While Phase Two of Operation Archon was well under way that left myself and my elite team of adventurers with a large amount of down time. We left Cape Westwind and rendezvoused with an Allied forces officer on the way back to Vesper Bay. He informed us that the assaults on the Garlean strongholds of Castrum Marinum, Castrum Occidens, and Castrum Oriens had begun and that we should proceed to Camp Bluefog in Northern Thanalan where we would begin our final preparations for the assault on Castrum Meridianum.
Northern Thanalan was a rocky region that had taken a large brunt of Bahamut's rage, spires of corrupted crystals littering the area. It was also home to a massive lake of Ceruleum.
"What is a Ceruleum Processing Plant anyway?" I asked as we gazed off to the north from Camp Bluefog. Directly north of us was the that facility in question, and just northwest of that was the outskirts of Castrum Meridianum.
"It's a plant that processes Ceruleum." Eryiwaen replied dryly.
I shot him a look from underneath the brim of my hat. "Getting real tired of your shit, Eryiwaen."
The Roegadyn chuckled in response. "You don't know what Ceruleum is, do you?"
I shook my head. "Not really, no."
"It's what powers Magitek and airships." Eryiwaen gestured to the northwest. "There's a lake of the stuff out there, and the plant collects and processes it so it can be used without risk."
"Let me guess, it's highly volatile unless it's processed?" I asked with a grin.
"That would be correct," the White Mage said with a smile. "The plant and surrounding area used to be under Garlean control before the Calamity, but we've managed to reclaim it since then. Quite the boon, since it keeps it out of their hands."
I frowned. "Not like it's stopping their Magitek from running amok.."
"Well, that's what we're here for. We're going to put a stop to that."
I nodded and got up, stretching slowly. "Well, thanks for the educational lecture. I'm going to go wander around camp and see if anything needs done. All this waiting is driving me mad."
I left Eryiwaen to himself and did just as I said I would. I wandered. There was a lot on my mind and the tension was slowly getting to me. I was anxious and knowing that a large battle was on the horizon had me on edge. I was deep in thought when I was approached by an Immortal Flames officer who went by the name Cracked Fist. He asked me if my team and I were ready and it took a moment for me to even reply.
"Oh, yeah, we're all ready to go. What about your men and the adventurers?"
"Logistically speaking, we are ready to march on Castrum Meridianum at a moment's notice. Alas, while our troops are here in body, their minds are anywhere but." The Roegadyn frowned and scratched the back of his head. "The garrisons' mood is dark, so daunting is the prospect of joining what may prove to be the bloodiest battle history. But with a hero such as you walking among them, we may yet rekindle the dwindling embers within their souls."
"W-wait, what are you implying?"
"Perhaps there's some things you could do to raise their spirits? Your friends are already helping as best they can. Why not go see them?"
I nodded and sought out the rest of my team to see what they were doing. I found Sorasha and Rae tending to a large pot of some bubbling substance.
"Woah, what have we got here? Smells delicious." I picked up a ladle and was reaching for the contents of the pot when a glare from the two stopped me.
"It's Basilisk stew. We were making it for the troops," Sorasha explained.
"We figured it would do good if they had a warm meal before…" Rae trailed off, looking a little down.
"You look like you need a bowl of this stuff yourself," I chuckled and elbowed her gently. "Is it ready? I can help you hand it out if you'd like."
"That would be great," Sorasha said with a smile. Her smile still made my knees feel weak and I had to force myself to move. Rae handed me a pair of bowls and Sorasha dished a ladleful into each and I set off on the first of many trips throughout the camp to hand out the bowls of basilisk stew. It took some time but the pot was eventually emptied.
I stared down into the empty cauldron and let out a long sigh. "So hungry…"
I gave up on the thoughts of finding my own meal when I was approached by Cracked Fist once more. He informed me that the contingent of troops at the Ceruleum Processing Plant were in similar shape and could use some cheering up as well and asked if I could help there as well. I agreed, and since I was heading that way anyhow Cracked Fist asked if I could visit the two watchtowers along the way and deliver a message.
According the officer, it was very likely that during the attack on Castrum Meridianum communications via linkpearl may be cut and that messages would need to be relayed the old fashioned way by foot. I agreed to this request as well and left Camp Bluefog heading north.
The west watchtower was high above a cliff face overlooking the lake of Ceruleum that dominated the region. From there I could barely see the Ceruleum Processing Plant and Castrum Meridianum from the blue mist in the air. I looked out at the Garlean stronghold for some time before finally making my way to the eastern watchtower and finally the Cerulean Processing Plant.
When I arrived I found that the troops stationed there were just as morose as the ones at Camp Bluefog. I found Oliver and Ratie there already trying to rouse the soldiers.
"It doesn't look like it's going very well," I said to Oliver as I approached.
"No, but can you blame these guys? They're right here at the front, they're going to be the first going into combat. There's a very good chance that the majority of them will die."
"Perhaps you could have said that louder," Ratie said with a sidelong glance. "I don't think they quite heard you all the way back in Ul'dah."
"Yeah, way to go being encouraging," I said with a frown.
Oliver shrugged his shoulders. "Why sugar coat it? They won't listen to anything we have to say to them anyway."
I shook my head and just looked at the Paladin. "Well, there must be something we can do."
"Well, you're a Bard, aren't you? Why don't you sing them a song?" Ratie joked.
"Excuse me? You mistake me for a common minstrel?" I scoffed.
"Did I hear someone say Rosalyn would be singing for us?" Azarashi asked as he joined us.
I shot the Dragoon a withering glare and then finally sighed. "Alright, alright, I'll sing a song for these guys…" I looked out over the assembled soldiers, a mix of Immortal Flames and adventurers who came to answer the call to fight. Word spread quickly through the camp and faster than it took me to tune my harp the Allied forces had gathered about us.
I froze for a moment. I had never actually performed for a group this size, or any size really. Singing on the battlefield to bolster my allies was completely different from performing for people to enjoy. I had sung in Little Ala Mhigo, but if I were to perform a dirge here it wouldn't help in the slightest. My eyes finally found Oliver, Ratie, and Azarashi in the back of the crowd. Seeing their faces calmed me slightly and I finally released the breath I didn't realize I was holding.
"I don't really know what to say, I'm not used to this sort of thing, really…" I cleared my throat.
"Sing us something bawdy!" Oliver shouted across the sea of heads. The crowd laughed and cheered and I swallowed my nerves.
I strummed my harp and the crowd began to grow quiet.
"Now here I stand, Oh, in the morning sunshine,
Dreaming only of the promised land.
Somewhere, they say, beyond the great horizon,
Lies a beautiful island."
It was a song I had learned long ago in a far off place, before I had ever dreamt of becoming a Bard. I had heard it originally before I came to Eorzea, and it conveyed the way I felt about the land I called home. I hoped that the soldiers would feel the same.
"Everyone says he longs at heart for Shangri-La,
But that it's a nowhere-land, after all.
How I wonder why no one tries to sail out,
Looking for a strange paradise."
The soldiers watched on as I sang, slowly growing enraptured by my song. A few of them seemed to recognize the song and quietly joined in on the chorus.
"In my dreams, I've seen people there,
Exchanging words of love and care.
In the bright sunbeams, they're dancing with the birds
And they're singing all day long beside the streams.
One day, someday,
You'll surely find me sailing away,
For the white beach of the promised land."
By the time I played through the bridge and through the second verse the crowd had all joined along for the second chorus. As I played the outro the soldiers clapped and cheered and I bowed slightly.
"Alright, you got your song," I grumbled, blushing.
"Encore! Encore!" My friends shouted, somehow louder than the rest of the crowd. "And something dirty this time!"
I groaned. "Alright! This next song's about a hedgehog!"
I played through a couple more songs and the crowd grew rowdier. I was about to start up another song when an Immortal Flames officer approached.
"A short while ago, the Flame General struck for Castrum Meridianum," the officer announced and the troops turned silent. "Alas, no sooner did his contingent gain the resistance line than an imperial patrol fell upon them. We are informed that they successfully won through! Phase Three of Operation Archon will begin shortly!"
The soldiers began scattering, rushing to begin readying their equipment. I strode over to my friends and saw that Sorasha, Rae, Eyriwaen and Mishro had joined them some time during my songs.
"Looks like we're going to be moving out soon," I said to them. "Are we all ready?"
"Ready as ever," Oliver said with a nod. He inspected his shield, perhaps checking the gleam on it as he usually did.
"I don't think anyone is ever ready for war," Azarashi noted.
Sorasha nodded in agreement. "It's terrible that we have to do this, but there's no other way is there?"
"Wish that there were," Ratie mused. "But if wishes were candy…"
"Yeah, we'd all be fat and happy," Rae finished glumly.
"We're in a bad situation, I'll agree," I said to my team. "But we're doing this for a good reason. All of us are, not just us but the adventurers and the Immortal Flames, Twin Adders, and the Maelstrom." I gestured out to the soldiers and adventurers who were forming into ranks, shouting and carrying on. "Can't you hear them singing?"
"That's not singing," Oliver smirked. "They're just rabble-rousing so they don't fall victim to their own nerves."
"You're wrong," I said, looking him in the eyes. "Well, not entirely, but you're missing the point. We've been pushed around for far too long. First Nael van Darnus and Meteor, now Gaius van Balsaer and his Ultima Weapon. Garlemald is on the verge of holding the entire world in its grasp but we, the people of Eorzea, are putting a stop to it right here, right now." I waved my hand back toward the troops. "They are singing the song of angry men. And it's music to my ears."
"Oh, geeze Ros, you're going to make us cry," Eryiwaen chuckled.
I shot him a weak glare and then looked to the others. They all met my gaze with an air of determination. It seemed that my words had made it through to them and they were all indeed ready for what lay ahead of us. We joined up with the ranks of adventurers and marched on Castrum Meridianum. On the way I glanced over to Mishro, only now noticing an addition to his equipment.
"Mishro, what's that jug you're carrying?"
The Lalafell chuckled lightly. "If I told you, it would be no fun. For now, it's a secret to everyone." He said mischieviously. I just laughed lightly and let it slide for now.
Upon reaching the gates we found Raubahn, Minfilia, and Alphinaud waiting. All murmurs ended as it appeared the Flame General was ready speak.
"Brothers and sisters of the Alliance, I would share with you glad tidings! Doubtless spurred on by news of the siege of Castrum Oriens, the Maelstrom has struck a double blow! Castrum Occidens and Castrum Marinum are now under blockade!" He spread his arms wide and raised his voice. "Phase two of Operation Archon is a success!" Cheers and salutes rolled through the crowd. "Reports tell us that the Garleans offered fierce resistance, but that the Admiral yielded not one ilm. With Occidens, Marinum, and Oriens thus suppressed, the third phase may begin in earnest! Even as we speak, the Order of the Twin Adder moves to block the railway leading from Castrum Centri. And that can mean but one thing." The Flame General paused for dramatic effect. "The hour is come to strike at the heart of the Garlean invasion force! Castrum Meridianum and the Black Wolf!"
Minfilia stepped forward next to Raubahn amidst the round of cheers and waited for the voices to die down. "My fellow Eorzeans, I am Minfilia, Mistress of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn. There exist myriad barriers that divide us: those of race and nation, language and creed, to name but a few. Such barriers serve to isolate us from our neighbors, yet they also serve to define who we are. Shorn of them, there would be little to distinguish one from another and the rich variety of our lives would give way to sterile orthodoxy. These barriers can never truly be broken down, of course. Not so long as there is liberty in the world. But they can be transcended. Verily, we do so now in coming together for this grand endeavor, to fight side by side in defense of our shared home!"
Alphinaud stepped forward in the space of Minfilia's pause and began to speak before another round of cheering broke out. "Before me stands the adventurer, Rosalyn Sable." He began and I blanched. "You all know her as the woman who will lead the unit tasked with destroying the Ultima Weapon." All eyes turned toward me and I could hear Oliver snickering beside me. "We Scions know a different Rosalyn, however. We know her as a dear friend who has endured untold hardship on our behalf. A true hero who has ever blazed a path for us to follow." I could feel the heat rising in me and did my best not to shy away from Alphinaud's words of praise. "And why do I tell you this? I tell you, friends, because it is time for us to blaze a path for her!"
"Our objective is to wreak such havoc outside the walls of Merdianum as to afford Rosalyn and her comrades the time they need to disable the magitek field generator within," Raubahn resumed. "With the path thus cleared, we may finally turn our minds to the true goal of this operation - the destruction of the Ultima Weapon! All troops, prepare for battle!" With Raubahn's final shout the assembled soldiers began to move out.
I too was ready to begin our task but was halted as Cid approached. I looked at him quizzically, wondering why he was here. "I fear I can't accompany you this time," he said with a sad smile. "The unenviable task of facilitating communications between our forces has been entrusted to the Ironworks, you see. Know, though, that I will be praying for your safe return."
"Maybe next time," I said to the engineer, smiling as well. I bid him farewell and turned my attention back to my group.
"You guys ready to move out?"
"We are, but you're not." Azarashi pointed behind me.
I turned back around once more and spotted Minfilia approaching. I blushed and nodded to her.
"See that you come back to us, my friend. May the Crystal bless you and keep you." I nodded and Minfilia left to return to resume her duties as a war consultant.
"We will suffer the Black Wolf to prowl our lands no more! Let us teach the hunter what it is to be the hunted!" I heard Raubahn shouting. "Go now, comrades! For Eorzea!"
The shouting of the Allied forces rose to a fever pitch, making me feel as though the ranks had become one massive beast.
"The song of angry men, huh?" Oliver asked out loud. He glanced over at me with a grin. "Catchy tune."
Here we are, the final turn, the final lap. We've got two or four posts left, depending on how I decide how to do handle the end of this. All I can really figure is I'm going to be spending a lot of time writing the next two. They're rather long dungeons with a number of cutscenes and just as many boss fights.
And for those of you curious, I'm going ahead and attaching the song that I chose for this post. It's "The Promised Land" from Final Fantasy: Pray, one of the Vocal Collection albums.
This song was written to the main theme/overworld theme of Final Fantasy II, and I feel that the words and the tone of the song fit perfectly with the world of Eorzea. It's a world of wonder, of beauty. It feels like a song that people would sing of Eorzea, whether they are inhabitants of the realm or adventurers journeying there.
There was another movie reference in this one that I feel fit with the theme. Can you guys find it?
I hope that everyone that's held strong with me this long continues to read along as we finish off the adventure. It's been a real journey, for sure.