I'm back now! (– looks around –) good, Forde isn't here! I can speak un-insulted! Now then, I was somehow able to do this chapter without my parents knowing, so consider yourselves lucky! Hope you enjoy it!

Here's chapter three! Eirika and Seth will appear again in this one. This is also your first taste of character death, too. If you don't like any characters dying, I'm not forcing you to continue reading this. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

Disclaimer: I don't own Fire Emblem. It belongs to its creators. I only own the horse Risa, and the named bandits, Phil and Dante.

Chapter Three: Alternus Fatum (Alternate Fate)

Franz hung his head miserably as he sat in the guests' bedchambers which had been prepared for him. It was calm peaceful, but… what was peace and comfort for with such uncertainty in his heart. In his mind, he recalled the recent events.

An armour-knight called Gilliam the Silent had led an attack on the fortress, effectively rescuing the Princess Tana of Frelia, who had been captured by Grado's forces when she'd been concerned for Princess Eirika. The war was going smoothly in Frelia; Prince Innes, the tactical commander and heir to the throne of Frelia, was able to keep Grado from gaining the upper hand in the war. Although the country was barely half the size of Grado, the brave soldiers and knights were using all their might to hold back the enemy. Yet, that wasn't why he was uncomfortable.

King Hayden, even after hearing his story, had refused to let him join the army. His homeland had fallen; his future ruler was missing in enemy territory, and the second-in-line to the savaged Renais, along with her loyal knight, was a prisoner of war. All this, and still King Hayden refused to let him go. 'For your brother's sake, young Franz, I refuse to permit it. Let the true soldiers handle the fighting, those who are skilled in fighting. Nor would your Prince, if he survives, want his companion in a rage due to the loss of his younger brother. You are staying here.' And the tone in his voice had made it clear that the discussion was closed.

And so he stayed.

Franz understood the King's concern; he just wished that he could do something! His future liege and brother were risking their lives out in the war zone, and King Hayden expected him to do nothing? It truly was very frustrating.

'Dad, bandits are coming!' shouted a young boy to a large, muscular, black-haired and bearded man. A strong resemblance to the man, the boy, Ross, would immediately be recognized as his son by anyone who looked for a mere few moments at him. They were both armed with axes and their waists, the man with two of iron and steel, the boy with a small hatchet.

'What?' asked the man. 'What did you say, Ross? Bandits? Then come on, we need to get out fast!'

'But Dad!' gasped Ross as his father steered him to the gates of the village of Ide. 'You never run! You're the great warrior Garcia. You can fight!'

'Ross, even the strongest man cannot defeat a band of enemies!' roared Garcia angrily. 'Besides, my first duty as your parent is to defend you, not waste my time fighting nameless scum if unnessecary! GO!'

With no other option before him, Ross finally complied.

As they left the village gates, an axe-wielding brigand, who had made it there, swung with a cruel smirk on his face. Ross nearly screamed as the heavy metal cut through his arm muscle and ligaments. The next moment, Garcia had driven his axe across the man's neck and grabbed his son, pulling him into the thick vegetation where they wouldn't be seen.

'Are you alright Ross?' asked a worried Garcia. 'Your wound looks deep. Damn it! I should've just pulled you out of there without any words! Now you're hurt!'

Ross looked at his father with embarrassment, trying to manage a smile. 'Dad, it's OK. I'm a warrior, like you, to the end. A mere cut will never defeat me!'

'A mere cut? Ross, that axe penetrated your muscle fiber! You left arm will probably pain you for the rest of your life if we don't find a healer, which is very unlikely.'

'At least it wasn't my right, eh?' Ross smiled recklessly. 'I've still got my better arm, right?'

Garcia looked at him sternly. 'Don't joke about this, and stay here. I'm going to fight those bandits. Stay here Ross. If you were to be killed, I could never…' his voice was breaking as he cut off.

Ross wanted to object, to say that he could fight, that he would fight, to the bitter end, but he didn't. The solemn look on his father's face was enough to, for once, silence him. So instead, he simply said, 'I understand, Dad. Be careful.'

With that, the great warrior Garcia left the security of the trees, drawing his two axes.

'Mangy curs!' yelled Garcia, and they turned to him. He kept himself composed as he said, 'Why do you fight and kill those who cannot fight back? If you have the steel, face me, an armed opponent, instead. Or are you so cowardly that you only ever hurt those who cannot hurt you. Come, if you have the courage, and cut me down…if you can!'

Behind the trees, Ross smirked. This was his father's best strategy; frustrate the enemy whenever possible. They would charge into battle blindly, not concentrating at fighting in the least. A thought occurred to him; the very words which his father had spent a long time drilling into him whilst teaching him the ways of the axe: 'Remember, Ross, truly skilled fighters stay calm in battle when lesser men do not. It is not you who is responsible for your enemy attacking blindly because you insulted them; it is theirs, for they foolishly rose to the bait, charging into the fray and to death. Do not forget this, for it may yet help you live longer, if only for a while.'

In reaction to his insults, the bandits said nothing; they simply gave their cries of rage and attacked. Garcia smirked, drew his axe, and entered the battle.

It worked, for a time, just as the famed warrior had planned. Their anger overcoming them more than everything, the brigands charged into the fray blindly, swinging their axes crazily. Garcia swung as each one approached, belly-cutting the first, beheading the second. The next lot ended in similar ways. Two were even foolish enough to attack from either side of him; to this, he simply ducked in the last minute, and the twosome effectively skewered themselves on each other's axes.

It continued like this for most of the battle. Garcia suffered a few cuts, some deep but, if he felt much pain, he was good at it. Ross felt more confident with each bandit who was killed. His only surviving family member was fighting as strong as a steel-hided ox, if such a thing had existed, would. The enemy's numbers were declining, from being over twenty to less than ten. Garcia was a skilled tactician as well as a fighter. Nothing went wrong…

…until he faced off against the last of the outlaws.

'DAD!' cried Ross as the bandit, who seemed to be the leader of the pack, struck the former military commander in the chest. Garcia's eyes widened; he hadn't even had a chance to fully defend himself; his movements had finally become sluggish after facing so many opponents. He could barely hear his son's voice, couldn't make out the word that was said. The only thing he could sense clearly was the triumphant smirk on his opponent's face. One which, he noticed turned into a shocked look at the sound of the young boy's voice. Then darkness claimed him.

Ross couldn't take it; he ran from his hiding place. 'You fiend! How could you kill without any remorse?'

The ragged-looking yet strong man grinned, showing many teeth were missing. 'You wan' to know why, brat? I'll tell you why; it's called survival of the strongest! The weaklin' ones, like them stupid villagers, 're the weak 'uns. So were them fools who were rushin' just 'cause he called 'em cowards. I'm a strong 'un; I survive. Even your old man – that's who 'e is, right? – was weaker 'n me! That's why, boy!'

'You…you're disgusting!' Drawing his hatchet, the boy added, 'I'll fight you myself, finish my dad's job!'

'Tryin' to avenge 'im, eh!'

'He's not dead!' cried Ross, though he knew that his words weren't true.

The man shrugged. 'Believe whatcha will, twerp.' Then, he stepped forward.

For some long moments, neither moved. They watched each other closely. Both boy and bandit were waiting for the other to make the first move; they both knew that the one who reacted to the first would have the advantage. Although both realized that the other had the same strategy as himself, they nonetheless continued to stare each other down, anticipating the first move.

Then, Ross had an idea. It was risky, he knew, but he had to take the chance. In an all-out axe fight, he couldn't possibly best his opponent; the enemy was larger and stronger, and his axe was both bigger and heavier than Ross' hatchet.

He ran forward, the image of his father being struck down constantly replaying itself in his mind. He would grieve later; for now, he would avenge his father.

His opponent smirked; this was what he had been waiting for. He would end the meddlesome brat's life, here and now.

Ross came closer, making sure that his expression did not reveal his strategy. Before he knew it, he was little more than two feet away from the brigand…it was now or never!

The man swung, when Ross suddenly stopped moving. The man's eyes widened; he had not been expecting this. His axe struck the ground hard: 'Wha – Aaargh!' Ross' smaller yet swifter axe was protruding…from his kneecap! Shocked, he stumbled and fell on his back. His axe flew out of his grip; it was the last thing he saw before it fell and, to put it bluntly, sliced his head in half. He was dead. Blood was pouring out of his head and spurting out of his knee.

Ross stared at his handiwork. The plan had worked better than even he'd planned. It seemed that his axe could do wonders when it was least expected to. He walked over and pulled the deeply embedded hatchet from the corpse.

No longer caring about the man he had killed, he rushed over to his father's corpse. Now, certain there wasn't a soul to disturb him, he buried his face in his father's chest and wept.

Hang on a second. Ross stopped. He could feel, in his father's chest, a pulse? He was still alive?

As if reading his son's thoughts, Garcia muttered weakly, 'Don't think I'm…going…to just fall dead because…that rogue cut…me down. He… he is… dead?' He opened his eyes, struggling to see his son one last time

Ross nodded somberly. 'I killed him. He was smarter than the others but only just…oh, Dad!' he gasped, the tears falling freely. 'You…you're going to die, aren't you?' he knew death better than one of his age should. He had lost his mother some time ago. Perhaps he would come to grips with his father's inevitable death quicker than most would, but…

'Yes…I am. And Ross…'he coughed blood up, '…I'm glad that…you've been…grow…growing up so well! Did it… behind my back… you did. You…don't need me anymore. You need…to help protect the remains of our…homeland. Head north and…join the Frelian…army. There…you can make yourself…useful. Fight Grado… with all your …' He never finished his last sentence. His eyes snapped shut, his breathing stopped, and his body fell, limb. Garcia, the feared former military leader of Renais, beloved husband and father (well, maybe not so much 'husband' as 'father'), had fallen.

Ross sobbed quietly, until he could not do so anymore. His father… was gone. He didn't want to believe it. It had been easier to deny before his father had drawn his last breath, because he could still have some hope then, but now… he needed to come to terms with his father's death. His manhood, after all, was but a few years away. Picking up his axe, he made his decision.

'I will go to Frelia, just as you requested, father,' he said softly. 'I'll make you proud.' Yet he couldn't help but wonder, looking at his father's body: why?

A few hours later, Ross had gathered supplies from the remains, preparing himself for his journey. The people of Ide really did keep some of their most important things hidden in secret cellars, and his father had not been an exception. He had also buried the man, firmly embedding the warrior's two trusted axes on top of the grave. May they remain there forever, he thought fiercely. May they remain here, so that my father's bravery is never forgotten through the years!

It was fortunate that he had found a stray horse, grazing in the fields nearby. The creature was a fine beauty; a white mare whom he'd named Risa (after his mother). She didn't seem to mind him, and so Ross, took his time making a saddle the way James Tanner, a villager he had known in Ide, had shown him.

Once he was done, he mounted Risa and said softly, 'Well girl, it's just you and me now.' Not very experienced with riding horses, he departed the Ide region with a steady trot in his mount's pace.

Eirika had long given up hope of rescue by anyone. For a while now, she and Seth had resided in a Grado prison cell, deep below Grado Keep. Their meals had been brought by servants who didn't speak to them; only shot them frightened glances and scurried away like mice.

Eirika looked at her plate in disdain. The stale bread and water wasn't nearly enough to satisfy her ravenous hunger, and it tasted horrible, but she ate it nonetheless. It was all they had, even though it hurt to even swallow.

'Are you alright, Princess?' asked the Silver Knight who, though not chained to the wall, was in a separate cell, his movement limited.

'I think so, Seth,' she lied over the metal bars sadly. She had never felt so miserable in her whole life. They had been unable to even see each other since the Moonstone had brought them here.

Speaking of the devil…

'If you're asleep, slaves, then get up! I'll not wait all day, nay! Raise those bodies now!'

Eirika rose to look into the eyes of her captor. Five minutes riding in his company was enough for Eirika to feel… She had never thought that she could ever hate another human being as much as she loathed Valter. When they had reached Grado, he had blatantly refused to have a healer mend Seth's broken bones and torn muscles. Instead, he had simply presented them to Emperor Vigarde, who, without another word, had ordered that they be imprisoned for however long necessary, and that had been that. Valter had simply smirked and complied.

Now, however, his mouth was curled into a snarl. What now? Thought the Renaitian princess. Has Emperor Vigarde finally decided to execute us? It wouldn't surprise her if he had. After all, he seemed to have suddenly become a heartless ruler overnight.

'You have a visitor. Two, actually. A cleric from the Grado Temple, and a… wyvern rider. A rider with brown skin and light-blond hair.' As he spoke, his voice revealed his obvious disgust for the rider.

However, Eirika barely noticed this, as she had frozen from the description of the wyvern knight. Then, she suddenly felt giddy inside. She knew naught of a cleric from the temple, but had met a man just like the description which Valter had given, albeit only once.

The Sunstone of Grado: General Glen, Commander of the wyvern knights of Grado.

Or at least, former Commander of the flying unit. Perhaps he had been stripped of his title, and that was why Valter was a general in the army.

'Have fun,' said Valter, scowling as he turned to leave.

Two figures approached from the shadows. One of them looked to be whispering something. Suddenly, in a bright flash of light (during which Eirika shielded her eyes), the figures were revealed. But Glen wasn't among them.

Indeed, there was a wyvern knight who seemed to bear a striking resemblance to the Wyvern General, but he looked younger, sharper, and his left cheek bore a scar upon it. His armour, contrary to Glen's, was dark blue instead of dark red.

The other was a young woman dressed all in white. For a common-born girl, she was quite the beauty. Her face, framed by her long golden locks, had a stern, non-joking expression on it. Eirika knew she may have seen her sometime, perhaps when learning history under Father MacGregor, but it was very unlikely that they'd ever met.

The two approached. 'You are Princess Eirika of Renais and General Seth, the Silver Lance,' the man was not asking a question, but making a statement.

Seth, however, wasn't about to let himself be fooled, after Grado's treachery. He didn't even look at the now visible Eirika asked, 'What does it matter to you? Who are you? You're executioners, aren't you?' His voice turned very bitter. 'Come to end the trouble we're causing your wonderful Emperor, eh?' His voice was little more than a croak, but it made an effect: the cleric backed away, and the wyvern knight took a step forward bravely.

'What gives you the impression,' he hissed, 'That a cleric would be sent to execute you. No, don't start about disguises. We're not here to end your lives; we're here to interrogate you.' He turned to the princess. 'The princess, especially, needs to answer my questions. I must tell the generals…that is, whichever of them will listen to reason to me.'

He seemed somewhat confident. Eirika asked, 'Do you have permission to do such a thing as see the generals in such a time?'

'Aye,' he said softly. 'My name is Cormag. General Glen, the Sunstone, is my elder brother. Certainly a man has permission to see his own brethren whenever he pleases.'

Brother? Thought Eirika with surprise. No wonder they look so alike; they're related.

Seth spoke up, this time in a gentler tone. 'Yes, I've heard tell of how the two of you are said to be an unmatchable fighting force. Stories of your successful ventures have reached even the ears of the Knights of Renais. Who might your companion, this cleric, be?'

The priestess regained her composure. 'I'm Natasha, a servant of the people at Grado's Temple. I've come here to speak to you; I have important information to reveal to you. I met Cormag whilst I was coming here.'

'Let's hear it, then,' said Cormag, seating himself on the floor. 'You didn't tell me before, Natasha; you said it was confidential.'

'It is,' she murmured.

'But what if Valter is listening in on it?' asked Eirika worriedly.

'Valter? Oh, you mean General Valter Moonstone! Wait – what is that?' She gasped. Eirika shrieked as well.

Seth had pulled his armour off, tearing his right shirt sleeve, to reveal the place upon which Valter had penetrated him with his lance. It was starting to rot, or something. Finally, he told her coldly, 'your brilliant general did this to me the day he captured her Highness and myself. He refused to let any healers come and tend to it.

'Oh my!' breathed Natasha. 'I'm so sorry! I knew the general was an unkind man, but I didn't think – please, let me help you!'

'You can heal it?' asked Eirika, and the cleric bit her lip.

'Not yet,' was the solemn reply. 'I thought not that there would be such a necessity as a healing staff; I only brought my torch staff. But I've a few vulneraries in my possession. Here.' The priestess reached into her garments and pulled out a corked wooden bottle, as well as some bandages. She began tending to Seth.

Suddenly, she had gone from being a slightly shy girl to a confident woman with a motherly look. Natasha wiped the wound clean, ordering Seth to stay still. She gave him the vulnerary to drink and didn't back away until he'd drunken it all. Eirika watched, and would have giggled had the situation not been so dire. Cormag, even, had an amused look in his eyes and a faint smile on his face.

When she'd finished, she finally answered the question, 'It wouldn't matter. General Valter – oh, all right, Sir Seth! Valter already knows of what I am about to disclose upon you, so it shan't do him any good in the least to eavesdrop.

'You see, my mentor - a member of the clergy and a friend of Father MacGregor's - was executed recently! The Emperor claims that he was a traitor, but Father Clyde had done no such thing. He had been executed to be kept silent – about his discovery. One that could turn Grado upside down.' She paused and took a breath. 'The Emperor plans to destroy the Sacred Stones.'

'Colm!' called the young, violet-haired girl into the mountains. 'Colm! Please, stop this! The mirror doesn't matter as much as your safety!'

There was no answer.

'Please,' she sobbed quietly. 'Please, Colm. I know you want to help me and to prove yourself, but… I love you. I don't want you to die.'

'Well, well,' sneered a nasty voice which made her jump. 'What do we have here? A peasant girl – not bad lookin', little lady.

Neimi turned to look at him, terrified. She drew her bow and notched an . 'Don't… don't come any closer, or I'll -'

'Shoot me?' asked another mean voice behind her, eyebrows raised. 'Hah! Brave words, comin' from a wench like you! Now, why don't you just drop the bow and come with me. You'll make a fine bride, you know.'

'No fair, Phil!' snapped the first man at his friend. 'I saw her first, I call her first!'

'But you don't deserve her, Dante,' added a third voice. From behind the rocks stepped a third bandit, more arrogant than the first two. 'I do.'

'Nor do you,' within the next minute, Neimi was completely surrounded by about a dozen or so arguing brigands. So she took her chance; she raised her bow again and shot the blond-haired man called Phil, directly in the eye. This got their attention. Some were looking at her hungrily, others fearfully, some angrily. But none made a move.

Finally,the third bandit who'd originally appeared took the initiative. 'She can fight! By the Gods, she fights! Guys, just kill 'er and take 'er possessions. She ain't any other use to us; she'll just cause more trouble. Sides, Bazba's expectin' us!'

There was no need for any other words. Despite her trembling, Neimi notched her next arrow and fired it at the green-haired 'leader' who'd given the orders. He fell with a thud, his chest struck. Enraged, the others charged at her to avenge their fallen comrade. Neimi ran back. Then she spun around, her short violet hair flying in the air as she notched another arrow and released it into the next bandit… hitting the one thing which men treasure the most. He dropped, his face convulsing in the worst pain imaginable

Her grandfather had taught her well. It seemed that her archery skills were a hereditary part of her. Unfortunately she was outnumbered, and only four more brigands did she fell. They were upon her, like fleas upon a dog.

'Get her!' commanded Dante. 'Tear her apart!'

'No!' screamed Neimi. But she knew it was futile. They had cornered her against a rock. And they attacked ruthlessly, swinging their axes.

Moments later did they break apart. Lying between the place upon whence they had stood was Neimi. Her bow – her grandfather's bow! – was broken in half. An axe was embedded in her side. The brigands, chuckling cruelly, left her there, the little money she had – pilfered.

Weakly, Neimi opened her mouth to speak, 'I…I'm sorry, Colm. It…looks like…you're the … only … survivor … of … Lar-'

Her eyes slid shut, and the last breath left her body. She was gone.

When Colm found her corpse later on, he could do nothing more than weep.

T.B.C.

Caellach Tiger Eye: So sad. I'm sorry, but it needs to be like this for a while. So, did you enjoy it? Hey! Wait a minute; why am I titled!

Kyle: Because I'm here.

Caellach Tiger Eye: Whoa! Where'd you come from?

Kyle: The door in your room, where else. Now listen, Franz still hasn't found Forde, but if he does, the cavalier will be out for your blood.

Caellach Tiger Eye: What! I thought I told you to watch that place!

Kyle: I did, but Franz came skipping by (shudders) and asked if I knew where his brother is. I was only just able to mislead him when Forde called him from behind the door, demanding freedom. But he'll be back, so you'd better hide. Franz is harmless, but Forde's lost an arm and he's, well, you know…

Caellach Tiger Eye: (gulps, nods and meekly speaks) Read & Review.