I dashed through the Waking Sands, looking for any signs of survivors. The massacre had not only been in the main hallway, but in every room I passed. I steadily made my way toward Minfilia’s room, my heart in my throat as I dreaded what I’d see there. I threw open the door to her room. It’s amazing the kind of details the mind picks up in a crisis situation like this. The room was destroyed, the sheets torn from the bed, the armoire knocked to the floor, the harp I received from Little Ala Mhigo shattered on the ground. But Minfilia wasn’t there. I turned and ran toward her office, still not letting hope get the better of me. The office was in a better state than her bedroom had been. I stepped in slowly, my heart sinking.

“W-walking one…” I spun at the weak sound of a voice. Near the wall lie Noraxia, the Sylph who had joined the Scions. She slowly raised her hand and beckoned me close. I knelt down before her, not sure if anything I could do would be quick enough to save her life. “This one is glad walking one is safe…W-walking one Minfilia… told this one to say… th-the church in Eastern Thanalan… seek sanctuary. This one tried…. tried to protect walking one Minfilia from imperial ones… Forgive...this one… Save...” Noraxia’s hand dropped to her side as she passed before she could speak her final words.

I stared blankly as the Sylph’s words sank in. What had happened here, and where was Minfila? And not just her, but I hadn’t seen the bodies of Tataru, Urianger, Papalymo and Yda or even Thancred? Did they manage to escape, or worse? Did Y’shtola beat me back here and get caught up in the same mess? And who would have done such a thing. I thought back to Ratie’s taunts back in Brayflox’s Longstop. Was it possible that it had been he, a member of the Ascians, who had done this?

I stood up suddenly, spurred into action. I thought for a moment that I had risen too quickly as my head began to throb and my vision blurred. It came on so quickly that I didn’t realize it was the Echo until I was standing in the Antecedent’s office and Minfilia was seated at her desk.

“...And I’d like it if you would return to the Waking Sands immediately, we have much to discuss. Godsspeed.” Minfilia spoke, her hand on her ear and the linkpearl there. They were the last words she had spoken to me before I boarded the airship in Limsa Lominsa. I watched as Minfilia stood up and gazed at the shattered remains of Louisoix’s staff. “Thank heavens she is safe…Can you see it, Louisoix, your light still shines brightly in this one. And in time, it will illuminate the realm once more.”

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I bit my lower lip, watching her closely. She spoke so highly of me and worried for my safety while I was off fighting Titan. Was it because I was a valuable asset to the Scions, or could it be more…?

The sound of a gunshot caused Minfilia to turn her attention to the door, my own gaze quickly following. There was a commotion outsides, screaming and the sounds of blades clashing. There was another gunshot and then there was silence.

“We have come for the one who slayed Ifrit and Titan! Bring her forth and you may yet know mercy!” A woman’s voice rang out from outside the hall. There was a third gunshot.

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Minfilia strode to the front side of her desk and told Noraxia the message to me she wanted delivered then told the Sylph to hide. Noraxia flew behind Minfilia’s desk just before the door burst open. Four Garlean soldiers busted into the office, their weapons trained on Minfilia. Then someone I had never seen before entered. She wore a full suit of armor and helmet like the Garlean Generals did, a strange mix of armor and magitek. On her forearms were blades like wings, guns worked into the weapons in true Garlean fashion.

“I surrender myself, on the condition you spare the innocents.” Minfilia announced, raising her hands into the air.

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“Conditions? There speaks the supreme Scion. I’ll grant you have courage, but you would be better suited by armor.” The Garlean woman spat. She pointed her weapon at Minfilia and fired, the bullet streaking past Minfilia. To her credit, the Antecedent barely flinched.

“Search all you will, the one you seek is not here.” Minfilia glared down the barrel of the weapon pointed at her.

“So it would seem…” The Garlean finally said. She nodded toward Minfilia and one soldier stepped forward to apprehend Minfilia.

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“And yet you knew to look here… but how?”

“Hold that thought,” the Garlean strode forward, her weapon still trained on Minfilia. Noraxia suddenly flew out from behind the desk to place herself between the weapon and Minfilia. The Garlean delivered a brutal roundhouse kick to the Sylph, knocking her across the room and into the wall. “Conditions of surrender… denied.”

Outside the office I could see Urianger, Papalymo and Tataru being escorted out of the Waking Sands as Garlean troops slaughtered the remaining resistance.

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“Have you not done enough!” Minfilia cried.

“Perhaps. Enough! We must away. Though we have not found our quarry, the ‘High Priestess of the Scions’ should suffice for now. They say she also possesses the Echo. I cannot wait to hear her scream…” The Garlean raised her weapon and fired on one of her own men who had been relentlessly mutilating one of the bodies of the fallen in the hall. “I said enough! We leave! Bring the prisoners.”

As Minfilia was escorted out of the office my Echo vision faded. It took me a moment to recover from my visions of the past and I found myself back in the dark of the Waking Sands. Minfilia was still alive, as were the other members of the Scions. The Garleans had come looking for me though. Who was that woman in armor and why would she want me? They had known that I defeated Ifrit and Titan…Were they watching me everywhere I went? What if they still had eyes on the Waking Sands?

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I suddenly felt very alone and exposed. I needed to be as far away from the Waking Sands as possible in case the Garleans returned. I gave the room one last look, my eyes lingering on Louisoix’s shattered staff and Noraxia’s corpse. Clenching my fists and fighting back the tears I fled from the Waking Sands.

I rented a Chocobo and rode through the night across the plains of Thanalan. I was completely numb by the time I arrived at the Church of Saint Adama Landama and I knew it had nothing to do with the chill night air. I was surprised that the doors of the church were unlocked so early in the morning. In a daze I stepped to the front of the church and sat in the first pew where I lowered my head and stared at the floor. I heard the sound of footsteps approaching but it barely registered.

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“My child,” a kindly voice said as a wrinkled hand settled on my shoulder. “What brings you to the Church at this hour?” I looked up to see that the priest had sat down next to me. I vaguely remembered that his name was Father Illiud and that I had met him before while looking into the disappearances around Camp Drybone. He was wearing a nightgown and cap and I felt a pang of guilt for waking the priest from his slumber.

I hesitated before telling him what had transpired. Surely Minfilia sent me here for a reason. If the church was being used as an emergency rendezvous location than Father Illiud must have been a Scion himself. “The wild roses in the garden are all gone,” I said after a moment, using the Scion’s code word in hopes that Father Illiud recognized it.

I could feel the priest’s grip tighten on my shoulder. “Are you certain, child? And Minfilia..?”

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“She was captured by Imperial troops, her and the rest of the ranking members. The rest…” I swallowed the lump in my throat and pressed on. “Minfilia left me the message to seek sanctuary here.”

Father Illiud let out a long sigh and nodded. “I’ve known Minfilia since she was a child, she’s like a granddaughter to me. I have done many favors for her and would gladly help you for her. Please, it isn’t much, but make yourself home here at the church as long as you need. When morning comes I will introduce you to one of my people here, he will be able to help you should you need anything further.”

“Thank you Father… If you don’t mind I’d like to just…have some time alone..” I gave the priest a weak smile and he nodded before rising to his feet. He stopped for a moment as though he were about to say something before he left through one of the doors in the front to what I assumed was his room. My gaze turned back to the wooden floor and I sat in silence. I gripped the edge of the pew tightly, my knuckles turning white, as my body shook with an unbidden sob. Heavy tears rolled down my cheeks, released as though floodwaters from a broken dam. I hugged my knees to my chest and hid my face as I cried.

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I woke several hours later, sunlight lancing through the church windows and making the dust in the air visible. I found myself in much the same position I had been though someone had draped a rough blanket around me during the night. I slowly got up, my body aching from sleeping on the church pew.

“I hope you don’t mind,” a voice from the other side of the room said. I looked up and saw a man in heavy brown robes of the church. As he approached I could see that he had a long white beard and I could have sworn I had seen him somewhere before. “I.. overheard you last night. It was cold so I brought you the blanket.”

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I shook my head, looking away. “N-no, it’s alright.. Do I know you?”

The man shook his head. “My name is Marques. I’m a refugee. Father Illiud says he found me wandering in the desert after the Battle of Cartenau. I have no recollection of who I am or where I came from.”

“I-I’m sorry to hear that. I was there too,” I said knowingly. For a moment I considered this man lucky that he couldn’t remember Cartenau but I realized how bad that sounded before saying it.

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Marques just smiled sadly at me. “Father Illiud asked me to look after you. But, I’m sorry to say, I was hoping you’d be able to help me out.”

I stretched and yawned, still not quite awake yet. “Sure? What do you need?” Marques showed me a broken horologe, a device that is capable of precisely tracking the time of day, and told me that he had found it on one of the bodies he was preparing for burial. He found it strangely familiar and thought that he might be able to repair it if he had the proper tools. He asked if I would be able to acquire a pair of needle-nose pincers and a bull-point chisel in Ul’Dah. I saw no harm in running into town to perform the errand for him and agreed.

Before I left the church a young Hyur entered with a device in hand. He thought it might be a small portable oven and showed it off to Marques. Apparently the horologe wasn’t the only thing Marques had shown interest in repairing. Marques explained that the device wasn’t an oven, but instead an Alchemist’s Alembic and that he could modify it for the boy. The priest added one more tool to the list of items for me to pick up in town and I set off.

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I walked anxiously through Ul’Dah, listening for any talk concerning the Imperial assault on the Waking Sands. Surely someone would have heard that many troops coming and going out of Vesper Bay but there was absolutely no indication that it had even occurred. I couldn’t understand how a platoon that large could sneak into town and abscond with prisoners without alerting anyone to their presence. I absently went about my errands in Ul’Dah, my mind focused on the recent events. Nothing seemed right anymore. What was I supposed to do with the Scions gone? Just return to the life of adventuring, performing dull and meaningless tasks for a few lousy gil?

I returned to the Church of Adama Landama with the tools that Marques had requested. I watched as the amnesiac went to work repairing the horologe. He was deft with his hands and despite losing his memory they worked with the motions of one who had many years practice. Perhaps this man had been a tinkerer of sorts? With the horologe repaired he began working on modifying the alembic. He told me it would take him some time and suggested I deliver the repaired horologe to Sister Eluned who was preparing the body of the owner for burial. With horologe in hand I sought out the Sister in the lichyard.

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Sister Eluned was in awe at the intricate workings of the horologe, having never seen such a device before. She mused aloud that it reminded her of the technology that Garlemald possessed. She then went on to wonder if the owner of the horologe had been a Garlean spy and whether or not she should report her suspicions to the Immortal Flames.

Something about her ramblings caused my own thoughts to turn as though they were all part of the clockwork device. If the device was in fact of Garlean make, then just how was Marques able to repair it? Even he seemed troubled how he had been able to repair it without knowing how he remembered. I decided to look further into the mysterious man and started to make my way back to the church when Sister Eluned stopped me.

“Forgive me for not realizing this sooner, but you’re the visitor from the Waking Sands, aren’t you?” I nodded in response to her question. “You have my condolences for your loss. We sent carriages out this morning to Vesper Bay to retrieve the fallen for burial. Perhaps it would help you find closure if you went and helped?”

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I stared blankly at Sister Eluned. Closure? I didn’t need closure. I knew what had happened and though I didn’t know how to proceed yet I just needed some time to plan a course of action. Even if it meant storming every Garlean stronghold in Eorzea, I’d rescue them. I left Eluned without so much as a goodbye and returned to the church. Marques was still working with the alembic, the boy who had brought it to him watching closely. I sat down in a pew at the back of the church let out a sigh of frustration.

“You’re thinking of doing something rash, aren’t you?” Father Illiud asked as he sat down beside me. I stared straight ahead without responding. We sat quietly for some time, the only sound in the church the clanking of metal as Marques went about his work. Finally, sensing that he would make no headway with me, Father Illiud stood up. I could feel his sad eyes on me. “Before you do anything, think about how Minfilia would feel when she learns that you fell in battle trying to rescue her.”

The priest’s words struck like the worst blow I had ever taken. It was the way he spoke with a weary sadness that threw me off guard. I was ready to be yelled at, to have my frustration met with equal force. I was looking for a fight and instead the priest had defused me with a handful of words. The guilt was overwhelming as I watched Father Illiud return to his room. Perhaps I needed that closure after all.

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—-

When I write these I go through a pretty standard process. I take a look at the quests and decide at what point I should get up to in a post. I then begin writing where I left off, sometimes recapping what's going on and other times moving right in. I reference the quest synopsis available on the internet and in-game, watch cutscenes again if they're available, and obtain appropriate screenshots to go with what I wrote. And then I forget to upload the screenshots to the internet and have to make a mad scramble to find pictures that work for what's going on. In most cases, this is no problem, but I've come to realize that my own screenshots with my character in them go a long way toward immersion. That picture that I took of Noraxia reaching her hand up to Rosalyn before finally passing: Heartwrenching. And completely forgotten on my hard drive.

Upon posting I need to decide which quest title to use as the title for the post. In most cases it's easy to pick one quest title and run with it as it's generalized enough to make it work. "There and Back Again" earlier on, a reference to The Hobbit of course, was a simple quest of returning a bottle of liquor to Wheiskaet from U'odh Nuhn, but since I had written everything from the events in Camp Tranquil to Forgotten Springs before finally returning to Costa del Sol, the quest title worked for the entire post. For this post I felt that the only good title was the quest name for the events that take place in the Waking Sands.

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Of course, we're all familiar with how the phrase must come to an end. And that's exactly what happens in this part of the game. The consequences of the player's actions have been glazed over liberally during the course of the game. A prime offender, the people tempered by Ifrit are put down and it barely gets a mention. I've mentioned before how the game has dark moments but washes over them with beautiful scenery, vivid colors, and a sense of wonderment and adventure. It's almost satirical how terrible things happen and your character continues on like nothing bad ever happens. This is a turning point. Not that the game gets deeply philosophical after these events, but there's a sense of foreboding that seems to come upon you.

I consider the events to be one of isolation. You've lost your only allies, though do obtain two more very shortly, but must now face unbeatable odds alone as you travel to the cold north where no one trusts you. The Coerthas story arc is chock-full of filler and it continues to emphasize that the people of Eorzea are terrible. We'll get more into that when we get there though.

Also, there will be no post on Friday and possibly no post next Tuesday as well, as I will be out of town for a long weekend. So, in the meantime, how about you guys (or new readers?) check out the previous installments? Maybe revisiting some of the earlier moments in our adventure will increase your anticipation for more. And there are revelations in store for you tomorrow, so please look forward to it.

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