I spent the better part of a week within the Waking Sands, recovering from my battle with Ifrit and dealing with the churning tempest of emotions that continued to fight within me. Though the others had deemed my victory against the Primal a success, I knew I had failed to save all of those people. The refugees who had been kidnapped, the Flame Sergeant who fought by my side, even Ungust and his cronies. All dead because I wasn’t smart enough, strong enough. I had lived where others had died, and only because of the Echo and the strength of others. Was I really the same woman who had defeated Nael Van Darnus at Rivenroad and stood in the front lines of Cartenau?

Surely I was, with book in hand rather than bow. I had tried to take up the bow again, to feel the thrum of the taut string as I loosed an arrow, but I couldn’t even draw back the string. Even the songs I had sung in battle to aid my comrades had somehow felt lifeless now. That grimoire, however, was something amazing. I had trained in the ways of a Conjurer and knew how to use the Aether in oneself and draw upon the Aether in nature to heal wounds. But the Arcanist’s grimoire was altogether different. The way the stratagems and formulas could be used to shape the Aether into spells that maimed or mended and even brought to life familiars. I was growing more skilled with those magics as the days progressed, but I was still nowhere near what I had been capable of.

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My rest and relaxation in the Waking Sands was interrupted when a number of guests arrived to see me of all people. A representative from each Grand Company of Eorzea had come to enlist the aid of the one who had fought and slain Ifrit. The three soldiers were insistent that I joined one of their armies immediately and Minfilia saved me from making a decision. She informed me that each nation would be holding a remembrance ceremony in honor of those lost during the Calamity. These ceremonies were meant to bolster morale and hopefully spur more people into aiding in recovery efforts. Minfilia suggested attending each ceremony would give me a good view on each of the Grand Companies.

I left the Waking Sands and made the short trip to Ul’Dah where the first ceremony was being held. I had only been to the Royal Promenade in the large palace in the center of Ul’Dah once before, and it was still just as spectacular as I remembered. Ul’Dah, being a rich nation, cut no corners when it came to the grandiose. There was already a large crowd gathered when I arrived and I didn’t have to wait long before the ceremony began. Raubahn, leader of the Immortal Flames, was up on stage and began speaking my very same thoughts about the state of Ul’Dah’s riches. His speech was rousing enough, sure, but as it drew on I noticed that it was nothing more than a recruitment campaign.

As my attention drifted I noticed a pair of Elezen youths, their strange clothing just as striking as their looks, the two were clearly twins. They seemed to be entrenched in a hot debate with one another and I couldn’t help but move closer to listen in. The boy noticed my interest and welcomed me into the conversation. He spoke about Ul’Dah’s tribulations between the Amalj’aa constantly summoning their Primal Ifrit and the large Garlean base of Castrum Meridianum in the Northern Thanalan region. It seemed that the Immortal Flames were stretched thin.

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As the ceremony wound down I could see that Sultana Nanamo Ul Namo, a cherubic Lalafell dressed in enough riches to make an adventurer envious, had joined Raubahn.

She said a few words and the crowd began to depart after a round of cheers and clapping. As we made our exit the Elezen boy introduced himself as Alphinaud, and his sister Alisaie. The girl had been quiet since I joined the conversation, and now stormed off away from us. I couldn’t help but feel that I had somehow stepped into some sort of conflict between the two.

I caught the soonest flight to Limsa Lominsa for their ceremony planned for that evening. This one was held in the Stateroom, the very same room I had attended the banquet in. I saw familiar faces attending the ceremony, Baderon and Commodore Reyner among them. Merlwyb stood at a podium before a large window and spoke of how Limsa Lominsa had been forged from the remains of pirate vessels and grown into the large city it was today. I had planned on paying attention to this speech but noticed that Alphinaud and Alisaie had managed to attend as well.

The twins joined me and we began to speak about the state of Limsa Lominsa. The Maelstrom faced a three-fold threat in La Noscea. First and foremost were the two beastmen tribes, the Sahagin and the Kobold. Just like the Amalj’aa in Thanalan, the two tribes were constantly attempting to summon their Primals, Leviathan and Titan. And like the other city-states, Garlean troops had gained a foothold with their fortress Castrum Occidens. To make matters worse, there was also an oceanic Garlean fortress, Castrum Marinum, that acted as a relay point between Occidens and Meridianum. Limsa Lominsa was certainly pinned in on all sides. It was no wonder that their remembrance ceremony had also become nothing more than a means to recruit members into the Grand Company.

When the ceremony in Limsa Lominsa was over I had to rush to make the airship to Gridania to be there in time for their ceremony the next morning. I managed to get a little sleep on the airship and had enough time to check into a room before I made my way to Mih Khetto’s Amphitheatre where Gridania’s ceremony was being held. When I arrived at the Amphitheatre Kan-E-Senna was just beginning to speak.

I listened intently to her speech, just as easily enraptured by her voice as I had been the first time I met her. My secret admiration of her was interrupted by the Elezen twins who had once again shown up.

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Alphinaud spoke of Gridania’s threats, the Sylph and Ixali, two local beastmen tribes. The Sylph had once been on good terms with Gridania, even going so far as being allies, but the Calamity had changed that and it seemed that they were growing more interested in summoning their Primal Ramuh. The Ixali were a fervent race of bird-like creatures that worshipped the Primal Garuda, a maniacal force of destruction if ever there was one. Like the other city-states of Eorzea, Gridania was caught between two Garlean strongholds. Castrum Oriens to their east, and Castrum Centri to the southwest in Mor Dhona.

Our conversation was halted when Kan-E-Senna asked for a moment of silence for the lives lost to the Calamity. I lowered my head like the rest and waited until she began to speak once more. I had almost turned my full attention back to the Elder Seedseer when Alisaie made an offhand remark and stormed off. I frowned as the girl left with Alphinaud trailing close behind. The two were still debating whatever it was that had been bothering the two from the day before. The final ceremony wrapped up and the large crowd dispersed. I caught one last look at Kan-E-Senna as she left the Amphitheatre and began to mull over my imminent decision.

Each city-state was in a desperate position, boxed in on all sides by beastmen and Garlean forces alike. They needed all the help they could get but at the moment they all wanted me. Would it really matter which Grand Company I joined with? Limsa Lominsa was my first home away from home both before and after the Calamity. Ul’Dah was the richest and largest city-state in Eorzea. Gridania was the home of the one I was most enamored with and held the guilds of my old professions.

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I suppose old habits die hard, because I contacted Minfilia via a linkpearl that the Scions used for communication and told her that I would be applying with the Order of the Twin Adder in Gridania. By the time I reached the Adder’s Nest, the Grand Company headquarters in Gridania, the necessary arrangements had already been made and my arrival was anticipated. I began going through the lengthy process of signing up with the Order of the Twin Adder when a soldier wearing the yellow long-jacket of an officer rushed into the Adder’s Nest. He had an urgent message that a Highwind Skyways airship had been shot down in the East Shroud near Castrum Oriens, Garlean territory.

I wasn’t technically a member of the Grand Company yet, there were still numerous papers to fill out, but I was sent out all the same to lend aid to the crashed vessel. I rented a chocobo and set off into the Black Shroud. I passed Hawthorne Hut and entered the section of the forest known as Nine Ivies. As I approached the crash site I could see smoke pouring into the air from the airship, and could also see a number of Garlean soldiers already at the scene. I dismounted the chocobo and began sneaking up on the group of soldiers. I noticed a Roegadyn in hiding already, he wore the symbol of Garlond Ironworks on his shoulder.

I joined the Roegadyn in hiding and he accused me of being a Garlean spy. Luckily, a handful of Wood Wailers joined us and confirmed my identity before the Roegadyn could give away our position. The Roegadyn, Biggs, told me that another engineer, a Lalafell named Wedge, was still on board the crashed ship. We swiftly moved into position and launched a surprise attack on the Garlean troops.

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The Wood Wailers were Gridania’s army of Lancers and they rushed into close quarters with the Garleans while I held back and healed them. As the Garlean soldiers fell, more came running over the hill enroute from Castrum Oriens. I summoned a Carbuncle Familiar and sent it after a Garlean mage while I lobbed magic at the other enemy troops. Just as it seemed we were winning, a large Garlean Magitek Vanguard crested the hill. The large machines were almost man-like in shape, having rudimentary legs and large arms. However, at the end of those arms were even larger Cermet drills. The Magitek Vanguards were often used for destroying siege weapons and boring into castle walls. It seemed that if the Garleans couldn’t have the airship, no one could.

I threw blast after blast of magic at the machine as it drew nearer until it was upon us. I dashed out of the way of its massive drills that slammed into the dirt where I had been standing. The Wood Wailers were still busily engaged with the enemy soldiers which left only myself to deal with the robot. I slowed it down with a magical miasma and assaulted its frame with a corrosive spell, attempting to draw it away from the downed airship, all the while avoiding swings of its drills. I knew if I was hit even once by the Vanguard there’d be nothing left of me. I continued my magical volleys repeatedly, quickly running through the formulas over and over again to launch missiles at the machine. Just as I felt I could no longer distract it, the machine collapsed from a busted joint. Biggs jumped on the back of the machine, tools in hand, and began tearing into it. The machine soon stopped operating and the Garlean troops fled.

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With the Garlond Ironworks engineers rescued they set to work on getting the airship operational again. They explained to me that this ship, the Tiny Bronco they called it, was the first new airship they had been able to construct since the Calamity. When I asked them why it took five years to build a single airship I was informed that Cid nan Garlond, head engineer of Garlond Ironworks, had disappeared after the Calamity. Cid, along with Biggs and Wedge, were all from Garlemald. Having grown tired of Garlemald’s plan to bring the world under its heels, they defected and joined Eorzea in the fight against Garlean rule. Cid was an unrivaled genius and without him the Garlond Ironworks had been staggering on. I wondered if perhaps Cid too had been thrust into the future by Louisoix. It would explain why he had been missing for five years. Could he be out there somewhere, lost, or even worse?

Alongside the Wood Wailers I stood guard as Biggs and Wedge got the Tiny Bronco back in the air and on course for Gridania. With the airship safely on its way I returned back to the Adder’s Nest in Gridania. Upon arriving I was congratulated for my job well done and I was informed that the remaining paperwork to be instated into the Grand Company had been pushed through given the extenuating circumstances. I was given the rank of Second Lieutenant, the very same rank I had achieved before the Calamity. I wondered if perhaps somewhere, deep down, the people of Eorzea still remembered me in some way. There was no other explanation for the Twin Adder to be giving a high rank to a supposedly new recruit.

I kept my mouth shut about my assigned rank and went through a quick orientation process. Along with my rank I was given a chocobo license and taken out to the stables to be assigned a chocobo. As I was guided past rows of stabled chocobo I noticed one outside, tied to a post and blinded like a hunting falcon. The chocobo was large and the tips of its wings, tail feathers, and feathers on its head were black. I slipped away from the officer and chocobo handler and went out into the fenced area where the chocobo was.

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The bird scratched irritably at the ground as it hear me approach and flapped its wings as if in challenge. I talked gently, trying to calm it as I grew nearer. The chocobo stood still and cocked its head as if confused. I reached up and untied the blinders covering the chocobo’s head and pulled it off. The first thing I noticed upon releasing the bird’s bindings was the marking etched onto its beak, an exact match of the tattoo on my back. The second thing I noticed was that the chocobo recognized me.

The bird warked and kweh’d in excitement and nuzzled it’s long neck against me. I staggered back, beset by the sheer weight of the jubilant chocobo. It took me a moment of disbelief to realize that this chocobo was the very same one I had been given by the Grand Company before the Calamity. I had named the bird Gale Claw because of how fast he was. My chocobo’s noise drew attention of the officer and the handler who had by then realized I was gone. I asked how they came to be in possession of the chocobo and I was told that it had been recovered from the wild after the Battle of Cartenau. It was tagged and registered as belonging to the Order of the Twin Adder, but the owner’s name had been lost. Unwilling to cooperate with any new riders and very few of the stablehands, the chocobo was separated from the rest to keep its bad behavior from rubbing off on the rest. I explicitly told them both that he was the Chocobo I wanted, and seeing how well he was responding to me they could do nothing else but agree.

I rode through the Black Shroud atop Gale Claw, hooping and hollering like an idiot. My hair whipped back behind me in the breeze of reckless speed, my chocobo expertly jumping over fallen trees and rocks. Riding on my chocobo again, now outfitted with a light black armor barding, made me feel like the past five years hadn’t happened, like Dalamud hadn’t fallen on us and changed the world as we knew it. For once in the last month since I had returned to Eorzea I felt all of my worries melt away and I could just focus on the moment. No beastmen summoning Primals, no Garlean invasion, no Ascians plotting from the shadows. Just a girl and her chocobo. When I finally rode back into Gridania and returned Gale Claw to the stables I settled in for the day at the inn in the Carline Canopy. Plopping down onto the soft bed, I finally felt like I was home.

—-

Phew, this one was a long one I think. I managed to get this one and half of the next one done yesterday, which puts me in a good position to progress further today, so long as I actually get some work done first.

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So, of course I rejoined the Twin Adder. Why wouldn't I? I knew that in game I would be receiving my rank back and along with it the ability to use my gear that had been locked out to me up until that point. It was really frustrating not being able to use my actual level 50 gear on my level 50 jobs since it was mostly Grand Company equipment. And, of course, I went ahead and wrote the Legacy Chocobo into the story. Gale Claw is the actual name of the chocobo I received from the Grand Company back in 1.x. The Company Chocobo and Legacy Chocobo are two different birds in game, but the Legacy Chocobo description states that it's your old one from 1.x, but the Company Chocobo has the name of the old one from 1.x when you summon it, it's all confusing. So, I simplified it and wrote it out how I felt it should be.

One of the best things about XIV so far, in my opinion, is that you can finally have a Chocobo fight alongside you. It takes a really long time to level them up though, so it's quite a nuisance. But it's really cool all the same. I'll be sure to write some of that in later on, possibly even into the next arc. Please look forward to it!