant to halt the man, as poaching the unstudied wildlife had been made felonious by your own beloved sister's own ruling. I was merely a servant, acting upon the whims of the fairest lady of Ylisse!"
Chrom stared silently at Virion for a moment. The archer started pulling at his collar nervously until Chrom let out a breath.
"I'm guessing you've brought this... I don't know what to call it, honestly. It's here, in our camp?" Virion nodded.
"Of course! I could not leave the fair creature to the whims of another. It was my duty, as both a nobleman and his savior, to-"
"I get it, Virion. Bring him in."
The archer gave a grand bow, exiting the room in a remarkable less grand fashion. Chrom stood alone, as Frederick was checking on the supply wagon outside of the inn. Again. For the third time that morning. Chrom tried to tell the knight that Stahl could guard the wagon just as well, but that wasn't enough for Frederick. Nothing ever was.
Virion returned in shorter order, followed by a short creature. It's body consisted of two arms, two feet, and a body that also served as it's head. Except for it's face, the entirety of the creature was covered in bright brown fur. A suspiciously unwrinkled blue bandanna sat on it's head.
"Virion, this is what you saved?" Chrom asked incredulously. Virion opened his mouth to speak, but the small creature miraculously managed to speak faster.
"Hi. Are you Chrom? The pretty words man said you could help me," it said in a voice as bright and even fluffy as it was.
"Uh... Yes. I am Chrom. Do you have a name... Actually, no, first off, what are you?" Chrom managed to to get out with a distinct lack of composure. Frederick would have chastised him the his utter lack of grace. The creature didn't seem to mind at all.
"I'm a Waddle Dee," the creature answered quickly, pointing at his head with his fingerless hand before breathlessly continuing, "This bandanna is mine, and it's how I got my name." The creature gave a flourish that almost resembled a bow. "I'm Bandanna Dee, trusted servant of the great King Dedede of Dreamland!"
"Uh huh... All I understood was that you said 'Dee' a lot, and there was something about a king. Are there more of you?" The creature's body flitted up and down much like a nod. After a moment, Chrom took it as such. "Can you tell me where the rest of your kind are?"
"That depends. We need help. Do you have a doctor? Or do you use healers...?" The Waddle Dee trailed off. Chrom nodded.
"We do have a cleric with us. My sister in fact, and I wouldn't trust anyone more if I were hurt in a fight. What do you need her for?"
"Well~... I don't know!" Bandanna Dee said without a hint of shame. "King Dedede didn't tell me."
"So you did say king?" Chrom asked with his eyebrow raised. The creature nodded in enthusiastically response. Every so often, there were common people that took up the title king, but nothing dangerous ever came of it. It was a capital crime to support a false king, punishable by death. Chrom would need to verify that there was indeed an unknown king on Ylissean soil. If this Dedede was taking advantage of these creatures... Human or not, this creature wanted his help, and as it stood on his country's soil, it was a part of the Sheperd's flock. "If I bring my sister with us, will you show us to your camp?" Chrom asked.
The creature rubbed it's head for a moment in thought before nodding.
"So long as you are friends. The man with pretty words saved me from the bad guy, and my king did demand I bring back help, so I can only suppose that you are helpful. So... Okay!" The Waddle Dee practically flew out of the room. Virion and Chrom shared an incredulous look. This day had gotten very weird very fast.
Chrom and a few of the Shepherds followed their unusual guide to where Bandanna Dee said his people and his king await. Chrom, Lissa, Virion and Frederick followed the Waddle Dee. Virion was the Waddle Dee's hero, so he had to come. Frederick followed out of wariness. Even the cutest of foes was still a foe, and his demeanor made him all the better an assassin, if that was what he was.
'Following him is a terrible idea, milord' Frederick had protested. 'He could be leading us into a trap. He or his supposed king could have set this whole farce up, and we'd be walking right into it.'
'If his story checks out, and we did nothing, we could just as well be sentencing an innocent life to die,' Chrom answered. That was the end of that argument.
Lissa followed their guide closely, partly because she found Bandanna Dee 'adorable.' It had to be true, if his sister was admitting that to him. She was also the healer he had said that he needed which gave her a bit more of an excuse.
The rest of the Shepherds were following from a safe distance, and would remain out of sight. Bandanna Dee had told them that they'd know where the camp was when they got close. He refused to elaborate further than that.
The Waddle Dee led the them through a small forest. He hopped over branches and sticks quickly, almost speeding ahead. Somehow, they never lost him. He was always just barely in their sights. As light emerged through the trees and they reached the edge of the forest, Frederick tightened his grip on his lance and rode out first. Chrom emerged next. It became clear quickly that if this were a trap, they were already dead.
In the clearing, hundreds more of the Waddle Dees, just like their guide, wandered and worked. They carried logs and rocks and unrecognizable metals around. They were all moving or performing some task. Clearly their efforts were producing results fast. Their camp was the size of town, with entire log cabins already established throughout. On the opposite end of the camp was a river that flowed straight into the ocean, where Waddle Dees were scooping up water in metal buckets. Near the center of the town was another cabin, taller than the rest.
"Great goddess..." Virion trailed off.
"Chrom," Lissa gaped, "is that...?"
What caught Lissa's eye was the ship. Almost entirely built of steel, it had nothing that Chrom recognized as ship-like. It had no sails. It had no oars. It's front, just barely buried in the coast, was rounded and designed as though it wore a mask. A steel tower, the size of the Royal palace's guard towers, was half submerged beside it. Even Frederick dropped his guard to marvel at the sight. The ocean around it was covered in scraps of metal that Chrom couldn't begin to comprehend.
"I told you that you'd know when we arrived." Bandanna Dee said, his eyes smiling pridefully where his lack-of-mouth could not. Suddenly his eyes widened and he grabbed Lissa by the arm and began to pull her into the camp. "Come on, quickly! The King will be mad if we take too long!"
"Hey!" She yelled, though she didn't fight his pull very hard.
After one last moment of awe, Chrom caught onto what just happened. Chrom wordlessly gave chase through the crowd of Waddle Dees. Curiously, the Waddle Dees cleared the way for him as he passed. They barely even seemed to mind him, though a few did stop and casually wave to him. He turned around to see Frederick and Virion just behind him having just as little trouble navigating the crowd as he was.
The chase ended as Bandanna Dee stopped at the large cabin in the center. When he let go of Lissa and knocked on the cabin door, the entire camp seemed to freeze. Chrom caught up to them as it happened. The onlookers were curious, and from how they looked on... Chrom couldn't read these creatures very well, but he had been in battle enough to recognize fear. Time itself would seem to have stilled, if not for the coastal winds blowing by. There was at last an answer from inside.
"I told you all, don't bother me!" An angry voice yelled from inside the cabin. Chrom reached for Falchion at his side, but a nearby Waddle Dee put his hand on his. He saw that the same gentle deterrence had been given to his Frederick and Virion.
"But Your Greatness, I found the healer you wanted!" Bandanna Dee responded. After a moment, the quiet broke to the ground shaking. The door opened to reveal the Waddle Dee's king.
Chrom immediately noticed that King Dedede was not a Waddle Dee. He wasn't human either. From his beak and blue coloring, he seemed more like a bird than a man, Chrom thought. A regal red coat was draped over his shoulders and a similarly red and gold crown rested on his head. His large belly hid underneath a just as large linen shirt. The light scent of perfume escaped the King's cabin.
"Which one is it?" The penguin king asked softly. Bandanna Dee somehow seemed off put by this response, hesitating a second before pointing at Lissa. "So you can help, then?" Lissa looked back and forth between Frederick, Chrom, and the penguin before she nodded nervously. King Dedede's beak hung open in what almost resembled a smile and he waved her over. She took a single step forward.
"Wait a second," Chrom spoke up. He walked to his nervous sister's side. "If my sister's going in, I'm going in too."
"Eh? And who are you?" The king asked, visibly annoyed. "I only needed a healer."
"I am Chrom, Prince of Ylisse and Captain of the Shepherds. You have landed your ship on our lands without permission and are not here lawfully. Given your... condition, I am willing to let you go, with no imprisonment nor conflict, if you explain what you're doing in my home."
Dedede glared at Chrom. His beak opened to speak when Bandanna Dee nudged him in the side and pointed at Lissa. With clearly frustrated sigh, Dedede spoke again.
"Fine, I'll tell you why I'm here, 'Prince'" the penguin acquiesced, his gloved hands balling into fists, "but first, your sister is going to help me out. Only when I have what I need getting done, I'll tell you everything you need to know. Until then, you wait outside."
Chrom sighed. "I'm coming in too. I will not let you hold my sister hostage."
"Hostage? Why would I do that?" The king said, his voice raising again. Most of the crowd cowered away from him.
"Your Greatness, Chrom is the one who brought a healer here to begin with! We owe him at least that, d-don't we?" Bandanna Dee said, his tiny voice getting shakier as he spoke. Once again, Bandanna Dee's efforts calmed Dedede's temper.
"Fine. Get in here now." Dedede demanded, taking heavy steps back into the cabin. Chrom took a step forward before a hand grabbed his shoulder.
"Milord," Frederick began cautiously, "are you sure this is wise?"
"No. But we've come this far. If we can avoid violence, then it's worth the risk." Chrom pulled out from his deputy's grip and entered the cabin with his sister and the penguin king.