Learning of the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the Draconian Rosary within Lord Francel's parsels, Lord Haurchefant suggested his concern that the item in question could have been planted. If Lord Francel was innocent it was the only viable explanation and our only lead. I was given the name of a man to speak to in Skyfire Locks and road out immediately, knowing that it wouldn't be long before Lord Francel was put to trial.
I spoke to the man and learned that if the packages had been tampered with the only ones who could have planted the evidence were the porters that delivered them or the people who inspected the packages upon arrival. However, the parcel inspectors were all Ishgardian knights and Inquisitors, and the man assured me that they wouldn't dare tamper with the packages. Without much more to go on he suggested I inquire with the porters who would be due back at Camp Dragonhead shortly.
I arrived back at Camp Dragonhead in time to intercept the porters. They weren't happy to hear me accuse them of tampering with the packages and insisted that I search the boxes they were transporting. One box destined for House Dzemael had nothing suspicious, however two boxes to House Haillenarte contained Draconian Rosaries, just like the first I had recovered. The porters were distraught to see the heretical icons and pleaded that they didn't know how they had come to be there. I didn't have time to accuse the porters any further and took the evidence to Lord Haurchefant.
Haurchefant wasn't surprised to see that I had found the evidence we needed and believed that the porters weren't aware of their presence. We felt that the collected evidence would be enough to persuade the Inquisitor's to hold off on Francel's trial until a more in-depth investigation could be performed. I was directed to an Inquisitor stationed in Dragonhead to request for a hearing with the Inquisitors.
Much to my surprise, the Inquisitor told me that Inquisitor Guillaime was already overseeing Lord Francel's trial at Withdrop, a large crevice to the north of Camp Dragonhead. I needed to stop that trial and rode out with haste. I arrived in time to see Lord Francel guarded by a number of guards, Guillaime himself was busy reading him his charges. I approached swiftly, only for the guards to stand in my way. I shouted over the cold, biting wind, trying to plead with Inquisitor Guillaime to take into account the evidence I had discovered. The Inquisitor grew irritated at my incessant shouts and I quickly found myself fighting for my life.
I drew my bow but Guillaime's archer was already loosing his own arrow. I jerked out of the way, lashing out with my free hand. I felt the arrow slip free of my grasp, the feathers grazing through my fingers. So close. I stumbled out of my evasive maneuver and pulled an arrow from my quiver, knocked it, and hit the nearest guard in the chest. One down, but I was severely outnumbered. A guard with a large lance was quickly gaining ground on me and I fumbled with my next arrow.
The unsuspecting lancer was knocked out of his charge by Lord Haurchefant slamming into him with his kite shield. A House Fortemps guard joined him at his side and together they drove back lancer. Haurchefant yelled over the din of battle at Guillaime, but the Inquisitor ignored him and watched the battle ensue.
Another arrow whizzed past me and I decided the enemy archer needed to go. I drew four arrows from my quiver and, knocking two at a time, let them fly. While most of the arrows just grazed the enemy archer, one managed to find a home in his arm, retiring him from the battle.
"Dragon!" The shout was harsh and came as a surprise, but it was no more surprising than seeing the wyvern quickly approaching us. The beast breathed a gout of flame in our direction and we dove for cover. I could see one of the Inquisitor's pointing in our direction as though he were commanding the scalekin.
As soon as the dragon had appeared, it didn't matter what the sides before had been. It had been me and House Fortemps against the Inquisitors, but now it was man against dragon. We rallied together, putting aside the battle we had just been waging against each other to focus on the mutual enemy. The wyvern was fast and lithesome, its flight causing problems for the infantry and adding difficulty to making my arrows count. Just as quickly as the wyvern had appeared it fled despite having the upper hand in combat. The Inquisitor I had seen commanding it was long gone.
In light of the new evidence, Inquisitor Guillame was forced to drop the charges against Lord Francel. He seemed reluctant to agree that there was in fact a conspiracy at hand, and directed his scowls at me the entire time. Before leaving, the Inquisitor suggested I focus my attention on finding the lost airship. Coming from the Elezen, I couldn't help but feel that it was a threat.
The next morning the witness to the final flight of the Enterprise came forward. He told us the story of how he had seen the Enterprise land somewhere far to the northwest of the Observatorium. He wasn't quite sure where, but he insisted that with the records from the Observatorium he'd be able to calculate it. We spent a few hours pouring over the 1572 volumes and the man came to the conclusion that the Enterprise must have landed somewhere near the Stone Vigil.
After speaking with Lord Haurchefant about our discovery he explained that if the Enterprise did land near the Stone Vigil, it would likely have been seized by the garrison stationed there. However, since the Calamity the Stone Vigil had become overrun by the Dravanian forces and access to the ruined fortress was restricted by House Durendaire. He and Lord Francel offered to write letters of introduction so that I may be able to gain access to the outpost. Before leaving Camp Dragonhead, the two Elezen lords warned us to be careful. The people who had attempted to frame Lord Francel had yet to be discovered, and we may become a target for retaliation.
We arrived at Whitebrim Front, the outpost south of the Stone Vigil, in the early afternoon. I presented the letters of introduction to the gate guard and he reluctantly allowed us entry into the compound. With a surly expression on his face the guard told me that it wasn't his job to escort guests and sent us to seek out someone who could. We spent two hours being passed back and forth between knights of all ranks that didn't really want to deal with us. By the time we finally managed to find ourselves outside Lord Drillemont's door I was frustrated and ready to snap. The warning to be respectful and not waste Lord Drillemont's time from the knight stationed outside his door only set me further on edge.
I held my tongue through our hearing with Lord Drillemont and let Cid and Alphinaud explain our situation and petition for aid. It seemed like things were going smoothly when the doors opened abruptly and Inquisitor Guillaime entered the room. He dramatically accused us of lying about our identities and intentions and insisted that Lord Drillemont dismiss our request. The Elezen Lord took Guillaime's warnings to heart and sent us out of his sight. I was really beginning to hate the Inquisitor and I knew that the feelings were mutual.
As we left Lord Drillemont's one of the knights that had been stationed at his door escorted us through the encampment. He had overheard Guillaime hamming it up and pointed out that it would be reckless of Lord Drillemont to accept our claims without question. He suggested that if we performed some tasks for members of House Durendaire we could possibly gain the Lord's trust, and at the moment they were currently having a problem with the feral cros that roamed the nearby area.
One might be inclined to tell you that the crocs put up a good fight. That they provided a memorable challenge, one that I could share with comrades over a tankard of ale and would be sung of in ages to come. Unfortunately, Eorzea is no fairy tale, no child's fantasy, and life is no song. Sometimes you slay a Primal. And sometimes you don't. I spent a number of hours reducing the croc population outside of Whitebrim Front and reported my deeds to one of the ranking knights. While he was grateful for my services, he knew full well that I did not do it out of the kindness of my heart. My agitation levels for the day were quickly mounting.
I learned that while I was out slaying the local fauna Cid was putting himself to use and helping the chirurgeons at the infirmary. Their alembics were old and seen much wear and Cid brought it upon himself to develop a more reliable device for them. While the engineer had no problem whipping something together with his tools and the resources at hand, there were unanticipated difficulties when he presented the chirurgeons with the new alembic. Our favorite Inquisitor had arrived and warned the chirurgeons that they shouldn't accept gifts from foreigners who had recently interfered with the trial of an accused heretic. The chirurgeons refused Cid's new alembic and his protestations to hear our side of the story.
Just who the hell was this Inquisitor Guillaime anyway? He was quickly becoming our worst adversary yet, ranking far above and beyond the Primals, the Garleans, and even the Ascians. How could this one man hold such hatred for us? We discussed our plans and our problems well into the night. There was no way I'd sleep after getting so worked up anyway.
When morning came I began questioning the people of Whitebrim Front about Inquisitor Guillaime. My questioning brought me to a wounded knight in the Infirmary who told me a story of the night Inquisitor Guillaime originally came to Whitebrim Front. The knight had been stationed as a sentry during a blizzard, and had just exited the eastern gate when he saw a figure illuminated from behind by the light of the city. Thinking it was a wayward traveler caught in the storm he rushed out to help him, but in fact fell into a chasm situated nearby. The knight had awoken, finding himself to be rescued by Inquisitor Guillaime. No matter who I spoke to, I was welcomed with similar stories about how great a guy Inquisitor Guillaime was. So early in the morning and I could already feel my blood pressure rising.
I related all the information I gathered to Alphinaud and he became hung up on the story from the wounded knight. The knight had supposedly seen a traveler making his way to the eastern gate, but the main road leads to the southwestern. Alphinaud had seen no one enter through the eastern gate the entire time we had been there. And only adding more mystery to the knight's story, for Guillaime to be illuminated by lights from the city from behind he'd need to be approaching the outpost from the north, but the only thing in that direction was a large chasm, the very one that the knight had fallen into.
We decided that I should retrace the route that the knight had taken that night and I left through the eastern gate and headed north toward the chasm. I managed to find a safe route down to the bottom and began my search. It had been months since Inquisitor Guillaime had arrived in Coerthas and the amount of snow that had accumulated in the chasm had me worried that any evidence would be long gone, but I did manage to stumble over something. Quite literally. After removing the snow from my less than warm clothes I realized I had tripped over the body of a dead man. And not just any dead man. No, this one bore the exact likeness of Inquisitor Guillaime. Unless the Inquisitor had a missing and presumed dead twin brother, I had just made a horrifying discovery.
I searched the body until I found a bloody parchment that introduced Guillaime as a fresh Inquisitor to Coerthas. This was the proof I needed. I quickly returned to Alphinaud and Cid and we discussed our course of action. It was time to find out who the imposter truly was. I took the bloody parchment back to the infirmary and confronted the injured knight. He insisted that Guillaime was who he said he was and told me to visit the knight who helped Guillaime pull him from the chasm if I needed more proof. I sought out the knight in question, Ser Prunilla.
When I confronted Ser Prunilla she denied knowledge of the bloody parchment, fidgeting terribly. She was short with me and tried to return to her work but I was growing tired of the back and forth games that I'd been forced to deal with in Whitebrim Front. I pushed a little harder and Ser Prunilla broke. She confessed that she was aware of Guillaime's true identity all along but was afraid for herself and her loved ones to inform anyone even after the fake Inquisitor began framing innocent Ishgardians and sentencing them to death. She only decided to interfere when she heard that Lord Francel was being targeted next. She told me how she had found Guillaime's stores of Draconian Rosaries and hid them into the parcels bound for Skyfire Locks in hopes of instigating the very conspiracy that we had uncovered.
Ser Prunilla was kind enough to tell me where I'd find the chest of Draconian Rosaries and sure enough I found the chest hidden buried beneath a tree. With the insurmountable evidence in hand I returned to Whitebrim Front and approached Lord Drillemont. To say he was devastated by the revelation is putting it lightly. He apologized for misjudging us and insisted that we bring the fake Inquisitor to justice.
Guillaime was supposed to be performing an interrogation in a region to the southwest known as Snowcloak. Together with Lord Drillemont and a number of his knights we rode hard to the icey valley where we found the imposter. Lord Drillemont brought forward his accusations and the false Guillaime declared that he couldn't betray that which he held no allegiance to. As he raved about how the Ishgardians must be punished for their persecution of the heretics, the valley began swarming with Dravanian forces.
Lord Drillemont rushed straight into battle against the imposter while the knights met the oncoming dragons with force. I lent my aid to the knights, pelting the dragons with arrows as I spared glances back to the battle between Drillemont and the heretic. Drillemont was holding his own but the imposter was no stranger to the blade. I turned my attention away from the dragons and joined Drillemont's side in battle.
Facing even tougher odds, the heretic used the magic within his Draconic Rosary to assume the shape of a large dragon. With his attention on Drillemont I moved into position to flank. Focusing aether into each arrow I inflicted poison and bleeding wounds, pierced the imposters scaled hide with heavy shots and unleashed a rain of arrows from the sky. The heretic's glamour finally fell to his knees.
"Blood has been paid in blood, and for that I am content… My only regret is that you yet live… But your end is nigh, foreigner. The dragons within the Stone Vigil will rend you asunder. And when you are dead… Whitebrim Front shall fall…" With his grim prediction delivered, the heretic collapsed and let out his final breath. The remaining dragons fled and the knights let out a rousing cheer of victory. The day had been saved again but my work wasn't completed yet. The Stone Vigil, and every dragon and beast within, were waiting for me. And hopefully, so was the Enterprise.
I'm quickly realizing that the number of cutscenes I can view again via the game are abysmal and instead of getting to see some scenes with the npcs you get a lot of screens of landscape and me standing around staring at people. At least the game is still pretty, right?
This is pretty much the tail end of the Coerthas story arc. Solved the problem, saved the day, now all I have to do is go into that massive castle and get back the airship. This'll be a walk in the park.
I've discussed in the past that I would be keeping the adventuring party consisting of Alphinaud, Cid, and Rosalyn to help enforce the fact that they're relatively alone and outgunned on all fronts. I get to use some artistic license for the Stone Vigil and the fight against Garuda, but I think I can make it turn out tense and exciting.
Unfortunately, there's another arc between the dungeon in the next post and the fight against Garuda. I hope it doesn't take more than two entries. There's a lot of running back and forth I feel bad when I make you guys go through it without anything interesting or character interaction or even, you know, dialogue. Again, a problem caused by not being able to view every cutscene for every single quest. Though, if you guys miss dialogue you're going to get real tired of it once we roll past Garuda and into the final two acts.
I look at the progress I've made in this endeavor and I can't help but feel I've done a good job so far. I regret my hiatus but there's nothing I can do about it now. All I have to do is keep on keeping on and see this through to the end. The final few fights will be all worth it. The Stone Vigil is next, and with it some pretty nice fights and plot progression. Please look forward to it.