The Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak had been built generations ago as a gaol for Gridania’s worst criminals. Arsonists, poachers, all those who sought to defile the sanctity of the Twelveswood were held within Toto-Rak underneath Silent Arbor. The network of tunnels was now home to nothing but monsters, and somewhere within the Sylph Elder was hiding from Garlean troops. Should anything happen to him our efforts to secure peace between the Sylph and the Gridanians would be all for naught.

The prison was constructed in a large natural cave system, cramped passages built with cold stone bricks that weaved and intersected, creating a labyrinth of wings and cells. The first thing I noticed upon entering was that the forest had been slowly consuming the prison, returning this man-made structure back to nature. Strange plants that glowed were growing from the hewn rock floor and roots erupted from the walls, some grasping clear across the hall and into the other wall.

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Upon learning that the Sylph Elder had fled into Toto-Rak I immediately contacted the Scions of the Seventh Dawn via linkpearl and requested back up. There were still Garlean sightings in the area and I didn’t want to walk into another trap. With such short notice the Scions were only able to dispatch members that were already in Gridania, and the rest of my support I’d have to field from the Order of the Twin Adder. The only Scion member I had managed to enlist was Eyriwaen, the other two members of my task force consisting of Rae Lenaerys and Mishro Morishro, both Sergeants with the Twin Adder.

Referencing an old map of the complex, we followed the main path into the depths of the jail. I traced my hand along the left wall until we came to a fork in the road.

“This way to the left leads to the the Accusation Chamber,” Eyriwaen indicated. “And this hallway to the right leads to the Confession Chamber. They called it the Way of Penance.”

“Just what kind of jail was this?” Rae asked, her face wrinkled into a frown.

“It certainly isn’t the nice happy jail we have now,” I commented as I followed the left turn toward the Accusation Chamber, continuing to walk with my fingertips tracing along the wall. The Sylph Elder could be anywhere with the jail and that meant we’d need to search every wing and cell. It was a daunting task but we’d need to do it swiftly.

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We entered the Accusation Chamber and my eyes went instantly to a pair of shackles sitting atop a table, a lone chair lay toppled nearby. A quick scan of the room told me that the Sylph Elder wasn’t there, but as I retreated something caught my eye. In the corner of the room amidst the overgrowth there was a bright blue light unlike the light emitted from the biolumiscant plants. I pushed aside the brush and grabbed the source of the light, a small cylindrical device.

“Any idea what this is?” I asked, tossing it to Eyriwaen as he and the rest of the group entered the room. The Roegadyn caught it at the expense of dropping the map which Mishro snagged and began examining.

“This looks like a Magitek Photocell,” Eyriwaen explained. “Garleans use them to power their machines. These ones are small though so I think it’s safe to assume theres no Magitek Reapers roaming around down here.”

“We’d have heard them if there were, they’re a noisy lot for sure.” Mishro agreed.

We left the Accusation Chamber behind and retraced our steps back to the first fork and continued straight down the Way of Penance. It wasn’t long before we came to another split, the path leading forward and another leading left.

“Eyriwaen and I will go down this path,” Rae said, pointing to the branch. “You and Mishro continue this way.”

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“Sounds like a good idea, they both meet at the Confession Chamber,” I said, looking down at the map in Mishro’s hands. “And be sure to keep an eye out for more of those Photocells. I don’t know what they were left here for, but I’d feel better if we had them.”

The Lalafell Pugilist and I continued down the Way of Penance. The further we went into the prison the more the roots from the forest above penetrated the walls and ceiling. Along the way we found another Photcell and searched two prison cells for signs of the Sylph Elder. There wasn’t any evidence that the leafkin had actually been here, but it was indisputable now that there had been Garleans.

As we neared the Confession Chamber the walls around us began to be illuminated by some aetherial light. Upon entering the room we found that the passage deeper into Toto-Rak had been cut off by a magical barrier. In the center of the room there was a device of some sort. I crouched down next to it and began to examine the thing which stood upon three legs. I looked up from the strange device as Rae and Eyriwaen entered from the other passage. The Hyur Marauder held up two new Photocells, bringing our count to four.

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“It looks like the path is blocked and here we are, no keys, no lock.” Mishro said quietly, slumping his shoulders.

“Now, hold on, we can’t give up that easy.” Rae joined the Lalafell’s and comforted him. “We’ll figure out a way past this barrier.”

“What do you make of that machine?” I asked Eyriwaen as Rae and Mishro conversed. “It looks like Garlean Magitek, and it’s got the same kind of Photocells in it.”

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The Roegadyn knelt beside the machine and inspected it. “Ah, you’re right indeed.” He beckoned me closer and I crouched next to him. “It looks like it’s generating the barrier, but removing the Photocells aren’t enough to bring it down. To quote our friend there, this would be the lock.”

I held up the Photocell I had been carrying. “And these are the keys? But how?”

“They’re charged differently,” he answered. He must have realized from the blank stare I gave him that I didn’t understand. “You could say that the energy generated by these installed Photocells is positively charged, and the energy in the ones we have is negatively charged. Install ours, barrier falls.”

“Why would the Garleans lock up the rest of the jail?” I asked.

Eyriwaen shrugged. “I can’t have all the answers.” He then got up and retrieved the rest of our collected Photocells then busily got to work swapping them out. His theory held and the magic barrier collapsed.

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We made haste deeper into Toto-Rak, splitting off at forks to search cells. We spent at least an hour wandering down dead end paths, ironically breaking into cells in hopes of finding the lost Sylph. As we drew further into the gaol I began to notice the webs clinging to the walls. Something, or many somethings, had been busy down here. We finally reached a section of the jail known as the Fool’s Rest where we found a second barrier and Magitek Device.

“Alright, this is getting really weird. Two barriers? What’s down here that they wanted to keep locked up?”

Rae shrugged. “Maybe they found the Elder and he’s locked down there?”

I frowned and watched as Eyriwaen played with the device. Apparently, this one had been loaded with “negatively charged” Photocells and the “positively charged” ones we had taken out of the previous device could be used to unlock the barrier. I simply let the Roegadyn do his thing, as he had been steadily growing more useful at solving life’s little puzzles.

We traveled deeper into the gaol, nearing the very lowest level.

“What is an Abacination Chamber anyway?” Rae asked as she examined the map.

There was a moment of silence before Eyriwaen responded. “It’s a torture chamber.”

“That’s terrible!” Rae gasped.

“What’s more terrible is that until thirty years ago, this place was still operational,” I commented. And yet in a mere thirty years the Twelveswood had already invaded so far into the prison. Thicker and thicker roots had broken through the walls and ceiling and even trees grew here underneath the earth. I was so busy taking in the unnatural sights that I was surprised when I was yanked away by Mishro. I flustered and smacked his hand away from the hem of my skirt.

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“You should be thankful for my grasp, and more mindful of your lasp.” The Lalafell said, pointing forward. Where I had just been about to step the ground had given way and the sinkhole was filled with some sort of green viscous liquid. I apologized to Mishro and began watching my step.

We searched the last large cell, avoiding more and more of the liquid-filled holes as we progressed, and found absolutely nothing. All that was left to be searched was the Abacination Chamber. The winding path downward to the torture chamber was also scoured with puddles. It was difficult to avoid the clinging substance, and it was made even more so when a great mass of diremites came rushing up the passage. We stood our ground and fought off any of the spider-like creatures that attacked us, but the vast majority of the group just continued on their way up the passage and back into the upper levels of Toto-Rak.

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“That was weird…” I commented after our first encounter with monsters within the gaol. “I thought this place was supposed to be swimming with all sorts of creatures…”

We pressed on and entered the Abacination Chamber, the source of the numerous diremites. The room was large and circular with an upraised circular platform in the center of the room. I couldn’t guess what the lower floor of the outside edge was originally intended for, but now it was filled with that green sticky good. The walls and ceiling were completely covered with thick webs and eggs of all sizes. I could see the liquid slowly pouring out to the floor below from eggs that had already hatched. It was clear now that the diremites had just hatched. I jumped carefully from rock to rock, avoiding the sticky goo, and landed safely on the center platform.

I examined myself, making sure that I had all of my belongings and that I hadn’t gotten any of the goo on me when I noticed the presence of someone else in the room. I looked up and saw a man in a black cloak wearing a red mask. His robes were adorned with intricate patterns in deep hues of purple and silver embossments. He wore spiked pauldrons down his shoulders and upper arms and wore clawed gauntlets on his hands. He let out a ringing laugh and I winced, feeling that wave of wrongness wash over me.

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Darkness… The voice of Hydaelan whispered in my ear a single word. Then the Ascian then laughed and began to speak.

“The mighty slayer of Ifrit comes now to me.” The Ascian spoke in a twisted tongue, but thanks to the Echo I could understand his words. “...With a countenance that bespeaks understanding. An intriguing power, the Echo, I must needs choose my words with care.” He smirked, his mouth the only thing his mask didn’t hide. “Mayhap I might if I deign to speak in my guest’s crude tongue. We meet at last.,” he said in the common language of Eorzea.

“Who are you?” I demanded. I spared a quick glance to see that my companions had just crossed the moat of goo and were joining me. Feeling emboldened, I questioned further. “And what are you doing here?”

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The Ascian took a little bow. “I am Lahabrea of the Ascians, servant to the one true God.” He brought his hand to his chin as though thinking for a moment. “Yours is a most fantastical tale. Truly absorbing. It is a tale to tell Eorzea’s children before bedtime, and it will soon be dark, Bringer of Light.”

That title… did this Lahabrea know what I was doing, that I had been tasked by Hydaelan to bring a stop to the darkness he was spreading?

The Dark Minions… Hydaelan’s voice spoke in my head once more.

“All that stands between this world and darkness is an irksome anomaly in the Aether - the Echo. Yes, yours is a most fascinating tale. Alas, like all good tales it must needs come to an end. But fear not…”

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Lahabrea motioned with his hand, darkness coalescing around it and fired off a blast of magic that destroyed a wandering miteling.

Hear… feel….the presence of evil…

“For the end of your tale is but the beginning of another… The tale of the Crystal’s demise!” Lahabrea raised his hand into the air, a symbol of red light appearing over his face as a dark cloud of magic wove its way through the Abacination Chamber.

I stepped forward to lead the charge against the Ascian but he disappeared into the swirling darkness and a massive Banemite dropped from the ceiling landing directly in front of me. Its thirteen eyes glowed bright red in the darkness of the room. I stepped back quickly, throwing open my book.

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“I guess we know where all the Diremites came from,” Rae commented as she readied her axe. She rushed toward the Banemite, swinging her axe. The large monster parried her blow with the stinger on the end of its tail and knocked her aside with a swipe of one of its many legs. Mishro had closed the distance in the blink of an eye and began pummeling the creature. He ducked a leg and side-stepped a thrust of its stinger, displaying the same control of movements he had in Copperbell Mines.

I threw a blast after blast of magic at the monster while Eyriwaen healed Rae’s injuries and Mishro continued punching the creature and dancing away. Once recovered Rae ran back into the fray, swinging her axe at the many limbs. With the creature’s attention completely on the two close range combatants I spared the precious minute to summon a Carbuncle companion. Together we stayed held back and threw volleys of magic at the creature.

The Banemite let out a shrill cry in anger and all about the room the silk eggs began to vibrate irritably. “We’re going to have company very shortly!” I shouted the warning just as the first eggs began to hatch, spilling more of the sticky ooze into the room. Diremites erupted from the eggs and skittered toward us. I turned my attention to them, casting a Miasma to slow their movements and poison them, then throwing missiles of Ruin at them.

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I could feel my reserves of Aether beginning to dwindle as I dealt with the onslaught of mitelings and I flipped through the pages of my grimoire for an appropriate stratagem. I ran through the formula quickly and performed an Aetherflow, drawing in magical energy from the air around me then drew it from the nearest mitelings. Full to bursting with magic I continued my volleys at the encroaching insects.

“Look out!” I heard Rae shout. She slammed her axe into the Banemite’s stinger just in time to deflect it away from Mishro, causing the stinger to slam into the ground and shatter. Poison began spraying from the broken stinger in all directions, causing the two to retreat. The Banemite let out another cry of rage and began attacking once more in earnest. Every time it swung its tail another puddle of poison fell to the ground, causing our viable field of battle to shrink.

I saw Eyriwaen knock a stray miteling away with a blast of water before buffeting the Banemite with a gale of wind. The mitelings were beginning to surround us as more and more hatched. I continued distracting the mitelings, retreating into our ever decreasing area to move about as the Banemite continued to spray the room with its poison. I bumped into Eyriwaen who had stepped back enough to make room for Mishro. Only Rae stood in the poison, her heavy armor hissing and smoking as it was slowly eaten away. At this rate, it wouldn’t last much longer. Rae barely slipped away from a wild blow and landed amongst us.

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With the Banemite bearing down on us and the mitelings literally lining the walls we were trapped with nowhere to run. Mishro stepped forward into the poison on the floor, his leather boots quickly beginning to spit and hiss. I grasped for the Pugilist but he used his evasive skills on me and my fingers just barely missed, and I was grabbed by the waist by Eyriwaen to keep me from falling forward.

“It’s time to teach this fiend a lesson,” Mishro announced. He stepped into a low stance, his right arm back like he were about to throw a punch. The air around him began to spark and churn, a bright light trying to escape from his clenched fist. It looked as if he was holding the sun itself in his hand. “Behold! Final Heaven!” Mishro moved with extreme speed toward the Banemite, the light and sparks trailing behind him in a flash. He moved so fast I could see the wave of his wake in the air. He delivered a single punch square in the Banemite’s face, then flipped backward and away.

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Everything seemed to stop at that moment. Sparks of electricity danced in the air and I wondered if Mishro’s punch had managed to do anything. Then there was a brilliant explosion of light that erupted upward from underneath the Banemite. A halo of light stretched outward above us as the explosion grew wider until it finally dissipated. The Banemite lay in the center of the room unmoving, its poison wiped away by the brilliant light. The room filled with screeching as the mitelings began a mass evacuation, flooding out of the torture chamber and back into the Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak.

I stood for a moment, blinking the light from my eyes until I could see clearly again.

“Just who was that guy?” Rae asked in general.

I spared a glance to Eyriwaen. Did he too know of the Ascians? “I’m not exactly sure. Let’s just say he’s the bad guy and leave it at that for now.”

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Rae looked like she was about to argue my inadequate answer when there was a rustling from above us. We panicked, drawing our weapons once more even though we were in no shape to fight. An object wrapped in diremite silk fell from the ceiling, dropping into the center of the room. It shook for a moment, then to our surprise a Sylph emerged.

This Sylph, a lighter shade green than the others I had been dealing with lately, looked around. “Ah, sinister one is gone. This one can finally feel the fresh air again… though, not that much fresher.” It contemplated its surroundings, then took us in. “Aha, walking ones defeated many-legged one? For that this one is grateful. This one is eldest Sylph, Frixio.”

I felt the all too familiar pain in my head as the Echo came upon me. In the dull vision of the Echo I found myself standing in Little Solace. A number of Garlean troops were standing in the encampment. It seemed that they too had been looking into the Primal Ramuh, though by more forceful means than I. The soldiers conversed for a moment until someone else approached. He wore red armor, his face completely hidden by a large helmet. I immediately recognized him as a Garlean general, but had never seen him before. Both Nael van Darnus and Gaius van Baelsar wore similar armor and helmets. It really was too easy to pick out Garlemald’s top-brass.

The newcomer chastised the troops for treating their Sylph prisoners too roughly, then dismissed them. He spoke for a moment to himself, like many villains do I’ve come to realize, and I had a feeling that this man meant business. He even seemed to have it out for Gaius van Baelsar. I looked away from the man and could see the Elder Sylph Frixio and another Sylph hiding nearby, observing the Garleans. The second Sylph, Noraxia, seemed convinced that all walking ones, people that is, were evil. Frixio disagreed, stating that there were just as many good people as bad ones.

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My vision ended and I was back in Toto-Rak once more. “I represent Gridania and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. I’ve sought you out in order to pursue peaceful discussions concerning your Primal, Ramuh.” I hoped that my introduction sounded good, I wasn’t exactly well versed in diplomacy.

“This one will gladly discuss Ramuh with walking ones,” Frixio said with a nod. “This one will meet walking ones back at Little Solace.” With that Frixio flew out of the Abacination Chamber and into Toto-Rak toward the exit.

We teleported out of the dungeon and regrouped at Buscarron’s Druthers. Eyriwaen left to report to the Twin Adder, while Mishro and Rae left to search out the remains of the Garlean troops hiding in the South Shroud. Before I could leave the tavern, Buscarron asked me to offer a gift to the Sylph Elder, Azeyma Rose Oil. I carefully packed the perfume and rode Gale Claw to Little Solace. Upon arriving I presented the gift to Frixio and we began to speak of Ramuh.

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As I had known, the Sylph had only summoned their Primal once. However, I didn’t realize it had created such a schism amongst the Sylph. The leafkin living in Little Solace had been the ones who had voted against summoning Ramuh after the Calamity, and had thus been banished from their homeland to the northeast. Frixio assured me that even now, the Tempered Sylph had no intention of summoning Ramuh again, and he bid me to investigate for myself.

I headed northeast out of Little Solace and entered the edge of the Sylphlands. I watched for some time, seeing the Tempered Sylph going about their business. I made sure to watch out in the open, and they did in fact notice me, but I was not harassed in any way. I returned to Frixio and he gave me a letter to deliver to the Twin Adder to be then delivered to Kan-E-Senna. After everything that I had gone through to get there, negotiations were finally a success.

Before I could go, Frixio presented me with something that I was not quite expecting. The Elder Sylph handed me a crystal of deep purple hue, thrumming with lightning-attuned Aether. I recognized it instantly as one of the Crystals of Light I had been tasked with finding. I was now in possession of the water, fire, and lightning Crystals of Light. Three down, three to go. But would I be able to find them before it came time to face Lahabrea once and for all?

—-

This one was a really long post. Like, really long. And I cut out two sub-bosses in the dungeon. Ridiculous, isn't it? I had to do quite a bit of artistic license here for this dungeon, seeing as how when you think about it it doesn't make much sense. Two barriers in the dungeon, a Magitek Device at each. You collect batteries, plug them in, and the barriers fall? How? Who put them up? There's a second Magitek Device at the second barrier, so clearly some Garleans made it down that far? But if they did, why the first barrier? It makes little to no sense in terms of story, but makes sense as a "you can't get past here until you beat the mini-boss" thing. I'm encountering more and more of these problems as we go.

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I had completely forgotten about the next storyarc, thinking for some reason we went straight into the Titan arc. The next one is broken down into to smaller parts, one taking place in Thanalan and the other in The Black Shroud. We'll be hot on the tail of Lahabrea and finding out just what those pesky Ascians are up to. And I've got the game up and running through Steam which means I get to take all the screenshots I like in cutscenes, depending on whether or not I can see them again. A couple of the shots from this post were actually gotten that way.

So, where is everyone at? Have you guys caught up with me or overtaken me? Are you glad that you don't have to worry about spoilers, or maybe I managed to clear up something you were confused about? We'll keep on keeping on, we're barely a third of the way through the game and the best is yet to come. Please look forward to it.

EDIT: I gotta remember that posting on here removes all of my previous font settings like when certain things are already italicized...