Silently beating wings carried a young looking male into the forest. He was a member of the new Bird Tribe formed last year. Before that he was of the Raven Tribe. This man took pride in the fact that the wings of the Ravens were silent compared to that of the Hawks and Herons. The black-winged warriors were as silent as death and faster. It was for these reasons that King Tibarn had sent him out to spy on these Tuaparang. He was sent even though the King's "ears" wanted to go.
Returning to the hideout where only a few of the Bird Tribe had gotten to the Raven landed in the trees. All the Herons had managed to avoid the black armored beorcs, their king Tibarn along with his eyes and ears Janaff and Ulki, the old Raven King Naesala, and the old crow Nealuchi along with a few varying members of the tribe.
"My King there is a group of beorc warriors camping outside the forest. The Tuaparang seem worried that they will come into the forest. From what I could overhear they are afraid of certain nine that they called Adepts. I looked at these warriors they feared and noticed Ike and the Greil Mercenaries along with a few members of the Beast Tribe." The Raven told his ruler.
"If Ike is here then they will most likely be coming in the morning." One of the Hawks said.
"Why do we need these beorcs anyway? Are we not laguz?" one Raven asked.
"Do you want to die?" Janaff asked those who doubted his king. "They have crossbows that will tear through you before you even knew what hit you. They also have the rest of our tribe captured and under constant guard. If we attacked they would suffer."
"All the more reason to attack. We hit them before they see us and free our brothers and sisters." Another Raven said.
"No. Janaff is right." Tibarn told the group of restless laguz. "As much as I hate seeing our tribe tied up and under constant threat by these Tuaparang we need a plan."
"What's this? The Hawk King wants to plan?" Naesala joked. "Your time among the beorc has changed you."
"What can I say after seeing Soren come through so many times for us I took it upon myself to study tactic. Can't always be relying on him to save our feathers now can we?" Tibarn said with a chuckle. "We need to someone to go and talk to Ike though. We need to have his group free our brothers. We can handle the smaller groups while they head in."
"I'll go." Ulki said. "I can lead them around the groups of Tuaparang."
"Alright Ulki then go now while under the cover of darkness." Tibarn agreed with his left hand man.
It was late that night that the camp received a visitor. A winged person landed in the middle of the camp. He had brown hair slicked back like the wind had pushed it. Dark brown wings were spread wide as he landed. He wore dark shades of brown with black underneath. Like most laguz Matthew had seen his ears were pointed. His nose was beak-like in appearance and added to the seriousness of his expression. This man was clearly of the Bird Tribe that rested within the forest.
"Ulki what brings you here?" Lethe asked the bird-man. "Where is Tibarn?"
"The King is in the forest waiting to strike against the Tuaparang." Ulki told his fellow laguz. "He sent me here to ask for your aid."
"Tibarn needs our help?" Ike asked as he came out of his tent Soren on his heels. The rest of the camp had awoken when they heard people talking and came out of their tents to see what was going on.
"We have been attacked by a group called the Tuaparang. They hold our tribe hostage to prevent us from attacking."
Felix walked up and spoke. "We figured that they were here. What can we do to help?"
"Hey who died and made you leader?" Mist asked him.
"It's alright Mist. Felix just beat me to the question." Ike told her. "What does Tibarn want us to do?" Ike asked turning the attention back to the Hawk.
"I'm to lead you to our trapped brothers so that you can deal with the Tuaparang."
Tyrell ignorant of the reason the Bird Tribe couldn't attack asked, "Why can't you guys save them? Aren't the laguz supposed to be really strong?"
"Normally you'd be correct Tyrell." Mist told him. "But the members of the Bird Tribe are weak against bows and crossbows. Since that's all the Tuaparang seem to use it'd make sense that they could hold them hostage easier."
"Sadly that is exactly what has happened." Ulki said solemnly.
"Alright then." Soren said. "We'll follow Ulki into the forest now. The Tuaparang won't expect us to have a guide and it'd be best to make use of him before they find out."
A collective moan came from the younger members of the group and Eoleo. As quietly as possible they packed their belongings and those with horses saddled up. With the laguz leading the way they headed into the forest. Ulki's hearing and the general increased senses of the laguz allowed them to pass by any Tuaparang undetected. Once they came upon a small camp of ten. Shinion, Rolf, and Karis used their bows to pick them off before they knew the Mercenaries were there.
Within the hour Ulki had led them to a small clearing. There were a few makeshift houses in and around the trees with a bigger building in the center. Tuaparang soldiers were patrolling the area on the ground. On the porch of each tree house there were another three armed with repeater crossbows. The Mercenaries and Adepts were outnumbered three to one. Some would be afraid of these odds. Others would say that the Tuaparang should be afraid. It was a one sided battle.
"Felix can you use your Djinn on us again?" Boyd asked hopeful.
"These Tuaparang seem better outfitted than the ones at Fort Rogold. Unleashing our Djinn weakens us. For a battle like this it wouldn't be the smartest move." Felix told him as he pulled the Alondite off his back.
"Yune here use these." Soren told the child goddess handing her an Elthunder and Ellight tome.
"I don't need those." Yune told him blinking as she stared at the two tomes.
"You're supposed to be acting as a mage and mages use tomes." Soren said through gritted teeth forcing the tomes into Yune's hands.
Accepting the two books Yune put the Ellight in the folds of her dress. Either her god powers prevented it from falling out or she had an unseen pocket somewhere only Yune knew. Spreading out into small groups around the camp the heroes got ready to attack. There was an at least one Adept in each group. When ready an Adept would use some form of Psynergy to let the others know they were set.
Once every group was ready they burst out of the trees. Archers focused on the soldiers in the trees along with help from the magic users. Oscar and Titania charge forth drawing the attention of the ground soldiers. While they were distracted four beasts attacked with claws and fangs. Joining the fray Ike launched a wave of energy from Ragnell towards a group of soldiers. The Adepts used their Psynergy to keep the Tuaparang from fleeing. Eoleo and Tyrell had been forbidden from using their Psynergy since no one wanted to set the forest on fire. Karis and Sveta could only use their wind based powers forgoing the lightning for the same fear of sending the forest into flames.
Some of the Tuaparang guarding the main building reached into a pouch on their sides. They produced what looked like Psy Grenades. Tossing them at the heroes they let out a flash of dark energy. Rather than sap the Adepts of their Psynergy the energy drained their stamina. Everyone within range instantly felt weaker after coming in contact with the darkness. The only one that was hit and didn't experience any drain was Yune. Holding her Elthunder tome she sent out a blade of wind into the trees.
"Yune!" Ike shouted at her. No one thought to rename the goddess before the battle. Not that she would have gone with it. "You're holding an ElTHUNDER tome not an Elfire."
"Whoops" she said looking every bit the scolded child. "Think anyone else noticed?"
"Get the goddess!" a Tuaparang shouted pointing at Yune.
"That'd be a yes" Ike said with a frown on his face. How did they figure out she was a goddess though? Wouldn't they just think she's an Adept like Karis or Sveta?
"Protect Yune!" Soren shouted sending a Tornado spell at a group of Tuaparang. Titania and Oscar rode up next to Ike and Yune. Oscar pulled the little girl onto his horse and rode away from the battle. Ike declined Titania's offer and told her to follow Oscar and protect them.
"So you were stupid enough to come here and with the goddess no less." The voice of a familiar Umbra Adept echoed through the trees. "Surely you found our plans in Rogold. What possessed you to bring her right to us?" Shadows bent around a human shape as it emerged from the forest. He was holding a different sword than before. It seemed to ooze darkness much like its wielder. The remaining Tuaparang troops stood between the heroes and their leader.
"I didn't get to introduce myself last time. My name is Karios. Today shall be your last on this world." The shadow let out a laugh as an orb formed in his hand. "Men chase after those horses. Don't let them escape. These people don't stand a chance against me."
The Tuaparang soldiers looked at their leader as if he was crazy before following his orders. Using their grapple hooks in their gauntlets to escape into the trees they bypassed the grounded warriors.
"Ha now the laguz can help us." Tyrell cheered.
"You would think wouldn't you? Who knows what nightmares they are facing in their sleep though?" Karios chuckled and sent the dark orb into the canopy. It dispersed blanketing the area around them. If you looked above you would no longer see leaves or sky only a dark mist that sent shivers down your back.
"You see we sent these 'laguz' into a deep sleep where they will face their worst nightmares. One will break and tell us where the rest of their forsaken tribe is at. Once we have those white winged birds we will extract their power and use it to seal Chaos."
"Really you're going to monologue?" Felix asked. "How about we just skip to the part where we kick your ass? In case you haven't counted there are quite a few of use against one of you."
On cue more of the Grave Eclipse monsters appeared.
"You had to say something" multiple people said to Felix.
The monsters swarmed around the group boxing them in forcing them into a makeshift circle protecting the weaker members. A few of the monsters stood back as if they were waiting to see what the group would do.
"Before we start this fight answer me one question." Ike said. "How did you know it was Yune?"
"You're the genius that who shouted her name. Not that I needed you to. What other little girl would possess such power? The second she used her powers we knew it was her."
Well at least it wasn't completely my fault. Ike thought to himself as he sent a wave of energy into the nearest monster.
The single slash started the fight. With a piercing shriek Ulki dove down onto one of the creatures. Roars and growls came from the tiger, cats, and wolf as they pounced. The Adepts went to unleash their Psynergy on the monsters only to find nothing happen. A look of terror spread over their faces as they realized they were somehow cut off from their power.
"Found out you have no Psynergy?" Karios asked smugly. "You can thank the manufactured Vortexes hanging in the mist." He said pointing up towards the black energy floating above them. "Technology combined with Dark Psynergy. Truly our greatest triumph yet."
"So you were behind the Vortexes appearing over Weyard." Matthew said through gritted teeth.
"Yes we were hoping they'd lure your parents out of hiding actually. Get them away from their homes and out into the wilds again. So far it only worked on that Jupiter Adept Sheba. Somehow that Piers could always avoid our ships."
As one of the ghost monsters came at Matthew he unleashed Flint killing the monster in a single hit. While they were many of the creatures they were nowhere near as strong as the ones on the Endless Wall. Another ghost charged Matthew only to be met with the shield of Shell. Rief stood in the center holding his staff. Without his Psynergy he wasn't going to be much help. Himi and Karis stood with him along with Rhys, Soren, Shinion, and Rolf.
Geyser was unleashed sending its torrent of water into one of the bugs. Coral was bouncing around the group healing each person if only a little. Grateful for the help Matthew unleashed Bark to help keep their strength up. Forge's energy soon wrapped around the Sol Blade followed by a blue energy shield in front of Matthew and the feeling of increased speed. Everyone had unleashed their power increasing Djinn for the battle. Once a Djinn was turned to crystal the gem was tossed to one of the Adepts in the center. Slowly they were collecting the Djinn needed for summoning.
Boyd and Gatrie were fighting side by side defending each other from the assaults of the black creatures. Gatrie would spear one only to have three more jumped onto him. Boyd would then use his crossbow to clear the creatures off of Gatrie. If they got too many at once Gatrie switched to the sword he kept on him for closer combat. Together he and Boyd would swing their weapons turning the monsters back to shadows.
Ike and Mia were swinging their swords with the accuracy of years of training. Ike had such force behind his blows that it would tear into the steel like hides of the bugs. Mia's speed allowed her to move in between the monsters cutting off their limbs leaving them open for someone with the physical strength needed to break the shell. Much to Matthew's confusion she was using the Gaia Blade with ease. Mist the only mounted unit left rode around the circle lashing out with her Florete and healing anyone that the Djinn had missed or couldn't reach.
"Everyone get down" Himi yelled at the group. Karis and Rief finished the chant for their summons. Three purple gems flew into the air followed by three blue. Behind Karis a large bird like creature appeared and behind Rief a whale. Because they were too far away from open sky and sea Neptune and Procone's power were channeled through their summoners. Three high pressure beams of water shot out of Rief's staff into the monsters. Karis drew back her bow and sent an arrow out into the masses. It hit the ground and created a whirlwind pulling the monsters upward towards the sky. Once the powers of the summons were used Karis and Rief feel to the ground. Channeling that much power through their bodies had taken its toll on the two teens.
The creatures now greatly reduced in number started to stand back. Karios walked with determination towards the group. He was hit with a combination of Ragnell's energy, an Aura spell, and a Tornado spell.
"You might have weakened our Adept friends but you still have to deal with us normal humans." Ike told the Umbra Adept. "Rhys keep hammering him with Aura."
Karios took off into the woods away from the group of humans. He was followed by Ike, Soren, Felix, and Rhys. The others to occupied by their own battles to follow after them. They ran through the forest never letting Karios out of their sight. This was hard to do in the densely packed forest. Soon the trees thinned out and revealed Karios standing among them his sword ready.
Ike took no time in closing the distance between him and his foe. Swinging his sword at his opponent's head Ike expected to meet the resistance of steel. Karios simply shimmered and the blade passed through the man. He wasn't expecting that the surprise evident on his face. Not wanting to give his foe another chance Ike brought Ragnell up and went to pierce Karios' heart. This time the Umbra Adept did use his sword to swipe the gold blade away.
Seeing Ike having some difficulty with his opponent Felix dispatched the Dark Scuttler and went to lend aid. Ike had instructed him in the use of Alondite's power on their way to the forest. Drawing on the power of the blade was much like unleashing the Gaia Blade's power, Titan Blade, only much easier and he knew that it would work no luck involved. With a swing the energy shimmered around the blade and flew off towards Karios. Even facing Ike the man had dodged the attack from Felix.
Together Ike and Felix launched attack after attack the Umbra Adept only to be met with his blade or to have their attacks pass through him. Even Rhys' Aura spell didn't seem to affect him. When the light rays hit his body he would shrug off the remaining power of the attack and continue fighting.
"Himi how's it coming?" Matthew asked the youngest Venus Adept.
"I only have seven Venus Matthew!" she angrily shouted back at him.
"What how? I tossed you all my Djinn! I don't have a single on left!" Matthew told her as he blocked one of the creature's attacks with the Sol Blade.
"Yeah well I had to use a few summons to save our skin already."
"She's right if it wasn't for her calling Cybele and Azul we'd be dead." Eoleo told the blonde Squire.
"That is still only six what happened to the other three?" Sveta asked as she slammed the Umbra Knuckles into one of the ghosts causing it to revert to shadows.
"Well I'm sorry but I can't get them out of Karis' hand. She has quite the grip on them." Himi said regaining her normal composure.
"USE A WATER OF LIFE!" Matthew shouted at the girl.
"Don't yell at her!" Eoleo shouted at Matthew.
Smacking herself for overlooking the simple fact. Himi reached into her the pouch she kept on her hip and pulled out the golden water drop. Crushing the fragile item over Karis the healing effects woke the fallen warrior. Now that she was awake Himi could open Karis' hand to get the remaining Venus Djinn crystal she needed for the greatest Earth summon. Picking up a random golden orb Himi now held in her hand eight Venus Djinn and two Jupiter Djinn.
"Ferryman of the River Styx hear my plea. Send these souls to Hades. Let the elemental energy pay for their passage. Aid us in our time of need Charon."
As Himi chanted these words
over and over a purplish black energy formed around her. A pool of the same energy formed in front of the girl. Out of the vortex came a red clothed skeleton figure with black energy wings. The Djinn crystals flew to the figure transferring their energy into the skeleton once drained they flew back to Himi. The skeletal figure nodded its hooded head and gathered its own energy. Pointing a hand towards the monsters Charon blasted each of them with small orbs. When the black orb collided with a creature nothing was left. Once all the black monsters were gone Charon sank back into the ground.
The dark energy of Charon still lingered in the air though. As if feeding off the power of the ferryman more of the creatures came out of the forest. With a groan from the warriors they readied themselves for another round.
"Don't these things let up?" Boyd asked the Adepts.
"You know I don't think they do." Matthew told the Reaver. "There always seemed to be an endless supply back home. I thought it was because of the Grave Eclipse though."
"We can discuss how they got here after we kill them." Mia told the two as she brought the Gaia Blade down on a ghost.
"Any ideas Ike?" Felix asked as he looked their opponent over trying to find some sort of weakness.
"None that I think would work." Ike replied. "How about you Soren any plans?"
"He seems to be drawing power form that dark cloud he created. It doesn't make sense though. How can you draw power from something you created?" the tactician was for once stumped.
Soren was right. The black cloud above them seemed to crackle with energy whenever Karios phased through their attacks or whenever he shook of the effects of Aura. But how was it feeding him? By all logic the cloud should be draining him instead of increasing his strength. He created the cloud to render the Adepts Psynergy useless.
If light bulbs were invented at this point one would have appeared over Felix's head. Karios said that there were Vortexes in the cloud draining the Adepts. What if the Tuaparang had figured out a way to channel that energy into their own Adepts? Or maybe the Vortexes themselves just naturally supplied Umbra Adepts with the energy. Either way they had to figure out a way to get rid of the Vortexes so they could fight Karios on even ground.
"Soren see if you can't find a way to get rid of that cloud!" Felix shouted at the Arch Sage. "There are Psynergy Vortexes draining us and adding the power to Karios. That's why we can't hit him."
Karios started to clap as Felix explained the situation to the others. "Finally figured it out have you? Took you long enough. Only problem with your little plan is that the cloud is linked to me. It can't be destroyed with me dying."
"That just means that the Vortexes must have a generator somewhere around here." Felix grinned. "There's no way you could create a natural phenomenon on your own."
"Who ever said the Vortexes were ever natural?" Karios smirked. "They are among the greatest inventions the Tuaparang have ever created. By draining the Psynergy, the powers of Alchemy, from the world we have made leaps and bounds with our technology. However this power isn't enough to fuel our greatest invention. That is why we need your pitiful Goddess. With her power we can get to the universes greatest source of Alchemic power. Namax."
"See this is why you let them monologue." Soren told Felix. "They always give away their plans. Ike, Felix, Rhys keep him busy. I'll have the others look for these generators." Soren turned and ran towards the group fighting the never ending supply of monsters.
Ike and Felix smiled at each other. Now it was only a matter of time before they would be able to finish off the idiot of a man standing before them. Sadly he was as strong as he was stupid. With a roar they both let out a blast of energy from their twice blessed Goddess swords.
"Sveta, Lethe, Lyre, Mordecai, Volug, Ulki come here." Soren called out as he walked up to the group. The laguz and beastwoman dealt swift blows to their opponents before running over to see what the beorc wanted with them. Shifting back to their human forms they waited for the man to speak. "According to Felix and our enemy Karios there are some 'Psynergy Vortex' generators laying around somewhere in the forest. No doubt they are giving off a lot of noise and are most likely made of metal. I need you five to use your senses to find and destroy them."
"I can't hear anything though." Ulki told Soren.
"It's most likely due to the fact you are surrounded by fighting. The noise of metal on scales or whatever these creatures have is drowning out the noise of these machines. As second in command I order you to find and destroy them NOW!" Soren said the last word with such force it shocked the laguz. Sveta didn't seem affected but she still didn't know Soren enough that such an outburst was uncommon.
"I cannot track well in this form." Sveta told the tactician. "With there being Psynergy Vortexes around I would be drained and revert back should I try to transform."
"Fine stay here and keep fighting then. The rest of you move!" Soren threw his arms into the air to get the urgency of his words across.
Before Soren's arms started to fall the humanoid laguz took to the forest to find the machines that were aiding their foe. Each took off in a different direction. Ulki however didn't head out to find the source of the Vortexes. He turned and headed towards the spot where his King stood waiting for his report. Flying as fast as he could Ulki made it to the hideout where his fellow tribesmen stood. Tibarn was perched on a branch arms crossed. The look on his face was one of impatience.
"Ulki what took you so long?" Janaff asked. "We were starting to worry."
"No time. There are strange machines set up throughout the forest. We need to destroy them." Without waiting to see if anyone was going to follow or even move Ulki took off again and headed deeper into the forest. With his ultra-sensitive ears and away from the battle site Ulki could hear an unfamiliar sound emanating from the woods. Behind him he could hear the sounds of wings. After being around them for so long he had memorized the unique sounds generated by his King and Janaff.
Leading the way towards the closest noise the hawks came upon an odd looking device. It was silver in color and shaped like a pyramid with a rounded top. At the base four arms came out and halfway up the device bent at a ninety degree angle inwards to the rounded top. Red jewels lined the half sphere. Around and around they lit up as if an unseen force was jumping from each to the next. Above the machine was a small black orb pulsating with power.
"So this is what we have to destroy?" Tibarn asked in his gruff voice.
"Yes. Soren told us that these things need to be destroyed. He didn't give a reason though." Ulki explained.
"Well the little beorcs hasn't led us astray yet." Without shifting the Bird King swooped down and delivered a swift kick to the base of the machine. Not made to withstand such force the metal broke under the strength of the laguz. The gems stopped glowing and the small orb disappeared.
"Alright Ulki take us to the next one." Tibarn commanded.
While Ulki led Tibarn around the forest Lethe and Lyre ran on all fours sniffing the air for the smell of metal. With feline grace they would jump over fallen trees as if they were nothing more than a small annoyance. Once or twice a monster would show itself to the two cats only to be met with four sets of claws before it turned into shadows. Soon they caught wind of metal within the forest. It wasn't coming from behind them and it too close to be Ike and Felix. Heading in the direction of the smell and soon sound they happened to find a small group of Tuaparang guarding a machine like the one the Hawks found. With an exchange of growls and meows the twins circled around the black armored soldiers.
Lethe was the first seen as planned. The Tuaparang clearly thought they had to deal with only the one oversized orange cat. Sadly for them as they focused on the one another cat came from behind and mauled them. Shock ran through the troops as they tried to flee the twin cats. Not a single one escaped the hunters. With a few swipes at the machine it stopped producing the black orb and the two headed out to see if they could find another.
Mordecai followed Volug through the woods. Having spent most of his life in his shifted sate the wolf laguz seemed to possess a great set of senses. As they traveled they kept an ear to ground and a nose to the wind in hopes of coming across one of the machines that Soren told them of. Unlike Lethe and Lyre they did not have to fight any of the black monsters as they walked. They did however come upon a machine under heavy guard.
Without making a single sound the blue tiger walked up to the Tuaparang soldiers. They trained their crossbows right onto the blue furred laguz. As they went to pull the trigger they heard the howl of a wolf in the distance. This caught their attention long enough for Mordecai to bring down his might paw on the nearest soldier knocking him down and into a few others. It was a funny sight almost like dominos as the soldiers fell. As they tried to get up the tiger and wolf held them down and managed to rip their throats cutting off any cries that could have called more troops.
The paw of the tiger brought down another machine. Silent as ever the two laguz disappeared into the dark forest ready to take out another group of soldiers and a machine.
Felix gripped his arm as blood flowed down. Karios no longer seemed to want to toy with them. After Soren had left rather than simply dodge and taunt them Karios seemed to sense the fact his time was running short. Ike was holding his ground against assault from the Umbra Adept's blade. Rhys had run over to Felix holding a Heal Staff. With a blue glow the magical staff closed the wound. Rotating his arm to get a feel for the new skin Felix glared up at the dark cloud.
Whatever Soren is doing he better do it fast. Felix thought as Ragnell once again passed through Karios. Karios is actually fighting back now and we can't hit him.
The first sign of help appeared at that precise moment. The black clouds visibly thinned. Karios must have noticed it also as Ragnell didn't faze through his body this time. It wasn't much of a hit it was a small cut on his arm. It was however enough to give a moral boost to the three heroes. With renewed vigor Felix and Ike teamed up using their strength in an attempt to get at Karios.
As the battle pressed on the clouds above them continued to thin. Each time this happened Karios received another wound. After seven times of thinning out the clouds vanished completely.
"How?" Karios asked in bewilderment. "They should have disappeared. How did you pathetic excuses for humans manage to shut down the machines?"
"We humans are quite resilient and hardly ever give up." Ike told him.
"You know Adepts are human" Felix said. "We aren't anything special. We just have more power and therefore we can make a greater impact on the world"
"Now I think it's time to finish this." Ike said grimly. "Aether"
Throwing Ragnell into the air Ike jumped up after it. He grabbed the hilt and brought the sword down Karios with such a force that the ground around them actually cracked. Karios' blade broke under the strain. Ike wasn't down however. Landing perfectly on his feet he slashed again at his opponent tearing through the thick armor as if it wasn't ever there. Ike turned around as the man they had been fighting fell to the ground dead.
"Let's see if we can't find Oscar and Yune." Ike said.
The Vanguard ran into the woods followed by a Saint and Squire. They had to make sure that the Tuaparang soldiers that were sent after the goddess did not complete their mission.