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Acacia Sgt

Cavern of the Fae - A Shadows of Valentia Fanfic

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Greetings, everyone! Here I am once again bringing one of my many works made over the years... actually complete for once! Okay, I've actually been uploading this in other websites as I wrote it, but I figured might as well upload it here too. Since what better place to post a Fire Emblem story than in a Fire Emblem site? Yeah okay, I didn't while it was a work in progress. Anyway, here it is now. Now, unlike previous stuff I've put up, I won't do with a Feedback thread. Judging from previous experience, I think it's best if the feedback, if there's any, to just be here in the story thread itself. That said, do wait up until I've uploaded the whole thing before actually commenting, in case you're reading this right after it goes up. Once the epilogue is up, the story is fully uploaded and so you're free to post.

Well then, the following story is a rewrite/revision from a work long mostly uploaded at Writing.com, for a CYOA style of work. Wanting to turn it into a proper fanfic, I wrote the missing parts, which was mostly the beginning portion. That said, I also did a fair amount of rewriting to the parts I did wrote originally. If by any chance you happened to have read that original version, well, I hope this new one will still be worth the read.

Lastly, one word of warning. It'd perhaps be best to read this if you've at least played or are aware of the events of SoV up to the end of Act 3 if you mind to be spoiled. Just in case.

So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy:

Cavern of the Fae

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Prologue – A Rumored Boon

Spoiler

 

It had been months since Celica departed from Novis Priory to find answers to the droughts and blights that have affected the kingdom of Zofia for the past few years. Accompanied by her close friends, she set forth towards the Temple of Mila, intending to find answers from the Earth Mother herself, responsible for the bountiful harvests the kingdom enjoyed; until recently, that is. Many obstacles stood in the young maiden's path. From cutthroat rogues and dreadful Terrors, to even the nefarious Duma Faithful. However, with her friends at her side, as well the other companions who joined them on the way, Celica was able to overcome these hardships and thus reach their destination.

It was there at Mila's temple that the group found the shocking truth. The temple had been attacked years ago by neighbor Rigel, whom Zofia was currently at war with. Mila herself was struck down and taken deep into their territory, now held hostage. Despite Celica wanting to march right away to rescue her, it was currently not possible. The two countries were divided by a deep valley, which had been turned into a water reservoir long ago. Two sluices controlled the water flow. One at the temple itself, at the eastern side of the continent, with the other on the opposite end. There'd be no march north until both gates were opened up; therefore, they had no choice but to wait. It was only a matter of time, however, as Zofian forces were slowly pushing back the Rigelians and would reach the western sluice gate before long. As such, Celica and her companions would stay at the temple for the time being, until the time came they'd venture forth into Rigel.

Barely the morning after from their arrival, the princess heard an interesting rumor from one of the temple clerics.

"Have you heard, milady?" The cleric began, "up in the mountains not far from here lies a cave, called the Cavern of the Fae. It is said a most exemplary power was hidden there long ago, long before the arrival of the Earth Mother and the War Father. Though many have ventured there looking for that power, they've all returned empty-handed. Should such a power truly exist and be obtained… it would be quite the boon in your journey, wouldn't you think?"

Despite the word of earlier failures, Celica wasn't discouraged. There was no harm in doing one more search, and braving the cave could serve as further experience for them. Thus, around midday she and her companions departed. Back through the road they followed to reach the temple, and into the trail that ascended towards the cave. They soon reached the entrance, not having encountered any hostiles on the way. Selecting a few members to accompany her inside, Celica then stepped into the depths.

 

Chapter 1 – Underground

Spoiler

 

The Cavern of the Fae at first glance looked no different from any other cave in Valentia. It wasn't large, but still somewhat of a maze and filled with Terrors. Nonetheless, Celica and her companions made their way through, exploring the tunnels. There were a few dead-ends to be found and some loot to be scavenged here and there, but nothing so far of the power spoke in legend; not even a lead. Soon enough, after several manageable if still draining battles, they finally found a welcoming sight: One of the dead-ends of the cave housed a sufficiently-sized chamber with a Mila statue.

"Thank the Earth Mother, this place has a shrine," Mae said, exhaustion in her voice.

Tired cheers followed, as they all poured into the room.

"Alright everyone," Celica said, "we will take this moment to rest up."

They spread out, as Celica herself went over to make an offering at the statue. There wasn't much in terms of proper sitting, but large enough pieces of fallen rubble easily made do. Some were content instead to remain standing or merely lean against the walls. Once settled, they waited as the princess made her offering. Soon, they felt the revitalizing effect of the fatigue leaving their bodies, courtesy of the blessing.

"Ahhhhh, I so needed that," Mae sighed in relief, being among the ones who sat down, "fighting all those Terrors was so tiring."

"You could say that again, hon," Leon agreed, who was also sitting, "my arms were killing me after firing all those arrows."

Despite the soreness already mostly gone, he still went through the motions of caressing his arms as if to sooth the pain away, a grimace on his face.

"Hahaha! You need to get in better shape, my friend," Valbar heartily laughed, having remained standing close by.

"It's easy for you to say, Valbar," the archer replied, "not everyone can be as fit as you."

"Yeah, you are used to hauling that armor all day long," Mae agreed.

"Heh, don't tell me you exhausted yourself there, Mae," Boey chuckled, who also remained standing.

"And you didn't?" Mae raised an eyebrow.

"Of course not!" The boy folded his arms confidently, "I have better control of my magic after all."

"Or more like you only know how to cast weak spells," his companion snickered, "if I became exhausted, it's because I do know powerful if draining spells!"

The two mages glared at each other, before a sudden giggle snapped them back to attention. Glancing over, they saw Celica heading towards them.

"It's good to see you two back in full spirits," she said with a smile.

"Yeah, heh, it just doesn't feel the same if you two aren't bickering," Saber chuckled, leaning against the wall, arms folded.

"I don't think I've ever seen two people argue that many times," Jesse said with some amazement, standing not that far from his fellow mercenary.

"It reminds me of my brothers, hahaha," Atlas laughed.

He had been the only one forego the pieces of rubble, and simply sat cross-legged on the floor.

"They also tend to fight all the time. Sometimes with more than just words."

"Well, sure, when they're at that age it's normal," Jesse pointed out.

"Oh, age has little to do with it sometimes, specially between siblings," Atlas commented.

"That's true," Palla pitched in, standing with her pegasus right behind, "even my sisters and I sometimes also get into petty squabbles."

She then glanced to her side, at the other pegasus knight of the group.

"Isn't that right, Catria?"

"Not to the same extent as them though, Palla," her sister replied, "and we have Est to contend with."

Palla chuckled.

"Yeah, that is true."

"Honestly, their bickering makes me think more of an old married couple," Jesse brought his hands behind his head.

"W-What!?" Both mages exclaimed with shock, glancing over at the mercenary.

"They certainly act line one, that's for sure, heh," Saber opinionated.

"Well, speaking from experience," Valbar then spoke up, "they do remind me of my wife and I before we tied the knot."

He then laughed.

"Though perhaps not as extreme."

"You can't all be serious!" Mae exclaimed as she stood up.

"I must admit, you two would make a good couple, hee hee," Celica giggled.

"Not you too, Milady!" Boey grimaced.

"Y-Yeah, Celica, what are you saying?" Mae's face now sported a faint blush. "Married, to him!?"

She pointed at her fellow mage then made a face of disgust.

"I'd rather marry a revenant!"

"As if a revenant would want to marry you!" Boey sniped back, also red in the face.

"More than with you at least!" Mae shot back.

They quickly turned their backs to each other with a humph each, arms folded and eyes closed. This caused all matters of laughter from the onlookers, though Celica's was subdued with a twinge of pity.

"Well everyone, let's just focus on resting for now, and eat something if you need it," she changed the subject to spare further embarrassment to her friends.

So they did. Those still standing finally sat down either on the rubble or joining Atlas at the floor, save for Saber who remained against the wall, as they took out various foodstuffs to eat. Unlike the previous chatty atmosphere, they consumed their meals in relative silence. As they finished up some remained sitting, though others stood back up for one reason or another; the pegasus knights in particular to now feed their mounts. Celica herself was just about finishing she saw Saber approach her.

"Is something the matter, Saber?" The princess asked.

"Well, lass, I think it's clear our search here turned out empty-handed," the mercenary replied.

Celica hung her head slightly with a small frown.

"Yes, it looks that way. We already scoured the entire cave, and there was nothing but the shrine."

She sighed.

"It seems the legend of that hidden power was only that: A legend."

"Oh, Celica, don't be so down," Mae said, as she and Boey walked over as well, "we did our best, and that's what counts."

"Besides, the trip wasn't a waste of time," Boey added, "this was a good training as any, for when the time comes we venture forth to Rigel."

The princess felt better, if only slightly.

"Still," she glanced back up at them, "it would've been a boon to have it. Anything to help us rescue the Earth Mother."

Mae placed her hands on her hips, adopting a serious expression.

"Come on, Celica, you doubt of our abilities? Well, wouldn't surprise me with Boey," the mage rolled his eyes, but otherwise ignored her jab, "but we have certainly grown so much since departing Novis. So I'm sure we can rescue the Mother, with or without that power!"

"For once, I agree with her," Boey said, folding his arms, "we've managed to come this far after all. We've gained so many allies and become quite stronger, we just have to have faith in ourselves and our own strength."

"They're right, lass," Saber added before smirking; "makes for a more impressive sounding tale too, heh."

At this Celica finally mustered a small smile.

"Thank you, everyone," she stood up, placing a hand over her heart. "I was placing too much faith in a power that could not exist. It's just that…"

Her smile faltered for a moment, returning with a hint of sadness to it.

"I couldn't bear to remain idle until the sluice gates were opened, while Mila remains captive throughout."

"Then let's make sure to keep ourselves busy in the meantime!" Mae said, fists clenched.

"Yes, we will continue training, so when the time comes we are ready to tackle what Rigel throws at us in their home turf," Saber declared.

"We won't let the Mother remain captive any longer than she has to," Boey fist pumped.

"Right," Celica nodded, determination on her face, "then once everyone has rested up, we will…"

"Your Highness!"

Interrupted by the sudden call, they all turned at the origin of the voice. They saw Valbar and Leon were standing by a side wall. Next to them was a pile of rubble resting against the wall itself, reaching almost as high as the ceiling of the chamber.

"Is something the matter?" Celica asked as the quartet moved closer.

"Perhaps some good news, princess," the knight nodded. "Leon and I were checking out this pile of rubble, when he noticed that there may be something actually buried in there."

This surprised them, as well as those within earshot.

"You mean, like a collapsed tunnel?" Mae asked.

"Sadly, nothing of the sort," Leon shook his head, "it's more like a small alcove. In fact, you can barely see it at the top of the pile."

Glancing upwards to see, they indeed noticed how the exposed cave ceiling went beyond the wall, with what was visible of the walls beyond behind the rubble being the same kind as the chamber's, thus proving the archer's words right that it was indeed an alcove. By this point the entire group had now gathered around to see.

"What do you think could've been buried there?" Boey wondered.

"Well, I doubt it was that power," Saber replied, "something like that wouldn't have been placed in such a dinky alcove."

"Though there might still be something," Celica brought up, "a chest, perhaps?"

"Well, there's only one way to find out…"

The mercenary then turned to face Jesse and Atlas.

"Come on guys, let's get this rubble out of the way!"

"Alright," Atlas hit his palm with a fist, "let's do this!"

"Come on Leon, let's do our part," Valbar rotated his arm.

The archer, however, didn't looked as enthusiastic.

"And here I thought my arms were done working for the day," he sighed.

"We'll help out too," Palla said, taking a step forward.

She then glanced towards Celica.

"Leave it to us, Milady," she told her.

"Very well," the princess nodded, "I leave it in your hands, everyone."

She then turned to Mae and Boey.

"Come on, let's give them some space."

"Hey, I can help out too," Boey protested.

"Ha! You wish," Mae mocked, "you'll just get in the way."

The mage humphed, but nonetheless walked away with them without further protest. The rest of the group thus promptly began to work.

 

 

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Chapter 2 – No Mere Myth

Spoiler

 

The task of moving the rubble out of the alcove took several minutes overall. The pieces were many but most of them small enough to be picked up without difficulty. The pegasus knights and Leon largely carried these while the others worked with the larger pieces. The largest in particular was loosely slab-shaped, composed of most of the alcove's ceiling, resting slanted between the back wall and the floor. Soon, this was the only one left to move.

"Alright everyone," Valbar directed, once everyone had their grips on it, "all together now. Heave!"

With a collection of grunts, they slowly lifted the makeshift slab's lowered side until they held it in a leveled matter.

"I see something already!" Palla called out.

This made the others glance over.

"It's a… lever," Saber said.

"A lever?" Celica repeated, surprised.

"We'll worry about that later," Valbar said, "for now, let's get this out of the way."

Thus, they began to walk slowly, carrying the piece of rock away from the alcove. Once they got it completely out, they then moved a little to the side, before stopping as soon they weren't blocking access to the alcove.

"Steady now…" the knight continued leading, "this should be enough. Settle it down nice and slowly now."

So they did. The slab-piece was gently laid out on the chamber's floor. Once done, a collective sigh was shared among them as they stood back up. Taking it as their cue, Celica and her friends walked back over.

"Phew, what a workload this one was," Jesse wiped the sweat from his forehead.

"Haha, you got tired?" Atlas smirked.

"Well, not everyone is used to this kind of work," the mercenary retorted.

"Gentlemen, let's avoid starting a fight for now," Valbar said. "We got a more pressing matter to tend to."

"The lever," Catria simply stated.

They all converged around the alcove. There, at the back almost touching the wall, was the lever. It was attached to a base on the floor, running parallel to the back wall. The lever itself rested inclined towards their left.

"It looks so… pristine," Mae observed.

Indeed, despite having been unearthed from under a pile of rubble, the entire thing looked no worse for wear. Not even a layer of dust. Only the Mila statue could compare.

"That's a bit suspicious, if you ask me," Saber narrowed his gaze.

"Yeah, how can that thing still be no worse for wear despite having the ceiling above it collapse?" Palla asked.

"Maybe it's sturdier than it looks," Atlas suggested.

"Well, with how the fallen ceiling was positioned, it looks like it didn't actually land on top of it," Leon countered.

"That still doesn't explain how… clean, it looks," Boey frowned.

"It is certainly odd," Celica nodded. "Not to mention… its design. It's unlike anything seen before."

"Yeah, what's up with that? It looks neither Zofian or Rigelian," Mae noted.

"Could it be Archanean?" The princess glanced over at the two pegasus knights for an answer.

They, however, sadly shook their heads.

"I'm afraid this is also unknown to us, Milady," Catria said.

"And we've seen our fair share of Archanea's ancient architecture," Palla added, "this lever doesn't look like any of them."

"So definitely Valentian at the least, huh," Saber brought a hand to his chin.

"Which means it must be from the times of yore," Valbar stated, "before the two kingdoms came to be."

"Hmm, could it be…" Celica trailed off before gasping in realization.

Around her, her companions were reaching similar conclusions.

"Perhaps there was some semblance of truth to that story after all," Catria worded what they were all thinking.

"So is that it? No one ever found out because they never bothered with the rubble here?" Jesse asked, almost incredulous.

"Seems that way," Valbar said, before glancing above the lever, "it must've collapsed a long time ago. Definitely before the shrine was built, otherwise it would've been discovered back then."

"Brilliant deduction, Valbar," Leon praised.

"Well, what are we waiting for, then?" Mae said, fists clenched, an eager look on her face. "Let's see what it does!"

She barely took a step forward when she quickly felt a hand on her shoulder, making her stop.

"Hold your horses, lass," Saber said before he withdrew the hand, "we must remain cautious. We don't know what pulling that lever will actually do."

"Yet we won't find out unless we actually pull on it," Catria pointed out.

"It should be fine," Boey said, "we are in one of the Earth Mother's shrines, after all."

"That is true…" Celica hummed, eyes closed.

She then opened them back and nodded.

"It's settled then. Let's do it. Though we remain on guard for whatever happens, just in case."

Murmurs of agreement followed.

"Allow me, Milady," Valbar then said.

He proceeded to walk into the alcove. Rubbing his hands together, he then gripped the handle of the lever.

"Uoh!"

To the knight's surprise, in one swift motion he moved the lever to the other side without difficulty, taking much less effort than expected. Shortly after, a rumbling sound began to echo across the chamber, prompting the group to turn around, and the pegasus knights to go calm down their mounts, startled by the noise.

"Huh, what is happening!?" Jesse exclaimed.

"Look, the wall!" Leon pointed.

They glanced at the opposite wall, where the archer was pointing at. To their surprise, they saw how a small segment of it, right across from the alcove, was sinking into the ground.

"Is it opening up a tunnel?" Atlas wondered.

Barely after, however, he'd be proven wrong when it was instead showing another alcove, of the same dimensions as the first one, making for a mirror design to the chamber. Though as the wall kept receding, it showed something else as well.

"It's a doorway!" Palla called out.

Indeed, a doorway was now in view, its frame sporting design patterns not dissimilar to the lever and its base. Darkness shrouded the other side. Soon the wall fully receded, the rumbling ceasing. With things calmed down again, they slowly approached the newly uncovered alcove.

"Well, what do you know. So there is more to this cave after all," Saber stated.

"So… the power may indeed do exist after all," Celica said.

Despite coming to terms earlier of otherwise, she began to feel hopeful again.

"That remains to be seen, lass. First, we need to see where it leads to."

The light of the chamber showed steps leading down from the doorway, though it failed to show more than that. The mercenary drew out his sword, keeping it pointing outwards, before cautiously getting closer. The moment his sword reached the very threshold of the alcove, suddenly, it hit something. Immediately after, a bright light materialized.

"Huh?"

Saber shielded his eyes with his free arm. The light was more of a flash, encompassing the entirety of the hole's surface area, and it disappeared shortly after… save for the surrounding area of his sword, which still was resting against something solid, despite appearances.

"What's this…" Saber muttered as he withdrew the sword, the light now fully dissipating.

At this point, the rest caught up to him.

"What was that?" Jesse asked.

"It looked like some sort of barrier," Boey noted.

"Hmm…" Saber withdrew further his sword, before extending forth his other hand instead.

As with the sword, he suddenly felt something solid, and the area around it was lit up all the same. He withdrew a second after.

"You're right, it is a barrier," the mercenary narrowed his gaze. "Magic, no doubt."

"Ugh, so now we have to a way to dispel it?" Mae grimaced.

"Looks that way," Catria said.

Celica stared at the alcove, pensive. She then glanced around the chamber once more.

It doesn't look like there could be other things buried under the rest of the rubble, she thought. Perhaps it is not meant to be dispelled.

Upon staring back at the alcove…

I wonder…

Despite Saber having already done it, she still extended her own hand towards it. However, to her surprise and that of the others, her arm went right through, into the alcove itself.

"Well, would you look at that!" Valbar exclaimed.

"How did you do it, Celica?" Mae was amazed.

"I did nothing," Celica said, withdrawing her arm.

Wordlessly, Saber extended his own arm again. However, once he again he hit something solid. He frowned.

"The barrier is still there."

This made them more confused.

"Then why is it that Lady Celica could get through?" Palla asked.

"Maybe it only lets those of royal blood pass?" Atlas offered.

"Someone else should try, just in case," Celica said.

"I'll do it!" Mae declared.

Unlike the other two, she instead walked fully right onto the barrier… and into the alcove. She spun back around, incredulous.

"Huh, I made it through?"

Her eyes then widened.

"Does this means I…!"

"Hee hee, I don't think that was really the requirement, Mae," Celica sweat dropped.

"As if you could be of noble blood," Boey muttered under his breath, rolling his eyes.

Thankfully, it was not overhead by the female mage.

"It seems like it only allows those who wield magic to pass, perhaps," Catria said.

"So that could be it?" Boey folded his arms, sounding confident. "Then I should be able to cross too!"

He then tried to follow suit…

"Ow!"

Only to smack right into the barrier, making him recoil back, rubbing his nose.

"Looks like you were wrong, sister," Palla said.

"Or maybe he's just too mediocre of a mage to be considered worthy," Mae mocked.

Boey simply gave her a glare, still rubbing the pain away.

"I think it's clear we should all try our luck with it," Leon said.

"I agree," Celica nodded, "that way we might find for sure who exactly this barrier lets pass."

Thus, they proceeded to do just that. In the end, Palla and Catria were also able to pass through the barrier, while Valbar, Leon, Jesse, and Atlas were unable. For completion's sake, they also tried with the pegasi, but neither were able to either. Once the testing was done, they all converged back before the Mila statue.

"Well, in light of our discovery," Celica began, "it looks like the barrier only lets women pass through."

"Human women, at that," Palla added.

"That's more accurate," the princess nodded.

"Is that a sign to say the power or whatever actually lies down there can only be used by women?" Jesse wondered.

"That, or it was deemed only they could be allowed to wield it," Valbar suggested.

"Either way, that's not fair," Boey grumbled, arms crossed, clearly not happy with it.

"Jealous, are we?" Mae snickered, receiving only a humph in reply.

"Though unfortunate, it's not like we can do something about it," Palla said.

"Then we have no choice," Celica said, "we will return outside, and reorganize the group before coming back here."

Looks of surprise were aimed at her.

"Wait, then are you…?" Saber trailed off as the princess nodded already.

"Yes. We mustn't let this opportunity go to waste. Even if not all of us can proceed further in."

"You have to admit, Milady, that will be quite the handicap," Catria said. "Especially since my sisters and I won't be able to bring our pegasi with us."

"And you'll be going in with only half our numbers," Valbar added.

"With the way we do these incursions, admittedly that one is not that bad," Atlas said.

"We are still capable of taking on whatever we might find down there!" Mae boasted confidently. "Besides, we'd still have Genny with us to keep us healed up."

"And we can still fight, even without our mounts," Palla said.

"Alright, you win," Saber rose his hands as if conceding defeat, "it will be as you say, lass."

"I suppose the rest of us are done for the day, then," Leon said with some relief.

"Don't mind that, to be honest, heh," Jesse chuckled.

"Alright everyone, let's get out of here," Celica announced.

With that, they began their trek back to the surface.

---


Some time later, the group reentered the chamber. True to word, they picked up the remaining girls within their ranks, as well as taking the opportunity to replenish their supplies back at the temple. By the time they were back here, it was already the midafternoon.

"So, this is the barrier," Sonya said, looking at the doorway alcove with some intrigue, hand on her chin.

She then smirked while lowering it to rest on her hip.

"Ha! I knew it was a mistake to tell me to stay behind."

"You won't let us live that down, do you?" Mae asked, unamused. "Gods, you're worse than Boey."

"Um, will we really be alright without the guys?" Genny asked, sounding unsure.

"Don't worry about it, Genny," Celica reassured her. "we can take care of ourselves just fine."

"Yeah, it's time for us girls to shine on our own!" Mae proclaimed, hands on her hips. "So it's fine if they have to stay behind."

"Well, I do mind having to leave my pegasus behind as well," Est said.

"That couldn't be helped, Est," Catria reminded her.

"Well I'm not happy about it anyway," the youngest pegasus knight crossed her arms and pouted.

Celica turned to the only men of the group. Out of the previous composition, only Saber and Jesse remained, but were now joined by Kamui.

"We don't know how long it might take," she said, "but hopefully we can return to the temple by nightfall."

"Don't worry, lass, we'll hold the fort here," Saber said.

"Yeah, leave it to us," Jesse said with a confident grin.

"Good luck down there!" Kamui added.

Nodding with a smile of her own, she turned back to the rest of her companions.

"Let's go," she told them.

They stepped aside to clear the way for her. She stepped into the alcove, drawing out her sword. At the same time, she made an arching motion overhead with her other arm. A small fireball suddenly materialized from her hand at the top of the arch, and remained floating overhead as the arm went down. It began to follow the princess as she stepped forth onto the steps, giving some light to the area. The rest of the girls followed suit. The now party of seven thus descended further into the depths, leaving the trio of mercenaries behind at the Mila shrine.

As for them…

"So…" Jesse began, "you guys ever thought of forming a guild?"

 

Author's Note: 

Spoiler

If you happened to have read the original take of this, you might've noticed I've made a big (emphasis on big, heh) change to the story. If you enjoyed the original take because of it, then sorry to say you won't find it in this version. Well, actually, not all of it was removed, as I did wanted to preserve some of the spirit of the original intention that the story was written for in the first place. Though now it won't first happen when it originally did, as it were. Despite this change, I decided to keep some other things the same. Mostly since, when I started writing my branch of the thing, it was how it was already set-up. So while I made some rewriting to my own stuff, it won't be too drastic for the most part, basically.

 

Edited by Acacia Sgt

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Author's Note: This chapter marks the transition point from the segment I had to write from scratch, and what I rewrote. So even if you have happened to read the original, don't expect for things to be quite as you remember them.

Chapter 3 – Puzzle Time

Spoiler

 

The first thing they noticed upon descending down the stairs was the change of their surroundings. Smooth walls and ceilings, with an architecture design that matched that of the lever and the doorway frame. It was as if they were now inside a building instead of a cave, and perhaps that's what it really was. An underground complex buried under the mountains, which the wall mechanism and the magic barrier warded from those not worthy to enter and procure its treasure. They descended mostly in silence, with only the sound of their footsteps echoing down the slope.

Eventually they reached the bottom of the stairs, and now found themselves in a tunnel that was perpendicular to the stairs. To their right it ended barely a step forward, but to their left it extended into the darkness, as lacking of torches as the stairs were. Without a pause they now walked down this new tunnel. Being wider than the stairs, it allowed for them to shuffle their formation a bit. While Celica remained front and center, Palla and Catria stepped forward to flank her, weapons drawn. The pegasus knights had also left their lances behind with their mounts, so they were currently relying on just their swords. Est and Mae were right behind, with Sonya and Genny bringing up the rear. They proceeded down the tunnel in relative silence, until…

"So," Mae suddenly spoke, "what exactly do you girls think we'll find down here?"

"What do you mean, Mae?" Celica asked, glancing briefly behind her.

"Well, you know like, will it be a weapon? A spell? Some kind of artifact?"

"Well, obviously it must be a magic spell," Sonya said confidently, "an arcane power lost to the depths of time."

She then smirked.

"Which I'd gladly wield."

"What? No way!" Mae protested. "If anyone were to get it, it should be Celica!"

"I appreciate the vote of confidence, Mae," Celica began, "but I may not be the one best suited for it. You have to admit Sonya is the most experienced of us when it comes to magic. If the power can only be granted to one person, and it is a magic spell, then it would be best if she takes it."

"But…"

Sonya chuckled.

"You heard her."

She smiled smugly, reveling in her victory. The younger mage glanced back a glare, but then sighed.

"Very well, Celica," she glanced back, conceding defeat.

"We might be getting ourselves ahead here," Catria said. "Even if it was spell, there's no guarantee it can be one any of you could use."

"And it may not be a spell at all," Palla added.

"Once thing is certain, I doubt we will just waltz in and take it. Despite the barrier, the power is bound to be guarded by who knows what else."

"That's right," Celica glanced over, "in which case we must all remain on our guard. To face whatever this place throws at us."

With that, they resumed their walk in silence. Soon they reached the end of the tunnel. Another doorway awaited them, the other side shrouded in darkness all the same. Upon getting close enough, the light of Celica's fireball revealed it wasn't another tunnel lying on the other side. Rather, something more open. They stopped just before it.

"Stick together," the princess ordered, "we don't know what may lie further in."

She and the Whitewings adopted battle stances with their weapons, as Mae and Sonya did the same with their hands, ready to fire spells in short notice. Genny clutched her staff close to her and moved to stand behind Sonya, looking the most unsure out of them. Regardless, they all went through the doorway. The moment they did, suddenly, there were flashes of fire all around them, making the place slowly fill up with light. They quickly adopted defensive stances, but the fire wasn't heading in their direction. Rather, they discovered the flashes of fire came from wall-mounted torches that were being lit on their own, likely the result of magic and in reaction to their presence. Soon, a new room was now in full view.

It was square in shape and fairly large, with a high ceiling as well. The torches were at about the halfway point between the floor and ceiling, and in spite of their numbers, the room was fully illuminated. No doubt the brightness of their fire also magnified through magic.

"My, that's quite the reception," Sonya noted.

"It doesn't look there is any hostile presence in here," Catria observed.

They all relaxed their postures, with Celica sheathing back her sword and dismissing her fireball now that it was no longer needed.

"But the room isn't quite empty," Mae added.

Indeed. All around the room several cubed blocks were scattered about. Curiously, they were brightly colored, contrasting the dull brownish floor and walls.

"Blocks?" Est asked, curious.

"That's not the only thing in here," Palla said, "look, up there!"

She then pointed upwards, towards the ceiling. On the far wall, almost at the ceiling, was another lever. Base attached vertically to the wall, with the lever itself inclined upwards, its position was aligned with the doorway.

"Another lever," Mae said.

"But it's so high up," Genny noted.

"Ugh, if we only had our pegasi, we could easily reach it," Est complained.

"Which means it must be done through another way," Catria stated.

"Let's take a closer look to the blocks, then," Celica said.

They all approached the nearest one, yellow in color, standing to the right of the doorway from the tunnel's entry view, near the corner. It was taller than them, six feet tall, wide, and long. It looked to have been cut from stone, and was as smooth and clean looking as the room itself, with nary a sign of erosion in spite of the amount of time it had to have been down here.

"So… what do you think these are for?" Mae asked.

"Hmm…" Celica placed a hand on the block's surface.

As expected, it felt as smooth as it looked, and a bit cold to the touch. It almost felt as if it wasn't actually made of stone, in spite of appearances. Other than that, there wasn't anything out of the ordinary.

"Perhaps something must be done with them," Palla suggested.

"You mean like some sort of puzzle?" Mae asked.

"A trial of wit, you say," Sonya mused, "in order to reach the lever."

"Looks like not everything here will have to be solved through fighting," Celica said with a hint of approval.

"That's a relief to hear," Genny sighed.

"Yeah, but how do we find out what to do here?" Mae wondered.

"Perhaps this can be a clue," Catria suddenly called out.

They all glanced over. Unnoticed by them, the middle Whitewing had separated from the group, kneeling down near the far wall at the opposite corner. As the group went over, they saw she was before what looked to be a large floor tile, orange in color and rectangular in shape, running parallel to the far wall. It stood out, as the floor itself wasn't tiled.

"What's this?" Palla asked, as they walked over.

"Looks like some sort of panel," Sonya noted.

"It's not the only one," Catria said as she stood back up.

They looked around. Indeed, across the wall two more tiles could be seen. The next one, under the lever, was green in color, and the one near the opposite side wall purple instead.

"You think something may happen if we step on them?" Palla wondered.

"Perhaps someone should find out," Sonya said.

"Yeah… not a chance," Mae shook her head.

Celica, meanwhile, kept staring down pensive at the orange panel. She took note of its dimensions.

As wide as the blocks, but also about twice as long…

She then glanced at the nearest block from their new position, a red one now. More specifically, at its base.

They're not attached to the ground, she observed, they might be able to be pushed along the ground then.

Looking the around the room some more, she took note of the rest of the blocks. There were six in total, and there seemed to be two of each color. Apart from yellow and red, there was also two blue blocks. Her eyes widened in realization.

That's it!

She glanced back to the group.

"I think I got it," she said, excitement in her voice.

"What is it, Milady?" Palla asked.

"We're supposed to push the blocks onto the panels," the princess explained.

This surprised them.

"Push them?" Sonya repeated with a frown and a hint of disgust.

"Onto the panels?" Est finished.

"Oh, that makes sense," Palla nodded.

She then glanced down at the orange panel.

"Though from their size, it looks like it has to be two blocks per panel."

"With how the colors are distributed, it's obvious which two must go atop each," Catria said.

"A color mixing puzzle," Sonya mused, "hah! It's child's play."

"The real work will be moving them," Mae said, "those things do look heavy!"

"Yes, we'll have to work together for this," Celica said.

"Then what are we waiting for? Let's do it!" Est fist pumped into the air.

"Now wait just a minute," Sonya spoke up, annoyed, "If you think I'm going to do such menial labor…"

"What? So you plan to just stand there as we do all the work!?" Mae retorted.

"Oh please," Sonya flipped her hair, "you really think I can be of help for this?"

"She has a point," Palla said, "as a mage, she isn't built for physical labor."

"Well, that is true," Mae shrugged, "perhaps this is way out of her league."

Sonya huffed, folding her arms, unamused with the jab. Meanwhile, Celica shook her head.

"Let's first see how many of us actually are needed to push a block," she proposed.

"Sounds like a good idea," Catria said.

"Then let us try first, Milady," Palla added.

Both of them sheathed their swords, before heading over to the red block.

"You ready, Catria?"

"On your signal."

"Then let's go!"

They began to push with all their strength. To theirs and everyone's surprise, the block began to move right away. They stopped shortly after, the block barely moved an entire foot.

"It's… lighter than it looks," Palla stated.

"Guess I was wrong before," Catria mused, "it's certainly doable with just us two."

"Very well," Celica nodded, "in that case, then I'll help out as well."

This surprised the group.

"Milady?" Catria asked.

"The guys aren't here," the princess explained, "so if we can do this faster by joining in, then I'll do it."

"Yeah!" Est exclaimed. "I can help out as well!"

"Me too!" Mae added. "I may not be as strong as you all, but that won't stop me from helping out."

"Alright," Celica nodded again before glancing over to Sonya. "In light of this, you can sit this one out."

Her expression then hardened slightly.

"However, you will be expected to help out for whatever we may encounter next."

"Fine by me," Sonya dismissively waved a hand.

The princess then looked over to Genny.

"It would be best if you also opt out, Genny."

"Really?" The young cleric's eyes widened.

"This is going to be too much for you as well; you don't need to strain yourself," Celica explained.

"Yeah, specially when you're our only healer," Mae added, "so just sit tight and let us handle this."

"Um, okay," Genny nodded.

"Come on then, Genny," Sonya said, "let's not get in their way."

She then began to walk back to the doorway. The cleric lingered for a second before following her. Celica then turned to the rest of the group.

"Let's get to work, shall we."

With that, they split up. Palla and Catria resumed pushing the red block, while Celica, Mae, and Est went over back to the yellow block from before. Soon, both were brought to the orange panel.

"Alright, almost there," Palla stated, "one last push, Catria."

"I'm ready as you are!"

So they did, and the yellow block was now completely covering the orange panel alongside the red block. As soon as it was in position, both blocks sunk slightly into the ground, rendering them unable to be pushed again.

"Looks like we're on the right track," Palla observed.

"Nothing had happened yet, though," Mae noted.

"Then we must finish the puzzle in its entirety first," Celica said.

"Then let's work on the next one," Catria said.

 

Author's Note: 

Spoiler

Though Gaiden/SoV restricts most of its classes to just one weapon type, the Whitewings still have swords in their remake official artworks. This isn't new since even back in the days of the original Trading Card Game they would be depicted with both sword and lance, which likely goes back from all the way to the first game where they could indeed use both. Since the story isn't restricted to gameplay mechanics, I decided to make use of their swords while at the same time give a little nod to the Dismounting mechanic of Mystery of the Emblem. Where mounted classes other than the Horseman would use only lances while riding, but switched to swords when they dismounted (Horsemen just kept their bows). Thanks to the universal Weapon Level stat, it wasn't an issue to switch. Thus, just like in MotE, the Whitewings here are forced to dismount in order to proceed, so a weapon change is in order, heh. Yeah, despite my statement that the story isn't confined to the series' gameplay mechanics I still did this, but well, it's not like it's a big deal. They having lances or swords isn't going to be that important, so might as well just do this cute little nod, hehe.

 

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Chapter 4 – Reduced Workload, Reduced Something Else

Spoiler

 

It took a bit of time, considering how far from the panels some of the blocks were, but soon all were placed atop the panels they should be.

"Nice work, everyone," Celica said.

"Yay, we did it!" Est cheered.

"Aaaah, finally," Mae sighed in exhaustion, sliding her back down one of the blocks to sit down against and rest.

Seeing the work was done, Sonya and Genny went over to rejoin the rest.

"So, what happens now?" the former asked, a hand on her hip.

Almost as if cue, the panels underneath the blocks began to glow, prompting Mae to quickly stand back up and step away. However, the glows only lasted for a moment before dimming back down. Immediately after, a rumbling sound began.

"What's going on!?" Est exclaimed, startled.

"A wall must be opening up," Palla explained.

"Just like before," Celica simply stated.

"Over there!" Mae exclaimed, pointing.

Following her finger, they saw that indeed, on the side wall nearest them the very center point of the wall began to sink down into the ground, just like the one at the Mila shrine. The same length of wall but not as high, only starting from a comparable height as the previous one.

"Another alcove?" Catria wondered.

"It's not the only one," Sonya then said, arms folded, looking in the opposite direction.

They turned around, and saw the same was happening at the opposite side wall, revealing yet another alcove right across.

"Look, something's on the other side," Celica pointed out.

"It looks like a statue, depicting a woman," Palla noted, squinting slightly her eyes while placing a hand over them, "with… something on her back."

"We'd have to get closer to see it properly," Catria said, frowning.

"Then what about this alcove, what does it have?" Mae wondered, turning back.

However, it was seemingly empty.

"Huh, nothing?"

The rest turned back as well.

"No, look, there's some sort of hole at the bottom," Catria said pointed down at the floor.

"Let's take a closer look," Celica said, "we can check out the statue afterwards."

So they did, walking towards the closer alcove. As previously noted, there was a hole down by the floor. It was rectangular in shape, vertically positioned. It wasn't big, only somewhat over half a feet tall, and a little under half of that in width. Curiously, it was framed like the doorways were. Darkness greeted them on the other side.

"Is this really what solving the puzzle did?" Sonya asked, a little annoyed. "Just reveal a hole and a statue?"

"It looks more like a little doorway than a hole," Palla noted.

"Oh my, it really does. How peculiar," Celica said, a little astonished.

"Maybe it is the way forward, hee hee," Est joked.

She received various incredulous stares.

"Don't be ridiculous, Est," Catria admonished.

"Yeah, how could we fit inside that hole for starters?" Mae placed her hands on her hips.

"Um, maybe by shrinking down?" Genny suggested.

Shortly after she was now the one being stared at, making her hunch slightly in shyness.

"Sh-Shrink down? That's even more ridiculous!" Mae exclaimed, incredulous.

"Yeah, Genny, that's just not possible," Sonya agreed, eyes closed and a hand on her hip.

In the meantime, Palla kept staring at the apparent small doorway. With a hum, she stepped into the alcove and knelt down before the hole.

"Actually, they might be right," she said.

This caused them all to gaze back at her and the alcove.

"There is indeed a small tunnel on the other side."

The others had now looks of surprise.

"Wait, really?" Sonya raised an eyebrow.

"You're not just humoring them, are you, Palla?" Catria asked.

The eldest Whitewing shook her head, before standing back up.

"No. It's too dark to see, but there is definitely beginning of a passage heading further in down there."

"Ha! So I was right!" Est fist pumped with an excited grin on her face.

"Even if so, that still leaves the issue we can't go in there," Mae reminded them. "It's too small!"

Celica gazed towards the other alcove.

"Perhaps it's time to inspect the statue now," she said, "it might contain a clue on what to do next."

With that, they walked across the room, to the other side. As they approached, they could make out better the statue's features. As previously noted, it was the statue of a woman, made out of gray stone, and as with the blocks there was no hint of erosion or dust. Her hair was mostly tied up in a bun, with a few bangs covering her forehead. She was clad in a short, seemingly form-fitting dress. It was hard to tell where it began, as the entire statue was uniformly gray in color, but upon getting close enough they could finally see a carved line right above the chest, marking a sweetheart neckline. Meanwhile, the skirt portion flared out beyond the hips, ending at the thighs. Other than that, her feet were clad in open-heeled slippers.

Despite looking like it had been carefully carved, some aspects of the statue looked… unfinished. Mostly the face. Her eyes were simply a solid sclera, the nose likewise lacked any markings of nostrils, and no mouth whatsoever, giving it a slightly uncanny appearance. Despite the statue being mostly standing straight, the head was tilted slightly forward, looking downwards. Staring down at a crystal ball held between her hands, which were raised at chest level. The most eye-catching detail, however, was the previously unidentified object behind her. Which turned out to be… wings. Butterfly-like wings attached at her upper back.

"Oh, so they were wings," Palla said.

"A winged woman, huh," Sonya mused, hand on her chin.

"Hee hee, she's a fairy," Genny giggled with her free hand to her mouth, an undeniable tone of giddiness in her soft-spoken voice.

"Oh yeah! Those are definitely fairy wings," Est nodded.

"Well, this is the Cavern of the Fae, after all," Catria said.

As they gazed at the wings, Celica only lingered on them for a second, before her focus shifted to the orb held in the statue's hands. Thanks to its transparent surface, she could see what looked to be a swirling mass of energy contained within. It glowed dimly, mostly white with a pinkish hue. She kept staring, trying to make sense of it, until a sudden hand on her shoulder snapped her out of it.

"Milady?"

Celica blinked, before gazing to her side.

"Is something the matter?" Palla asked, as she withdrew her hand.

Looking around, she saw how everyone was staring at her with various ranges of concern.

"You were staring quite intently at the statue," Mae said.

"Oh, um, I was wondering about that swirling energy in the orb," the princess explained.

They all turned back to the statue.

"It's certainly curious," Catria stated, "is it some kind of magical energy?"

"Oh, it's definitely magic, alright," Sonya nodded.

The mage then narrowed her gaze, hand to her chin.

"But it doesn't feel like any sort of magic I've seen before."

"Now that you mention it, yeah, it's kinda…" Mae made a face, "not bad, but certainly strange."

"Huh? It doesn't feel that strange to me," Genny tilted her head in confusion, "in fact, it actually feels quite nice."

"Nice?" Mae looked at her, a bit confused.

"Yes," the cleric nodded, sporting now a small smile, "there's a certain warmth to it… soothing, even. It's not exactly the same… but it reminds me of the Earth Mother's blessing."

The girls glanced at each other, sharing some skeptic looks, not quite sure what to make of it.

"Alright, Genny, if you say so. We'll take your word for it," Celica said.

She then frowned as she glanced back at the orb.

Why does she perceive something completely different than us? she wondered. Is it because she specializes in White Magic?

"Well, in any case, just what is that thing's purpose anyway?" Mae placed her hands on her hips. "It can't just be for decoration."

"I agree," Celica said, "it got revealed with the small doorway, so there must be a connection."

"Well, that should be simple then," Palla said, "if the orb is housing magic… then its purpose has to be shrinking us down to fit through the doorway."

"You mean it could be some sort of shrinking spell?" Sonya asked.

"Exactly," the Whitewing nodded.

The mage grimaced at the reply. She wasn't the only one, for Mae and Catria also sported similar looks. It was clear they weren't too keen to the idea.

"Is that really our only choice?" Mae asked, disheartened.

"One thing is certain," Celica replied, "we aren't yet done with this room. We still don't know how the lever fits in all this. For now, we only have that doorway, and it does seem that the only way forward is through it."

"But then we can't all shrink down!" Her best friend protested. "Someone has to pull down that lever, after all."

"I must agree with Mae," Catria spoke out, "not to mention, if this is all an elaborate procedure with the lever as the end goal, then it's likely whatever lies beyond that small tunnel can't be anything too complex. So having everyone shrink would be unnecessary."

She then frowned.

"Especially since there might not be a way to grow back. At least not in this room."

The weight of her words felt heavily on them all. It would indeed be a sacrifice, if a hopefully temporal one.

"We must still send at least someone down there," Celica said.

"But how are we to decide that?" Est wondered.

A small devious smirk crept up on Mae's face.

"Oh, I know who should be," she said.

She spun around and pointed at Sonya.

"You, Sonya!"

"W-What!?" Sonya was taken aback, before looking annoyed. "Why me?"

"You owe us one for not helping us push the blocks," Mae explained, now sporting a small glare at the older mage.

"And you want me to pay up now, then," Sonya huffed, flipping her hair.

"You did agree to, Sonya," Celica reminded her.

"So you plan to shirk out on us again?" Catria asked with a stern look.

"Well," Sonya began, "I didn't know it would involve subjecting myself to…"

But the mage let herself trail off, noting just about everyone, barring young Genny, was looking at her with a mix of frowns and glares; and even then the cleric looked disappointed. Normally she'd just scoff at the angry stares, but that last one…

"Very well."

She closed her eyes, folded her arms, and sighed.

I'm going regret this, I can feel it…

The stares stopped, at least. She turned over to face the statue, before frowning, a hand to her hip.

"Well then, just how am I supposed to make it work?"

"Try touching it," Celica suggested.

Shaking her head in dismay, Sonya stepped into the alcove. Staring at the orb with a frown, she then tentatively approached her hand towards it, before finally putting it to rest upon the crystal surface. Even with her gloves, it felt slightly cold to the touch. She raised an eyebrow.

Definitely not warm, she thought, so why did Genny…

Her thoughts would be interrupted, however, as the energy inside the orb began to move faster and glow brighter. Her eyes then widened, as she felt magic coursing through her arm, spreading out all across her body. Before she could do anything, her vision suddenly blurred as she was assaulted by a sensation of vertigo, feeling as if she was sinking into the ground with great speed, her hand slide off the orb as she did. At the same time, she felt how some kind of force was being exerted all over her body, accompanied with an uncomfortable feeling of being pulled from within. As if the magic was trying to drag her into itself. Fortunately, it all lasted barely a second before it ceased as quickly as it began.

The previous reasoning of the magic in the orb had been proven correct. To the amazement of her onlookers, Sonya's form had dwindled before their very own eyes, leaving her with only one-twelfth of her original height. The mage was left disoriented and dizzy after the fact, with a slight headache. She closed her eyes and hung her head a little, bringing a hand to her temple. All this as she was being stared at by her astonished companions.

"Incredible…" Palla was agape.

"So such a spell does exist," Catria murmured.

"She looks like a doll now," Est said in amazement.

"Heh," Mae folded her arms and smirked, before nodding, "serves her right."

"Don't say that, Mae," Celica said, "she might be stuck like that for quite some time."

Having mostly recovered from her dizzy spell, Sonya finally opened her eyes. She was greeted by the sight of the now giant-looking statue. She grimaced.

It's so big now… the mage thought, glancing upwards.

Concerned, Genny stepped closer to the alcove's threshold and squatted down.

"Sonya, are you okay?" She asked the now small mage.

Though having heard the cleric's words just fine, Sonya didn't dare to turn around to face her companions right now.

"I'm fine… ack!"

She quickly brought a hand to her throat. Perhaps as a consequence of her shrunken vocal cords, her voice had risen several octaves in pitch.

"What happened to my voice!?" She squeaked the words out, alarmed.

"Hee hee, your voice sounds funny now," Est couldn't help but giggle.

"I'd say, it suits your new size perfectly," Mae chuckled.

Feeling like popping a vein the mage clenched a fist, pushed her reservations aside, and turned around.

"Why you…"

She immediately regretted it. The sight of her now giant-looking companions quickly washed away whatever bravado she had mustered, being replaced by unnerve. Even Genny looked a bit intimidating now, and that's saying something. For the normally cool and fearless woman, this was now sending her a chill down her spine. Not helping matters was the room behind them, already large-looking as it was, had now become colossal. Combined, it all made her feel very… insignificant.

"Est, stop that," Palla tried to scold her.

"You too, Mae," Celica joined in.

Despite so, their faces and voices held hints of amusement to them; the idea of the normally haughty mage having been reduced so, literally, being found too funny to resist. Even Catria and Genny looked like they did too, though the latter did at least look apologetic about it. Sonya hung her head in resignation.

Why me…

"It's going be alright, Sonya," she then heard Genny said.

She glanced back up, to see the young cleric look down at her with a small smile. Had it been anyone else, Sonya would've felt the gesture to be condescending.

How ironic that she's now the one comforting me, she thought, is it because of what she alone senses from the magic?

"Well, if you say so, Genny, then I suppose it will," the mage replied, placing a hand on her hip.

She let herself smile a little. She had to admit, it did make her feel better… if only a little.

Besides, I can't be moping about it for long, it's just not me, she mused. Well, it can't be helped now. Got to endure this for the time being.

"Let's get this over with, then," she flipped her hair, now feeling back to her usual self.

"Wait," Catria suddenly said, "she shouldn't go alone. We don't know what may lie beyond that doorway, after all."

"My my, concerned about me now? I'm touched," the small mage deadpanned.

The pegasus knight ignored her comment.

"At least someone else should accompany her," she continued.

"Though who?" Est asked.

They all looked at each, as Sonya crossed her arms, waiting. Eventually…

"I'll do it," Genny said suddenly, standing back up.

This surprised them.

"Really Genny, you?" Mae asked, almost in disbelief.

The young cleric nodded.

"Are you sure about this, Genny?" Celica asked, concerned for her friend.

"Yes," she replied, "I also didn't help with the blocks, after all."

"Yeah, but that was because it would be out of your league," Mae said, "and you didn't try to skip out on doing it."

She then shot Sonya a dirty look, who simply rolled her eyes.

"I know, but I still want to do it," Genny insisted, looking unusually determined for a change.

"Genny… very well," Celica sighed, "if that's what you wish, then we won't stop you."

"Hee hee, thank you, Celica," the cleric said with a cheery smile.

"If I may, would that really be enough, Milady?" Palla spoke out. "Perhaps someone else should go as well?"

"Or instead," Catria said, "Genny is our only healer after all. If we can't turn them back to normal once we're done here, who knows how we might fare further in."

"I think it shall be fine," Celica answered, "Mae and I do know some healing magic as well, which we can use in a pinch. And Genny does have her Invoke spell. That should cover their numbers issue just fine."

"Ah yes, those phantoms," Sonya muttered to herself.

Mindless, expendable, and plentiful, she nodded, make for better company too. I'll gladly take up on that offer then.

"I don't know, Celica, I'm still not fully convinced," Mae said, still unsure.

"Oh, are you offering to join us as well?" Sonya looked up at the younger mage with a smirk.

"Not a chance!" Mae glared down.

"In any case, it's settled then," Celica said, "Genny, if you please?"

"Okay," Genny nodded.

She carefully stepped into the alcove, mindful of the small Sonya, who for her part stepped away to let the cleric stand before the statue properly. Unlike the mage before her, she instead placed her hand on the orb with a confident, calm expression. The orb began to act up again, and in a quick flash Genny had joined Sonya in being only inches tall. The mage quickly rushed over, intending to help the cleric remain steady. However, to her surprise, Genny looked no worse for wear. She still held her in place, just in case.

"I'm fine, Sonya, honest," Genny squeaked, in a voice now as high-pitched as the mage's.

The mage frowned, more perplexed than worried, but still not released her hold until she was sure the cleric wouldn't topple over. Putting the thought aside for now, Sonya then looked over at their still normal-sized companions.

"Well," she began in deadpan and a hand on her hip, "unless you want us to actually walk all the way, the least you could do is to carry us over there."

"I'll do it," Palla offered.

The pegasus knight then stepped closer before kneeling down and placing her hands together on the floor, palm sides up. The two small girls walked over before stepping onto them. Genny quickly sat down, but Sonya first looked down with some disapproval at Palla's gloves before seemingly wiping a spot clean before finally sitting down. Palla then cupped her hands, in order to reduce the risk of them falling off, before carefully rising back up.

Once done, she began the trek back to the other alcove; the rest followed suit. Upon reaching the other side of the room, Palla knelt down before laying down her hands again, allowing the two to step off. For all involved, this proved to be quite the curious experience.

"Be careful in there," Celica said.

"Should you encounter trouble, do let us know," Catria said. "If more of us need to follow, we will."

"But hopefully that doesn't need to happen!" Mae quickly added.

"Hah! As if we needed your help," Sonya scoffed, "we can take care of ourselves just fine."

She then turned over to Genny.

"Come on, Genny, let's be on our way."

"Okay," the cleric nodded.

With that, the mage proceeded to walk through the doorway, summoning a fireball as she did, with Genny following closely behind.

 

Author's Note: 

Spoiler

 

For those that read the original, their patience has been rewarded! I did mentioned I wasn't removing it all, so here it is. For anyone who is reading this for the first time, yeah, the original story contained SW elements. Well, this version still has, but at a reduced (haha) rate. So, straight to the heart of the matter. Why those two in specific? Well, when it comes to the Valentian cast, I'll admit they are among my most favorite characters. As such, I decided those two would be the stars of this aspect of the story, despite what it actually is about.

As a last note, the statue's design? Yeah, based on Disney's Tinkerbell. Didn't felt too creative there I'm afraid, heh.

 

 

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Chapter 5 – Sonya and Genny's Little Adventure

Spoiler

 

This new tunnel was virtually the same as the previous one, with the only difference being, naturally, its size. The two girls made their way through, towards whatever it may lead them to. It came much sooner than with the previous tunnel. The first sign was when another lever came into view, on the right side wall. Like the one in the large room, it was vertically positioned and in need to be pulled down.

Another? Sonya thought, a little surprised. This place sure loves its levers.

The far wall of the tunnel was not far behind it. However, the mage stopped just before the lever, and raised an arm to block Genny's path as a signal to stop.

"Huh, what is it?" The cleric asked.

"There's a hole just ahead," Sonya replied.

Genny looked down and her eyes widened in surprise. Indeed, the floor ended a little after the lever, giving way to an opening reaching the end of the tunnel. Sonya took a step forward and leaned forward, peering over the hole. She was greeted with darkness.

Clearly a shaft, but just how deep is it?

Extending a hand downwards, index and middle fingers pointing, she focused her magic and released a Fire spell. The fireball sped down the shaft, illuminating the walls as it went down. It kept flying downwards, until disappearing from view. Sonya frowned.

"Looks like a very deep shaft," she said, stepping back.

"So the lever will reveal a way down?" Genny asked.

The mage glanced over.

"Well, it's the only thing we have," she stated, "allow me."

Genny stepped back as Sonya went over to the lever, her back to the hole. She looked at it with a small frown, before shaking her head.

At least it is no giant stone block, she dismissed before gripping on the handle.

To the mage's surprise, the lever wasn't heavy to pull down to have required both of her hands. Suddenly, a sudden flash of blue light came from behind her. Though it dimmed down, the place was now much more illuminated.

"Sonya, look!" Genny called out, surprised.

Turning around, the mage saw that where the hole was a blueish white colored barrier had covered it up.

"Well, that's just great," Sonya said with some annoyance, resting a hand on her hip. "Now the shaft has been sealed off."

"Maybe it's for getting down instead," Genny suggested.

"You mean like some sort of descending platform?" The mage glanced to her, eyebrow raised.

"Mhm," the cleric nodded.

Sonya glanced back at the glowing 'platform', and narrowed her gaze, still a little skeptical. However, her expression softened and hummed.

"Very well," she turned back, "then let's hop on to it."

With that, the two stepped onto the barrier. No sooner than they did, they suddenly felt a downward motion as, indeed, the barrier began to descend. Steadying themselves from the sudden startle, they quickly turned around to see the tunnel disappear from view.

"Okay, a smooth ride to the bottom, then," Sonya mused, folding her arms.

Thus, they began to wait. The seconds passed, then a full minute, followed by another. Sonya frowned.

Just how far this shaft goes down to? She wondered, starting to get frustrated with boredom.

She glanced over to Genny, who seemed to still be waiting patiently, standing straight with hands clasped in front. The mage hummed.

"Say, Genny," she began.

"Yes?" The cleric glanced over, curious.

"That was quit bold of you earlier," Sonya glanced back, "to have volunteered to shrink down as well."

"Oh, well," Genny glanced away, fidgeted slightly, "you know, I couldn't bear to just stand by and watch."

The mage unfolded her arms before fully turning towards her, a sympathetic look on her face.

"That's… understandable," Sonya slowly nodded as she placed a hand on her hip, "but to go as far as shrink yourself down? I was left with little choice on the matter, you didn't have to follow suit. You could've waited instead for whatever else we'd have to do in here."

"I know," the cleric also fully turned, "it's just that…"

She then gazed directly at Sonya.

"I was worried about you."

The mage briefly widened her eyes in surprise.

"Is that so?" She said soft-spoken.

"Yes," Genny nodded, "as Miss Catria said, we don't know what could be down here. Perhaps something dangerous. Anything from large bugs to big rodents, or even Terrors."

She shuddered, likely having imagined just how they all would look now in their current smallness. After doing the same now that the cleric brought it up, Sonya felt like grimacing too.

"If you had to face all that alone, you could become badly hurt! Or worse…" the cleric quickly shook the thought out of her head. "So that's why I felt I had to be the one to go with you, even if it meant becoming small too. And that way the others wouldn't have to as well."

A heavy silence followed. Sonya had a neutral expression on her, after having listened to the cleric's explanation, before then breaking into a small warm smile.

"My my, I had no idea you were willing to go that far out of concern towards me," she said. "I'm touched."

She then placed a hand on the cleric's shoulder.

"In that case, I suppose I can accept that. And don't worry, if we do find any trouble, then I'll take care of it."

The mage withdrew her hand before moving it to the opposite side of her head over her shoulder, adopting again her two-finger posture in the process. The hand then began cackling with lightning as she assumed a determined face.

"As long I can count on your support, it doesn't matter if we're the size of dolls. With our magic combined, I'm sure we can still take down a full-sized Terror!"

The cleric looked surprised for a moment before adopting a determined look of her own.

"Y-Yes!" Genny nodded. "You can count on me!"

Sonya chuckled

"That's the spirit."

She then dismissed the magic in her hand, before relaxing her posture and folding her arms once more.

"Although, for now we must wait until we can finally leave this shaft."

It still took a couple minutes after their talk was over, but finally they came to a stop, reaching the bottom of the shaft at last. What looked to be another tunnel awaited them, running parallel to the one above, heading back in the direction they had come from.

"Finally!" Sonya said with some glee. "It felt like we spent ages going down this blasted shaft."

"We must be deep underground now," Genny said, glancing up the shaft with some awe.

Sonya frowned.

"Probably not as deep as you think," she replied, "remember, we are small now. That will mess up with our perceptions."

"Oh, right," Genny glanced back down.

They proceeded to step off the platform. As soon as they did, it suddenly disappeared in a flash of light.

"Huh?"

Startled at just how darker the place got all of a sudden, with the mage's fireball being the only source of light again, they quickly spun around.

"It's gone!" Genny cried out.

She then glanced up the shaft again, worried this time around and a closed hand to her chest.

"How will we return back up to the others now?"

Sonya turned back and looked at the walls, bringing a hand to her chin. There was a noticeable lack of a lever down here.

"Hmm, no way to summon the platform back," she narrowed her gaze.

She then sighed and place a hand on her hip.

"I guess we have no choice then. It's either done further in, or we are to return through some other route."

She glanced back, to see Genny was back to looking at her.

"In that case, let's move on then."

Thus, the two proceeded through this new tunnel. Though they wouldn't be able to tell, the tunnel had the exact same length as the one above, with likewise an accompanying doorway awaiting at the end of it. They both readied themselves before venturing forth to the other side. Once they did, they were greeted with a familiar sight of flashes of fire all around them.

"Talk about déjà vu," Sonya mused as the place began to light up.

The mage's words would carry more truth to them than at first glance. For before them a room quite similar to the one above came into view. The doorway led into an alcove before the room proper, and on the opposite side there was another alcove with another statue depicting the same fairy, it holding a clear crystal orb as well though empty instead. A lever was also placed close to the ceiling on the wall to their left. The two girls relaxed their postures.

"It's very similar to the room above," Genny noted.

"Indeed," Sonya nodded as she dispelled her fireball, "though still different enough."

For starters, this room wasn't as large, after taking into account the difference in scale between the two. Though the lever was still high enough to be out of reach. There was also no doorway on the wall opposite the lever's. Though easy to miss at first, there was a plaque of sorts under the lever but much closer to the floor instead. The largest difference, however, was the lack of stone blocks and colored panels. Instead, a pedestal stood at the very center of the room, with what looked to be a stone bowl-like structure at the top, which housed another orb as empty-looking as the statue's.

"It looks like this is another puzzle we must solve," the mage concluded.

"Maybe the plaque has something written on it," Genny suggested.

"Then that's our possible lead, then," Sonya nodded.

She then proceeded to walk over, with the cleric following closely behind. Upon reaching the plaque, which was at eye level to Sonya, they noticed it was made of stone like the walls. It had no frame to speak of, looking more like it was a piece of wall jutting out from the rest of it instead. As noted before there was indeed something written on it, but upon closer inspection, they were quick to notice something peculiar about the text.

"This is," Sonya stared at the plaque, surprised.

"The ancient script," Genny finished, sharing the mage's expression.

Sonya brought a hand to her chin, now staring with intrigue.

"Impeccable appearance aside, this whole place indeed is from before the arrival of Duma and Mila to Valentia."

She then brought her arm back down, before smirking.

"Well, good thing then that we both know how to read it. Now let's see here…"

She stepped closer before proceeding to read the inscription out loud, which was the following:

The storm swiftly comes

It strikes the land with fury

Scorched waste in its wake

Once done, Sonya frowned.

"It's not much of a poem," she mused.

"Maybe there's some deeper meaning to it?" Genny suggested.

The mage folded her arms and hummed, pensive, as she pondered the cleric's words.

"Well, since it talks about a storm, then the part about striking the land must refer to lightning. And scorched waste no doubt is the work of fire."

Genny frowned.

"I don't like storms," she said.

Sonya couldn't help but chuckle.

"Me neither. A good excuse to remain indoors, but then it quickly becomes a nuisance to bear."

"And a bit scary," Genny added.

"… I suppose they do get quite nasty at times," Sonya conceded, "though back to the plaque, it's clear we have one line talking about lighting, and another the same with fire."

Right after, realization hit her. She smirked.

I see, so that's how it is.

"Fire and Lightning, that's no coincidence. Which means that the first line talking about the storm moving swiftly…"

"It refers to the wind!" Genny suddenly cried out, quickly catching on with what the mage was getting at.

"Exactly," Sonya nodded, "Fire, Lightning, Wind. The basic elements of…"

"Magic!" They said in unison.

Sonya and Genny glanced at each other in slight surprise at the unexpected talk in unison, but then chuckled and giggled respectively in response.

"A puzzle to be solved with magic," Sonya brought a hand to her chin, "now this is definitely my field of expertise."

"But where or what are we to use it on?" Genny wondered.

The mage hummed, looking back at the room. Her first gaze first went to the fairy statue, but then frowned and shook her head.

No, it can't be the statue. If this is like the room above, then that will be for after we solve the puzzle. Which leaves only…

She then gazed over to the other orb atop the pedestal.

"The orb on the pedestal," Sonya replied with a satisfied nod, "that's our target."

 

Author's Note: 

Spoiler

 

One thing to clarify for this chapter is the nature of that "ancient script" I'm adding to the story. Not to be confused with the Ancient Letters introduced in Awakening and that also show up in Shadows of Valentia, like in the labels of the World Map, or the warp circles found in dungeons. All signs point out that the Ancient Letters is the written script of Archanea's Dragonkind. After all, they can be found in both Falchion and the Fire Emblem, which we know came from Naga, and the warping circles bear the sigils of Duma, Mila, and Naga, who are all dragons.

My theory is thus: When Duma and Mila arrived to Valentia, the humans there basically adopted their written script. Or the siblings decided to teach it to them at some point in time. After all, there is evidence the Valentians use the Ancient Letters themselves. Well, not really ancient for them, heh. The World Map is one, but the artwork of the Silver Sword shows they also use them for engravings. Granted, it's possible they only use it for select things, but the map having labels like Dolth Keep with his name in the Ancient Letters shows to me at least it is of common enough use. As such, it is my headcanon on the matter that Valentia indeed adopted them as their official script for common use.

Now the question is, did they used a different script before that? It's quite possible they did. Mostly since in the glyphs of their magic spells employ a different set of letters, and actual ones we use (though perhaps not in English). Though I don't think those spell out anything coherent; even looking on this very site didn't proved fruitful. As such, I believe this is their original script. Part of my headcanon is that this one is now largely in disuse in recent times, but not unlike the Ancient Language of Tellius, it still sees use for things like spellcasting. And perhaps like Latin in our world, it's now mostly a scholarly pursuit to learn it, or for theological/scientific/law matters. Thus why Sonya and Genny would be able to read it here. Both are magic users and grew up in priories. I could be right on this, I could be not, but at least as it matters for this story, this is what I'm going for.

 

 

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Chapter 6 – Facsimile Fair Folk

Spoiler

 

The two made their way over to the pedestal. The orb held atop looked as innocuous as ever. They gazed down at it.

"So, we just have to cast magic on this," Sonya placed a hand on her hip, unimpressed. "Hmph. If this is what the people of yore thought qualified for trials of the mind, then I'm starting to wonder if the so-called power has also been overblown by the legends."

"Surely not," Genny glanced up at her, "as setting all this up couldn't have been simple."

"There's certainly a lot of innovative magic and mechanisms to have been the work of simple minds, I'll give them that," Sonya conceded. "And well-built too, if it has endured the passage of time with everything so far still working."

She folded her arms.

"Well, perhaps I can cut them some slack. Hopefully this is just a warm-up for what may come next. In the meantime, let's finish things down here first."

With that, they both took a couple steps away from the pedestal. Once done, they turned back, with the cleric giving the mage some space for her spellcasting.

"Now then," Sonya said, "if the inscription was anything else to go by, it also told us the order the spells must be cast. In that case…"

Magic energy began to flow from her body, the glyph circles materializing around her. She then did a sweeping motion with her hand in a wide arch as large she could do with her entire arm, before launching an Excalibur spell towards the orb, engulfing the entire pedestal in a tornado as the air blades circled the orb. Far from being damaged, the pedestal endured the slicing winds stoically without nary a crack forming, while the orb instead absorbed the magical energy, containing it inside causing it start glowing green. Without skipping a beat, Sonya then raised her arm straight up once done with the sweep, index finger pointing upwards, charging up a Thunder spell. The clump of lighting materialized above the orb, higher than the tornado's reach. Only when the tornado and air blades had mostly faded, did the mage brought her arm down, the lightning going down with it, striking the orb. Again, the orb absorbed the magic into itself, replacing the green glow with yellow.

"Now for the finale," Sonya said determined.

Finishing the spectacle for her audience of one, she then did a full twirl of her entire body. Just as she was back to her starting position she leaned herself slightly back, extended her arm towards the orb in contrast, using her two-finger posture again, finishing her theatrics with a Fire spell. The fireball hit the orb, causing it to glow red now. It lasted for all of a second before the glow turned white with a blue hue.

"And that's how it's done," Sonya smirked as she straightened out and placed her hand on her hip again, the magic flow and glyphs around her fading.

"That was amazing, Sonya!" Genny exclaimed in awe.

The mage flipped her hair, soaking in the praise. Shortly after, however, she was assaulted by a wave of dizziness, making her feel wobbly.

"Urgh…"

"Sonya!"

She was quickly down to one knee, suddenly feeling weak. The cleric quickly rushed over and raised her staff, casting a Recover spell on the mage. Sonya felt her energy returning, the dizziness fading. She slowly stood back up.

"Thanks," she murmured to the cleric.

"Was it too much magic?" Genny asked.

Sonya frowned and shook her head.

"No, nothing I couldn't handle done before," she looked down at her hands.

"Maybe it's because our bodies are smaller now," Genny suggested.

"Perhaps," the mage briefly glanced over at her, "but then our magic became smaller too."

"So it's now more draining even if we are using the same amount?"

"Seems that way," Sonya narrowed her gaze, before then sighing. "Well, no more flashy show-offs for the time being. We must be more conservative with our magic from now on. At least until we grow back."

"Okay," Genny nodded.

"Now then, let's see what powering up this orb did."

She glanced over in the statue's direction. Expectedly, the orb in the fairy's hands was now filled with magic energy like the one in the room above, complete with same color glow. The two made their way over to the alcove. As before, they each felt the same vibe from this orb as well.

"If this is like the other one, we're going to be changed somehow again," Sonya mused.

"You don't think it will make us even smaller, do you?" Genny asked, a little worried.

Sonya grimaced.

"It better not! We're already small, the last thing we need is to become tiny next."

She glanced around.

"At least this time around nothing else showed up indicating we must shrink again, so perhaps this is for the lever now. At least the one down here. Now then…"

Sonya stepped closer to the orb, and like before, she placed her hand atop it. As before, the magic inside acted up, and she felt it spread through her arm. The mage braced herself for what may come, but to her surprise she felt how the magic, rather than spread out across her body like with the shrinking spell, instead concentrated at her upper back. Shortly after, she felt it then jettison behind and spread out, feeling it phase through her cloak, all without actually feeling it leave her body. The feeling subsided, the magic in the orb calming down, but she was still left with the feeling at her upper back and where her cloak was. As if something had been left attached to it, still phasing through the fabric.

She blinked, and slowly drew back her arm.

"Well, this is certainly different," Sonya said, hand on her hip.

And no size change, thank goodness, she inwardly thought.

She turned around and stepped out of the alcove, only to stop when she saw Genny staring at her with an astonished face.

"What is it?" She asked.

"Your back…" Genny pointed.

Sonya turned only her head this time around. To her surprise, she could see what looked to be a semi-translucent colorless figure, round in shape, over her shoulder. She could see more opaque lines all over it, forming some sort of pattern. She frowned, as she couldn't get a good look at it. Turning to her other side, she saw there was another of the same. She frowned.

"What…?"

The mage cut herself short from a startle caused by a sudden twitch from the figures. Not just because they moved, she could actually feel them moving, with an accompanying tingle at her upper back.

"They're wings," Genny said, amazed.

"Wings?" Sonya glanced back to face the cleric.

"Yes!" Genny nodded, now looking a bit giddy.

The cleric then quickly went behind the mage.

"They look like a butterfly's," she added, looking all over them.

"Butterfly wings?"

Now the mage was incredulous, before groaning.

"Ugh, great, just great. Now I look like some sort of fairy!"

"Hee hee, I think they're pretty," Genny giggled, "a bit bland without color, but the pattern makes up for it."

The mage lowered her head slightly, eyes closed, and bringing a hand to her temple.

Great, if the others laughed at me just for shrinking, they'll surely tease me again once they see me like this!

She looked back up and glanced back once more, just barely able to see the cleric in her peripheral vision, still excitably looking at them.

Well, at least she's happy, Sonya mustered a small smile.

She then glanced up towards the lever.

"Well, at least now we know how are we are meant to reach the lever: Fly up to it."

The cleric moved to stand now next to her, also glancing upwards.

"Does that means the same will be for the other lever back up?"

"Most likely," the mage nodded. "Which means we're soon to grow back to normal… or the rest of the girls will get wings too."

Certainly the former would be preferable, she mentally added.

"In that case, can I get the wings too?" Genny asked glancing back at her, giddy once more.

"Well, likely since it's also how we are meant to return back up… then yes, go ahead, heh," Sonya chuckled, seeing how excited the cleric looked at the prospect.

Genny wasted no time getting into the alcove and touching the orb herself. In a few seconds, she too now sported a pair of wings on her back, phasing through her robe.

"And just like that, we're now a pair of fairies," Sonya mused.

"I never expected something like to happen when I left the priory, hee hee," Genny said. "It is like something out of a storybook."

She then brought a finger to her chin, pensive.

"I wonder… if I were to write a novel like this, would it become a literal 'fairy tale'?"

The cleric then giggled at her own wordplay, and even Sonya couldn't resist joining in with a chuckle.

"Perhaps," the latter replied, "though people will have a hard time reading it."

"Oh, that's true," Genny said, "then I hope we can keep them once we grow back and leave this place."

Sonya hummed.

"Well, I'm not so sure I'd want to myself," she admitted. "While having wings does have its appeal, these ones are just not my style."

She then glanced back at them.

"As it is, I'm more interested in the magic behind them. As it makes them have some quite peculiar details."

"You mean like how the pattern is different between yours and mine?" Genny suggested.

The mage glanced back, a bit confused.

"Really?" Sonya rose an eyebrow. "I'll admit it escaped my notice."

"Yes," Genny said, "they also feel… as if they were magic itself."

Sonya nodded.

"That's what I was getting at, actually. I can definitely sense magic out of these things."

She glanced back again and folded her arms, deep in thought.

"It seems this time around the magic rather than change us directly, simply attached itself to our backs and took the shape of wings, using our own magic for sustenance."

"And phase through our clothes," Genny added.

"Yes, that too," the mage nodded.

She then frowned.

"It doesn't feel like it's using a whole lot to mess up with our spellcasting… but well, it's already limited thanks to our current state, so no point in testing that out."

Sonya glanced back to the lever.

"Let's just focus on reaching that lever then."

"Which means learning to fly," Genny said.

Sonya frowned.

"I have a feeling that will be easier said than done…"

The mage's words would quickly be proven true for the most part. As they soon discovered, the wings were basically two more appendages in function. Willing them to move as desired and have it be like moving their own arms and legs, however, proved to be something of a challenge. Perhaps because they were made out of magic rather than flesh and blood, and the fact they were nothing a human being was accustomed to having.

"Come on, move properly," Sonya muttered, annoyed at how hard she was finding it for something so simple-looking.

In the meantime, however…

"Look, Sonya, I think I got it!" Genny cheerfully called out, her wings flapping behind her.

Suddenly, the wings' flapping then changed in speed and intensity, speeding up and slowing down, before suddenly stopping, then resume their flapping shortly afterwards. The mage could only watch with astonishment at the demonstration.

That was fast, Sonya thought.

"Good work, Genny," she complimented her nonetheless, before glancing back at her own wings with a frown. "It seems I still need some more practice myself."

"Don't worry, Sonya, I'm sure you will also get the hang of it quickly enough," the cleric replied sincerely.

The mage said nothing, simply opting to resume her practice. It took a couple minutes, but in the end Sonya had finally managed to reach the same level of control of her wings the cleric had reached in only seconds.

"You did it!" Genny cheered.

Though Sonya was feeling far from accomplished, for the hardest part was next: To actually fly. Once again, she found herself struggling. Elevation and speed depended on the force the wings exerted, while steering oneself relied on body movement. It was clear magic had a hand in much of the process in addition to the physical aspects, thus it also involved force of will to direct the wings on what to do. It was learning to control it all while in mid-air that the mage just found herself failing at, resulting in her flailing about and moving erratically across the room for a few seconds. A far cry from her usual supple movements. Fortunately, she soon managed to stabilize herself in a mostly upright position and maintain the same elevation, effectively hovering in place.

"Augh, finally!" She cried out.

Glancing over, she tried to see how Genny was faring. To her surprise, she could see the cleric cheerfully flying around with so much ease and finesse, one could be mistaken to think she had the wings since birth. The mage couldn't help but feel a pang of jealousy.

How is it that she's mastering this so quickly!? Sonya thought.

Soon the cleric would fly towards her, stopping to hover in mid-air before her.

"This is fun," Genny said, "I didn't thought flying could be so thrilling."

She then giggled.

"Is this what the Whitewings feel when they fly themselves?"

Sonya could feel her jealousy pretty much melt away. She just couldn't stay mad for long when it came to Genny.

"I suppose," she opted to answer, "though it's bound to be different, since they have to ride their pegasi to do so."

"Oh, right," the cleric nodded, "though I bet they would love to have wings too."

"Perhaps," Sonya shrugged, before frowning and folding her arms, "though personally so far I'm not finding much joy in it. I guess flying is just not my thing."

"Oh, I see…" Genny said, visibly disappointment.

Sonya sighed.

"Perhaps once I get better at it I might be singing a different tune," she said, "in the meantime, can you be a dear and pull the lever yourself?"

"Of course!" Genny nodded, looking determined now, "I'm on it!"

She twirled place until she faced directly the lever before speeding off. Sonya watched her go, as the cleric reached the lever in a matter of seconds. Even though she still carried her staff, the cleric still managed to pull down the lever with ease with her remaining hand. However, to their confusion, seconds passed and nothing seemed to be happening.

Nothing? Or nothing in this room? Sonya wondered.

As Genny had remained by the lever, the mage decided to fly over there as well, slow and steady. She fared much better this time around even if it was still far from perfect.

"Seems whatever it did it wasn't here," she said.

"So was it back in the other room?" Genny asked.

"Most likely. In any case, looks like we're done here. Time for us to head back."

"Will you be alright, trying to fly up the shaft?" The cleric asked, concerned.

"I'll be fine," Sonya waved a hand dismissively, "I can handle only flying straight up."

The cleric, however, looked unsure.

The shaft is wide enough, but…

Genny couldn't help but imagine the mage getting impatient of climbing up slowly, trying to fly faster, then hitting the walls due to losing control as a result.

"Um, maybe you should practice a little more, at the least?" She suggested.

The mage went pensive for a moment, then frowned, likely reaching the same conclusion as the cleric. She sighed.

"I suppose you're right," Sonya said, "better to be safe than sorry. The girls will have to wait just a bit longer then."

So she did, spending the following minutes flying around the room. Her control and precision did become noticeable better, and soon she was moving as gracefully in the air as she did on land, if only at moderate speeds.

"There, this will do for now," Sonya nodded, satisfied. "Now then, let's be off."

With that, the two descended towards the doorway, the mage summoning her fireball already. Rather than actually land she remained in the air, hovering about an inch off the floor, which the cleric imitated right behind her. Thus, the two proceeded to fly into the tunnel, making the journey back to reunite with the others.

 

Author's Note: 

Spoiler

If you have happened to come across one of my previous works, Transfigurative Overclass, you'd think I have a thing for turning the Valentian girls into fairies, don't I? lol Suffice to say, it's just some happenstance that both stories had this in common. Or maybe it's a sign I need to broaden my scope more. If you saw the original and what else is in there, you'd definitely come to that conclusion I'd wager. Well anyway...

 

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Chapter 7 – Brief Reunion

Spoiler

 

Thanks to their new wings, the trek back only took a fraction of the time from the first trip. Before long they had returned back into the main room. They were greeted to the sight of Est, leaning against the alcove wall, hands behind her head and they cushioned it from the hard surface. She had a slightly bored expression on her as she gazed down towards the doorway. However, upon seeing the two emerge from it changed to that of surprise.

"Oh!"

The youngest Whitewing quickly straightened out before turning back into the room.

"Hey girls, they're finally back!" She called out.

For their part, the shrunken pair had gained looks of surprise of their own, for protruding behind the pegasus knight was… a familiar-looking pair of wings. The rest of the group quickly came into view, and they all had their own as well. In fact, some of them were actually flying towards them.

So that's what the lever did, Sonya realized with dismay, as it meant she and Genny were likely to remain only inches tall for the foreseeable future.

In any case, they both raised their altitudes so they could be at least eye-level with the others. They soon were all gathered at the alcove's threshold once again.

"Oh, I see you also obtained wings, just like us," Celica said.

Thanks to their magnified appearance from their own vision, they could easily see that just like their own, the rest of the girls' wings were the same: The same exact shape and appearance, but each sported their own unique pattern.

"We figured as much that would happen," Sonya placed a hand on her hip, "I take it you pulled down on the lever already, then."

She turned over, in the direction of the lever. While from her diminished perspective it was now too far away to discern properly if they had, there was clear evidence it had been. At the mid-point between the floor and ceiling was now a new alcove, with another doorway within barely in view. It clearly had been revealed because of it.

"So, what happened while we were gone?" The mage then asked, glancing back.

Behind them, other than the alcove, there was no sign the room had changed in any other way.

"Nothing for the most part," Celica replied, "we simply waited for your return at first."

"Until suddenly, the statue's orb began to act up," Palla added.

"Act up?" Sonya repeated.

The eldest Whitewing nodded.

"Yes, it briefly flashed brighter for a second, before seemingly going back to normal."

"Except Celica and I could feel the magic within had changed somehow," Mae added, hands on her hips, "even if it still felt as weird as before."

"Since now it would grant magic wings instead of shrinking down," Sonya stated.

"That's correct," Celica nodded, "though naturally we had no way to tell at first that had happened."

"Though it was easy to deduce the effect had changed," Catria said.

"I volunteered to use the orb to find out," Palla said, "thus we found that was indeed the case."

"In light of that, we quickly realized that had to be your doing."

Sonya brought her other hand to her chin and frowned.

Must've been the actual result of pulling the lever down there, she concluded.

"On that subject, what exactly did you do down there?" Celica asked.

The small mage folded her arms.

"Well, while you were waiting up here, Genny and I…"

The two then proceeded to recount what they did, as the others listened intently.

"That's not fair!" Mae said annoyed. "How come you got to do the less laborious puzzle?"

Sonya smirked.

"That just shows it pays to remain firm on one's own convictions, rather than to fall in line with the crowd," she boasted haughtily while flipping her hair.

Despite the intent, the effect was impaired somewhat with her small size and squeaky voice. Nevertheless, Mae was unamused.

"At least I'm not doll-sized… unlike you," she quipped back while adopting a smirk of her own.

This was enough to make Sonya drop hers, who then shot a glare.

"Why you…"

"Settle down, you two," Celica interrupted before things could escalate, "what's important is that everyone did their part to open up the path forward."

"And in what way!" Palla exclaimed, glancing back at her wings, "I certainly wasn't expecting this."

"Yeah, it was certainly quite the surprise," Mae nodded; "like, really, fairy wings?"

"On hindsight, it makes sense," Catria said, "after all, how else could we have reached the lever? The fairy statue was also a big hint."

"Well, not even you could figure out before the fact, Catria," Palla pointed out.

"Regardless, it is great!" Est said excitedly. "Once we saw Palla now had wings I knew I had to touch the orb as well."

She then fluttered off the floor to hover a foot off of it.

"Being able to fly without my pegasus… this is so exciting!"

Palla chuckled.

"I'll admit, I thought the same not long after," she said, "there's definitely a certain thrill to the idea."

"It certainly was… a unique experience," Celica brought a hand to her chest, "though I must admit I'm not fully used to having wings yet."

"Oh, it's alright, Celica," Genny said as she fluttered closer to her friend, "you'll get used to it."

The princess smiled.

"You're right, Genny. I probably just need a bit more time, and flying was fun."

"Although learning how to use the wings was… ugh," Mae made a face.

"It was certainly a challenge," Catria nodded with a frown, "to fly with wings of our own… it's very different from riding our pegasi."

"You could say that again, sister," Palla agreed.

Well, now I feel much better about before, Sonya thought before frowning, though they certainly don't need to know I too struggled!

"It was worth it, though!" Est alone kept her enthusiasm among the five full-sized.

She then proceeded to lean back before making a small vertical loop, after which she finally landed back down.

"I'm so glad to have come here!"

"I must say, though," Palla said, "even having wings now, I don't think I will replace riding my own pegasus for them."

"Oh, neither will I," Est quickly said, "though I am certainly going to use mine from time to time from now on."

"Assuming we can keep them once we're out of here," Catria brought up.

"That's true," Celica said, "considering they are made of magic, they might dispel the moment we walk out of the cave."

Both Genny and Est held brief looks of shock upon hearing that.

"I hope that doesn't happen…" Genny said with visible sadness.

"Yeah! We just got them, I don't want to lose them so quickly!" Est cried out.

Catria brought a hand to her chin, gaining a pensive look.

"At the very least, it'd be strange to have received something to keep already from this place, when it looks we haven't reached the end yet," she said.

"So, like, the wings are tools to traverse this place then or something?" Mae asked, tilting her head.

"It's very likely," Catria nodded, "as I doubt we were granted the wings just for this room. So we can at least expect to encounter more situations requiring us to fly."

She then glanced over to Sonya and Genny.

"The same could be said for the shrinking spell," she continued, "there's likely to be more areas ahead only reachable while doll-sized as well."

Sonya sighed.

"I was fearing that," she closed her eyes and brought a hand to her temple and began to massage it, resigned.

"I see. That makes sense," Celica nodded.

"Phew, then good thing we didn't all used the orb back then," Mae said with relief; "imagine if we all had? We'd be too small to pull down the lever!"

They all glanced in the direction of it.

"Well…" Palla placed a hand on her hip, "if we had all become small I'm sure that with our combined strength we could've still pushed it down."

"But there's no guarantee that would work for everything beyond," Celica said, "forcing us to turn back sooner or later anyway."

"Well, whatever the case, hopefully the shrinking spell is also temporary," Catria said.

"It better be!" Sonya exclaimed. "I don't want to live the rest of my life like this!"

"A puny little fairy? Heh," Mae laughed.

Sonya's face twitched.

That's it!

The familiar sight of glyph circles surrounded the mage as she prepared a spell. A small clump of lightning began to form above Mae's head, then…

"Ow!"

The younger mage flinched, as she quickly brought her hands overhead where the Thunder spell hit her. This elicited both amusement and disapproval from the onlookers.

"Alright, that's enough you two," Celica was clearly on the latter camp.

"She attacked me!" Mae cried out, pointing at the shrunken woman.

"Well, it wasn't unprovoked," Sonya huffed, folding her arms, "besides, it's not like it actually hurt you."

Inwardly, however, she was pleased to see her magic still gave a good sting despite having shrunk.

"As if that excuses it!" Mae shot back.

"Regardless, this stops now," Celica firmly said; "is that clear?"

"… Fine," the girl folded her arms huffed.

Celica then glanced towards Sonya.

"As for you Sonya, please refrain from using your magic to retaliate."

"Very well," the mage flipped her hair nonchalantly.

Only to then level a smug smile at the younger mage, who simply glared back. It was clear the small mage had been the victor this time.

"Now then, let's be on our way," the princess finished.

"Finally!" Est was quick to be hovering off the floor again.

After readying themselves for departure, the group then took flight. Thanks to the wings, Sonya and Genny were able to keep up, though it was clear they had to move faster to compensate for their current dwindled size. Soon, they all reached the alcove. A new tunnel laid beyond its doorway, disappearing into darkness. However, a distant light could be seen at what was likely its end.

"Looks like this one's not as long as the previous one," Palla commented as she ran a hand through her hair.

"Regardless, we must remain on guard," Celica said as she unsheathed her sword and summoned another small fireball into being.

They began to move into the alcove itself, before crossing through the doorway. In spite of the wings, the girls opted to land back down and stick to walking, save for Est who remained hovering. Thus the group ventured through the tunnel. It wasn't long that yet another doorway came into view, the source of the light behind it, that being another room. Upon entering it proper, they found it was much smaller than the one they left behind, though it still had ample room to even fly about. Like the previous room, wall torches kept it illuminated, and it also contained panels on the floor. There being no sign of imminent danger here either, they relaxed their stances and Celica dispelled her fireball once again.

"More panels? At least there's nothing to push this time," Mae said.

"And the paths are open already," Sonya pointed out.

Indeed, the room already housed various exits in view. The side walls contained a doorway each, though the one to their right was as small as the one they first uncovered in the previous room. At the very center of the ceiling was what looked to be a shaft. Thus Catria's earlier words were proven right in one sitting.

"They might still be another puzzle to solve," Catria noted.

"Let's take a closer look, then," Celica said.

So they did. These panels, unlike the previous ones, were square shaped, much smaller, gray in color, and they housed a gold-colored symbol unique to each. They were clustered at the very center right under the shaft, twelve in total, neatly ordered in three rows housing four each, the same amount of space between them.

"Hmm, more ancient script," Sonya placed a hand on her hip.

"What do these ones stand for?" Palla asked, pointing at the panels.

"They're numbers," Celica replied, "all of them, from zero to eleven."

"Zero to eleven?" Catria frowned. "But they're all unique."

"Yes," Celica nodded, "before the arrival of the Earth Mother and War Father, the people of Valentia used a duodecimal system."

The Whitewings gained looks of surprise.

"Really? So it wasn't always decimal?" Palla asked.

Now it was the Valentians' turn to be astonished.

"You mean you've always used decimal?" Celica asked.

"Yes, that's what the dragons used, so we adopted it," Catria explained.

"And we made the switch because of the divine dragons," Sonya said.

"Quite fortunate for us, then," Mae said, "that things became the same for all of us."

"Yes, if that hadn't happened, we wouldn't be able to read anything here," Catria said.

"It was certainly a surprise, when we first found ourselves here," Palla added. "That a land so far away from Archanea would use the same writing system."

"Though once knowing there were also dragons here, it all made sense."

"I'm thankful for that," Genny said, "as it means the people across the sea could read my stories."

"Talk about convenient!" Est said.

The entire group erupted into giggles and laughs.

"Well then," Celica glanced back down at the numbered panels, "let's focus back on these."

The rest of the group followed suit.

"So we have these numbers," Mae placed her hands on her hips; "what exactly do we do with them then?"

"Maybe they work like the previous ones?" Est suggested.

"But there's nothing to put atop them," Celica pointed out.

"Perhaps we can just step on them," Catria said.

"Let's try it, then," Palla said.

The pegasus knight turned to fully face the nearest panel. She leaned forward as she lifted a leg over it, before bringing it down atop. As soon as her boot touched the panel, it lit up in a sudden blueish white glow, its symbol doing the same but in a golden light to match its own color. However, after nothing else happened for a couple seconds, she stepped back, the panel dimming down as soon her foot was no longer touching it.

"Seems like it wasn't enough," Catria noted.

"Maybe all of them need to be stepped on, like last time?" Celica said.

"We don't have the numbers for that, however," Sonya pointed out.

"Or maybe it's something else," Palla said, "after all, the numbers have to be playing some role here."

"Oh! Maybe we have to input some sort of code!" Est exclaimed.

"You mean like a password?" Sonya asked.

"That could actually be the case," Palla said.

"But how are we going to learn it?" Mae asked.

Celica glanced over at the normal-sized doorway.

"The paths," she looked back at the panels on the floor, "perhaps they lead to the means of finding out."

"But there's three of them," Mae pointed out.

"It might have to be retrieved in parts," Sonya said, "or we will have to find which one is the correct one."

"So do we split up, or tackle them together one at a time?" Palla asked.

"Well, you lot can't go through the smaller doorway anyway," the mage pointed out, "so I say we split up for all three and get this over with faster."

"Wouldn't that be dangerous?" Est asked.

"Yeah, we should stick together," Mae said.

"I agree," Genny nodded.

"Sonya has a point though, we could finish faster if we split," Catria said.

"Well, we aren't really in a hurry," Mae said.

"We don't know how long it could take to clear each path, though staying together would be ideal for safety," Celica weighted in.

"If I may, that is also a good point to consider," Palla said. "It has taken us long already to reach this point, and we still don't know how far we are from our goal. It'd be best if we don't extend our stay here any more than necessary."

"That may be, but I'm still not keen on splitting up," Mae quickly said.

"Yeah, we should stick together!" Est exclaimed.

"Well, I object to that. We should finish this as soon as possible. I don't want to spend any more time stuck like this!" Sonya complained.

"Hmm…" Celica went pensive.

The princess looked around at everyone, as most continued arguing. As it was, the group was basically evenly split on whether to split up or not. Even if it had been left up to vote, as the leader her decision would still be final.

"I've come to a decision," Celica spoke out after a few seconds.

The others quieted down to pay attention to her.

"We'll split up," Celica declared, "Palla brought up a good point. I would not want to stay here longer than we can afford."

"Finally! Something good for a change," Sonya exclaimed.

"Very well, Milady," Catria stated.

"Okay Celica, if you say so," Mae sighed.

"Now that that's settled, how are we going to split up?" Palla asked.

"I want to fly up the shaft!" Est quickly said.

"That was quick, heh," Mae chuckled.

"Genny and I will take the small doorway," Sonya crossed her arms, "but that's a given at this point."

"It'd be best if at least one of us keep an eye on Est," Catria said glancing over to Palla, "so I'll go with her."

"Let's go all together then," the oldest sister proposed.

"Alright, it'll be just us sisters then!" Est cheered with a punch to the air, while also making a little hop of joy in mid-air.

"I guess that leaves you and I for the regular doorway, Celica," Mae pointed out.

Celica frowned, before glancing over to the Whitewings.

"Will that be alright?" She asked. "Won't be shaft be too dark to fly up without magic?"

Palla walked over to be under directly under the shaft, then gazed upwards.

"I can see a light, the shaft isn't long," she said.

She then took flight and fluttered to the edge of the shaft, before flying a little into it.

"The wings give off light. Faint, but enough."

Done that, she landed back down.

"I think we'll be fine."

Celica nodded.

"Very well."

She then looked around her companions again.

"Let's be on our ways then," she then clasped her hands in prayer and closed her eyes, "may the Earth Mother guide us back here safely."

 

Author's Note: 

Spoiler

Yeah, I planned another split-up shortly after the first one. However, I'm sure the bigger highlight likely was bringing up the number systems, heh. I wanted to have a bit more fun in fleshing out ancient Valentia for the sake of the story, and thought this was a good chance as any as the numbered panels weren't in the original version. It was one of the ideas I thought of after writing the original and thought it'd serve better for my purposes. Thus it has replaced what the original had, though the group still split-up for this part.

 

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Chapter 8 – Dogfight

Spoiler

 

Their plan decided, the group proceeded to go their separate ways. Sonya and Genny fluttered down in the direction of the smaller doorway, while Celica and Mae walked towards the normal-sized one, and the Whitewings took flight to ascend up the shaft.

As the latter quickly discovered, the shaft itself was wide enough they could ascend with two of them facing each other. However, the sisters still opted to fly at different altitudes, with Palla at the lead, Est below her, and Catria further down bringing up the rear. In spite of the eldest pegasus knight's earlier assessment, the light emanating from their wings wasn't enough to substitute for the mages' fireballs, even combined. Fortunately, it would still prove enough as the shaft, like the corridors, housed nothing but the way forward. Thus, they flew towards the light and soon, after about a minute of flight, reached their destination.

They emerged into a large room, bigger than even the blocks room. It was completely empty save for the lit torches that kept it well illuminated. The shaft was positioned at the very center of the floor. Once fully inside, Palla slowed down her ascent, while also propelling herself slightly forward in order to give room to her sisters. Est would follow suit, though moving to the side, ending behind and to Palla's left. Finally, Catria did the same as her younger sister, but to the right instead. As a result, the sisters were now hovering about two feet off the floor, in a triangle formation.

"Huh? There's nothing in here," Palla stated, surprised.

"That could change," Catria said sternly, "stay on guard."

Almost as on cue, a brief flash of light came from under them.

"What was that?" She then asked.

Palla was the first to turn around and glance down.

"The shaft!" She called out, using her free hand to point.

Her sisters also turned and looked down, and to their surprise, they saw there was now a blueish white colored magic barrier blocking the way back.

"Oh no, we're trapped!" Est cried out.

Shortly afterwards, various flashes of light began to materialize all around the room.

"Ah! What's happening now!?"

"Quick, defensive positions, now!" Catria called out.

The three immediately turned back around, placing their back against each other while adopting the proper stances, unsheathing their swords to be at the ready. The end result was a tight circle. Or as tight as their wings allowed them to. In the meantime, the flashes of light began to take a more defined shape. More… humanoid.

"Invoked apparitions," Catria frowned, recognizing what they were.

They summed about ten in total, spread around all over the room. They were all identical, depicting the same figure, that of a woman. Like them, they all sported fairy wings of their own, which they all began to flap as soon as they took shape in order to keep themselves afloat. Unlike the fairy depicted by the statues, the one serving as template for these illusory figures was clad in a more elaborate floor-length gown, as well as adorned in all sorts of accessories; most of them in the shape of roses. In addition, her hair flowed loose down her back, instead of being kept in a bun. They all carried the same ornate-looking staff, topped off with a briolette cut crystal.

"Looks like the time of puzzles is over," Palla noted.

"Seems that way," Catria nodded, "a battle is imminent now."

"Um, so why are they not doing anything?" Est pointed out.

Indeed, the illusions remained in place, the flapping of their wings their only movement. After a few seconds of the same, the Whitewings relaxed slightly, but remained battle-ready.

"That's true… but why then?" Catria said.

"Maybe they're waiting for us to make the first move?" Palla suggested, unsure.

The middle Whitewing glanced around the room, then frowned.

"Seems to be that way."

"Then what are we waiting for?" Est exclaimed eagerly. "Come on sisters, I'm sure we can take them all!"

"That's easier said than done, Est," Catria glanced at her, "they look like they will attack us with magic, not to mention remain airborne at all times."

"No big deal," the youngest Whitewing actually broke formation and turned around. "We have tons of experience fighting in the air ourselves."

"Est, need I remind you that has been while riding our pegasi?" Catria also dropped her battle posture and turned around.

"That's right," Palla joined in too on turning, "we might have gotten the hang of flying with these wings, but not to fight with them yet."

However, the youngest sister was far from being dissuaded.

"So? Are we going to let that stop us?" She placed her free hand on her hip.

The other two glanced at each other.

"Admittedly, it's not like we have much of a choice," Palla said, "fighting might be the only way out of this chamber."

"In that case, we must plan this well, if we want to succeed," Catria said. "Stick together and by the walls. So long they have the range advantage, we must not let them surround us."

"Then let's seek the path of least resistance," Palla began to look around, "if we are to break past them, we should at least take down one of them as we do."

Her eyes soon settled on a specific illusion. Not the absolute farthest from their position, but at first glance seemed the most isolated of them all. The pegasus knight smiled in satisfaction.

"That one shall do nicely," she declared.

Her sisters glanced over to the illusion as well.

"It's settled then," Catria nodded, "we must do it swiftly and in one pass."

Est deviously smiled.

"Well, good thing we have just the thing for that," she said.

"The Triangle Attack," Catria stated.

"To do so without our pegasi or lances…" Palla said brought her hand to her chin, "I suppose there's a first time to anything."

"Then what are we waiting for?" Est said. "Let's get this over with!"

The three got into battle stances once more, as they turned to face their target.

"At my signal, we begin," Palla said, glancing back to her sisters.

"Understood," Catria nodded.

"I'm ready!" Est called out.

"In that case…" the eldest sister glanced back front, "let's go!"

With that, the three sped off. No sooner than they did that the fairy illusions finally acted. Right ahead of them their intended target began to wave its staff, as the familiar sight of glyph circles materialized. However, it wouldn't have the time to complete its spell.

"Now! Catria, Est!" Palla called out. "Triangle Attack!"

She picked up speed, as Est deliberately slowed down slightly. In one swift motion, all three shot past the illusion thrusting with their swords as they did, all done in succession. Without their lances, the effectiveness of the attack was bound to be impaired, but fortunately it still proved to be more than the illusion could handle. The glyph circles dissipated, and the fairy's wings stopped flapping. It began to plummet, but wouldn't be able to reach the floor before exploding in a shower of sparkling light, the illusion being no more.

The Whitewings slowed down upon nearing the wall and turned back around. They positioned themselves again with Palla at the front and Catria and Est flanking her behind. Just in time they saw several Seraphim spells flying in their direction. However, they all were off the mark, having been aimed across their flight path, and came to impact off to theirs sides. However, the illusions were already preparing new spells. Without skipping a beat, the three took off again, heading towards their next target.

The battle waged on for the next couple of minutes. The Whitewings remained in formation for most of it, sticking together to pick them off one at a time. The illusions wised up to their strategy, as they began to move in order to dodge their attacks and keep their distance, all while continuing the onslaught of spells. However, even without their mounts, the sisters still had enough experience under their belts in aerial combat to compensate and adapt. Getting used to it in no time, they were able to thin out the enemy numbers in record time. That said, even for all their skills, they weren't perfect. The illusions were able to land a few of their spells. Though it made their movements a bit sluggish, having to stave off both injury and the encroaching fatigue, the Whitewings soldiered on. Soon, only one fairy was left.

"Come on, sisters, just the last one now," Palla said, "let's finish this."

Now that there was no danger of incoming attacks from elsewhere, the three spread this out time around to surround their target. The illusion took its time choosing a target of its own, which proved to be its undoing. With one last Triangle Attack, it was no more.

"We did it!" Est cheered.

The danger now past, they sheathed their weapons before fluttering down back to the floor. As they did, the barrier blocking the shaft dissipated in a quick flash of light. At the same time, with a rumbling sound, a small alcove was being uncovered on one of the walls. However, the girls did not approach it right way. The adrenaline from the battle finally wearing off, the pain and exhaustion finally caught up to them.

"Haaa," Est panted, "I'm beat."

"This was certainly," Catria began before suddenly wince, placing her hand to her side, "ugh, quite the experience."

"Are you alright, Catria?" Palla asked, concerned.

"I'm fine," the middle sister kept clutching her side, "it's just the pain, that's all."

"Oh, I get that," Est said, clutching her shoulder as she rotated her weapon arm, "my arm is so sore, I feel it will ache for the rest of the day."

Palla nonetheless frowned.

"Regardless," she then proceeded to untie a vial of magenta liquid hanging from her belt, "take this, just in case."

"Thanks," Catria took the vial.

She opened up the vial, before proceeding to drink. In the meantime, Palla glanced over to Est.

"You too, Est," she said, "Lady Celica and the others aren't here, so best not to risk it."

"Alright," Est replied.

"Here you go," Catria handed over the vial.

The youngest pegasus knight took it, before proceeding to take a sip from it. However, shortly after she quickly withdrew the vial from her mouth, as she made a gag motion.

"Ugh, why must it taste so bitter…" she complained.

"Well sister, that's because you still have the sense of taste of a child," Palla quipped.

"Hey!" Est shot a small glare at the oldest Whitewing, who chuckled.

"It's true," Catria added, "but don't worry Est, once you have matured you'll appreciate the bitter flavors more."

Est look down at the vial in her hand, before making a face.

"Yeah, I doubt that," she handed it over back to Palla, "I think I'll stick to sweeter flavors myself."

The eldest sister took the vial.

"Well, it's your loss, Est," she said, "bitter flavors can also be quite enjoyable, you know."

She then proceeded to consume the vial's remaining content, a satisfied look on her face.

"I must admit even I wouldn't go that far, Palla," Catria frowned, placing her hand on her hip, "if I had to choose between bitter and sweet then I'm siding with Est on this one."

"Thanks Catria!" Est closed her eyes and replied happily.

Palla tied the now empty vial back to her belt.

"Well, anyway, let's go check that alcove now," she said.

The three began to move once more, with Est taking to the air again as Palla and Catria remained grounded. Their landing spot had been almost by the opposite wall from the alcove's, and with the room being sizeable enough, it'd meant quite the small trek.

"You know," Catria suddenly said as they moved, "looking back at our battle, I must admit there are some advantages to flying without our mounts."

"I get what you mean," Palla glanced at her, "our pegasi makes us too large of a target for enemy arrows."

"It'd be easier to dodge them and other projectiles if we were to fly on our own, yes," Catria nodded.

"I would certainly want to keep my pegasus safe and sound," Est added, "but then, I already did by retiring… or at least that was the idea."

She looked glum for a second before becoming cheerful once again.

"Anyway, regardless, being able to fly is so much fun. I can't wait to be out of here and fly alongside my pegasus."

"That does sound like a fun idea," Palla commented, "I would not mind doing the same."

"Catria, you should join us," Est quickly moved to be in front of her sister, facing them as she flew backwards, "the six of us, just flying around in the open skies. It will be lots of fun! Though I bet the pegasi will be confused at first at seeing us like this, hee hee."

She giggled.

"I won't deny it could be fun," Catria replied, "but let's not get ahead of ourselves. We still don't know if we will keep the wings once we leave."

"Oh, don't ruin the moment," Est pouted as Palla chuckled.

Soon, they reached the alcove. The inside was empty, save for a stone plaque not unlike the one Sonya and Genny had described previously. Except this one housed a single large symbol, not unlike the panels in the previous room.

"Just one?" Palla tilted her head.

"Then that means the passcode is indeed split up," Catria frowned, "and if it's the same for the other two, then it's only three numbers long."

"So, uh, which number is this one then?" Est asked, confused.

"It's alright, we don't need to know which one exactly. Just how it looks like," Palla replied.

Catria narrowed her gaze.

"If I recall correctly," she said, "this one was the one in the upper left corner."

"Upper left?" Palla repeated. "Then if the numbers were ordered properly, that would make it…"

"The zero," Catria finished.

"Zero, huh. Then that means it can't be the first one, right?" Est asked.

"That's right, Est," Palla nodded.

"It's something, at least," Catria said, "though unless we find more than just the numbers, we might still have to guess the code itself."

"Hopefully inputting the incorrect one simply does nothing," Palla added, "so we can just brute force it by trial and error."

She then placed a hand on her hip.

"At least with just three numbers it won't take long."

"So, we have the number. We're basically done here now, then?" Est asked.

"Yes, we are," Catria nodded. "We should make our way back now."

"Hopefully the others are done finding their parts of the code," Palla said.

"Well, there's only one way to find out," Est said, "come on, let's race back!"

She then immediately shot off towards the shaft, the sound of giggling left behind.

"Oh, that's not fair, Est!" Palla laughed before running after her, taking flight in the process.

Catria shook her head and sighed, though at the same time amused, and followed suit.

 

Author's Note: 

Spoiler

This part was completely changed from the original version. The sisters faced a different sort of challenge back there, with no combat involved. Here now they did. The reason for the change had to do with an additional one originally planned for later on, so explanations will be given in due time. In the meantime I also decided to have a bit of fun adding the part with the medicinal syrup, considering all three of the Whitewings have different preferences to the provision. Also threw in a couple more references to their taste preferences as well to complement the scene.

 

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Chapter 9 – Spell Dodge

Spoiler

 

The doorway that Celica and Mae took led to another tunnel which was the same as any other. Another faint light could be seen in the distance, though all the same Celica summoned a fireball for illumination. In spite of there being room for it, they stuck to walking rather than fly, as with the previous tunnel. Eventually they reached the end, which was another doorway. On its other side was a large room. Unlike the previous rooms it was more rectangular in shape, with them emerging from one of its smaller sides. It also had a very low ceiling in comparison as well, with only a couple feet above their heads.

The biggest difference, however, was that it barely had much floor to speak of. A seemingly endless pit was laid out, covering almost all of the length of the room. Only near the doorway there was floor to stand on, stretching merely a couple feet beyond the entrance. Torches kept the room illuminated, placed across the side walls. At the pit itself there were several statues laid out atop isolated pieces of floor attached to the pit walls and the paltry amount of floor. They were twelve in total, with three each on all four sides of the pit. Like the orb-holding statues, they were made of gray stone and looked as smooth and pristine. They all depicted the same figure, that of a woman. Though they wouldn't know yet until sometime afterwards, the woman was the same one depicted by the illusory figures the Whitewings fought at their own trial. Same floor-length gown, same accessories, same flowing hair, same butterfly wings, same staff held in their hands. That said, the briolette shapes atop the staffs were made of actual crystal, not stone. They all had the same posture: standing straight, staffs held likewise, and their featureless eyes staring into each other in pairs.

Upon entering the room, and after Celica dispelled her fireball, they approached the edge of the pit between two of the statues and glanced down.

"This is quite the pit," Mae noted.

"Indeed," Celica agreed, nodding.

The mage then tilted her head.

"Huh, strange, despite how deep it looks and that we're standing right at the edge, I don't quite feel afraid of it."

"Me neither," Celica clasped her hands in front, "I suppose it's because we can fly now."

Mae placed her hands on her hips.

"Yeah, that does seem to make one no longer afraid of heights, isn't it," she nodded.

Shortly after, however, she adopted a worried face.

"Hopefully that doesn't mean there's something down there waiting to snatch us up," she shuddered. "Or that we have to fly down there into the darkness. A-Anyway…"

She then glanced towards Celica.

"So then, what do we do here exactly?"

The princess turned to gaze over at the nearest statue. She frowned.

"Most likely the statues are the key here, although… there's something strange about them," she told her friend.

Mae proceeded to follow her gaze, then frowned.

"They don't look anything out of the ordinary, Celica," she said.

Celica shook her head.

"Perhaps not right now, but they might do something once we fly over the pit," she explained. "It's very suspect they're lined up like that, and for the pit to exist to begin with."

Mae briefly glanced towards her friend before turning back to the statues, a determined look on her face, then nodded.

"Well, there's only one way to find out," she said as she took flight.

"Huh? Mae, wait!" Celica called out.

Before she could take flight herself to follow, a sudden flash of light materialized before her, extending across the entire length of the edge, from the floor to the ceiling. Caught in her peripheral vision, the mage stopped and turned around to see. The flash lasted only a second before it disappeared, leaving both girls briefly confused.

"What was that?" Mae asked.

Wordlessly, Celica quickly extended a hand towards the edge. To their surprise, her hand hit something solid yet invisible, and suddenly more light materialized around it, extending across the edge threshold. It was a very familiar sight.

"A barrier!" Celica exclaimed, withdrawing her hand.

"What!?" Mae fluttered closer to the barrier.

Placing her hands over its surface.

"Oh no no no no!" She cried out in panic.

She looked all over before glancing back to Celica.

"What will we do now, Celica!?"

However, immediately after, the crystals atop the statues' staffs began to glow as well, in a blueish white light.

"Huh? Now what?" Mage withdrew her hands from the barrier, glancing between the two statues flanking her.

Celica looked around the room.

"It seems the statues are meant to do something after all," She said.

"Like what, fling spells at us?" Mae wondered, glancing back at her.

"Perhaps," Celica nodded.

Mae turned to face one of the statues.

"Hopefully it's not shrinking spells," she made a face, "wouldn't want to end up like Genny or Sonya!"

The mage then shook her head.

"Still, thank the Mother, they're not doing anything yet."

The princess went deep in thought.

"Perhaps we must do something ourselves…" she looked over at the pit itself. "Maybe if you were to fly to the center, Mae."

The mage glanced over, looking unsure. However, she knew she had little choice on the matter.

"Um, okay," she nodded in resignation.

She then flew over, wary of what may happen next. No sooner did she reached the center of the pit that the crystals began to glow brighter.

"Huh?" Mae slowed down to a stop.

"Mae, behind you!" Came Celica's sudden cry.

The mage quickly flew sideways out of the way as she turned her body around… just in time to see a Seraphim spell speed right where she had been hovering.

Phew, so close! She thought, relieved, as she watched the spell hit the far wall.

Unfortunately, said relief wouldn't last long as she then saw two more Seraphim spells coming from the statues at the far wall.

"Just my luck," she muttered.

As she could see them coming, she was able to dodge them with ease. Then suddenly another Seraphim was fired from the side walls.

"Oh, come on!" Mae cried out, annoyed, as she dodged it.

Right after, three more Seraphims emerged from all directions sans the entrance side.

"Mae, come back! Don't remain in the center!" Celica called out.

Mae only had to briefly glance at one of the incoming spells before quickly complying. Unfortunately, at the speed they flew, and with Mae less focused on dodging them and not able to see them coming, it was enough for one of them to finally hit their mark.

"Argh!"

Struck right on the back, her wings stopped flapping on reflex.

"Mae!"

Celica saw two more things happen immediately after. First, the barrier flashed again, which she could sense as it being dispelled. Second, that the statues' crystals dimmed down to their initial glow and no more spells were coming. As for the mage, she still carried enough forward momentum to keep going without losing altitude and falling down the pit. Fortunately, she'd fly between the statues, avoiding hitting them. Unfortunately, this also meant she was in a collision course with the floor. Fortunately, Celica quickly took flight and got into position to catch her, quickly gripping her into a hug while flapping her own wings to arrest the momentum and avoid being sent back to the wall behind her.

Still holding on to Mae tightly, Celica began to concentrate again, readying a Recover spell. The mage's pained-looking face relaxed a bit, as the spell did its work.

"T-Thanks, Celica," Mae said.

She then began to flap her wings, slowly at first but picking up speed again. A sign she wanted to be released from Celica's hold. The latter frowned, unsure if she should, but nonetheless complied and let go.

"Are you alright, Mae?"

Still, it didn't hurt to ask.

"Of course, Celica!" Mae was quick to reply. "Thanks to you, I'm good as new! See?"

She then twirled and made a pose with a smirk. Celica brought a hand to her mouth and made a small giggle at her friend's antic, her worry quelled.

"Well, if you say so," she said.

No longer needed, both girls proceeded to flutter down and land back on the floor. Despite her earlier stunt, Mae dropped her smirk and turned back towards the pit with a frown.

"Still, that was close!" She exclaimed. "If I had plummeted down the pit…"

She turned back and shuddered again.

"Don't worry Mae," Celica said, bringing a hand to her chest. "I would've flown right in to save you."

"Thanks, Celica, I appreciate that."

Mae then turned back again and placed her hands on her hips.

"So… now what?" The mage asked. "What was the purpose of all that?"

Celica stepped over to her side.

"It must be this room's trial," she stated, "we must dodge the spells."

"Dodge the spells?" Mae repeated, glancing at Celica. "For how long?"

"I don't know," Celica replied, "but surely that's what we must if we want to reveal the part of the code this room holds."

Mae glanced back to the pit, looking at it wearily.

"I'm not sure I want to do that again," she said in a low volume.

"Don't worry, Mae," Celica turned to face her. "Now it's my turn to try now."

The mage turned as well, shocked.

"What!? Celica, no, it's too dangerous!" Mae protested.

"You said you weren't sure of wanting to do it again," Celica pointed out. "In that case, let me do it instead."

"No, Celica. I'm your servant, thus I'm supposed to keep you out harm's way! I should be the one taking the risk, regardless of my feelings on the matter."

Celica stepped forward and took hold of Mae's hands with her own in a double grasp, which took the mage by surprise.

"It will be alright, Mae," Celica smiled. "You're not just my servant, you're my friend. Your opinion does matter, as does your safety. I wouldn't want you, or anyone else, to risk themselves just for my sake. I got worried when that spell hit you, and you were going to hit the floor. I don't think I could bear to see you be hurt again. It's alright, I can also pull my own weight, but I can't do it alone. I trust you will keep me safe, warning me of any spell coming from behind me."

"Celica…"

Mae wanted to say more; but couldn't. They remained like that for a few seconds. However, she soon gained a determined look.

"Very well, Celica," she nodded. "I'll watch your back! Let's do this!"

"That's the spirit," Celica nodded as well, releasing Mae's hands.

They approached the edge of the floor again.

"Ready, Mae?" she asked.

"Yes!"

Taking flight, Celica quickly flew forward, the barrier flashing briefly again. Despite the earlier reassurance, the mage was still a little worried. As before, as soon as the princess reached the center of the pit, the crystals began to glow brighter again. Thus, the trial began anew. Now with better awareness over what to do, both girls began to coordinate their actions. Celica would remain at the center area, dodging the Seraphim spells as she saw them come, while Mae would call out whenever they'd come from behind the princess. Right off the bat it proved to be an effective strategy, with Celica avoiding the spells with ease. The order in which the spells came was different from the first run, but nonetheless they were able to adapt.

However, as they kept going, another issue was rearing itself in. Namely, that they had already spent more than a full minute at this with Celica dodging spells… and yet they still kept coming. Fortunately, their intensity wasn't increasing as time went on, remaining at the most three spells being fired at once, though they certainly still varied from which statues they came from. Sometimes they'd all come from the same direction, in others they'd be more spread out. Eventually, a couple more minutes had passed…

"Behind you and to your right!" Mae called out on the most recent batch of spells.

Is there no end to them yet!? She thought exasperated.

Celica dodged the incoming spells as usual, however, it was quite telling she was starting to tire. Her flying was becoming ever so sluggish. Something that wasn't missed by the mage.

If this goes on for longer, Celica will get hit! Mae realized.

The next batch of spells were next, two of which came from her side of the room. After giving the warning, she looked over at the central statue, annoyed.

Ugh! Why must there be so many statues! If only they could just stop.

Mae's eyes then widened in sudden realization.

Wait a minute… I can make them stop!

She could almost slap herself silly for having forgotten, if not for the current dire situation they were in. She wasted no time. As soon the next batch of spells were fired, which to her fortune none required her to input the warning this time, she began to focus a Silence spell. The glyph circles manifested and surrounded the mage as she kept her sight on the central statue: Her first target. Though in the middle of the process, hesitation briefly crossed her mind.

Although… will it work?

She had never tried to use the spell on an inanimate object before. Nonetheless, Mae steeled herself…

Here goes nothing!

… and released the spell. The magic quickly descended upon the statue, enveloping it. Then, to the mage's relief, she saw how the crystal's glow suddenly dissipated. The statue was now, effectively, 'Silence'.

"Yes! It worked!" She cheered with a fist pump.

Over at the pit, Celica had finished dodging the spells. As it so happened, she ended up facing back to the entrance, thus she saw the result of what Mae had done. She stared surprised, then with realization, at least until the next batch of spells came and forced her to turn away again. Not wasting time, Mae proceeded to Silence the remaining two statues. She wasn't sure if she could reach any of the others, but at the very least, she could neutralize one side and make things easier to Celica regardless. Though once she did, she hunched slightly, knees bending a little.

"Haa… haa…" She panted.

Unfortunately, all those Silence spells took a toll on her stamina.

"Mae!" Celica called out, flying towards her.

"D-Don't worry about me, Celica…" Mae said with a pained expression. "Let's finish this first!"

Her eyes then widened then pointed past Celica.

"Behind you!"

The princess turned around to see a lone spell coming their way. The act of silencing the statues was already paying dividends. In addition, the trial wasn't adapting to this sudden disruption of its normal course. It was likely there were meant to be spells coming from the silenced statues, but unable to unleash them, then that was that. Celica dodged the Seraphim with ease, and the spell proceeded to dissipate upon hitting the magic barrier.

"You rest up, Mae, I'll handle the rest from here," Celica told her, briefly glancing back.

"A-Alright," Mae nodded, before side-sitting down on the floor.

From here on things became significantly easier. A lowered amount of spells on average, and even there were actual gaps, indicating all three were meant to come from the entrance side but couldn't anymore. By staying by the silenced statues, Celica no longer needed to watch her back anymore. This also let her conserve her own energy. In spite of this, a few more minutes still passed by before finally, the barrage of spells finally ceased. The remaining nine crystals stopped glowing, and the barrier flashed out of existence once again right after.

"We did it!" Mae cheered, rising back up, having mostly rested back up at this point.

She then took flight and flew to Celica's side, who still looked a bit tired but otherwise was no worse for wear. Shortly after, they heard a rumbling sound coming from the far wall. A small alcove opened up by the ceiling, right above the center-point statue. They could see what looked to be a stone plaque within with a symbol on its surface, though they didn't approach it right away. Instead, they turned to face each other.

"Thank you, Mae," Celica said with a smile, "we were able to overcome this trial by working together."

"So we did!" Mae exclaimed, placing her hands on her hips. "I bet Boey wouldn't have been able to do a better job aiding you, Celica!"

Celica giggled, happy to see her friend back to her usual self.

"Perhaps. That said, Silencing the statues was certainly ingenious."

"Well, you know it, I am a prodigious mage after all!" Mae boasted, pointing at herself with a confident smirk.

It was short-lived, however, as she then frowned.

"Though I wish I would've thought about it before. Specially when I was in there dodging spells."

"It's alright, Mae," Celica said, "if you had done it when you were doing the trial, you would've been too exhausted to dodge the rest of the spells. So it was for the best."

The mage's frown lessened, though she still looked unconvinced.

"Still, I could've thought to use my Silence spell much earlier than I did, for your sake."

She then shook her head.

"Well, it's alright, what matters is that it all worked out in the end AND we can put this behind us."

"That's right," Celica nodded, "now come, let's see what we uncovered."

The two then proceeded to fly towards the alcove. Once they got close enough, they were able to discern the symbol on the plaque.

"A four," Mae noted.

"So this must be part of the code," Celica nodded.

They then glanced at each other.

"Though which part?" Mae asked.

Celica went pensive for a bit, but then shook her head.

"We'll have to find that out later, once the girls find the rest of it."

Mae placed her hands on the hips again.

"So then, are we finally done?"

"It looks that way," Celica replied.

"Then I guess it's time to head back," Mae turned back to face the entrance. "Phew, I'm still quite beat. I don't think I've had to cast so many Silence spells in one go before. Not even in battle. Once we're back on the panels room, we should rest up a bit more."

"I'm sure the others won't object to that," Celica said.

The two friends then proceeded to fly back across the pit, land back on the floor, and started the walk back through the tunnel; the princess summoning back her fireball as they crossed the doorway.

 

Author's Note: 

Spoiler

Unlike the previous one, the challenge of this chapter wasn't changed as drastically. Well, it was still changed by a lot, but the core idea remained the same: That of evading spells in mid-flight.

 

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Author's Note: Something of a warning, I am a big Saint Seiya fan. XD


Chapter 10 – Puzzle of the Zodiac

Spoiler

 

Upon landing near the doorway, Sonya called forth her fireball once again before she and Genny ventured through. On the other side a spiral staircase awaited them, heading downwards. Rather than walk, as there was space for it, they took flight again and fluttered all the way down.

This is so convenient, Sonya thought, pleased. I wasn't fully on board, but I would certainly not mind keeping these wings now, if we can.

They reached the bottom after going down the equivalent of several floors worth of height, at least relative to their current size. Another doorway awaited at the foot of the stairs on the outer wall of the spiral, from which light flooded out. They landed again just before it, and after the mage dispelled her fireball again, ventured inside.

A circular room lied on the other side. It was fairly large, with a high ceiling. Wall-mounted torches were placed all around, keeping the place well illuminated. At the very center they saw a statue of a woman, staring right at them at the doorway. It was the same woman their companions had seen, but unlike the statues from Celica and Mae's room, even the briolette shape atop the staff was stone. The statue was surrounded by six pedestals, placed equidistant to each other. The two girls walked over, stopping right before it.

"Well well, what do we have here," Sonya placed a hand on her hip as she eyed up the statue, "now this fairy certainly knows how to dress up."

She then glanced back at the cleric.

"Don't you think so, Genny?"

"Oh, yes," Genny nodded, "that's a very beautiful outfit."

"Shame it's only for display, and in dull gray no less," Sonya mused before shaking her head, "well then, let's see what this else this room has to offer us."

With that, they walked towards one of the pedestals. It, and its five brothers, looked the same as the pedestal from the previous room the two alone had been to. These didn't have anything atop them, however. Rather, they saw a small square hole at the very center of the top.

"A hole, huh," Sonya crossed her arms, looking down.

She then glanced over to one of the nearest pedestals.

"The others must be the same, then."

"Maybe something is meant to be put in there," Genny suggested, looking over at the mage.

Sonya glanced back at the pedestal they were at.

"Most definitely," she said, narrowing her gaze, "but then what."

Both girls began to glance around the room. Other than the statue and the pedestals, there was nothing else… at floor level.

"Sonya, look!" Genny suddenly called out.

The mage turned back to her, to see the cleric pointing upwards with her free hand. Following it with her gaze, she saw that near the ceiling of the room were several alcoves. They all seemed to house something inside, but they were too far to see properly.

"Looks like that may be our what," Sonya mused.

They both took flight, flying straight to the alcove the cleric had pointed at. It was one off to the side of the one straight above the doorway. Upon getting close enough, they discovered two things. One, that just under the alcove was another stone plaque housing ancient script just like the previous one they had seen; and two, that the thing in the alcove was a little gold statuette.

"Oh, it's a ram," Genny said.

Indeed, the statuette depicted a ram, standing atop a stone plinth.

"Hmm, how curious," Sonya adopted a pensive pose.

She looked at the statuette intently, specifically to its plinth, which was curiously cubed-shaped.

"Just the right size…"

"Huh?"

Genny looked confused for a second, before realizing what the mage was getting at.

"Oh! The figurine is meant to be put on the pedestal," she said.

Despite so, the mage didn't look quite convinced.

"Perhaps…" Sonya turned around, "but there's one problem with that. Mainly, that there's double the number of statuettes than pedestals."

Genny turned over towards the rest of the alcoves as well. They were spread around the room, twelve in total, all with a statuette and stone plaque of their own. They were placed effectively like the numbers of a clock.

"So we must figure out which ones are meant to be used," Sonya finished.

"Perhaps the plaques have the answer," Genny suggested.

"Or rather, we must figure out the answer from their contents," the mage finished as they turned back to see the plaque.

1

The Ram turned his back to the Fake Patriarch

Both girls stared at the plaque, confused.

"Huh?" Genny tilted her head. "What does that mean?"

Sonya frowned.

"Let's read the next one," she suggested, "it should hopefully shed more light on this."

So they did. Taking the doorway as a marker, they flew clockwise. The statuette in the next alcove was a bull.

"Hmm, another animal…" Sonya went pensive again.

A ram and a bull… can there be some other connection?

Just then, Genny's eyes widened in surprise.

"Oh! Maybe they're the star signs!"

"The star signs?" Sonya repeated, confused, but then frowned.

Wait…

The number of alcoves and thus statuettes, their arrangement around the room, the specific figures of the first two they had seen already, the number one in the previous plaque… Sonya glanced down at this new plaque. While not reading its contents yet, she took note there was a number two above the letters.

A one for the ram, a two for the bull… that's it!

It all came together.

"I see," she placed a hand on her hip, "so these figurines are not just a ram and bull. They're Aries and Taurus."

She then glanced at the cleric with a smile.

"Good job, Genny."

"Hee hee," Genny glanced back, smiling at the praise.

"Then let's see what this plaque has to say…" Sonya then said.

2

The Bull sensed the Goddess' will within the Pegasus

This message was no less equally hard to find the meaning of as the last.

"Well, now this just got more interesting," Sonya hummed. "The mentioned pegasus has to refer to the constellation, all things considered."

"Though it's not one of the main twelve," Genny pointed out.

"True," Sonya folded her arms, "though the strangest bit has to be this goddess. Like the patriarch in the previous plaque, there's no constellations called that."

She shook her head.

"Let's read the rest, then."

So they did. Continuing to fly clockwise, as it was clear the plaques were indeed numbered like a clock. Next statuette was two identical-looking young men, standing back to back. Geminis.

3

The repentant Twin took his own life as penance

"That's so sad," Genny said with the tone to match.

Hold on. 'Twin', in singular? Sonya didn't miss out on that curious detail.

Next was the crab, Cancer.

4

The Crab was dragged into the abyss by the weight of his sins

"This one's even worse," Genny said.

"Sounds like he deserved it, though," Sonya added.

Next was Leo the lion.

5

The Lion had to be released from his leash

"It almost sounds like they're telling a story," Genny said.

"A very condensed story," Sonay frowned.

"Yes, what a shame," the cleric sighed in disappointment.

Next figure was a woman clad in a simple robe, head held high with her hands together over her chest, as if praying to the heavens. Virgo.

6

The Virgin's misguided loyalty wavered thanks to the Phoenix

"Another minor constellation is mentioned here," Sonya noted.

Are these also important, somehow?

The following alcove held a pair of scales, Libra.

7

The Scales supported the young heroes from afar

"Ah, it must be talking about Pegasus and Phoenix!" Genny exclaimed.

"Really? What makes you think that?" Sonya asked, curious.

"Well, from the last plaque we know there seems to be a conflict between the major and minor constellations," the cleric explained, "or the characters represented by them at least. In that case, who else could 'young heroes' refer to? Being the minor constellations could fit in being described as 'young', thematically at least."

Sonya hummed, before nodding.

"I suppose that makes sense. Well, you're the expert on these matters, so I'll take your word for it."

Coming up next was Scorpio.

8

The Scorpion was moved by the Swan's resolve

"So then, the Swan is another 'young hero'," Sonya said.

"That's right," Genny nodded.

The next figure was a centaur. It held a bow and arrow in his hands, poised to fire. Sagittarius.

9

The Archer aided from beyond the sea between life and death

"Whoever these people were it sounds like they were quite powerful," Sonya mused, "if even death can't stop them."

"But the young heroes persevere nonetheless," Genny said.

"They certainly sound like they're no slouches either, if they can actually kill at least one of the big twelve."

Up next was the figure of a goat with a fish tail. Capricorn.

10

The regretful Sea Goat became stardust so the Dragon could live

"I wish a full version of the story existed somewhere," Genny said.

"I concur," Sonya nodded, "from what little samples we're getting, it does sound like it is a compelling epic."

"I do hope it's not something lost to the ages and these are the only surviving parts," the cleric sounded dismayed at the prospect. "Or that it was only thought up for this puzzle, and only the relevant parts were written."

Feeling pity, the mage placed a hand on the cleric's shoulder.

"Don't worry Genny, I doubt they'd do all that effort in making up a story just to only use pieces of it here. Or that they wouldn't share it to the world afterwards. I'm sure there is a surviving copy somewhere. We just have to find it, wherever it may be."

The young girl still looked downcast for a moment, before glancing at the mage, adopting a determined face.

"You're right Sonya, we must not lose hope. We could even start looking back at the temple, once we return. I'm sure the Earth Mother would've had a copy herself."

"That's the spirit," Sonya smiled.

The second to last figure was that of a man, holding a water jug which rested atop his shoulder. Aquarius.

11

The Water-Bearer died surpassed by his pupil

"Let me guess, it was the pupil who killed him," Sonya said.

"If his pupil was one of the young heroes, then it does have all the trappings of them being fated to fight, yes," Genny replied. "Where the pupil can show his master how far he's come and prove he has become a worthy successor, often with the master dying for further symbolism."

Sonya looked at her with a smirk.

"Let me guess, it's a writer's thing?"

"Perhaps. It can certainly entice the readers," Genny giggled.

Sonya could only respond with chuckle.

At last, they reached the last alcove, which housed a pair of fish. Pisces.

12

The Fishes' arrogance came to a fatal end by the Chained Princess

"And with that, we're done," Sonya declared.

They both turned around, looking over at the rest of the alcoves. The mage placed a hand on her hip.

"Now then, we must figure out which of the figurines must be placed on the pedestals."

"The nature of the story should tell us which," Genny said.

Sonya brought her other hand to her chin, deep in thought.

"Okay, so, to start with, we have the twelve main constellations, and at least five from the rest: Pegasus, Phoenix, Cygnus, Draco, and Andromeda."

She hummed.

"Why those five in specific is a mystery, but I suppose it doesn't matter for solving the puzzle."

"There's also the goddess and the fake patriarch," Genny pointed out.

"And if there's a fake, then there had to be a real one."

"Which would make him the villain of the story."

"Yes, it's not hard to guess it was a case of kill and replace," Sonya nodded. "Though then where does the goddess factor in all this?"

"Perhaps it's who they all serve," the cleric suggested, "the original patriarch and all the individuals that represent the constellations."

"So some kind of star or sky goddess, with the fake was trying to disrupt things from within; interesting," the mage mused.

She then gazed down, at the statue in the center of the floor, surrounded by the pedestals.

"In that case, then the statue is meant to represent the goddess, at least for the purpose of the puzzle."

Genny's eyes widened in realization.

"So the ones we must choose must be…"

Sonya glanced back up at her and nodded.

"Yes, those that remained loyal to the goddess in spite of the fake patriarch's schemes. We know that some, like Aries and Libra, saw through the ruse."

"Leo too," Genny said, "the mention of a leash implies he was helping the fake patriarch against his will."

"Then he was unable to get away from him in time and thus forced to be under his control," Sonya frowned, "and most likely suffered for it. But he was freed, in the end…"

She suddenly looked forlorn all of a sudden.

"He was lucky."

Those last words were almost said in a whisper.

"Sonya?" Genny asked, able to tell something was wrong.

The mage shook her head and adopted a stoic face.

"It's nothing," she said dismissively, "let's not lose our focus."

Genny could tell she was avoiding the subject, but despite the concern for her friend she knew better than to press the issue.

Best to let her decide when to talk about it, she thought instead.

Still, an awkward silence lingered for a few seconds.

"There's Sagittarius too," the mage finally decided to break it, her expression warming up again.

"Y-Yes, the plaque did say he helped, even in death," Genny said, "so he found out too."

"Which means he got it even worse than Leo," Sonya folded her arms. "The fake patriarch was probably unable to subdue him, so he had to kill him."

"Poor Sagittarius," Genny lowered her head in sadness.

The mage shared a pitying look, but made no further comment.

"So that's four of the six we need so far," she said instead.

She frowned again.

"Finding the remaining two is going to be trickier. Let's bring back down the others in the meantime."

"Okay," Genny nodded.

With that, they split up and flew around the room again, Genny continuing clockwise while Sonya went back counterclockwise. Thus, the cleric grabbed the statuettes of Aries and Leo, while the mage did the same for Sagittarius and Libra. Though the former had a little difficulty as she still had her staff, and thus held both figurines with one arm. With the statuettes in hand, they then fluttered back down to the floor. Genny was quick to put her staff to lean against one of the pedestals, thus freeing her hand to grab both figurines more comfortably.

"So, does it matter to which pedestals we put them in?" She asked.

Sonya hummed, as she placed her figurines atop the nearest pedestal.

"Maybe not, but…"

She looked back at the statue, then at the doorway it stared at, then straight up to the Pisces alcove above, then back down at the pedestals forming a circle around the statue.

"Just in case, perhaps we should also mind the order."

Her gaze then lingered on the pedestal that, from the statue's perspective, was to its front-right.

"So Aries should go there," she pointed.

The cleric headed over, placing the statuette into the pedestal's hole, the plinth being a perfect fit. With how the hole was positioned, it also resulted in the figure of the ram to face directly at the statue. At the same time, she placed the Leo one next to it, freeing up her other hand again before letting them rest up clasped in front.

"But what about the others?" She glanced back at Sonya.

The mage placed a hand on her hip as she glanced up towards the alcoves.

"Then we must go over what the rest of them did. Unlike the other four, it seems they remained on the fake's side, if mostly through ignorance. Although…"

She narrowed her gaze.

"Surely they would've suspected something, if the fake began to do things differently from the real patriarch."

"It sounds like most of them did," Genny pointed out. "Some even regretted having followed his orders, like Geminis and Capricorn."

"Not that it did them any good," Sonya glanced back down at the cleric, "considering one thought himself beyond forgiveness and took his own life. And while I don't know what turning into stardust is supposed to mean, the other clearly sacrificed himself to save whoever was the dragon, so he definitely died too."

"That may be so… but it showed they were indeed loyal to the goddess."

Sonya glanced back up.

"Speaking of, the Taurus plaque specifically mentions him sensing the goddess within Pegasus."

"Oh, that could be it," Genny realized. "They were able to tell the goddess was aiding the young heroes. That may be how they found out they were serving the fake patriarch."

The mage frowned.

"Well, she's not mentioned in any other plaque."

"Maybe it wasn't needed for her to directly intervene," Genny said, "just the resolve of the young heroes to fight on her behalf was enough to make them see the truth."

"In that case, that adds Virgo and Scorpio as well," Sonya brought her other hand to her chin. "So in the end, we're down to only Cancer, Aquarius, and Pisces left to sort. Though from his plaque, we can definitely rule out Cancer. He sounds like he was the one who embraced the fake patriarch's rule the most."

"Which means he probably was already like that, even before," Genny pointed out.

"And then suffered a literal fall from grace, most likely a fatal one too," Sonya hummed, "that shows how no one's infallible in the end. Pisces sounded like he was the same, if not as extreme, so we can rule him out too. And then Aquarius… it's hard to tell what his deal is, other than fighting his pupil."

She then glanced at the cleric again.

"Any ideas?"

"Oh, well," Genny went pensive, "it could go either way. As he could have stood as the young heroes' enemy and his pupil took it upon himself to be the one to fight him, or he was putting his pupil to the test to see if he could face what still lied ahead."

Sonya frowned.

"Even if it would be at the expense of his own life?"

"Yes," Genny nodded, quite sure of herself.

The mage sighed.

"Then we're back to square one with him, then. Not that it matters, since we are still far from narrowing things down to the remaining two we need."

She folded her arms.

"There's got to be some other factor we need to take into consideration. What other thing stands out from what the plaques state?"

They both went pensive for a few seconds.

"Well," Genny began, "we know that half of them died."

"Half…" Sonya repeated while closing her eyes.

A second after, both girls then had looks of realization.

"That's it!"

"Oh!"

"Yes, of the twelve, only six were still alive at the end," Sonya began.

"And all six are all of those who didn't remained with the fake patriarch or defected back to the goddess' side," Genny continued.

"So it's not just who remained loyal to the goddess, but also who remained alive to continue to stand before her," the mage finished.

"So the six we must place then are Aries, Taurus, Leo, Virgo, Libra, and Scorpio!" The cleric exclaimed excitedly at having finally solved the puzzle at last.

"That's correct," Sonya nodded. "Then let's finish this."

"Right!"

With that, both quickly got to work. Genny quickly took flight again, heading back up towards the alcoves. In the meantime, Sonya placed the remaining statues, sans that of Sagittarius, still minding the clockwise order. When done, she took flight as well just as the cleric was fluttering back down, the statuettes of Virgo and Libra in hand. As the mage retrieved the final statue, the cleric placed the next two figurines in place. Finally, Sonya came back down.

"And this should do it," she said as she placed Scorpio in its place.

No sooner was the last statuette in place did they all began to glow. Right after, a small rumbling began to sound, as the statue suddenly began to arise. It only rose about two inches, but that enough for the uncovered pseudo-plinth below to reveal a painted symbol just below it.

"We did it!" Genny cheered.

"A one," Sonya gazed down at it, "so that's our number."

She nodded.

"Our job here is done."

"Now we can head back and reunite with the others," Genny said.

"Yes… we will…" Sonya trailed off.

The mage didn't sound enthusiastic at the idea, however.

"Huh? Is something wrong Sonya?" Genny asked.

Is this about earlier? She wondered.

The mage looked at her stoically for a moment, but then sighed.

"Truth be told Genny, I'm not really looking forward to be back there," she answered. "To once again be reminded that I'm currently only a few inches tall."

Genny said nothing, letting her continue.

"To be dwarfed by everything, including our own companions. It can be too much to bear at times. The teasing certainly didn't help either."

Here the cleric lowered her gaze slightly in guilt, remembering she too had found amusement with the mage's sudden squeaking sounding voice shortly after shrinking. Sure, it was minor compared to the extent Mae went to antagonize the older mage, but she still did it.

"I'm actually glad we've been heading into these rooms. With everything on the same scale as us, it's easy to forget we're actually small."

Sonya then brought a hand to her throat with a small frown.

"Well, for the most part."

"Oh, I see…" the cleric trailed off, unsure on what to say.

While the mage had certainly never hidden the fact on how much she detested having shrunk, it still came to a surprise for the young girl to be hearing such confessions.

"But despite everything… it hasn't been all that bad."

The cleric gazed back up.

"Huh? How come?" She asked, curious.

The mage then gave a warm smile.

"Because you're here with me."

Genny was stunned.

"M-Me?"

Sonya chuckled.

"Yes, you. Had it been anyone else, I doubt I'd had the patience to last this long. Despite our less than stellar start…"

Y-Yeah, no kidding… Genny's face flushed red, still embarrassed to have compared Sonya with her own mother without giving the context as to why first.

"… we managed to find common ground and become friends. Though I'm used to feel just fine to mind my own business, I've certainly come to enjoy your company."

"M-Me too," Genny said. "It was nice, getting to make a new friend. One I could relate too in some ways. And you've taught me many things too. It feels more like I gained an older sister as much as I did a friend."

"Is that so?" Sonya gave a small smirk. "Truth be told I feel the same. Well, I already had sisters, but they were older than me."

"Really?" Genny's eyes widened, being the first time she was hearing such a thing.

"Yes. Though it's been… a long time since I've seen them last."

A brief forlorn look flashed through the mage's face, which the cleric didn't fail to notice.

"But while I'm certainly not trying to replace them with you, I'm still glad to have someone like that again in my life. And that's why," the mage moved closer to stand just before the cleric, "even if we're still long from returning to normal, I feel I can endure the wait, as long as we're waiting together."

She then adopted a pleased look.

"And I must admit, it certainly feels good being the older sister for once."

The cleric smiled.

"Hee hee, then I promise to be a good younger sister."

However, she then assumed an apologetic look.

"In that case, I'm sorry for having laughed at your voice, back when you first shrunk."

"It's fine," Sonya shrugged, "that's long been water under the bridge. Besides…"

She then smirked, before proceeding to head pat the cleric.

"With you small as well, then your voice is the same too, and I can still look down at you. So I say we're even."

"I-I suppose th-that's true," Genny's face flushed red with embarrassed.

"Not to mention, it certainly suits you more. The full fairy image as well."

"A-Ah…" the cleric's face got even redder.

"My my, you get so easily flustered, little one," Sonya chuckled, stopping the head patting. "Though as fun as it is to tease you, it's true what I say. You would certainly make a great fairy."

"L-Let's head back already…"

With that, the cleric quickly retrieved her staff and headed towards the doorway. With one last chuckle, the mage followed suit.

 


Author's Note: 

Spoiler

 

Well, to get it out of the way... yes, the puzzle was one big Saint Seiya reference. I did mentioned way above that I'm a big fan. lol

Okay, on a serious note, this can be blamed that when I was writing this part of the story, Saint Seiya had been airing on TV for a long while now. Enough to have cycled from the start to the end of the Poseidon saga several times now... because that's the only parts the channel had the rights to air, apparently. Anyway, as it so happened, the Sanctuary saga ended shortly before the upload of this chapter, and well, let's just say I got inspired to come up with this chapter's puzzle after watching it for the Nth time. That said, I originally wasn't going to add it here.

You see, back when I wrote the original version of the story, the idea was to have each of the three groups to face trials which involved flight, since they had just gained the fairy wings after all. However, for Sonya and Genny I didn't end up doing it because I couldn't think up of a third one at the time. By the time of this rewrite, I did. However, the plan was to have that third idea to be what the Whitewings faced, and what they originally faced to be what Sonya and Genny would now face. Well, it would've been changed a lot from its original idea, like what happened with the trial that Celica and Mae did, but the core idea would've remained the same as well. The zodiac puzzle would've instead been held off for if I expanded on the story, or even for a sequel. However, I came to like the puzzle so much I felt I just couldn't wait to show it already... so here it is now, heh. Maybe one day I'll show that scrapped third trial, but for now, it is how it is.

One last thing, just in case. The "sea between life and death" mentioned in the Sagittarius plaque is a reference to the story Celica brings up while exploring the Dragon Shrine in-game. About there existing a sea somewhere in Zofia that connects the living world with that of the dead. The implication being, at least to me, that the body of water we see in the Dragon Shrine itself could be that sea, perhaps.

 

 

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Chapter 11 – End of the Road?

Spoiler

 

It had been Sonya and Genny who returned to the room of the numbered panels first. Even from the small doorway they could tell there was no one else in the room.

"Looks like the others aren't back there," Sonya placed a hand on her hip. "Well, time to wait, then."

Thus they waited. It wouldn't take long before the rest started to come back, starting from the figure of Est emerging from the shaft. She came down flying straight down, though she quickly shifted to an inclined descent so she'd be out of the panels area, before completing the full semicircle to be right side up again, remaining hovering a foot off the floor.

"Yay, I won!" Est cheered with a punch to the air.

She then turned around and glanced up, just in time to see Palla emerging from the shaft, followed closely by Catria. They both also inclined their flight before also straightening out right side up and landing just before their youngest sister.

"Better luck next time, sisters," Est said.

"I wouldn't be so sure if this win counts, Est," Catria said. "The shaft wasn't wide enough to properly race through it."

"You're just saying that because you lost," Est scoffed.

"Catria's right," Palla said, "if any of us had tried to overtake each other, there was a good chance one could send the other into the walls."

"Not to mention, even if that wasn't the case…" Catria placed a hand on her hip with a small smirk, "you also gave yourself a head start."

"So in short, you cheated," Palla finished with a chuckle.

"Th-That's not true!" Est stammered.

"What's all this blather about?"

The Whitewings turned to see Sonya and Genny flying towards them, stopping short in midair before them.

"Oh, we had something of a race as we came back," Palla explained.

"That I won!" Est pointed at herself, self-pleased in spite of earlier.

"Oh, a race…" Sonya crossed her arms, looking disinterested now.

"A flying race…" Genny gained a little longing look, "that would have been fun to watch."

"There wasn't much to see, anyway," Catria said. "It wasn't even a proper race, all things considered."

"That said, I wouldn't mind doing a proper one once we're out of here," Palla added. "One that's more fair and the win is actually earned."

"Fine, be that way…" Est pouted.

"Ah, good! You're all here!"

Now coming from the other doorway, the group of five saw Celica and Mae walking over, coming to a stop once near enough.

"It's good to see you are all back," Celica said.

"Looks like we were missing out on something, huh," Mae placed her hands on her hips.

"Not really missing out of much," Sonya flipped her hair.

"We'll tell you later," Palla glanced over to Celica, "for now, since we're all together again how about we solve this puzzle here now?"

She finished waving an arm back towards the panels.

"I agree," Sonya nodded, "let's get this over with."

Thus, they all moved until they were standing before the panels.

"It goes without saying," Celica began, "but we all found a single number in our respective destinations, correct?"

A chorus of agreements followed.

"We found a zero," Catria said.

"It was a one for us," Genny continued.

"And ourselves a four," Mae finished for the others to know.

"So zero, one, four…" Celica went pensive, glancing down at the panels. "Looks like we might have to guess the order after all."

"And at three numbers, that's one in six of a chance to get it right," Sonya said.

"Well, when we first saw it we thought that the zero might mean it's not the first number," Palla brought up. "If true, it then becomes one in four."

"The problem is that 'if'," Celica then shook her head, "I'm afraid it's very possible the zero could still be the first number."

"So then what are we going to do, just put them all and hope for the best?" Est asked.

"Absolutely not," Sonya frowned, "what if something bad happens by putting the wrong order?"

Looks of concern were exchanged between the girls.

"It's certainly a risk we might have to take," Palla said, "otherwise we've come all this way for nothing."

"Well girls, it's time to think," Mae said. "There must be something to tell us what could be the right order. From anything we saw before."

Thus, all seven began to ponder. After a while…

"Oh, I think I got it," Genny suddenly said.

This made everyone look at her.

"Really? Do tell," Mae said.

"The order is four, zero, one," the cleric replied.

"Interesting; and why is that?" Sonya inquired.

Eager looks were now aimed at her.

"Well, you know how we write starting from the left, and that includes numbers," Genny began.

She received various nods in reply.

"That was also true even in ancient times. And have you noticed that, looking from the entrance into this room, that the other three exits can look to be from left to right too?"

It took a few seconds, but then they all had looks of realization from the cleric's words.

"Oh, you're right, Genny!" Mae exclaimed.

"Yes, that's… true. Even though the shaft we took was on the ceiling, it can still align with the doorways," Palla realized.

"Especially if seen from the entrance," Sonya added.

"And looking from left to right, it would indeed be four, then zero, and finally one," Celica pointed out.

"Well, what are we waiting for? Let's try it!" Est cried out.

"I'll do it," Palla said.

She took off, and fluttered over to the second row, where the four was. She landed right atop the panel for a second, as the panel glowed while she did. She then repeated the action for the zero panel, and finally, the one. As soon as she took off from the one panel, a segment of floor between the panels and the back wall began to glow.

"Look, something's happening!" Mae pointed out.

They all saw how the light, which was in the shape of a circle, glowed brightly for about a second. Afterwards it dimmed down, and in some parts faded completely, forming a figure on the floor itself.

"Let's get a closer look," Catria said.

With that, they headed over to the other side of the panels, allowing them to get a better view.

"It's a warp circle," Sonya stated.

"A warp circle?" Palla asked, confused.

"Oh, do you not have them over in Archanea?" Genny asked, curious.

"No, we don't," the eldest Whitewing shook her head in reply.

"Admittedly, there's not a lot of them here either," Sonya crossed her arms.

She then glanced at the warp circle and frowned.

"Specially not of this kind."

"What do you mean?" Catria asked.

"Warp circles are usually patterned after either the Earth Mother or the War Father," Celica explained. "The sigil of the Faithful in the center, with inscriptions pertaining to the deity around them."

"Huh? But this one doesn't have those," Est pointed out, confused.

Indeed, the one before them was blank in that sense. It only seemed to have crisscrossing lines forming a glyph of sorts, but whatever meaning it had they ignored it.

"True, it's a very nondescript warp circle if you ask me," Mae commented, hands on her hips.

"Well, since we know this place predates their arrival, it makes sense it wouldn't be of either," Catria pointed out. "Still…"

She frowned as she looked at the warp circle.

"That would make knowing who made this one much more difficult."

"Oh, who cares about that!" Est exclaimed. "In the end, what matters is that we can proceed, right?"

She then hovered closer to the warp circle, before turning around back at them.

"So what are we waiting for? Let's go!" She gestured with a wave of her arm for them to follow.

"Wait, hold on Est, we don't know where that thing would take us," Palla said.

"But we won't know until we actually warp there," the young pegasus knight pointed out.

"In that case, we must prepare beforehand," Celica said.

"Yeah, let's take this chance to rest," Mae nodded, "maybe even eat something too."

She then brought a hand to rest over her stomach.

"We've been in here for way over an hour already, I'm certainly feeling a little hungry right now."

"Now that you mentioned it, I feel the same too," Palla said.

"We all do, no doubt," Sonya commented.

"Very well, we'll take this time to recover our strength, in order to tackle whatever lies on the other side."

So they did. In light of the room being bare of any sort of furnishing, they had to make do with the floor, forming a circle as they did. With how impeccable the place was, it wasn't too much of a problem for them. Or at least, to most of them.

"Well, I'm not feeling tired at all, and I'm not going to sit down on the cold hard floor," Sonya stated, arms crossed.

She had remained hovering in mid-air, though had lowered her altitude accordingly.

"It's not that cold," Est pointed out.

"Ah, let her be, it's not really our concern," Mae shrugged.

Though unspoken, it wasn't hard to guess what was the mage's real issue with sitting down on the floor next to her companions while being only inches tall.

"Um, Celica?"

The princess glanced over, to see Genny fluttering near her.

"Do you mind if I… sit down on your shoulder?" The cleric asked. "I… also don't want to sit on the floor."

"No, it's fine," Celica said, slightly amused.

"Thank you, Celica!" Genny cheerfully said, before proceeding to do just that.

Once they had settled down, they proceeded to take out their provisions. As it was, they all hadn't brought something to eat, but they made due with sharing what they had. Celica herself had a loaf of bread, from which she broke off a small piece.

"Here," she said, handing it over to Genny.

The cleric had sat in a way she could place her staff atop her staff without rolling off. Thus, having both hands freed, she was able to gratefully take the piece of bread and began to nibble at it. Such an action ended up eliciting a few giggles from the onlookers.

"I have to admit, that's quite adorable to witness," Palla said.

"Hehe, that's true," Mae said, "Genny does make a cute little fairy."

Genny, for her part, began to get flustered at once again hearing such comments. While this happened, Celica had broken off another piece and had offered it to Sonya, who flew over.

"See, I told you so," Sonya chuckled as she proceeded to remain hovering nearby the cleric.

Fortunately for the embarrassed cleric, the conversation soon switched to swapping tales of what had transpired while they had been apart.

"I can't believe you only had to do a puzzle again," Mae, annoyed, glared at the older mage.

Sonya said nothing, simply taking a bite of her piece of bread with a self-serving smirk. This caused Mae to humph.

"At least what Celica and I had to do was a real challenge," she muttered, "that I doubt you could've done."

"Well, Palla, Catria, and I certainly had to do the hardest one," Est pitched in.

"No matter the nature of our trials, just like before, we all worked together to open the way forward," Celica said.

"Indeed, no matter if we had to fight, dodge projectiles, or solve a puzzle," Catria agreed.

"That said, it's curious that that last one was so different," Palla said.

"Yeah, I mean, you had to fight flying invoked illusions," Mae began.

"And you had to dodge in midflight," Catria added.

"We had to fly too," Genny said.

"Yeah, but only to pick up figurines and read some plaques," Mae pointed out.

"I'd say that still counts," Sonya nonchalantly said as she took another bite.

Soon enough, their moment of respite would come to an end. Once done, they all congregated before the warp circle once again.

"Finally, we will see what lies beyond," Mae said.

"I do hope we are finally done with these trials and puzzles," Sonya frowned, arms crossed.

"Yeah, I feel that we've done enough of them already," Est agreed.

"And if we count having to fight our way to the Mila shrine, then there was certainly a lot to do overall," Catria added.

"Well, we shall soon see," Celica said, "let's head forward, then."

She received nods in reply. The Whitewings and Celica poised themselves battle-ready with their weapons, before they all stepped forward. The warp circle was large enough they all could fit atop; it helped that it was only five of them who needed the space. The effect was immediate. With flashes of light, they were gone from the room.

---


With more flashes of light, they materialized once again. Immediately after they noticed they were in a new room. It was unlike any they had encountered so far. It was a circular room like the one with the zodiac puzzle, except its ceiling wasn't as high, relatively speaking. Torches were laid out around the wall, giving it light. In the center there was a central platform, with stairs leading up to it. On top the platform, at the very center of the room, was a statue. As the ones before it, this one also depicted a fairy, standing atop a square pedestal. However, unlike previous ones, it was a new design. For starters, the woman depicted had an actual mouth chiseled onto its face, making it less uncanny looking. She had a seemingly neutral expression on her face, with hair that reached her upper back. She was clad in a dress which skirt flared out and reached the pedestal itself. It had a slit to the side, one end slightly lifted by one of the arms, exposing the woman's legs, which were clad in heels. She had her face facing forwards, staring towards them, though most of the rest of the body faced to the side. Combined with the position of the arm and skirt, it seemed she was in the middle or a twirl. She held no staff in her remaining hand, but still sported the butterfly wings.

As there was no apparent danger, the girls relaxed their postures. They then moved onto the platform to stand before the statue.

"This must be it," Palla said, "we've finally reached the end."

"Is this really the end?" Mae wondered. "This isn't just another puzzle room or something, right?"

"No, look," Catria said, as she overlooked the area of the room behind the platform.

The others followed suit, and found a second warp circle between the platform and the far section of the wall, relative from their point of arrival at least.

"That must be the exit of this place," the pegasus knight continued.

"Which means," Palla glanced back to the statue, "the statue must be where the power resides."

They all moved back to be before it.

"Yes, there's a strong magic presence emanating from it," Celica noted.

"I can certainly feel it," Sonya said.

"Though how can we access it?" Est asked. "Is it just like with the Mila statues?"

"It could be," Catria nodded.

"Look," Palla pointed down at the pedestal, "there's writing down there."

Indeed, the pedestal had a stone plaque like those they've seen before, with an inscription.

"More ancient script," Sonya noted, "but that should be expected."

It read:

Exemplar of holy and healing, Queen of the Fairies.

If you are worthy, may you receive her blessing.

This left them puzzled.

"'Queen of the Fairies'?" Mae asked out loud. "Can't say I've ever heard of her."

"Sounds like something out of myth," Sonya said.

"Well, in spite of appearances, this place is quite ancient," Catria noted.

"This Fairy Queen must've been a figure worshipped by the people of ancient Valentia," Palla theorized, "before Mila and Duma's arrival."

"It makes sense," Celica nodded, "though sadly there's no currently existing records on the subject."

"So such knowledge has been lost to the ages," Catria mused, "well, considering the lever opening up the entrance was long covered in rubble, I suppose it's not that surprising. Details lost over time, until we're left with the legend that brought us here in the first place."

"And finally claim the fabled power, right?" Est asked.

"That said, I am curious that it asks if we're worthy," Celica said, pensive. "Since it means there must be more than just having done all those trials to reach this place."

"Well, that should be easy to deduce," Sonya crossed her arms. "The inscription tells this queen could wield light and recovery magic."

She then turned to look at Genny.

"Sounds like a cleric to me."

"So you say only Genny could obtain this power?" Celica asked.

"That's my guess," Sonya shrugged.

"I could try," Genny said.

"Would it work at her current size?" Catria asked.

"I don't see why it wouldn't," Palla replied.

"Either way, that would be a bit lame if only one of us could get it," Mae crossed her arms, annoyed.

"Yeah, it'd be a bit unfair!" Est agreed.

"Well, it can't be helped," Celica said, "there was no guarantee of that."

"And we did consider the possibility," Catria pointed out, "when we were the only ones to cross the barrier, remember?"

"It certainly stings to have done all this and not be the one reap the reward," Sonya said, "but I suppose if we can at least keep the wings, it can be an acceptable trade."

Mae and Est seemed to ponder this, then sighed.

"I suppose you do have a point there, Sonya," Mae hung her head, dejected, "much it pains me to admit."

"Well, I guess I'm fine with just the wings, then," Est conceded, cheering up in contrast to the mage.

At this Celica turned over to Genny.

"Well, Genny, go on," she said, "let's see if you can indeed obtain this… blessing."

"Okay," the cleric nodded.

She fluttered forward, closer to the statue. At her current size, it certainly looked a bit imposing, but Genny steeled herself nonetheless. She closed her eyes and lowered her head. As she still held her staff, she simply brought her free hand to her chest. Once in position, she began to focus, trying to reach out to the magic energy emanating from the statue.

It's quite… overwhelming, she thought, yet at the same time…

It was the same kind of soothing feeling she had felt from the shrinking magic, no doubt because it came from the same source. Yet this was the core, so there was much more of it expectedly. But the overwhelming feeling was causing the opposite of smothering her, making her more relaxed instead, it actually helped to her focus. She knew she had reached out successfully as she felt the magic react. However, …

Her companions gave out cries of surprise, when they saw the cleric vanish in a flash of light right before their very own eyes!

"Huh!? Where did Genny go!" Est exclaimed.

"It looked… like she got warped away," Palla noted, surprised.

"Warped? To where!?" Mae asked.

Sonya frowned.

"There's only one way to find out," she said as she got closer to the statue too.

"You aren't thinking on doing the same, are you?" Catria asked.

"Well, I'm certainly not going to leave Genny to face alone wherever she ended up," Sonya merely stated.

Before anyone could stop her, she had begun to focus on the statue's energy too, forgoing the praying posture.

I don't know if I can follow, the mage thought, but I'm certainly not going to do nothing!

Fortunately for her, she felt the energy react, and then she too was gone in a flash of light. In its wake, the remaining five simply stared, bewildered.

"What… do we do now?" Palla asked.

"Go after them, of course!" Mae said.

"What? No way!" Est protested.

"Fine, then stay behind!" Mae said. "But I won't abandon Genny."

"Calm down, you two," Celica said. "I know we have no idea where they have been taken, but we must follow them. At least we now know it's not just clerics the statue reacts to."

"Are you sure about this, Celica?" Palla asked, concerned.

"Yes," the princess nodded, "if they are indeed in danger, then we must go and help them."

"Fine," Est sighed, "I'll go as well, then."

"Then let's go!" Mae called out, already in position to begin praying.

One by one, they all did, and just like before they disappeared in flashes of light, leaving the room with the statue behind.

 

Author's Note: 

Spoiler

 

The inspiration for the number code was Japanese wordplay. 401 can be pronounced as "Yozei", which means... absolutely nothing; that I know of at least. However, it is the closest way to pronounce "Yōsei", which is a word that has been used when referring to fairies, when not just outright using the English word (フェアリー). As an aside, I did considered if to have them first put a wrong one and something happening because of it, but in the end I opted against it.

Also, a bit of fun trivia. With the warp circles seen in-game and the inscriptions on them, though employing Ancient Letters they form actual words for the most part... in Greek. In fact, the Mila one uses actual Greek letters, which likely means they forgot to change them or something else happened there perhaps. Greek is also used on the inscription in the Silver Sword, though for the ones on the World Map it seems it's Latin instead. This makes sense when you consider Fire Emblem originally began with a Greco-Roman touch (Marth being Mars and his original outfit including a tunic and sandals combo as the main one), and Ancient Letters were very likely stablished to be the dragons' alphabet, even if this was much later with Awakening. A likely sort of nod to the early days of FE I'd guess, since Gaiden/SoV is taking place in that time frame, being in between Marth's adventures, and SoV confirmed Duma and Mila as also being dragons. So you could say that the people, and dragons, of Archanea and Valentia are speaking Greek and/or Latin. Or at least, I'd take it as a headcanon myself then, heh.

 

 

Edited by Acacia Sgt

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Chapter 12 – The Faerie Queen

Spoiler

 

Just like before, the girls found themselves in a new location. This one would prove to be even more surprising than the last. However, the first thing they'd focus on was the sight of their briefly missing comrades before them.

"Genny! Sonya!" Celica called out, relieved to see them fine.

However, shortly after all five quickly became surprised.

"Huh, you grew back!?" Mae exclaimed.

For indeed, the two girls were no longer mere inches tall. That wasn't the only thing different about them, though…

"And your wings are gone!" Palla spoke.

"So have yours," Genny pointed out.

This made them glance back, to see the cleric spoke true.

"Huh, what happened to our wings!?" Est cried out, quickly becoming upset.

"Never mind that for now," Catria said, "just where are we now?"

They were all now in a small square room, which looked more like the room of a manor, rather than the underground building they've been traversing. Its architecture was different from the one they had seemingly left behind; but it was still unknown all the same. It contained three couches, arranged in a rectangular formation with a wall serving as the fourth side. Said wall contained what looked to be a hearth, though not only was it not in use, it was devoid of wood to burn. The couch directly facing it was shorter than the other two. A red fiber carpet was laid on this 'enclosed' area. Small tables were placed in the 'corners', opposite the wall. The room had no windows to speak of, but there was a set of double doors on the opposite side of the fireplace. Curiously, the place was well illuminated, even if there was no actual visible light source.

"Are we finally out of the cave?" Celica asked.

"Most likely, Milady," Palla said, "this seems more like someone's abode."

"A blueblood's, from the looks of it," Catria noted.

The room and everything in it could certainly be described as opulent. Aside from the furniture, it was well decorated with all sorts of things. Portraits hanging on the walls, potted plants and flower vases, all kinds of figurines placed atop tables and the fireplace's mantel, among other things. There was an undeniable theme of roses present, in addition. Most of the vases housed roses, a few of the decorations were too that of roses, and even a portrait or two depicted nothing but roses too. Red was the dominating color, though roses of other colors were present as well, if in much lesser numbers.

"Quite," Sonya placed a hand on her hip, "as I was telling Genny before you lot arrived, this place certainly has class."

She then glanced around approvingly, before nodding in satisfaction.

"A bit heavy on the roses, though," Palla noted.

"They must really like them, hee hee," Genny giggled.

"In any case, it's certainly not a bad place to have ended up, that's for sure," Sonya said. "With how bland the previous one was, this change of scenery is most welcomed."

"But wait, what does this means regarding gaining the power?" Mae asked. "I thought the statue was the end of it."

"This room looks like a parlor," Celica noted, "I wonder if we are meant to wait for someone."

"Would someone actually still live here?" Catria said. "The place was sealed off long ago, remember?"

"Perhaps there is another entrance," Palla suggested.

"I'd sure hope so!" Mae exclaimed.

"After everything we've done, for it to be all for naught would be… well, you know," Sonya flipped her hair and huffed, clearly annoyed at the possibility she had to endure being doll-sized if momentarily just to end up empty-handed.

Celica frowned. There was something that felt off in all this.

"Although," she began, "why does this place exists at all?"

All eyes were now on her.

"Abandoned or not, why would there be a warp from the cave into someone's home?"

The girls seemed to ponder this, pensive.

"I think I see what you mean, Milady," Catria said after a few seconds.

"Me too," Palla added, "even if it is still actually part of the cave, why this drastic change?"

"Not to mention, we got here through the statue," Sonya said, "the one we thought was going to grant us the blessing."

"And the place already had warp circles," Catria said, "so this last one feels unorthodox."

"So, what does this all mean?" Est tilted her head in confusion.

Could it have been an addition made at some point? Celica wondered, before sighing.

"Unless someone still lives here to give answers," she said, "we'll have a hard time finding out."

"Well, there better be someone, as I would certainly want to know why our wings are gone," Est then exclaimed, crossing her arms and pouting.

"It was nice while it lasted, I'll admit," Palla nodded.

"Useful, too," Catria added.

"Well, I certainly won't be missing being small," Sonya placed a hand on her hip.

"But I will though," Mae said with a smirk, "it was nice while it lasted"

Sonya opted to humph, ignoring the younger mage.

"Anyway," she spoke instead, "I feel we've waited long enough. Either no one's actually here, or they don't feel like checking in on us. In that case, I say let's take a look around ourselves."

"I agree," Est said, "let's go exploring!"

"Should we? I feel we should still wait, if a little longer," Palla said.

"You can wait if you want," Sonya said, "meanwhile, I'll be heading out of here."

And she proceeded approach the doors.

"I do feel she has a point," Celica told the others, "let's be on our way and try to seek answers ourselves."

"If that's what you wish, Milady," Catria nodded.

With that, they began to follow the mage, who was already opening up the doors. On the other side lied a big hall. Like the parlor-like room, it was filled with the same rose-prevalent decorations, many placed on tables placed along its walls. A crystal chandelier hung on the ceiling, though it had nothing in terms of light sources. Despite so, they could still see. The room itself was rectangular and they had emerged from one of its longer sides. Another red carpet lied on the floor, though this one ran perpendicular from the doors. To their left, it ended right on the wall, but to their right, it went to reach the base of a staircase. They walked over to the carpet to get a better view. The stairs ran straight up, until reaching an upper level which was still out of their sight.

There, standing right at the top, was a woman. She had such breathtaking beauty, she seemed almost otherworldly. She was clad in an elaborate gown of ranging shade of greens, its skirt reaching down to the floor and the bodice ending just above her chest. Matching opera-length fingerless gloves, also green, enveloped her arms, her hands clasped together over her abdomen. Her long red hair was half tied up in a bun, though there was still enough left to cascaded down her back and over her shoulders as side bangs. To complete the image, she was decked out in jewelry and make-up, as the blood red lipstick, nails, and eyeshadow, red rose earrings, pearl necklace, golden jeweled circlet on her forehead, and a matching tiara resting against her hair bun, could all attest. Her skin was pale and her eyes a deep green, which were currently staring down at her with a neutral expression. However, the most eye-catching detail had to be her wings. In a sight the girls had become accustomed by now, the woman too sported butterfly wings. Hers, however, would've put their own to shame if they still had them. They were larger for starters, their pattern was richer and more intricate, but most importantly, their glow was brighter and sparkling, with the colors of the rainbow spread throughout, not staying put in the same areas.

No one dared to move, as the woman's wings began to flap and she began to rise. She proceeded to then flutter down the stairs, landing upon reaching the bottom. She then walked over towards them the last of the way. Stopping before them, she glanced briefly about to all of them, before staring back straight to them as a whole.

"Greetings," she said, her voice soft yet not lacking in strength, "I have been waiting for you."

"For us?" Celica asked, surprised.

"You knew we were coming?" Palla followed up.

"I was not sure you would," the woman replied, "but I am most pleased you did."

Despite appearances, they could feel a powerful energy emanating from her. Far beyond what could be conceived a mere mortal to wield. Though looking no older than Palla or Sonya, she also gave the air of being far, far older than she looked. Overall, it was clear she was no ordinary woman.

Is this how it feels to stand before the Earth Mother or War Father? Celica wondered.

That said, for as imposing that the energy was, it also felt very familiar…

It's the same as the orb's! Her eyes widened in realization.

Next to her, the others sans the Whitewings realized the same. In light of this, and considering what they had learned a moment ago, it wasn't hard to figure it out. Still…

"Are you… the Fairy Queen?" The princess had to make sure.

Despite her appearance not quite matching that of the last statue's, which admittedly was much less regal in comparison, it was hard to think on just who else could she be.

"I used to be called that, yes," the woman nodded, "once upon a time."

"Huh? 'Used to?'" Mae repeated.

The now identified as the Fairy Queen frowned.

"You mean to say you do not know?" She asked.

She then glanced around again.

"Do any of you?"

"I'm afraid we don't, ah… Milady?" Catria replied, unsure on what else to call her if she was denying holding the title anymore.

"Faerie is also acceptable," the woman said.

"Just fairy?" Est asked.

"Not fairy, Faerie. Stress the last syllable. Now, back to what was said prior, I am aware a long time has happened since then, but to think it has faded into myth or even obscurity…"

The woman's frown deepened, though the girls could tell it wasn't aimed at them.

"We have much to discuss. Come."

She then began to walk towards the room they had left behind, the clicking of heels beginning to echo across the hall once she stepped off the carpet onto the stone floor. The girls spared glances at each other, feeling a bit at a loss on how to properly react to this sudden turn of events. Nevertheless, they followed after the woman back into the smaller room. The Fairy Queen, or rather Faerie now, headed straight for the couches, before sitting down on the one directly across from the hearth. The girls for their part went for the remaining ones. They were wide enough to accommodate them all between the two of them, thus the Whitewings sat to one side of the Faerie, and the magic users on the other.

"Now then," the Faerie began, "in light of your previous statements, just what is the extent of your knowledge about my person?"

"To tell the truth, Milady, we only learned of your existence just a moment prior," Celica replied.

"Yes, from the plaque of the statue," Mae added.

"A statue and plaque, you say?" The Faerie asked, curiosity clear in her voice.

This did not go unnoticed.

"Yes, from the room we were before we found ourselves here," Palla said.

"Were you not aware of it, Milady?" Catria asked.

The Faerie simply shook her head, to their surprise.

"Huh? But, then what about all those trials and everything?" Est added.

The Faerie's frown returned.

"I should make this clear," she explained, "I know nothing of what you speak of."

This left the girls stunned, not expecting this answer.

How could this be? Celica thought.

They were certainly left at a loss. If the power of myth was the Fairy Queen's blessing and an entire underground complex had been built to house it, but then the, if apparently former, Fairy Queen herself was admitting she was not aware of such things… then what to make of that?

"But why not?" Sonya asked.

"It has to do with the nature of this place," the Faerie began to explain, "to tell it short, I cannot leave its confines."

"You can't? Why?" Genny said, concerned.

The Faerie closed her eyes.

"In light of your ignorance, I suppose it falls on me to explain," her eyes were open again.

Her expression seemed to harden, as if bracing herself. The girls held their breaths, doing the same for what revelations might come.

"I ignore how long exactly has it been now, but there used to be a time when I dwelled in the outside world, among your kind," the Faerie began, "and because of the vast power that I wielded, I was worshipped as a goddess."

The girls couldn't help but gasp.

"A g-goddess, you say?" Mae asked in awe.

It was certainly hard to argue that claim. Not when they could feel her power, which certainly eclipsed their own by an unquantifiable margin.

"I was not the only one," the Faerie continued, which only shocked them further, "there were others. We all wielded abilities far beyond what the mortal kin could achieve or dream of, and thus we became the object of worship."

Many thoughts were racing now on their minds.

Did she say others!?

So there truly were other gods before Mila and Duma…

Wow, this is incredible! I never thought ending up in this land would lead to this!

So there are other powerful beings in this world beyond the dragons.

I wonder… were these gods stronger than the Earth Mother and War Father…

"If that's true, then…" Palla spoke out, "how is it that knowledge of your existence is almost completely gone? Of any of them, for that matter."

"I cannot speak for the time I have been here," the Faerie said, "but I may have the answer nonetheless. Just like you, we all had our desires and ambitions, some which were pursued with little to no regard to you mortals. Eventually, that drove them to rise against us."

She saw their expressions become a bit wary.

"I know what you are thinking," she continued, "and I am aware that I can only give my own word that I did not act in bad faith towards those lesser than I."

Though the weariness subsided, some skepticism remained.

She sounds sincere enough, but… Celica thought, in her own words, there's no one to vouch for her.

"It's okay, Lady Faerie," Genny said, "I believe you."

The woman glanced over at the cleric, and for the first time since their encounter, emoted a small smile.

"I appreciate the sentiment, child."

The smile was short-lasting, though.

"However, I will admit that even among my own followers they rose against us, using the very boons and blessings we personally granted them against us. Regardless of what I think about my own actions, they were still cause of unspoken grievances to them."

If that hadn't been enough to quell their concerns, the fact someone like her was admitting to such was still having an effect all the same.

"So is that why you're here?" Palla asked. "Because you…?"

"Lost?" The Faerie finished. "Yes, that is one way to describe it."

No one questioned it. By this point they were well aware that such a thing was very possible. This did not go unnoticed by the Faerie.

"You do not appear to be surprised," she observed.

"Truth be told, Milady, we're not quite unfamiliar with your situation," Catria said.

Not unfamiliar, yes… Celica thought as she lowered her gaze, deep in thought now.

"I see. It looks like I have missed a lot of events since my placement here," the Faerie said.

"Speaking of, how did that happened?" Sonya asked.

"And why can't you leave?" Catria added.

"I was careless," the Faerie replied, "things had reached the point where I knew it was futile to continue struggling. For the sake of those who remained loyal to me, I intended to depart from this land. The others thought the same. I do not know what became of them, but as far as myself, I was captured before I could."

Everyone was listened intently now; even Celica glanced back up. It was hard to ignore just how similar things were starting to sound to current events.

"After some deliberation, they decided to seal me away. Perhaps they thought I would start over in some distant land, and they decided to end it before it could begin. Regardless of reason, I was placed here, and I have been since."

With that, her tale was over. Silence reigned afterwards. It was too much information for them to sink in right away. Celica was the one most affected by it.

Not only were there other gods before, but humanity rose to overthrow them, she thought. I wonder…

Her mind was beginning to compare the state of both eras.

Why exactly did Emperor Rudolf attack the Earth Mother? Was it on Duma's orders, which is why he wielded the Divine Falchion to do the deed? Was it for his sake, without being asked to? Or does he also plan to…

She couldn't bear to finish that thought, already gloomed out for having started it at all.

No, history isn't fated to repeat itself, she tried to shake the thought away. It must be something else… it has to.

"Celica, are you alright?"

Snapped out by the sudden question, she glanced aside to Mae, who was looking concerned at her.

"Y-Yes, Mae, I'm fine," the princess replied.

Fortunately for her, a distraction would quickly come.

"So… does this means we are inside the seal right now?" Palla asked.

"That is correct," the Faerie nodded.

"Huh, then how come it looks like we're inside a manor?" Est asked.

"That is simple. Just because I cannot breach the confines of the seal, it does not mean I cannot alter the inside itself. As it does not exist in the physical plane, my powers can mold it as I please. It is but an illusion, but it is better than nothing. Now, as to why a manor…"

Here she actually gave a small smirk.

"If this was to become my cage, why not make it a gilded one?"

"I like the way you think," Sonya gave a smirk of her own.

"Wait, so if this is the inside of the seal that imprisoned you, how were we able to warp in?" Catria asked. "Also, how did you knew we were coming?"

"How, I ignore it, but it seems some parts of my power do flow to the outside," the Faerie explained. "Perhaps it is due to the nature of the seal, as I am certainly not doing it on my own free will, but I can feel it nonetheless. Very recently did it begin to act up more often than usual, and to my surprise, I could sense the presence of several individuals. Which I now know was you."

"Huh, you sensed us?" Est tilted her head in confusion.

"Several times, in fact, if briefly every time. In some of them, I even felt my magic flowing into you."

At this several things were now falling into place for the girls.

The orbs! Celica thought. That's why they felt the same as her. Because it was her power all along!

So it was her magic that gave us the wings, as well shrink down Genny and I, Sonya thought.

It can't possibly be only those orbs, Catria was thinking, as she mentioned her magic only acted more often, not at all. Could it be it is her own magic that is powering everything in the cave? At least, starting from the first lever and the barrier.

"As such, I knew of your existence, but I could not tell if you were heading towards the seal," the Faerie continued. "To my fortune, you did. When you began to interact with it, I knew I had to act. I reached out to my magic that had been imbued within you, and used it as a focus to pull you into the seal. I also took the chance to incorporate it back unto myself."

So that's why we lost our wings, and Sonya and Genny grew back, Celica realized.

At this Mae quickly stood up.

"Wait a minute! Does that mean now we're trapped too!?" She cried out.

The effect was instant. Their faces quickly switched from shock to panic. The Faerie remained nonplussed to this, however.

"Please, remain calm," she said, "I understand how it might look from your perspective, but I had to do this. For a very important reason."

Fortunately, they still had enough sense to listen to her words, and though they remained weary and fearful, they nonetheless calmed down, with Mae sitting back down.

"And what reason it could be?" Palla asked, skeptical.

A full second passed, before the Faerie looked at them with a determined look.

"To break the seal."

 


Author's Note: 

Spoiler

 

From the previous chapter, you may have figured out that the power of legend was the Exemplar Overclass. Well, now we have the actual Faerie present too. I'm aware the Faerie/Fairy thing is just the word changing its spelling over time, but just like I did it in Transfigurative Overclass, I'm going to treat them as two separate words in the story. In fact, some things I stablished in Transfigurative Overclass will also apply for this too, even if they're not sharing the same continuity or don't become relevant in the near future. Though don't worry, you don't need to read that one. They will be brought up here too as needed. The Fairy Queen bit is new however, but it's also easy to deduce as to what I'm going for there. Regardless, I will explain when it becomes relevant to do so.

On that subject, I took the opportunity to give the Faerie a new appearance to go with the new title. In the original version she just looked like the statue, unchanged from its appearance in the Altar of the Faerie DLC. That said, I feel I didn't do a good job describing the hairstyle, so just in case a visual aid is needed, I basically based it from Rosa Joanna Farrell of Final Fantasy IV. Her general 3D version hairstyle, not the 2D version where she sports a ponytail instead. It only recently came to my attention I could've thought of Elincia, since she sports a similar hairstyle and she's, well, from FE and all that; but well, it happens.

Now, I am aware that despite deciding to stablish the Valentians switched their writing system, I just had the Faerie still speak the same language in the same form instead, even with the milennia-long time gap from her time to that of the game's. Well, as it is, unlike with the writing system there is nothing that could hint the same happened with the spoken tongue that I could find. At least, not between those two eras. If the language changed, it would've been between SD/SoV/MotE and Awakening, as the reforged Falchion and Binding Shield sport Ancient Letters depicting English words instead. So by the time of the First Exalt they had already switched. I'll also admit there's the pragmatic/convenient angle. Less hassle if I avoid writing a language barrier situation. Though with what I had stablished prior, it would've only inconvenienced the Whitewings anyway.

 

 

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Chapter 13 – A Goddess Freed

Spoiler

 

Silence reigned, as the girls were left stunned by the declaration.

"Did you just say… break the seal?" Celica asked, almost not believing it.

The Faerie simply nodded.

"Pardon me, Milady," Palla began, "but if you have not been able all this time, then how can we possibly be of help?"

"Y-Yeah, this is way out of our league!" Est exclaimed.

"Then allow me enlighten you," the Faerie said; "for in spite of my confinement, I have not remained idle. I have studied the seal; to learn as much about it, with the hope of dispelling it one day."

"But you have been unable to," Catria said.

"Indeed, I have not," was the reply. "I did, however, discovered that the seal could be dispelled if a force stronger than itself were to strike it."

"Hold on, are you saying that it's just a matter of breaking it with brute force?" Sonya raised an eyebrow, skeptical.

"It is certainly not the most elegant of solutions," the Faerie agreed, "but it is the only one I have found."

"I suppose it was the simplest seal they could make that could work," Palla said.

"Or felt it was enough, if they were confident she couldn't break out," Catria added.

"It is possible that the seal may actually be weaker," the Faerie said, "but in light that some of my power is currently in use that I cannot make use of myself, it is enough to keep me here."

"So then, what, are we going to make up for the difference?" Mae asked.

The Faerie glanced over at the mage.

"That is indeed what I intend to do," she said before glancing back to the group at large. "As you interacted with my magic, I did more than just become aware of your presence. It allowed me to glimpse of certain aspects of your selves. Mainly, that of your own power."

She then smiled.

"To my fortune, enough of you were magic users, and your power is certainly nurtured enough to be of use."

"Yeah, well, we certainly are no slouches when it comes to our magic," Mae boasted.

"Though some of us are certainly still better than others," Sonya smirked, to the scoff of the younger mage at the snipe.

"But will our magic really be enough?" Genny asked, concerned.

"Fret not, I am confident it will work," the Faerie gave the cleric a small reassuring smile, "one of you alone might even be enough."

Here her gaze focused now on Celica. Her words were not lost on the princess, who briefly glanced down to the hands resting on her lap, specifically on her right one.

She sensed Mila's power within me? She thought, before glancing back up in understanding. Right, of course…

"As such, if you four were to join your magic with mine we can overpower the seal, destroying it. Thus, I would be set free, and of course yourselves as well."

In spite of the words, the girls didn't look as relieved or enthusiastic.

"Say, Celica," Mae spoke out to her friend, "will we really help her out?"

"I don't think we have a choice here, Mae," Celica replied.

"That's right," Palla spoke out, "since if she's right about the seal, then our only alternative is to remain trapped with her."

"There's no way I would accept that," Sonya frowned, arms folded.

"I do lament it had to be done this way," the Faerie said, "as there was no other way to communicate with you. I brought you here against your will, which would not help to gain your trust. Once again, I only have my word to assure you I mean no ill will. I do intend to make amends, even reward you, once we are out of here."

"A reward, you say? Well, that doesn't sound too bad," Sonya mused.

"So, if we agree," Catria began, "how exactly will this unfold?"

"It is simple. I will focus my power onto the seal itself," the Faerie began, before glancing over to the magic users. "I would then borrow your own to strengthen the force."

Here her expression turned serious.

"Now, I do forewarn you it will leave you quite drained as it might require all of your magic," she continued. "Though rest assured I will prevent it from being life-threatening, as well help you recover after the fact."

"That's quite reassuring to know," Palla said.

"So, will you help me?"

The Faerie stared at them, expecting an answer.

"I don't know…" Mae said, unsure, "even if it won't come to that, to be so close to death's door would be…"

She shuddered at the end.

"Well, count me in," Sonya said, "I've had enough brushes with death, what's one more. Anything to get out of here as soon as possible."

"I want… to help out too," Genny nodded, a slight tremble in her voice but looking determined however.

"Ugh, fine, I'm in too," Mae said before clenching her fists, "I'm not going to be the only one who backed out on this!"

"We will help you," Celica said.

The Faerie smiled and nodded.

"Let us begin then, shall we."

She then rose back up, before proceeding to leave the room back into the hall; the girls following right behind. The Faerie reached the carpet before then walking towards the end wall opposite the stairs, stopping several steps before it. She turned back around to face the girls who had remained behind her.

"Now then, the four of you," she motioned to Celica, Mae, Genny, and Sonya, "please stand behind me. The moment you feel my magic reaching out to you, begin focusing yours. I will take care of the rest."

She then glanced towards the Whitewings.

"As for the rest of you, please step back to a safe distance."

They did as prompt. The four magic users spread out, forming a semicircle around the Faerie, while the pegasus knight sisters would move towards the side wall, intending to watch from afar.

"Are you ready?" she asked.

She received nods in reply. The Faerie turned back to face the blank wall. She then looked upwards and raised her arms. Magic soon enveloped her, a swirling vortex that rose up to where her hands were. Shortly after, the four magic users began to concentrate. They too were soon enveloped in magical auras. These instead of rising were drawn out to the Faerie, being absorbed by her. This made the vortex gain speed and intensity. Even from their position, the Whitewings could feel the magic as it flowed around them like a gust.

"I do hope this works," Catria said with a frown.

"What will happen if it doesn't?" Est asked, worry in her voice.

The prospect of remaining trapped was not a pleasant one.

"I'm sure it will," Palla said, confident, "let's have some faith in them. They will succeed."

Just then, a rumbling noise began, as the room began to shake.

"Eek! What's going on!?" Mae cried out, panicked.

"It must be the seal reacting to our magic!" Sonya exclaimed.

"Do not break your focus," the Faerie warned them, "continue as you are. It is indeed working; we are forcing the seal open."

The wall then began to glow in a golden color. By this point the magic users were already feeling fatigued, drained, having already poured too much magic out of themselves. Despite so they remained focused, ensuring the flow of magic would continue for as long as it would be needed. The glow on the wall began to contract, losing surface area, until it only remained by the floor right before the carpet, though still big enough to dwarf the girls. The glow would then dim down, revealing a set of double doors now present on the wall. Said doors began to open, revealing another glow beyond, this one white in color. The light began to pour inside, and the last anyone of them saw or felt was the blinding flash that followed.

---


The first thing they were greeted with was darkness.

"Ah, it's so dark!" Est cried out.

"Are we back?" Palla wondered.

"This better not be some other place," Catria said.

As it was, they weren't able to tell. The only light source they had were the Faerie's wings, though despite their glow they were still surrounded in deep darkness. This wasn't to last, however. The Faerie raised her arms to chest-level and cupped her hands. With a sudden flash a small orb of light materialized, hovering just above her hands. The orb would then rise up overhead, not unlike the fireballs the mages would summon, though this one was much brighter. The end result was the same though, as there was now enough light to see their surroundings. This made them aware of two things. One, that they were indeed back in the room with the statue; and two… the prone forms of the rest of their companions on the floor.

"Oh no!" Palla exclaimed.

The Whitewings were quick to gather around them, while the Faerie then separated and shifted the position of her hands, palms facing down towards the unconscious girls. Her hands began to glow in a golden hue, and the girls' bodies did the same: She was casting a healing spell on them.

"They were left almost completely drained," she noted, frowning. "It seems I was wrong, and it still took much more magic than expected."

"Will they be alright?" Est asked, worried.

"Yes, they will," the Faerie glanced up and nodded. "I made sure they would not be completely drained, though I must admit it helped that one of them had much more power to draw from."

Here she glanced back down to Celica.

"Yes, how fortunate," Palla said, relieved.

She looked over to Catria, who glanced back with a knowing look, likely thinking the same thing. That had been fortunate indeed. After a few seconds, the golden glows dissipated, and the Faerie clasped her hands over her abdomen.

"It is done," she said before glancing back to the Whitewings; "now we must wait until they wake once again."

"You really kept your word," Catria said, resting a hand on her hip.

"It would be unbecoming of me to see my liberators suffer so," the Faerie replied. "I can only hope that I have truly started to gain your trust with this action."

"Well, I am already convinced," Palla said.

"Yeah, me too!" Est nodded.

Catria said nothing, but also nodded in agreement. With that done, the Faerie glanced over to the statue.

"So, this is the statue you mentioned earlier," she noted.

She glanced down at the plaque then back up, and frowned.

"Um, yes, come to think of it, it certainly doesn't look like you, Milady," Palla said.

"Yes, I can see," the Faerie said; "the implications of this alone are…"

She then turned back to the Whitewings.

"Now more than ever I need to know what has transpired during my absence. Though I understand you might not be able to tell me about the immediate aftermath of my sealing. At the very least, I would like to know of the recent events of this land and about yourselves."

"Yes, we'd be happy to oblige," Palla nodded.

"Although we might not be the best suited for that first task," Catria pointed out. "We three actually hail from a different land, across the eastern sea. Circumstances brought us here, so we're not as well versed as the others are."

"I see," the Faerie said.

"But we can still talk about some of it and ourselves, no?" Est said.

The Faerie, however, shook her head.

"We should wait for your companions to wake. It would be ideal if all of you were to participate at once."

"That would be for the best, yes," Catria nodded.

As it was, they didn't have long to wait. By the minute, the unconscious girls began to stir. The Whitewings were quick to help them rise back up.

"Did we… did we made it?" Celica asked, feeling a lingering headache.

She wasn't the only one. All four were just about the same, still recovering from the earlier stunt.

"Yes Milady, we are back out," Palla said, helping her keep steady.

"Ugh, let us never do that again…" Mae muttered, clutching her head.

"I couldn't agree more," Sonya said, eyes closed and rubbing her temple.

"Mhm…" Genny simply nodded.

Fortunately, after a few seconds the pain subsided. Once done, they all gathered around by the statue, their backs to it save for the Faerie, who stood before them instead.

"I can finally thank you, all of you," the Faerie said. "I am finally free, and it was all because of your help. I am forever grateful."

"It was no problem," Celica said, "it wasn't something we expected to do in our journey, but I'm glad it happened."

And we still have the Earth Mother to save, she thought, but if we succeeded here, then surely, we will be able to do the same with the Mother.

Compared to back in the seal, the princess felt hopeful.

"That said, I would not fully feel free until we leave this place in its entirety," the Faerie added.

"I certainly agree," Sonya said, arms crossed, "we've spent down here too long if you ask me."

"Uh, say," Mae then began, as she glanced all around, "isn't the room a bit darker than last we were here?"

"Yes, we had noticed when we first were back," Palla said.

"The torches all went out," Celica noted.

"Was it because we broke the seal?" Genny wondered.

"Hmm…" Catria went pensive, "that could be it. I thought about it while we were inside, in that it's very possible that everything we went through worked because of the Faerie."

"Is that so? Please explain," the Faerie said, "now that you are all able."

"Right," the middle Whitewing nodded, "so, it all began…"

Thus, they explained. About the Cavern of the Fae they were still currently inside of, about the legend related to it, about all the trials and puzzles they had to deal with. Through all this the Faerie listened intently, and though she mostly remained stoic, it was clear a flurry of emotions were bubbling inside of her.

"I see," she closed her eyes, "that explains some things, and confirms others. Like why a portion of my power acted without my say-so, or the statue does not depict me accurately. They were not satisfied merely sealing me away. They had the gall to distort my image, and turned my sacred blessings into a mockery of what they stood; to a mere prize to win."

Through all this her tone was getting more and more filled with irritation. The girls felt her magic flare up, also seemingly mirroring its host. Though her anger wasn't directed at them, they couldn't help but feel uneasy to stand near nonetheless. Fortunately, shortly after the Faerie then sighed, opening back her eyes as her features and magic relaxed once more.

"They might have thought it was a fitting punishment for what we did to them as a whole, but this was a step too far. As it is impossible to confront the ones responsible, I take consolation that my freedom has unmade their actions. Their efforts are now for naught."

A brief silence ensued.

"I must say; regardless as to why, the whole thing was still impressive," Celica said.

"Yeah, who knew the people of back then were capable of building and setting up all this?" Mae added.

"A shame about how it sustained itself, though," Palla said.

Some small nods followed, the mood dropping for a bit.

"Wait, so let me get this straight," Est suddenly spoke up, "now that we've freed the Faerie, the whole place no longer works?"

"That's right, Est," Palla nodded, "so more than just the torches in this room, the orbs, the puzzles, even the barrier at the shrine, they've no doubt all went inert."

"Which means the guys could now go through," Mae noted.

"Though without the orb to give them wings, they wouldn't be able to reach the second tunnel," Catria said.

"Even if they could, without the warp circle, they wouldn't be able to reach us anyway," Sonya pointed out.

"Right, any warp circles would be gone too," Celica said.

It took a full second before the full meaning of that statement sunk in.

"The warp circle!" All seven cried out in unison.

They quickly hurried over past the statue, to the platform edge behind it. Sure enough, the warp circle was gone, cut-off from its power source.

"It's gone!" Est cried out.

"Don't tell me we're now trapped in here?" Mae said, panicking.

"Great, we escaped a cage just to end up in a bigger one," Sonya bit her lip.

"What are we going to do now…?" Celica asked, dismayed.

From behind them, the Faerie caught up to them. The shift in the light made the girls glance back.

"I take it the warp circle was the only means out of this room?" She asked.

"Well, yes," Celica nodded.

"That," the Faerie frowned, "is concerning."

"Um, can't you do something about it, Lady Faerie?" Genny asked, hopeful.

"Yeah, like, the warp circle worked because of you, right?" Est said. "So you can make it work again!"

The Faerie looked pensive for a moment, but then shook her head.

"I am afraid that is not possible."

This elicited a few gasps.

"Huh? How come?" Mae asked.

"I never felt my magic itself conjuring the warp circle," was the reply. "As a matter of fact, few things were so specific. It was mostly just the pure energy itself that was in use."

"So it truly was used as a power source," Catria said.

"After what you said, it is clear to me that was indeed the case. You spoke how the place was lit up by torches. Nature magic is not my domain. Thus, my magic had to fuel something else that lit them up instead."

The Faerie then glanced back to the statue.

"Said something was the seal itself," she then glanced back.

"So the warp circle is gone forever, then," Celica said.

"I could craft one of my own," the Faerie continued, "but in current circumstances even I would not dare to reach out beyond this room."

"Oh yes, that would be most unwise," Sonya placed a hand on her hip.

After receiving a few confused looks, she sighed.

"Warping magic is a complex matter. It's not just focusing on where do you want to go, but also how to get there through the spatial plane. You can always charge in blind, but… well, more often than not you will end up where something more than air already is."

A few shudders and grimacing ensued, as the girls couldn't help but actually picture such a scenario in their minds.

"Yes, it's not a pretty picture," Sonya stated with a frown.

"A-Anyway, there might be another way out after all," Palla said.

Everyone glanced at her.

"Wait, really!?" Est asked.

"Ah, I think I know what you're saying, sister," Catria said. "In order to build this room there had to have been an actual entrance before they could set the other warp circle."

Excited and hopeful looks were exchanged at this information.

"So there is a way out after all!?" Mae exclaimed.

"I would not put much hope on using it," the Faerie said, "for once the passage served its purposed, it would have been sealed up."

"While it did cross my mind, I wasn't thinking on that one," Palla said.

"Hmm? What other path could there be?" Sonya asked, crossing her arms.

"Well, it's simple," the pegasus knight began, "with the builders' path sealed up, how else can this place be supplied with air?"

The girls gained looks of realization.

"Oh, that's true," Celica said, "this place cannot truly be completely isolated, if it's meant to be visited."

"Exactly," Palla nodded, "and it's bound to lead to, if not outside the cave itself, then at least back to the main section."

"Hold on, if it's only a shaft for air, then it's going to be too small for us to use," Sonya pointed out.

"That is of no concern," the Faerie said, "we can make use of the shaft."

"Wait, how can we…?" Est began, but then stopped as her eyes widened. "Oh!"

She wasn't the only one. Everyone else quickly recalled that not long ago two of their companion had been smaller than normal size. Specially the two themselves.

"Wait, you're not seriously suggesting we must… shrink down, are you?" Sonya grimaced at the idea of having to go through that again.

"It is the only way we could get out," Catria pointed out.

"It's going to be interesting, to be doll-sized like you two were," Celica mused.

"Can't say I share that sentiment," Mae said, a bit dismayed.

"I would not mind being small again, hee hee," Genny giggled, "if we all do this time around."

"Well, so long it's just while we get out. Still…" Sonya sighed and closed her eyes, "just after finally having grown back to normal. Fine, let's get this over with."

"Well, we must first find the shaft," Palla said.

"It's bound to be close to the ceiling," Catria said, "but it's too dark to see."

"Leave that to me," the Faerie said.

Without further word, her light orb suddenly moved upwards, climbing higher into the air, as it positioned itself closer to the center of the room. It soon stopped right above the statue then its glow became brighter, enough to fully reach the walls, floor, and ceiling. Once done, they all began to look around meticulously.

"There!" Est called out, pointing upwards.

Their gazes followed her arm, and sure enough, they spotted a small square hole just below the ceiling.

"That must be it," Celica said.

"But how can we reach it?" Mae asked. "We no longer have our wings."

"I can take care of that too," the Faerie said, "now then, gather around please."

So they did, standing in a semi-circle before her. With a wave of her hand, the girls were enveloped in a golden glow. Just like the last time it happened, all seven of them, as well as the Faerie herself, dwindled down to one-twelfth of their original heights in one swift motion. Expectedly, most of them were left disoriented.

"Well, this wasn't as bad as the first time," Sonya squeaked out.

"Speak for yourself," Mae clutched her head, eyes closed.

"Y-Yeah…" Est was the same, gritting her teeth.

Though just like before, those feeling subsided.

"This is…" Celica flinched slightly, before bringing a hand to her throat, "quite the experience."

"You could say that again, Milady," Catria said, doing the same though glancing down with a frown as well.

"It's alright, you get used to it," Genny said, being no worse for wear just like the previous time.

"It's funny at least," Est said, back to her usual cheerful self, "if it's all of us sounding like this."

"Well, now I understand what you two felt," Palla stated, glancing over with slight awe at the now giant-looking statue, towering in the distance.

"How curious," the Faerie spoke, her own higher-pitched voice still sounding regal in spite of things, "is size changing magic a lost art in your time?"

"You mean it was common back then?" Mae looked incredulous.

"It was I who taught it to my followers," was the reply, "and now I see what the answer is."

"Curious, you'd think that sort of thing would've spread instead," Palla said.

"Or perhaps they expected to be gained here," Sonya suggested.

"That makes sense," Celica said.

"Now then, we must move into the shaft," the Faerie said.

The light orb overhead suddenly disappeared, leaving them almost surrounded in darkness again if not for the Faerie's own wings. It wasn't to last, for magic then began to flow around them, as a glowing glyph materialized on the floor beneath, encompassing all eight of them. There was a sudden flash of light, and once it dissipated, their surroundings had changed. They were now in a tunnel, more spacious than any of the ones the girls had traversed through. It continued beyond them, into the darkness, while behind them was a gigantic room, whose floor seemed to be deep below. It was the statue room, for they were now standing right near the edge of the shaft.

"Amazing, just like a warp circle," Celica said.

"Now then, let us leave this place," the Faerie said.

With that she took the lead, summoning another light orb. Her wings began to flap and she took off, rising about an inch off the floor. She then began to venture deeper into the shaft, the girls following close behind.

 


Author's Note: 

Spoiler

 

You know, as I was writing that bit of warp mechanics, it got me thinking. How do spells like Warp or Rescue are meant to work. How can the caster know where they're sending someone over, or who to bring over to their side. I assume that magic is how they detect there is someone far away in the first place. So, is there some kind of IFF also done through magic? SoV complicates matters with the Entrap spell, which is Rescue but on the caster's foes. Which, again, how can they tell who they're bringing over. It's easy to explain if it's done in like wide open plains or large rooms, but when walls or other kinds of barriers are involved it's like... how. Well, it's not really going to be relevant for this story, so I just stablished for now what is relevant. To set why the Faerie can't just warp them out. Or at least, so the intended method for the story can be suggested quickly enough to be the one decided to be used. In the original version there was a different reason involved, but it's not going to apply for this one anymore.

Even with the idea of excising most of the SW elements of the original version, I still felt I had to make everyone go through it at least once, heh. Back then it didn't involve them using the ventilation shaft, though. In fact it was never brought up about they still having air, but compared to the original, I felt this was a more natural flow of events.

 

 

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Chapter 14 – The Faerie's Gifts

Spoiler

 

The shaft was no different from the one the Whitewings took back in the numbered panels room, save naturally for its horizontal orientation. Between the Faerie's wings and light orb, they had plenty of illumination all around. They made their way through in silence, with only the sound of their footsteps echoing about, at least at first.

"I really hope this finally leads us out of here," Mae suddenly said.

"Me too," Genny nodded.

"I agree," Celica said, "we've been here so long."

"It's quite likely we'll leave the cave at or near nightfall at this point," Catria stated.

"It better not take any longer," Est said, "I don't think I want to sleep in this place!"

"I think all of us can agree on that," Sonya said, frowning. "I certainly have no desire to spend the night here with only the cold hard floor to lie down on."

The mage's comments elicited a few murmurs of agreement.

"I suppose that will depend on how long this shaft might be," the Faerie said.

"I don't think it will be that long," Palla said, "though it might still take a few minutes at least to reach the other side."

"Well, I hope that happens as soon as possible," Mae said. "I want to return straight back to the temple and eat something!"

"We all do, certainly," Catria said. "Our rations aside, we haven't gotten a proper meal since we left for the cave for the first time."

"While I won't deny the food, I'd rather have a nice and long warm bath first," Sonya said.

"That would be nice, too," Genny agreed.

"Don't forget, we have to reunite with the others first so we can all return together," Celica reminded them. "They must very worried about us at this point."

"Yeah, the pegasi must be worried sick too!" Est said. "I'm not going back without them!"

"The poor things," Palla added, "they'll be joyed to see us again, I bet."

"Since we didn't bring our camping gear, they might've have gone back to retrieve them at this point," Catria said. "Though some of them would be likely to stay behind, still keeping a watch for us to return."

"More the reason to return to the shrine first," Celica said.

"Or we just tell the ones waiting outside to go in themselves," Mae said. "I'm sure the guys can take care of themselves without us, so we can go ahead back first."

"Well, once we're out of here, we can decide on what to do," Palla said.

"On that subject, while we are still in here," the Faerie began, "I would like to hear more about the current events of the land. Your mentions of a temple have caught my attention, mainly."

"I suppose now would be a good time as any," Celica mused.

Thus they talked. Of Duma and Mila, of how they divided the land in two, of the kingdoms they founded, of the war said countries were currently engaging, of their current mission to rescue Mila from captivity. Once they were done, the Faerie looked pensive.

"Of all times to have become free," she began, "perhaps it is fate. Still, quite an irony it is."

"Irony, Milady?" Catria asked.

"Considering what the humans of my time did to change my legacy, I would no doubt they did the same for the others, whether they got captured or not, as I was. However, by doing so, it made their descendants accepting of the idea to seek deities of their own, unaware of had transpired with their ancestors."

"Heh, yeah, that does sound ironic," Mae chuckled.

"And now history is repeating itself, as well," the Faerie frowned. "Even with the passage of time, some things just do not change."

"I suppose that's true," Palla said.

Celica frowned briefly at this, but kept quiet.

"Regardless, what has me most concerned is just how long has it been," the Faerie continued. "If your concept for years is the same as mine, then the time I spent imprisoned was… very long indeed, even for someone like me. Just about everything I knew from then is long gone."

Her tone seemed to turn a bit forlorn at the end. The girls glanced at each other, unsure on what to say if anything.

"Perhaps my history being written the way it was and having faded into myth could serve as a boon now. Combined with my long absence, it would be as if I were a stranger coming for the first time to this world. An opportunity to start over."

"Yeah, about that," Palla suddenly said, "there's something I wanted to ask, if that's alright."

"What is it?" the Faerie asked.

"It's just that… once we do get out of here, what will you do?" Palla asked.

The question caught everyone's attention. The Faerie suddenly stopped, prompting the entire group to do the same.

"What will I do?" The Faerie repeated, glancing to the eldest Whitewing.

"Well, yes," Palla nodded.

The Faerie landed back down before assuming a pensive look.

"To be honest, I have not put much thought to that yet," she began. "In spite of my earlier words, I do not have plans nor the desire to regain my position as a figure of worship. In light to recent events, my fate would only repeat itself if I try."

"Then what do you plan to do?" Mae asked.

"Perhaps what I had been forced to do originally before I was stopped: To leave this land, though this time willingly."

"But where would you go?" Catria asked.

"I do not know yet," the Faerie replied, "perhaps in search to where the others fled to if they did. Maybe to some other world altogether. Someplace where I can truly start over."

A brief silence followed.

"Um, you can always stay," Genny brought up.

The Faerie turned towards her, a look of curiosity aimed more at the cleric's words than at the girl herself, though the latter still blushed slightly from being stared at.

"You know, that isn't a bad idea," Palla said.

"Yeah! Like you said, nothing forces you to leave anymore, right?" Est brought up.

"I suppose that can be an option," the Faerie mused. "Though regardless of my intentions, there is the chance your current deities might not be keen on my presence intruding in their domains."

"I'm sure that's nothing to worry about!" Celica was quick to reply. "Surely the Earth Mother at least might not have a problem with you being around."

"Once we find her, that is," Sonya brought up.

"Ah yes, you did say she was currently in distress," the Faerie nodded.

She closed her eyes, seemingly in thought, before opening them back up.

"Whether I stay or not afterwards, I suppose I can aid you in your quest for the time being."

They group was surprised hearing that.

"R-Really? You'd d-do that!?" Celica asked, stunned.

"I would consider it my debt repaid," the Faerie replied; "a deity freed for another. That should be acceptable, I hope."

"O-Of course," Celica stuttered out, still hardly believing it.

"Alright! With you on our side, we can't possibly lose now!" Est exclaimed, punching at the air.

"We should not get ahead of ourselves, Est," Catria said, "we can't possibly let her do all the work."

"Yes, we must still do our part," Palla nodded.

"Oh, right," Est sweat dropped.

"Do not forget," the Faerie said, "for in spite of my power, I was still defeated. Even your Earth Mother was as well, from what you told me. Let this be a warning to not get complacent, even if I am alongside you now."

"We wouldn't dream of it," Celica said.

"I'm certainly not going to let others do the dirty work," Sonya crossed her arms, looking determined.

"Unless it's physical chores," Mae muttered under her breath.

The older mage scoffed, but otherwise ignored her.

"Well then, can we finally move on?" She asked instead.

"Wait, there is something else we must address," Catria brought up. "Mainly, how are we are going to explain this to the others."

"Indeed," Palla nodded, "even beyond just telling the guys. With the state Valentia is right now, we can't just say we found and freed a new goddess now."

"I would rather not have my true nature revealed, yes," the Faerie replied. "I am afraid that would include the rest of your companions. The less it is known, the better."

"I'm sure they can be trusted with such a secret, Milady," Celica said.

"I don't know, Celica," Mae tapped her chin with a finger, seemingly pensive. "That Boey can be such a blabbermouth. I can totally see him blurting it out at the worst possible moment. Or what if one of the other guys goes overboard with the drinking… again?"

"Oh, and I suppose you can do a better job?" Sonya asked, placing a hand on her hip.

"Well, better than they could, at least!" Mae countered.

"I would certainly like to see you try."

"In any case," Celica quickly said, trying keep the conversation on track, before glancing to the Faerie. "You won't reconsider on this?"

"My word on this is final," was the reply, said a little stern now.

"Well… I guess that's that," Palla said.

It was clear to all it was futile to insist on the matter. The rest of the group would have to live in ignorance of the full identity of their newest recruit, as it were.

"Although," Catria began, "we would still need to explain how you're now with us while we were deep in the cave."

"Can't we say we found her as we made our way out?" Est asked.

"Not unless we do emerge elsewhere," Palla replied, "since the way in was blocked."

"It all depends on just where this shaft leads to," Catria said, "and there is reason to believe it will take us someplace new."

"Huh, really?" Mae asked.

"Well, at no point did we saw a shaft like this one when we explored the cave, did we?"

Everyone pondered this for a bit for a moment, trying to recall.

"Ah, you're right, Catria," Celica then said.

"So you're saying this shaft may lead us to a different cave altogether?" Sonya asked, a bit skeptical.

"Perhaps we already are," the pegasus knight stated, "since we warped into the seal room after all. Though we were meant to warp again to leave, there is this air shaft and the tunnel the builders used before being sealed up, so this place is already connected to another system."

"If we truly have, then that would be ideal," the Faerie said. "I can simply say I too had heard of the legend, however, I ventured into the wrong cave. Then I met you as you were leaving."

"That can work," Palla said.

"On that topic… we never really did get anything out of this after all, did we?" Mae asked. "I mean, it's good that we rescued the Faerie and all, but that meant forfeiting the blessing."

"Perhaps obtained in such way," the Faerie began, "however, I did promise to reward you for helping me break the seal."

Everyone was quick to look at the Faerie, surprised.

"Wait, so you mean that…?" Celica trailed off upon seeing the woman nod.

"Yes. It would be best to do it now, when we are yet to rejoin your companions."

"Oh oh oh, can we have our wings back, then!?" Est was quick to ask, excited at the prospect.

A few chuckles followed.

"That was very predictable of you, Est," Palla said, amused.

"It would be nice to have the wings back though, hee hee," Genny giggled.

At this the Faerie gave a small smile.

"I can impart those again if you so wish," she said, "though first, I will grant my intended gift."

She turned around and took a few steps away from them, before turning back to face them once more.

"Back when I was worshipped, I would impart my blessings to those among my followers who I would consider worthy of them," she explained. "Either through their own efforts or just by my decision alone."

Here she turned serious.

"That plaque under the statue was surprisingly faithful to what were my expectations. Had you been among my followers back then, only one of you would have received it."

She then turned to look at Genny directly.

"Oh, me?" the cleric asked.

The Faerie nodded.

"Well, how about that. I was right after all," Sonya smirked, hand on her hip.

"I could tell when I first sensed you," the Faerie continued. "You have quite the innate talent for light magic. It still needs some nurture to fully bloom, but it is already quite promising. It is almost a shame you were not alive back then. You would have reached farther and much sooner under my tutelage."

"O-Oh, I see…" Genny blushed at the praise.

"Who would've thought our little Genny would've impressed a former goddess," Sonya said, amused.

"That is certainly not something you hear every day," Palla added.

Celica went pensive, glancing down at her hands, lingering specifically on her right one.

I wonder what the Mother would say, once we come face to face.

"Don't worry Celica, I'm sure Mother Mila would be proud of your own progress," Mae said, seemingly having read her mind.

"Oh… yeah, I'd hope so too," the princess glanced back up to her friend with a small smile and nodded.

"So we can't all get it?" Est asked, looking a bit annoyed. "That's a bit lame."

"Do not be so hasty," the Faerie stated, "I did say that would have been if you had been my followers. Though regardless, helping me regain my freedom is a merit worthy enough for me to decide you are deserving of them. At least, the more basic ones."

"So you will give it to us all?" Catria asked. "Even if we are not as suited of them as Genny?"

"That is correct. Whether you decide to nurture it, the choice is yours. Regardless, it will be a boon you can make use for should the need arise. Now then, before I begin."

Here she glanced over to Genny again.

"Genny, was it?" She asked.

"Y-Yes?" The cleric replied.

"The gift I will impart is one you are above of need. Fret not, for you will still receive a blessing just more suited to your level, but you will have to wait for your companions to receive theirs first."

"Oh, okay," Genny nodded in understanding.

After that, the Faerie rose her hands and extended them towards the girls, palms facing forward. A swirling vortex of magic enveloped the Faerie, as her hands began to glow. Shortly after, the girls sans Genny were bathed in a similar shine. It would all recede after a few seconds. While visually they looked no different, it was evident from their surprised expressions as they stared into their own bodies that something had indeed transpired.

"Oh my," Palla began, awed, "it feels like… as if energy coursed through me."

"Y-Yeah, I feel that too!" Est exclaimed.

In contrast, the magic users' surprise was more subdued, taking note of what was different for them.

"My magic… I can feel it stronger," Celica noted.

"Mine as well," Sonya added.

"Woah, talk about a boost," Mae said.

"We were imbued with magic, did we?" Catria glanced to the Faerie. "It felt familiar as like when we received the wings."

"Not exactly," the Faerie replied, "what I did was more like give a spark for your own magic prowess to awaken."

"So does that means we can cast magic now!?" Est said, excitedly.

"Getting used to this will be quite the task," Catria said, glancing down at her hands.

"Don't worry, we'll teach you how to wield it properly," Celica said.

"Thank goodness for that," Palla said.

"On that subject," the Faerie spoke, "in addition I granted you all the ability to cast some basic spells instead of actually having to learn them. That should hasten the process."

"New spells, huh," Sonya mused, "hmm…"

She glanced over to the direction of the shaft that led back to the statue room. She extended an arm towards it, adopting her two-finger posture. The familiar glyph circles materialized around her as her hand glowed. From her fingertips the golden orb of Seraphim emerged, flew straight through the shaft, until it soon vanished out of sight.

"You caught on quick," the Faerie said.

"Well, it was not a hard guess to make," Sonya folded her arms and glanced back to her with a pleased smirk.

"Huh, Seraphim? But I already know that one," Mae said; "Celica does too!"

"That's a good point, what if we already knew some of the spells you granted us?" Celica asked.

"The main purpose of my gift was to make you all more attuned to my fields of magic," was the answer, "regardless if you had some expertise or knew some spells already. I doubt you would know all of them beforehand, but it matters not. You will find them all more effective upon using them."

"Well, that's good to know," Mae commented.

"Now, for the main event," the Faerie turned over to Genny again. "Are you ready?"

"Yes!" Genny nodded.

The Faerie extended her hands again, and the process would repeat itself, with the young cleric as the only recipient this time around. Genny's body shone brighter in comparison, fully concealing her body, forcing the others to shield their eyes. Upon the light dying out, to their surprise they were greeted to quite the sight.

Unlike with them, Genny had underwent a compete wardrobe change. Her new ensemble was not unknown, for it had been the same one they had seen already. The full-length gown with the myriad of accessories. Except, no longer being stone or magic, they could now properly appreciate the outfit as it most likely was meant to be. In addition to make out additional details that hadn't been evident before. The gown was of pure white, with accompanying wrist-length gloves. The side capes were of a light pink color, of the same shade to that of her just-replaced robe. The accessories turned out to be gold, as well as present as trimming and patterns on both the gown and capes. From her original image only two items remained. One being her hair ribbon still tied on her head, and the other her pendant still hanging from her neck. The staff in her hands too had transformed. The briolette cut crystal looked the same as always, but now it could be seen the staff too came in white and gold.

They all stared for a moment, as Genny too looked at herself both stunned and amazed, before the cleric suddenly found herself surrounded immediately after.

"Wow, Genny, you look great!" Est said.

"I agree. This look certainly suits you," Sonya added.

"Finally seeing it properly, it certainly has a very dignified appearance," Catria noted.

"Yes, it is a beautiful gown," Palla agreed with a nod.

"You could totally pass for a blueblood now, Genny," Mae said before then glancing to Celica. "Don't you think so, Celica?"

"That's right, Mae," Celica replied.

"T-Thanks, girls," Genny stuttered out, blushing from all the compliments.

"I can also feel your magic has gotten much stronger," Celica added, "even more than ours did."

"That's almost an understatement," Sonya said, "she's emanating healing magic from her body now."

"Ah, you're right," Palla said, "it's quite soothing, in fact."

"Oh my, I hope it's not too draining," Genny said, slightly worried.

"Fret not, young Genny, the effect on your magic is quite negligible," the Faerie said.

"I would not mind staying close to her more often now, hee hee," Est giggled. "You're welcome to ride with any of us in battle any time, Genny."

"Hey, don't think you can hog her now," Mae warned, hands on her hips.

"It wouldn't be a bad idea," Palla said, "she can already heal from a distance, so if she were to be airborne with us, she'd be even less in harm's way."

"Not from arrows, however," Sonya pointed out.

"Regardless, overall it's going to be a very big boon for us from now on," Catria pointed out.

She then turned to face the Faerie.

"I take it this was indeed a much higher blessing, as you spoke earlier?"

"That is correct," the Faerie nodded, "only deserving to those who had excelled in their practice of light magic. As with yours, her magic is not only more powerful, but I have imparted her with spells and abilities more aligned to her level of expertise. The healing aura being one such example."

"That's incredible," Est said in slight awe.

"Too bad we can't receive those as well," Mae said.

"Well, I'm satisfied with what we got," Catria added, "we're not clerics, after all."

"Yes, it'd be best to continue focusing on our actual strengths," Celica said, "but the versatility certainly doesn't hurt."

"Indeed," Sonya said, "Genny can still handle the main healing duties, and now with the Faerie's blessing, we can count on her doing an even better job on keeping us in good shape."

The mage then glanced over to the cleric.

"Isn't that right, Genny?"

"Yes, I'll use the Lady Faerie's gifts to the best of my ability," Genny nodded.

"I expect no less," the Faerie said with a small smile, before glancing back to the group as a whole. "Now then, you will want the wings too, I take it."

"Yes, please!" Est nodded.

"Well, they certainly are handy to have," Sonya began, "though now I wonder how practical it could be having them all the time."

The mage looked over her shoulder.

"They did take up much space. At least they weren't solid, else changing clothes would be a drag."

"There is nothing to fear," the Faerie said, a hint of amusement in her voice. "The wings you had were only a facsimile of what I will grant to you. For starters, you will be able to dismiss them and summon them at will, as the need arises."

Her own wings suddenly disappeared, without much of a warning sign. Shortly after, they returned as sudden as they left.

"Like so," she finished.

"Ooh, that's quite handy," Mae said.

"Well, when you put it like that, I guess it would be foolish to refuse, then," Sonya concluded.

"On the same principle," the Faerie then looked at Genny, "your new staff and the healing aura are the same on that aspect."

"Oh, really?" Genny looked at her new staff with keen interest.

"Yes," the Faerie nodded before raising her hands, "now then..."

After the process being repeated for the third time, everyone had the butterfly wings back. True to her word, they were different from the ones they had prior. Though their size, shape, and the personalized patterns on them were unchanged, they now glowed brighter and sparkled like the Faerie's. In addition, they no longer were white, though unlike the Faerie's it was only as a single color, though unique for each. Celica's were red, Mae, Genny, and Est's in different shades of pink, green for Palla, blue for Catria, and finally purple for Sonya. As before, the wings phased through their clothes, though even if not it wouldn't have been a problem for at least Genny, for her new gown left her upper back exposed and the capes likewise didn't obstruct.

"I guess we'll now have to get the hang of controlling when to have the wings," Palla said.

"It shouldn't be too hard," Mae said, glancing over her shoulders, as if trying to dismiss them already.

She frowned when nothing happened.

"Okay, maybe it will take some time."

"We will have plenty," Celica said, "for now, we must leave this place."

"Indeed, we have lingered here long enough," the Faerie nodded. "Now, we must make haste for the entrance."

Thus, they continued their march through the shaft.

 


Author's Note: 

Spoiler

 

If this actually happened in the game itself, it'd certainly feel like overkill, isn't it? XD Well, I certainly think so. As it is, Genny overclassing into an Exemplar would likely be acceptable (would be felt even more earned if there was a whole proper dungeon to go through instead of just what we actually got in the DLC), and maybe the Faerie joining the party too, but that's about it I'd wager. Even then something would come up to basically prevent her from being at her strongest. In fact, that's what I did in the original version, bringing up that being imprisoned for thousands of years while being essentially used as a battery took a toll on her power, and thus would need time to recover back to full. This ain't happening here, since as I mentioned in a previous chapter, the story is not bound to video game rules. Would it trivialize the rest of Celica's journey? Most certainly. Still, it'd at least be amusing to imagine Jedah's reaction to this sudden change to game canon. lol

Well anyway, to clarify a few things: The mentioned 'healing aura' is the Soothing Light skill. Granted, it's obtained first as a Saint, but as it is Genny is pretty much skipping from Cleric to Exemplar here, heh. The 'basic gift' boils down to just these spells basically: Recover, Seraphim, and the little light orb to use as a light source. Speaking of, though at this point it should be already obvious, it's definitely meant to be the cleric class-line counterpart of the fireball Celica makes use in-game, and that I'd presume would be something most mages would know too. It's also part of the Exemplar overclass package for this story, among other things. Would they become relevant to be mentioned? Perhaps not in this story.

 

 

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Chapter 15 – Outside

Spoiler

 

It still took them a few minutes further before finally reaching the end of the shaft.

"Finally!" Mae cried out in relief. "I was fearing the shaft would never end."

The opening to a much larger room opened up once they had reached the edge itself. The floor, ceiling, and the walls hidden by the darkness. Combined with their current sizes, this prevented them from gauging the room's exact size.

"Woah… this room is soooo big," Est said, leaning slightly forward over the edge.

"Remember Est," Palla said, "we are the ones who are small."

"Don't remind us…" Sonya muttered, a hint of annoyance in her voice.

"Is it safe to venture out?" Genny asked, slightly worried.

"It is alright, child," the Faerie said, "I am sure that even if the room houses any peril, we are not in danger ourselves."

"Is it because of our current size?" Sonya asked, still annoyed.

"In any case, it's a good thing the room looks big enough," Celica said.

"Yeah! We can finally return to our proper sizes then!" Mae exclaimed.

"Then let's head out," Palla said.

So they did. They fluttered out of the shaft, into the room and down towards the unseen floor. It only took a few seconds before it came into view, after which they landed atop. One thing became apparent quite quickly.

"Look, the floor," Catria pointed out, "it's different."

"It's once again regular cave floor," Celica noted.

"Which means we've officially left the area of the trials," Palla finished.

"So now it's just a matter of leaving the cave itself," Catria said.

"Yes, that's good and all, but can we please return to our proper sizes first?" Sonya folded her arms, frowning with impatience.

"We shall do that right now," the Faerie said. "Now then, spread out; I will grow us all at once."

They did as told, forming a wide semi-circle several steps away from the Faerie and from each other. After dismissing her light orb, the Faerie began casting the spell. Their bodies glowed golden again, and just like how they shrunk they grew in one swift motion. Thus, in just a fraction of a second they were back to their original sizes.

"We're back to normal!" Mae cried out in happiness.

"Finally…" Sonya sighed in relief.

"Yay, we're big again!" Est cried out but then made a disappointed face. "Aww, our voices no longer sound funny."

The Faerie summoned another light orb. Combined with the light from their wings, they quickly saw they were in a fairly sized room, irregularly shaped. Just like the floor, the walls and ceiling were those of a cave. Behind them and a few feet upwards, they saw the exit of the shaft close to the ceiling. It was framed in the same design they were familiar with, contrasting with the cave wall surrounding it just like the doorway entrance all the way back at the Mila shrine. On the opposite wall a tunnel entrance could be seen, leading, hopefully, to the cave exit.

"I wonder if this was where the second warp circle would've taken us," Palla spoke out.

"Most likely," Catria said, "especially since this is where the shaft led to."

"Now, we can finally leave this place," the Faerie said.

"I do hope this cave isn't like the previous one," Celica said, worried.

"Humph, even if we have to fight our way out, it'll be no sweat," Sonya placed a hand on her hip. "Though I agree I'd rather just have a straight walk to the exit."

"Since it is meant to be the exit point, hopefully it is just that," Palla said.

"Then what are we waiting for? Let's go!" Est exclaimed.

"Before we do that, however, there is something I must do," the Faerie said.

"What is it?" Celica asked.

The Faerie didn't reply right away. Rather, her body began to glow. Once it died down, she was now clad in the same gown Genny had, with the same accessories and staff as well, save for those that had been the cleric's own to begin with. The only difference was that her capes were deep green in color instead. In addition, her wings had changed too. They were now smaller, now matching the rest of the girls' in size, and sported only a crimson red hue instead of the rainbow one.

"There, now I should be able to blend in easier," she said, "and now, one last thing."

She adopted a serious look, as she stared at the group.

"If I am to dwell among your kind again in the guise of one of your own, if only for the time being, then I can no longer be addressed as Faerie."

"Huh, why not?" Mae asked.

"Faerie is as much a title as Fairy Queen was," began the reply, "one also not fitting to the current circumstances. Thus, if I am to mingle, it will have to be with my own name."

The girls glanced at each other, surprised.

"Then why not tell us in the first place?" Catria asked.

"I have always kept my name to utmost secrecy," the Faerie said, "even among my followers. Do remember, it was before the conversation we recently had in the shaft. Though even so, a few did gain the privilege of knowing my real name, and my liberation would have granted you the same, just like the blessings."

She shook her head.

"Now all that is past, there is no reason to continue the charade."

"So what is your name, then?" Sonya asked, a hand to her hip.

The Faerie closed her eyes for a second, before opening them again.

"Titania," was the reply.

"Very well… Miss Titania," Celica said, "this is a start, then. There are still a lot of things to sort out, but we can take care of them later. For now, we must keep going."

They left the room in short order. To their fortune, this new cave was much simpler than the first. Only a short walk, an upward slope, and the cave exit was now into view. Once outside they were now atop a ledge overlooking the valley below. Seeing the open sky once again was a sight that gave nothing short of relief.

"Finally, fresh air again!" Est exclaimed.

"Thank goodness, it's still not nightfall," Mae said.

Indeed. The sun could still be seen, almost touching down the western horizon.

"Look, we're on the other side of the valley," Palla noted.

"Wow, so we got warped that far, huh," Mae said, amazed.

"Hopefully we aren't too far from the temple," Catria said.

"At least we don't need to walk all the way back anymore," Sonya stated, glancing back at her wings.

"All the more fortunate, since there's actually no road back down," Palla said, glancing down over the edge.

"Look, that's the temple, over there!" Mae called out, pointing.

Over to the northeast, they could indeed see the Mila Temple, far off in the distance.

"Looks like we ended up closer to it as well," Palla observed.

"All the better for us," Sonya smirked.

Through all this the Faerie, now Titania, simply stood, looking ahead.

"After so long, I finally get to see again the sun, the sky, the mountains and trees…" she closed her eyes, "it is like waking from a long dream."

"Are you alright, Lady Titania?" Genny asked, concerned.

The woman opened her eyes again as she glanced down to the cleric, giving off a small smile.

"I am fine," she answered, "even for me this can be overwhelming, but I am overjoyed all the same."

"I can't even begin to imagine what that must felt like," Celica said, "to have remained trapped for thousands of years… but rest assured you won't be going through that again. Not if we can help it."

"Yeah, we won't let that happen!" Mae nodded. "Not to you, or the Earth Mother, or anyone!"

She then glanced to the others.

"Ain't that right, girls!?"

A chorus of agreements followed. Titania looked stunned for a second, before smiling again.

"Thank you, everyone. It means a lot to hear that."

She then adopted a serious look once more.

"I will do my part, then, to help free Lady Mila. Should she be in danger to be put through the same fate I did… I will put a stop to it, before it can be done."

She then glanced over to Celica.

"As of now, I am but another member of your group. I am yours to command, Lady Celica."

"Oh, v-very well," Celica nodded, a little perplexed.

Even if she has renounced to her title of divinity, it's going to be odd to treat her like just one more of the group, she thought. It will take time to get used to this.

Nevertheless, the princess looked over to the entire group.

"Alright, everyone, let's head back to the temple," she announced.

"Finally," Sonya muttered in relief, "a warm bath, meal, and bed, here I come."

"Wait Milady, we need to send word to the others," Catria said.

"We don't all need to go, remember," Mae brought up.

"I can go," Palla offered.

"Me too!" Est said. "I want to reunite with my pegasus as well!"

"We three can go, then," Catria said.

"Then it's settled, the rest of us will head straight back to the temple," Celica said.

"Alright! Hey, Palla, and Catria, let's have another race!" Est announced.

"Well, as long you don't give yourself a head start this time around, heh," Palla said with a chuckle.

"Hey!" Est pouted, to the laugh of the others, before clenching her fists. "Fine, I'll show you I can win any time!"

"Oh, you're on, Est," Palla replied with a hint of a smirk, "let's see which Whitewing is the fastest on their wings."

And just like that, the two quickly got into position, close to the cliff edge.

"Oh dear, this better not become another thing they begin to fight over with…" Catria closed her eyes and sighed.

"Is this really that common?" Titania asked.

"Ever since we were children," was the replied.

"Well, that's some siblings to you," Sonya placed a hand to her hip with a hint of amusement.

"Come on, Catria, we're waiting for you!" Est called out, making a beckoning motion with her arm.

The middle pegasus knight let herself smile.

"Well, I won't deny I too want to find the answer over who's fastest," she said before walking over to stand with her sisters.

The others walked closer too, with Mae going all the way to the edge as well.

"Alright then, are you girls ready?" She asked.

The pegasus knights nodded.

"At the count of three. One… two… three!"

With that, they took off, speeding off towards the northwest.

"And there they go," Sonya mused, arms crossed.

"I wonder who will win," Genny said.

"I am sure they will tell us in due time," Titania said, "as for us, we should be on our way as well."

She glanced over in the direction of the temple.

"The building over there, correct?"

"Yes, that's Mila's Temple," Celica nodded.

"Oh, you'll love it there, I'm sure," Mae said.

"Just don't mind the damage at the front because of the war," Sonya brought up.

"I look forward to see it, either way," Titania said, "lead the way."

Thus they took flight as well, heading off towards the far-off temple. Through this Celica couldn't help but have many thoughts race in her mind.

To think what began as a simple cave exploration would've grew to become the rescue a powerful being from ancient times.

She briefly glanced over at Titania, before glancing back at front.

I can only hope things will be alright from now on. We have yet to venture into Rigel proper. Who knows what the Duma Faithful will have lying in wait to stop us.

Her face then hardened with resolve.

But it's alright. With the blessings of both Mila and Titania with us, we can overcome them all. Mila will be restored to her proper place, and hopefully Duma will see reason. Peace will return to Valentia once again.

She then smiled.

Just you wait Alm. You won't have to continue fighting for long.

 


Author's Note: 

Spoiler

Yeah, it probably wasn't hard to guess she'd be named Titania. More so if you've read Transfigurative Overclass before this. That said, it's not just a Shakespeare reference. In Japan, the Exemplar Overclass is called Titania too. When you consider it's granted at the Altar of the Faerie, the Faerie most assuredly was an actual individual, the description the hermit guy gives of her, and that the statue depicting her is that of a woman with fairy wings, you can easily see what the developers were doing there. It's the same for some of the other Overclasses too. Like, the Enchantress is Morgana, the Guru is Solomon, the Rigain is Medb. Certainly nothing new for Fire Emblem to do, hehe.

Epilogue – Sidequest Complete

Spoiler

 

The trip to the Cavern of the Fae had finally come to an end. The men left behind waiting at the cave's mouth were surprised to see the Whitewings arrive not just from the outside, but also from the air. Further surprise would await them at the Temple once they were introduced to the newest member of the group, but for now it was time to pack up. Contrary to speculation, they had yet to send someone back to the Temple to retrieve their camping gear. As it was, it was only a matter of sending word to the swordsmen trio still posted at the Mila shrine. They never noticed the barrier coming down, so the sight of the winged girls was as much as a surprise to them as it did to their companions.

As for the rest of the group, they reached the temple in short order, thanks to their wings. By this point news of their trip had already been spread throughout the clerics, saints, and priestesses of the temple. Many questions were had about their journey deep within the earth, though they would have to wait for everyone to return before they would receive answers, for they would no doubt had the same questions to give and more in regards to Titania. The girls answered almost to the last of them, though in respect to Titania's wish, they went with the cover story as planned. If she was to change her mind over keeping her true identity a secret to the men of the group, it remained to be seen.

The western sluice gate was yet to open, the path to Rigel closed with it. The plan to remain in the Temple continued unchanged. The day would come when their march would resume, but for now, it was a time to rest and prepare. The women of the group had to acclimatize to their new powers, after all. So when the time finally came to leave, they'd be ready. As it stood, it'd be unlikely for them to relieve an experience as what the Cavern of the Fae made them go through, but overall their journey was far from over. What kind of events would await at Rigel?

That's a story for another time.

 


Author's Note: And that's a wrap-up. I hope you enjoyed it from start to finish. This story may be over, but it's not the end for the setting. I've long wanted to write a continuation, though I've never gone far into it due to focusing on other stuff to write in the meantime. What will be the next thing I'll upload here? Hmm, good question. At least this one's complete. Yeah, I am certainly minding the other stuff is still incomplete. Well, perhaps one day. Either way, I hope you'll be looking forward to whatever comes next. In the meantime, you can now leave feedback, if you have any. Or just whatever comment strikes your fancy.

Thank you for your attention!

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