I’ve always been fond of this chapter, but what I remember most is it being a seemingly impossible hurdle during my hard mode playthrough. It was one of those ones that I had to set aside for several months and come back to with a clear head, and it really can be that tricky. It’s never cheap, though, instead managing to be difficult in an entirely fair way. This is also where we’ll recruit another character, and it’s the last character you’d ever expect to join up. The whole thing is so random that I legitimately didn’t know that it was even possible until this playthrough.
Ike is kind of freaked out about Zelgius being the Black Knight, so he’s determined to reach the Tower of Guidance and get answers at all costs. But then it starts raining and his group decides to find shelter for the night instead of pushing on.
They’re in the area of Tanas, so they take shelter in Oliver’s old house. If this all seems vaguely familiar, it’s because we fought (and ostensibly killed) Oliver back in chapter 17 of Path of Radiance, and we investigated him a chapter before that (which included a conversation with this very same area as the background).
Soren mentions that they’re “presumably the first people to set foot” in the mansion after Oliver was posthumously found guilty for slavery. Apparently the senate confiscated all of his lands and possessions after Path of Radiance’s war ended, so there should be no one living inside. Titania mentions that someone must be there, though, because the entire area is spotless. They basically all shrug and assume that there must have been some obsessively clean squatters or something.
Rafiel gets a strange feeling that they’re being watched, and though he senses no malice from whoever’s watching, it’s probably not a good sign.
YOU’RE A DIRTY LIAR AIMEE WE CAN ALL SEE THAT YOU HAVE TWO KEYS
Ike’s going to be seeing a lot of combat in this chapter, so putting a Paragon skill on him (this particular one was the one I put on Soren a long time ago) is a good idea to maximize the amount of experience earned. He’s actually going to end up hitting level 20 by the end of this stage despite my best efforts to avoid him doing so; I wanted to use bonus experience for his last few levels, but that didn’t work out.
Nailah is going to be a superstar during the upcoming stage, and while giving her a Renewal skill isn’t technically necessary (Soren could always just heal her now that he can use staves), having her regenerate her health makes things less risky.
There are no support conversations during this chapter. I looked it up and there’s apparently one, but it’s only available if Volug is in this group with Nailah. It’d be pointless to have so many powerful characters in one army, though, so I’m fine with missing out on it. After leaving the base menu, Rafiel bursts in and tells Ike to come quickly because their “friends are in trouble.” Forgetting to include details must be some kind of heron trait that’s drilled into them from a young age or something.
The friends Rafiel mentioned are Tormod, Maurim, and Vika. Keeping them alive during this stage is a pain on hard mode, but it’s quite a bit easier on normal. Especially once you know that one of the reinforcements who warps in one the right side of the screen shows up with long-range magic. Anyway, Tormod hasn’t seen Ike since Path of Radiance, and between him and Sothe, he’s starting to get a bit self-conscious about how everyone but him seems to have grown up since.
Since Rafiel isn’t a combat unit, he has plenty of inventory space for keys. That’ll allow combat units to bring a ton of weapons without having to waste room on keys. I had a pair of keys sitting around in the convoy already, so buying the two pairs Aimee sells during this chapter gave the group six keys to use. It’s not necessary to bring all six since an enemy drops another pair of keys, but I like to play it safe.
Ike, Mia, and Titania all go right from the starting position, and taking out the early enemies in the middle of the level (including the guy on the above platform) really helps keep Tormod and Vika out of trouble. Ike and Mia will hang around the bottom-middle/bottom-right area for awhile because that’s where the guy with long-range magic will show up, and he needs to be intercepted before he gets far enough to attack our weak units. As for Titania, she’s there to help clear out the initial enemies, but she’ll eventually circle back around and back up everyone else. Speaking of which, Nailah, Soren, and Maurim take out some of the enemies on the left. The goal is to get to the first room with the treasure chests and use that as a defensive point to protect everyone who isn’t Nailah, Titania, Ike, or Mia. Reinforcements will teleport in before long, including one guy inside the room, but Soren has enough firepower to take care of it, and Nailah guards to door to keep everyone else out.
There’s a guy with a Sleep staff for this one, but he’s near the boss. Who is Oliver. Who is alive. Let’s address that bit first: Oliver’s life was somehow saved by the other senators after we beat him, and not only is he the boss of this level, but he’s also the recruitable character. To recruit him, you have to move Rafiel near him, at which point he’ll rush forward and join up to protect him or something. It’s kind of nuts and counter-intuitive, which is why I’ve never recruited him (or even known that it was possible) until now, but it’s actually pretty simple to pull off. He doesn’t move except to get to Rafiel, so you just have to kill (or evaporate the weapons of) everyone who can attack. As for the guy with the Sleep staff, the trick is to break the level up into two parts and not move any characters up over the center stairs until reinforcements stop showing up. Then the strong units take the lead, and the others can take on the few enemies who rush forward once you reach that point even if someone falls asleep. It might be easier to use a Restore staff for this stage like the last one, but I always forget to bring one, hence this strategy. Once the sleep staff is used up, the stage becomes incredibly simple; Ike and Mia go left and start clearing out the area around Oliver, Nailah and Titania take keys from Rafiel and start opening chests in the two rooms at the upper-right, and Rafiel recruits Oliver when it’s safe. Then everything else is killed and the stage is finished. Nice and easy.
After all of the Disciples of Order who warped in are finished off, Hetzel shows up and chalks the whole thing up as being the “will of the goddess.” Rafiel and Hetzel recognize each other, and Hetzel is genuinely happy to see that Rafiel is still alive (whereas Rafiel isn’t happy to see him), having apparently assumed that he had died. He tries to tell Rafiel that he was against the Serenes Massacre plan and argued against it, but eventually decides that it doesn’t matter anymore. He warps away, but not before warning Rafiel not to go to the capital and anger the goddess.
Going down memory lane with Hetzel has taken a lot out of Rafiel, so Nailah takes him away to rest. In the meantime, Ike asks Tormod’s group why they came to Oliver’s mansion, and they respond by telling him that they both saw the tower in a dream and took it as a divine instruction to head there, so their path just happened to cross ours at the mansion. Dreams definitely appear to be Yune’s go-to play.
Later, Rafiel is feeling better, so Ike starts asking him questions about Hetzel. He explains that before the Serenes Massacre, he had been captured by slave traders and sold at auction. Hetzel spent much of his fortune in a bidding war with the other senators, and when Rafiel became deathly ill shortly afterward, he brought him to a temple and nursed him back to health. He mentions that Hetzel technically saved his life, though the illness eventually left Rafiel unable to fly.
Hetzel felt so bad about all of this that he told Rafiel that he could return to the forest once he healed, and Rafiel notes that he could sense that he was telling the truth.
Then the Serenes Massacre happened. Hetzel didn’t mention anything about it, but Rafiel notes that he would have felt the suffering of so many of his brethren “from anywhere in the world.” He was overtaken by what was happening and fled, only to end up in the Desert of Death where Nailah saved him.
He has mixed feelings about Hetzel, then, recognizing that he’s not responsible for the massacre, but also knowing that he has “chaos boiling up from his heart” similar to what Rafiel himself feels. Hetzel really isn’t that bad of a guy when you get down to it, but he’s aligned with Ashera and Lekain, and that makes him our enemy.