Genso Suikoden

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Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn
A Genso Suikoden Fanfic
By: Aaron Nowack

Part 2: Sorrow

"The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal- every other affliction to forget: but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open."
     - Washington Irving

Disclaimer: The Genso Suikoden game series is made and owned by Konami. As I am neither a corporation nor Japanese, that would not be me. The title of this fic is stolen from the title of a fantasy novel series by Tad Williams, who is also not me. This fic brought to you by a random dog. Kooooooooon.

Almost immediately, Kasumi faced a difficult question: which direction did Tir go? The walls of Gregminster were still broken in a dozen places, so interrogating the gate guards would be useless. It was too much to hope for that he would leave some evidence of his passage. Even this early in the morning, far too many people would have entered and left the city for any such trace to survive.

Still, Kasumi decided that heading south was the best option. Tir would almost certainly try to leave Arlus, and the only easy ways out were Banner Pass to the north and the Fortress of Kwaba to the south. The Banner Pass was under Jowston occupation, and Kasumi doubted that Tir would try to slip through enemy lines.

It was close to noon when Kasumi reached the city of Lenankamp, one of the few cities in Arlus besides Gregminster to have survived the war mostly intact. Tir would almost certainly have passed through while most people were still asleep, so Kasumi conducted only the most cursory of investigations before continuing on her way.

The Fortress of Kwaba provided more enlightening information. The fortress guards remembered the boy who had been waiting outside when the gates had been opened in the morning, and they agreed that he matched the description Kasumi gave of her "runaway brother." Knowing that she was most of a day behind Tir, Kasumi chose to press on despite the fact that it was already closer to nightfall than noon. She spent a cold night in a grove of trees halfway between Kwaba and the village of Seika.

Kasumi reached Seika early the next morning, and spent an hour interviewing the villagers only to find that no one there had seen Tir. Without any further clues, Kasumi decided to continue to head south along the main road to Kouan. She could only hope she would find something of use there.

It was well past noon when Kasumi noticed the smell of smoke on the air. Worried, she sprinted to the top of the next hill, only to stop at the sight that greeted her. A large caravan was spread out before her, wagons overturned and burning in some places. Nothing seemed to be moving among the wagons- the horses all appeared to have been killed while still hitched.

Kasumi cautiously descended the shallow slope, alert for any danger. When she had convinced herself that no attackers remained, she searched the wagons, and quickly came to the sickening realization that this had to have been one of the grain caravans destined for Gregminster. The attackers, almost certainly bandits, had stolen any valuables that might have been present, but had left a large amount of the grain behind. Most of it was ruined from exposure to the elements.

Oddly, Kasumi could not find any bodies, but an answer shortly presented itself. To the side of the road she found a series of low mounds, roughly carved wooden grave markers placed atop each. Kasumi frowned. No bandits would have buried their victims.

A more careful search revealed signs that a large body of men had left the caravan, heading east towards the Great Forest. However, there were also signs of a more recent passage. A single pair of footprints that had probably been made no earlier than noon. Kasumi had a strong hunch as to who might be following the bandits.

After spending a moment in silent prayer for the dead, Kasumi added another set of footprints to the trail.

Tir McDohl expertly blocked the first two wild sword blows with his quarterstaff, then whirled the weapon about to slam into the bandit's head with a bone-shattering crack. Even before his opponent had fallen, Tir swept the legs out from beneath the bandit's comrade. Before the second bandit could regain his feet, the iron-clad tip of Tir's staff had crushed his windpipe.

Tir let out a heavy breath. He had managed to kill the two sentries before they were able to sound the alarm. It had been remarkably easy to track the bandits here at first- they had not even tried to hide their trail until they entered the forest. After that, Tir had been forced to leave behind some old Liberation Army markings in case the bandit's hideout proved to be too well defended and he was forced to return with help.

Fortunately, it did not seem as though that would be a problem. Stepping past the sentries' corpses, Tir entered the hideout. The first cave was empty, save for a roughly cut set of stairs leading up to another chamber. Obviously the bandits had been here for a long time.

Tir quietly climbed the stairs, then snuck into the next cave, back pressed against the wall. He was in luck. Most of the bandits seemed to all be gathered here, clustered around a few large sacks bulging with valuables.

One of the bandits, apparently the leader, growled as he began to empty the bags onto the stony floor. "Most of this is only copper! This wasn't worth our time."

Scattered mutterings of agreement met this statement, and the bandits began to glare daggers at a portly man clad in a filthy Imperial uniform, who gulped audibly. "But, Skoros, by stopping that caravan, we've dealt a telling blow to the rebel..."

The leader cut him off with an angry wave of his hand and another snarl. "I don't care about the government, Kanaan! You told us the caravan was filled with treasure."

Tir had to suppress a growl himself. Kanaan! The former Vice-Captain of the Imperial Guards, the man was an embodiment of all that had been wrong with the Scarlet Moon Empire: corrupt, incompetent, and a coward to the core. Tir hadn't recognized him at first- despite his still vast size, he had lost a great deal of weight since the last time Tir had seen him.

Kanaan threw himself to his knees. "Lord Skoros, thanks to this raid, we have enough food to last us through the winter!"

Skoros stepped forward, lifting Kanaan up by his neck with one hand- an amazing feat of strength, considering Kanaan's bulk. "And that's the only reason I'm not going to kill you right now for lying to me." The bandit tossed Kanaan against a nearby wall and smirked. "But I'm not gonna tell them not to, either." Kanaan moaned and stumbled away from the group as the other bandits drew their swords, smiles matching their leader's.

Tir decided that this had gone on long enough. He wanted to see Kanaan punished for his true crimes, not killed for lying to bandits. Smiling grimly, Tir stepped into the torchlight. Almost immediately, all attention was focused on him.

"Who are you?" Skoros roared.

Tir ignored him. "This is your first and only chance to surrender. Lay down your weapons and I'll let you live."

Skoros laughed. "There's only one of you, and two dozens of us. Get him, boys!"

The bandits raced forward, and Tir sighed. As they approached, he shifted his staff to his left hand and raised his right. His palm burned, and the torches went out, plunging the cave into near-darkness. Tir could feel space folding and twisting before him, and could hear the bandits' screams.

After a moment, the burning in his palm ceased and Tir smiled. Only Skoros remained standing. The other bandits had fallen where they stood. Tir struck quickly, before Skoros's eyes could finish adjusting to the darkness. Unfortunately, he managed to get his sword up in time to block the attack, then struck back with a series of vicious blows.

Tir's smile widened. Skoros was surprisingly skilled, but he was far from good enough. Tir used his superior speed to dart out of the way of a sword thrust, then brought the bottom of his quarterstaff up between his opponent's legs. As Skoros doubled over in pain, his weapon dropping from suddenly weak hands, Tir swung down with the other end of his staff, solidly connecting with the bandit's head.

Skoros collapsed, unconscious, and Tir didn't hesitate before killing the man with a quick jab of his staff. As he glanced around, he grimaced. Kanaan had fled during the brief battle. Tir considered searching for the former bureaucrat, but decided against it. "After all," he said, thinking out loud, "if I let myself get too distracted, they'll close the Fortress of Garan before I can get through it."

Kasumi frowned as she inspected the two corpses. It didn't take much skill to determine that they had been killed by a blunt weapon and without managing to score a blow on their assailant. Kasumi checked the bodies' temperature. They weren't warm, but they weren't quite cold either. They had died not too long ago. Assuming her hunch was right, she was gaining time on Tir.

The previous night she had pushed herself hard, finally resting close to midnight inside the boundaries of the Great Forest. It had taken her almost an hour to relocate the bandits' trail, but she had found some old signs used by the Liberation Army's scouts, and followed them here.

Deciding not to waste any more time, Kasumi strode into the cave and up the stairs she found within. In the next chamber, she found the rest of the bandits- most of them with not a single mark on their bodies and quite chill to the touch. She knew exactly what had caused those deaths, and shuddered involuntarily as she remembered the last time she had seen it happen.

It had been during the final storming of the Imperial Palace. Ain Gide, the Emperor's last loyal general was dead, but the surviving Imperial Guards had fought on, refusing to surrender. Tir had lead the spearhead of the assault, determined to find and slay Barbarossa before the Golden Emperor could escape to one day raise the banner of the Empire once again. It had seemed that they could hardly take five steps without another squad of elite soldiers pouring out of a side corridor with battle-cries on their lips.

Yet each time, before they could strike, Tir had simply raised his right hand and summoned forth the power of his rune. Reality itself would seem to twist into impossible configurations, and when it was over the guardsmen would be dead. Somewhere along the course of the assault, Kasumi had been separated from Tir, and she hadn't witnessed the final confrontation with Barbarossa, but given the stories Valeria had told her of it, she felt that was no great loss.

Shaking her head to clear it, Kasumi stopped reminiscing and pondered the problem at hand. She knew that Tir had to have been here- this was the Souleater's work, after all. The question was where he had gone next.

Kasumi's head almost jerked up as she heard a shuffling behind her. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed a portly man in an Imperial uniform holding a rusty knife and attempting- rather poorly- to sneak up behind her. She waited until the man was almost upon her before whirling about and disarming him.

A moment later she was holding the man's own weapon to his throat. "The man who did this," she said. "Tell me where he went if you want to live."

"He... he said something about the fortress of Garan!" the man managed to squeal out after babbling incoherently for a moment.

For a moment Kasumi considered killing the man- he was most likely another bandit, after all. But in the end she decided it was better to stick with her implied promise and lightly pushed the man aside. "If you've lied to me," Kasumi said pleasantly, "I will track you down and make you wish you hadn't."

Her captive almost immediately began to babble about how truthful he was and how much she could trust him. Kasumi decided he probably was telling the truth, for he seemed far too frightened to lie. After making this decision, Kasumi wordlessly left the bandit hideout. It was already close to nightfall, but Garan was on the far side of the Gouran region from the Great Forest. If she hoped to get there before Tir, she would have little sleep that night.

Vice President Lepant sighed as he shuffled the latest reports around on the table. The much reduced Provisional Council was meeting, but Lepant found himself distracted. The future constantly preyed on his mind- would the Toran Republic live to replace the Scarlet Moon Empire, or would it wind up as little more than a footnote in the annals of history?

Lepant looked up as the double doors at the front of the throne room opened, revealing Valeria, the dust of her quick journey still on her uniform. "Ah, General Haia. Timely as ever."

Valeria slumped into her usual seat, nodding briefly at Joshua, who had returned from the Knighthood of the Dragon's Den while she was away. "Where's the Admiral?"

"Sonya's gone to oversee the rebuilding of Shasarazade," Lepant said. "Do you have any news for us?"

"Our forces near the Banner Pass have been alerted, but there's no sign that President McDohl is headed that way. I take it Rossman hasn't reported yet?"

Warren shook his head. "Not yet. However, we have received a report from General Hazil, and your input would be greatly appreciated."

Lepant nodded. "Yes." The report was passed down the table to Valeria, who quickly perused it. She rubbed her head softly. She had ridden with almost no rest to quickly reach the Banner front and return, and being presented with this immediately afterward was too much.

"I see," she began. "This is very troubling news, if accurate. Does anyone have a map?" After one had been procured, Valeria studied it a moment before continuing. "According to the report, Jowston forces have managed to breach our defenses east of the northern checkpoint. If they manage to start another push before Hazil can close the gap or winter falls, there's any number of troublesome things they could try."

"What's the worst case scenario?" Lepant asked.

"Worst case? That Jowston manages seize Antei and Scarletica, forcing Hazil to abandon the northern checkpoint or risk being cut off. If they manage that, we could lose all of Kunan and Lorimar in the spring offensives." She did not need to state that that would be a death blow to the Republic.

"What are our options?" Lepant asked.

"We'll have to send reinforcements. Hazil can't close the breach and regarrison Scarletica at the same time."

"But we don't have any reinforcements to send!" Warren protested with a grimace. "If we pull men off the Banner front, South Window will break through and attack Gregminster!"

"Didn't I mention?" Valeria asked tiredly. "The first snows have fallen in Banner Pass."

Joshua looked up. "Are you sure, Valeria?"

"Of course I'm sure," she replied. "Jowston won't be able to move forces through the pass until spring."

"But can we get reinforcements to Kunan fast enough to make a difference?" Lepant asked.

Valeria's shoulders slumped. "I doubt it. It'll take weeks, if not a whole month, to march an army that far."

The throne room doors opened again, and a young guardsman stepped inside. "Vice President, there is a Kun To here to see you."

Lepant suddenly smiled. "Send the scoundrel in." When the old merchant was presented, Lepant rose to greet him. "You got here quickly."

Kun To shrugged as Lepant lead him to a seat. "I was overseeing some deliveries to the Floating Fortress, and Admiral Schulen said you wanted to speak with me."

"That's perfect," Lepant said, his smile widening as he sat. "We have a cargo for you so your ships don't have to make the return voyage empty."

"What type of cargo?" Kun To asked.


Valeria did some quick calculations in her head. "Five thousand soldiers."

Kun To frowned. "Soldiers? And I suppose you expect me to provide provisions for the voyage?"

Valeria shook her head. "I think we can handle that ourselves."

Kun To pondered for a moment, then shook his head. "I already have a cargo lined up, one that will make me a great deal of money, not more promises that might never be fulfilled."

"I wouldn't be so hasty, old friend," Warren said. "You wouldn't want to have to have all that cargo hand-searched for contraband, would you?"

"You people wouldn't do that to a former comrade-in-arms, would you?" Kun To asked plaintively.

"Not if he acted like one, Kun To," Joshua said with a laugh.

Kun To sighed. "You're all out to ruin me." Then he chuckled and shrugged. "Ah, well. Once more for not-so-old time's sake, I suppose. But I expect the government to provide warehouse space for my cargo while I handle this."

Lepant nodded. "We can manage that. Valeria, if you would begin the preparations?"

Valeria nodded and rose, stifling a yawn. "Of course."

Joshua rose as well. "I will return to the Dragon's Den. I believe I can spare a wing of dragons to help Kasim." When Lepant nodded, he turned and followed Valeria out of the room.

Kun To began to rise, but was stopped when Warren spoke. "Before you leave, Kun To, I'd like to speak with you about grain shipments...."

Kasumi grimaced as she left the fortress of Garan. Far too many people had passed through recently for the guards there to remember whether anyone matching Tir's description had been among them. Once again without clues, Kasumi tried to figure out where Tir could be headed.

Much of this region was sparsely settled, and there were any number of places to hide. It was possible that Tir might head to the hills south of Rikon and set up a hermitage like old Liukan, but if that was his plan she had little chance of finding him. The villages of the region held little of interest, and Tir would surely be stopped at the northern checkpoint or the entrance to the Dragon's Den. That left Lorimar or Soniere Prison.

Both were in the same direction, so Kasumi set out without further delay. It took her a day and a half to reach the imposing fortress of Soniere. She was briefly surprised at the lack of guards, but then she remembered that the prison, once the final resting place for hundreds of rebels, had been left abandoned when the Empire had withdrawn from this region, the Liberation Army refusing to use such a painful symbol of the old regime.

Kasumi quietly opened the gate, which was slightly ajar, and was gratified to note a trail of footprints in the dust leading into the prison, but not out. It seemed as though she had finally caught up with Tir.

The silence was oppressive as she entered the fortress, taking a moment to light a torch, as the interior was dark as a tomb. Kasumi followed the trail of footprints deep into the fortress, past what had to have been the barracks for the Imperial garrison.

Kasumi froze as she heard a low moan, only to drop to the ground just in time to avoid a forked bolt of lightning. She whirled about, faced with the sight of a slightly glowing, ethereal form that held a playing card almost as large as it was.

She had heard tales of these spirits, called Nightmares. They had apparently been attracted by the misery of the prisoners in Soniere and infested the dungeons. The imperial garrison had done little to eradicate them, instead choosing to venture into the lower levels only in large groups. Since the fortress's abandonment, they must have escaped into the above-ground portions as well.

Kasumi darted forward, striking out at the spirit with her free hand. With a foul screech the ethereal being dissolved, but a moment later another had appeared out of the darkness. Kasumi tensed, preparing to dodge whatever magic the second spirit would summon.

Before it could, however, it vanished in a pillar of utter darkness. When the pillar dissipated, the spirit was simply... gone. Kasumi could somehow feel other Nightmares fleeing.

Tir stepped through a door and into the room, lowering his right hand. He stared at Kasumi for a moment. "Why are you following me?"

"Because you're needed back in Gregminster." Kasumi took a step forward, only to be matched by a backwards movement on Tir's part.

"No I'm not," Tir said. "Lepant and Warren run everything anyways. They can certainly handle it without me."

"But the people don't believe in Lepant and Warren, They believe in you, Tir. You're their hero, the one who liberated them from oppression."

Tir growled, suddenly taking a step forward. "I never wanted to be a hero, you realize. I just wanted to help my friends... help Ted, and then Viktor. I wanted to keep a promise to a dying woman, who saw something in me I'm not sure was ever there. I never wanted to be a hero, though." Tir laughed suddenly. "I never even wanted to be a general like my father. I just wanted to live a quiet life and for everyone to leave me ALONE."

As Tir spoke, darkness gathered in his right hand, and Kasumi shrank back. "Tir," she began, her voice trembling from fear.

Tir shook, suddenly seeming to notice the power in his hand. "No," he said coldly. Slowly the darkness faded away, and Tir slumped as though he had just fought a terrible battle.

Kasumi started to approach, but backed away when Tir raised his right arm. He slowly circled around her, until he stood between her and the exit. "Do not follow me again. It won't be safe for you," he said harshly, and turned to leave.

Kasumi waited only until he was out of sight before heading for the exit herself.

Tir frowned as he stared at the small campfire he had allowed himself this night. The feeble heat it provided did little to ward off the chill autumn air, though Tir hardly noticed the stiff wind that caused the flames to flicker fitfully. There was no moon in the sky, yet Tir found that he could see as well as if it had been present and full.

He slowly shook his head, staring at the silent rune on his palm. At times it seemed alive, with a will of its own, but for now it was quiescent. It was still amazing to him that such raw power was, for the most part, his to command. That so long as he held this Rune, he would never age.

Tir clenched his fist, nails biting into his palm. The Cursed Rune was aptly named. He would never age, yes, but he would have to spend his immortal life alone. He could not afford to become close to anyone, lest the Rune consume them as it had so many others over the centuries. Not even....

She had to have followed him, he knew. She was in love with him. Tir wondered what it would be like to love someone. He thought that, maybe, if things were different, he might have been able to love Kasumi. As things were though... she was an annoyance. An annoyance he was fond of, but irritating all the same.

Tir's right hand twitched, and he looked up. After a moment, he sighed. "You can come out."

Kasumi stepped out of the darkness. "How did you spot me?"

"I didn't." Tir ignored Kasumi's questioning look. "I seem to recall asking you not to follow me."

Kasumi took a seat across the small campfire from Tir. "Sorry," she said quietly. "I still have to take you back to Gregminster."

Tir glowered at the ninja for a moment. "And how do you expect to do that?"

Kasumi dropped her gaze, and after a moment Tir sighed. "All right. You can take first watch. I'm going to get some sleep." When Kasumi nodded, Tir began to spread out his bedroll.

Kasumi watched him for a moment, then spoke. "Will you please think about going back?"

Tir looked up. "Tomorrow morning, we go our separate ways."

When Kasumi awoke, Tir was gone, as she had expected. He couldn't have gone far though. Even if he had left as soon as Kasumi had fallen asleep, he could only have a few hours' lead. Kasumi gathered up her few possessions and set about determining where Tir had gone.

It was surprisingly easy. Too easy, in fact. The trail leading north was obvious. It seemed as though Tir had put no effort into hiding his path. Frowning, Kasumi began to follow, keeping a careful eye on the trail.

An hour later, her suspicions were fulfilled, as she spotted a much better hidden path curving away back to the south. The northward trail continued on, but Kasumi knew that it would begin to vanish not far ahead. Kasumi shook her head. Did Tir really think that she would fall for that old trick? She was a trained ninja, not some half-blind soldier.

Kasumi was about to head back south when she heard thunder on the horizon. It was the wrong season for storms. Kasumi looked up, and her sharp eyesight quickly picked out a dust cloud not too far to the north. Cavalry, and moving at a quick pace.

With a regretful look at Tir's path, Kasumi turned again and began to run to the north. From the size of the cloud, there were at least a thousand men north of her, and that many soldiers never meant good news.

Her fears were confirmed when she got close enough to spot the banners. The flag of the Jowston Alliance was the largest, but there were South Window and Tinto banners scattered about the column. They had to have gotten past the northern defenses somehow.

Kasumi quickly estimated their position and direction, and grimaced. They were headed for Antei. Kasumi glanced towards the south for a moment, before turning and beginning to race towards the village. If she was fast enough, she could reach it in time to bring warning and organize a defense.

As she ran, the full implications of what was occuring ran through her head. She was no military expert, but she knew that if the City-states could get this many soldiers past General Hazil's defenses, it made the Republic's position on this front extremely weak. She did not want to consider what would happen if Jowston was able to cut Hazil's army off from the rest of Toran.

Close to noon, Kasumi left the road and began to cut across the countryside, but she didn't allow her run to slow. The slightest delay would be disastrous.

Frederick Granmeyer reined in his horse as he reached the top of the hill overlooking the village of Antei. Already flames were beginning to rise as the Tinto heavy infantry began to force its way into the small town. Frederick frowned a moment, then rode forward a short distance.

The South Window general slowly dismounted, then handed the reins over to a nearby soldier. Looking at the younger man was a painful reminder of his own age. Frederick's hair was now at least as much silver as black, and even the slightest exercise was accompanied by a multitude of aches and pains, the inevitable price of half a century of life.

He quickly strode over to where the mayor of Tinto was observing the proceedings with a collection of officers, servants, and politicians. As he forced his way through the crowd, Frederick nodded respectfully to the first group, ignored the second, and wished he could ignore the third.

"Do your scouts report anything?" Gustav asked him as he approached.

Frederick shook his head as the two walked away from the crowd surrounding the mayor to discuss matters privately. "No, Mayor. There's no sign that Hazil knows we're already past him."

"Good," Gustav grunted. "I'll be able to commit my reserves to the battle then."

"Your reserves? There should be no need for that. We're facing a village garrison, not the Hundred Man Brigade!"

Gustav shook his head. "Someone must have spotted us. The Torani had a few hours at least to prepare defenses, and we're going to take heavy casualties trying to get through them."

"Better not to try then," Frederick replied. "We can't afford the time. No matter how well my cavalry screen us, Hazil won't be blind to us for long. Just by striking at all, we've accomplished our goal. Hazil will be forced to abandon the northern defenses, or he'll be spread so thin trying to garrison all of Kunan that we'll be able to take them."

"Bah." Gustav frowned. "I won't let these scum think they've driven Gustav Pendragon of Tinto away!"

Frederick scowled to match Gustav. "Your Excellency, I must insist that you-" The aging general trailed of as his eye caught a flash of color and movement. "Get down," he hissed, sword springing from its sheath.

Kasumi growled a curse under her breath as the other man's warning allowed the mayor of Tinto to avoid her first attack. She spun around, delivering a solid blow to the side of Gustav's head that sent the man tumbling to the ground. However, before she could finish him off, the man who had warned Gustav interposed himself between them, and it took all of Kasumi's reflexes to avoid being split in two by his first lightning-fast sword blow.

Kasumi rolled to the left to avoid another blow, then raked out with her metal claws. Unfortunately, they did little more than scratch her opponent's well-cared for breastplate, and a third strike forced Kasumi to retreat.

"You're a quick one," the man said as he too took a step back. "A Rokakku ninja?"

Kasumi ignored the question, and fell into a wary defensive stance. This man was surprisingly good, considering his apparent age. Out of the corner of her eye, Kasumi noted a group of Jowston soldiers approaching, and regretfully decided that her mission was a failure. A pity, but even if the mayor of Tinto lived, she had managed to warn the Antei garrison of the attack in time.

Kasumi tensed to spring back, keeping a careful eye on her opponent. The man seemed amused, of all things! Kasumi risked a glance backward to confirm the position of the approaching soldiers, then pulled a small smoke bomb from her tunic and hurled it to the ground.

Kasumi closed her eyes to protect them from the acrid fumes, and began to quietly creep away. She smiled tightly as she heard curses from the nearby soldiers, easing her attempt to slip past them. A few moments later, she emerged from the smoke cloud, and her smile widened as she realized that she had a clear path back to Antei.

"Leaving so soon, ninja?" Kasumi's smile faltered as she turned to see her opponent striding unconcerned from the still billowing smoke cloud, sword ready. The man smiled and continued, "We can't have that, can we?"

After weighing her options, Kasumi turned and broke into a run. The man was simply too good for her to be confident of taking him down before the other soldiers emerged from the smoke cloud. However, she was sure she could outrun him, particularly as he was burdened by his heavy armor.

Behind her the man barked a harsh laugh, followed by several even harsher syllables. Kasumi instantly began to roll to the side, but she wasn't fast enough. With a hideous crack, Kasumi felt a bolt of lightning hit her from behind, and she was unable to bite back the primal scream that came unbidden from her throat as it spent its power on her flesh.

Kasumi fell to the ground, limbs still twitching from the shock, and she was unable to do more than moan in protest as her opponent approached and expertly disarmed her, then bound her arms and legs.

"I'm sure you have some more tricks up your sleeve, but that should hold you for the moment."

A Jowston soldier approached and bowed to the man. "General Granmeyer, Lord Pendragon is still unconscious. What are your orders, sir?"

The general turned and looked at the town for a moment. "Sound the retreat. We've accomplished our goal for today. And assign a detail to guard the prisoner. Make sure they search her thoroughly for hidden weapons."

The soldier saluted. "Yes, sir."

Tir stared up at the imposing walls of Fort Lorimar, which guarded the road into the province of the same name. This fortress, traditionally the site for traitors' executions, rivaled even Soniere Prison in the dread which its name inspired. However, unlike Soniere, Lorimar served a strategic purpose, and so was still garrisoned by the Toran Republic.

It had taken Tir quite a while to reach the fortress, as he had spent several days laying false trails to distract the pursuer he was sure he had. It surprised him that he had not seen her since he had snuck out of their shared camp. He had thought Kasumi was a good enough tracker to see past his deceptions. Surely she hadn't actually gone back to Gregminster?

However, a more pressing question soon came to him. It was well past dawn, yet the gates of Lorimar remained closed. Admittedly, there was not exactly a large crowd seeking passage, for he was the only one, but the fortress still should have opened its gates as soon as the sun rose. With a sigh, Tir decided that the only way to find out why they hadn't done so was to ask.

As Tir approached the gates, one of the gate guards spoke. "I'm afraid you can't pass. The fortress of Lorimar is closed until further notice."

"Why?" Tir asked.

"Haven't you heard?" When Tir shook his head, the guard continued. "Jowston attacked Antei three days ago. I hear they even captured one of the Provisional Council members. Until we're certain there's no further threat, the fortress is closed to all travelers."

"One of the Provisional Council? Who?" Tir asked, worried.

The guard shrugged. "I don't know."

Tir was sure he knew the answer, though. If it had been General Hazil, the soldier would surely have known. There was only one other council member in Kunan....

Tir turned and headed north.

Author's Random Ramblings

1) Well Part 2 took far far longer than I expected, but... that's the life of a fanfic writer, I suppose. One more part left. The only question is whether I'll finish Shades of Gray or this first.

2) Thanks to Ryan Hupp for his thorough, if quite slow, prereading efforts. Without his aid, this fic would be far poorer.

3) Frederick Granmeyer is not the same Granmeyer who is South Window's mayor and appears in Suikoden II. Frederick is his uncle.

4) The previous part of this fanfic has not been archived anywhere, but should be available in any general FFML archives, and is also available on request (via private e-mail please, not through the FFML!) C&C on both parts is, of course, greatly desired and appreciated.