Chapter 16 is the calm before the storm because the next chapter gets crazy. Really, we just learn some more about the heron massacre and kill a bunch of Oliver’s people (save for one who can be recruited so long as you send one of your younger-looking characters to speak to him, which is only slightly less creepy than it sounds). There are lots of chests full of loot, too, and while I missed out on an item because defeating thieves after they steal more than one item from a chest only returns one thing to you, the loss was limited to a single Physic staff. That’s no big deal given how many vulneraries and other healing items have been saved up.
The trap has been sprung and Reyson is now pretty much imprisoned by Oliver. Thankfully, Oliver has an appreciation for beauty that borders on the absurd, to such an extent that he refuses to allow any harm to befall Reyson. That means he’s safe, or at least as safe as one can be when a megalomaniac considers you his property.
Ike brings Tormod to Sanaki and explains everything he’s learned about how laguz slavery persists in noble houses, to which Sanaki reacts with apparent surprise, claiming that it shouldn’t be possible after her apostle grandmother outlawed it.
Of course, this turns out to be yet another of her weird little games, and all of these tasks were in fact to show us the reality of what’s happening in Begnion so that we can help her to remedy the situation (since, remember, Sanaki’s traditional “allies” are the perpetrators here). She drops the act and tasks Ike with going to Oliver’s villa near the Serenes Forest and finding proof of what he’s up to, promising to support Elincia if he succeeds. That means it’s time to attack a senator’s house!
First, though, the base conversations are kind of interesting. Maurim talks about how he’s familiar with Begnion customs because his entire family was kept as slaves by senators, and mentions that acting out of line could result in a beating or death. Stefan also has a support conversation where he talks to Ike and offers to help teach him swordfighting, deducing from his form that his teacher was lost. You have the option to turn him down, but I’m not entirely certain what happens if you do. Maybe he leaves? I’ve never wanted to risk it, honestly, and obliging causes him to give you a skill and definitely stay in your party. There’s no reason not to choose that, then.
Mia is level 19 and only four experience points away from hitting level 20, so I give her that tiny bit of bonus experience and then have her class change with a Master Seal. That leaves one Master Seal for someone else, and since I figure that Zihark is the most likely to be the one to hit level 20 next, I put it in his inventory so that he can use it during the next stage once he crosses that threshold. Like I mentioned in the last progress log, they could class change by hitting level 21, but having them class change with the Master Seal saves that extra experience for someone else.
Ike and Soren confront Oliver, who allows them to search his villa, while Titania and Mist snoop around in secret. While it initially appears that there’s nothing suspicious to be found, Titania and Mist claim to have seen a heron royal on the top floor who was being forced to remain in the room despite attempting to escape. Naturally, Oliver freaks out and demands that his guards kill every single member of Ike’s team. Since his guards are all complicit in this bit of slavery, this is another chapter where a massacre is justified and doesn’t forfeit the moral high ground.
There are five (!) characters who can recruit Devdan during this stage by talking to him. All of whom are children. Mist, Soren, Rolf, Sothe, and Tormod can all speak to Devdan to convince him to switch sides (he’s only fighting for Oliver because he was caught trespassing while looking at flowers and forced to work for him), and the tricky part of recruiting him is avoiding killing him by accident in your rush to stop an enemy thief who spawns on that side. Zihark got close to finishing him off (a single activation of his “Adept” skill that allows him to attack twice would have been disastrous, as would a critical), but things went pretty smoothly otherwise.
I would have been more aggressive at the start of this stage if I remembered the enemy thief who shows up, but it’s hard to knock defensive play when that’s the only thing that kept the reinforcements who showed up at the starting point from having a free shot at a unit like Mist. It was slow and steady, basically, with a mid-map rush to get Titania over to stop the thief. As mentioned before, I missed out on a Physic staff (long-range healing, basically) because I forgot that thieves only drop one pilfered item. Physic staves aren’t really my style, though, so it’s not a huge loss. Also, I had Titania use one of the three Elixir charges—the very Elixir Nasir gave her back in chapter 3—out of an abundance of caution when she was surrounded by a bunch of enemies on her way to the thief. That was a judgment call, but it’s not a big deal since I always end up with too many healing items at the end of these games.
Zihark indeed hit level 20 and used his Master Seal, which means that I’m out of them for now. The only other thing of note here is that the doors that Volke can unlock have enemies on the other side of them, so it’s best to either have Volke leveled up (which I don’t) or keep some units nearby who can jump in front of him as a shield. The stage goal here is “seize,” so there’s no rush to unlock doors, and sometimes it’s best to wait until you have stronger units in the vicinity.
Ike finally fights his way to Reyson, but if you’ll remember, this particular heron doesn’t have a very good relationship with humanity at the moment. With the guards all dead, Reyson manages to escape on his own into the Serenes Forest and says some not-very-nice things to Ike on his way out. Oliver also escapes and goes after him with a fresh set of guards. Needless to say, Ike is sick of not knowing what’s going on here and demands that Sanaki tells him about the heron massacre.
Nasir explains the basics: that 20 years prior, Sanaki’s grandmother (an incredibly popular apostle) outlawed laguz slavery, but was soon after assassinated. A rumor began to spread claiming that the assassination was the work of the heron clan, and in the Begnion people’s rush to punish someone for the loss of their apostle, they rioted, destroying the forest and slaughtering its inhabitants. Sanaki explains that the rumor was completely false and that the herons have no fighting skill whatsoever (which will be borne out in later gameplay), and the citizens knew this, but that their grief blinded them and caused them to lash out at the herons regardless.
It’s also explained that while Naesala’s people of Kilvas attack all ships equally in order to steal from them, Tibarn’s people of Phoenicis only attack Begnion ships because they were especially close to the heron clan and took the slaughter of their brethren over a false rumor incredibly personally, holding Begnion responsible.
Sanaki turns out to be a pretty decent person, actually, and feels terrible about what her country did. She tells Ike that she wants him to track down Reyson so that she can talk to him. Ike accepts, mentioning that it’ll also give him a chance to finish off Oliver after he slipped through his fingers. Murderous multitasking!
But getting the job done won’t be as fun as it sounds. I remember the next chapter being a serious slog, though I can’t remember any specifics about why. We’ll see.