“It’s probably pirates,” I said with little more than a shrug.
“Why do you say that?” Eyriwaen asked from behind his wooden mask. I had only known the Roegadyn conjurer for a short time but he had yet to remove that mask. I knew it had something to do with the residents of the Black Shroud. They often wore masks to protect themselves from Woodsin. More often than not, the Wood Wailers wore masks nearly all the time. I wondered to myself if he was a member of the group of lancers, but why would he be practicing the conjuring arts and not wielding his polearm?
“Probably because we’re in La Noscea, a stone’s throw away from Limsa Lominsa, home of pirates the seas over,” I replied sarcastically. “It’s always pirates.”
“She’s got a point there,” my second companion conceded. He was a tall Elezen named Oliver, a Gladiator from Limsa Lominsa who held ties with the Immortal Flames of Ul’Dah. He steadied his shield on his left arm and checked his blade for what was probably the hundredth time. “If it’s one thing Limsa Lominsa’s got, it’s pirates.”
He grinned down to my third companion, a Hyur girl named Rae. She struck me as quite the girly girl despite the hefty axe she carried strapped to her back. Her long black hair was done up in some trendy style compared to my shorter hair held back with a headband. I would admit she was cute in a way but she wouldn’t have been my first choice to take on a stroll into pirate territory. However, her and Oliver were a package deal and his service came highly recommended by Baderon.
It had only been one short week since my fainting spell during Merlwyb’s banquet and I spent most of it practicing my skills as an Arcanist. My studies were interrupted by the call of duty and Merlwyb requested that I deliver messages to the heads of the other city-states. This meant that I got to meet with Kan-E-Senna of Gridania once more. She really is such a beautiful and kindly woman, it’s not hard to believe that I had become so enamored by her when I first met her years ago. It was this attraction that gained the Order of the Twin Adder my fealty, though I knew my feelings for her would never be returned.
Upon returning from my trip visiting the other city-states, Baderon informed me that the Yellowjackets had heard rumors of suspicious activity near the Sastasha Seagrott. It was possible this was the secret base of the Serpent Reavers and we’d finally be able to put a stop to their terrorizing the countryside. I was ready to go it alone, but Baderon was still concerned about my health and insisted that I recruit aid from fellow adventurers. Using his contacts he had managed to round up the Roegadyn and Elezen with Hyur companion in tow and the four of us set off toward Sastasha.
Sastasha was a large system of caverns, most of which were partially submerged, and home to a large number of aquatic life. If the Serpent Reavers were holed up within the odds of finding them were going to be bad. We entered the cavern system from an open cave mouth north of Aleport and descended into the earth.
“It’s kind of creepy down here, don’t you think?” Rae asked as we walked deeper into the underground grotto. The walls and floors were covered in large segments of coral and barnacles, a tumble at the wrong place would cause quite the injury. The only light source that far deep was the bioluminescence from some form of algae in the water.
I shrugged my shoulders in response to Rae’s inquiry. “It’s not that creepy. I’ve been in worse places than this.” The group eyed me, and I could clearly see the doubt on their faces. All save for Eyriwaen of course. I had the strange feeling that he was looking at me quizzically as though deep in thought. I frowned and turned my attention back to the task at hand. “Whatever. If there’s pirates down here, there’s got to be signs of them. Empty grog bottles, food supplies, anything.”
“Wenches,” Oliver added with a grin, gaining a glare from Rae. He continued on nonetheless. “If there’s pirates hiding out down here they’d have wenches too.”
I rolled my eyes and looked to the Roegadyn for support, again finding just the wooden mask. “Ok, I’ll be sure to keep my eyes out for a brothel then.” I stepped a little away from the group, mumbling under my breath.
No more than an hour into our excursion, we came to a branch in the cave system. One fork would take us straight, and the other veered off to the right. I lead the way straight and we came to a dead end.
“Brilliant navigational senses there,” Oliver snickered as he turned back.
“Oi, I’ve never been here before, how was I supposed to know?” I snapped in reply. I stepped quickly to join the group and noticed something in a batch of coral. “Hold it, what’s this?”
I reached into the coral carefully, trying not to snag my clothes, and pulled out a piece of vellum. Oliver snatched it out of my hands and inspected it. “ ‘A friendly reminder, the Captain likes his wine red.’” He frowned at the note. “What do you think that means?”
“Pirates,” I said with a nod.
“Not necessarily,” Eyriwean chimed in, “But it does mean that someone else has been down here. We should look down the other path to be sure.”
We returned to the fork and trekked down the sloping path into a large room. Coral formations reached upward out of the water and rock formations jutted downward from the ceiling like the many teeth of some beast. Spotting a path on the opposite side of the room we took the long way around, scrabbling to keep on the slippery rocks lest we fall into the water. I wanted to avoid soggy clothing as much as possible, and the two in heavy armor would just sink if they were to slip. We wound our way to the other side and entered the passage into another smaller room with a dead end.
“Well, that puts an end to this pirate hunt,” Oliver said with a shrug. He and Rae began to walk back the way we had come. I watched the two go and looked to Eyriwean again for aid. He was looking between three exceptionally large pillars of coral. One green, one blue, and the last one red.
“What did that note we found say?” He called over his shoulder. Oliver and Rae stopped and the Elezen fished into his sack for the note. “It said the Captain liked his wine red,” the Roegadyn continued before Oliver could even locate the scrap of vellum. “I think we should inspect that red coral structure carefully.”
I can’t begin to tell you how stupid the four of us looked as we crowded around the coral structure, carefully reaching and feeling inside. Just when we were about to give up Rae let out what was, I’ll admit, an adorable eep and Oliver immediately turned his attention to the far wall, craning his neck as though listening close.
“Tell me, what do you hear with your Elezen ears?” I asked sarcastically. The man could have at least mentioned he heard something rather than putting on such an act. I had a feeling he was trying very hard to look cool for Rae.
“I heard something shifting over there,” he said with a nod, indicating the wall. I left the coral structure and began feeling across the wall.
“I don’t think there’s anything over here, you must have heard something else.” I said after a few moments of futile searching. I turned to face the group in time to see something large lurking in the shadows. “Look out!”
The large coeurl leapt from behind an outcropping toward Rae, but Oliver was close enough to slam the feline beast with his shield. The resulting crunch rang through the cavern, signaling the start of battle. Eyriwean quickly joined my side further away from the fray and cast magical barriers over us while I began summoning a Carbuncle familiar. I cursed myself for not having one out and ready, but I didn’t exactly expect a coeurl to attack us. Oliver fended off the beast, dodging swipes of claws and whips of its long whiskers. Rae moved in behind the beast to flank it, throwing her large axe around with surprising expertise.
I summoned a Topaz Carbuncle familiar, a golden variety of Carbuncle that was physically stronger than its emerald cousin, and the little furry familiar charged into battle, throwing its weight into the Coeurl’s side. My hair began to stand on end as the beast gathered an electrical charge. Oliver and Rae fell back just before the Coeurl let out a shockwave with a roar. Narrowly avoiding the paralyzing wave, they fell right back into rhythm and slayed the beast.
I shut my book and approached the corpse. “This is a really large coeurl,” I pointed out.
“Yeah, I noticed that,” Oliver said as he sat in front of the dead beast. He set his shield down, retrieved from his pack a bottle of some sort of ointment, and began rubbing the scratches off of his shield.
“No, what I mean is, that was a very large coeurl, here. I’ve never seen one this close to Limsa Lominsa. They’re way up north in Outer La Noscea territory, sure, but here?”
“Pirates have been known to take strange pets,” Eyriwean added from behind his mask. He was inspecting the same wall I had been searching just before the coeurl attacked. There was a sharp click and rumbling and the dead end rolled away, opening up a new path. “The mechanism was jammed, the lever was still mostly hidden.” The Roegadyn explained. While he said it without any hint of it, I couldn’t help but feel that he was gloating behind that expressionless mask. I glowered at him then urged the others to press on.
We followed the path downward further into the caves. Just inside this new path there were lit torches hanging on the walls, a very good sign that we were on the right track. As we turned a corner we entered an extremely large room. This new part of the cave was packed full of crates and supplies. There was even a raised wooden floor installed, tables and seats littered across the room. If not for all the crates, it would have looked like any other tavern hall just built underground.
“Look!” Oliver whispered harshly. He pointed. “What did I tell you? Wenches!”
I spotted the number of women he was pointing to. They all wore ragged remains of clothes and were busy serving spirits and food to a group of pirates. It seemed that the pirates were keeping some of their kidnapping victims for other needs. Rae and I both gave the Elezen a look and he just shrugged, still grinning.
“You are a vile man, Oliver Koenig,” Rae said with a soft snort of indignation. I sensed no malice from her comment and had the feeling she had spouted those exact words many times. The Elezen continued to grin.
“Anyway,” I said slowly, butting in, “We’ve got what we came for. I say we head back to Limsa Lominsa and call in the Yellowjackets, let them round up this lot.”
“That sounds like a plan to me,” Oliver agreed.
“Hold it,” Eyriwaen said quickly, motioning further into the cave. “That man there, the one with the hat and the Colibri following him around. That’s Captain Madison, the man in charge of the Serpent Reavers! If we take him out the pirates will be like a serpent with its head cut off.”
We deliberated quickly and watched as Captain Madison left the table he was seated at and went further into the cave system. Deciding he was either heading for his quarters or another exit, we moved quickly and quietly through the large room. We avoided detection from the pirate crew and slipped down a passage into a smaller room. Captain Madison was there, talking to a couple of his crewmates. Oliver looked to me and I nodded.
The Elezen Gladiator rushed quickly, baring his sword and shield and ran straight for the pirate captain. With the element of surprise ours, Rae joined the bumrush and began attacking one of the crewmembers. My Carbuncle familiar and I focused our attention on the second pirate. Oliver and Captain Madison traded blows, the pirate skilled with his cutlass and managing to find his mark in Oliver’s guard. From the corner of my eye I could see Eyriwaen sending curative magic his and Rae’s way.
The pirate I was fighting was too busy chasing after my Carbuncle familiar which had been employing hit and run tactics at my command. While the pirate was distracted by my familiar I debilitated him with Bio and a Miasma spell, then flung Ruin spells at him until he finally fell. With my pirate down I saw that Rae had already dispatched her pirate and was aiding Oliver fight Captain Madison. With the odds against him the pirate Captain turned and ran down an adjoining passageway. We gave chase, finally seeing daylight as we came out into partially enclosed docks.
The pirates had somehow managed to find this natural dock, obscured and protected by rock and reef, and built a haven here. Its exits opened up inland enough for them to commit their crimes, but had an easy exit out to sea when they needed it. We chased Captain Madison toward the dock and believed him to be cornered.
“Give it up, you’ve nowhere to go unless you’ve got gills!” Oliver shouted, obviously trying to look cool again.
The pirate chuckled. “Aye, I have no gills but my friends do!” At the pirate’s behest, a large Sahagin erupted from the sea behind the pirate. It landed beside Captain Madison, raised its weapon, and sheathed it in the captain’s body.
“Does that mean we don’t get paid?” Oliver asked with a grin as he readied his sword and shield.
I opened my book with a flourish and pointed at the Sahagin. “No way in the seven hells I’m doing this one for free!”
Oliver chuckled. “My thoughts exactly!” He and Rae charged the beastman before it could retrieve its weapon from Captain Madison’s body. The beastman raised its clawed hands and took a fighter’s stance. The creature was clearly skilled in hand to hand combat. I sent Carbuncle in behind the initial charge and focused my attention on debilitating the sahagin.
Oliver fought bravely, ducking and weaving between the sahagin’s swift strikes, blocking with his shield when he needed to and lashing out with his blade. The beastman was good though, able to deflect blows so they dealt minimal damage and capable of dodging the swings of Rae’s heavy axe. Eyriwaen continuously healed the two front line warriors of their weariness and wounds as they were struck, focusing intently on keeping them alive.
In the midst of combat I felt that something was amiss. I saw four grates in the floor, each an equal distance away from the other. I felt an impending dread as I neared one of the grates and saw water bubbling below ground level. They were some kind of drainage grates, however a part of me knew something was coming rather than going out.
“Guys, I think we have a problem here!” I announced. With my attention turned away, I felt something grasp at my boot from between the grate. I looked down and saw a Sahagin attempting to claw its way through the gate, banging and thrashing. I stomped on its clawed hand in shock and jumped away just in time to avoid the grate flying open. The sahagin climbed out and a quick check told me that more reinforcements were coming from the other drainage grates.
“We’re going to be swimming in fishbacks if we don’t do something quick,” I heard Eyriwaen comment as I regrouped with him. Was that really a joke from him? At a time like this!? And I couldn’t tell with that accursed mask covering his face! Just what is wrong with this Roegadyn?
I tossed a cloud of miasma at each of the approaching sahagin, weighing them down with the enfeebling magic. With their attention on me I began to guide them around the room, letting them attempt to give chase. “Any moment now!” I yelled over the clamor of battle.
“I’m trying!” Oliver shouted in response. He gritted his teeth then let out a yell. I saw him rush the sahagin pugilist with his sword held high, then there was a brilliant light. Oliver’s sword had changed shape. It was now absurdly long, as long as he was tall. He clutched the massive weapon of light by the hilt with both hands as he plunged the blade through the sahagin’s torso. He then hefted the blade, leaping upward and cleaving the beastman in two. When he landed the blade of light was gone, replaced by his own sword once more.
The remaining sahagin that I had been distracting looked on in terror as their leader’s remains flopped to the floor, appropriately, like a gutted fish. They made a hasty retreat back into the drainage wells they had come from.
“What was that?” I asked, closing my grimoire as I approached the Elezen.
“I… don’t know. I heard a voice, saw the light, and it was like my body took over.” Oliver said, shaking his head.
Rae looked up at him with wide eyes, a look of adoration on her face. I repressed the urge to gag and just shaked my head. “That’s weird… a voice and light, huh?” I eyed Oliver for a moment. Was it possible that he too was a Warrior of Light? Had he somehow been granted aid from Hydaelan in our moment of need? I had seen others being awakened by Hydaelan, it would make sense that they were out there somewhere, perhaps on the same journey as I to collect Crystals of Light and defeat whatever darkness she had warned us of.
Rather than reveal anything just yet I made a mental note to look into this Oliver Koenig and see if he too was forgotten by the world. “Well, then,” I said, shrugging my shoulders and attempting to look nonchalant. “How about we head back to the Drowning Wench, get a drink or two, and have the Yellowjackets round of the rest of these pirates?” The rest of my adventuring party agreed and we left Sastasha Seagrott by means of teleportation.
Upon returning to Baderon with the report of our deeds, he drew me aside and mentioned that the adventurer’s guild in Gridania was in need of a more than capable adventurer to deal with an important issue. I looked over at the group I had just adventured with, wondering if I’d be able to get them to come along. At least Oliver, that way I could determine if he was a Warrior of Light too.
“You know what, Baderon? I think I will take up Gridania on that mission.”
I hope everyone enjoyed this entry, it was a bit more exciting than a number of the previous ones. And it's only the first of three such dungeon exploring segments, so there's plenty more coming soon enough. This marks the introduction of a number of people who will appear again later down the road, all of which based off of friends from in game. One thing that I really miss from the old 1.x build is that during missions that required multiple party members, all party members showed up in cutscenes. This added quite a bit of depth to it, in my opinion. In comparison, whether it be a four man fight or an eight man fight, in A Realm Reborn, only your character shows up in cutscenes. It makes it look like I just solo'd whoever we took down, which is a little stupid compared to how it used to be.
I embellished a little bit here toward the end, having our Gladiator use the DD Limit Break when normally their Limit Break is a defensive one. However, I based the party make-up on an actual run we did where we had a Gladiator, a Marauder, and two mages. The Limit Breaks in game are a piece of tacked-on awesomeness to assist for some of the really hard battles and only get more amazing the further into the game you get. They're also references to old school Final Fantasy games. The DD Limit Break really does summon Cloud's Buster Sword and you perform varying degrees of epic swordsmanship based on the level of the Limit Break. Tier III Limit Break has you pretty much do Omnislash. I believe when a Monk performs it they do a Final Heaven-esque punch/explosion thing. It's one of those things that you pull off and just grin from how cool it is. Rule of cool, indeed.
Thanks to the addition of more characters and original dialogue, we get to see a little bit more into characterization. Oliver Koenig is clearly a brash man living up to the appearance of being a hero. His companion, Rae (who's last name I could not remember for the life of me), is pretty quiet in comparison. I don't know the real person behind Rae too well, she's new to the group, but she struck me as being quiet. The only time she seemed to talk much was while we were showing off the cute Minion pets that XIV has to offer (which the best is by far Pudgy Puk, possibly tied only with Demon Brick). Eyriwean, aside from having one of the worst Roegadyn names I have ever had the misfortune of having to type repeatedly, is a good friend who I would call the brains. He's got so much XIV information up in his head that he can answer pretty much any question, so I made his character seem the only one who was actually focused on the mission. He got to read this first and actually suggested that maybe his character not solve all the puzzles, but I insisted that everyone kind of got their moment.
Having skipped "The Lominsan Envoy" mission that granted airship access and was pretty much one long "run around for cutscenes" mission, I had to touch on it lightly. I had originally planned for more in depth with it, seeing as how we would meet Raubahn and Kan-E-Senna for the first time, the Echo flashback aside. Rosalyn's reasoning for joining the Order of the Twin Adder in Gridania during 1.x is still revealed, and they pretty much match my own. I was quite enamored with Kan-E-Senna's appearance and demeanor, and out of the three city-states she seemed to be the only one with a good reason to fight back in 1.x. Let's face it, Limsa Lominsa and Ul'Dah were too busy bickering with one another, and if not for Kan-E-Senna, the Eorzean Alliance would not have happened. So, despite how awesome Merlwyb is and, I dunno, I've really got nothing nice to say about Raubahn, I'll pretty much always stick with Gridania.
This chapter also hints at Rosalyn's sexual orientation. And before anyone starts in on that, it's not because I'm male and I'm sitting here all "dood, lesbians are hot". I'd like to get into it a little more about how it effects a fantasy realm like this. Most novels in this genre I've read have no problem writing out alternative sexual orientations as if there's no stigma against them. Yeah, if we want to see drama in it all we have to do is look to real life, but I've yet to see a fantasy story do it realistically, it always falls back to that "dood, lesbians are hot" thing. It bothers me the most when the character could be heterosexual without it changing any story dynamic. I can only sit there and think "why?". In this case, Rosalyn joined up with the Twin Adders because she was attracted to Kan-E-Senna. If she were straight and into manly guys would she have ended up attracted to Raubahn and been an Immortal Flame? And what does it say of Rosalyn that she's happy enough just being able to serve Kan-E-Senna's city-state, knowing full well that there'd never be anything between them? I feel as though I'm beginning to ramble, like I'm trying to preemptively defend myself here. A good friend, one very knowledgeable Roegadyn, told me that I should write for myself above all others, and that's what I intend to do.
For those of you who are playing XIV and are either caught up with this or past it, you may know that Tam-Tara Deepcroft is next. A rather fun dungeon, but I won't get into it here too much. Please look forward to it.