I never really noticed the number of stars in the night sky before. How many could there possibly be? A million? Two million? If I had begun counting them as a child and continued to count until now, would I have finished or barely scratched the surface? I had taken this star-speckled sky for granted since my return to Eorzea. Before my leap through time the light of the stars had been washed in the blood red glow of Dalamud as it grew ever closer. Now they all shone brilliant once more through the night.
I stood before a rock that bore the symbol of Azeyma the Warden. I had come to this rock before during my pilgrimage before the false moon fell and now the landscape around it was marred the scars of the Calamity. A large section of the Eastern Thanalan region had collapsed during and had been replaced by sheer cliff faces, narrow walkways, and spiraling corrupted crystal formations. This area had come to be known as the Burning Wall. The corrupted crystal glowed a golden orange in the night, a waxing gibbous moon above it.
I traced my hand along the symbol of Azeyma and wondered at why I was here in the first place. I was never a devout person, I didn't attend services and I mostly spoke the names of the Twelve in vain. It had been almost a week since I first began staying at the church with Father Illiud and Marques. I had suffered through the pain of loss as I helped transport the bodies of my fallen comrades from Vesper Bay to the church. I had personally taken Noraxia's body back to the Little Solace in the Shroud for proper burial.
Upon my return to the church my pain gave way to anger when I learned that there wasn't enough room in the lichyard for all the victims of the attack. The remainder would be buried in the mass graves of those who died in the Calamity. They didn't deserve to be cast aside, to be forgotten like that. I raged and spat like creature possessed and stormed from the church against Father Illiud's wishes. My flight had brought me here to this sacred place.
It was said that Azeyma consoled those who confessed to their crimes. Did I have any crimes to atone for? None other than petty sins. Pride, envy, and most recently wrath. The people of the Church didn't deserve my harsh words. They were Scions of the Seventh Dawn, just like myself. Father Illiud hurt just as much, if not more than me. He bore the weight of it all well. Was that the power of faith?
I knelt down before the stone marked with Azeyma's symbol and began to pray. As I kneeled with my hands clasped and my eyes closed tight I began to hear a shapeless melody in my heart. It welled up inside me and my lips began to move unbidden, singing a song I did not know.
"I close my eyes, tell us why must we suffer.
Release your hands, for your will drags us under.
My legs grow tired, tell us where must we wander.
How can we carry on, if redemption's beyond us?"
My voice wavered on the last note and I fought back a choking sob. My trip to the Final Prayer overlooking the Burning Wall hadn't brought me the answers I sought, only more questions. I stood slowly on shaky legs and gave the sky one last look before I made my way back to the Church.
Morning came like any other and I did my best to stay out of the way of Father Illiud and Sister Eluned. I felt foolish for my outbursts the previous day and they must have known it because they were kind enough to give me space and hadn't mentioned it. I was sitting in the pews when I was approached by Marques. We chatted for a bit before he mentioned that he believed he was being watched. I didn't know why an amnesiac would need to worry about anyone watching him, but I told him I'd take a look if only to ease his paranoia.
I spent a few hours walking the lichyard for any suspicious people about. It was another warm day in Thanalan already and I was beginning to grow weary of the wild chocobo chase and the rows of graves didn't do anything to help my mood. I had given up and was returning to the Church when I noticed someone scurrying away from the side of the building. He wasn't quite running but he was moving quick enough to draw attention. I eyed the direction he was heading as I checked the side of the building he had just left. He had been looking in through a window, but at what?
A quick peek confirmed my suspicions. Marques sat across the Church making himself busy with something. It seemed that it wasn't paranoia if someone was really watching you. I strode in the direction the peeping-tom had left in in hopes of catching up with him. I was welcomed by nothing but more gravestones. He had been here just a moment ago? Where could he have gone?
I heard the scraping of stones under boots and a grunt, my only warning before I threw myself to my side. The man I had seen sneaking away from the Church had just rushed past me, his sword missing me by mere ilms. The man lashed out again with a backswing and I stumbled away, tossing a blast of magic in the process. My magic glanced off the attacker's shoulder and he turned on me again.
With my feet planted firmly on the ground I cast a miasma around the attacker, slowing his approach toward me. With the armed man weighted by the magic mist I unleashed a salvo of Ruin at him until he collapsed under the onslaught.
I approached the fallen man and began investigating for a clue to his identity. He was in plain clothes bearing no insignia or other markings. However on closer inspection his sword appeared to be too elaborate for a common brigand. With his sword in hand I returned to the church to inform Marques that he was in fact being watched as he had feared.
Marques didn't recognize the sword and had no idea why an armed man would be watching him. Father Illiud joined the conversation and took particular interest in the weapon. He came to the conclusion that it was of Garlean make and that the snooping man must have been a Garlean soldier. As he suggested that we alert the Immortal Flames I wondered at how this elderly priest had so easily recognized a Garlean weapon. I didn't have long to think it over because the double doors to the church opened and a vaguely familiar youth entered.
"Hmph. I fondly hoped that I might be the first to speak with you… Would that I had been so fortunate." I eyed the young Elezen suspiciously. Where had I seen him before a and why was his manner of speech familiar?
"At ease, adventurer - I come not on behalf of the Empire. On the contrary, I mean to revive the Scions of the Seventh Dawn." Was this child one of the members of the Scions? Why had I never met him before? Or had I?
"And to that end… I have come in search of a legend - the greatest engineer of our time. Master Cid Garlond - I have come for you. " The Elezen boy pointed at Marques and my head sharply swiveled to allow me to stare, mouth agape. I had been too caught up in my grief to notice it before. Minus the beard, Marques was bore the exact likeness of the lost machinist.
"I fear you are mistaken, child." Father Illiud chimed in, a little too quickly for my liking. "He is but a poor soul who bore witness to the horrors at Carteneau. I beg you, leave us in peace."
"Wait...I…" Marques - no, Cid? - stumbled to his knees, clutching his head in his hands. I stepped forward to aid him but Illiud stopped me with his outstretched arm.
"Hear me, Cid! Eorzea needs you!" The boy urged.
The man I had been calling Marques all this time stood slowly and looked at me with a moment's hint of clarity in his eyes. "You...So familiar… We… It's… all a blur…" He shook his head, clearly having problems remembering. As he stood in silent reverie, Father Illiud stepped away into his chambers. He returned a moment later with a small box in his hands.
"Cid, was it? Here… these belong to you." He offered the box to Cid reverently as though it were some holy object. "I thought you bore the mark of greatness, it seems that I was right. Our time together was all too brief, but it felt as though my son had returned to me. You have brought joy to an old man's life. But it's time for you to help those who truly need you." Illiud motioned toward myself and the Elezen.
Cid removed an ornate hammer from the box and eyed it for a moment. His gaze roamed to me before finally falling onto the boy. "Who… are you?" Finally, the question that was burning in my mind too.
"Alphinaud Leveilleur, at your service. As a Scion of the Seventh Dawn, I stand against our primal and imperial foes - as my grandfather once did." The name was enough to jog my memory. Three speeches, three conversations with the boy and his twin sister. And they were the grand children on Louisoix. My doubts of this child suddenly left me.
"But the Scions are..." I began.
" 'Tis no secret what befell our order at the Waking Sands. Word has already spread across Eorzea. The repercussions are far greater than you realize. In the wake of the Calamity, the three city-states focused their efforts solely on reconstruction. Leaving the Scions to combat the Primal threat unaided. And lo, we are all but destroyed. Yet even as the nations mourn our demise, and abandon what little hope they have left, we cannot forsake our duty - now least of all. The Ixal have summoned Garuda once more, and she torments the people of Coerthas as we speak."
I looked at Alphinaud incredulously. Garuda had been summoned? this was the worst news we could have received at that moment. I could still hear her harsh cackle and the howling gales from my first encounter with her before the Calamity. We had suddenly reached worst case scenario.
"Her appetite for destruction far exceeds that of other primals. Worse, in her present incarnation, our Baldesion colleagues believe she surpasses both Ifrit and Titan in strength."
"Yeah, because Ifrit and Titan were such pushovers," I remarked with a derisive snort.
"Yet therein lies an opportunity. Were we somehow to defeat Garuda, it would serve as a warning to the other beast tribes that even their mightiest gods can be felled." He looked to me, expecting another comment. I frowned but nodded, his idea sounded solid. If it could be done, we could possibly cow the beast men.
"If we are to face our foe, we must first circumvent the tempest that shields her sanctuary," he continued after seeing I had no riposte. "And for that, we need an airship - your airship, Cid."
"I… I have an...airship?" Cid looked up from the contents of the box, a look of surprise on his face.
"Yes, Cid, you do. Your very own airship. It was last seen in the skies over Gridania, not long before the Calamity, so let us begin our search there."
"A-An airship…? My airship…?" Cid's voice seemed to be slowly growing stronger as more memories seemed to return to him. "W-wait..." Cid took his box of belongings and returned to his room. I stepped from foot to foot, processing these turn of events as we waited. Cid returned a moment later wearing his own clothes and tool belt. He looked just as he had when I last saw him, plus the beard of course.
"Come, let us put an end to the Primals!" Alphinaud announced. "Together, we will show the world that the Scions are still a force to be reckoned with!"
"They need my airship… They need… me.."
"I would suggest you begin your search at Fallgourd Float in the Northern Shroud," Father Illiud said. "Perhaps someone at Florentel's Spire had seen it before the Calamity."
I nodded in agreement. The shock of finding Cid right under our noses had passed and I was beginning to grow excited at the prospect of returning to action. My period of grieving needed to be over. Cid barely remembered who he was but tell him owned an airship and give him a set of clothes and he was ready to run headlong into the danger. It's amazing what a simple change of clothes could do for a person…
Time was of the essence so we used the Aetheryte Network in Camp Drybone to teleport to Gridania. I resisted my teleportation ritual of emptying my stomach in the potted shrubbery that adorned Gridania's Aetheryte Plaza and half staggered off to the Carline Canopy and my long time inn-room. It had been some time since I had been there and the room was just the way I had left it. I placed my grimoire and my Soul of the Scholar on the desk in front of the window and turned to the armoire in the corner.
When I returned to Eorzea from my five year sleep my equipment had been in tatters from the Battle of Carteneau. With what little money I had on me I had bought my current attire and what little equipment I owned. But I had been re-enlisted into the Twin Adders and had been on payroll for some time now. My cost of living was covered mostly by the Scions and the money that the Twin Adders gave me had just piled up.
At the time I had it done I had no intention of doing what I was doing then. It must have been something sentimental for days gone, or maybe something inside me still yearned for it that made me foot the repair bill. I slipped into the attire naturally like it was a second skin. I could feel my chest tighten slightly, panic rising inside me. I calmed my nerves by tracing my fingers over the curve of the neck of a rowan harp, strengthened my resolve by plucking the taut string of my bow. I clutched a green crystal, the Soul of the Bard, pressing it to my chest and offering up a silent prayer.
Cid was back, and I was a Bard once more. What can I say? The Warden works in mysterious ways.
I'm back, baby. Does anything else really need said? Expect actual author talk on the next installment.