Stormblood Text 8: The Peaks

[Lyse narrates: “I remember how they laughed. Alliance and Resistance soldiers, eager for battle, trading jokes as we marched east towards the Peaks….Beyond this last line of defenses lay the Lochs and the city. Breaching it would be no small feat. But we beat the Imperials back, just like that, and we liberated a village. The first of many…”]

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M’naago: As you can see, this part of the Peaks is much higher than the northern reaches, hence why the imperials built Specula Imperatoris where they did.

[Ed Note:  Specula Imperatoris can be roughly translated as “The Imperial Watchtower.”]

M’naago: See those three towers to the east? That’s her. Sits right on the edge of a cliff, so attacking from the north is a fool’s errand. From the south, on the other hand, she’s no different from any other imperial installation.

M’naago: You see now why Velodyna was so important, eh? Right, then. Come along─they’re waiting for us in Ala Ghiri.

[Ala Ghiri]

M’naago: Here we are. The new base of operations for the Alliance and the Resistance!

Raubahn: Ah, there you are!

Alphinaud: Greetings, General. I see you have been quite busy in our absence.

Raubahn: Less than you may imagine. The imperials fled at our coming, and we took the village without a fight.

Raubahn: Your timing is impeccable. We were about to discuss our strategy to seize Specula Imperatoris.

Alphinaud: Though we are fresh from the road, we should be glad to attend.

Raubahn: Good. Take a moment to gather yourselves, and join us when you are ready.

M’naago: Well, you heard the Flame General. Looks like we’ve got a meeting to attend!

Raubahn: That everyone? Then let us begin.

Raubahn: Ala Ghiri is ours, and for a mercy we took it without losing a single man. But we dare not grow complacent─Specula Imperatoris will not be so easily won.

Alphinaud: If I may, General─should we not pause to consider the imperials’ motivations? For Zenos to surrender a fortified settlement of strategic importance without so much as firing a shot is…inexplicable.

Raubahn: We searched the village and found no traps or other signs of sabotage. Suspicious though it may be, I will not refuse this gift from our enemy.

Raubahn: The path to Ala Mhigo is through the east─through Specula Imperatoris, and Castrum Abania. It bears repeating, however, that the latter is home to a massive cannon with unparalleled range and destructive power.

Pipin: Which means that we will need to strike Specula Imperatoris quickly, both to limit their ability to locate our forces in the field, and to utilize the installation as a shield against attack, as they would doubtless not risk damaging the towers.

Alphinaud: I see… Then we have no choice but to accept what we have been given.

Conrad: Aye, that’s the way of it. I’ve no doubt that Zenos has got something planned, but we’ll just have to deal with it when the time comes.

Raubahn: To the assault, then. The main host will commence a direct assault on Specula Imperatoris. During this time, I would hold the Scions in reserve at Ala Ghiri to deal with any imperial forces that may be dispatched in response.

Alphinaud: Understood.

Lyse: Wait a minute! We should be fighting with you and the Resistance!

Lyse: I understand you don’t want to rely too much on Auric after what he’s been through, but at least let the rest of us do our part!

[“…Don’t do anything too reckless, all right?”]

Lyse: I won’t. I promise I’ll do what Conrad says.

Alphinaud: …Mayhap it would be best if I accompanied you. Alisaie can stay with Auric.

Alisaie: Oh, go if you must. The two of us can take care of ourselves.

Raubahn: You have your orders. Dismissed!

[Meanwhile, deep within the Imperial Research Facility]

[Imperial scientists seal Krile in a suspension chamber of some sort, while Fordola lies disrobed on a table nearby.]

Fordola: My…my head…

Zenos Yae Galvus: Let us see…

Zenos Yae Galvus: So…she lives. Impressive…or merely lucky. Though that too may prove a useful trait.

Fordola: My lord…what have you done to me…?

[The academic-looking Hyuran man with the fancy glasses is here. It is indeed the aforementioned “Lord Aulus.”]

Aulus mal Asina: Though we Garleans are intellectually and physiologically superior in almost all respects, we lack the hereditary traits required for the reliable manipulation of aether─hence our unique inability to wield magicks.

Aulus mal Asina: This deficiency, for want of a better word, saw us subjected to decades of oppression by the lesser races, and we were eventually driven to seek shelter in the cold northern reaches of Ilsabard.

Aulus mal Asina: Fortunately, said region was replete with vast deposits of ceruleum, which proved instrumental in the development of magitek:  a revolutionary technology conceived to compensate for our disadvantage.

Aulus mal Asina: It was with magitek that we grew strong─that our nation became an empire. Yet ultimately, this was an extrinsic solution to an intrinsic problem. What I wanted was not a crude device to be used in lieu of magic.

Aulus mal Asina: Through modification of the Garlean genome, I argued that it might be possible to enhance a subject’s ability to manipulate aether, effectively empowering them to wield magicks. Alas, my theories were met with consternation in the imperial court. Only Lord Zenos, with commendable foresight and wisdom, deigned to support my research.

Fordola: …You gave me this treatment? But I’m not Garlean.

Zenos Yae Galvus: Ala Mhigan, through and through.

Zenos Yae Galvus: What you have been granted is far greater than mere magic. Before that lesser light, it is as a second sun.

Aulus mal Asina: I am informed that Ala Ghiri was recently occupied by the Resistance, and that an attack on Specula Imperatoris is considered imminent. This could provide an ideal opportunity to test her performance in the field.

Zenos Yae Galvus: Your…Skulls, was it? They have joined the garrison at the watchtower?

Fordola: …Yes, my lord. By your leave, I would rendezvous with them and lead a counterattack against the insurgents.

Zenos Yae Galvus: No. Even were you to leave now, you would not arrive in time.There is another duty I would entrust to you…

[Up above, on a second level of the room, a lone figure spies on the proceedings.]

Thancred: …Found you.

[Back in Ala Ghiri]

Alisaie: So full of fire and eager, weren’t they? Well, I wouldn’t worry too much. They’re strong and they have each other.

Alisaie: At least he spared me the trouble of having to speak up. I wasn’t about to let Lyse go alone…

Alisaie: We have a fair bit of ground to cover, so we should split up. If you come across any imperial soldiers, you know what to do.

Alisaie: Oh, and so you know─I sent word to Arenvald’s squadron. They are already searching other nearby areas, so we have allies in the event we encounter anything beyond our means.

[We chase a few Imperials out of hiding.]

Alisaie: Ah, give me a moment, Auric.

[Alisaie is on the linkpearl.]

Alisaie: Say that again, if you would….Hmm. No, maintain your distance for now.

Alisaie: …Understood. Keep me apprised of any developments.

Alisaie: That was Arenvald. The pair that was spying on us in the Fringes has followed us here…

Alisaie: What about you, Auric? Any trouble?

Alisaie: …And there I was thinking we might be due for some peace and quiet. Glad to hear you dealt with them.

Alisaie: I hope the assault on Specula Imperatoris is going well…

[At Specula Imperatoris, Raubahn and Pipin are in the middle of combat with the Imperial forces.]

Raubahn: Ho! You’ve improved, lad!

Pipin: Come now, Father. You lured the fool onto my blade, and do not try to deny it!

Raubahn: Our work here is all but done. What of Conrad and his men?

Pipin: They are for the main tower. The Skulls have offered fierce resistance thus far, but Conrad seems to believe he can convince them to lay down their arms…

Raubahn: Then we will tend to the stragglers down below. With me!

[At Castrum Abania]

[An Imperial soldier mans a bank of consoles. Fordola walks into the room.]

Fordola: Report.

Imperial Centurion: Enemy forces have overrun the lower facilities, and appear to be mounting an assault on the main tower. We have already received a request for reinforcements.

Imperial Centurion: A unit of legionaries has been mustered and is ready to depart. They await your orders, Commander.

Fordola: Stand down.

Imperial Centurion: Commander?

Fordola: Tell them to stand down.

Imperial Centurion: Commander, if I may! Our people─your people are still in there! They will be slaughtered!

Fordola: You think I don’t know that!? I want nothing more than to help them─to lead the bloody charge─but I have my orders!

Fordola: Lord Zenos said no reinforcements. He would have us use the main cannon to destroy the installation.

Imperial Centurion: What…kill our own soldiers!? You must be mistaken!

Fordola: Mayhap you’d like to ask Lord Zenos yourself?

Fordola: I thought not. Initiate the firing sequence.

Fordola: Wars are won on the backs of the dead. Theirs and ours. There is no truth but this. We must remain firm and resolute, and always, always do our duty. Now, give the order!

Imperial Centurion: Initiate firing sequence!

Imperial Elite: Aye, aye, initiating firing sequence! Release safety locks…deploy main cannon!

Fordola: Ansfrid, Hrudolf, Emelin…For us. For our people. For our future.

Imperial Centurion: I need you to confirm the target, Commander.

Fordola: Specula Imperatoris, main tower. Fire when ready.

[Fordola grimaces and puts a hand to her head.]

[The huge cannon is aimed and fired at the Imperial watchtower, striking a dead hit. There is a huge explosion.]

[Inside, Raubahn looks up as the watchtower begins to shake violently and rubble starts to fall.]

Raubahn: What in the seven hells!?

Pipin: Long-range artillery?

Raubahn: Those treacherous bastards… Their people were still fighting! Full retreat, now! Relay the orders!

Pipin: Understood!

Pipin: All forces, retreat! I repeat:  all forces, retreat!

[The Alliance forces begin to flee from the badly damaged tower.]

[Near Ala Ghiri]

Alisaie: By the Twelve, did you see that!? The main tower just collapsed!

Alisaie: You heard it too, didn’t you? It must have been the cannon at Castrum Abania. But that was an imperial installation, and their troops were still─

Alisaie: Dammit, no one’s responding! I don’t know if the shell is being jammed or…

Alisaie: We have to go right now! They need our help!

Alisaie: This way! There’s no time to lose!

[Alisaie takes off toward the watchtower, the Warrior of Light close behind. She stops at the gate.]

Alisaie: It’s worse than it looks─ H-He probably wasn’t even─ Pull yourself together. The gate. This is our way inside.

Alisaie: We need to find my brother. Right…now.

[We find Raubahn]

Raubahn: I’m glad you’re here, Lieutenant. In case it isn’t obvious, the imperials fired on us. On Specula Imperatoris.

Raubahn: I didn’t think they had it in them. To kill their own men just to kill us! Gods damn them all!

Alisaie: Where is my brother? Tell me where he is! I want to see him!

Pipin: He was in the tower when it was struck. But that need not mean anything. Our forces are still evacuating, and many remain unaccounted for.

 Raubahn: Alisaie? Alisaie, listen:  there are soldiers wounded and dying all around us─soldiers with families, just like you and me. They need our help. Do you understand?

Alisaie: …He’s right. I’ll take the north, you take the east.

[We assist the wounded.]

Wounded Serpent Soldier: Thank you. I think…I think I can manage on my own…

Wounded Flame Soldier: For a moment there, I thought I was bound for Thal’s great hall. Ye gods, what were the imperials thinking…

Wounded Storm Soldier: Just…give me a moment to let the world stop spinning, would you? …There. Ala Ghiri’s not far. I’ll make it. I’ll make it…

Wounded Temple Knight: Ugh… Everything hurts. I think I was struck by debris from the tower…

Wounded Temple Knight: Wait, I know you! Auric Seagard! Ward of House Fortemps!

Wounded Temple Knight: We fought together on the Steps of Faith. You saved my life back then…and now…

Wounded Temple Knight: I can walk. Thank you. A thousand times, thank you…

[There’s a shout. The Warrior of Light turns to look.]

Lyse: Conrad! Conrad, can you hear me!? Naago, put him down over there!

Lyse: Conrad! Conrad! Speak to me!

Alphinaud: It…it was all so sudden. Conrad had just convinced the last few Skulls to surrender, when…when we heard the bang, and…and everything started to shake…

Alphinaud: We carried the survivors to safety, but Conrad is… We have done what we can for him. All that remains is to pray.

Conrad: Ugh…

Lyse: Conrad!?

Conrad: Is…is that you, Lyse? Can’t…can’t see a damn thing…

Conrad: Well, that’s that, then. Time’s up.

Lyse: What are you talking about!? You’ll be on your feet before you know it!

Conrad: It’s all right, Lyse. I’ve lived long enough. But listen… I want…I want you to lead the Resistance in my stead.

Lyse: Don’t say another word! You’ll recover─we’ll recover! We’ll bring freedom to Ala Mhigo together! We’re not going to stop here!

Conrad: No…no, you won’t. Everything we’ve built, everyone we’ve brought together…I know you’ll show them the way…

Conrad: You’ve got it in you, Lyse. Not because you’re Curtis’s daughter, or Yda’s sister, but because…because you’re you. Because you’re you…

Lyse: Conrad…

Conrad: Lead them to victory. To freedom.

[Lyse is sobbing.]

Lyse: I will, Conrad. I will. I promise.

[Meanwhile, in the chaos of Castrum Abania]

Imperial Tribunus Militum: Next round! Double the charge!

[On a tower high above, Estinien looks down at the scene. His lance glows an unearthly blood red.]

Estinien: Come, Nidhogg. We are needed.

[The Crimson Dragoon leaps high and dives into the heart of the Castrum. There is a large explosion.]

Imperial Elite: That’s the ceruleum pipeline!

[Estinien stands on the parapet, fully visible.]

Imperial Tribunus Militum: Impossible! How can one man─ Shoot the bastard! Shoot him!

[The Imperials attempt to shoot the bastard. It doesn’t work.]

Estinien: Heh. My lance has slain far greater beasts.

Estinien: …You’re welcome, boy.

[He leaps away.]

Imperial Tribunus Militum: Notify all units─I want that intruder found! And get the engineers to fix my bloody cannon!

Imperial Tribunus Militum: The savages are coming!

[In Specula Imperatoris]

Alphinaud: We could have killed them. We could have walked away…

Alphinaud: But instead we tried to convince them to lay down their arms. We tried to seek a peaceful resolution.

Alphinaud: We showed them mercy, and this was their response. Fire and blood! This was their answer!

Alphinaud: Such crimes cannot go unpunished. They must not! Gods as my witness, there will be a reckoning!

Alphinaud: …Forgive me. Now is not the time for vows of vengeance. We must remain calm and rational and in control.

Alphinaud: The imperials have demonstrated a willingness to fire on their own. So long as we remain here, we are in danger.

Alphinaud: We three will see to Commander Kemp’s body. Find my sister and return to Ala Ghiri.

[Alisaie is nearby helping the wounded.]

Alisaie: There, that should suffice for now. Go on and join the others.

Alisaie: …Tell me you’ve found Alphinaud. Tell me he is all right.

[I found Alphinaud and he’s all right.]

Alisaie: Oh, thank the Twelve! I don’t know what I would have done… Though, saying that, what will the Resistance do without Commander Kemp?

Alisaie: Sorry─not here, not now. We should return to Ala Ghiri. Keep an eye out for any wounded who need our help on the way.

[On the way back to Ala Ghiri]

Wounded Imperial: <pant> <pant> …It wasn’t long ago I was trying to kill you and yours. I half expected you were about to slit my throat.

Wounded Imperial: To hells with this. I should be back home in Ilsabard, instead of taking fire from my so-called comrades.

Wounded Resistance Fighter: …Thanks, friend. Bloody tourniquet came loose and I was having trouble getting it back on. I should be fine the rest of the way.

Wounded Resistance Fighter: Oh, oh, bless you, kind─ Wait, is that you, Auric?

Wounded Resistance Fighter: I didn’t recognize you at first. Been feeling a bit dizzy. Must’ve lost a lot of blood. I…I can keep going. I can keep going…

[In Ala Ghiri]

Alphinaud: Auric. We have given over Commander Kemp’s remains for safekeeping. Later─I have no idea when─rites must needs be performed…

Alphinaud: For now, however, we must carry on. We must press forward. We must not give in to despair…

Alphinaud: All Alliance and Resistance units have now withdrawn from Specula Imperatoris. It is time we spoke with General Aldynn.

[We find Raubahn]

Raubahn: …These deaths weigh heavy on my soul. Commander Kemp’s most of all.

Raubahn: He was a wise leader. He was a patriot. But above all else, he was a good man who will be sorely missed. One of many lost this day. I ask for a moment’s silence to pray for the souls of the departed.

Raubahn: We have suffered a grievous defeat. But we can not and will not renounce this cause. The die has been cast.

Raubahn: Hold tight to this grief, this anger, and let it drive you forward. Let it be your strength and your shield when next you face the enemy.

Alphinaud: It will carry us far, General. Of that I have no doubt.

Alphinaud: Ere we take another step towards Ala Mhigo, however, we must first address the question of how to deal with Castrum Abania’s cannon. If the imperials are willing to employ the weapon without thought for their own soldiers’ safety, we may struggle to approach them.

Alisaie: A frontal assault is out of the question. We’d lose countless men before we even reached the walls.

Pipin: Would we? Recall that the imperials could have obliterated our forces had they kept firing, but neglected to do so.

Pipin: They had no strategic reason to cease fire, which begs the question:  why did they?

Alphinaud: …You suspect they were unable to fire the cannon again. Mayhap due to a malfunction?

Pipin: Or one of their officers found his conscience after the first barrage. Or a heretofore unknown Resistance faction chose that moment to disable it.

Pipin: There are many possibilities, but the fact remains that they stopped when logic dictated they continue.

Lyse: Then I’ll just have to go and see for myself if the cannon is still operational.

M’naago: Are you mad? Conrad put you in charge of the Resistance! We can’t risk losing another commander so soon!

Lyse: I know how you feel, Naago, I do. But I need you to understand…

Lyse: It wasn’t long after Papalymo and I arrived at Rhalgr’s Reach that Conrad first asked me to join the Resistance. And then he kept on asking.

Lyse: Every time I said no, I told myself it was because of the Scions. But even then, I knew deep down that it was an excuse. That I was still afraid of following my heart, because I couldn’t be sure if it was for me or for Yda.

Lyse: But then I met someone, on the other side of the world, who had struggled with the same worries. And as we traveled and fought together I saw him grow and become the leader his people needed him to be.

Lyse: And now it’s my turn to do the same.

Lyse: There’s not a lot of us left, and of the ones that are, many are still wounded. We have to make do with what we’ve got, and I’m the best-qualified. It’s as simple as that. But don’t worry, Naago. I’ll come back. I promise.

Raubahn: While I acknowledge Commander Hext’s right to carry out this mission, I see no reason why she should do so alone. Lieutenant, would you go with her?

[“Would’ve done it even if you hadn’t asked, sir.”]

Raubahn: Then it is settled. We will await your return.

Lyse: …Sorry to drag you into this, Auric.

Lyse: It may not be the decision Conrad would’ve made…but I’m not Conrad. I never will be. I don’t know what kind of leader he was hoping for, but right now, all I can do is be myself…

Lyse: If you don’t mind, I’d rather not wait around and have people try to talk me out of it. Let’s get moving. I know a good vantage point overlooking the castrum.

Lyse: Nyunkrepf’s Hope─the ship stranded on the rocks to the east of here. It shouldn’t take us long to get there. Oh, but there might be some ancient golems guarding it. Or that might just be an old wives’ tale. Either way, it’s worth the risk.

M’naago: Lyse…Commander…I pray you proceed with all due caution. Do not hesitate to call upon us if needed.

Lyse: To reach the ship, we’ll have to scale the cliff face. I’ll get some climbing gear and meet you there, all right?

[Out at the cliff, there’s a brief scuffle with a stone golem. Lyse then runs up.]

Lyse: Sorry to keep you waiting! I see you’ve met the golems. Looks like the old stories were true, eh? In a way, I’m glad…

Lyse: Right, then. Time to climb!

[We climb.]

Lyse: <pant> <pant> Whew! That took a bit more out of me than I expected…

Lyse: And here she is. Nyunkrepf’s Hope. The ark that one man made to save countless others from the flood during the Sixth Umbral Era.

Lyse: It’s comforting to think that there have always been people who cared this much about their fellow man─who accomplished such great feats that people couldn’t help thinking they must be made up. But the proof’s right here, isn’t it?

Lyse: I don’t just mean the ship, you know. I mean you. Long before anyone started calling you a hero, you were there for those in need. You did things for people when you didn’t have to─sometimes even when they didn’t want you to.

Lyse: It can’t have been easy, staying true to yourself. But we’re all better for it. Me included.

Lyse: I’ll never be a leader like Conrad. Or Hien. Or my father…

Lyse: But I can be a friend to you all, and I can fight by your side.

Lyse: I can be me…and that’ll just have to be enough, eh?

Lyse: Easier down than up, eh? Though not necessarily safer…

Lyse: Anyway, no time to rest! We need to convince the others to strike now, before the imperials have time to fix their cannon.

Lyse: There’s no time to lose, Auric! General Aldynn needs to know what we saw!

[Back to Ala Ghiri]

Raubahn: You are returned. I only hope you bring good news.

Lyse: We scaled the cliffs of Nyunkrepf’s Hope and spied smoke rising from Castrum Abania’s main cannon.

Lyse: I think Marshal Tarupin’s right─they didn’t fire again because they couldn’t. The cannon seems to have been disabled somehow.

Alphinaud: Then we must attack Castrum Abania at once!

Raubahn: Hm. It could still be a trick. But if it isn’t, we may not get a better opportunity.

Alphinaud: Bluntly, General, if it is a trick, it is an utterly baffling stratagem. Had the imperials wished to wipe us out, they could simply have kept firing.

Pipin: Be that as it may, we need not risk everything to seize it. I say we dispatch a small contingent to infiltrate the castrum and secure control of the weapon.

Pipin: If the enemy is preoccupied with repairs, we may be able to take them unawares. If, on the other hand, it is indeed a trick, our token force will prove an elusive target─and we will at least know the cannon is operational.

Alphinaud: Either way, it seems well worth the risk. But how are we to infiltrate the castrum?

Pipin: …In anticipation of a day such as this, men and women under my command have labored long to cultivate a network of informants throughout Gyr Abania─including Radiata.

Pipin: Radiata is home to many who hold menial positions at Castrum Abania and other nearby installations. With the aid of our allies there, I believe we can secure a route into the fortress.

Lyse: The Resistance will handle this. You may have recruited these informants, but they’ll be just as happy working with fellow Ala Mhigans. And at the end of the day, it’s our land─our responsibility. Let us do right by Conrad.

Alphinaud: I should be glad to accompany her, General─as would Alisaie and Auric, I am sure.

Raubahn: Well then. If you are all in agreement, I see no reason to refuse you.

Raubahn: We will make ready to march on Castrum Abania. Go, and may Rhalgr watch over and keep you.

Alphinaud: My apologies for speaking on your behalf. It would seem my sister’s forthright manner is rubbing off on me… I confess, my decision to volunteer was not wholly motived by concern for Lyse, nor less Ala Mhigo.

Alphinaud: …Castrum Abania is the largest imperial facility in the Peaks, you see, and so the likelihood that Krile is being held captive there is quite high…

Alphinaud: Dealing with that cannon remains our main objective, of course, but if there is even a chance that Krile might be rescued in the process, I would never forgive myself if I did not take it.

Alphinaud: So, to review: we are to travel to Radiata, where we will meet with a contact recruited by Marshal Tarupin’s agents.

Alphinaud: I took the liberty of reviewing intelligence reports while Auric and Lyse were away, so the settlement is not wholly unfamiliar to me…

Alphinaud: As the vice marshal indicated, the vast majority of the populace is employed as menial labor in either Specula Imperatoris or Castrum Abania. Perhaps as a result of this, the Resistance has long struggled to make inroads there.

M’naago: Aye, you have the right of it. They got a better deal than most Ala Mhigans─feeding off what scraps the imperials gave ’em. Damned if I know how Marshal Tarupin’s agents got one of them to turn his coat.

Alphinaud: I understand your disdain, I do. But I also understand their desire to look after their families by any means necessary…

Alphinaud: Our contact is a Roegadyn woman. She will ask us a question. After we answer with “courage,” she will know us as friends.

Lyse: “Courage.“ Right. Put together a squadron, Naago. We’ll need them soon.

Alphinaud: With me, my friends─and be ready for anything.

[At the ruined Specula Imperatoris]

[We have some skirmishes with Imperials on our way to Radiata.]

Alphinaud: Of course there were still soldiers lurking about… Fortunately, they were no match for Lyse. Come─Radiata is not much further.

Alphinaud: Of course, in light of our recent encounter, it would be prudent to proceed with caution and remain vigilant for imperial forces…

[On the outskirts of Radiata]

Lyse: Looks like it’s safe to enter. I don’t see any imperials…

Lyse: Hmm… I don’t see smoke above Castrum Abania anymore. Do you think they fixed the cannon already…?

Young Hellsguard: …Ain’t seen you around before. Takes a certain kind of man to walk into a place like this uninvited.

[“One with courage.”]

Young Hellsguard: …Courage, you say? Well, that’s in short supply these days. Better to keep your head down and go along to survive.

Young Hellsguard: Call me a coward too, if you like, ’cause I’ll not speak on it more─at least not here.

Young Hellsguard: Outside Radiata, behind those barricades over yonder, on the other hand…

Lyse: Hey. Was that who I think it was?

Young Hellsguard: Not followed, were you? Good.

[Lyse and the twins join us.]

Alphinaud: We are the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. Friends of Marshal Tarupin.

Stark Woad: Name’s Stark. Stark Woad. The rest you know, or we wouldn’t be here.

Stark Woad: This is about Specula Imperatoris and the cannon, isn’t it?

Alphinaud: Just so. Can you tell us what happened?

Stark Woad: Aye. I overheard soldiers talking while working in the mess. The ceruleum pipeline fueling the cannon was destroyed by an unidentified male insurgent, they said.

Alphinaud: One man single-handedly disabled the cannon? That beggars belief!

Stark Woad: Nevertheless, that’s what they said. It took a while, but they’ve finally put the fires out, and the engineers have been working day and night to repair it.

Stark Woad: Wish I could tell you more, but the incident had everyone jumping at shadows and afraid to say much more. To make matters worse, the Ala Mhigan help have been sent home indefinitely.

Lyse: So the cannon could already be fully operational…

Lyse: We need to sneak inside Castrum Abania to ensure the cannon is no longer a threat to our troops. Can you help us?

Stark Woad: Aye, that much I can do. I’ve pieced together a map of the interior over the years, and I know for a fact that there are multiple points of entry.

Alphinaud: Impressive…If we split into several groups, that may improve our odds of reaching the fire control center.

Alphinaud: We may be few in number, but I have faith that we can see this through!

Alphinaud: We have that for which we came. All that remains is to make our preparations.

Alphinaud: Auric─you and your ever-dependable allies will enter the castrum with my sister and I by way of the ventilation ducts leading to the hangars. From there, you will proceed into weapons research and unleash bloody mayhem.

Alphinaud: At the same time, Alisaie and I will create a diversion elsewhere, and in the ensuing confusion, Lyse and her unit will attempt to reach the fire control center undetected.

Alphinaud: If all goes to plan, our three parties will subsequently converge on this location, and together we will secure the cannon before finally notifying the Alliance that they are clear to attack.

Lyse: Sounds simple enough. I’ll go and brief Naago on the details.

Stark Woad: The rest of you come with me. We’ll need to deal with the magitek patrols before you can infiltrate the castrum.

[We deal with the magitek patrols.]

Stark Woad: Almost there, friends. Your point of entry is just around the bend up ahead. The last patrol should be here any moment.

Stark Woad: Once you’ve dealt with them, we’ll be clear to advance…assuming they keep to their usual schedule. Might be prudent to stand watch for a moment after, just in case.

[Last patrol down.]

Stark Woad: By Rhalgr, I knew you lot were good, but I never expected you to defeat them so swiftly…

Alphinaud: Auric is the finest warrior I know, and I should like to think we have learned something from our time in his company… Now─where is the entrance to the ducts?

Stark Woad: Right behind you. I’ve mapped the branches, so you should have no trouble reaching the hangars or any number of other places.

Alphinaud: Understood. Thank you again for your invaluable assistance.

Alphinaud: As discussed, Auric, we shall divide into two groups and proceed via separate routes into the castrum.

Alphinaud: Remember that our objective is to cause as much chaos as possible to draw the imperials away from Lyse and her men.

Stark Woad: If there’s nothing else, I’ll return to the Resistance forces and show them to their entrance. May Rhalgr guide you to victory!

Alphinaud: This is your last chance to make your preparations, Auric. When you and yours are ready, we shall begin.

[Dungeon level 69: Castrum Abania]

Alisaie: Are you all right!?

[Alisaie sees the dead final boss of the dungeon.]

Alisaie: Ah…I think that answers my question. We have accomplished our objectives as well.

Alphinaud: Lyse’s unit should be advancing upon the fire control center in the command tower. Let us join them.

Alphinaud: Lyse! Thank the Twelve you’re all right.

Lyse: And you! There’s the control center. Let’s hit them hard and fast. Ready?

[We enter the control center. Fordola is there.]

Lyse: It was you, wasn’t it… Wasn’t it!?

Fordola: Aye, I gave the order to fire.

[Fordola has a hand to her head.]

Lyse: It was over! The Skulls had surrendered! No one else had to die! And you killed them! Your own people! Your own comrades!

Fordola: You’re right. I killed them. Ansfrid, Hrudolf, Emelin, all the rest─trained and fought with every last one of them. Good soldiers to a man.

Fordola: I gave the order that led to their deaths…and I knew exactly what I was doing.

Lyse: But why!? Why would you do that!?

Fordola: They died so that all Ala Mhigans could live free. That was all we ever wanted.

Fordola: We made a promise that we would do whatever it took so that one day…one day the imperials would learn to accept us.

Fordola: But everything comes at a price. And if you haven’t got the means to pay, then you pay with blood.

Fordola: Service guarantees citizenship, but citizenship guarantees naught. It’s not enough to do your part, oh no. You have to run faster, fight harder, kill more and more and more─and only then will you be equal.

Fordola: That’s just how it is out here in the provinces. You buy your freedom with blood─there is no other way!

Lyse: Shut up! Shut your mouth! You don’t get to talk about freedom! You killed your own! They trusted you and you killed them!

Lyse: Murderer! Butcher! Traitor!

[Lyse charges Fordola. Fordola’s eyes flash red and she dodges Lyse with superhuman speed. Lyse tries to kick Fordola, and misses again – and again.  

Alisaie gets behind Fordola and tries to set her up for Lyse’s attack, but Fordola is too fast, and she strikes Alisaie down to the floor.]

Fordola: I know what you can do. I’ve already seen it.

[We fell the Imperial soldiers. Alpinaud rushes to his fallen sister.]

Alphinaud: Alisaie!

Fordola: Even so, the odds are against me…

[Fordola throws a smoke bomb, and disappears.]

Lyse: Coward! Get back here!

[There’s a hole smashed in the glass window. Lyse rushes to look out as Alpinaud starts to heal Alisaie.  Fordola appears outside the window on a small flying platform.]

Fordola: Hero! Lord Zenos invites you to join him for the royal hunt, to be hosted at the palace. You may bring your horde, if you like. All are welcome.

[She flies off.]

[Alphinaud looks up from tending Alisaie.]

Alphinaud: She’ll be all right, but we’ll need to carry her. Will you help me?

[Of course.]

Alphinaud: Thank you. Lyse, I leave matters here in your hands.

Lyse: Uh, right…

Lyse: Well, we did it. Castrum Abania belongs to us now…

Lyse: Naago and her people took Alisaie to Radiata to receive treatment. Alphinaud tells me she’ll make a full recovery…

Lyse: I know I should be happy. We won, and with minimal casualties. But somehow…it feels empty.

Lyse: We should report to General Aldynn. Krile wasn’t here, but who knows, maybe one of Raubahn’s men found something which could lead us to her. Can’t hurt to ask, anyway.

Raubahn: Lieutenant, Commander Hext. Fine work you did today.

Raubahn: After Specula Imperatoris, we needed a resounding victory like this. Thanks to you, Rhalgr’s star yet burns bright.

Lyse: I’m glad, I really am. But you should know that Alisaie was injured in the fighting…

Raubahn: …Regrettable, but I am pleased to hear that she will make a full recovery. Fordola’s parting words, on the other hand, ring less favorably in my ears.

Raubahn: But if Zenos wishes to invite us to his so-called “royal hunt,” then this bull would fain accept!

Raubahn: …What troubles you, Lyse?

Lyse: O-Oh, it’s nothing really, just that…we’re almost to the end, but we’ve still got to save Krile and do so much more…

Raubahn: We’ll find her soon enough. Pipin has his best men scouring the castrum’s archives as we speak.

Lyse:

Raubahn: …Listen, Lyse. It will take time for us to fully occupy the castrum and prepare to advance into the Lochs. While we wait, there is something I would like to show you. Both of you.

Raubahn: After all, this may be the last chance we have to catch our breath before the final push.

Lyse: I don’t see why not…

Raubahn: Then come with me to Radiata. From there we’ll need to follow another road south.

[In Coldhearth]

Raubahn: Even after all these years, it’s still the same… Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. You deserve a proper welcome.

Raubahn: Lieutenant, Lyse─I brought you both here for a reason…

Raubahn: I wanted to show you this house. My house.

Lyse: You mean…this is where you grew up?

Raubahn: Aye. Not much to look at, is it?

Raubahn: Same could be said of the village. It was damn near impossible to live off the land, barren as it was─which is why so many of us traded our plowshares for swords.

Raubahn: Swords and uniforms, mind. We became military men. Tensions were rising between Ala Mhigo and the Empire, and there was always a need for more soldiers to watch the border. ‘Twas only a matter of time before the first skirmishes broke out.

Raubahn: It is a frightening thing to face magitek armor for the first time. But after a lot of trial and error, I found ways to bring them down. After a few victories, people even said I had a knack for it.

Raubahn: And then one day they hit us. Hard. I was wounded and sent home to recover. Back here…

[The Warrior of Light is struck by an Echo flashback. In it, he sees Lyse’s father Curtis in Raubahn’s village.]

Curtis: Will you remain silent for fear of the mad king’s vengeance? Of his eyes and ears in the shadows and his knives in the dark? You who call this “living” dishonor our nation─it is but a slow death!

[Curtis writes on the wall of Raubahn’s house.]

Curtis: Liberty or death. Liberty or death! If this be your creed, then raise up your hands! Raise up your voices! Together we will tear Theodoric from the throne! Together we will reclaim our freedom!

[A much younger Raubahn is in the crowd listening to Curtis.]

Curtis: Sent you home to mend, did they?

Raubahn: Aye, sir. Garleans got the better of us. The…the chirurgeons say I’m healing well, so it won’t be long now.

Curtis: Liberty or death, is it? Tell me, soldier:  what do you think those words mean?

Raubahn: We…we must needs be willing to die for liberty?

Curtis: Spoken like a true patriot. But liberty should not be the end in of itself.

Curtis: Liberty is the chance to build something better. A stronger, more prosperous home for our people. It’s not quick or easy work, and it is never truly finished─but if you neglect it, then sooner or later, you look up to find you’ve traded one tyrant for another.

Raubahn: Well, sir, I…I’ve never asked for much. Never wanted to live like a king─just wish it were a little bit easier is all. For me and everyone else. And I’m…I’m willing to die for that, if that’s what it takes!

Curtis: Dying is easy, soldier. Living is harder.

Curtis: Rest. Mend. Regain your strength. You’ll need it in the days to come…and mayhap one day we will need it too.

[The vision fades back to the present.]

Raubahn: Conrad chose you as his successor, Lyse, and I will not gainsay his decision. I have but one question to ask.

Raubahn: Liberty or death. Those were Curtis’s words, and his creed. Will you swear by your father’s creed before your comrades and the gods?

Lyse: Liberty or death… That’s all you can hope for in war. Father understood that…and you want to know if I do too.

Lyse: I swear to you, here and now:  I will fight until the end, be it liberty or be it death.

Lyse: But the freedom we win must be for every Ala Mhigan─even ones like Fordola, though they may hate us, and the Ananta, though they may fear us.

Lyse: We’ll fight and we’ll talk and we’ll find a way to make it work for all of us. Compared to all that, retaking our home will seem like the easy part.

Raubahn: Hmm. A good oath. Then there is naught else to say. You are indeed your father’s daughter…

[Raubahn speaks to the Warrior of Light in private]

Raubahn: Even a blind man could see that Lyse wasn’t herself. Not that I don’t understand.

Raubahn: To be thrust into a position of authority under such circumstances─to be made responsible for the lives of so many… It isn’t easy. And when you see your friend get cut down before your eyes, it only gets harder. I’ll wager she thought Alisaie was dead for a moment back there.

Raubahn: ‘Tis one thing to risk your life for a cause. But to risk that of another is a burden no soldier is ever truly ready to shoulder.

Raubahn: The fear, the guilt─it weighs on her. And that’s good. It will make her a better commander.

Raubahn: But first she needs to learn to carry it. To not let it break her. To remember that some causes are worth fighting for.

Raubahn: “Liberty or death.“ Her father’s words gave me strength once. Mayhap they’ll do the same for her now.

Raubahn: Right, then. I think I’ve said enough. The two of you can head back. I mean to stay a bit longer…

Lyse: …I understand. He’s been away for a long time, and he probably wants to be alone for a while.

Lyse: Let’s head back to Radiata.

Lyse: Wait… Am I the only one who feels like I’m being watched?

Lyse: I don’t know if it’s imperials or bandits, but I know there’s more than one of them.

Lyse: Let’s split up. You head northwest, and I’ll head northeast. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so…

[Who’s that over there?]

Suspicious Youth: Seven hells, he’s seen us! Sod it─dead’s as good as alive to the imperials!

[Easily dealt with.]

[Lyse has found some too.]

Lyse: They attacked you too, didn’t they? I…I had no choice…

Lyse: They’re Ala Mhigan─not even conscripts, by the look of them. Barely adults. In fact, some of their faces look familiar…

Lyse: Wait, I remember. They’re from Radiata! They must have seen us when we were looking for Stark!

Lyse: They probably thought the imperials would reward them if they captured or killed─

Lyse: Oh gods… Alisaie and Alphinaud could be in danger too! We have to get back to Radiata and find Naago!

[Back at Radiata]

M’naago: What’s all this about? You two look ready for a fight.

Lyse: We were ambushed by villagers outside of Radiata, and thought they might try to attack you too. Are you all right?

M’naago: Aye, we’re fine. The twins are at Stark’s. Alisaie was asleep, last I checked.

M’naago: I’m sorry, did you say you were ambushed by villagers? Not soldiers? Did they not see what we just did to Castrum Abania? Godsdamned fools!

Stark Woad: Lyse, Auric. We overheard you talking…

Stark Woad: The ones that attacked you. They were young? Less than twenty summers?

Stark Woad: Aye, I thought so. It’s always the young ones─the ones who have only ever known the occupation. They’re the ones you’ve got to look out for.

Stark Woad: See, the only decent work to be found in Radiata is for the imperials, and everyone knows it. Children grow up knowing it. They have it pounded into their skulls that the best they can hope for is to serve an imperial officer.

M’naago: Bloody fools! After everything they’ve seen us accomplish! They ought to be begging to fight for the Resistance, not against us!

Stark Woad: They’ve been living in the shadow of a castrum their whole lives. A few victories won’t change that. Aye, you get some who can’t wait to spit in a soldier’s eye, but they get beaten for their trouble, or worse…

M’naago: Even so…

Stark Woad: …And the ones that don’t fight back but refuse to beg, well, they just starve. Beat the dog that bites his master’s hand, and ignore the dog that refuses to do his bidding, see?

Stark Woad: In the end, the ones that learn to abide are the ones that survive.

Stark Woad: Now, you may say that’s all about to change, and I believe you. Many here do.

Stark Woad: But a young man or woman who grew up only knowing what he knows has got every reason to doubt. Remember that. Do what you have to, if it comes to it, but remember that.

Alphinaud: The sooner we liberate Ala Mhigo and bring an end to the occupation, the better. Only then can we show these youths that things do not have to be this way.

Lyse: …Only then will they know what it means to live free.

Lyse: We’re going to build a new home for ourselves. Together. A better home than they’ve ever known.

Lyse: I’ve been thinking. If Alisaie needs more time to heal, maybe we should move her to Rhalgr’s Reach.

Lyse: She can receive much better care there, after all. Our infirmary is probably the best place for her, short of sending her to Gridania.

Alphinaud: Indeed. And given what Mistress Woad has told us, I would rather she did not remain here.

Lyse: Then it’s settled. Naago, go and see about getting us a carriage and an escort. Alphinaud, you should get your sister ready for the journey.

Lyse: Auric, would you mind going on ahead and telling Orella that we’re on our way? I want a bed waiting for Alisaie when she arrives. Thanks.

[In Rhalgr’s Reach]

Orella: Hm? Do you require assistance?

Orella: Very well, we will make ready to receive the patient at once. Give me a hand, would you?

Orella: There. All crisp and freshly laundered.

Alphinaud: We’re here. Is everything in order?

Alphinaud: Right. We’re bringing her in.

Alisaie: Honestly, Alphinaud, you needn’t have gone to all this trouble…

Alphinaud: What can I say? It seemed a good way to discourage you from limping off to battle when my back was turned. Listen to Orella, please. You need your rest.

Alisaie: I know, I know…Any news of Krile? She’ll be cross if you make her wait too long. As will I.

Alphinaud: Hah. A chilling prospect indeed… I’ll find her, Sister. And I’ll fight twice as hard─for the both of us.

Lyse: They’re good together…when they’re not at each other’s throats. I miss that feeling…

Lyse: Auric─I have a favor to ask. Would you mind waiting outside for me? I won’t be a moment.

[I wait outside. Lyse reappears in a fancy flowing red outfit – the one from the trailer, in fact!]

Lyse: Sorry to have kept you waiting…

Lyse: Well, what do you think? I know it’s a bit old-fashioned…but in a traditional sort of way. Yda wore it whenever she could…

Lyse: Not that I’m pretending to be her or anything! Not again. It’s just…if this is the last battle we fight to free Ala Mhigo, then she ought to be a part of it.

[“It suits you.”]

Lyse: It’s nice of you to say so. Aaand a bit embarrassing. But mostly nice.

Lyse: Anyway, the real reason I asked you here was to sneak in a warm-up before the final battle.

Lyse: There’s this place I know where monks used to spar as part of their training. Care to join me?

[Sure. But the trailer doesn’t look right when it’s monk versus paladin!]

Lyse: <pant> <pant> Maybe we got a little carried away… But you have to admit that was fun.

Lyse: Thank you, Auric. You’re the best kind of friend─the kind that’s not afraid to knock some sense into you.

Lyse: Now that Alisaie’s settled in, it’s time we rejoined the fight.

Lyse: Though, actually…maybe you and Alphinaud should go on ahead without me. I need to talk strategy with the officers, and that might take a while…

Alphinaud: Ah, there you are. What was it that Lyse wanted of you?

Alphinaud: Ahahaha! A sparring match on the Destroyer’s very palm? I would have liked to have seen that.

Alphinaud: But she is right─we have lingered here long enough. I am ready to depart when you are.

Alisaie: Take care, you two. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t.

Alphinaud: And you had better not rise from that bed until you are given express permission to do so. Urianger will be paying you a visit soon, and he is already worried enough as it is.

Alphinaud: We have a long road ahead of us. Lead the way, Auric.

[Near Castrum Abania – the pass to the Lochs.]

Pipin: You are returned! How fares your sister, Alphinaud?

Alphinaud: Her rapier wit remains undulled─for better or for worse. Have there been any developments in our absence?

Pipin: I am proud to say that Castrum Abania is now wholly under our control. At present, we are taking stock of the enemy’s supplies and redistributing them amongst our men.

Pipin: Also, while sifting through the officers’ documents, we learned that a unit of Skulls under Fordola’s command passed through the castrum en route to the capital…with a single prisoner in their custody.

Alphinaud: Krile! It has to be her!

Pipin: In all likelihood, yes. You will be glad to hear that the tunnel leading to the Lochs has been secured by our soldiers and is now safe for travel.

Pipin: And one final piece of good news:  reinforcements from all four Alliance nations have arrived and joined the main host, which has established a new base of operations within the Lochs.

Pipin: Commander Hext should be arriving soon, yes? When she does, we will call a meeting to discuss the final stage of Rhalgr’s Beacon.

Lyse: Sorry for keeping you all waiting!

Alphinaud: An Ala Mhigan folk dress? How very fitting. And well-fitting, I might add.

Lyse: I wanted to do something for Yda. And myself.

Alphinaud: This is it. The last push. We’re coming, Krile…

Go on to Part 9: The Lochs

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