I spent two days performing odd jobs in Revenant's Toll. The biggest issue at the moment seemed to be morale. The work was long and hard and the adventurers and craftsmen that were slowly yet steadily improving the encampment had grown weary. It seemed that there was no end to the work in sight. And so I did what I could to help. I made trips to the city-states to pick up materials and supplies, I lead attacks against Garlean scouting parties, and I shared tales of my adventures in the alehouse in the evenings. I couldn't say for sure if productivity was up, but the men and women of Revenant's Toll were glad for the aid I offered.
It was morning of my third day in Revenant's Toll when I found Slafborn, ready to receive my orders for the day, and the Roegadyn fixed me with a dour look.
"I can't tell you how grateful we all are to have you here - now more than ever," he started. Buttering me up, this couldn't be good. "We have a major crisis on ours hands, you see-" See? "One which will demand your full attention for weeks if not months. I'm sorry, Rosalyn. If you've made any other plans, you'll just have to cancel them."
I blinked a few times. I couldn't say I was completely surprised, it was only a matter of time before something major happened. But weeks? Months? What in the seven hells could have happened.
Slafborn's solemn face cracked as though it were under great strain and he burst out laughing. "You honestly believed me, didn't you!?" He nearly shouted between his laughter. I gave him the most intimidating glare I could muster, but between his laughing and the fact he had a good couple feet on me, it did no good. I only managed to look the petulant child. Slafborn finally composed himself with a sigh. "There's such a thing as being too long-suffering, you know? I fear we may have overdone it with the errands, necessary though they were."
"Wait, does that mean?"
"Aye, your work here is done - for the time being, at least. Master Alphinaud has sent word that you are to report to him at the Waking Sands. I gather he wants to know how you've been getting on. Be sure to tell him how welcome we've made you feel, won't you?"
I had to admit, as much as I disliked the idea of being in Mor Dhona, Revenant's Toll had a sort of rugged charm to it. It was an Adventurer's paradise, so to speak. Hewn from the stone by our own hands, it was ours to shape as we pleased. There was no doubt in my mind now that this was the place the Scions were meant to be. I gave Slafborn my thanks for the food and lodging the guild provided me during my stay, and utilized the Aetheryte to return to the hot weather of Camp Horizon in Thanalan.
Upon arrival, the Waking Sands was emptier than it had been when I left. Most everything had been packed by now and crates and packages filled the halls. I found Alphinaud easily enough, busying himself with some paperwork of some sort.
"Ah, you've returned." He said with a smile when he saw me. "I trust they kept you busy in Revenant's Toll?"
"To say the least," I said with a knowing smirk. "How are things going here?"
"We have had nary a moment's rest since you departed." Alphinaud sighed, "Despite our best efforts, however, we've begun to fall behind. No matter. We shall soon make up the lost ground with you here to help us."
"Oh," I frowned. "Yeah, no problem."
"Now, there are a number of packages which must needs be delivered to Revenant's Toll as a matter of urgency." Alphinaud said, to which I staggered. "Don't give me that long-suffering look - I only require you to take them upstairs to Tataru. She will handle the rest. The packages are scattered about the halls, but each is clearly labeled, so you should have little trouble finding them. Now, if you will excuse me.." Alphinaud returned his attention back to his papers.
"What about my report?"
"Hm? You're report? Later, later..." Alphinaud waved his hand dismissively.
"You don't want to hear it at all?"
"Of course I wish to hear your report, but you've caught me at an inopportune moment. I daresay I will have some time to talk when you have finished your little errand."
I left Alphinaud in a huff and stalked down the halls. Just what was getting into him anyway? He'd been acting more and more like his old self since he took it upon himself to further the Scions' lot in life. I didn't know how much more I could deal with him like that, it made me want to lash out and tell him just what was on my mind. How could it be that I was longing for those troubling days when it was just Cid, Alphinaud, and myself against the world? Where was Cid anyway? No doubt still busying himself with the Sons of Saint Coinach, ever trying to enter that blasted Crystal Tower in Mor Dhona.
Finding the packages and crates destined for a long trip to Revenant's Toll wasn't the hard part. Lugging them all up the steps and out onto the streets of Vesper Bay was. I had just finished hauling the last, a particularly large crate, onto the street when I ran into Tataru on the way back inside.
"So much to do, so much to do! At this rate, we'll never get to Revenant's Toll!" She said to herself as she flipped through papers.
"All in due time, "I said as I caught my breath. "I just got some things ready to be sent there myself."
"Bless your heart, I had completely forgotten about those!" The Lalafell cried. I followed her back outside. "Let me check the labels against my list..." She inspected each package, taking notes down the line. "Oh, these are the last ones! Thank the Twelve, it's almost-" She stopped suddenly. "Oh dear, I did contact the courier, didn't I? Um..."
Tataru looked like she was ready to break into tears. "There, there," I tried consoling. "It's stressful moving, I know."
Tataru sniffled. "Preparing the move is taking a terrible toll on everyone's mental and physical well-being. People have been carrying on for days at a time with barely any food or drink, never mind rest. Some have been too busy to visit the privy, for gods' sake!" I hoped for my sake Tataru wasn't speaking out of experience. "I try to lift their spirits, but encouraging words simply aren't enough anymore. Given that nothing short of hitting them over the head with something heavy will persuade them to rest, my only remaining option is to try improving their diet. I know just how to do it too."
"With a special tonic proven to revive flagging spirits."
"Oh, snake oil..." I said under my breath.
"But for that I require highland tea leaves - and the one merchant I know who sells them is completely out of stock. Harvesting them myself isn't an option, either, as the plant only grows in Coerthas, and I'm in no position to leave the Waking Sands at present." Tataru frowned again.
"Hey, I'm all for kicking the lot of them in the arse. I'll bet my last gil that Thancred is loafing around."
Tataru looked up to me and her eyes widened. "You could help me, right?" I was about to make a smart remark in reply but looking down at Tataru and knowing all the hard work she's done already, I held my tongue. "Great! I'll take that silence as a yes!" Tataru beamed and began talking quickly. "I learned the recipe from an Ishgardian acquaintance of mine who serves at Camp Dragonhead. Medguistl's her name. She'll know where to obtain highland tea leaves, I'm sure of it." The Lalafell, mass of papers still in hand, walked back to the entrance of the Waking Sands and stopped only long enough to wave farewell, "Godspeed!" and she was back inside.
What else could I do but spend the next few hours wandering the frozen Coerthas landscape in search for the highland tea leaves? Of course Tataru's acquaintance didn't have any in stock, and of course she didn't expect to have any for days. But she did know where I could find them, and so I had to brave the foul weather and the wild animals as I gathered the leaves myself. I don't know how the biasts and mudskippers survived in the frigid temperature, but I wish I knew their secret to keeping warm.
To say the least I was happy to return to the warmer climes of Thanalan, though by the time I returned the Waking Sands I was sweating. Oh to be somewhere temperate, where I wasn't freezing my arse off or boiling alive in my own juices. I found Tataru in the makeshift kitchen which seemed even more bare with most of our supplies removed. She did however have a kettle of boiling water ready to go. She must have been anticipating my successful return.
"You brought them, you really brought them! Thank you so much!" She took the tea leaves and hurried to the boiling water. "There's no time to waste, I shall begin brewing without delay!" She dropped the leaves into the water and began pulling out other ingredients. As she prepared the honey she sang the recipe in form of a song. "A dollop of honey, a fresh sprig of mint. Aloe extract just so. A tincture of tea, but no more than a hint. To buoy my beloved beau." It was almost too cute, until she reached the next verse. "Nix eyes and flan flesh ground to a paste, fresh ogre offal for-"
Tataru suddenly jumped where she stood, sending her ingredients sailing. "The news!" She stamped her foot, frustrated. "I knew there was something I'd forgotten to mention! Ill tidings! As ill as ill can be! Another crisis in the making!"
"Slow down, Tataru. What's going on?"
The Lalafell trembled for another moment before composing herself. "A messenger from the Twin Adder came to the Waking Sands while you were in Coerthas. I wasn't privy to his conversation with the Antecedent, but I did see the look on her face after he took his leave. Something is definitely amiss." Tataru wrung her hands together. "Could it be that the Ixal have summoned Garuda again? Or mayhap Imperial forces have been sighted within the Shroud!"
"Whatever it is, I'm sure I can handle it." I said, but Tataru still looked worried. "Oi, your tea is boiling over." Tataru let out a little shout of panic and quickly went back to attending her disgusting concoction. With her distracted, I made my leave and went straight to the Antecedent's office.
"I hear there's trouble?" I asked as I entered.
Minfilia looked up from her work and nodded. "I knew this day would come, yet I prayed it would not come so soon. We have reason to believe that another Primal - or an entity resembling one - has been summoned in Gridania."
"Something that... looks like a Primal?" What in the realm did that mean? The only two beastmen tribes in proximity to Gridania were the Ixali and the Sylph. Which meant either Garuda whom I had clashed against many times already, or Ramuh. The Sylph hadn't summoned Ramuh since immediately after the Calamity. Was it possible they felt the need to call their Lord of Levin?
"Thine arrival is customarily timely, Rosalyn. The aetheric waves leave little room for doubt; thy talents will be needed ere long. If there be truth in my suspicions, 'tis a familiar foe we face, though one quite unlike the Lady of the Vortex..."
"You think you know what's going on?"
"We dare not draw conclusions without evidence, but as Urianger says, the readings bear a strong resemblance to ones observed more than five years ago." More than five years ago? That would be before the Calamity. Did that mean...? Minfilia bowed her head. "Though I had hoped the Mogglesguard beyond such follies..."
That was all I needed to hear to jog my memories completely. King Moggle Mog XII had returned to the realm. As the stories went, long ago, The Moogle-Kind lived in the heavens and were loyal servants to the gods. Some sort of war had erupted, and the Moogle king decided to secretly lead his subjects to the realm of mortals below. The Moogles learned that the mortal realm was so far below them, they couldn't be carried there by wings alone. They created the longest length of rope to ever be woven, and Good King Moggle Mog XII held tight to the rope so that his subjects could descend. With no one left to hold the rope, the Moogle king was trapped in the heavens.
The Moogles revered their king so much for his sacrifice that they refused to ever declare a successor to the crown. Truth be told, it happened so long ago that there's no truth that Moggle Mog was nothing more than a legend. Be as it may, with the end of the Sixth Astral Era drawing near, the Mogglesguard of the Twelveswood announced themselves the sworn defenders of Moogle-kind. Taught by a masked stranger, an Ascian no doubt, they summoned King Moggle Mog XII to Eorzea. This shouldn't even have been possible, such as Moggle Mog was not a true Primal. It could only be described as wish fulfillment, a desire made real with enough Aether.
The Moogle king of legend was benevolent, and though manifested with the best of intentions, Moggle Mog was driven by the urges of all summoned Primals. To feed on Aether and to gain more worshippers. As the Path of the Twelve we fought him like any other Primal, and sent him back to the Aetherial realm.
"I will make haste for Gridania," I said with a nod and quickly left the Antecedent's chamber. I traveled to Gridania by means of Aetheryte and fought my sick stomach the whole way to the Adders' Nest. Once there I was quickly caught up with the situation and escorted to the Lotus Stand to meet with Kan-E-Senna and her visitor. I had been so quick to leave the Waking Sands that I hadn't a chance to be informed that Papalymo and Yda had already been sent to Gridania. I was surprised to see them awaiting my arrival, and told them as much.
"Our guest has brought ill tidings which must needs be heeded," Raya-O-Senna, the younger sister of Gridania's leader began when we settled down. "Isn't that right, Kuplo Kopp?" She looked over to the Moogle that was flitting about in the air beside her.
"Oh, I don't know about this... I don't know about this at all.." The Moogle said nervously. "But I suppose Raya-O's right- they've left us no choice, kupo."
"A threat to Mooglekind.... Hmph," Papalymo huffed. "I had hoped the Antecedent's suspicions were ill founded, but I cannot see who else it could be."
"It must be something bad to have gotten Kuplo Kopp this worried," Yda said to her companion. "Have you seen the way his thingummy is bobbing?" It wasn't put so eloquently, but she was right. The Moogle's pom was bouncing too and fro erratically.
"Please, you have to stop them!" The Moogle pleaded. "B-but you mustn't kill them! They're not bad moogles, kupo! They're just... misguided! A gentle - no, firm thrashing is in order, yes, but no-"
"Calm yourself, Kuplo Kopp!" Raya-O interjected, halting Kuplo Kopp's rambling. "Can you not see that she hasn't the faintest idea what you're talking about? Be quiet this instant!" She sighed and turned to Kan-E-Senna. "Pray, forgive his witless outburst Sister." Raya-O couldn't know that I had some sort of idea what was happening in the Shroud, but I appreciated the sentiment.
Kan-E-Senna bowed her head then looked toward me and my fellow Scions. "Most grateful am I that you have come, Rosalyn, and upon such short notice. Truly, Gridania could not wish for a more stalwart ally. But you are doubtless eager to know wherefore we summoned you. Our friend Kuplo Kopp has brought to us news of a most unsettling development." She took a moment to let the appropriate gravitas fill the air. "It would seem that Good King Moggle Mog XII has returned to Eorzea."
"I thought as much.." I said quietly to myself.
"A curious thing to hear, I know. Truth to tell, I myself cannot say for sure if he is a genuine figure from history or some manifestation of moogle mythology. Kuplo here would have me believe the former."
Kuplo Kopp recited the story of their king who sacrificed himself so that his subjects could live in the mortal realm, which for some reason they called the Promised Land. I had heard this story before and only half listened.
"He alone would remain in the heavens so that mooglekind might at last know peace," Kuplo Kopp finished.
"Except that he has not remained in the heavens, from what I understand - that being your reason for contacting us, yes?" Papalymo asked.
"I'll bet he tied the rope to something!" Yda said excitedly, like she had just solved a riddle. "Good thinking!" I could only guess there was a vacant expression behind her mask as she asked "Remind me again what the problem was with him returning to Eorzea?"
"The problem, Yda, lies in the fact that he was summoned," Papalymo sighed. I didn't know who to feel sorry for more, the Lalafell or the ditzy girl.
"It is our belief that Good King Moggle Mog XII is a myth made manifest via means akin to those employed by the beast tribes in the summoning of their gods," Kan-E-Senna explained.
"Wait..." Yda drawled. "You're saying a handful of moogles with a boatload of crystals wished really, really, really hard, and he just sort of - poof- appeared? Would that even work?"
"What I cannot fathom is why they would even try," Papalymo wondered aloud. "With Garuda humbled and the Ultima Weapon destroyed, what new threat could have prompted them to take so drastic a measure?"
"Might that not in itself be the answer?" Raya-O suggested. "Twice in the last half decade, Eorzea has been brought unto the very brink of destruction, only to be spared at the last by the heroics of a chosen few. To you who braved those tempests and survived by virtues of your own strength, this latest period of peace will doubtless seem a welcome respite. But to those who had not the power to defend themselves, who were spared only by another's grace, this is merely the calm before the storm. I think the Mogglesguard are afraid - afraid of what tomorrow will bring, and that things may not end so well as they did yesterday. That fear has driven them to call upon a greater power, one they believe can be relied upon to protect their loved ones and their homes come what may."
The younger Padjal had a point. There may come a day when the Warriors of Light were not there to save the day, and someone else may need to rise up to the occasion. Were I not one of those self-same Warriors of Light, would I not feel the same way? I'd wish and wish for someone, anyone, with the strength to keep myself and those I cared for safe.
"I assure you, the Mogglesguard only want to protect the forest from outsiders," Kuplo Kopp said. "But ever since the return of Good King Moggle Mog XII - may his boundless grace fill our hearts with love - they've started to get a little carried away, kupo. Verging on a lot, in fact..."
"Like the Sylphs who summoned Ramuh, you mean?" Yda asked.
"Hmmm. We cannot discount the possibility that this... entity is influencing the moogles in a manner similar to that of a Primal." Papalymo agreed.
"We share the same concern," Kan-E-Seena nodded. "Whoever, or whatever, the king may be, it is our belief that he poses a threat not only to mooglekind, but to Gridania as a whole. Thus do we beseech you, confront Good King Moggle Mog XII and drive him from our midst."
"I'm going to need the usual suspects then," I said to Papalymo. I looked to Kan-E-Senna and nodded. "We'll take care of it like any other Primal."
"Humbly do I thank you," she said, bowing her head. "The sanctuary of the Mogglesguard and their liege lord is concealed by magical wards. Brother E-Sumi-Yan of the Conjurer's guild will doubtless be able to offer insight on how they might be dispelled. Pray seek his counsel ere you proceed any further."
"For the moogles' sake -and our own- banish the king from the Twelveswood." Raya-O said.
"Remember: no killing, kupo! A sound thrashing will more than suffice!"
I left the Lotus Stand behind me and made my way for the Conjurer's Guild to speak with E-Sumi-Yan regarding entrance into the Thornmarch, the heavily bramble-laden segment of the Twelveswood that King Moggle Mog had claimed as his land. Papalymo and Yda would gather my reinforcements together in the mean time, and once everyone had arrived we'd make our assault.
I found the conjurer attending to his duties in the guild hall, but he took a moment of his time to speak to me. He had already been appraised of the situation and had been awaiting my appearance. "The wards barring access to the king's sanctuary can only be nullified through the use of enchanted keystones - the selfsame method employed five years ago, when first the king was summoned to Eorzea." The Padjal explained. "It was with great regret that we were forced to sanction the slaying of the guardians who then held the keystones, for none were in our possession at the time."
I didn't regret it in the slightest. The Mogglesguard had taken it upon themselves to entrust the keystones to the forest itself, and many a terrible treant was felled to collect the number we needed to break the wards. The treants had been a dangerous force in the Twelveswood and needed to be felled at some point, but the Padjal were always in fear of upsetting the Elementals of the forest.
"By the grace of the Elementals, we have been spared that burden on this occasion." E-Sumi-Yan said with a bow of his head. "Kuplo Kopp confided in me that he had been entrusted with a set of keystones by the Mogglesguard themselves. Yet, wishing not to betray their confidence, he begged me to find some other means to gain entry to the king's sanctum. Alas, I have been unable to do so, and dare not labor any longer for fear that the moogles might succumb to the corrupting influence of their liege lord. We must needs have Kuplo Kopp's keystones. Pray, go to him and beg his assistance."
I walked through Gridania in an attempt to find the moogle, but he seemed nowhere to be found. Suspecting that he had gone on ahead, I took the ferry from Westshore Pier to Sweetbloom Pier in the Eastern Shroud. When I stepped off the docks and into the forest I was surprised to see Kuplo Kopp there, but I was even more so to see the gang of moogles that were accosting him. They were each much larger than Kuplo Kopp and carried with them an assortment of weapons.
"Don't you dare lie to me, kupo!" A moogle waving an axe about yelled. "I know what you're planning, and I won't allow it!"
"Open your eyes, kupo!" Kuplo Kopp pleaded, bobbing about in the air. "The king will never be satisfied, no matter how many crystals you bring him!"
"We offered you a choice, and this is how you repay us?" A moogle holding a yew crook asked. "By consorting with this...this..." She waved her staff in the direction of Gridania.
"Imperials, Gridanians, sylphs - you're no different from the rest of them!" The axe-bearing moogle accused. "Actually - you're worse, kupo!"
"Traitor to his kinsmoogle, he plots treason against the crown!"
"Enough!" The third moogle, wearing a pot helm and carrying a sword and shield shouted. "Kuplo Kopp will answer for his crimes soon enough, as will all those who defy the will of Good King Moggle Mog XII - may he reign forevermore, kupo!" With that announcement, the three large moogles retreated back into the depths of the Twelveswood.
"Just what in the seven hells was that all about?" someone else asked before I could. I turned around in time to see a group stepping off of the pier. At the head of the group was the man who had spoken, an Elezen in meticulously polished armor of white and blue. In the months that I had known him, Oliver had let his hair grow out and it was already longer than mine. I couldn't help but feel jealous of the man's flowing locks.
"Part of the Mogglesguard, I assume?" the shorter figure beside Oliver asked. Though the visor of her horned helmet was down, I knew it was Rae. She grinned, her lips and chin the only part of her face visible, and offered me a curt wave. It was amazing how her heavy, fur-lined armor made the slip of a girl look menacing.
"I'm glad you guys could make it," I said with a smile.
"We wouldn't miss it for the world," Azarashi chimed in. He wore deep blue armor adorned with many spikes and bladed tassets. The visor of his dragon-esque helmet was up and I could see his smiling face clearly. It was odd seeing such a jovial person in such dangerous looking armor.
Standing next to the Dragoon, dressed in black leather robes accentuated with purple was Sorasha. Her silky black hair was done up in two long, swaying pigtails. She smiled the kind of smile that made men and women alike weak in the knees and slipped her arms around Azarashi's, clearly unafraid of injuring herself on his equipment. "It's been a while."
"Not long enough," came the dour remark from the man dressed similarly to Sorasha. Ratie wore the same robes of a Black Mage as well as the leather mask and large, pointed hat. All that could be seen of his face beyond the mask and wide brim of his cowl was one eye, almost eerily unblinking. "There's always another Primal, oft sooner than the last."
" 'Tis our duty to be ever vigilant," Eryiwaen, clad in the white and red robes of the White Mage of old, said solemnly. "The Primals are a threat to the balance of Aether and need to be dealt with accordingly."
Ratie rolled his eyes, or at least the one visible, as he flapped his hand in the appearance of a mouth speaking. "Less talking, more killing," he said shortly. The Roegadyn shot him a look and only shook his head.
"That looks like everyone," I said in relief. "Let's hurry al-" The sound of someone clearing their throat halted my words. Stepping betwixt everyone's legs, a Lalafell in yellow clothes in a fashion not native to Eorzea made his way to the front of the group. He crossed his arms over his chest and fixed a glare at me. "Oh, Mishro. There you are," I looked away, embarrassed.
"Everyone forgets me," he began.
"Because you're so small and hard to see?" Ratie cut in, emphasizing the end of the rhyme with a chuckle. Mishro simply shook his head and remained quiet.
"Like I was saying, lets hurry along then," I turned toward Kuplo Kopp. "I'm afraid it's come to this, but we'll need to use your set of keystones. There's no time to determine another way."
"I understand, kupo," the moogle said. "The king is planning to purge the Twelveswood of his enemies, we've got to stop him before its too late."
As a group we made our way into the darker regions of the Twelveswood known as the Bramble Patch. It was here that the thorny vines grew to an unusual size and reached ever higher to blot out the sun. It seemed that only the brambles grew here, for many a dead tree littered the ground, rotted out by the passage of time. On the way, Kuplo Kopp briefed us on the members of the Mogglesguard.
Their leader was the moogle carrying a sword and shield, Whiskerwall Kupdi Koop, a self-proclaimed Paladin. He held the semblance of order together in the Mogglesguard, no easy task when it came to the erratic tendencies of moogles. His second in command was Ruffletuft Kupta Kapa, the axe-wielder, who had a short fuse and wouldn't hesitate to resort to violence. Furryfoot Kupli Kipp was the Mogglesguard's White Mage, a usually kindhearted moogle who had given into their mad king's demands. Woolywart Kuqpu Kogi was an archer and a troublemaker, though he wasn't the worst of the Mogglesguard.
Puksi Piko the Shaggysong was the Mogglesguard's fun-loving Bard. As Kuplo Kopp told us this, I wondered whose songs would ring louder, mine or her's. The last two members of the Mogglesguard sounded like they would be the most trouble. First was Pukna Pako the Tailturner, a thief of a moogle that fought dirty. She'd employ every trick in the book to sway the fight in her favor. Last but not least was Pukla Puki the Pomburner, a Black Mage who loved fire. Perhaps a little too much.
"Who's the biggest threat in this situation?" I queried the group.
"Black Mage," they said in unison.
"That settles it then."
We had reached the heart of the Bramble Patch and I could already feel the magic of the wards preventing us from moving further.
"Are you ready to face the king, kupo?" Kuplo Kopp asked us and we nodded. "Step closer to the ward." We moved as close to the barrier as we could, it thrummed loudly and pushed against us. "Raise your hand and focus - like when you attune to an Aetheryte, kupo. I'll open the way for you."
We all held our hands out to the ward, the repelling force growing stronger and threatening to send us flying. I dug my feet in and clenched my teeth. Kuplo Kopp held up a set of keystones, each one alighting with a magical glow. The barrier responded in kind and shattered before us, instantly relieving us of its repelling force.
"The rest is up to you, kupo! Now go and teach those foolish moogles a lesson and send the king back whence he came!" Kuplo Kopp fluttered away and hid amongst the brambles.
I looked to my companions and nodded. "Alright, no turning back now."
The air in the Thornmarch was heavy with Aether, so much so that it glowed faintly. There was definitely a Primal, or something very much like it, here that was drawing the Aether to it. As we walked into the Thornmarch we could hear the Mogglesguard flying about the brambles.
"Kupo!?" one cried. "Who in the seven hells are they!?"
"Meddling adventurers, I'd wager!"
We entered a circular clearing and the brambles closed shut behind us. Kupdi Koop landed before us and let out a rallying cry. "Mogglesguard, to arms! Defend the king, Kupo!" Kupdi Koop flew toward us and Oliver rushed out to meet him, shield meeting shield in a great clash. Oliver's gleaming shield was larger than the moogle's wooden buckler, but neither lost ground even though Oliver had traction and the moogle was in the air.
Before the rest of us could even draw our weapons the Mogglesguard was upon us. A blast of fire nearly taking us all out when Pukla Puki entered the fray. Ratie and Sorasha replied in kind, launching spheres of fire from their matching weapons. I saw Kupqu Kogi take up position across the clearing and brought an arrow to my bow. I judged his aim, drawing back on my own bowstring. Just as the moogle let his arrow fly toward Eryiwaen, I released mine and struck his arrow from the air with mine. Foiled, the moogle archer turned his sights on me.
I had just enough time to look over my shoulder and see Rae trading blows with Kupta Kapa, the two axe-wielders struggling against one another, before I was forced to dodge an arrow from my target. I loosed another volley at the moogle, infusing my arrows with wind and water aspected Aether. The arrows grazed Kupqu Kogi, but the biting wind and poisons they inflicted would eat away at his vitality.
Kupli Kipp flew across the field, administering healing spells to all the moogles but there were too many to attend to at once. We were slowly wearing them down despite their White Mage's administrations, their Bard's rallying song, and Pukna Pako stabbing at the least anticipated moment. One by one the Mogglesguard fell in exhaustion.
"No more?" Oliver asked, breathing a little heavy. The words had only just passed his lips when the Aether in the air began to shift. The Mogglesguard, as though finding an extra store of energy, got up and flew to the center of the clearing where the Aether was amassing. Their wounds, slight and nonthreatening as they were, were healing rapidly.
"Do you always have to ask that?" I groaned.
"At least it wasn't me this time," Ratie offered.
"Something's coming," Eryiwaen warned, but it was just a moment too late. The Aether exploded outward in a massive blast of energy that sent us reeling. It was a miracle that we weren't flung into the bramble patch to be impaled by thorns.
I slowly returned to my feet and saw the biggest moogle there ever was. If the Mogglesguard were three times bigger than Kuplo Kopp, the new moogle was three times bigger again. With a regal crown atop noble brow, neatly curled whiskers, and scepter in hand, King Moggle Mog XII was before us in all his glory. And then all hells broke loose.
Puksi Piko began singing, rallying the Mogglesguard with her song, and Pukla Puki tore the heavens asunder. There was a mad dash to avoid the meteors that crashed down around us and wherever we ran a moogle was waiting for us.
"Are we still taking it easy on these guys?" Azarashi called out, busy fending back Kupta Kapa's axe with his polearm.
"To hells with that," I replied, an arrow very nearly finding its mark in my chest. I replied back to that too with an arrow of my own.
"Take out that Black Mage!" Eryiwaen shouted, busy trying to heal our injuries. The moogle in question was already casting her next big spell.
I spotted Mishro making a mad dash through the confusion of the battle and he jumped, slamming his shoulder into Pukla Puki. In a swift movement he swung in the air, hooked his leg around and kicked the moogle before they both fell to the ground, though the Lalafell expertly landed on his feet and hopped away. Ratie and Sorasha, standing back to back, pointed their staves at the moogle and hit it with a simultaneous blast.
Pukna Pako stabbed Sorasha in the back just then and the Elezen let out a cry of pain. Azarashi whirled on his heels, leaving his back exposed to the axe-wielding moogle. He was just about to take an axe to the back when he leapt high into the air, landing beside Sorasha and thrusting his lance at her attacker. Kupta Kapa swung his axe at empty air, then was knocked to the ground by an attack from Rae. The moogle bounced off the ground and back into the air and made to escape, but Rae expertly tossed a chain that hooked the moogle and reeled it in close.
Puksi Piko's song ended abruptly and I saw Mishro leaving the moogle behind on his way toward Kupli Kipp. Oliver was going sword to scepter with the king himself, shrugging off blasts of magic with his shield like it was rain. We were somehow routing the Mogglesguard. I spotted Kupdi Koop heading for Oliver and loosed an aether-infused arrow that struck the moogle's shadow, binding him in place, then returned my attention to the moogle archer that was still hounding me.
A lucky arrow struck Kupqu Kogi's bow and split in two, forcing the archer to flee. I quickly took stock of the situation and saw that the few Mogglesguard that remained were being distracted by Rae. Eryiwaen was attending to Sorasha's wound while the others focused their attention on King Moggle Mog. I joined in, inflicting the giant moogle with poison and harassing him with cutting winds. We were slowly wearing him down when King Moggle Mog held up his scepter, gathering the Aether in the air to him once more.
We pressed our attack harder, knowing that the same blast from before would soon be upon us. The pressure in the air grew stronger, each passing moment drawing us closer to the king's massive magical attack. I could feel it about to snap and release, taking us all with it, when the Aether suddenly disappeared. I don't know who landed the final blow, but King Moggle Mog XII flew erratically for a moment before falling back in the air, his body evaporating into Aether like any other summoned Primal.
The Mogglesguard watched on as their King faded to nothing. Realizing that their liege was no more, they gathered themselves together and fled back into the Twelveswood. I watched until they were no more than specks in the distant sky, then turned to my friends. "Oi, you okay Sorasha?"
"I'll be fine," she said with a nod, though she looked a little pale. "Is everyone else alright?"
We took a head count and it seemed that everyone had made it through the fight no worse for the wear.
"You did it, kupo!" We heard, and Kuplo Kopp came flying out of path in the brambles that had reopened. "Good King Moggle Mog XII - may his mighty soul rest in peace - is no more! I shudder to think what might've happened had you not stopped the Mogglesguard when you did. Thank you, Rosalyn. Thank you all, kupo."
"It's what we do best," Ratie chuckled. "Now then, does anyone know if we're being paid for thi-ow!" Ratie hopped sideways on one leg, clutching his other in pain.
Mishro unclenched his fist and crossed his arms over his chest. "That's what you get for calling me short. Seriously, Ratie, you're the most terrible sort."
The Black Mage grumbled and gingerly settled on his punched leg. If he only got a muscle cramp from the hit he'd suffer too lightly. I snorted and looked over my companions. For all their faults, I didn't trust anyone else more.
"Come on, then, let's get out of these woods."
We returned to Gridania and while the others went straight to the Carline Canopy for drinks, I had to return to the Lotus Stand to let Kan-E-Senna know that we had been successful. When I arrived at the meeting place, Kan-E-Senna, Kuplo Kopp, Yda and Papalymo were waiting for me.
"Everyone wants to hear your tale, kupo!" Kuplo Kopp said excitedly. "What are you waiting for? Tell them! Tell them!"
"Rosalyn!" Yda shouted in greeting. "Kuplo Kopp says you killed the king! I'm pleased, of course, but it completely spoiled the end of your story. Silly moogle."
"Yda... If I'm here of course we - nevermind... "I just shook my head and approached the Elder Seedseer.
"You are returned to us, unharmed and victorious." Kan-E-Senna said with a smile of relief. "Thus have I two reasons to be glad. Yet many questions remain unanswered. If you would be so kind as to oblige me, I would fain hear all that occurred in Thornmarch." I shared the quick story, beginning with our encounter with the Mogglesguard at the pier and ending with the King evaporating into Aether.
"Then it is as we feared..." Kan-E-Senna said somberly when I finished.
"The king really is a Primal," Yda said, then tilted her head. "But he really isn't, is he? I mean, the moogles don't worship him, for one thing - he's not even a god to them. That doesn't sound like any Primal I've ever heard of."
"Then mayhap the fault lies with the definition," Papalymo said thoughtfully. "The fact remains that through a combination of the power contained in crystals and the force of their collective faith, the moogles called forth a being that by rights should not exist. Moreover, when slain, said being left no corpse - the Aether which comprised him instead being scattered to the four winds."
"According to the accepted definition, he may not be a primal," Kan-E-Senna agreed, "but the mode of his manifestation was in every respect the same."
"Ascians," Papalymo spat. "This whole business reeks of their handiwork."
"They... they said it was a masked man who had taught them how, years ago," Kuplo Kopp said, flustered, "B-but Gridania has no shortage of masked men! I-I never thought to question..."
"Confound it all! How many more will they ensnare with their tainted gifts..?"
"Too many, I fear. So long as there are Paragons to stir the embers, fools to build the pyre, and crystals to feed the flames, ever and again shall we suffer Primal visitation. A somber though, but a salutary one." I reflected on Kan-E-Senna's words. It was the very same scenario we had been dealing with these past months with the other beastmen tribes and their Primals. "My heartfelt thanks, Rosalyn. Already the information you have provided has proven invaluable. The grand serpent marshal and I have much to discuss."
"Oh!" Yda nearly jumped. "Before you do, my lady, I was hoping we might finish discussing that other matter?"
"The matter of which you speak has even now been settled. The Scions shall not want for support. We shall be glad to send additional supplies to Revenant's Toll."
"We knew we could count on you, my lady!"
I excused myself and made to leave the Lotus Stand, my intent to join the others at the Carline Canopy but Papalymo caught up with me and I knew I wasn't done for the evening just yet. "While Yda and I remain to discuss the particulars of our arrangement with the Elder Seedseer, mayhap you could return to the Waking Sands and apprise the Antecedent of all that has transpired?"
It would seem my work was never quite done. "Of course," I said, forcing myself to not sound annoyed. I used the Aetheryte system to return to Camp Horizon and picked up a tea from a vendor about to close up for the night to settle my ailing stomach before riding to Vesper Bay. It was well into the evening when I arrived, but the lights were still on in Minfilia's office.
"It is good to see you hale and healthy, Rosalyn," she smiled. "I received word from Yda and Papalymo that you had felled Good King Moggle Mog XII, but I had hoped to hear your version of the tale." I took up my usual seat and for the second time recounted the battle with the moogle king. "...So it was as they said. Summoned with the same methods used by the beast tribes and taught by the Ascians."
"Yeah, it's a shame that there's just one more Primal, or not-Primal in this case, to deal with," I sighed. "If they summon their king again, it'll be too soon."
Minfilia nodded in agreement. "Though unfortunate, this incident did at least serve to remind the Elder Seedseer of our usefulness. Her offer of additional support could not have come at a better time."
There was always a silver lining, wasn't there? Was it wrong to take rewards from the three city-states for dealing with their problems, even if not outrightly asked. Was it not the same situation we had discussed days before? Or was there a difference because the Primals were a threat to the whole of Eorzea? It was an ethical problem perhaps left to minds more suited for the task, and not my own which by this point only wanted sleep.
"We should be in a new home in a few days time," I mused aloud.
Minfilia nodded. "Owing to the tireless efforts of all concerned, we are, at long last, ready to bid farewell to Vesper Bay. So as to avoid drawing undue attention, we shall make the journey to Revenant's Toll in small groups, departing at irregular intervals."
"That's a strange thing to do."
"Lets you doubt it, it is still my intention to conduct future operations openly, but on this particular occasion, the need for caution overrides all other concerns. To move north as one ponderous caravan would only serve to draw attack." She had a point. All you can eat Scion buffet, for Ascian and Primal alike.
"Is that why the place seems empty tonight?"
"It seemed only right that I shall be the last to leave, and I would have you remain with me until the end, Rosalyn."
I flushed brightly and looked for anywhere else to keep my gaze. "So," that word hung in the air for what seemed like ages. "What's happening to this place when we leave?"
"Upon my departure, the Waking Sands will formally cease to be our headquarters, and the premises will be given into the care of Urianger."
"Urianger? What would he want with an empty building?"
"I had thoughts to relinquish the property, but he was quite adamant, and I had not the heart to disagree. These walls have borne witness to some of the brightest... and darkest moments in our order's history. Mayhap it is best that we do not forsake them entirely." She smiled as she gazed out at the walls of her office. "Urianger shall remain here and devote his energies to studying the nature of primals. By the grace of the Twelve, he will one day discover the permanent solution that we have sought for so long."
"That's a tall order..."
"Of course, he will not be alone - Alisae shall continue to work closely with him as well. Should they require our assistance, I have their assurances that they will not hesitate to contact us." She was thoughtful for a moment. "Speaking of Urianger - would you inquire of him if any tasks remain undone? I cannot escape the feeling that I have forgotten something. Something important."
"Of course, not a problem." I left Minfilia's office and began searching the empty Waking Sands for Urianger. I found him within one of the storerooms. He had set up a desk covered with books and parchments.
"Oi, Urianger. The Antecedent would like to know if there's anything we forgot to take care of for you before we left."
"Thou art ever welcome, Rosalyn, but I require no assistance. Pray, take thy leave unburdened by concern for my well-being." That was Urianger, such the martyr. "Verily, thy countenance bespeaks a desire to quit this place without further delay."
"I- what?" I blinked a few times, befuddled.
"Hm. Mayhap thou thinkest this chapter of our tale concluded - that these halls should rightly be consigned to the annals of history?" Urianger sighed. "In man's eagerness to seize the future, how readily he doth set down the past... Full many a proud pioneer hath bravely stridden into the great unknown, only to find there the banner of his ancestor, faded by the eons. And still many glorieth in his discoveries. 'Tis through his pride that wisdom doth ever give way to ignorance, while they who lurk in the shadow remain hidden, lost no sooner than they are found."
"Be not offended," the Elezen shook his head. "Thy conduct hath been beyond reproach. Despite thy surpassing strength, and all thy many victories, thou hast never been so convinced of thine own greatness to imagine thyself above the failings of thy forebears. Mayhap it is the Echo which hath opened thine eyes to the lessons of history. Would that the same be said of-"
A scream cut Urianger short and I looked up in shock.
"Whence came that cry!?" Urianger gasped.
"Twelve forfend - the Antecedent!"
We ran down the halls as quickly as we could, somewhere between the storehouse and the Antecedent's Chamber I had left Urianger behind. He was the scholarly sort above all else and I had been running and fighting for so long, there was no contest in who was the faster of the two. I rounded the corner hard and nearly slipped, recovered, and threw open Minfilia's doors.
My breath caught in my chest when I saw Minfilia sprawled on the ground, pain etched across her face. There was no blood that I could see, but she was clearly hurt. I knelt down next to her and she stirred at my touch.
"Y-you... you must..."
I staggered, pain splitting my head and my vision fading. The Echo had me fully in its grasp, and soon I was standing in a vision of the Solar tinged in cienna. Minfilia was standing, she had just closed the doors and was taking one last look around the room, a fond yet sad smile on her face. She stopped at the edge of her desk and looked up to the shattered staff mounted on the wall.
"Tell me, Louisoix... Would you have done the same?" She asked aloud.
"Louisoix Leveillieur was a remarkable man. Wise beyond mortal measure. Would that I had met him prior to his passing."
My skin crawled at the words and I turned at nearly the same time Minfilia had to face the source.
"An Ascian, here!? How-!?" Minfilia braced herself against her desk.
"How readily you see. You are indeed gifted, Antecedent." The Ascian said in his dark tongue. He was unlike any of the other Ascians I had seen to that point. The ornamentation on his robes were for more elaborate than Lahabrea's, all jutting spikes of gold and arcane embroidering. The most striking thing of his garb, however, was his white robe.
"But you.. You are not like the others... Your robes..."
"Gifted - but ignorant," The Ascian snorted, now speaking in common-tongue. "Yet I shall not judge you harshly. The fault lies with your forebears. It has been... millenia." He said the last word as though thinking back on something fondly. "Mine are the robes of an emissary. Unlike he who came before, I have no quarrel with you."
"He who - You speak of Lahabrea?"
The Ascian nodded ever so slightly. "Lahabrea is a warrior. He fought. He fell. He may yet learn from his mistakes."
"Then he... he is still..."
"Come," he smirked. "I only confirm that which you already know. There is no cessation, no oblivion. Only expulsion."
"You... What are..?" Minfilia was clearly grasping, trying to understand what was happening here. She clung to her desk like it were her only salvation. It was then that her doors opened suddenly and Tataru walked into the office.
"We're ready when you are, my lady! If there's nothing else..." Tataru cocked her head at the expression on Minfilia's face. "...Is something amiss?" Minfilia slowly looked from Tataru to the Ascian. Tataru's gaze followed in the same direction. Though he stood no more than two ilms next to her, she may as well have been looking through him. "Ah.. I feel the same way. After everything that's happened here, it feels strange to leave. But I'm sure we'll soon get used to Revenant's Toll." Tataru smiled. "Well, I'll leave you to say your goodbyes. Take as long as you like, my lady. We shall depart whenever you're ready."
With that, Tataru left and closed the doors behind her. Minfilia looked like she couldn't process what had just happened.
"It is only to be expected," the Ascian offered. "She lacks the gift and the knowledge both. To her, we are indistinct."
"I.. I do not understand."
"Shadowless, fleshless, formless... What truth there is in each tale is diluted by time and telling. Knowledge dictates expectation, and expectation colors perception. Thus she did perceive naught." The Ascian shrugged his shoulders. "So it is with all but a chosen few. Even you, when young, could not yet see with eyes unclouded."
Minfilia furrowed her brow. "You know nothing about me. Nothing."
"The gift grants you clarity; it grants you focus. With it, you may in time come to see us as we are, rather than this crude approximation." He gestured to himself as a whole.
"Lahabrea did not think so highly of the Echo."
"Lahabrea is wrong about a great many things. The Echo is indeed a gift - albeit one you have yet to master."
Minfilia grew silent. "And if we did..?" She asked, almost as though she were afraid to.
"There would be no strife between our people - for we would be of one mind." I felt a shiver crawl up my spine. Just what did this Ascian mean by that? He turned sharply on his heels. "I leave, as I came, in peace, Antecedent. May we meet again as friends." And he began stepping toward the door.
"Wait! Stay where you are!" Minfilia pushed away from her desk, striding purposefully toward the Ascian with her hand outstretched. He turned back around with great speed and thrust out his hand, a lance of shadows and dark magic erupting from his hand and through Minfilia's chest. It was then that Minfilia let out that scream of pain that we had heard in the storeroom, but now I had to witness it up first hand. The Ascian viciously pulled his hand back as though he had to tug free a weapon from Minfilia's chest, his magic evaporating, and the Antecedent dropped to the floor.
"Mayhap I was indelicate... 'Tis a mercy she shields Her children from His grace with such resolve. Was it also by Her hand that you survived the Ardor, I wonder?" The Ascian looked up as darkness swirled around him and consumed him. Just as he disappeared, I blinked back into awareness. I could feel the sharp bite of my fingernails in my palm, and hot tears rolling down my cheeks.
"I...I take it there is no need to explain," Minfilia groaned. I shook my head and made to aid her but she pushed my hands away. "Save your concern. He did me no lasting harm," she protested as she slowly got up. "Whatever his intention was, it was not to kill."
"I heard a cry! What happened, are you alright!?" Tataru burst into the room with Urianger right behind her. "You look faint - do you need to lie down? I could fetch you a flask of my special tonic-"
Minfilia cut her off with a shake of her head. "Urianger, send word to the Students of Baldesion. Tell them to scour the archives - the forbidden tomes in particular. If there is any reference to an Ascian robed in white, however oblique, I would know of it."
Urianger looked perplexed. "An Ascian, my lady? Was that what gave you cause to cry out?" He looked back out the way he came. "I did but moments ago glimpse a figure clad in white set forth from the Waking Sands. Yet Ascians are wont to employ teleportation magicks - why would one be so brazen?"
"I know not and care not. Find him, Rosalyn! Turn every stone in Vesper Bay if you have to!"
"Pray attend me, Tataru."
I looked from the others to Minfilia, to her pleading face. "He speaks of peace, but I know his words belie his true intent. Quickly, do not let him escape!"
I ran for the exit as quick as I could and burst out into the hot night air. The streetlamps were still lit and the moon cast plenty of light to see by. I searched the immediate surroundings frantically. There weren't many buildings in Vesper Bay, but would he even go into one to hide? There was a path leading to a small outpost just north of Vesper Bay, and it was there I saw the Ascian.
"Approach when you will. I shall wait." He said to me across the distance. I hesitated. "I am told that you are the Warrior of Light, but I would know for myself." He smirked. "I shall walk north, and you may choose to follow. Know, however, that you will be waylaid if you do - you may even perish. Should you survive, we will speak anon." The Ascian turned and as he did shadows enveloped him, consuming him. He reappeared further down the path, and the process repeated until he was out of sight.
How dare he show up and play these games? If he wanted me to give chase, I would give chase. I ran after the white-robed Ascian, leaving the outpost behind and entering the short cave system that would lead toward Cape Westwind. I hadn't gone deep into the caves when two doors of swirling shadows appeared and a pair of Imps emerged.
I drew my bow quickly and loosed an arrow that pierced the first before it had a chance to utter a single vile spell. The second dodged my attack and lashed out with shards of ice. While it moved quick, it soon fell to my next attack.
"I see you live," the Ascian's words echoed off the walls. "Good. But your trial is not yet at an end." I could just see him pulling his disappearing act once more and I gave chase again. As I rounded the corner two more dark doorways opened up and two large demons stepped out. They were humanoid in build but were winged and had large ugly bat heads. Their bodies looked like they were covered in some tough, obsidian hide.
I dropped these Voidsent just like the Imps before and and rushed toward the exit to the cave. "Remarkable! Truly remarkable!" The Ascians voice laughed. "I thank you for granting me this indulgence."
As I emerged from the cave mouth one last swirl of darkness grew up from the ground, this one larger than the rest. The demon that stepped out of the shadow was large and muscular, carrying large swords in each clawed hand. It's horns were curved wickedly upward and its wingspan belied its ability to fly. The gargoyle let out a roar and I met its challenge with a scream of my own and let fly an arrow.
The gargoyle spun, cracking its tail in the air like a whip and knocked my arrow aside. With a speed greater than I could ever anticipate, the gargoyle rushed toward me. I barely had enough time to draw another arrow and release it. Infused with fire aspected Aether, it struck the ground before the Voidsent and a blaze sparked to life. The creature clearly didn't care as it ran through the leaping flames.
I dove and rolled, barely avoiding a downward strike from one of the demon's swords. I stumbled back to my feet and released another arrow, this one finding its mark in the gargoyle's back. As it turned to face me I drew a handful of arrows and steadily released each in rapid succession into the charging gargoyle. A number were knocked away by its blades, but many struck true. I dove out of range at the last second again and coming out of the roll loosed another arrow.
I was very nearly out of arrows when the gargoyle finally crumpled to the ground and refused to move again. I waited just a moment to make sure it wasn't playing dead, even went so far as to stick it with one more arrow to the head, but the Voidsent wouldn't be bothering me anymore.
"None save she who bested Lahabrea could endure such an examination," the Ascian robed in white said, clapping slowly. I turned toward the source of the voice and drew back an arrow. "Have the laws of man grown so twisted in my absence that it is now permitted to lay hands upon an emissary?" He asked, indignant. I eased up on my draw, but didn't move my aim from him.
"What do you want with us?" I asked. "Why did you hurt Minfilia?"
"You bore witness to my audience with the Antecedent, did you not?" He smirked when I didn't reply. "Then you know I acted only in self-defense."
"The hells you did."
The Ascian shook his head. "I realize the same can not be said of Lahabrea. Even amongst his brethren, he is considered.. unique. Nevertheless, I cannot wholly condemn his misdeeds, for through them we discovered you - one so strong in the gift that she could cast us out."
"Fine then, send as many Ascians as you can. I'll send you all back whence you came."
"Your Mother favors you still, that much is plain. But surely you must feel it? Her influence wanes, and Her strength shall soon be spent." I faltered at his words. It was true, I hadn't seen the Mother Crystal, Hydaelyn, since after I defeated Lahabrea. In all our battles against Primals, no matter how much more difficult they had grown, we had never been able to call upon blades of light again. That the Ascians knew as much was an ill omen.
"Why are you here?"
"These lands, these people, this world - all shall soon change. As it was, so shall it be again. As it should always have been. Doubt my claims and question my motives if you will, only believe me when I say this: I am Elidibus, emissary - bearer of the word of the one true god. And we shall meet again."
With his final message delivered, Elidibus was enveloped with shadows. When the darkness receded, he was gone. I let out an aggravated shout into the night even though I knew it wouldn't dispel my anger. I walked slowly back to Vesper Bay, distraught that I had failed in capturing the Ascian that dared to harm Minfilia.
"Thank the gods you've returned!" Minfilia cried when I made it back to the Waking Sands. "After you left, I began to worry that I might have sent you to your doom."
"I have a distinct aversion to doom," I said, a little harder than I meant to. Minfilia's concern for me did, however, quell the boiling storm inside me slightly. It wasn't her fault I didn't stop him, and it wasn't my fault that Minfilia had been hurt. Why did I feel so useless then?
"I take it our visitor proved elusive?"
I snorted. "The cocky bastard was waiting for me."
"Beg pardon? Waiting for you!? What did you do? What did he say?" I told Minfilia of the chase he put me through and the words he had for me after. " 'As it was, so shall it be again'?" She said afterward. "Of when does he mean? And of what, exactly? The words of this Elidibus portend much but reveal nothing - save perhaps a measure of disdain for Lahabrea."
"Yeah, he's the kind of guy you love to hate," I chuckled. "What do you make of it all?"
"I had hoped for answers, but it seems I shall have to be content with a wealth of additional questions..." She sat down heavily at her desk and sighed. "Let us set aside the matter of this Ascian until after we have completed our move to the Rising Stones. There is but one final favor I would ask of you before I depart."
"So long as it's not a Primal or an Ascian, I think I can handle it before I collapse of exhaustion."
"I believe I mentioned before that my father was a member of the Ala Mhigan Resistance?" Minfilia opened a drawer in her desk and withdrew a tattered book. "The truth, however, is more complicated than that. As far as the Empire knew, he was their spy. He maintained the deception for nigh on half a decade, furnishing the Resistance with vital imperial secrets while feeding his paymasters subtly conceived misinformation." She held the book longingly for a moment. "When he died some fifteen years ago, my father left behind his journal, which I have closely guarded ever since. It contains every shred of information he and his agents could steal on what they believed to be the single greatest threat to Eorzea: the Primals. It's wisdom has guided me through the years, though there is much within I still do not understand..."
Minfilia passed me the book and I took it carefully as though it would fall apart at the slightest of touches. "I.. I don't know what to say..."
"It is my hope that Urianger will fare better," she said with a sigh.
"Tell him to treat it with care. It is all I have left of my father."
I stood, tucking the book in the crook of my arm. "Of course," I said and left the Antecedent's office. I took a moment to compose myself before tracking down Urianger. The last thing I needed to do was approach the man with red eyes and tear stains on my cheeks. Just when I thought Minfilia and I may have been connecting on a deeper level... No, of course we weren't. That was what I wanted, but she had no interest in that. She'd be nothing but the Antecedent at least, a friend at most.
I found Urianger back at his little desk he set up in the storeroom. He looked up with a start when I approached. "I thought thee departed. To what end dost thou linger?"
"Minfilia wanted to entrust you with this," I said, handing him the journal and looking away.
He took the journal and flipped through the pages, recognition on his face. "The father's final bequest... and the daughter's lifelong labor... It is no small thing to surrender such a cherished memento. Well can I imagine the Antecedent's pain. Upon mine honor, I swear to spare no effort in the study of these materials, lest my lady's sacrifice be in vain."
"Right," I said. "Take care of it for her." Urianger bowed his head and I left him to his studies. I walked back to the Antecedent's office to check in with her before I turned in for the night, but she wasn't there. Curious I knocked at the door to her room. With no answer after a moment, I peaked my head in. She wasn't there either. Where could she be?
I walked through the Waking Sands, checking every room in search of Minfilia. I had even checked the privy. Having not found a single soul in the Waking Sands beside myself and Urianger, I did the only sensible thing. I checked again. My second search a failure, I stood in the doorway to my room and sighed, banging my head against the stone lightly.
A quiet chirping in my ear broke the silence, someone trying to contact me by linkpearl. I brought my fingers to my ear, pressing slightly to activate the magic and receive the call.
"Rosalyn? This is Minfilia," came the voice across the pearl. I thanked the Twelve that she wasn't in Ascian clutches or dead in a ditch somewhere. "Forgive me, but I could wait no longer - I have departed for the Rising Stones." There was a long pause. "If... if you have yet to..."
"Oh, I... Still have some things here, having been busy and all..."
"I bid you come to the Seventh Heaven in Revenant's Toll when you're ready. Tataru will be there to show you our new headquarters."
The next morning I gathered the rest of my belongings, and bid one last parting glance to the Waking Sands. Urianger met me at the door and offered me a piece of dry knight's bread on the way out. He knew me well enough already. I took the Aetheryte to Revenant's Toll and settled my stomach with the stale bread as best I could. Minfilia had mentioned the Seventh Heaven, the tavern that had been built at the encampment, so I went there straight away.
It was late morning and the tavern was empty save for the barkeep and a cook attending a cooling kitchen. The breakfast crowd was long gone and already returned to work where they were needed. Tataru was supposed to have been here waiting for me...
A door at the far end of the tavern that had been blocked during my stay in Revenant's Toll opened up and Tataru stepped through into the tavern. "Oh! Rosalyn! Welcome!" The Lalafell looked happy to see me, quite the change from late. Maybe it had something to do with the errand I ran for her or the fact that she was no longer working like crazy. "You're the last to arrive; everyone else is already here."
"Yeah, I couldn't make it last night, was just too tired," I lied.
"I think you're going to like our new home!" Tataru grinned, motioning toward the door. "Well, what are you waiting for? Go in and have a look!"
I held up my hands, giving in and stepped through the door. The sharply declining stairwell was a surprise, and I nearly stumbled all the way down. When I reached the bottom I was welcomed with a wide expanse. It was amazing, to say the least. There was a large seating area with a fireplace and chairs for lazing about as well as a table for dining. A small kitchen and bar had been set up which F'lhaminn was currently manning. I was still gazing about when Tataru joined me. She pointed out a desk, her desk to be specific, where there were a number of journals and ledgers and shelves. It was a sight to behold, and this was only the main room.
Straight ahead, opposite where I entered, there was a large double doorway. No doubt the entrance to the Solar, and Tataru said as much. Together we entered and I was amazed to see Minfilia's new office. It was easily twice as big as her old office, if not more. The same could be said for her new desk. Complete with chairs, its own fireplace, and many shelves her office already had a lived-in feeling that was cosey. Just as Tataru had said, everyone had beaten me there. The rest of the Scions were there waiting. Minfilia stood behind her desk, smiling proud.
"Well, it's certainly spacious..." I muttered.
"Today marks a new beginning for the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, for today we declare our independence." She announced to the group. "
"We shall henceforth be beholden to no nation, but serve all of Eorzea's people, proudly and openly." Alphinaud added. "But this does not mean that we will sever our ties to the Eorzean Alliance. On the contrary, the Antecedent and I shall endeavor to strengthen them. Rest assured, however, that we shall not permit political consideration to influence our decisions."
"Our identity remains unchanged, as does our cause. We are the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, and our single purpose is for the future of Eorzea."
"For Eorzea!" the Scions cheered, a round of applause ensuing. With the short speech done, the Scions all began slowly leaving the Solar, no doubt eager to stake claim over rooms in the new headquarters. I was planning on doing the same, but Minfilia stood from her chair and stepped around her desk. I could tell she was heading toward me, she had that look.
"A moment of your time, Rosalyn. I would speak of Elidibus-"
"Pardon the intrusion, my lady," Urianger said as he stepped into the office. What was he doing here? I had left him just moments ago in Vesper Bay. "but the matter which bringeth me will admit no delay. Mine every attempt to contact the Students of Baldesion hath been met with silence."
"No one will respond?" She asked, to which Urianger shook his head. "How odd. Allow me to try." She placed her fingers to her ear, pressing in just the right spot to send a message out. The linkpearls on the other end would be chiming, just like mine had the night before. She frowned, then gave up after a moment. "No response... Surely they would not ignore us?"
"They have never yet, my lady. I fear we must assume the worst."
"No," Minfilia shook her head and said again, more resolutely. "No, I will not believe it. An outpost, perhaps, but not their headquarters. Their wards are beyond circumvention. Had they come under attack, they would most certainly have raised the alarm. None could penetrate their sanctum unnoticed-" Minfilia stopped suddenly with a gasp. "But for those who lack the gift and knowledge both... Oh no..."
The Ascians proved that they could come and go as they pleased, completely unseen, to those who had neither the Echo or the knowledge of their existence. The Ascian in white, Elidibus...
"Contact their agents in the field at once. If aught has befallen the Students of Baldesion, they may know if it. Though the thought of it pains me, until such a time as we have evidence of the contrary, we can but assume the worst. Accordingly, we must needs seek out another source of information on Elidibus."
" 'Tis possible that others in the homeland are possessed of such knowledge. Be fairly warned, however; they are unlike to yield it unconditionally."
Minfilia nodded. "Do as you must." And with that, Urianger bid his farewells and left us alone once more. Minfilia shook her head. "Yet another unforeseen and unwelcome development. What could be next, I wonder? A visit from a crimson-clad Ascian, perhaps? Or ocher? Or puce? And which of our allies will then fall silent?"
She glared long and hard at nothing before her anger finally abated and she looked up to the shattered staff that was hung behind her desk, just as it had been at the Waking Sands. "...For a time, I thought we had the upper hand." She glanced over her shoulder at me. "When you shattered the Crystal of Darkness and cast out Lahabrea, I dared to hope that we had found a way to rid ourselves of the Ascian menace. But I was wrong. He endures, and may yet return. Upon that point, I have no doubt that Elidibus spoke true... Yet there must be a way to destroy them utterly - a way to spare this world their unholy machinations!" She was silent for some time. "I dare not consider the alternative..." she said quietly, then turned to face me once more. "There are forces at work we do not understand, Rosalyn. I discern them all around - in disturbances too great and too numerous to be dismissed as mere coincidence. Doubtless the Paragons are involved, but how and to what end is far from clear. I know not what will come, but I do know that we will rise and meet it as one."
"And I'll be at the forefront. If I have to kill Lahabrea a hundred times, and that Elidibus jerk a thousand."
Minfilia smirked. "Ah, my stalwart hero... Your face is a picture of resolve." She smiled now despite the grim tidings. "I know that you will be ready when the time comes. With luck, however, that will not be for a while yet. Pray, return to your private affairs with my blessing. Should anything arise, you will be informed."
I bowed lightly in parting. "Until then." I turned and started to leave the Antecedent's Office. As I opened the door I stopped and looked back. She was looking up at Louisoix's staff once more, a look of sadness on her face.
"Krile... Where are you?" she asked the air.
Who the hells is Krile?
Elidibus stood in the dark recesses of his domain. It was here, just short months ago, that the numerous Ascians had met.
"Your intercession was not foretold," a voice emerged from the darkness, a black robed figure following it.
"You object?" Elidibus asked.
"We question. Our plans are in motion, your intentions unclear." The black-clad Ascian replied.
"They survived the Seventh Ardor and are stronger now in the gift. Does that not intrigue you?"
"...No. It does not." The other figure finally said before retreating back into the shadows.
"Serve as you will. So too shall I. We labor at cross purposes. The wisdom of His plan shall become apparent in time, when the veil is lifted from their eyes.... and at long last.. they see."
So, here we are, at the end of A Realm Awoken's content. This one is a long read, but I couldn't figure a good place for the break. I also had the tough decision of which quest title to use. My other option was "You Have Selected Regicide", but I went with the one you see at the top of the post in the end.
What is up with Minfilia? As I was going through these, I couldn't help but feel like there was some strange dissonance between story and gameplay. You do these missions in rapid succession and cutscenes are, usually, set at their own time during the day. If I start a mission in the middle of an Eorzean night, the cutscene may show it bright and sunny. And so it's a little weird getting some timing right when turning this into prose. You either have chunks of time where nothing happens or you settle with one long chronological order and you get the emotional roller coaster that happened there in the end. I like to think that it played out this way because Minfilia felt guilty about always sending Rosalyn out into danger. In reality, it played out this way because the story says so.
Sometimes I miss the mandatory 24 hour waits between missions that they had in XI. You'd be cruising along and get to a point in the mission where whoever says "oh, I need some time to figure this out" and you can't progress until the next real life day. It spreads the content to a point and makes those transitional scenes just work better. It really breaks the suspension of disbelief to be told to "come back later" and later is as soon as that cutscene ends. I think XIV gravitates too far toward instant gratification, and this is just one of those small ways it does so. People always need to be done with the content, always need that piece of gear, always need that money now.
So, of course, Through the Maelstrom is next and it will introduce us to some new characters as well as send us back to visit old friends. There's new threats on the horizon and a good chunk of political intrigue that will carry right into Defenders of Eorzea. I'll probably have 2.2 written up within a couple weeks, and I'll be sure to leave progress updates here and there. So you be sure to please look forward to it.