Actions

Work Header

Rise of the Crimson Tactician

Chapter Text

-Streets of Parise, Rosanne-

“Vermil, give me covering fire!” Robin gestured with his weapon. Behind him, the red-robed mage grinned evilly and raised a hand, pointing it at the archers that were drawing their bows at the end of the alley.

“Arcfire!” A jet of flame roared down the alley, swirling around it and igniting everything within. Vermil the mage looked pleased with himself until the smoke cleared. Out of five, two were left standing, bows drawn. The two pointed their bows at the mage. Vermil swallowed.

“Watch it, kid!” A soldier shoved Vermil aside. The mage hit the ground and watched as his ally took the pair of arrows meant for him. One skirted off his blue shield, but the other impaled itself in his left shoulder. The lancer turned and howled his challenge. “Is that all you have!? I’m Zuras, veteran of a hundred wars, and you can’t take me!”

A figure darted out from a crack in the wall, dancing between the two remaining archers. One fell to his blade, and the other to lightning. Robin waved his weapon in salute, and gestured to the two to catch up. “Yes, but I took them fist, Zul.”

Zuras looked at Vermil. “He had you barbecue the hallway just so he could run up it?”

“Eh-heh. I think the plan was just for me to smokescreen it.” Vermil chuckled. “Maybe I went a little overkill.”

“You’re crazy, kid.” Zulas shook his head, then started sprinting to catch up to Robin. As he ran, he saw Robin duck and then an axe swing over his head. “Aw, they’re using axes…”

The fighter tried to attack again, but fell with a wordless cry. Behind him stood another one of the Crimson Squad. The small woman sheathed her daggers, reflexively standing in Robin’s blind spot.

“Heya Dant.” Vermil skidded up to them. “Where’d you come from?”

“Around. It pays not to lurk to close when you go all magic-happy.” The woman sighed. “Must you go overkill, mage?”

“Hey, as long as they’re dead! Right, Robin?”

“Well I suppose better safe than sorry.” Robin chuckled. “But a skilled warrior knows not to waste magic, and can tell how much to strike with. Elfire would have sufficed. You’ve still got to learn that.”

“Aww.” The mage looked downcast.

“Where to next?” Zulas asked. “This whole area’s one crazy war zone. Are we moving to take the castle, or what?”

“You’re not going anywhere!” A clip-clop interrupted the group. A troubadour was riding over. “Need I say this, Zulas, but you have an arrow in your shoulder?”

“So I do.” Zulas said, noticing it for the first time. “Argeni, I’m fine. I’ve been shot before.”

“No, you are not fine and I don’t care how many times you’ve been shot.” Argeni put a gentle hand on the shaft and ripped it from Zulas, ignoring the shout of pain. She put her staff on the wound. “Heal! Next time, don’t run off without me, you four!”

“You’re on a horse.” Dant pointed out.

“Leave her, Dant.” Robin said. “I told her to stay back. Her father would have a fit if I got her killed. Sorry, Argeni. We’ll go a bit slower next time and we won’t leave until you finished patching up Zulas.”

“Thank you.” Argeni was mollified. “I’m done. Well, what are you waiting for?”

“Right, let’s get ready to take the next block and wipe out those rebels. We'll work our way to the castle, but our goal isn't to be the first one there." Robin looked over to the next section. “For Valm!”

-Nameless Village, Heart of Valm-

-Months Prior-

Zulas cut his way through a pair of raiders, swirling his spear around him. Of common birth, but uncommon skill, the lancer had used the combination of the two to assume second-in-command of his unit. His commander, a particularly dull minor noble named Glass, usually led from the rear, leaving Zulas’s handpicked squadron the honorable role of ‘first blood’. This resulted in consistent, but not spectacular, victories, so the situation was unlikely to change anytime soon.

“Get him! He’s the leader.”

“Not technically.” Zuras grunted as an electric shock hit him. The mages that the raiders had picked up were weak. Normally, he’d at least spasm when he tanked electric magic. “Wolk, open fire!”

The archer beside him fired across the square, felling the enemy mage. The rest darted for cover as the archer began nocking a second arrow. Zuras gestured quickly, and two of his cavaliers rode through the town’s square. The raiders were dispersed with looting and pillaging, and the cavaliers had only served to split them further.

“Pair up and take ‘em out.” Zulas howled. His men pounded the stones as they rushed through the square. With the advance soldiers guarding the street down, and their mages scattered, Zulas intended to make use of the wide open square and his superior numbers. “We outnumber ‘em, so don’t fight fair.”

“But, sir.” Zulas sighed and turned around. Wolk was talking to him, although the young archer’s voice sounded more like a whine to the veteran’s ears. “What about what the Conqueror says?”

“Look, kid.” Zulas said. He tossed his spear aside and gestured to one of his men. He continued, “You want to fight alone to prove how strong you are? Fine. But do that on your own time. You’re in my squadron, you fight to win. That means you’re with people who you can count on.”

“But the Conqueror says that strength through outside means is false strength.”

“Two things.” One of Zulas’s subordinates dropped a fresh lance at Zulas’s feet, and ran off. Zulas looked the archer in the eye. “One. Don’t quote the Conqueror at me unless you can beat me in a fight.”

“I don’t see how – ahh!”

Two more raiders were charging at Zulas. The azure soldier spun around and thrust his spear forward in a single motion, impaling the first one. The second leapt up and sliced downwards at him, so Zulas let go of the spear and rolled out of the way. Considering him harmless, the raider instantly turned his attention to the nearby archer.

Wolk froze. The raider approached him, chuckling sinisterly.

Then a spear impaled him. Zulas withdrew it and kicked the man aside. “Stupid idiot. There was a spear by my feet, and he didn’t even notice. Second point, Wolk – you suck as a fighter at close range. It's nothing personal, you're an archer and fight at range. Now, find an escort and make your way to a roof! I’d rather not have a repeat of last time, when we got wyverned into cover.”

“Is that a word, sir?”

Zulas considered. “It is now.” He jogged off, gesturing to a pair of armor knights. “Wendell. Boris. You two hold this entrance, spread the word to the other. Now, I’ve got some rat sweeping to do.” With that, he sped off into the alleyways.

-Alleyways- 

“Die, Valmese dog!”

“Was that supposed to be insulting?” Zulas grunted. He was holding his own against two raiders, straining to keep them at bay. A third was watching, but not interfering. Fortunately, they all had swords, giving Zulas a slight advantage. He shoved forward, then leapt back, spinning the lance around him. "Some of us pride ourselves on loyalty, you know."

One of them is definitely going to rush that soldier, perhaps both. If they don’t both do it at once, he can sweep the first, and stab the second. Might have time for a withdraw after that to hold back the first. But if they both do it at once, he can rush past the one on his right – his guard’s not so good that he can cover his weak side. But then what? The third one is waiting for the soldier back there. So the obvious solution to them both rushing is-

Both rushed him. Zulas briefly considered running past them, but instead feinted twice to check their movement, and dashed back two steps, holding the lance in guard. Zulas weighed his odds. If he kept at defense, he’d lose.

-remove the third piece. Robin stepped out from behind the shadows and dropped the third man from behind with a clean stroke, severing the man’s spine. He gestured with his left hand and chanted, summoning a ball of lightning from the tome he carried.

He needn’t bothered. The lancer dashed past the raider on Robin’s left, the lancer’s right, and with a bit of intricate footwork, impaled them both on a single lance. Robin let the ball of electricity fade.

“Thanks for the help.” Zulas yanked the lance out of the pair of chests in was sunk into. He pointed in at Robin. “You friend or foe?”

“Friend. Definitely friend. My name is Robin.” Robin said. “Look, I won’t bore you with the details, especially since I can’t remember most of them, but I’m here to help. My name is Robin.”

“I … see?” Zulas stared at him. Robin sighed. Probably not the best way to make a first impression. "You can't remember details?"

“No, it's ... I mean, yes. Amnesia, but that doesn't matter right now." Robin tried making his way through the conversation without getting impaled. "Okay, look. So, you came to this town because you got word that the grain storehouses nearby were being attacked, right?”

“Is that what it was?” Zulas asked. Robin stared at him. Zulas shrugged. “My commander doesn’t give me details.”

“Well, that’s helpful.” Robin sighed. “So, can’t you take me to whoever’s in charge here?”

“Speaking.”

“And you didn't know what you're protecting. Wow. No offense, but your chain of command sucks.” Robin blinked, then realized what he just said. “Um, I take that back.”

“I’ll allow it. You did help save my life. What do you want to tell me?”

“Right. Well, it’s like this.” Robin’s sword drew lines in the alleyway’s dirt. “So, the raiders knew a direct assault on the grain warehouse would be impossible, right? So, they attacked it with a small force, and then retreated into this village.”

“Right.” Zulas looked it over. “Yeah, so?”

So I’ve been here for the past week.” Robin tapped to point at the juncture of lines. “They’ve fled into the alleyways to draw out your forces. These two areas? They’re fronts for the rebels in the town square, they’ve got twenty-five raiders apiece. They’re going to collapse your lines, then when you call in reinforcements from the grain warehouses, a small team is going to go light them on fire.”

“Oh.” Zulas blinked. “Oh. That's not good. How do you know this?”

“I’ve got eyes and ears. The inhabitants were forcibly evicted, and I heard them complaining in the bar. Next thing I know, the horse-seller is out of a job, because he doesn’t have horses. A bit of snooping, and I pieced the connections together.” Robin said. “Um, it’s not like I’m a rat, or anything. These townsfolk have been pretty decent to me, so I’d hate for them to get implicated just because the raiders decided to use this as a staging ground. The raiders aren't connected to this town, I promise.”

“Right.” Zulas gestured. “Follow me.”

“I was actually thinking that I could-“

“Wasn’t a request. Follow. Me.” Zulas said. Robin sighed, and started running after him. “So, why didn’t the raiders suspect you for snooping?”

“I’m a foreigner. They wouldn’t dream I’d help the enemy.” It was then Zulas noticed Robin’s pale complexion coupled with shock-white hair and odd black coat. “So, you’ve got a plan, or do you need help with it?”

“I’m going to light those houses on fire, then bar the entranceways. On second thought, other way around, assuming we’ve got time.” Zulas said. “Then we’re going to get horses and ride to the grain warehouse.”

“Wait, what?”

“You know my idiot commander? Well, he decided to make that his base of operations, which means he probably dismissed the real guard there and substituted it with his own crowd of flunkies and sycophants. Most of ‘em are rich nobles who only trained with weapons, but never actually fought with one. If the raiders hit ‘em it could be trouble.”

“For the commander?”

“The commander?” Zulas snorted. “He can be replaced. The grain is a different story.”

"And why do I have to come along?"

"Because I'll need someone to blame if you're lying. Nothing personal, I promise."

"Oh." Robin sighed. "Why can't we have nice things in this world?"

 -Burning Grain Warehouse-

One of the grain warehouses was on fire by the time the pair had arrived. Sounds of pitched battle echoed throughout. A few corpses in various uniforms were strewn across the path to the warehouses. Zulas gestured for the cavaliers accompanying them to fan out. “Search and destroy, people.”

“Don’t bother.” Robin said.

“Hmm?”

“Zone defense.” Robin replied. When Zulas gave him a blank stare, Robin sighed. “Order them to circle the remaining warehouses. It’s more important to protect the goods in this case. The grain houses are far apart in case one of them catches fire, so it won't spread easily.”

“Fine.” Zulas inhaled. “Countermand that order! I want team protecting the grain warehouses! Focus on torch carriers! Robin, you’re with me.”

“Why do I have a bad feeling about this?”

“You see that warehouse on fire? The one two are guarding?” Zulas jabbed with his lance. “That’s the one my commander was in. Let’s go save his sorry hide.”

Robin nodded. “The two on watch aren’t Valmese. They must’ve swapped uniforms.”

“You sure?”

“No. But if they are, we can kill them for dereliction of duty, because that door seems to be bolted shut.” Robin whispered. “Even if they were keeping raiders locked in there, there’s no reason to be on guard.”

“Good job. But they’re also wearing their uniforms incorrectly.” Zulas replied.

“Oh. I guess there’s that.”

“I’ll take the one of the right.” Zulas sprang into action, whipping his lance around, throwing it. It sailed through the air, cleanly piercing the chest of the first guard. Zulas pumped his fist. “One down.”

“Je-e-e-e-z!” Robin moaned and he ran towards the second guard, running serpentine and swapping which direction he was coming. “Why would you take my element of surprise?”

“Yah!” The one raider left attacked him. Robin parried with his own blade, and shoved a ball of electricity into the man’s chest. The raider froze, stuttered, and fell. Robin dropped his blade into the man’s chest, then electrocuted it again for good measure.

“A bit overkill, much?”

“Ain’t no such thing as overkill.” Robin replied. “I didn’t know you could throw lances.”

“Everything is throwable once.” Zulas yanked his lance out, spinning it above his head. “Good lesson to learn. Ready to rescue everyone?”

Robin shoved down the hatch and yanked the door open. He ventured a brief glance inside, and immediately regretted it when a tongue of flame hit him. He dove backwards, rolling on the ground. “Fire, fire, fire!”

“Moron.” Zulas sighed. He ran in himself. Robin got up and checked to see that nothing was burning. He stared at the open warehouse, sighed. Well, I got this for a reason. Robin reached into his coat, chugged a pure water and ran in himself.

And was promptly attacked.

Why!? Robin cursed as he parried the blade. His opponent was bigger than him, stronger than him, and had a larger sword. And was trying to kill him. I was trying to help!

The man swiped his blade at him again, but Robin easily dodged. Robin struck back and connected, leaving a dent in the man’s breastplate. His opponent roared, but couldn’t hit him on the return strike. Smoke inhalation. Blindness. Robin realized. This guy can’t beat me. Wait. Those are only happening because the whole building is on fire. Which means that will happen to me if I stay in here.

“Sorry about this … probably.” Robin dove and rolled past his attacked, dropped his spellbook and gripped his sword two handed. He swung the blunt side on the back of the man’s head. His opponent dropped like a stone. Robin sighed, dropped the sword and began hauling the man out of the building.

“Robin!” Robin turned to see Zulas, carrying a man on his back. “Good to see you found one too. How are you holding up?”

“Fine?” Robin said. “Urk. This guy is heavy. But fine.”

Zulas ran ahead, dropping his man off. Robin turned back, to the see the whole barn aflame. Shouldn’t I be feeling that?

“Wow.” Zulas showed up and helped Robin drag the man outside. “Your resistance is pretty incredible. Like, seriously.”

“Resistance?” Robin asked, once they were outside. “What do you mean?”

“Y’know. Resistance to magic and the elements.” Zulas said. “I got a talisman awhile back to let me take the heat, but you seem to have no problem.”

“Oh, that.” Robin grinned. “I drank some pure water.”

“Huh. I didn’t know water could do that.”

“Not water. Pure water.” Robin waved the vial. “This stuff?”

“I know, I’m just messing with you.” Zulas grinned. He looked at the man he carried outside and frowned. “So, did you get the captain? Because I didn’t.”

“Ah, is this the captain?” Robin asked.

Zulas looked at the unconscious body that Robin had dragged. “Yup.”

“Ah.” Robin took a step back. “Well, glad to be helping, but I really got to go. Um, look at the time. Where does it all go? So, glad to help, see you, remember my name isn’t-”

A lightning bolt arced into him from the burning warehouse. Oh. Robin’s mind thought, in the nanosecond before the charge hit his brain. I dropped my spell book in there. I guess it reacts violently when burnt. Good to know for the future, I suppose and agggggghhh! A bolt hit Zulas as well, but he shrugged it off. And a bolt hit both unconscious bodies.

Robin slumped to his knees, shocked. So he could only stare dimly as the unit’s captain, Glass rose to his feet and began mouthing orders. Robin was sure that there were words coming from his mouth, he just didn’t know what they were.

Then Zulas hit him in the face with the haft of his spear.

No good deed goes unpunished.

 -Report to REDACTED from REDACTED, XX/X/XX-

Bandit activity has increased in Ylisse. From the reports, it’s only increased near the Ylissean-Plegian border. Strange, right? What are the odds. It’s almost like Plegia is attacking them with the cover of bandits, but that’s impossible… nah, who are we kidding? The Ylissean-Plegian war is gonna start over again. I’ve got fifty gold they’ll be at each other’s throat in the month.