Note: I did these story quests on my main, Auric, who is a male Hyur Paladin and a First Lieutenant in the Immortal Flames. Some dialogue may be slightly different for your character.
[Kugane, the Ruby Bazaar, East Aldenard Trading Company offices. The twins, Tataru, and Hancock are there.]
Quest: Gosetsu and Tsuyu
Alphinaud: Ah, Auric, impeccable timing. We have just received a letter from Lord Hien. He writes that the Domans are coordinating their efforts with the Blue Kojin to maintain a constant watch over the Red. By staying on the lookout for signs of crystal hoarding and the like, they mean to nip any summoning attempts in the bud, thereby satisfying the conditions for peace set down by the ambassador. For the Garleans’ part, the Populares have sent word that a vessel bearing Doman conscripts is soon to arrive in Yanxia. ‘Twould seem that the prisoner exchange is to proceed as planned. Lord Hien requests your presence, and I share his view that you should be on hand at this critical juncture.
Alisaie: According to the letter, Yotsuyu’s memory has yet to return, so it looks like she’ll be living out the rest of her days in Doma─assuming the ambassador means to honor the agreement, of course. Before we get to that, however, I think it would be wise to assess her condition one last time. If the Domans have missed any change in her mental state, however slight, it would be better if Asahi weren’t the one to spot it.
Alphinaud: Agreed. Let us make straightways for the enclave, then. Lord Hien will be waiting. I trust you will cope in our absence, Tataru?
Tataru: Don’t worry about me─I’ll be fine! Just be sure to come back safely!
[The Doman Enclave, the Kienkan. The twins have arrived as well.]
Hien: Ah, I see my letter reached you across the Ruby Sea! Thank you for coming so swiftly. Though I wrote at some length on the subject of the forthcoming exchange, there was one other matter I neglected to mention… It concerns Gosetsu. As you may have observed, he returned from his ordeal rather the worse for wear, and despite his best efforts to conceal his condition─or perhaps because of them─he recently collapsed.
Alphinaud: Good gods! Is he all right!?
Hien: Confined to bed and grumbling without cease, but he has shown signs of recovery. He made me promise not to tell you, lest you worry unduly. Which was all very well when you weren’t here. Now that you are, however, I think it high time he received some visitors. Might you spare him a moment? Yotsuyu has scarce left his side, and I imagine you are curious to see what has become of her as well.
Alphinaud: We will visit him at once. Auric, Alisaie─shall we?
[In Gosetsu’s room, Yotsuyu is spoon-feeding the injured samurai from a bowl.]
Yotsuyu: Open wide, now…
[Gosetsu seems happy to let her feed him until the door opens, revealing the twins and the Warrior of Light. Then he waves Yotsuyu away.]
Gosetsu: Please, Tsuyu. I am not so frail that I cannot feed myself. Ah, I grow weary of the taste of gruel…
Yotsuyu:You don’t like it? Can I fetch you something else?
Gosetsu:Aye. Wine! Or if that is not “wholesome” enough─I don’t know…a sweet persimmon from Namai? I enjoyed them in my youth.
Yotsuyu: A persimmon.
[Tsuyu leaves the room.]
Alisaie: I hope we are not interrupting your meal. We had heard you were confined to bed, and thought you might welcome some visitors.
Gosetsu: Confined to─ A gross exaggeration! A trifle drained from my exertions, perhaps. But with a little rest, I shall be fighting fit again in no time!
Yotsuyu: Take off your clothes.
Alisaie: Gosetsu! Is this how you’ve been spending your time!?
Gosetsu: My lady, I assure you, this is not─
Yotsuyu: Off with them. We need to wash you─you stink!
[Tsuyu is giving Gosetsu a sponge bath. She notices all the marks on his broad back.]
Yotsuyu: What are all these scars? There are so many of them…
Gosetsu: A life of battle will leave its mark upon a man…
[Tsuyu grabs her head in sudden pain as a memory of the fall of Doma Castle flashes into her mind.]
Gosetsu: Is something wrong, Tsuyu?
Yotsuyu: It’s nothing. I’m fine.
Gosetsu: Bah, leave me be, woman! I will not be fussed over like some newborn babe!
[Back outside in Hien’s meeting chamber.]
Hien: They make a convincing pair, do they not? On first acquaintance, I would think him a doting grandsire and her a model grandchild.
Alphinaud: Indeed. Had someone told me a year ago that I would live to bear witness to such a scene, I would have declared them mad. That aside, I am relieved to see Gosetsu has lost none of his spirit.
Alisaie: But what a turn of events… I mean, for her to suddenly be watching over him. You couldn’t make it up. Although I suppose Gosetsu is an old man. With the way he charges through life, it can be easy to forget…
Hien: Aye, he has resisted decrepitude with the same defiance he showed the enemies of Doma. But no matter how adamant his will, no man can carry on forever. He has pushed himself beyond the limits of endurance too many times─even if his health returns, the fact remains: he will never again be the warrior he once was. He has given his all for liege and land, and we will ask no more.
Alisaie: And what of his nurse? If Yotsuyu is feigning that─well, she certainly has me fooled.
???: This is no pretense.
[Yugiri walks in]
Alisaie: Yugiri. Out of all of us, I would think you the hardest to convince. So…what makes you so sure?
Yugiri: I have been spying on Yotsuyu from the shadows─waiting for the misstep that would betray her charade for what it was. But her mask has never slipped. Not once. She has remained in character from the first. One evening, I watched her as she sat in her chambers, unguarded and alone… She had taken the dishes from the cupboard, and was pretending to prepare dinner right there on the tatami. A child’s game. Even the wariest shinobi would not go to such lengths. I can but conclude that her mind is truly broken.
Alisaie: …Well, that’s good enough for me─and everyone else, I would hazard.
Hien: Aye, the matter is settled. Yotsuyu will become “Tsuyu,” and begin a new life here in Doma. Before that can happen, however, we will need to present her to the ambassador one last time, to prove that her memory is truly gone. But I would not risk parading her in front of our returning conscripts. Her presence at the exchange would only stir up mutinous thoughts.
Alisaie: Understandably. She as good as fastened the chains around their necks.
Hien: Aye─which is why I mean to conclude this business with Tsuyu first, out of the sight of my countrymen. Will you help me?
Alphinaud: We are at your service. There is no higher purpose than the pursuit of peace.
Hien: My thanks. The Garleans are on their way, and we must prepare to welcome the ambassador. We will meet you at the docks with Tsuyu.
[Down at the docks at the Doman Enclave.]
Alphinaud: Shall we wait here, then? Lord Hien should not be long.
[Hien comes running up.]
Hien: My friends! Have you seen Tsuyu!? She is nowhere to be found!
Alphinaud: What? But the Garleans will be landing in a matter of moments!
Alisaie: If she’s fled… Could it mean her memories have returned?
Hien: I know not. Yugiri is scouring the streets as we speak, but it is possible Tsuyu has left the enclave altogether. Captain─a word. Did you perchance carry a fair-skinned woman across the river?
Enclave Skiff Captain: A fair-skinned woman, my lord? I…I do not rightly know… I think─ Y-Yes! Yes, my lord! Now that you mention it, there was a lady among the passengers whom I do not recall having seen before. Her face was hidden by the brim of her hat, but I remember taking her hand to help her onto the boat. White as new-fallen snow, it was… Was she someone important, my lord? Have I done something wrong?
Hien: Wrong? …No. No, I was merely hoping to catch our guest before she departed. Be at ease, Captain. ‘Twould seem that Tsuyu has crossed the river.Kami help me… No good can come of this.
Quest: Gone Like the Morning Dew
Hien: It seems Tsuyu has gone unrecognized thus far, but kami help us if someone catches a clear view of her face. I must find her before that happens. The responsibility for her disappearance─for all of this─lies with me. But I would ask for your aid nonetheless.
Alphinaud: We are at your service, Lord Hien, now as before. Let us make the crossing and begin our search.
Alisaie: You go on ahead. Someone should let Yugiri know what we’ve learned. I’ll join you on the other side.
Hien: We have no way of knowing where Tsuyu is headed, so we had best divide our forces. I will take Kusakari and its surrounds; Alphinaud, if you would take the road to Castrum Fluminis? Auric─forgive me, but could I ask you to interrogate the residents of Yuzuka Manor? One of the Namazu may well have seen our quarry. If everyone is in agreement, let us board the skiff, and hope the kami smile upon our efforts!
[At Yuzuka Manor, with the Namazu]
Gyosan: Welcome to Yuzuka Manor. Yes, yes. If there is anything you care to know, you need only─ Hm? A pale-skinned woman? I have seen no such traveler, I am sorry to say. Most sorry. Scaly-skinned Namazu, on the other hand, we have in abundance!
Gyoku: …Unusually pale skin? Yes, yes! I saw this woman on the way back from my fishing trip. She had just crossed the shallows east of here, and was headed in a northeasterly direction…for the most part. Her steps did not seem certain. If you hurry, you might still catch her.
[After tracking Yotsuyu north and east through Yanxia, the Warrior of Light finds her hat on the road just south-east of Namai.]
[Hien and Yugiri walk up.]
Hien: Auric! Before you ask, our search of Kusakari and its surroundings has yielded exactly naught─save this chance reunion with you, I suppose.
Yugiri: Mistress Alisaie has gone to assist her brother at the castrum. It was she who informed me of the situation. I joined Lord Hien here shortly thereafter.
Hien: How did you fare at Yuzuka Manor? Any sign of our missing guest?
[The Warrior of Light explains the tracks he found, heading toward the village.]
Hien:…Towards Namai? By the kami! If the villagers recognize her, it will not end well. We must hurry. Yugiri and I will check the paddies; the village square is yours!
[In Namai, Yotsuyu walks into the village, her face in full view. The villages recognize her instantly and scatter in panic.]
Yotsuyu: Greetings. Might I have one of y─ Wait! Please! …I only wanted a persimmon.
[Yotsuyu is bewildered.]
Frightened Villager: Kami save us! Her spirit has returned!
[The terrified villagers begin to gather into a mob.]
Panicked Villager: She’s back from the dead to seek her revenge!
[Tsuyu stares at the villagers in confusion. The warrior of Light, Hien, and Yugiri arrive in the town square.]
Isse: It can’t be! She couldn’t have survived!
[Tsuyu sees Isse and has a memory flash of the boy groveling on the ground before her.]
Yotsuyu: What did I… Wh-What did I do?
Isse: As if you don’t know!
[Hien runs up to the gathering mob.]
Hien: Good people of Namai─be at ease, I pray you! You have naught to fear!
[The villagers stare at him in consternation.]
Isse: My lord, forgive me but─what is that monster doing here!? They told us she was dead!
Hien: I too was surprised to learn of her survival. More even than you, I would hazard. ‘Twas I who cut her down. I who left her to her fate. But it would seem the kami had other plans. By some miracle, both she and Gosetsu were spared when the keep collapsed─though Yotsuyu’s preservation came at the cost of her memory.
Isse: You’re saying she’s forgotten? Forgotten everything she’s done!?
Panicked Villager: Lies! Lies, my lord! She would say anything to escape punishment!
Frightened Villager: What does it matter!? We have not forgotten her crimes! And we demand justice! I beg of you, Lord Hien, draw your blade and rid us of this canker!
[Yotsuyu crumples to the ground, her eyes filling with tears.]
Yotsuyu: What I saw, then. It’s all true. I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry…
Isse: You’re “sorry”!? And what, we’re supposed to forgive you?
[Isse’s little sister Azami walks over to Yotsuyu.]
Azami: Here, there’s no need to cry.
[Azami hands Yotsuyu a ripe persimmon. Yotsuyu takes it, staring at the girl.]
Azami: Can’t you see how scared she is? How can you be scared of her? She’s not the same.
Hien: Until such time as her memories return, this woman shall be known as “Tsuyu,” and treated as a citizen of Doma. I will, however, see that she is watched at all times. Rest assured that there will be no more unannounced visits to the village. As your lord, I ask that you leave her fate in my hands, and suffer her to live. For now.
Azami: Please, Isse…
Isse: All right. I’ll keep my peace. As long as you’re happy. That’s all that matters.
Quest: Fruits of her Labor
Hien: <sigh> That…would have been better avoided. But at least it did not end in bloodshed. And judging by Tsuyu’s reaction, she remains oblivious to the events of her former life. This was no escape attempt.
Yugiri: Nay, it seems it was an offhand request of Gosetsu’s which brought her to Namai. She came in search of a persimmon.
Hien: Hah! And they say fruit is good for the health… I do hope Gosetsu finds the taste to his liking. Well, we have certainly taken the long way around, but let us continue on to Castrum Fluminis and our meeting with the ambassador. Alphinaud and Alisaie should still be there, conducting their search.
[At Castrum Fluminis. Hien, Yotsuyu, Yugiri, and the twins are all there. The group enters the Castrum and finds Asahi and his two guards waiting.]
Hien: It seems our imperial guests have already arrived. ‘Tis time to meet with the ambassador…
Asahi: What a pleasure it is to see you once more, Lord Hien. Not to mention my dear sister.
Hien: A pleasure to see you too, Ambassador. Forgive us our late arrival. You have our people aboard the airship?
Asahi: Exactly as agreed. We would leave you in no doubt as to the purity of our intentions. I daresay it was the selfsame spirit of cooperation which prompted you to bring Yotsuyu here today.
Hien: Indeed. Before excluding her from the exchange, I thought it only fair that you see her condition for yourself. Physically, she is in fine health, but her mind is unchanged.
Asahi: So I see. But all need not necessarily be lost. In anticipation of this tragic turn of events, I took the liberty of inviting some special guests…
[Asahi raises a hand, and his guard speaks into a linkpeal. A moment later an older couple leaves the shuttle and comes to join the group. It’s Asahi’s parents — Yotsuyu’s step-parents.]
Asahi’s Father: Ah, Yotsuyu! You look…well.
[Yotsuyu fliches, then collapses to the ground as she flashes on her cruel treatment at the hands of Asahi’s mother.]
Hien: Of all the people…
Asahi: Is something wrong, dear sister? These are our beloved parents. Does not the sight of them bring back sweet childhood memories?
[Yotsuyu cries out at another bad memory of abuse. She drops Gosetsu’s persimmon and the silver mirror Asahi gave her on his last visit. She stares at the fallen fruit.]
Yotsuyu: …Gosetsu. I have to take this to Gosetsu…
Asahi: Hmph. It would seem my little surprise was not sufficient. You needn’t glare at me so, Lord Hien─I merely did what any loving son would do for his family. Lest you doubt, I am content to leave the acting viceroy in your care. Pray treat her as you would any daughter of Doma.
[Asahi picks up the silver mirror and bends down to whisper in Yotsuyu’s ear as he does so.]
Asahi: Do not grow too fond of this place, dear sister. You will come back to us ere long.
[Yotsuyu walks away as if in a trance.]
Hien: We continue with the exchange as planned, then.
Asahi: Very good. The structure across the river should serve our needs. We shall await you there with the conscripts if you would bring your captives…?
Hien: Agreed. Until then, Ambassador.
[The two groups part ways. Just outside the gate of Castrum Fluminis, Hien stops.]
Hien: I knew better than to trust Asahi, but that was a dirty trick. Still, unpleasant as it was, we have at least put the matter of Tsuyu’s future to rest. I have sent her back to the enclave with Yugiri to give Gosetsu his precious persimmon. Come, let us follow them.
[Hien stalks off.]
Alisaie: You have that look, Alphinaud. What is it?
Alphinaud: Oh, nothing of consequence, most like…We can discuss it upon our return.
[Back in the Kienkan, with the twins and Hien in Hien’s meeting room.]
Hien: We should pay a visit to Gosetsu, and reassure him about Tsuyu’s fate. He will want to know that the Empire has finally relinquished its claim on her.
[At Gosetsu’s room]
Hien: Gosetsu, are you awake?
Gosetsu: My lord! Come in, come in… When Tsuyu returned, her eyes were red from weeping. She spoke not a word─simply sat and peeled some fruit she’d brought for me. She then claimed weariness and retired to her chamber. Tell me, what happened to upset her so?
Hien: The ambassador arranged a surprise reunion with her foster parents. A misguided attempt to restore Yotsuyu to her senses. It was plain their presence caused her great distress, but she seemed otherwise unaffected.
Alisaie: Yotsuyu was mistreated as a child, was she not? It was a cruel trick to use her tormentors like that, knowing the pain it could cause.
Gosetsu: Hmph. I like this Asahi less and less…
Hien: Be that as it may, he has agreed to allow Yotsuyu to remain with us in Doma. Our primary concern now is to hand over the prisoners without incident, and bring our people safely home.
Alphinaud: There was one other detail at the meeting which caught my attention. I assume you all noticed the rather suspect crates within the castrum? The imperials were quick to retrieve them afterwards, but I wonder…
Alisaie: Out with it, Brother. You fear they might contain bombs or war machines?
Hien: If the ambassador wanted me dead, he has had ample opportunity. No, assassination is not his intent, but we should be on our guard for other acts of treachery.
[The door to Gosetsu’s room slides open and an upset maidservant enters.]
Maidservant: My lord! Forgive me, but the lady Yotsuyu─she’s gone!
Maidservant: I beg your pardons, my lords. I was certain she had fallen asleep…
Hien: No, no, the responsibility is mine. ‘Twas I who gave her a room instead of a cell. She may simply have wandered outside. We will organize search parties. Might I call upon your assistance?
[The group splits up to search for Yotsuyu. The Warrior of Light heads off into the courtyard, and hears a groan.]
???: Help… Help…
[It’s Yotsuyu’s step-father and step-mother, on the ground, bleeding.]
Asahi’s Father: Help… Help me…
[The Warrior of Light reaches down to help, and an Echo flashback hits.]
[Yotsuyu runs through the courtyard in the dim moonlight.]
Yotsuyu: If only I hadn’t remembered.
[Her voice is that of the old cruel Yotsuyu, not of the innocent childlike Tsuyu.]
[Yotsuyu reaches into her sleeve and draws out a wooden scabbard. Inside is a short but very sharp knife. Yotsuyu stares at it.]
Yotsuyu: He should hate me.
[She places the edge of the blade against the side of her throat. Her eyes are brimming with tears.]
Yotsuyu: But I will not suffer his kindness. Not after what I did to him.
Asahi’s Father: Who’s there!?
[Yotsuyu turns toward the voice, lowering the knife away from her throat.]
Asahi’s Mother: <gasp> …Oh, it’s you. What are you doing out here in the dark?
Asahi’s Father: This is the enclave, is it? When the soldiers dragged us back to Doma, you were the last person I expected to see.
Asahi’s Mother: You’re the bane of our existence, Yotsuyu! A font of misery! You couldn’t even do us the simple courtesy of dying, could you! Oh no, you had to live and taint us with the shame of your failure! We had a perfect life in the capital! And now they’re making us wallow in this muddy ruin like common swine! I don’t deserve this!
Asahi’s Father: Now, now, dear, that’ll do. There seems little point in berating the girl when she scarcely remembers her own name. Our time would be better spent contemplating how we’re to survive this unhappy predicament.
[He looks Yotsuyu over with a slimy smile.]
Asahi’s Father: You’ve kept your looks at least. I suspect you’d fetch a handsome price with the right buyer. Maybe enough to get us to Kugane and start a new business…
[Yotsuyu stares at them for a moment, holding the knife behind her back.]
[Then she laughs, the old mad laugh of Yotsuyu the Imperial Viceroy.]
Yotsuyu: Ah, my beloved parents. No sooner do I wake from gentle slumber than the world returns in all its cruelty. Yes, this is how it always was. How it was meant to be. Very well. If I cannot escape my nature, then I shall embrace it. To the very depths I have sunk, my soul steeped in spite and rotten to the core. The self-righteous hide behind “justice,” but I need no such mask. Father. Mother. Was it not you who made me into this monster? Who taught me the truth of this miserable world? For years I knew naught but the taste of pain and humiliation, but the time has come to savor my vengeance against Doma. Against all my enemies. And it begins…with you!
Asahi’s Father: Yotsuyu…? What…?
[Yotsuyu skewers her step-father, splashing her face with his blood. Her step-mother turns to flee, and Yotsuyu buries the knife in the woman’s back.]
[Yotsuyu hears soft applause coming from nearby as Asahi steps from the shadows, smiling.]
Asahi: Well done, dear sister. Did I not say you would come back to us?
[Yotsuyu stares at him, knife in her hand, blood on her face.]
Yotsuyu: Brother dearest. What a surprise. You always were a cold-blooded little worm. I doubt you thought twice about sending our parents to their deaths.
[Asahi smiles like a hungry hyena.]
Asahi: Your dagger yet drips with their blood and you presume to judge me? To be frank, I didn’t think you had the strength to slay them so cleanly. A single thrust each… I’m impressed! But surely you can’t be satisfied with murdering a pair of doddering elders. You yearn for a deeper vengeance…and the power to see it through.
[He holds out a hand with the silver mirror in it.]
[The Echo Flashback ends. The Warrior of Light is back with Yotsuyu’s dying step-parents.]
Asahi’s Father: Please… I don’t want to die…
[The man collapses as Hien comes running up.]
Hien: Any sign of her?
[Hien sees the bodies.]
Hien: …What happened here?
[The Warrior of Light explains.]
Hien: I knew what would happen if she recovered, and still I did nothing. …You say she left with her brother? Whatever he wants with her, he was willing to pay for it with his parents’ lives… But this is neither the time nor the place. We must gather the others.
[Back in the Kienkan with Yugiri and the twins.]
Hien: We have recovered the Naeuris’ remains, and will hold the cremation anon. <sigh> Would that they had never again set foot in Doma. I broke the news to Gosetsu myself. He was…quiet. I think it best that he be allowed some time alone with his thoughts.
Quest: Conscripts and Contingencies
Hien: So, my friends…that which we feared has come to pass. Yotsuyu has regained her memory and returned to the imperial fold. It is, by any measure, a cruel twist, not least for Gosetsu…but one which does not invalidate our agreement. According to the terms of the contract, we were bound to surrender Yotsuyu into the Garleans’ hands should her condition improve prior to the hour of the exchange. By that reckoning, all is…if not as it should be, then…as it must be. This I can accept. But what I cannot accept are the unconscionable lengths to which Asahi went to achieve this outcome. Given his recent conduct, and his apparent admiration for Zenos, it is plain he cannot be trusted. And that is to say nothing of the unexplained containers he insists on bringing to our meetings. Whatever the ambassador is planning, I think it unlikely our negotiations will end peacefully. In the event of hostilities, the safety of the conscripts must be our first concern. As such, I would have an escape route in place before the meeting begins.
Alphinaud: A wise precaution. If the main structure of Castrum Fluminis is to be the stage for the exchange, then I believe a thorough inspection is in order…
Yugiri: The citadel has stood empty ever since the imperial withdrawal─while we took steps to ensure that it could not be defended by an occupying force, it is entirely possible that the ambassador has arranged things there to his advantage. I will slip inside, and make certain we have an unobstructed exit.
Alphinaud: Pray allow me to join you. I have some experience of imperial facilities. And should matters take a turn for the worse, I would hope to be of at least some use…
Hien: Very good. That should be enough to guarantee us a way out of the castrum. Beyond that, however… We will need a ship to ferry the conscripts back to the enclave. Even with every skiff we have, it would take several trips to evacuate everyone. …A Confederate sekibune, on the other hand, would require only a single run, and leave us far less vulnerable on the water. Assuming, of course, Rasho can be convinced to part with one.
Alisaie: Might I take the lead on this? I’ve had dealings with Rasho and his pirates before. And I won’t be alone, will I, Auric?
[“You can count on me!”][Alternate answer: “I suppose not”]
Alisaie: Much appreciated. I quite fancy parleying with pirates again. It’s just a shame Lyse won’t be there to reprise her role.
Hien: Hm! I am certain you would make a persuasive pair─but I think I will accompany you to these negotiations all the same.
Yugiri: My lord, the ruler of Doma should not be seen consorting with common brigands…
Hien: Come now, Yugiri─they stood with us against the Empire. If we would ask their aid once more, we must treat with them as equals. My presence shall serve to demonstrate our sincerity.
Yugiri: …Indeed, my lord. Pray forgive my presumption. By your leave, Master Alphinaud and I shall be about our task.
Hien: And we should be on our way to Onokoro. Time is short, and Rasho may take some convincing.
Rasho: Now there is a face I did not expect to see. What brings the noble lord of Doma into the company of bilge rats such as we?
Tansui: If you’ve come to offer Doman chains in place of Garlean ones, then I’m afraid you’ve wasted a trip.
Hien: Ahahaha! And what fine subjects you would make! With your fleet at our disposal, our restoration efforts would be hastened tenfold. But let us speak seriously. I stand before you not to demand your fealty, but to request your aid once more.
Rasho: Mayhap you are confused. Doma’s liberation was but a means to an end. We aided you only to save ourselves. Now we have no such incentive. We have sworn no oath to you, and will not come running like hounds at their master’s whistle.
Hien: And I would not presume to treat you thus. I come to petition your cooperation as an ally of equal standing.
Tansui: Equal standing, you say? Seems a bit lopsided to me. Where’s the profit for us in all of this?
Alisaie: Profit! Must you always think in such shortsighted terms? Have you ever heard of doing the right thing?
Tansui: Have you ever heard of pirates, little miss? You’ll find we’re simple souls: you pay our tithe, you sail in peace; deny us our due and we take it by force. We’ll pull you out of the water if we see you drowning, but we are not in the business of doing something for nothing.
Hien: Calm yourself, Mistress Alisaie. We did not come here to moralize. We came here to talk. And there is more to be said. According to records recovered after the liberation, relatives of your Doman-born brethren were among those conscripted into the imperial army. And as you may be aware, we recently negotiated the return of said conscripts. Many, alas, will arrive to find no families waiting for them, no homes to grant them shelter. I would ask that you offer them a place in the Confederacy. You would not be rescuing strangers, but welcoming brothers and sisters into your ranks. And has not the Confederacy been in need of new recruits…?
Rasho: You seem well-informed of our affairs, Lord Hien.
Tansui: The losses we suffered at the Garleans’ hands are no secret. But since we drove them out of Doma, the Ruby Sea has come alive with traders and travelers. So many vessels to tax, so few pirates to tax them. We could do with some more hands on deck, and doubly so if they’re familiar with the inner workings of the Empire.
Rasho: Very well. The Confederacy agrees to your request. You will have your ship. …But before that, you must do something for me. The vessel I have in mind was damaged during your battle with the Empire. Though we have mended her, she has yet to be declared seaworthy. She is sound enough down below, but when you load her up with conscripts and the waterline rises…those upper planks had best be free of cracks. Assuming you want your people to stay dry, you will do me the favor of swimming around the hull to check for weaknesses. That is, if Doman lords are not averse to getting their robes wet?
Hien: Not this Doman lord! If we each inspect a third of the ship, it shall be done in a trice.
Rasho: That is the spirit. The ship is moored at Quickscape Pier. Our apprentice shipwright will be on deck to hear your report. Look for a lad named Ihanashi.
Alisaie: And I thought I had a knack for parleying with pirates… For the record, my previous attempt was an unmitigated success, and yes, I should have quit while I was ahead.
[Hien and Alisaie walk off toward the ship.]
Tansui: Well, well. I’d thought the rumors exaggerated, but the young lord lives up to his reputation…
[The ship’s hull is checked out. The Warrior of Light finds a small crack in one of the planks. The group reports to Ihanashi.]
Ihanashi: Aye, I’m the shipwright─er, apprentice shipwright. Did you find anything that might need attention?
Alisaie: The section I inspected seemed solid enough.
[The Warrior of Light explains what was found.]
Ihanashi: …On the port side, near the bow, you say? All right, I’ll have a look and see what I can do.
Hien: My apologies, I seem to have lagged behind. I could float in that gentle sea all day…Otherwise, I am happy to report no visible cracking or holes in my section of the hull.
Ihanashi: You─ Y-You─ You’re Lord Hien! The captain sent you to inspect the hull!? Kami have mercy… Forgive us this discourtesy, my lord!
Hien: Hah! ‘Tis quite all right. In fact, I rather enjoyed it. I take it you are of Doma?
Ihanashi: Y-Yes, my lord. The imperials took my father away after the uprising, and I had nowhere else to turn. The Confederacy became my family. But someone told me they’re releasing the conscripts now. Maybe my father will be among them. Not that I can go back─there’s no leaving once you’ve joined…
???: How fares our lady? Is she seaworthy?
[Pirate Captain Rasho walks up.]
Ihanashi: Captain! W-We’ve found a small crack in the port side, but I’ll have it fixed before you know it!
Rasho: I see you have met the boy. Did he tell you his story? He babbles when he is nervous. Should his father be among the conscripts, as he hopes, I mean to give him the choice to leave this life. If he so chooses, I expect you to see they are provided for.
Hien: I have heard that those who join the Confederacy forswear all ties with kin and homeland. Is that oath so easily put aside?
Rasho: If I allow it….I see in him the lad I was twenty-five years ago. You say the words, you mean them, but the yearning for home still lingers. My family is long dead, and I know this life is my lot. But he has scarce dipped his toes with us. If there is a life for him in Doma, he should have the chance to live it.
Hien: Well said. The Empire’s conquest has uprooted many and more. Be it in Yanxia or out on the Ruby Sea, we have a duty to ensure that Ihanashi and others like him are free to dwell where they desire.
Rasho: Then the matter is settled. I will make preparations to cast off.
Hien: Well, my friends, it seems we have our ship. Let us return to the enclave.
[Hien, the twins, Yugiri, and the Warrior of Light rendezvous at the Kienkan.]
Hien: It seems Yugiri and Alphinaud completed their task before us. They have been waiting.
Yugiri: We scouted the structure and determined the swiftest path to safety. In the event of hostilities, we will lead the conscripts outside with all possible haste.
Hien: From there, the Confederacy has pledged a ship to ferry us across the One River. Now we have but to attend the exchange, and pray to the kami these precautions were unnecessary.
Quest: The Primary Agreement
Hien: While we were putting our contingency plans in place, I left Hakuro in charge of organizing transport for the imperial prisoners. He will see they arrive at the appointed hour, leaving us free to rendezvous with our Confederate allies. Come, they await us on the riverbank not far from the castrum.
[On the riverbank. Rasho is waiting with the Confederacy ship.]
Confederate Skipper: Your party is assembled, then?
Hien: Aye, and ready for what lies ahead, I trust. Lest there be any confusion, though… The tower across the water is to be the scene of the exchange─that, and whatever else Asahi has planned. But regardless of the ambassador’s intentions, we will bring our people home. Yugiri─you are to evacuate the conscripts at the first sign of trouble.
Yugiri: Yes, my lord.
Alphinaud: We, meanwhile, shall cover their escape, and lend what support we can.
Rasho: Your ship awaits you at the castrum’s loading docks. She will see you safely home.
Hien: Then all stand ready to play their part. Come! Let us be about it!
[Inside the Castrum. Asahi and his two guards meet up with Hien, Yugiri, and the Warrior of Light.]
Asahi: At last, the hour has come. The conclusion to these negotiations will mark a new beginning for Doma and the Empire─a first step on the road to peaceful coexistence!
Hien: Indeed. We are ready to proceed with the exchange when you are. Forgive my curiosity, Ambassador, but is there a purpose to these containers you bring with you?
Asahi: Oh, the supply crates? They are filled with materials we hoped might be of use in Doma’s restoration. I meant to gift them to you at our last meeting, but we had so much else to discuss…
Hien: How very generous. I confess, I had not expected such compassion, welcome though it is. …But then I was also surprised by the news that one of our captives had delivered herself into your custody ahead of time─a minor discrepancy I shall overlook in the spirit of the occasion.
[Footsteps are heard nearby.]
Yotsuyu: Are you perhaps referring to me, Lord Hien?
[Yotsuyu is back in her Imperial regalia, complete with long pipe in hand.]
Yotsuyu: Orphan of the Naeuri, widow of Sashihai… …And acting viceroy of Doma! You and your people are mine to govern; mine to punish!
Hien: Well, well. It would seem your shattered mind is mended. As per our agreement with the ambassador, you are free to return with him to the Empire. Your authority as acting viceroy, however, is no longer recognized here.
[Yotsuyu takes a long drag of her pipe and blows out smoke, chuckling.]
Yotsuyu: My position is not for you to decide, little lordling. All who resist the rule of the Empire must be purged. Such was the order given to me by Lord Zenos himself! I will reign here in this putrid, pestilent swamp until the last of you has been broken!
[Yotsuyu reaches into her robes and draws out the silver mirror. She holds it high over her head.]
Yotsuyu: This land shall know no dawn. I will spew forth darkness and drown all in eternal night. And high above you I shall shine uncaring, cold and distant as the moon!
[Asahi triggers a hand-held device, and the crates he brought crack open, revealing a wealth of shining blue aether crystals. The room fills with swirling light.]
Hien: What has she done!?
Alphinaud: Oh, gods… This is a summoning!
[Yotsuyu rises in the air. The moon appears, and then is blacked out by an eclipse. When the light returns, Yotsuyu is transformed into a new Primal — Tsukuyomi.]
[Asahi runs to his guards.]
Asahi: A Doman citizen has called forth an eikon in direct violation of our primary agreement. The negotiations have failed. Abandon the captives, and make preparations to withdraw.
Maxima: But, Ambassador…
Asahi: Disobey me, Pilus, and you disobey the Emperor. Make preparations to withdraw─now.
Maxima: …As you command.
Yugiri: My lord! You must fall back!
Hien: You ask me to run!?
[“A strategic withdrawal!”][Alternate answer: “Leave this to me!]
Hien: Spare my pride, would you? I know this foe is beyond me. The field is yours! We will withdraw…but not without our countrymen. I want every soul accounted for. Every soul!
Yugiri: My lord!
[Hien and Yugiri depart.]
Tsukuyomi: I knew you would not flee. I see now the strength which flows from that baleful light of yours. But I am become Tsukuyomi, goddess of the moon and divinity of night. What power can compare to such celestial majesty!? I shall plunge all I despise into darkness! And within that black abyss, even your light shall flicker and fail. Come, let us cast the stalks and look upon the fate of Doma. I see a future in which the sun sets on this wretched land once and for all!
[During the fight, shades of Yotsuyu’s past rise up to torment her. When Zenos’ shade appears, the shade of Gosetsu rises to meet it. But his efforts to save Yotsuyu from her demons is in vain.]
[When the fight is over, Yotsuyu falls to the floor, panting with exhaustion. Her hair has turned snow white.]
[As the Warrior of Light watches her warily, a shot rings out and Yotsuyu jerks, then lies still.]
[Asahi comes striding up to the platform, pulls out his pistol, and shoots Yotsuyu a second time.]
Asahi: You really must learn to finish the job. ‘Tis true that a gaudy mirror and a handful of crystals make for a feeble summoning, but even the weakest eikon is a god of sorts. A threat that must be put down.
[The Warrior of light glares at Asahi.]
Asahi: My, my, such hostility! These beings are the sworn enemies of the Empire─I merely did my duty as an imperial officer. Will you surrender to anger, then? Slay an anointed emissary to avenge a fallen foe? You cannot, of course. To do so would burn the bridges we have labored so hard to build! Ah, but I’m forgetting: they’re already ash! This Doman woman has seen to that! The Empire cannot ally itself with any nation that refuses to renounce summoning. I believe I was most clear on that point!
[Asahi laughs maniacally.]
Asahi: It should have been mine. The power he bestowed upon her… I should have been the one to govern Doma! I would have repaid his faith! Instead, this harlot betrayed his trust!
[Asahi kicks Yotsuyu’s unmoving body.]
Asahi: Useless…piece of…filth!
[He kicks her again. And again.]
Asahi: Worthless whore!
[There is the sudden sound of a double impact. Asahi gasps.]
[Yotsuyu’s eyes open.]
Yotsuyu: Thank you, dear brother…for this precious gift. Vengeance.
[With the last of her fading power, Yotsuyu has lifted Asahi up and impaled him on her double moon swords.]
Yotsuyu: These people…our people…they ignore the corruption which festers beneath the surface. Cast aside that which is dirty and broken. Speak not of things which would disrupt their dreary little lives. Like you, Asahi…always pretending not to see. You were the first…the first I swore to kill.
[Asahi struggles on the swords for a moment more, then chokes up blood. It falls on Yotsyuy’s open hand.]
Yotsuyu: Ahhh…such bliss. I had thought my hunger insatiable…but now…now I am satisfied. You should feel honored, dear brother. I saved the last of my strength just…for you.
[Yotsuyu clenches her open hand, and the double swords tear through Asahi and drop his dying body to the floor.]
[The Warrior of Light stands over the dying Yotsuyu in silence.]
Yotsuyu: What’s the matter? The witch of Doma will soon be dead.
[“Gosetsu will mourn you.”][Alternate answer: “Tsuyu deserved a kinder fate.”]
Yotsuyu: He will mourn Tsuyu, perhaps… I wonder… Was the fruit as sweet…as he remembered…?
[The primal energy leaves Yotsuyu’s body and dissipates, leaving her hair black as before.]
[Asahi is not….quite…dead. He coughs.]
Asahi: Lord Zenos…
[Asahi walks into the Imperial infirmary. Zenos, in a hospital gown, arms and neck bandaged, stands staring out a window. ]
[Asahi drops to one knee before his lord.]
Asahi: Lord Zenos! I am at your disposal.
Zenos: Asahi. You were born of Doma, yes?
Asahi: Yes, my lord! I am honored that you would remember me. How may I serve?
Zenos: You are hereby appointed ambassador plenipotentiary, and empowered to speak with the voice of the Emperor. Return to your native land of Doma, and announce your intention to sue for peace.
Asahi: …For peace?
Zenos: Once negotiations are underway, you are to locate the acting viceroy.
Asahi: She lives? That is to say─I will, my lord.
Zenos: When you have found her, you will initiate a ritual to call forth an eikon. I will instruct you in the necessary steps. Yotsuyu’s faith is unreliable. But as a child raised to believe in the kami, she will serve as a vessel for one of the Kojin’s gods. She need only wish it to be so.
[Zenos hands the silver mirror over to Asahi.]
Zenos: The power will seem a gift, but the eikon’s essence will consume her. She will be no more than a husk, a slave to whim and desire.
Asahi: My lord, ever since the day you saw fit to save my miserable life, I have dreamed of repaying your benevolence. Upon my honor, I swear to devote myself wholly to your service. All that you command will be done, no matter the cost. B-But…I fear the subtleties of your plan yet elude me. From the reports I have heard, the champion who aids the Doman resistance would make short work of a single eikon…
Zenos: The eikon is merely a message. The pacifist teachings of the Populares spread through this city like a plague, and I would remind the people of the threat we face. You will be my chosen agent─the hand which tolls the warning bell. The salvation of this world will not be won through the signing of treaties.
Asahi: Your chosen agent!? I will not fail you, my lord!
[The Echo flashback ends.]
[Asahi coughs out one last blood-soaked message.]
Asahi: My… My master… Lord Zenos… He will come…for you.
[Hien, Yugiri and the twins come running up. Gosetsu is with them. He sees Yotsuyu’s body and kneels beside it.]
Hien: You have prevailed, I see!
Gosetsu: She is gone. Wherefore did the kami spare us only to inflict this pain…?
[Gosetsu sobs over Yotsuyu’s body.]
Hien: Death shall not want for company this day. You spared us a worse disaster, but I fear our fledgling peace with the Empire was beyond saving.
[One of Asahi’s guards calls out.]
Maxima: Lord Hien!
Hien: Maxima, is it not? I assumed you long fled.
Maxima: I entertain thoughts of escape even now. But our negotiations have yet to reach a satisfying conclusion. The ambassador insisted that the summoning spelled an end to our mission here, but it seemed to me there was more to the tale…
[Maxima turns to the Warrior of Light]
Maxima: I have heard tell of this power you wield. And in your vision, you witnessed Lord Zenos giving these orders?
[“Zenos was behind this plot”][Alternate answer: “I saw a vision of Asahi’s past.”]
Maxima: I have heard tell of this power you wield. And in your vision, you witnessed Lord Zenos giving these orders?
Hien: But how can that be? Zenos is dead. He took his own life after the battle in Ala Mhigo. I saw his body with my own eyes!
Maxima: Forgive me, but Lord Zenos is very much alive─he granted our party an audience prior to our departure. That he was gravely wounded is certain, but his recovery appeared to be proceeding apace.
Alphinaud: I am afraid I share Lord Hien’s confusion. The man’s death was confirmed and his remains interred. These are matters of public record.
Maxima: …Hmm. I have no doubt you believe what you say. But what then is the explanation? That an impostor has infiltrated the innermost circle of the imperial court? The idea is inconceivable, absurd…but worthy of investigation nonetheless. Our movement can ill afford to have a highly placed pretender undermining our efforts…
Hien: Your efforts may yet bear fruit. Tell me, what is to become of our prisoner exchange? Though we have already taken custody of our conscripts, we have yet to release your imperial comrades. Do you still intend to collect them?
Maxima: Ah. Yes, as the late ambassador’s second-in-command, it falls to me to speak on the Empire’s behalf. And I am happy to confirm our intent to proceed according to the original agreement.
Hien: Then let us be about it. ‘Twould be a pity to abandon such a promising beginning.
Maxima: Indeed. You have my thanks, Lord Hien. As soon as our people are secure aboard our airship, we shall depart straightways for Garlemald.
Hien: Tread lightly, Pilus. I sense treachery awaits you there.
Alphinaud: Might I accompany you to the capital?
Alisaie: Alphinaud! Have you gone mad!?
Alphinaud: Impostor or no, if Zenos was instructing Asahi on the finer points of ritual summoning, then experience tells us there is an Ascian waiting in the wings. Without our knowledge and expertise, our new friends will be hard-pressed to contend with a foe for whom death is but a minor inconvenience. They need our help.
Maxima: Were you indeed willing to share your knowledge of this enemy, we would not shun your counsel.
Hien: You truly mean to do this? In full knowledge of the danger?
Alphinaud: I have seen the Warrior of Light risk his life on countless occasions. Next to him, I am scarce more than a distraction on the battlefield. But in the meeting room or the audience chamber, there I can make a difference. I can strike bargains, forge ties, and change minds. And where better to do these things than in the home of our old enemy?
[“I believe in you, Alphinaud.”][Alternate answer: “This is your moment.”]
Hien: ‘Tis not for me to stop you─but I would have you consider an alternative arrangement. Rather than braving the Empire as a simple traveler, go forth as an emissary of Doma. Such a position should offer you some measure of protection.
Alisaie: Go, then. You’ve obviously made up your mind. Just try not to do anything reckless, all right?
Alphinaud: I shall be on my best behavior. Farewell, my friends.
[Alphinaud walks off with Maxima.]
Hien: I knew Asahi was planning some manner of treachery, but a summoning…? Thank the kami you were here, my friend. None of us would have escaped Yotsuyu’s vengeance had you not intervened. She was a pawn, aye, but she still had a choice, and she chose to submit to the ambassador’s plan. ‘Tis little wonder Gosetsu departed in silence.
Yugiri: I gather he left the same way he came: alone aboard a rowing boat. As for the conscripts, most made it to the sekibune before the battle began in earnest, but the vessel yet waits on the riverbank for those who did not flee in time.
Hien: Then I suggest we put this doleful place behind us, and make for the enclave together. ‘Twould be a shame to miss the joyous reunion!
[Back in the Doman enclave, the Doman prisoners of the Empire are reunited with their loved ones.]
Hien: How often have I imagined this moment… Thank you for helping it come to pass.
Gosetsu: Ah, there you are.
Alisaie: Gosetsu, your hair!
Yugiri: My friend… What have you done…?
Gosetsu: An old man who cannot raise his blade has no place in the service of a young lord. Thus did I decide to devote my remaining days to pilgrimage. I will walk this land, offering prayers of repose for all the souls who left this life in suffering.
Hien: …All of them?
[“Safe travels, Gosetsu.”][Alternate answer: “Don’t leave us, Gosetsu!”]
Gosetsu: A fulsome farewell makes for an enjoyable journey!
Hien: Scarcely have we said our good-byes to Alphinaud, and you leave us too. Ah, but ’tis well that my companions find their own way forward. I must endeavor to do the same.
Gosetsu: I have faith that you will find the best path for Doma without me, my lord. Pray forgive me this last act of selfishness, and grant me your blessing.
Hien: You have earned it. A thousand times over! Go in peace, my friend. I shall make of Doma a land where children laugh and none need live in fear.
Gosetsu: There is no better way to honor those who went before… And with that I take my leave!
[Gosetsu strides off, his face set with resolve.]
Hien: Ah, Gosetsu… Fair journey to you, my friend. A bittersweet occasion…but there is yet ample cause to be grateful! Pray join us in the Kienkan. I would thank you properly.
[In the Kienkan]
Hien: Our brothers and sisters are returned to us, and the dream of Doma’s restoration is that much closer to being realized. It is a day that will live long in memory, and one that would never have dawned without the courageous actions of the Scions. On behalf of Doma and her people, we give you our deepest thanks. Lest you think me complacent, I assure you, I have not forgotten the dark cloud on the horizon. That Zenos lives is a source of grave concern─mayhap the gravest─yet there is little to be done but wait for Alphinaud to send word. Until then, I plan to devote myself to fulfilling the promise I made to Gosetsu, by building a nation in which none need live in fear. <sigh> I confess, I miss him already. But the thought that he has at last found peace goes some way to softening the blow. I wonder, did you ever stop to ask yourself why he showed Yotsuyu such kindness? I believe the answer lies in past tragedy─specifically, the death of his wife and daughter during the invasion. Though he hid it well, they were never far from his thoughts, and in Yotsuyu’s childlike mien, I believe he saw not a fallen tyrant, but the little girl who was lost to him. After the loss of his family, Gosetsu devoted himself wholly to the service of his country. He suffered any hardship, strove beyond the limits of endurance without hesitation or complaint. Though Tsuyu could never truly replace his daughter, I had hoped that with her at his side, he might live out the remainder of his days in relative contentment…
Yugiri: Would that the kami had been so minded. Even now, I labor to discern any meaning in Yotsuyu’s fate. To deliver her from certain death, with no memory of her sins, only to leave her at the mercy of her stepbrother? Can that truly have been their will?
Hien: That I cannot tell you. The will of the kami is not for us to know. But what I do know is that for a brief moment, a girl known as “Tsuyu” lived among us… …And that she brought with her a whisper of respite for a grieving heart.
Quest: Under the Moonlight
Alisaie: I think it’s time we were going, don’t you? We’ve done all we can here, and we have a lot to report. But before we head back to the Rising Stones, let’s call in at Rhalgr’s Reach. We should be the ones to tell Lyse about Zenos. After everything we went through together, we owe her that.
[At Rhalgr’s Reach]
Lyse: Auric! Alisaie! You’re back!…Hm? No Alphinaud?
Alisaie: It’s good to see you, Lyse. As for my headstrong brother, he’s off on what will almost certainly turn out to be a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Garlemald. It’s a long story, but…we have evidence that Zenos might still be alive.
Lyse: What!? But that’s─ If this is a joke─ Gods, this had better be a joke! Look─I know what I saw, all right? We all saw it. And here you are saying he’s alive and well and living the high life back in Garlemald!?
Alisaie: I know how ludicrous this sounds. I’m still having difficulty believing it myself. But while I might doubt the word of an imperial envoy, I’m inclined to trust Auric’s. He saw the crown prince through the Echo─in a meeting that could only have taken place in the recent past.
[“It was him. It was Zenos.”][Alternate answer: “Zenos is alive.”]
Lyse: No, it must have been─I don’t know─some kind of…really convincing impostor. Zenos is dead. He had a great big hole in his neck! We buried him!
M’naago: Aye, and someone went to the trouble of desecrating the bastard’s grave, remember?
???: Thal’s gilded…halls. Whatever are you talking about?
[Thancred walks up.]
Thancred: Alphinaud had me lending a hand at the Saltery─keeping an eye on the rebuilding work and so on─just until operations were up and running. And now that they are, I thought I might look in on you before wending my weary way back to headquarters. Forgive me if I misheard, but is there some suggestion the late crown prince could have…gotten better? If so, might I suggest a quick look inside his coffin as our first order of business?
Lyse: Eurgh. As much as I hated the man, it doesn’t feel right defiling his grave. But if it will put this rumor to rest, I suppose we have to. And when there are no curious eyes about, if we can manage it.
M’naago: Zenos is buried up at Bloodhowe in the Lochs. His grave was set apart from the others and left unmarked, so as not to upset the locals.
Lyse: Then it shouldn’t be too hard to find. Naago, you’re in charge until I get back!
[At Bloodhowe, in the Lochs. Zenos’ grave (?)]
Lyse: This is it… Gods, he’d better be in there. Someone scrawled all over the stone a while ago, but I had it scrubbed off, and thought no more about it…
Thancred: So no one thought to check if the coffin was still occupied? Well then, we are presented with but one course of action. And we had best be sure we are not observed in the doing of it. Shall we begin?
[The lid of the stone crypt is removed. The crypt is empty.]
Thancred: Oh dear. We seem to be missing a corpse.
Alisaie: Well it must be somewhere. I only hope it isn’t walking around…
[Unnoticed by the well-meaning grave defilers, a scout in the Griffin gear of the Ala Mhigan Rebellion is watching the scene from a distance. He has blue eyes, Elezen ears, and carries a katana.]
Lyse: If there’s no corpse, then…are we to conclude the rumors are true?
Thancred: Not necessarily. We might still be dealing with a doppelganger of some kind. An agent could have been sent to dispose of the body in a bid to lend credence to the tale of Zenos’s resurrection. More and more, however, I find myself siding with Alphinaud’s theory of Ascian possession. Speaking from experience, I can tell you they have no qualms about taking a living host, let alone a dead one…
Lyse: You’re saying an Ascian is walking around in Zenos’s body?
Thancred: It seems a distinct possibility. Once I have put this grave back the way we found it, I shall pay a visit to the people responsible for interring the crown prince. Before leaping to any conclusions, I want to know for sure if a body was ever buried here…and how certain we are that Zenos was properly dead.
Lyse: If he wasn’t, that was some trick. He as good as cut his own head off. Anyway, Raubahn needs to hear about this. If you find anything out, send word to me at Rhalgr’s Reach.
Alisaie: <sigh> I don’t know why I’m surprised─with matters settling down in Doma, we were due another crisis. Shall we make for the Rising Stones, then? It’s past time we shared these developments with the others.
[Back in the Rising Stones]
Alisaie: While I was waiting for you to arrive, I spoke with Urianger over linkpearl and gave him a full report. Y’shtola is on her way, and should be here any─ Ah.
Y’shtola: Alisaie. Auric. ‘Tis good to see you safe and well. What news have you from the East?
[Y’shtola is brought up to speed.]
Y’shtola: …Disturbing developments indeed. Given all that we know, I too would conclude that an Ascian now inhabits Zenos’s body. A doppelganger might fool the crown prince’s subordinates, but Auric? Nay, Alphinaud had the right of it. Would that his wisdom extended to the question of his own safety. Capable though he has become, he ventures alone into the enemy’s stronghold─and the shadowy web of the Paragons, like as not.
Alisaie: When it comes to making rash decisions, I’m hardly in a position to criticize, but… I’m worried. I just wish there were something I could do for him besides pray.
Meanwhile, in the Imperial Palace
[In the throne room of the Garlemald Empire. Emperor Varis zos Galvus confers with his son (?)]
Varis zos Galvus: We cannot suffer eikons to exist. Was I not clear on this point?
Zenos (?): More than clear. The eikon in question was summarily dispatched by the Warrior of Light. The summoner is dead, and the rite beyond repeating. Everything proceeded according to plan─every party behaving exactly as required. My methods may seem extreme, but there is no cause for concern. I work only to ensure the salvation of this star.
[Amid the ruins of an Imperial base in Ala Mhigo. A Resistance soldier is bending over a piece of broken magitek. A second Resistance soldier, a maleRoegadyn, spots him.]
Roegadyn Soldier: Hm? What are you doing fiddling with that thing?
[There is no reply.]
Roegadyn Soldier: I asked you a question, soldier!
[The Elezen soldier stands up and draws his katana. It’s the same soldier that was spying on the Scions at Zenos’ empty grave.]
Roegadyn Soldier: What are you─ Have you lost your mind!?
[The blue-eyed Elezen soldier cuts down the Roegadyn.]
Roegadyn Soldier: Aaah!
Katana-wielding Soldier: …I have lost many things, but my mind is yet my own. There upon the stage I stood, prepared to take my final bow, only to find that the finale was but an intermission… Shall I use this chance to repent for my sins? Embrace goodness and mediocrity? Nay, I think not. While the one I yearn to face yet lives, the hunt must go on.
[The blue-eyed Elezen soldier flies off in a repaired magitek scoutship.]
Quest: Emissary of the Dawn
[Back in the Rising Stones]
Alisaie: It’s been an eventful few days, hasn’t it. But I suppose all we can do now is wait for word from Alphinaud. Hmph. I don’t recall the last time I had nothing pressing to be getting on with… We should probably make the most of it. Shall I put on some tea?
Y’shtola: Tea would be lovely. You may regale me with the tale of your adventures in the Far East─and of your encounter with this new primal especially.
Alisaie: I’ll put the kettle on, then. That table looks free if you’d like to take a seat.
[Tea with Alisaie and Y’shtola.]
Y’shtola: …Interesting. So this Tsukuyomi was summoned in much the same manner as Susano─via the medium of a sacred relic.
Alisaie: That’s right. They believe their gods─or kami─reside in physical objects.
Y’shtola: Given the danger they represent, it may behoove us to begin a catalog of such relics. But if we are to contain the threat, we will require a better understanding of the summoning method itself. I believe I shall pay a visit to Doma, and learn what I can on the subject.
Alisaie: A fine idea. And I know for a fact that our friends in Doma would be grateful for any information which could help to prevent further summoning in the region. I will pen you a letter of introduction─Lord Hien will wish to welcome our resident expert on aetherology.
[Thancred walks up.]
Thancred: Greetings! Could it be that I’m in time for tea?
Alisaie: It certainly looks that way. Come on─sit down and tell us how your investigations went.
Thancred: After you left, I went about questioning Bloodhowe’s gravekeepers. They all told much the same story: once Lyse and her officers had confirmed Zenos dead, his corpse was interred under strict supervision. There seems little reason to doubt their testimony on that point, but when I mentioned the defacement of Zenos’s grave, accounts grew rather more vague. None reported having seen any suspicious persons in the vicinity, and all assumed the act to have been perpetrated by a vengeful Ala Mhigan. Crucially, however, I was able to confirm that when the offending scrawl was removed, as per Lyse’s instruction, no one involved thought to check the contents of the coffin. By that stage, ’tis like that the corpse was already missing. Assuming Zenos has not, in fact, risen from the dead, we are left with two possibilities: either the body was disposed of to lend credence to the claims of an extremely committed impostor, or an Ascian has taken up residence within it.
Y’shtola: If Asahi was as fervent a devotee as you believe, he would not have been fooled by an impersonation, however committed. We must assume that we are dealing with an Ascian, and proceed accordingly.
Thancred: Agreed. The question is, how many more such monsters are waiting for Alphinaud in Garlemald?
Alisaie: Their presence was his chief reason for going. He understood the risks. I only hope he did not underestimate the extent of the infestation…
[Meanwhile on the Imperial Hypersonic Assault Craft L-XXV with Maxima and Alphinaud]
Maxima: Master Alphinaud, we are making good speed towards our destination. Is aught amiss?
Alphinaud: Nay, ’tis just…I can see naught from my cabin, and was curious to know the land over which we flew.
Maxima: Ah. I am afraid our military craft are built with little thought for such niceties. I am happy to indulge your curiosity, however. We are presently passing over the Burn on the western edge of Othard. Even with the benefit of a porthole, your gaze would have been greeted with naught but malms upon malms of lifeless earth.
Alphinaud: I have read something of the Burn. It was described as a desolate wasteland, bled dry of every last drop of aether…
Maxima: Aye. It is believed that a succession of eikon summonings was responsible.
Maxima: When Emperor Solus first came to Othard and beheld this blight, he is said to have reeled at the scale of the devastation. He declared eikons a threat to our very star’s existence, and issued an Empire-wide decree ordering the eradication of all such entities.
[The ship shudders from a heavy impact.]
Maxima: Hngh! Report!
Imperial Pilot: We’re under attack, sir! Magitek armor─no visible designation.
Alphinaud: Magitek!? But who─? Aaah!
Maxima: All cannons, return fire! Damage report!
Imperial Pilot: The main reactor’s been hit! Helm unresponsive! We’re going down, sir!
Maxima: Damn it! They knew exactly where to hit us.All hands─brace for impact!
[The bridge of the ship goes up in flames and the vessel falls from the sky. Alphinaud blacks out.]
[Alphinaud regains consciousness in a smoke-filled wrecked bridge.]
Maxima: Glad to have you back, Master Alphinaud. We have landed in one piece─more or less. But the air filtration system is damaged, and the ship is filling with smoke. We must gather the survivors and get out while we still can.
Alphinaud: Aye… Aye.
[SOLO DUTY…AS ALPHINAUD!]
Maxima the Neoteric: Master Alphinaud, might I ask you to search for survivors? I will see to our injured helmsmen.
[Alpinaud searches through the barren white sand of the Burn. He clears a piece of wreckage, finds a fallen Imperial, and heals and revives the man. ]
Wounded Popularis: My thanks…I don’t think I would have made it…
Maxima the Neoteric: Yes, you very likely saved his life.The question of who would try to take it remains, however…
[A group of four hostile Imperial soldiers appears over the dunes and instantly attacks.]
Hostile Commander: Put these last few out of their misery. The prince wishes none left alive!
Maxima the Neoteric: The prince…!?
Alphinaud: They’ve not come to parley, I fear…Ready your weapons!
[The first troop has been felled, but more of them appear over the dunes, with armed air support. Alphinaud and Maxima dive for cover as the flyers open fire.]
Alphinaud: Confound it! Not here. Not like this!
[Suddenly one of the Imperial flyers is shot out of the air. The shooter appears on top of a dune with two companions. He is a brown-skinned Garlean man wielding a long gunblade.
His companions are a female Garlean lancer with blue hair and a red-headed male Elezen mage with a tattooed face.]
Maxima: Wha─? Who in the Emperor’s name─?
Alphinaud: Enemies of our enemies. Introductions can wait!
Maxima: You are calm in a crisis, Master Alphinaud. Let us finish this, then!
[The Imperials are not pleased by how much ass the shooter is kicking.]
Hostile Stranger: By the emperor, that man is a fiend! Cross formation! Deploy restraints!
[The flying Imperial units surround the man with the gunblade — the Menacing Mercenary — and immobilize him.]
Menacing Mercenary: Bah! A child’s trick!
[Alphinaud and the others cut him free.]
Menacing Mercenary: My thanks, boy!
[The remainder of the hostile Imperial group is defeated.]
Alphinaud: My thanks. Your intervention proved most timely.
Menacing Mercenary: Well, well…I did not think to meet an Eorzean in this place, let alone a Scion.
Alphinaud: You know of me, sir?
Menacing Mercenary: I have some small…history with your order. But I would speak of the present. Know you your assailants? And the severity of your predicament?
Maxima: The soldiers bore the insignia of the Emperor’s personal guard…
Alphinaud: And I could venture a guess as to their motive. But you yet have us at a disadvantage, sir─will you not tell us who you are?
Menacing Mercenary: Our names are not yours for the asking. And as for our purpose…let this be your answer.
[The mercenary with the gunblade tosses a piece of black cloth onto the white sand.]
Alphinaud: An Ascian mask!
Menacing Mercenary: The face of our prey. We must away before more arrive. Come with us or stay, but make your choice now.
Maxima: Even should we manage the long trek out of the Burn and secure passage to the capital, we would no doubt be greeted by the Emperor’s guard…
Alphinaud: Indeed.We accept your gracious offer, uh…
Shadowhunter: “Shadowhunter” will suffice for the present. Come.
[Shadowhunter leads the way across the sand. At his belt hang more masks — some black, some red, and one white one that looks oddly familiar.]
[Back at the tea party at the Rising Stones]
Alisaie: Ugh, this is intolerable. But as much as I wish it were otherwise, there is nothing we can do for Alphinaud now but pray for his success.
Thancred: Well…that is not entirely true. While your brother journeys to Garlemald from the east, I could make my way there from Ala Mhigo and find out what there is to be learned in the Empire’s western provinces.
Alisaie: Then I’m coming with you! I can’t very well sit here sipping tea if there’s action to be taken!
Thancred: Forgive me, Alisaie, but the provinces are hostile territory, and stealth is all important. It is safer that I go alone.
Alisaie: I can sneak well enough when the situation demands it! Don’t patronize me!
[“We should leave this to Thancred.”][Alternate answer: “I’ll go with him.”]
Alisaie: Not you too.
Y’shtola: I understand your frustration, Alisaie, but Auric has the right of it. We must defer to Thancred’s expertise in this matter.
Alisaie: It seems that praying is to be the extent of my contribution after all. …But I will stay behind, as I have been bid.
Thancred: We all have our talents. Mine just happen to involve a silver tongue and soft soles. I promise to send word the moment I learn aught of consequence.
Y’shtola: See that you notify me too. I mean to depart for Doma as soon as I find a suitable East Aldenard vessel to bear me thither, but I shall return if I am needed.
Alisaie: Be sure to drop in whenever you’re next in the area, Auric. With any luck, I’ll have a painfully detailed report from Alphinaud to share.