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  1. What it is: It's Secret Santa! The basic idea is that everyone involved gets and gives a gift, and your gift-giver remains a secret until the final reveal~ Timelines are extended a little longer than the usual Thanksgiving->Christmas holiday to give everyone enough time to get their gift done. Don't feel shy about signing up, and plan ahead! Dates: November 15th : Last day for signups. November 16th : A PM with your partner's name will be sent to you. From this day out you can start working on your gift~ December 25th -> December 31st : Try to have your gift done and PM'd to me by this timeframe. January 1st: Presents revealed! The Facts: - If you're interested in participating, just post on here that you are participating and provide a wishlist as well. The wishlist can be as broad or specific as you'd like, but be aware this information might be all your gift-giver knows about you. (As a general recommendation try to include at least one thing related to Fire Emblem, but non-Fire Emblem content is all right as well.) - If you don't finish by the deadline, at least try to make an effort to show somethig with a WIP, and try to finish the gift as soon as you are able to. People who don't make an effort to complete their gift at all will face...negative consequences. - Valid gift formats are basically anything you could submit to the creative forum (writing, traditional/graphic art, sprite work, music pieces, etc.). Participants: Amelia AthenaWyrm BadBonBon/Boney Balcerzak Cal the Tactician eclipse ecut Ether I have opinions j00 · j e a l o u s y · Kitty of Time MarioKirby Mewiyev Prax risingSolaris rothene Samias shinyPichu Sumia (MIA) Green : gift completed Blue: gift delayed, WIP given Black: still waiting on gift -------- Final Gifts: [spoiler=AthenaWyrm's gift to Eclipse]Yggdra from Yggdra Union (Dept. Heaven) [spoiler=Balcerzak's gift to BadBonBon] Vanessa was standing on the stage, looking out over the field that was, in two hours time, to transform into a throng of eager listeners, ranks piled deep, paying rapt attention to the band. With a bemused smile on her face, she closed her eyes and tried to remember just how things had come to this. It had been... Franz who had first had the idea, hadn't it? Something he'd mentioned in passing to Gilliam, while they were exchanging training tips or something, but it had not been a completely serious idea for him. The silent knight, though, had given it immense thought, and begun recruiting members. The first had been his fast friend, the warrior Garcia. Between the two of them, Gilliam on the drums, and Garcia on the contrabass, there could be no solider foundation. From there he turned back to Franz, taking him in on the fiddle, and his girl Amelia on the flute as well. For a singer he had turned first to Syrene, and it seems that conversation had been the one when he first learned of her delicate condition. To have been a fly on the wall for that would have been quite something, wouldn't it? Since she had had to refuse, the four had finally turned to Vanessa for the vocals, and things had just clicked. Somehow or other her lord Innes and his rival Ephraim had turned it into a competition, Gilliam's band was to represent Frelia, and Ephraim was to find and produce one for Renais's glory. Thinking of how that turned out, it was almost impossible not to chuckle. Forde, good man that he was, only had artistic sense for the canvas it seemed, and Kyle, well Vanessa doubted that man could carry a tune in a bucket. Saleh was actually proficient with the pipes, though, and Ewan had... well, he had... enthusiasm I guess you could say. There was no synergy however, and the attempt quickly folded. When she thought back on how Innes had gloated that day, she had to shake her head. If it hadn't been her prince, she would have spoken up, said that Forde, at least, was a good man at heart, and shouldn't be so maligned. But Innes was the last possible person she could ever say that too. Ah, her prince, how fine he had looked, practically beaming, and when he'd flipped the unruly forelocks that had drooped themselves downward, covering his eyes, that action had had quite the imperious cast to it. Not to mention his regal demeanor and his inner strength. Of curiousity Vanessa had once snuck his bow and tried to draw it, but the poundage was really quite something else. Surely he must be as strong as an ox, and the pegasus knight didn't doubt that if circumstances required it, he could easily lift both her and Titania and sweep them away off the battlefield. Ahh, wouldn't that be just the thing though? She could never breathe a word of her silent fantasies aloud, though, she satisfied herself with the knowledge that it was more than sufficient for her to simply serve, as loyally as she could, to ever be her country's knight. Lost in thought, eyes closed, standing alone on the stage looking out over the field, she was suddenly disturbed by a hand on her shoulder. It wasn't a rough grasp, but the unexpectedness of it still drew a small gasp from her. Her eyes flicked open and she spun around, and then her heart refused to continue beating for a moment. "...Your Highness? What are you doing here," she finally managed to push out, voice strained and sounding nearly a squeak. With a casual shrug, Innes removed his hand from her shoulder, then slowly drew it to his breast pocket, whereupon he removed two slips of paper. "I've got tickets. Tana and I will of course be here to support Frelia's finest." "You needn't have..." she started to protest, but was silenced by a bemused glance from her lord. "I couldn't be kept away from this for the world. And miss hearing your voice, when all these hundreds of others would be appreciating the treat? Heh, thinking of it like that, one would almost be right to feel jealous, I think." After having said that, his expression dipped serious for the moment. "To tell the truth, after you're done with the tour..." Innes broke off his sentence for the moment, and somewhat awkwardly ran his fingers through his hair, as if searching for words. Vanessa wasn't sure exactly what to expect, but every part of her felt that it was something big, and the suspense was nearly killing her. "Move into the castle with me." The words nearly bowled her over, and looking back on things, it was a wonder she had managed to be able to perform later at all, but all who heard her had to agree that it was the finest concert of the whole tour. Yet only a few close friends knew just why that night had also been the happiest of her life. [spoiler=Eclipse's gift to Rothene][spoiler=Between Friends] "We. . .we survived," the shortest member of the group gasped, as she looked down at the beast they'd finally defeated. Her shoulder-length blond hair, usually styled nicely, hung down in uneven patches. Exhaustion filled her green eyes, and the smile she normally wore was replaced with a frown. "Where's Weyland?" a rough voice demanded. The owner of the request was lanky, with long black hair restrained in a loose ponytail. He looked down his hawkish nose, displeasure in his hazel eyes. "I-I lost track of him during the fight. . ." a small voice squeaked. Out of the entire group, she wore the most clothing, with her robes covering nearly everything except for her face and hands. "Guys, you're not gonna like this," the final member of the group said sternly. Time and sunlight had not been kind to him, and his face held marks from both combat and sunburn. His frown was amplified by his weathered skin. "Oh, no," the robed woman whispered. The. . .thing on the ground was indeed Weyland. Or rather, what was left of him. Most of his torso was gone, pounded into a red-and-white mess. The blond girl screamed, and backed away from the arm she found - another part of their doomed leader. She screamed again as she lost her balance and fell on her rear, then yelped in surprise when she felt the impediment move. "Easy there, Indil, there's no need to scream. . .hmmm? Who is this?" Indil carefully picked herself up, and stuck her tongue out at the darker man. Another person had collapsed in the bushes, but unlike their former leader, she still drew breath. The lanky man blanched at the sight of the fallen woman - her shield arm hung at an impossible angle, and the ground beneath her was stained red, no doubt from her own blood. "I think we should take her with us," the blond girl stated. "We don't know who she is," the weathered man said gruffly. "We're here to hunt monsters, not take in the wounded." "What. . .would Weyland have done"? the robed woman said, tears in her eyes. "He wouldn't leave someone like this behind. . ." "Pah," the lanky man spat. "If you wanna take her along, you carry her, Aelia." The robed woman shook her head. "If I had Ebren's strength," she said, looking at the darker man, "I'd do so in an instant." "Don't give her such a hard time, Jethe," Ebren told the lanky man. "We lost a leader, and she lost her older brother." "Whatever," Jethe said, waving a hand in dismissal. "But don't expect me to care for the stranger." As the group turned to leave, something caught Indil's eye. She wasn't sure where it came from, but it was pretty! Surely no one would miss it. . . --- Ebren chuckled to himself as he watched Jethe spoon some water into the unresponsive woman's mouth. They'd rescued her two days prior, and her arm was only the beginning of her injuries. The women had reported bruises all over her body, as well as a twisted ankle. None of them were healers, so all they could do was wait for her to wake up on her own. "Still not enough to pay for a healer," Aelia grumbled. "We barely have enough for room and meals." The two rooms that they rented were split between the genders, with a small common room between them. The stranger they'd picked up stayed in there, so everyone could tend to her. "There's only so much a wanderin' performer like me can do," Indil grumbled back. "We can't leave her alone, and we can't take any jobs with only four of us." The women were interrupted by Jethe, who'd burst into the room without so much as knocking. "She's awake," Jethe stated bluntly. --- "St-Stiger," the woman whispered. "Is that your name?" Indil asked slowly. "Where. . .is he. . ." The four members of Guild Tailwind looked at each other and shrugged. That name was unfamiliar to all of them. "We only found you," Aelia responded. "I failed. . ." The strange woman closed her eyes for a few moments, then opened them again. "I couldn't protect him." "Slow down, miss," Jethe said, uncharacteristically polite. "Who are you, and what were you doing down there?" "My name is Cassie. . .and I'm tired. . ." "We'll let you rest, Cassie. Once you feel better, you can tell us your story." Cassie smiled weakly at Ebren, before her eyes closed. --- Once Cassie was able to tend to herself, Tailwind took on a couple of collection jobs. They somehow kept themselves out of debt, but Ebren wasn't fond on counting on such jobs for the group's income. They couldn't take any of the monster extermination jobs. . .yet. "I-I suppose I should tell you what I was doing in the labyrinth," Cassie told them, after they'd come back from their latest mission. "If you're ready. . ." Aelia said apprehensively. "Well. . .where do I begin? I'd always wanted to be an adventurer, so I came to Tharsis, in the hopes that a guild would pick me up. I found him sprawled under a tree just outside of the city gates. . .he'd just arrived himself, and was dead tired." "He?" Indil interrupted. "Oh, right. His name was Stiger. He was dressed head-to-toe in blue, right down to his unbelievably garish hat. He was a weird sort. . .called them 'clans' instead of 'guilds' like I'd expect. He was some faraway land or other, and wanted to make a name for himself." "Faraway land?" Ebren interjected. Before he joined Tailwind, Ebren had been a wanderer, taking whatever work took his fancy. "Ever heard of a place called Ivalice?" Cassie asked. "I'm not from here, but that place doesn't sound familiar." "Doesn't ring any bells," the darker man replied. "Excuse me for interrupting. Please continue." "We were lookin' for the same thing, so we decided to form our own guild. For some reason, he insisted on calling it 'Nutsy'. I'm not good at naming things, so I let him do that." Aelia giggled from behind her sleeve. Cassie frowned. "What's so funny?" she snapped. "It's, uh, nothing," came the woman's reply. "Hmph." Cassie turned her nose up at Aelia. "I think that's enough for now. I barely know you people, except that you saved my life back there." "We. . .never did introduce ourselves," Indil said sheepishly. "My name's Indil, and I'm Tailwind's dancer." "My name's Aelia, I'm the runemaster of this group, and I'm very sorry for laughing at you." "I'm Ebren, and it looks like I'm the leader for now," the darker man stated. "I let my sword do the talkin'." "Name's Jethe," the lanky man said. "Don't touch my knives, or you'll die. Slowly and painfully." "I know better than to mess with a nightseeker's knives," Cassie replied, somewhat hurt. "Our leader was Weyland, but. . ." Aelia's eyes went to the floor. "We're the only ones left." "You're down a leader, and I have no idea where my charge went. How 'bout I join you guys? You could've left me back in the labyrinth, or worse, but you didn't. I'm willin' to trust you. . .for now." The other four nodded in agreement. They needed all the help they could get! --- "I did some checking," Jethe told the original members of Tailwind flatly. "There's no guild by the name of Nutsy registered." "Ever?" Aelia said incredulously. "Ever," Jethe confirmed. "How did she end up in the labyrinth, then?" "I don't think she's the kind to make things up, and yet. . .what little she told us is so strange!" Indil pursed her lips. "Let's see if she's able to carry her weight. We're still short a member," Ebren said flatly. --- "Here's to another victory!" Ebren yelled. "First round's on us!" They'd gotten rid of one of the giant bugs that wandered around the area just north of Tharsis. The shopkeeper had paid them extra for the mantis claw they'd brought back, because she'd been running short on them. "This is the good stuff!" Cassie said in surprise. "You really went all out!" Ebren clapped her heartily on the back. "We had a good haul, so we celebrate in style!" Even Jethe's normally dour expression lightened at Ebren's words. "Oh, I feel as light as a feather~!" Aelia sang out. She'd left the heavier robes back in her room, and was clad in what looked like a spare set of Indil's clothes. Her curly brown hair bounced as she giggled, no doubt from the alcohol she'd already consumed. "Hee-hee, are you trying to take my job?" Indil taunted. "I bet you'd fall over at the first twirl!" "C'mon ladies, don't embarrass yourself in front of everyone," Jethe said as seriously as he could. . .or rather, as seriously as he could while staring at Aelia's lack of robes. "Remember that time when Jethe drank too much, and we dressed him up as a bar maid?" Indil said, mischief in her eyes. "Or how 'bout that time Weyland thought he could play the fiddle better than the musicians, and tried to prove it?" Aelia replied lightly, the alcohol taking away her grief. "We're talking about stupid things from the past? Like when Ebren tasted the local brew for the first time, and passed out?" Everyone that wasn't their leader laughed heartily. "I remember when Aelia thought that she was a dog, and followed Jethe around like a puppy!" Aelia's face was already red, but whether it was from the memory or the liquor was up for debate. "C'mon Cassie, don't you have any cool party stories?" Ebren asked, nudging her with his elbow. "Yeah, there was that guy I traveled with. The guild didn't know what a 'blue mage' was, so they called him a dancer instead. When he tried to mimic the movements of the first one he saw, he fell flat on his face!" Indil giggled, no doubt at the mental image. "Was he good-looking? I'd totally love to be alone with a hunky guy~!" Aelia blurted out. "He was, if you're into little boys," Cassie shot back. "Poor kid never heard of a labyrinth, and thought he could mimic monsters. How crazy is that?" No one laughed with her - they were more interested in what else she had to say. "Oh, fine. We'd run afoul of that huge ape in the mine - the wild one that attacked new guilds. I tried to keep the thing's fists from reachin' him, but the thing broke my arm instead. Then, he said some weird thing, and just like the monster, picked up one of the round things and threw it back! I thought I was dreamin', an' then it tried to swing a fist at 'im." The other four looked at each other wordlessly. Ebren nodded at her to continue. "I wasn' sure what happened, but next thing I know, he's by my side, screamin' his head off. His arm's been crushed somethin' fierce. The monster roared, its arm hangin' by its side. I tried to tell 'em that everythin' would be all right, but then I felt somethin' on my back, and that's all I remember." They spent the rest of the night in silence. --- Indil wiped away her tears, as she opened the drawer she'd kept sealed until now. The thing she'd found in the labyrinth was still there, along with something else she didn't remember seeing. Quote [spoiler=eCut's gift to KittyofTime]Aht [spoiler=Ether's gift to eCut] ~~~~Pent's Ylissean Adventures~~~~ That feral roar... it had grown so common as of late, so familiar to his ears... a scary thought, that was. The singing of steel as i cleft the air, closing on it's target with every passing moment, faintly audible through the macabre screech of the odd creature. The sudden crackling of flame, as the fell beast was ignited, the air about it consuming the wraith in a blaze of sudden fire. Feral screams now racked with pain as the foul cur gripped at the ground in agony, as it's life was snuffed out by fire, this place, how cleansed of it's presence. The sounds of the battlefield were no stranger to Etruria's Mage General, Count Pent Reglay. Though these beasts, this land, those were indeed still foreign, though growing more close to the heart with each passing day. He had been told that he had been summoned to Ylisse, to aid the warlord Chrom in saving his homeland from the Risen... that was what these creatures were called. Apparently he, after contributing to the defeat of Nergal and the fall of the Black Fang, had become something of a legend, his spirit forever archived in the mighty library these people referred to only as "The Gate." That was the reasoning for his summoning... Chrom required a hero of times past, and he had been considered most fit for the job. That was all well and good, but Chrom was not what interested the scholar most of all... no, it was his tactician, a man named Robin. The air with which he walked, the aura he exuded, that calm confidence that refused to be beguiled by it's own caution... how similar that man was, to Mark. The similarities were truly uncanny, and though he was adamantly refuted when he asked if he, too, was a summoned hero, Count Reglay could not shake the feeling in his heart that this man, who had supposedly been found, amnesiac, in an open field out in the plains, had some connection to Mark. But ponder on such things as he would, there was no answer for him. He was a foreigner to this world, and even with all the knowledge he had gained, there was still so much he was unsure of, things he could not place his finger on. And with battle raging all the while, he had not the time to dwell on such things, clarity of mind was of the utmost importance... these people, seemed to place such faith in his abilities, such trust in him... how could he even think to fail them? In truth, it was a momentous amount to take in... this world, all of the lore that stood at it's backbone... these Risen that spread across the land like a plague... to put time and effort into such a connection, that may truly only exist in his own mind, would surely be foolish. Yet... when such opportunities presented themselves, how could he not? "Count Reglay, a word?" Came the call, as Robin rushed beside him, cutting down one of their enemies as he closed. Pent supposed that was the largest difference, wasn't it? Robin was a fighter, who took to the front lines... that was something Mark had never done. "Of course, Robin. Though how many times have I asked you call me Pent? I am no nobleman in this world." Pent retorted, as he flipped through his tome. Moments later, the maelstrom of flame he had called to the world engulfed an approaching Risen, reducing it to naught but ash, as the caster turned his attention towards his tactician proper... that had been the last foe in their general vicinity, so no harm should come of this. "Ah, yes... right. Well, I just wanted to voice my appreciation of all you've done, Pent. Fighting alongside a hero such as yourself has greatly lifted the men's spirits, to say nothing of how effective you've been as a soldier in your own right. I only wish I could have been of more help to you... scour as I might, I cannot find anything pertaining to this Mark that you say I resemble so highly." Robin eventually stated, after shaking his head to and fro in an embarrassed fit... was he really so nervous over such things? Regardless, he brought up what might be the greatest dilemma, in Pent's mind. In this world, no recollection existed of Mark or his exploits... all of his comrades, down in writing, aside from the strategist that had lead them all to victory... would Robin too, share this fate? Pent couldn't help but wonder at that, but regardless with no records to speak of, his pursuit of what connections there might be became much more difficult. "Me? I have done nothing at all, Robin. I am merely a single soldier fighting at the side of my allies, in an attempt to rid Ylisse, no, this whole world, of the blight that has befallen it. Your men's exploits are their own, do not attribute your successes to my presence here." Pent retorted, as the call came from Lord Chrom... the Risen were defeated, and the village they had been protecting, safe. "It would seem that our work here is done, Robin. Now, if you wouldn't mind humouring some questions of mine?" The sage interjected, transitioning into his own topic of interest... Pent knew it would likely lead him nowhere, yet... it was so damn fascinating he couldn't help but try. "About Mark, yes? Certainly, I'll do what I can to assist you, Pent." Came the reply, and their talks continued well off the battlefield, that day. *** They say that unique experiences make one all the wiser,,, it was something that Pent surely agreed with, though at times he found that his agreement came to waiver... particularly, when he was stripped of his tome and robe, and instead fitted with heavy armour and a pikeman's spear, set to safeguard the frontline as it's staunch defender. It appeared common practice in Ylisse, every soldier should be fit to fill every role, able to adjust to the situation at hand. It was not a false ideal, and were it to play out proper, would prove quite the boon, yet the magically inclined Pent found much difficulty in wielding the lance and shield, and could feel his performance visibly slipping... this experience might still be considered valuable, yet to what extent, compared to the loss of his ability to conjure all that the arcane might hold, from mighty pyroclasms to staunch mountains of earth, frozen wastelands where no enemy might tread... to instead be holding this lance... Pent felt a sudden pity for the armoured knights who devoted their lives to such a thing... there was no pursuit of knowledge in this. He was snapped out of his reverie by the clang of steel on steel, and thrusting the point of his lance into the chest of hi would-be assailant, this risen crumpled to the floor. On the plus side, a blow like that might have killed him, had he been wearing his robes at the time. He supposed this armour business wasn't all bad. "But all the same... never again." Pent stated, looking straight at Robin as he did so... the tactician seemed to get the point, as he began a nervous laugh in reply. *** One point of interest, that one might not expect from Ylisse, was the entity known as Anna. In all his years, Pent had never quite experienced anything quite like this peculiar woman, or all her supposed sisters... clones seemed the better word, each was interchangeable with the next, differences seemingly non-existent from Anna to Anna. Between her obsession with monetary gain that would put Farina into the doghouse, crying in shame... either that or begging for her secrets, most likely the latter, though the former was the more amusing image, and her seemingly infinite stream of resources, she was quite the specimen. And as of any exceptional specimen, she had gotten them into rather interesting situations several times already... from fighting Risen on the beach, to fighting Risen at an outdoor hot spring... another thing to note about Anna, was that she and her incarnations seemed rather adamant on getting Chrom's shepards into swimwear. This would seem to include Pent, as well... of course you, a legendary hero, are invited, she would chime, happy as a clam that he had gone anywhere near the facility. With that in mind, she seemed to be overly attached to taking these 'photographs' of hers, whatever those were. When he had inquired about them, the only response Pent had gotten was that she would tell him later, giggling like a chipper schoolgirl all the while. Yes, all this, combined with the trickster's near complete mastery over anything that one might normally consider the luck of the draw... Anna was certainly an anomaly of her own calibre... perhaps worth more investigation that the world itself. *** "Well, you're my mother." Those words seemed to come up a lot, around Chrom's shepards. None too long after some of Pent's comrades had tied the knot and, presumably, conducted their honeymoon, which likely was no different a process from Elibe, a young adult, near the same age as the parent, would arrive, such a claim ringing from their mouths. It was the work of the gate, they said, they had encountered others before, and there were more they had still nit yet met up with, they said... the same song and dance really, and if Pent were to be summoned, was it really so far fetched? Yet without fail, each and every time, a jaw would hit the floor, some frantic shaking of one's significant other would occur, and no one was quite sure how to handle the logistics of having a son or daughter who was the same age as them. Supposedly, all of the children of the Shepards had gone back in time to prevent the world from being overrun by the Risen, as it had in their timeline. Well, such a thing certainly did not bode well for their quest, and inquire as he might, none of these future children could really explain how they had come back. The Gate was involved, as it seemed to be with just about everything else, and that was as far as Pent had gotten. Yet another oddity of Ylisse, it would seem, as mother and daughter, father and son, fought side by side, looking more siblings or friends, than parent and child. *** Grima... a dark dragon, hell bent on destroying the world, leaving it in ruin. Now, Pent had fought dragons before... well, a dragon, but to be certain, this foe was quite a ways away from the lone fire dragon that he had faced in the past. As the black silhouette filled the sky, blocking out the sun itself in it's massive girth, Pent could not help but feel a bit of deja vu, though on a much larger scale. Nergal had collected quintessence in order to open the dragon's gate, and summon the fire dragon, and here, the Grimleal and sacrificed so many people, to summon their own God, Grima. A chilling similarity, really, and with the children's tales of Grima bringing his vision to fruition in their future, that chill would grow ever the stronger. That was when it hit Pent, something that he likely had no time to think about, yet the same as Robin, couldn't be helped... this outworld gate, was it not akin to the dragon's gate that Nergal had opened? Once they had concluded this, it was certainly something to investigate further, but for the time being, it was time to slay yet another dragon, it would seem. *** Grima was full of surprises it seemed. As though the world itself deemed that Pent would not yet be free of even more things to rack his mind about, the supposed final battle was to occur on the back of the beast itself. Chrom's Shepards had been warped atop Grima, so as to destroy the dragon at it's core... another Robin. With the reveal of what Robin really was, there had been a bit of a damper put on to the similarities between him and Mark... though to be fair who knew what secrets Mark might have had. As the battle raged, it eventually reached a fevered pitch, climaxing in Robin ending his own counterpart, which should have assured his own death in the process. Much grieving was had that day, as was to be expected.., would Robin, manage to leave his signature on history, in a way that Mark had not? All Pent could do was, so long as he was here, spread word of the man the best he could... the accomplishments of this tactician deserved to be recorded, not lost to the depths of history. *** "Come now, Lord Chrom, Lissa... don't you think that's enough teasing of you're old friend?" Pent stated, his arms crossed somewhat sternly, as he stared down the royal siblings... what a time to be messing around, though with such a coincidence, he supposed it couldn't be helped, really. "Yes, you're right... welcome back, Robin." Chrom replied, his face apologetic, as he pulled his friend up from the ground, in that very same field in which they had first met, or so Etruria's Mage General had been told. And so with Robin being found here, alive and well against all odds, it would seem things had come full circle in Ylisse, finally, they could say that they had truly won. "If I might be allowed... I think I might like, to live my life out again, a second time. To see what it is that Ylisse truly has to offer." That drew their attention right quickly, it would seem. Smiles abound, as Chrom turned back towards Count Reglay, Lissa and Robin at his side. "Of course Ylisse would love to have you... you're twice a hero, now, Lord Pent. And besides... you're a shepard, just like us. You're family." [spoiler="I have Opinion's gift to Samias]A gift! [spoiler=j00's gift to Cal the Tactician]A gift! [spoiler=jealousy's gift to Prax]CHO ALL THE THINGS. [spoiler=Kitty of Time's gift to jealousy]A gift! [spoiler=Prax's gift to I Have Opinions]A gift! [spoiler=RisingSolaris' gift to Mewiyev]A gift! [spoiler=Samias' gift to Balcerzak]A gift! [spoiler=ShinyPichu's gift to Sumia]A gift! [spoiler="eclipse's gift to j00][spoiler spoiler=History Undone] Kiel and the others should be all right. What's next? Stocke ambled along the bridge, satisfied with his latest task. One of the bridge's ropes snapped, followed by another. Stocke had just enough time to gasp before the former bridge dumped him into the river below. Luckily for him, the drop was short, so instead of crawling out of the river mostly-dead (like last time), he walked out with nothing but a few bruises. Once he dragged himself back onto dry land, he took out the White Chronicle, ready to start his next mission. Black water seeped from it. This can't be good! --- "Please be more careful with the White Chronicle," Lippiti stated, dripping wet. "We are not creatures of the water." "More importantly, the untimely destruction of the writing within the Chronicle means that you can't return from when and where you came from," Teo added. "I'm trapped here?" Stocke knew that strange things were bound to happen when messing with time, but being stuck IN the Chronicle wasn't on his list of things to do. Ever. "The portals still exist, but their location is uncertain," Teo replied, motioning to one of the steadier points of light. "We can restore them, but it will take a long time. I fear that your world will be made of sand before the process is finished." "You may not be able to return here if you step through them," Lippiti chimed in. Stocke briefly weighed the options between going to an unknown world or being prisoner in a book. "So long!" === "Oh, what am I going to do?" a woman's voice echoed through the wall. Stocke, ever the agent, stayed in the shadows and listened. "The princess will be stillborn, and nothing can change that," another woman's voice replied. "But to give up my granddaughter for the kingdom. . ." the first woman said, quite loudly. "Hush, or she'll hear you! Sylvia will understand. It is what the Score decrees." "Ah. . .at least give me a chance to hear my granddaughter's name. . ." Stocke quietly left as the conversation was replaced with sobbing. This Sylvia is nearby, and from the sound of that conversation, is pregnant. From the decorations in the hall, Stocke surmised that he was in a noble's manor, or a castle. Such places normally had guards. Fortunately, they weren't on high alert, so he was able to move with relative ease. He observed a puffy-eyed older woman come out of one of the rooms and enter another one, two doors down. In moments, the silence in that room was replaced with snoring. Perfect. Now I need to wait until morning. Where's a good place to hole up? Footsteps woke him from his impromptu nap. Out of habit, he grabbed his sword, then stopped, once he remembered where he was. The older woman left the room, clad in a maid's outfit. Once she was out of sight, Stocke peeked into the room. A single woman occupied it, and it looked like she was fast asleep. He quickly let himself in, shook her awake, and placed a hand over her mouth. Her eyes widened in surprise, and he heard a muffled scream. "Listen to what I have to say, and don't scream." Her eyes were still wide with fear. This wasn't good. "You'll stress out your baby if you keep this up. If I meant to do you harm, I would've done something already, Sylvia." The look in her eyes went from fearful to perplexed. Good. "Last night, the older woman who lives here said something about giving up her granddaughter for the kingdom." "My mother wouldn't do that!" Sylvia exclaimed. "I also heard something about the princess being stillborn, and a Score. Does that mean anything to you?" Tears filled Sylvia's eyes. "She means. . .to switch my child with the dead princess. . .no. . ." Stocke shifted uncomfortably. He didn't like making women cry. "Is there somewhere else you can stay?" "My husband. . .yes, I'll go to him." She got out of bed far too slowly for Stocke's liking. "My mother won't be back until lunch. I should be able to depart before then. . .please don't tell her that I'm leaving." Much to his surprise, she exited the room, without so much as telling him to leave. Luckily, he had other means of escaping. He took out the White Chronicle, and hoped that it would work as it was supposed to. . . --- "You chose an interesting world to meddle in," Lippiti remarked. "Your actions caused a country to fall," Teo added. "Perhaps it would be better if you saw things first-hand." Unsure of what else to do, Stocke entered the nearby portal. --- "Mommy, I can't feel my legs," a young, bedridden boy whimpered. "Luke, shhh, don't cry," the woman near the bed cooed, while placing her hand on his head. "You're alive. . ." "How could that brat of a princess do that?" a man nearby growled. "She said it was all play, but when we undid the noose from around his neck, he cried!" "Honey, not now. . ." the woman begged. "Natalia has no morals, yet her father refuses to punish her for her deeds! She nearly killed her own cousin! Something must be done!" --- Natalia's reign of terror did not go unnoticed in Malkuth. The Fon Fabre family formed a resistance, and Malkuth quietly sent them troops and supplies. Two years later, Akzeriuth was destroyed. Signs pointed to Kimlascan interference. Emperor Peony openly declared war on Kimlasca. Many lives on both sides were lost, and the war finally ended when a mercenary named Meryl killed the princess during the invasion of Baticul. When it became public knowledge that the Fon Fabre family had received assistance from Malkuth, the angry citizens stormed the Fon Fabre residence. When they got there, they found the bodies of the entire family, and not a servant in sight. Their manor was burned to the ground. Kimlasca became a territory of Malkuth. . . === "That is not what I expected," Stocke mumbled. He stood in front of yet another gate. "Not all problems can be fixed by changing history," Teo said, without a hint of compassion. "The path to your own world is not yet complete," Lippiti commented. "Is my use of the Chronicle hindering you?" Stocke asked. The two looked at each other. "I, uhhh. . ." Lippiti started. "It seems that your travels accelerate the pathfinding," Teo said nervously. "Later, you two!" --- A large man stood in front of a couple, hammer at ready. A little girl clung to the woman's leg, crying. Stocke saw the hammer move, and charged. His actions caused the large man to hesitate, which gave Stocke enough time to shove the family out of the way. "Why are you attacking them?" Stocke demanded. The large man looked down at Stocke for a painfully long time, before turning on his heel and leaving. "Y-you saved us," the man said, relief in his voice. "Thank you, kind stranger." The girl looked up at Stocke apprehensively. The woman bent down and picked the little girl up. "Say thank you, Elize," the woman said. The little girl clung to the woman, but gave Stocke a small smile. He nodded at her before turning and walking away. Once out of sight, he invoked the power of the Chronicle, and vanished. Perhaps this time, I changed the past for the better. [spoiler=Rothene's gift to ShinyPichu] The book and the ring In the lands of Bern, a lone troubadour sat down and frowned as she leafed through a ponderous tome. For some the contents of the tome was easy to understand, but not for someone who had never attempted to use anima magic before. It detailed on techniques to produce flame by summoning the spirits of fire from the surrounding. "So, if I...oh this is confusing. Why does casting fire have to be so different from healing," muttered Priscilla to herself as she closed the tome in frustration. She had been working on it for the past few days and not a single shred of understanding was achieved. Behind her a red cloaked mage walked to her quietly before announcing himself. "Lady Priscilla, you should not be out here alone at night. The mountains are cold, and the light from your staff shines so brightly in the dark, anyone could notice you alone out here," Erk warned as he sat on a rock nearby. Smiling at her bodyguard, the Etrurian noble replied, "But this spot was lonely, and felt...right. In case of being attacked, I have you right? Especially now." Then there was some silence between the two as the troubadour's words sank in. Nodding, Erk shifted ueasily where he was, clearly troubled by some notion in his head, "Yes...we are alone. Uh, I see you're still trying to master the fire tome! You should ahv asked me or Lord Pent for help." "You are right, here, I'll bring the tome closer and we can read it together," Priscilla said as she stood up and sat next to Erk, close enough that they could feel each other's body heat, a blessing against the chilly cold winds of the highlands. Erk could not help but blush slightly as he welcomed the comfort. The two went at lengths on the theories of magic, mostly Erk doing the explaining while Priscilla sat and nod wordlessly. "Thank you, Erk. We should do this more, I've learned a lot," Priscilla said as both of them started feeling weary of their lessons. She finally had a foothold on anima magic, or at least the theory of it. She liked to believe that Erk felt the same way regarding staff magic. "Right. It is nice to just sit down and learn after all these battles. Makes you wish it will all end soon right?" Erk spoke as fidgeted with his cloak, something nagging at the back of his head. "Oh, but then, we would all go our separate ways when the fighting ends," Priscilla said looking up at the lonely moon in the sky, her joyful expression replaced by one with a hint of sadness. Erk coughed after finding what he was looking for. Producing two rings from from his pouch, the mage presented one to Priscilla, "My lady, take this." "Oooh, a ring, Erk really?" Priscilla gasped as her hands reached forward to take it from Erk's hand. "Yes, it's a guiding ring. I heard that wearing one grants spellcasters greater wisdom, that it will show its wearer new paths of power and always guides the user to what they care about most before vanishing like the morning mist. It should help us master new arts of magic at the very least," Erk explained as he caught Priscilla's outstretched hands and slipped the ring on her middle finger. "I managed to convince Lord Eliwood to grant them to us as spoils of war." Priscilla sighed in slight disappointment. It was not an engagement ring, but it was something. Looking over it in her finger, the troubadour did not feel any surge in wisdom or power. It was just cold and hard. And silent. Feeling the coldness of her surroundings more strongly due to the material of the guding ring, Priscilla shivered. Instinctively, Erk found himself wrapping both Priscilla and him under his cloak. "You are cold my lady, we should go..." "No, I'm tired Erk. We're not too far from the camp. Let's just sleep here. Together we will keep each other warm like this," Priscilla said as she let the light from her staff fade, flashing Erk a warm smile that was impossible for the mage to refuse, "You are my bodyguard, your obligation is to be by my side wherever I am." "Lady Priscilla..." And the two spent the night in each other's embrace as they slept. *** The halls were covered in blood as Eliwood's troop fought hard to cut through enemy ranks. They needed to fight their way through Black Fang assassins and save the prince of Bern. Surveying the battlefield, Priscilla rode around to heal the wounded in the cavalier division she was attached to. They were tasked with making a bee line to the prince's chambers as they were quick on horseback. This was the first battle her bodyguard was assigned away from her. Usually they both doubled up on Priscilla's mount. "That should take care of it," Priscilla told Sain as she mended his wounds. She then quickly looked far away, in a direction she felt the ring pointing towards. Lately, she could sense the guiding ring resonate in power, especially when she was away from Erk, distracting the strange emptiness she felt without him nearby. "I think we more than enough soldiers here. And elixirs," Marcus said after catching sight of the troubadour's expression of longing. He then passed around a few bottles while issuing orders. "Sir Lowen, escort lady Priscilla back to the rearguard, we can hold this place without a healer for a while. Priscilla saw the understanding in the paladin's eyes and nodded in gratitude as she rode off with Lowen following on her heels. The guiding ring seemed to be doing something today. It told her she had to seek out Erk, and that matters were urgent. *** Assigned to protect the rear from enemy reinforcements, Erk found himself battling alone. It was partly his fault, as he worried for Priscilla and kept inching closer to where he felt her relative position to his was. Or was it the ring guiding him to the one he desired? Blasting enemies to his right and left, the mage barely held his foes at bay. Then the fighting seemed to have moved and Erk knew he was alone. With all the shouting and battlecries, the mage could not muster the time to call out to his comrades to aid him. But he was determined to survive, someone out there needed him after all. As he spared Priscilla some thought, his movement slowed and an assassin slipped past his defenses stabbing him squarely in the stomach. Great pain coursed through him as he felt the assassin twist the blade before pulling it out. Collapsing on a nearby pillar, Erk gazed up at his killer as the man raised his sword for one final thrust, the mage in too much pain to even defend himself. Then the assassin burst into flames. In the distance, Erk saw a figure radiating with light from her staff to banish the darkness of the lightless halls and raining down fire on his enemies. The very image of a goddess that deals in life and death, a valkyrie. *** "No, Erk, no!" Priscilla screamed when she saw the assassin land a blow on her bodyguard. It was at that moment the guiding ring flared brightly and Priscilla felt a surge of anger fill her. Seething anger like the flames, ready to lash out. She welcomed the feeling, drawing from it, stoking it with her grief and inviting the rage into her. Lifting the fire tome by her side, the valkyrie let out wave after wave of fire until there was no enemies left. Lowen had chose to engage some enemies following the pair, his amrour and combat prowess enough to not require any assistance. He was a paladin, and thus a cut better than most of their enemies. "Erk, erk, erk..." Priscilla cried as she craddled him in her arms while she used all her magic to heal him, the wounds were closing but already the life in Erk's eyes were fading. "Erk, you must not...no...come back to me Erk I NEED YOU!" Still the life chose to escape. "Erk we have a CONTRACT! YOU PROMISED TO PROTECT ME! YOU BELONG BY MY SIDE!" She felt the body spasm, but she did not stop in her healing. In fact she began pouring her life into her magic, feeling her lifeforce mix with Erk's, growing weaker by the moment. *** Duty, obligation, love. These words coursed through Erk's mind as he fought hard to live. But it was difficult, and the mage felt his soul surrendering to death bit by bit, tired and weary it wanted to rest finally and forever. But then he saw, with his last bit of flagging strength Priscilla's grieving face and then of that smile by the mountains when they both slept beside each other under his cloak. He thought of the warmth he felt and followed that feeling, regaining his foothold on the realm of the living. He could feel Priscilla pouring not only her healing magic into him, but also a part of her, to better tie his soul back to the world. But in doing so, he understood she was about to pay a terrible toll. He did not want to live alone in regret. Erk understood what he had to do save both of them and felt the guiding ring he wore filling him with the wisdom of life. Raising a staff he kept by his side but was never able to use, the sage poured his magic and life into the valkyrie clinging onto him. The two felt each other's soul intertwine, mating with each other to generate a greater understanding between the two lonely souls. A strong bond was forged between the pair and they both look at each other's eyes, smiling at the same time as the guiding rings began dissolving into the air. [spoiler=Mew's gift to MarioKirby] A gift! Thanks to everyone for participating, and best wishes in the new year! -------- Questions? Comments? Post here!
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