“I’ve got this! One more strike, and it’ll be over!”
“Largo! I’ve got your back!”
“Let’s do it, Rachael!!”
The Woods of Lafeal
29 years ago
Largo Mann: 19 years old (H Rank: Rookie)
Charging forwards, the two guilders swung their weapons at the towering beast, Largo’s axe cleaving into the giant Bearon monster’s left side, Rachael’s sword slicing through its right. Blood splashed across the leaf filled ground, and the Bearon staggered backwards, its body crashing against a nearby tree before it tried desperately to keep itself standing. The Bearon’s breathing became ragged and hoarse, and it bellowed a mighty roar. Landing on the ground, Largo and Rachael turned as one towards the Bearon, gritting their teeth at the thought that their foe was still standing. Still rampaging throughout the woods. If it was to continue on any further…!
“Damnit, this thing just won’t quit,” Largo sighed, the 19 year old youth lifting his heavy axe up into the air again. He turned towards his partner, the red haired swordswoman Rachael, who looked back with the same concern her friend gave. “You think this thing is…?”
“Possessed, definitely.” Rachael replied, with a firm nod. “Bearons never act this way… and after our attacks, it shouldn’t be left standing. Something has warped its mind.”
“Tsk. Well, whatever the reason… we can’t let it carry on and destroy these woods. We need to stop it now!” Largo screamed, dashing forth, his heavy axe gripped tightly. The Bearon had by now risen to its feet again, ready to renew the fight. It lifted its paw up, and with one mighty swing brought it slicing through the air. As quick as Largo was, their was no way he’d be able to avoid the blow…!
And then suddenly, Largo was thrown to the side, pushed out of harm’s way by an impossibly powerful force, narrowly missing the Bearon’s sharp claws. As Largo landed on the ground, he looked up and smiled, to his companion who had finally arrived. A man clad in mage robes appeared from the tree line, into the spacious clearing where the battle raged.
“Took you long enough!” Largo wiped his nose. “Get lost or something?!”
“We didn’t get lost, Largo,” The mage replied. “You ran off ahead of us. Again. It would be nice if you stopped doing that, you know. You can’t always expect us to save you like this.”
“Tch, yeah, but if I didn’t, this thing would have destroyed the woods already!” Largo shouted back. “You’re just too slow!”
An imposing voice boomed. Belonging to the threesome’s leader, the A Rank Warrior with whom they had been following for a year emerged from the thicket of tree besides their mage companion. The Warrior, in his forties, carried with him a preposterously huge axe, lugging it over his shoulder as if it was made out of paper. The wizened, bearded warrior looked over to Largo, and rolled his eyes. The rookie Guilder had been following his guidance for a year now, and whatever progress he was making, was quickly appearing painfully slow. For every step he took, he would take two steps back. When oh when would he ever learn? And as for Rachael, the rookie swordswoman who fought with them, he had expected better from her, too. Although in truth, if she hadn’t chased after Largo and tried to restrain and aid him, he would probably be dead by now.
The Warrior truly wondered why he bothered to deal with the headache of teaching young rookies anymore… but he supposed Largo did have a point. If he hadn’t rushed ahead, then the Bearon would have destroyed the heart of the woods by now. And that… that couldn’t be allowed.
“Largo, Rachael. Step back. I’ll finish this.” The A Rank Warrior commanded. In a blink of an eye he stepped forwards. His axe swung through the air. And the almighty powerful Bearon was no more, torn in twine, his maddening rampage brought to an end.
“HOOOOM! Our thanks, noble warriors!” Came a voice not belonging to any of the four guilders. “If it wasn’t for your valiant deeds, these woods would have been destroyed.”
“It was our pleasure,” The A Rank Warrior replied. “We couldn’t allow this beast to run rampant, and threaten these woods or the nearby towns any more then it already had. Although it is tragic, this beast clearly acting not of its own mind or will, it had to be stopped. For its own sake as well.”
“I wonder,” The mage perked up, walking to join the rest of his companions. “What on Ddaear caused this monster to act this way to begin with?”
“Yes… or rather who…” The A Rank Warrior mused, stroking his chin. “This is something that bears investigation. Thankfully we managed to stop it now, before it could do any lingering damage. Our job, my friends, isn't over.”
"Would it even matter? We'll find whoever, or whatever's doing this, and we'll make them pay! Or my name isn't Largo Mann!!"
Two Days Ago:
On the road between the port town Tagress and rural town Lafeal
"Ha... ha... I can't believe we have to do this... walk all the way out to the sticks just to investigate some stupid town..."
"I know, Wedge, I know. But orders are orders. If the boss tells us to do something, then we go there and do it. Can't complain. Besides, it beats going out to war."
"Maybe but... so much walking... and hey, Biggs. Why are we escorting some guy... what was he again? What was his name?"
"Granger, my good man! Granger! My name's Lloyd Granger, from the Artar Gazette! There's been a lot of strange reports coming out from Lafeal, and I'd be a very poor journalist indeed if I didn't find out what!"
Trudging along the highway from the port town Tagress, towards the quaint village Lafeal, built close to the Woods of Wrear, Wedge opened a bottle of water and emptied it down his thirsty throat. Wiping his mouth clean after, the short and stoutly Empire soldier still couldn't quite believe the orders that he and his larger, lankier partner Biggs, had been given. Both of the soldiers had enlisted in the Empire's Army fairly recently, and had only just graduated from the academy. Both had thought they'd be sent with orders to the east, to help fortify their kingdom's borders and possibly be sent off to fight in one of the wars. Instead, the two new enlistees had been tasked to travel to Lafeal, where strange reports had been brewing. It wasn't quite what they had expected.
Niether was the man they were accompanied with. A reporter for the Kingdom's largest circulated newspaper, Lloyd Granger was filled with wild, uncontrollable energy. Once the man sniffed out a story, he was on it like wildfire, and he wouldn't quit or back down until he'd discovered, and reported, all the facts. Unfortunately, his manner of fact taking and inaccurate reporting had been causing one trouble or two...
Lloyd had met the two soldiers in Tagress. Originally, Lloyd was planning on hiring some of the port town's local Guilders to help escort him to Lafeal. But upon spying and eavesdropping the fact that the two soldiers were heading to Lafeal as well, he eagerly hitched himself aboard their troupe, seeing it as a chance of obtaining protection for a much lower sum then hiring a Guilder would cost. Not to mention, these were the Empire soldiers. It was their duty to protect people like him. Wasn't that why he paid taxes, after all?
"So, Mr Journalist, what was it you heard about this place again?" Wedge asked, pulling from his backpack a sandwich the shorter, stouter man happily began devouring. Him and Biggs had been given some information, but there wasn't much there to begin with, and what was, was incredibly vague.
"They say the whole town's people have been turned to trees!" Lloyd replied, flicking through his notepad.
"T-t-trees?!" Wedge spat out a piece of ham.
"You're joking." Replied Biggs.
"Well, that's what the rumours say, I'm not sure, precisely. What I've heard is that all communications to and from Lafeal are down. A passing merchant wagon, who didn't get too close to the town, reported that all that was there was suspiciously quiet. The merchant was going to explore, when a man in a hood came from the town and told him not to come near. He told the merchant to keep on going to Tagress, and to report what the man had said to the Tagress Guild." Lloyd explained from his notes. "Apparently there's been no communication for four days, now. Some guilders have already gone out to explore Lafeal and find some answers but... no reply."
"Well, we heard about the lack of communication. That's why we were called out here. But a town whose people were turned to trees? And a hooded man? We've heard nothing about that." Biggs replied.
"B-b-biggs what do we do?!" Wedge started to panic. "We're only new soldiers! What can we do against being turned into trees?!"
"Oh hush, Wedge," Biggs handwaved the notion away. "It's pure nonsense. No such thing is real."
"Y-y-you're right!" Wedge nodded. "It's nonsense!"
Lloyd laughed. "Well, that's what we'll be going to find out!" Lloyd nodded. Over the hill, they could spy the town of Lafeal in the distance. It wasn't long before Lloyd Granger or the pair of soldiers Biggs and Wedge reached Lafeal.
But that was two days ago.
"Are we there yeeeeeeet~?"
"...are we there yeeeeeeeeeeet~?"
"...are we there yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet~"
"I swear to the gods rat, if you do not shut up...! We're not there yet, so quit asking!!"
Now (Five days after leaving Museo):
On the road to Tagress
Walking along the road to Tagress, it had been five days since the Pride had left Museo on their way to Tagress. It had been a fairly easy, if uneventful trip. The group had been walking consistently through the day, stopping to make camp and rest during the evening. They had managed to stay at an inn for two of the last five nights, but besides that they had endeavoured to walk and camp out at night. This wasn't something a few of the Guilders were happy to do at first, but after the first night, and then the second, it was something they grew to enjoy more and more. Sitting around a campfire, sharing stories, singing and dancing. Estelle had begun practicing sword fighting with Moira, whilst Lisette took lessons in magic from Marcus. Dylan would lighten up everyones' spirits with his art, and Don with his dancing (in lieu of Selan's worsening cold) and general stupidity. During the day they had often fought against wild monsters that barred their path or threatened to harm passing travellers. Despite the hike and constant walking, it was a nice change of pace compared to their frenetic adventures within the Ancient Ruins near Museo.
Trixie's constant whining of whether or not they were at Tagress yet or not was starting to play on peoples' nerves though. No more than Amy's.
"Hey, we just need to think of something to take our minds off things," Estelle chirped up. An idea soon formed in her mind, and she punched her hand. "I know! How about 'I spy!'"
"Please tell me we're almost there..."
"I need booze..."
"I need a fucking piss."
Moira had a certain way with words, as usual.
"Ere, slow the fuck down and wait everyone. I need a piss. C'mon Sy." Moira ordered the rest of the crew to stop, whilst she waddled over to a nearby bush, much to Syed's groaning.
"As expensive as they are, perhaps we should consider using the trains more," Marcus mused, although it was true their financial situation was less then brilliant. With such a large party, it meant their rewards for completed missions would be divied up a lot more. Alternatively, they could have completed a lot more missions whilst waiting inbetween towns, but it'd still mean taking the same amount of time to travel. For the time being, Estelle had opted for the group to travel on foot. She loved camping, and had done it frequently when it was just her and Marcus together. She wanted to experience that with everyone else, but whether or not they liked it was something they'd have to discuss later.
"We could have hired a horse and wagon," Selan suggested. The walk had been particularly tiring on her legs. Don had offered to carry her, but...
"Well we've saved money so it's not a big deal, right?" Estelle wondered. "I mean, I know we need to find Rize and Kara, and the sooner the better but... there's not a big rush, right? If you guys want, we can find other ways of travelling in the future. I just think that this has been..." Estelle smiled. "Fun."
"Ere! Ere! Come over here you guys!" Moira yelled from the other side of the bush atop the hill. The Berserker was waving her hand from side to side somewhat fierce. Estelle and everyone else turned towards her, confused. Was there some sort of emergency? "We've got a fucking fight going on! Come on!"
Sprinting after Moira, the Pride quickly ascended the hill to discover what it was Moira saw on the other side. In front of them, at the bottom of the hill were two people, back to back, surrounded by a flock of monsters. There must have been around fifteen of the creatures; Electures, swift, fast moving airborne predators able to rain down charged up lightning upon their prey before using their powerful talons to rip and rend flesh.
One was a young woman garbed in red and gold, wielding a circular blade; a chakram. The other was a man with messy blue hair in long, dark blue robes, who looked to be absolutely confused by the predicament he found himself surrounded in. This day was not at all like he expected it to be. Getting kidnapped in the middle of the Tagress Guild by a senior Guilder, forced onto a sudden mission and then treated like her son was...
"C'mon Lucy! Don't give up!" The woman grinned, spiralling his chakram around her arm effortlessly before readying it in front of her. She leaned forward, low, facing the monsters before her.
"They're Guilders." Noted Marcus, the assembled Pride looking down at the developing battle.
Estelle had already unsheathed her Magitech Sword and was grinning from ear to ear. "Let's give them a hand!"