FFXIV Patch 4.5 & 4.56: A Requiem For Heroes (Pts. 1 & 2)

Quest: Soul Searching

[The Warrior of Light checks in with Alisaie at the Rising Stones.]

Alisaie: I’m glad you’ve come, though I’m afraid there’s little in the way of good news. After you left, we reached out to both the Alchemist’s Guild and Stillglade Fane, and attempted all manner of treatments… But the results were always the same. Whatever the answer is, it’s not alchemy or conjury… Why did it have to be Y’shtola and Urianger, and not me? Out of all of us, they are the ones who could feasibly have solved this puzzle. And Alphinaud’s still missing. Gods, it’s all going wrong… Where do we even start?

???: A grave situation, indeed. Might I be of some assistance?

[Krile has arrived at the Rising Stones.]

1. Krile here to help.jpg
Krile is here to help with the power of infinite cuteness.

Alisaie: Krile! I thought you busy delving into the mysteries of Eureka…

Krile: When word reached me of the plight of our friends, I could not well stay away. As a fellow Scion, not to mention your erstwhile mentor, this is one of those times you should feel free to call on me ─ regardless of my personal circumstances.

Alisaie: I… Yes, I should have thought of that.  Thank you for coming, Krile. We would welcome your insight.

Krile: And I should be happy to provide it. Now, what’s this I hear about Alphinaud heading into imperial territory? That boy always did have some funny ideas. Do you remember the speech he gave when he was accepted to the Studium?

Alisaie: “My life’s goal is naught less than the salvation of this star!”

3. I'm a little teapot
“And then Alphinaud would sing ‘I’m a Little Teapot.’ It was his favorite!”

Krile: That particular grand pronouncement has been a source of great embarrassment to him, as you know. But the fact of the matter is, he meant every word, and has lived his life accordingly.

Alisaie: Yes, he remains altruistic to a fault. But I’m worried he was too fixated on his goals to see the dangers, as has happened before…

Krile: You needn’t be so concerned. Though his values remain the same, Alphinaud is not the blinkered boy he once was. Slowly but surely, his eyes have been opened ─ thanks to a certain someone. A certain someone whom he’d be mortified to learn had heard about his little speech. Mum’s the word, eh? Right, I had better have a look at our patients. They’re in the infirmary, I assume? I’ll need absolute quiet, so it would be best if I did this alone. If you’ll excuse me…

[Krile heads to the infirmary, and everyone waits to hear her analysis. Eventually, the lala researcher returns.]

Krile: All three are in fine physical health. At a glance, I would say they were merely sound asleep… …Except for the fact that I couldn’t sense the slightest trace of “them” in their bodies. It’s as if their souls have taken leave of their physical forms.

Alisaie: Ah. Yes. The Elder Seedseer made a similar observation.

Krile: I’ve read the report. When you heard this mysterious voice, you described feeling as if you were “somewhere else,” yes?

[The Warrior of Light nods.]

Krile: If we assume the aether which comprises your essence is being drawn to some other place… Then it may be possible to follow the trail it leaves behind, just as we did in our search for Thancred.

Alisaie: I wasn’t around for that. But I can’t imagine it was easy.

Krile: Oh, it wasn’t. But that’s no reason not to try. I will have need of Master Matoya’s Crystal Eye if I’m even to make the attempt, so I suggest we pay her a visit.

[And we’re off to remote caves of the Dravanian Hinterlands.]

Alisaie: I’d heard Master Matoya was something of a recluse, but this seems…extreme. Still, I’ll happily overlook her eccentricities if she agrees to help us.

[We enter Matoya’s Cave.]

Matoya: Come to disturb my peace again, have you? I hide myself away in a cave, and still you people insist on pestering me with your problems.

4. Matoya
“You kids get off my lawn! ..I mean, out of my cave!”

[Matoya takes a closer look.]

Matoya: Oh. I mistook you for young what’s-his-name, but I see now you’re the sister. Weren’t you supposed to be the lively one? I’ve seen happier faces at a rain-sodden burial.

[Alisaie isn’t in the mood for this.]

Alisaie: Well, I’m sorry to dash your expectations, but the situation isn’t exactly conducive to gaiety.

Matoya: Ah, that’s more like it. Shtola used to spit and hiss like a wildcat, too. Better for a young thing like you to be filled with fire, and leave the doom and gloom to your elders.  Now, what exactly does this tragic situation of yours have to do with me?

Krile: If I may, Master Matoya, we have need of your Crystal Eye once more…

[Krile explains the situation and her findings.]

Matoya: And Shtola is one of the afflicted, is she?  Very well. She may be an ungrateful stray, but she’s my ungrateful stray. And I’ll not see her buried before I am.

[Matoya brings out the Crystal Eye and sets it on the table. Krile gazes into it.]

Krile: Right. Let us see what we can see.  I’ll begin from where our friends first fell, and cast my senses out from there…

Alisaie: …What is it? Did you find them!?

Krile: Th-This doesn’t make sense. How is it even possible…?

Alisaie: How is what possible!? Krile, what did you see!?

Krile: Th-The threads, they just…they just ended. And, no, I didn’t lose track of them ─ I followed them as far as they went. It’s as if ─  It’s as if they were cut off.

5. Krile and the Crystal Eye
“I spy with Matoya’s little eye… Something that begins with an ‘S.’ It’s soulless Scions!”

Alisaie: Could their aether have dissipated? If it had ─  Oh gods… Their bodies are just husks. It’s like the broodmother’s daughter all over again…

Krile: No, no, this is different. The Qalyana girl was already dead, body and soul, when Lakshmi effected her resurrection.

Matoya: Aye, let’s not jump to conclusions. If their physical forms yet breathe and show no signs of wasting, then it follows that their souls must still be intact somewhere.

Alisaie: But where!?

Matoya: That’s the question, isn’t it, girl? Death has not taken them to the aetherial sea, yet there are no tracks left for us to follow.

Alisaie: We’re no closer to an answer than when we started. But knowing their souls are still out there is progress of a sort. We just have to keep looking.

[Alisaie’s linkpearl chimes.]

Alisaie: Pray excuse me a moment.

[Alisaie listens.]

Alisaie: Yes? …I remember, but ─  …What, to Ala Mhigo!? We’re on our way!

[Alisaie shuts off the linkpearl.]

Alisaie: That was Lyse. Apparently, a group of Populares have defected to Ala Mhigo, and Maxima ─ the envoy Alphinaud left with ─ is one of them!  I’m sorry, I realize we’ve barely begun here, but…

Matoya: Go, child, go. You’ve made up your mind, and life’s too short for dithering.

Krile: I’ll do some digging in the meantime, and see if there isn’t some other method we could use to continue the search.

Alisaie: Let’s be off, then!

[There’s a clattering sound. One of Matoya’s magic broom servants has fallen to the ground and lies still.]

Matoya: Bah, not again… The enchantment barely seems to take, these days. I’d chalk it up to old age, but I rather doubt it’s that simple.

[With a wave of her hand, Matoya re-enchants the broom. It rises and begins sweeping again.]

Alisaie: Before they…took ill, Y’shtola and Urianger were sharing notes on a “thinning” of the aether. It seems to be happening all over.

Matoya: Does it now? And here I was, all set to blame my woes on that creaking mountain of refuse clogging up the Thaliak.  I fear something has gone awry. Still, there’s naught to be gained from starting at shadows. You can only do what can be done, and that but one thing at a time!

[Alisaie, Krile, and the Warrior of Light depart the cave.]

Alisaie: So that was the woman who tamed Y’shtola… I had the distinct feeling of being grabbed by the scruff of the neck and having the nonsense shaken out of me.  When Alphinaud is back, I’d like to visit again and ask her what tales she has of Grandfather.

Quest: A Defector’s Tidings

Alisaie: I almost can’t bear to hear what Maxima has to tell us…  But it can’t be bad news, can it? Lyse would have said. Unless ─  Agh, there’s no point speculating. Lyse said she’d notified the guards of our coming, so we should head straight to the palace gate in the Ala Mhigan Quarter.

Krile: I’ll be praying for good news. Learn what you can about Alphinaud’s plight, and leave the search for our friends’ lost souls to me.

[Krile returns to Matoya’s cave. Alisaie and the Warrior of Light depart.]

[In the Lochs of Ala Mhigo, at the Ala Mhigan Quarter.]

Resistance Guard: Greetings, Scions ─ the commander told me to expect you. Shall I show you in?

[In the Royal Palace]

Lyse: I’m sorry to drag you halfway across the realm, but when Maxima mentioned Alphinaud, I thought you’d want to hear the news in person.

[Maxima rises and speaks to the Warrior of Light.]

Maxima: Ah, we meet again…though I was hoping our reunion would be under more auspicious circumstances.

Alisaie: What happened to my brother? Where is Alphinaud?

Maxima: Never fear, my lady. Your brother was in fine health when I took my leave of him, and I have no reason to assume that has changed.

Alisaie: You assume!?

9. Maxima and Alisaie.jpg
“When you Assume, Maxima, you make an Ass out of U and Me.”

Maxima: If you will allow me, I shall endeavor to explain events. Our troubles began not long after we departed Doma. While crossing the Burn, we were fired upon by the Emperor’s personal guard, and forced to make an emergency landing. As we stumbled from the wreckage, our attackers fell upon us again, and we would have perished there and then were it not for the intercession of a third party… A band of mercenaries whose leader claimed to pursue a vendetta against the Ascians. This “Shadowhunter,” as he styled himself, then escorted us out of the wastes to relative safety. Upon arriving back in civilization, I gathered my Populares colleagues and prepared to flee the Empire. Master Alphinaud, however, declined the invitation to join us, preferring to continue his investigation into the Ascian threat.

[Alisaie is visibly relieved.]

Alisaie: Well…at least he’s not lying in a heap in the Burn.  Tell us more about these Ascian hunters. Who are they? And is Alphinaud still with them?

Maxima: He is. As to who they are, I am afraid I have nothing to tell you. Beyond the fact that they root out and destroy Ascians, they were unwilling to divulge anything which might serve to identify them. They would not even reveal their next destination…but Master Alphinaud asked to accompany them all the same. Since parting company with your brother, we’ve been engaged in a game of cat and mouse with the Emperor’s guard. We made our way through province after province, finding the army busy “restoring order” wherever we went, until we finally arrived here in Ala Mhigo. I cannot thank Commander Aldynn enough for giving us such an unexpectedly warm welcome.

Raubahn: I’m not inclined to turn away refugees, no matter which land they call home. And if they can tell me how things lie in Garlemald…all the better.

Maxima: On that subject, there is much I would tell you. During the course of our journey, we heard tales that an entire rebel army had been slaughtered in the space of a single night. It would seem my former comrades grew tired of putting down uprisings in the conventional manner, and chose instead to bring a formidable new weapon to bear. Details were sparse, but the rumor alone was enough to dampen the flames of rebellion. I have also heard reports that several companies have withdrawn from their designated provinces and begun marching westward. It is my assessment that the Empire’s forces are mobilizing for a large-scale military engagement.

Lyse: Westward? You mean they’re getting ready to invade Ala Mhigo!?

Raubahn: We knew this was coming. But not that it would be so soon.

[Lyse is understandably alarmed by this news.]

Lyse: We’ve barely even begun to shore up our defenses! They won’t stop an invading army!

Raubahn: …No, they won’t.

[Raubahn begins barking orders to his men.]

Raubahn: Dispatch messengers to the Alliance leadership requesting reinforcements. And send word to our officers in the field to hasten completion of those border fortifications. Prepare to meet the imperials head-on!

10.5 Raubahn takes charge.jpg
Raubahn prepares to take up arms arm against the Garleans.

[The General turns back to Lyse.]

Raubahn: No matter how quickly we act, we still want for time. When the enemy comes into view, our best recourse will be to open negotiations with their commander, and see that the ensuing proceedings take as long as possible.

[Lyse turns to the Warrior of Light.]

Lyse: Would you and Alisaie head to Doma and let Lord Hien know about this? I’m sure he’ll want to hear about Alphinaud too.

Alisaie: Consider it done. We’ll send word when ─

[Alisaie and the Warrior of Light grab their heads as a beginning-to-be-familiar Voice is heard.]

Mysterious Voice:  …Untold sorrow…must be changed…Ahead looms a calamity….Eon becomes instant. Throw wide the gates.

 

11. Called again
“You have a collect call from a Mr. E.S. Voice. Will you accept the charges?”

[After a few moments, the Voice stops.]

Alisaie: You heard it too? Well, at least we’re both still standing.

Lyse: Oh, thank the gods ─ I thought we’d lost you for a moment there. Why does this keep happening!?

Alisaie: I wish I knew. Nothing we’ve tried has brought us any closer to an answer…We’ll keep working on it, but first we need to go and see Lord Hien.

[Outside the Palace]

Alisaie: I’m actually glad Lyse tasked us with visiting Lord Hien ─ better to be dashing from place to place than sitting around stewing over things we can’t change. To the enclave!

[At the Kienkan in the Doman  Enclave]

[Hien is in his meeting room. Quite a few other people are present: Yugiri, Hakuro the wolfman, Tansui of the Confederacy pirates, Cirina of the Mol, an emissary of the Blue Kojin, and — surprisingly — emissaries from Dalmasca and Nagxia as well.]

12. Hien's Eastern Alliance in the making.jpg
All Quiet on the Eastern Front.

Hien: Greetings, my friends. I was just discussing future endeavors with the members of our newly formed alliance. The Kojin and the Confederacy you already know, and it was your own strength of arms that won us the cooperation of the Steppe tribes. We have also been joined by our neighbors from Nagxia, and the indomitable citizens of Dalmasca…though the scattered nature of the latter’s resistance will somewhat delay their official induction. These proud peoples have united under a single purpose: to stand against the tyranny of the Garlean Empire.

Alisaie: I am glad to see your alliance is coming together so swiftly. As things stand, I fear we shall soon have need of your strength…

Hien: I thank you for bringing me news of Alphinaud. His fate is never far from my thoughts ─ and not only because he is our emissary. As for this sudden deployment of imperial forces, I agree that Ala Mhigo would be wise to shore up its borders with all haste.

Yugiri: Every report we receive from our shinobi indicates a massing of troops in the western provinces. It seems all but certain that the Empire is poised to bring its fist down upon Eorzea.

Hien: And I would help deflect that blow. But I cannot risk sending reinforcements just yet. We will remain vulnerable to airborne assault until our wall in the Burn is in place.

Alisaie: The all-important Allagan energy barrier.

Hien: The…energy barrier, yes. I thought to call it something more auspicious. A name drawn from the Four Lords of legend, perhaps ─ “Seiryu’s Aegis” or some such. Well, just a thought.

Yugiri: The Ironworks engineers report that they have finished calibrating the generators, and are ready to proceed to the testing stage.

[Hien turns to the Warrior of Light.]

Hien: Have you time to attend the first test? You’ve seen the field which protected Azys Lla firsthand, and I would be interested to hear how you think ours compares.

Alisaie: I will come too, if you don’t mind. Though I am no Y’shtola, I may be able to offer some insight.

Hien: Of course. Time being of the essence, it would be best if we made directly for the Burn. Yugiri, I leave you and Hakuro to bring the war council to a close.

Yugiri: Understood. Your mounts are saddled and ready, my lord. Ware the storms.

Quest: Seiryu’s Wall

Hien: We will cross the Burn by yol and falcon, as before. Join me at the overlook near the House of the Fierce.

[On a rocky outcrop in northern Yanxia. Hien waits with his yol.]

Hien: Give the word when you are ready to take wing!

[The word is given.]

[We arrive at the Burn. Cid’s crew have been very busy. Several field emitters have been set up and are being adjusted. ]

Hien: It seems the engineers have matters well in hand.  Should the barrier work as we intend, Doma will be free to reinforce her allies in Ala Mhigo without fear of weakening her own borders.

13. Engineers at the Burn.jpg
“It says here that three minutes should be enough for popcorn but that times can vary according to power output.”

[Hien calls out to the engineers.]

Hien: Honored friends, the time has come to put your hard work to the test! Start the generator!

14. Wall generator.jpg
“AHH! I told you to set it for only 2 minutes!”

Ironworks Engineer: Node one is operational. Nodes two to eight are reporting similar energy levels. The barrier is forming!  …One thousand yalms. Two thousand. Three thousand. Expansion remains smooth. No fluctuations detected.

[A hexagonal field net rises from the ground into the sky.]

15. The Wall rises.jpg
A big beautiful wall, because the Garleans aren’t sending their best. Hey it worked for Imperial China! …what do you mean the Huns invaded anyway?

Ironworks Engineer: …Four thousand. Five thousand! Target altitude reached! The barrier is holding steady at five thousand yalms! We’ve done it!

[When the barrier is complete, the hexagonal field disappears, leaving the finished Wall invisible to ordinary sight.]

[A dark object is spotted in the sky, moving rapidly toward the wall installation site. Alisaie strains to see.]

Alisaie: …Is that an imperial airship? Of all the rotten timing…

Hien: But this is a gift, Mistress Alisaie. They can test our new wall for us!

16. Wall test.jpg
It’s just a big bug zapper, really.

Hien: Seems solid enough. Though I was hoping for a fireball.

[A hatch at the back of the ship opens and Shadowhunter walks out. He carries an unconscious Alphinaud in his arms.]

17. Shadowhunter and Alphinaud.jpg
“I found this lost NPC protagonist. His tags said if found, he should be returned to the nearest player character. Is there a cash reward?”

Alisaie: By the gods… It’s Alphinaud!

[Alisaie starts to run to Shadowhunter but Hien catches her arm and holds her back.]

Alisaie: What are you ─  Let me go! He has my brother!

Hien: Lower the barrier!

Shadowhunter: Be at ease, girl. The lad is not dead ─ merely locked in slumber.

Alisaie: No, not him too…

[Alphinaud is taken away to be looked after. Hien, Alisaie, and the Warrior of Light remain to speak to their Imperial guest.]

Shadowhunter: We could identify no cause and found no remedy. Thus I sought to return him to Doma ─ and into the arms of Lord Hien himself, it would seem. It is a day for fated reunions…

[Shadowhunter stares straight at the Warrior of Light.]

Shadowhunter: Would you not agree, adventurer? Or should I address you as the “Warrior of Light”?

[The Warrior of Light spots the white mask on Shadowhunter’s belt and sudden realization dawns.]

[Gaius van Baelsar….] [“The Black Wolf…”]

Gaius: Aye. Gaius van Baelsar, the Black Wolf. That was the title I was given. One I have long since relinquished.

[Everyone goes on full alert.]

Gaius: Stand down. The legatus of the XIVth Imperial Legion died in Castrum Meridianum. I am no more than Gaius Baelsar, a man without rank or allegiance.

Alisaie: Impossible! There’s no way you could have survived!

Gaius: Do you remember how it unfolded?

[Flashback, all the way to the Praetorium.]

Gaius: How I was deceived by Lahabrea? How I was convinced that reviving the Ultima Weapon would allow me to bring peace to Eorzea? The Ascian used me, as he used so many others ─ all to further the restoration of his wretched god. Yet even with the might of Allag at my command, you bested me. And as the Praetorium went up in flames, I was content to burn along with it…for a moment, at least. A moment of folly. To surrender my life thus would have been to betray all who died for my cause. It was for them that I dragged myself free of the rubble, and swore vengeance on the Ascians.

18. Gaius and Ultima
A Legatus and his magic-tech-centaur-monster-thing. Ah, the good old days.

[Shadowhunter throws his old white armor mask onto the white sands of the Burn.]

20. A man without a mask
“First I killed Batman. Then I took out the Boy Wonder.”

Gaius: The Black Wolf has shed his pelt, never to return to Garlemald or her legions. I live now only to exact revenge. My principle quarry was to be Lahabrea, whom I gather you have since ushered unto oblivion. But so many more remain. Long has their kind lurked in the shadows, laboring to sow chaos throughout our world. I would see each and every one dragged into the light and put to the sword. Are the Scions not of like mind?

19. Flashback to Lahabrea.jpg
Who’s Lahaughing now?

Alisaie: In this single respect, perhaps…

Gaius: Then I shall continue the partnership the boy began, and share what intelligence I have acquired. Among the Ascians, the black-masked ilk are subordinate to those who wear red. This, you already know. Yet among the red there exists a hierarchy. Those set adrift with the shards clearly stand below those still joined to the Source. Nabriales, who once dared to intrude upon the Rising Stones, belonged to the former group. And while he was indeed a dangerous foe, his powers were inconsequential next to the Paragons of the Source. The first was Lahabrea, who plagues us no more. There is also the white-robed Elidibus; and the elusive Emet-Selch, about whom little is known.

21. Ascians
We three things of ill intent are.

Alisaie: We have files on Lahabrea and Elidibus, but I believe this “Emet-Selch” is new to us…? As I assume my brother told you, we have evidence to suggest that an Ascian now walks in the body of the crown prince. Have you identified this interloper?

Gaius: Elidibus seems the most likely culprit. As “emissary,” it is his role to maintain the equilibrium between Darkness and Light. Your many deeds in Hydaelyn’s name have upset the balance, and I believe he seeks to restore it by throwing his considerable power behind the Empire. As a leader of the Ascians, he is one of our primary targets. It was on the trail of this very prey that the boy and I came across the scene of a failed uprising. In the absence of a single Garlean casualty, we inspected the bodies of the rebels, and the lack of any external injury drew my immediate attention. They had been slain by Black Rose ─ an alchemical invention of the imperial army. When I yet served as legatus, I ordered its production halted and all stockpiles destroyed. Toxic gas is a not a tool of conquest, but of extermination.

Alisaie: Toxic gas!? This must be the new weapon Maxima warned us about ─ something deadly enough to sweep away all resistance in a matter of hours.  Gods, you don’t think they’re planning to use this in Ala Mhigo, do you?

Gaius: Put your fears to rest. We infiltrated the production facility, and destroyed all existing stores of the chemical along with the plant itself. Even should they rebuild the operation, they will not soon manufacture another batch.

[Flashback: Shadowhunter and Alphinaud sabotaging the poison gas plant.]

22. Shadowhunter and Alph at the gas plant
Gun(breaker)s & (Black) Roses

Gaius: Regardless, I would draw your attention to a directive we discovered in the plant’s records. The document was marked with a recent date, and authorized with the signature of one Zenos yae Galvus.

Hien: A dead man signing the death warrant for thousands. ‘Tis bad comedy.

Gaius: But the tale does not end there ─ within that same facility was a chamber filled with devices of Allagan design. Cloning technology, we realized.

ffxiv_06112019_171705_239.png
For convenience, they’re cloning his clothes as well. Saves time.

 

Gaius: And what should we find in each and every incubator…but a young Emperor Solus. …All of which prompts the question:  were the Ascians responsible for these abominations? Or was it the will of the Emperor? I must know which hand guides the Empire. Though I have given up my rank, I am yet a son of Garlemald…and I will fight for the future of my homeland. It is time I returned to the hunting of shadows. We should focus on our common foe ─ to reopen old quarrels now would serve no purpose.

Alisaie: You saved my brother’s life, so I’m willing to let sleeping dogs lie. But in truth, it’s not my decision to make.

[Alisaie looks at the Warrior of Light.]

[“You’re right. There are more important matters at hand.”][We’ll settle this another time.]

Gaius: There was a time when I scorned those who placed their faith in false gods ─ even as I, in my blinkered conviction, placed mine in Ascian promises.  Unlike yours, my strength of will ─ and my restraint ─ was found wanting. We shall meet again, Warrior of Light.

[Shadowhunter returns to his ship.]

Hien: So that was the infamous Black Wolf. An unexpected ally, to say the least…

[Shadowhunter’s ship departs.]

Hien: Well, I am content to leave the fine-tuning of the barrier to cleverer minds. Let us bid our friends from the Ironworks farewell and see what can be done for Alphinaud back in Doma.

[Hien and Alisaie turn to go. The Warrior of Light stares after the Black Wolf’s ship a moment longer, then departs.]

[Back in the Kienkan at the Doman Enclave.]

Hien: Alphinaud is safely ensconced in a private chamber. My finest healer is examining him as we speak.

[Alisaie walks in.]

Alisaie: I’ve spoken with the physician, and there are no outward signs of illness. Alphinaud is lost in a sleep from which he cannot be awoken…just like the others. It seems that even the lands of the Empire were not far enough away to escape that cursed voice…

Hien: I share your frustration, Alisaie, I do ─ but Alphinaud is returned to us alive and otherwise unharmed. All that remains is to find the means to wake him. Until then, you can but fulfill your duties as a Scion ─ yours and your brother’s both.

Alisaie: …You’re right, of course. There are arrangements to be made, and little time to make them.  To business then, my lord ─ now that we know “Seiryu’s Wall” works as intended, can we expect reinforcements for Ala Mhigo?

Hien: You most certainly can. As promised, we will send troops to bolster our allies in Eorzea without delay.

Yugiri: Pray be aware, however, that they will not arrive without delay. Save for some few who boast teleportation magicks, the bulk of our force must be transported by sea ─ a lengthy voyage for which the smaller vessels favored by the Confederacy are ill-equipped.

Hien: Accordingly, I mean to enlist the assistance of the East Aldenard Trading Company in finding suitable ships. As for navigating the distances in question, we are in the happy position of being able to call upon those who plotted the course of my people’s exodus to Eorzea.  Beyond the procurement of ships, I think it unlikely that our East Aldenard friends will consent to any involvement in military operations, but I am certain they will afford Alphinaud a berth aboard one of their vessels. I shall have a chirurgeon accompany him every ilm of the way to the Rising Stones.

Alisaie: You have my thanks, Lord Hien.

Hien: Yugiri ─ I will go on ahead with our friends to Ala Mhigo. Enlist all those capable of teleportation, and put them at the disposal of the Eorzean Alliance as soon as possible. They will form the vanguard.

Yugiri: Yes, my lord.

Alisaie: This is exactly what we’d hoped for. Lyse and the Alliance leaders will be glad indeed to welcome the combined strength of the East.

[Meanwhile, at the Black Rose chemical plant.]

[Emperor Varis and a technician survey the ruined controls of the chemical weapons plant.]

23. Varis surveys the gas plant.jpg
Between the hat and the pauldrons, Emperor Varis must go through every doorway sideways and on his knees.

Imperial Magitek Engineer: Our supplies of Black Rose have been ruined, but the new plant is already under construction. We should have the first batch ready in time for the offensive, Your Radiance!

Varis zos Galvus: See that you do.

[The technician departs. Solus slinks out from behind a gas vat.]

Solus zos Galvus: Ah, yes! The infamous “Black Rose.” If I recall correctly, Gaius did not much care for the invention.  A ruthless and indiscriminate weapon indeed, this airborne poison. It seems you are capable of making decisions worthy of your bloodline.

Varis zos Galvus: With no gift for sorcery, we Garleans must look to magitek to even the odds. If it spares the needless deaths of our soldiers, and serves the cause of this empire, there is no method I would not employ.

Solus zos Galvus: How very noble of you.  Truly, though, I must commend you for embracing your role as emperor. You play the part of the determined ruler well. Sometimes, even I catch myself believing!

24. Solus ponders
Give Squall back his coat, you fiend!

[Varis bares his teeth in a snarl. Solus couldn’t care less.]

Solus zos Galvus: A silent agent of death… Now that I think on it, Black Rose may well possess the perfect aspect. Slowly but surely, the deluge of Light has worked upon the aether here in the Source, and the gas should be most susceptible to its influence… Well, I shall leave you to your own devices. Go forth and bloody the land with your grand and glorious war.

Varis zos Galvus: …While you do what, precisely?

Solus zos Galvus: Need you ask? I will be doing what all Ascians do.

Varis zos Galvus: I am well aware that your kind exists only to usher in the next calamity. But you seem oblivious to the harm your singular agenda causes to the Empire.  You cannot have forgotten the events which followed your mortal demise.

[Varis clenches his fist in impotent rage.]

Varis zos Galvus: Our homeland was plunged into civil war for your failure to name a successor. The edifice you so carefully constructed was but a hair’s breadth from collapse!

[Solus zos Galvus rolls his eyes dramatically.]

Solus zos Galvus: Are you truly so naive?  You thought me oblivious to the consequences? Of a departure so painstakingly timed?

Varis zos Galvus: …It was by design!?

Solus zos Galvus: Well, of course it was! Though I will admit the resulting panic exceeded even my wildest expectations. But how can you be surprised? Throwing the world into disarray was the very purpose for which this nation was, as you say, “so carefully constructed.”

Solus zos Galvus: Now, if you have no further questions, I must be on my way.

Solus zos Galvus: Since we may not meet again in this lifetime, it would be remiss of me not to offer a word or two of gratitude.

Solus zos Galvus: I really must thank you for this surplus of vessels. I can mold any host into my own image, but having bodies tailor-made for me in this fashion is so much less tiresome!

Solus zos Galvus: You dabbled in Allagan cloning techniques, yes? It certainly is a compelling ─ not to mention entertaining ─ field of research.

25. Smuggest of the smug.jpg
Quantum of Solus

Solus zos Galvus: And of all the options available, you chose the founding father on whom to experiment! You have a twisted streak to you, Varis. Like grandsire, like grandson, eh?

Solus zos Galvus: If events play out as planned, this will become something of a family enterprise.

Solus zos Galvus: You will be the capstone of this world; I, the anchor in the shard. And together, we will give the lie to this star’s fraudulent existence!

Solus zos Galvus: Well, of course it was! Though I will admit the resulting panic exceeded even my wildest expectations. But how can you be surprised? Throwing the world into disarray was the very purpose for which this nation was, as you say, “so carefully constructed.” Now, if you have no further questions, I must be on my way. Since we may not meet again in this lifetime, it would be remiss of me not to offer a word or two of gratitude. I really must thank you for this surplus of vessels. I can mold any host into my own image, but having bodies tailor-made for me in this fashion is so much less tiresome! You dabbled in Allagan cloning techniques, yes? It certainly is a compelling ─ not to mention entertaining ─ field of research. And of all the options available, you chose the founding father on whom to experiment! You have a twisted streak to you, Varis. Like grandsire, like grandson, eh? If events play out as planned, this will become something of a family enterprise. You will be the capstone of this world; I, the anchor in the shard. And together, we will give the lie to this star’s fraudulent existence!

[Solus exits, cackling madly.]

Quest: Parley on the Front Lines

Hien: We must leave now to convene with Eorzea’s leaders, and it may be some time before I return to Doma.  Hakuro ─ I leave you in command.

Hakuro: My lord!

Yugiri: I shall assemble an advance party with all haste, and join you in Ala Mhigo forthwith.

Alisaie: I’ve just received word from Lyse. The Alliance has established a base camp near Ala Mhigo’s northeastern border.  Once we’ve arrived in the Lochs, we’re to report to a Resistance officer stationed in Porta Praetoria who will point us in the right direction. Let’s not keep them waiting.

[In Ala Mhigo, the Lochs, at Porta Praetoria.]

Resistance Fighter: Ah, you must be the Scion party I was told to look out for! If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you directly to Alliance Headquarters.

[In the Alliance HQ]

Lyse: Welcome back, you two. Greetings, Lord Hien! Glad you could join us!

Hien: Glad to be here. I would have come sooner, were our own defenses not in question. But I am pleased to report that our soldiers are assembling for deployment to Ala Mhigo as we speak.

Raubahn: We are grateful for your support. Thanks to the efforts of our allies, it won’t be long before we’ve established defensive positions on this front as well.

Alisaie: Ahem, we have some good news too… Alphinaud has come back to us. As for the bad news…

[Alisaie explains the recent developments.]

Lyse: So, Alphinaud won’t wake up, Gaius van Baelsar is alive and hunting Ascians, and the Empire is planning to poison us all with toxic gas. Does that sound about right? Ordinarily, any one of those things would have left me in shock, but the way things have been lately, it’s all starting to seem pretty normal. Getting back to your report, are we sure this “Black Rose” is the weapon Maxima was talking about?

Raubahn: It fits the description. And it seems we have Alphinaud to thank for sparing us an early demonstration of its effectiveness. I’ve a feeling this won’t be the last time his bravery in the Empire will serve us here in Eorzea. The threat of an unknown weapon has had us all on edge… But now that we know what we’re dealing with, we can take steps to defend against it.  As for Gaius…I’m not sure what to think. Am I happy he’s alive? Not in the slightest. Am I happy he’s hunting Ascians? Aye. I’d have to say I am.

Lyse: Oh, speaking of Garleans-you-didn’t-expect-to-see, we have a tale of our own, as it happens. When we sent envoys to the imperial army to request talks, they returned with the message that “Varis zos Galvus” would be attending.

[Shocked looks all around.]

Hien: The Emperor himself? Well, Varis did sanction the Populares’ peace mission… …But knowing that an Ascian walks in his son’s skin, I do not see how we can trust him or anyone from that nest of vipers.

Raubahn: The Alliance would proceed with negotiations regardless, if only to give ourselves more time to prepare. We do, however, require your cooperation…

[Lyse turns to Alisaie.]

Lyse: Ah, right, yes… So…as a condition for the talks to go forward, the Empire has requested that a member of the Scions be present. There’ll be a representative from each Alliance nation, of course, but I’m afraid we have to ask that you come along too.

Alisaie: Gods, Lyse…you know how much I hate politics. But then what choice do I have? Alphinaud and the others aren’t going to do it…

[Alisaie thinks it over.]

Alisaie: Very well. I shall attend as the Scion’s representative.

[Lyse turns to the Warrior of Light.]

Lyse: In case you’re wondering why I didn’t ask you, the Empire also requested the presence of “Eorzea’s champion”…

[I’ll be there.][“I’m not fond of politics either…”]

Lyse: Oh, you’re not, are you? Come on. If Alisaie can put on a brave face, then so can you. Now, we don’t know what Varis means to bring to the table, or why he wants you there, but having you close at hand should make all the difference.

Raubahn: The meeting will take place on the border. Anticipating an early assault, we mean to position the bulk of our forces nearby.

Lyse: The Alliance leaders should already be on their way. Once you’re ready, we can head out and join them.  Well, I don’t suppose it’s polite to keep an emperor waiting too long. Shall we?

[At the parley table.]

[The Eorzean Alliance representatives await the Emperor’s appearance. Varis, his armor clanking, strides in and takes his seat.]

Varis zos Galvus: Esteemed representatives of the Eorzean Alliance ─ on behalf of the Garlean Empire, I thank you for inviting me here today.  As this parley was convened at your request, I invite you to speak first.

Nanamo Ul Namo: Very well, Your Radiance. I, Nanamo Ul Namo, seventeenth in the line of Ul, should be pleased to oblige you. As recent events in Ala Mhigo and Doma have made plain, the subjugation and exploitation of neighboring nations is not a sustainable policy. Should this day end in war, you may very well defeat us, but you will never extinguish the people’s desire for freedom. Though it may not be in our lifetime, there will be another revolution, another war, and the cycle will continue. Doma has entered into a concord with the nations of Eorzea. A partnership wherein we recognize one another as equals. Garlemald could be afforded similar treatment. You need only set aside your ambitions and join us in paving a path towards peace.

[Varis is amused.]

26. Little, Big.jpg
Nanamo does not suspect that Varis is really three lalas standing on each other’s shoulders.

Varis zos Galvus: Hmph! You will not win me over with sophistry, Your Grace. As you know only too well, this alliance lacks the strength to keep the peace within its own borders. Even now, your struggles with the beastmen continue unabated. Divided, you sow this fertile soil with the seeds of your differences and reap naught but discord and chaos for your trouble. Eorzea must be united under one leader, one purpose. I would offer you both and bring an end to your strife.

Lyse: With all due respect, Your Radiance, the only that thing you offered the people of Ala Mhigo was fear and hopelessness.

Hien: The citizens of Doma can also attest to the meager alms of imperial rule. There is no purpose to be found in a life of oppression, each day more uncertain than the last.

Lyse: Our people are willing to die for their freedom. A great many already have. And countless more will, if we don’t put an end to this madness here and now.

[Varis considers this but is plainly unconvinced.]

Varis zos Galvus: We brought order and stability to your lives. This madness and bloodshed is of your own making. You broke the peace, not Garlemald.

Raubahn: Peace? Order? You kill our peoples, despoil our lands, take everything that is ours. And what? You expect us to lick the boot that grinds our faces into the dirt?

Varis zos Galvus: I expect you to weigh the costs. To recognize that countless lives have been lost on both sides in pursuit of a greater good ─ and to not squander all we have achieved in a fit of petulance.

Aymeric: Your Radiance, I fear I can personally attest to the dangers of pursuing one’s vision with such righteous fervor. For a thousand years, the Holy See of Ishgard waged war with dragons. A thousand years of sacrifice, of sorrow and hate, in which we bathed in the blood of friend and foe alike. Had it gone on any longer, we may well have drowned. Yet we have chosen to raise ourselves out of this bloody spiral, and have since made peace with our former enemy.

Varis zos Galvus: So I understand. No doubt the dragons were more receptive to your overtures in the wake of their leader’s demise. You speak of peace, yet use war to achieve it. Your father would not have bothered to obscure his intent with honeyed words. He understood that strength is all that matters in the end. Without his clarity of vision, I can but wonder what will become of Ishgard and her people. There was a time when Garlemald too lacked a leader of conviction. Weak and unable to wield magic, we were at the mercy of the strong, from whom we sought refuge in the bitter cold of the north. Were it not for the discovery of ceruleum, and the subsequent development of magitek, we might never have gained the power to take back that which was rightfully ours.

Merlwyb: You speak as if your people were the first to have been driven from their homes. Limsa Lominsa was built by wayward souls in search of a place to call their own. On the shores of Vylbrand we found it, and from those humble beginnings did we grow and flourish. And all without robbing our neighbors of their liberty.

Varis zos Galvus: So sayeth the pirate. Am I to believe that you simply asked the kobolds to yield up their lands, and that they were happy to oblige you? That you did not drive them out like rats in the hold of one of the many ships seized by your “privateers”?

[Merlwyb’s eyes narrow in displeasure.]

Varis zos Galvus: I will concede that, after centuries of exile, reclamation may be mistaken for invasion. Nevertheless, it is not ─ and those who till stolen soil have no right to object when cast out in turn.

Kan-E-Senna: Your uncompromising nature rivals that of the Ixal. They too lament circumstances which they themselves perpetuate. Were they but to embrace peace, we would welcome them with open arms. Indeed, some few have done just that, and now receive of the Twelveswood’s bounty. Would that your people might learn from their example.

[Varis laughs bitterly.]

Varis zos Galvus: You would dare compare us to the birdmen? You who thought to invoke the Twelve and threaten all of creation?

[Kan-E-Senna does not reply.]

Varis zos Galvus: I came here in the hope of finding some speck of common ground, but I see now these discussions will accomplish nothing. Despite what you people may believe, I am not wont to choose the sword over the olive branch. ‘Tis but a pity men are loath to accept one without first being shown the other.

Alisaie: Wait, I beg you! This meeting was supposed to be a chance to find a way forward together, not to bemoan the missteps which brought us here. Please ─ if you truly consider violence a last resort, there must be way we can come to an agreement.

Nanamo Ul Namo: As Mistress Alisaie says, we did not come here to bicker over the past, but to discuss how we might strive towards a brighter future.  Emperor Varis, may I suggest a short recess, that all present might compose themselves prior to beginning anew?

Varis zos Galvus: Very well. I pray this intermission will suffice to move these talks in a more constructive direction.

[Varis rises and stalks out of the room.]

Alisaie: Phew. This is really not my forte. After His Radiance’s little performance, it was all I could do not to swear at him. I honestly don’t know how I ended up playing the mediator. I just asked myself what Alphinaud would have done, tried my best to do the same, and…by some miracle, it worked. But there really is no common ground to be found with that man ─ nor do I think he looked for any. So the question becomes, what did he come here to do ─ because you may be certain it wasn’t to make peace. …Whatever it is, I can’t make it out ─ not yet, at least. We do have a little time before the parley is due to reconvene, though, so why not try consulting our illustrious leaders? Mayhap they have some insight to share.

[Hien and Aymeric are talking.]

Hien: This parley was never like to bring peace, but I had hoped to learn something of Emperor Varis’s relationship with the Ascians…

Aymeric: As had we all. Yet if he is in league with them, he is not like to volunteer the fact ─ and if he is not…how much weaker would his position seem for their presence. If we are to broach that particular subject, we will need to be subtle… Would that I knew more of the man… If you would indulge me, Lord Hien:  you received an imperial education, did you not? Is it true that the Emperor’s will is considered absolute?

Hien: There is no higher authority in all of Garlemald, nor else in the heavens, come to that. Veneration of the gods is forbidden ─ the only worship permitted being that of His Radiance’s own person.

[“That sounds suspiciously like a religion in itself.”][……]

Hien: I share your disdain for their hypocrisy. Even as they denigrate the idea of faith, they revere their leader with a fervor others reserve for the divine.  ‘Tis a flaw common to much of the doctrine they fed us ─ logical on the surface, perhaps, but contradictory upon closer examination. I wonder if a discussion of the various discrepancies might prompt Varis to reveal something…?

[Merlwyb and Kan-E-Senna are engaged in discussion.]

Merlwyb: I will say one thing for this Varis ─ he is well versed in Eorzean history.

Kan-E-Senna: His interest in our affairs is that of a beast in its prey. The conqueror would know his enemies.

Merlwyb: All should know their enemies. Yet there is much and more we do not know of the Empire.

[I’m sure Varis would be happy to tell you more…][“Then it’s up to us to change that. Here and now.”]

Merlwyb: Hah! You would have me ask the Emperor himself? Well, mayhap there is some wisdom in that.  If we can skirt the storm of his displeasure, we may yet come to our answers…even if it does mean sailing close to the wind.

[Lyse, Raubahn, and Nanamo are having a confab.]

Nanamo Ul Namo: Twelve have mercy… But for Lady Alisaie’s timely interjection, we might well have come to blows at the negotiating table.  Not that Emperor Varis left us a great many options. Is unconditional surrender all he will accept, do you think?

Raubahn: Ere he arrived, I’d have said yes. But having heard him speak…I cannot help but think he came with some other end in mind.

Lyse: Exactly! He’s building up to something, I know it!

Nanamo Ul Namo: Hmm… How then should we approach the rest of the parley? Have you anything to say, Warrior of Light?

[“Invite Varis to explain himself.”][Say nothing of Zenos or the Ascians.]

Nanamo Ul Namo: You believe he is more apt to reveal the truth if we put him at his ease? …Mayhap you are right.  Thank you, Auric.

Alisaie: You’ve spoken with everyone then? Good. Now, all that remains is to await the pleasure of the Emperor, and hope we fare better at the second attempt…

[Varis returns and reseats himself, still clanking.]

Varis zos Galvus: Now then. Who would have the floor?

Nanamo Ul Namo: Before we resume, I wish to offer you an apology. After you graciously accepted our invitation to discuss an armistice, we have done naught but rebuke you at every opportunity. I believe I speak for all of us when I say we are deeply sorry for our discourtesy.

Merlwyb: I’ll admit, your familiarity with our affairs surprised me ─ and served to remind me how little I know of yours.

Raubahn: I think all here can understand the desire to reclaim one’s homeland. But why expand further ─ that is my question.

Hien: If I may ─ the answer can be found in the imperial doctrine they took great pains to impart to my people. Recognizing the threat eikons pose to the world, Solus zos Galvus decreed that they were to be eradicated. To this end, he began a campaign to unite all lands under the Garlean banner. Or so we were taught. Yet the Emperor only reached the Burn ─ the barrens said to have been laid waste by eikons ─ after conquering all the lands that lay between. What is more, I am quite certain the practice of summoning was not nearly so widespread in the days before the Empire’s founding.

Lyse: When you put it like that, it all starts to sound like an excuse, doesn’t it? But to distract from what? Why are you really waging this war?

[Moths beat against the lights as the group awaits an answer. At last, Varis smiles.]

Varis zos Galvus: …Finally, you ask the right question. I can but hope you heed mine answer and at last accept the righteousness of our cause. My goal is this:  to return the world to the way it once was. The way it was always meant to be. In doing so, mankind will be made whole once more.

[Varis surveys the gathered leadership of the Eorzean Alliance.]

Varis zos Galvus: No longer will we suffer from the dissension born of our differences.  There will be but one race ─ a perfect race ─ as we were when time began.

Lyse: What in Rhalgr’s name are you talking about?

Varis zos Galvus: I am talking about the origins of this star. Of the Source, and its thirteen reflections. At the instant of the great sundering, ’twas not only the world that was shattered, but mankind itself. Thus were we divided into myriad races, each with its own unique imperfections. That is why man looks upon his neighbor and feels fear and hatred. Why he wages war. Why he kills his brother. You all in your own way have proven as much today. The peace you seek is but a fleeting solution to a fundamental problem. One which calls for more drastic measures. To bring about everlasting peace, our worlds must be rejoined. That is the goal the Empire would see realized ─ the glorious future unto which we shall one day shepherd mankind.

Merlwyb: A rejoining of worlds…?

Kan-E-Senna: I have heard this tale of the Source and its reflections before…

Nanamo Ul Namo: Are these not the selfsame desires as the Ascians?

Aymeric: Emperor Varis! Do not trust in their words. They will lead you to your doom.  My father thought to use them, but in the end he succumbed to their temptations. He embraced summoning like so many other pawns before him. Do not tell us you mean to do the same!

[Varis laughs bitterly.]

Varis zos Galvus: To be a pawn, free from the burden of choice, would be a blessing….  But I foreswore that privilege the day I learned that the Garlean Empire was built by the hand of an Ascian.

Alisaie: What!?

Varis zos Galvus: Yes. My grandsire, the former emperor, is of their number. And who better to build an empire capable of bringing about the calamitous change we desire?  Would you condemn me for this alliance, for bowing to the will of these shadowy masters, when the prize is true and lasting peace?

[“Your prize is a lie. Your master, demons.”][I will stop you and the Ascians. No matter the cost.]

[Varis rises to his feet, voice rising with increasing fervor.]

Varis zos Galvus: I come not to conquer, but to liberate ─ to free man from the prison of divergence. Imagine a world united. One perfect race beneath a single standard. An army before whose might these servants of Darkness and Light would fly as leaves in a storm, never again to meddle in man’s affairs. We would be the masters of our own fate! I bid you join me! Not as subjects of Garlemald, but of a new nation! And together we shall win freedom for ourselves and generations yet unborn!

27. Varis has a dream.jpg
I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.”

[Lyse stands up.]

Lyse: You want to trigger another half-dozen calamities? You can’t be serious!

[Raubahn remembers the battle at Cartenau and also rises to his feet.]

Raubahn: Have you forgotten how many died? There will be no one left!

[Merlwyb rises next.]

Merlwyb: Do you truly imagine we would aid you in your bloodletting?

[Kan-E-Senna joins the others on their feet.]

Kan-E-Senna: It is unthinkable! Unconscionable!

[The rest of the Eorzean alliance rise in unison.]

Varis zos Galvus: And what is the alternative? To be as cattle waiting for slaughter. I would have us work together, that we might take fate into our own hands.

Alisaie: Into your hands, perhaps…

[Alisae recalls the Warriors of Darkness.]

Alisaie: But what of the other worlds, Your Radiance? With every calamity, you obliterate a star and every soul that dwells on it!

Varis zos Galvus: To the Ascians, we are all but tiny, momentary specks within an indifferent universe. We cannot hope to oppose them until we have been made whole once more.

Nanamo Ul Namo: Are these truly the words of Garlemald’s ruler? The flaws and foibles which you so abhor are what make us who we are. Every nation ─ even yours, Emperor Varis ─ is made whole through the combination of these imperfections, the strengths of one compensating for the weaknesses of another. While it is true that man succumbs all too often to anger and avarice, he may yet overcome his baser instincts through the forming of bonds with others, fostering community and cooperation. That the protector of an empire should not only reject these fundamental truths, but seek to change them at so dear a cost to life is indefensible. Such a man is not fit to govern.

Varis zos Galvus: And you, Warrior of Light? Would you refuse me as well?

[“I cannot condone such a loss of life.”][We can defeat the Ascians as we are.]

[The rest of the Eorzean Alliance representatives look at each other and nod in agreement.]

Nanamo Ul Namo: It would seem the Alliance is of one mind on this matter.

Varis zos Galvus: You Eorzeans never cease to disappoint me. Though I suppose I have only myself to blame for expecting more from savages. This discussion is at an end. I bid you make ready for our next meeting. It will not be at the negotiating table.

[Varis rises and strides out of the room.  The Alliance leave by the other door.]

[Outside the parley tent.]

Lyse: I came back to find Doma’s advance party ready and waiting for battle. So, as worrying as our little chat with the Emperor was, it did buy enough time for at least some of our allies to arrive.

Quest: The Face of War

[There’s hustle and bustle in the forward camp as the troops make preparations for the battle soon to start.]

Lyse: I’m not sure what I was expecting from our meeting with the Emperor, but it wasn’t that. Still, at least we know now what he’s really after!

Raubahn: Aye, a future built on a mountain of bodies. I too want the Ascians dead ─ but not at any cost.

Hien: The last of the reinforcements from Doma arrived not long ago. I pray it will be enough. Given the Emperor’s stated goal, this is a battle we can ill afford to lose.

Raubahn: If the Garleans come in force, we may not have much say in the matter…even with our combined strength.

Hien: We knew from the first that the odds would be against us. But if there is even the slightest chance of victory, we must do everything in our power to seize it.

Raubahn: We must seize it, full stop.

Hien: Hear hear!

[Raubahn turns to Alisaie and the Warrior of Light.]

Raubahn: The two of you are to join an irregular unit and support the main host. I won’t bother asking if you’re minded to fight.

Alisaie: After coming this far, how could I not? And for once, there’s no one around to countermand me. Not that they would. Not even my brother. But we all know who’ll really make the difference. Ready to frighten some Garleans?

Raubahn: I wouldn’t want to be on their side.

Hien: Might I ask you to accompany the Doman contingent? They are strangers here, and your presence would do much to raise their spirits.

Alisaie: We would be honored.

Yugiri: When our people stride out with you in their midst, I daresay the Eorzeans will feel an ilm taller themselves. High spirits have a way of spreading.

Raubahn: Ah, what I wouldn’t give to join you. But my duties as field commander will not allow it. I leave the front lines in your capable hands.

[Raubahn speaks to the assembled forces.]

Raubahn: Comrades! Ready your arms! The hour of battle has come!  May the Crystal guide us to victory!

[The fighters cheer, and scatter in all directions to attend to their duties.]

[Alisaie turns to the Warrior of Light.]

Alisaie: Since the others couldn’t be here, we’ll have to fight twice as hard. If Alphinaud wakes to find the imperials have won, I shall never hear the end of it. It’s strange… I thought I would be terrified when the fighting started. I should be terrified. But with you at our side, I can’t help feeling everything is going to be all right. So please… Don’t you dare leave me alone. No matter what happens, we have to survive. Together.

DUNGEON: THE GHIMLYT DARK

28. Ghimlyt Dark.jpg
It’s half gin, half lime juice, and a splash of Chambord liqueur.

Alisaie: There you are! And none the worse for wear!

Hien: Indeed. I had hoped we might do more to help, but there seems to be no one left to fight.

Yugiri: A tactical withdrawal, perhaps?

Alisaie: We should give chase. Finish them off while we have the chance.  Imagine the others’ surprise when they wake to find the war already won.

[As if on cue, The Call comes again.]

Mysterious Voice: The Light…will expunge all life… Only you…can forestall the calamity…Throw wide…the gates…

Alisaie: No! Not now… Not…like…

29. The Call 3
“Each and every heart, it seems, is bounded by a world of dreams…”

[Alisaie reaches out for the Warrior of Light, who stretches to catch her hand. But it’s too late — Alisaie falls to the ground, unconscious.]

Hien: Oh no, don’t tell me…  Are you all right?

[The Warrior of Light nods.]

Hien: Quickly! We must get her back to the encampment.

[Back at the Alliance camp.]

Raubahn: So the Garleans have been routed, have they? Well done. Though this exchange was no more than a test of our strength, like as not. They won’t be taking any chances now that the Emperor has joined the fray. They’ll want to take their time ─ whittle down our defenses… Still, with your help, and that of our Eastern allies, we’ve passed the first test. Our line is unbroken. As for Alisaie…well, she’s in good hands over at the infirmary.

Yugiri: My lord ─ the chirurgeons have completed their examination of Mistress Alisaie, and it is as we feared. She is locked in a slumber without any outward cause.

Hien: Just like the others. Damn it all…

Raubahn: Aye…the Garleans picked a fine time to come knocking.  Five Scions incapacitated… And with the enemy on our doorstep, I cannot spare the men to assist in the search for a cure. The best I can do is see to it that Alisaie is escorted safely back to the Rising Stones.

Hien: Yugiri and I would return to our encampment. The main contingent of our forces from the Far East is under sail, and all must be made ready for their arrival.

Raubahn: I’ll not keep you, then.

[Hien and Yugiri head off.]

Raubahn: Judging by the Garleans’ recent movements, or lack thereof, they won’t be launching another offensive in the immediate future.  You should return to the Rising Stones. Given the plight of your fellow Scions, I can understand if you feel on edge, but you’ll be no good to anyone without rest.

[Back at the Rising Stones]

Hoary Boulder: Ah, Auric. Welcome home. Word has it you and Mistress Alisaie gave the Garleans quite a thrashing. Speaking of whom, where is Mistress Alisaie? I was certain she would have returned by now.

[Hoary Boulder is brought up to speed.]

Hoary Boulder: By the Twelve, not her too… Ocher and I will ready the infirmary for her arrival. We will also need to send a message to Tataru posthaste. Would that I had something other than grim tidings to share with her… And with you too, for that matter. It grieves me to report that the Archons’ condition remains unchanged. As we speak, Coultenet, Krile, and Master Matoya continue to explore every possible avenue. Alas, their efforts have yet to bear fruit. But all is not lost. You are still hale and whole, after all. Though I suspect you must be tired from your journey. You should rest, my friend. Leave the worrying to us, for the time being, at least.

[Meanwhile, at the border of Ala Mhigo.]

[Lord “Zenos” has arrived to take command of the Imperial troops.]



Patch 4.56: A Requiem For Heroes (Part 2)

Quest: A Brief Reprieve

[Hoary Boulder is waiting in the Rising Stones.]

Hoary Boulder: Ah, Auric. Yours is a welcome face indeed in these troubled times. Though if you’ve come to inquire about our stricken brothers and sisters, I am afraid I have naught to report.  Coultenet and the others continue their tireless search for answers, and I too have done all in my power to assist them. Alas…

[The door to the outside opens.]

???: My apologies for the intrusion. I was told Master Alphinaud had been brought here, and wished to see if his condition had improved.

[It’s Maxima, the former Garlean soldier, with one of his men.]

Maxima: Master Auric. I have heard about the part you played in driving back the Empire’s forces……Thank you. That you were able to stop them, if only for a short while, gives me hope. I realize how strange such words must sound coming from a Garlean’s lips, but I speak them out of the love I bear for my homeland ─ because I wish to see an end to the bloodshed. That is why I chose to share all that I know with the Alliance. Though I will surely be branded a traitor, I am content to bear that ignominy. ‘Twill seem a small price to pay if it helps to prevent this conflict from escalating any further. But enough of my prattling. The war is not what brought me all this way. I came to see Master Alphinaud.

Hoary Boulder: An acquaintance of Auric and Alphinaud, are you? Well, far be it from me to turn away good company. If you will follow me, sir…

[Hoary Boulder leads the way to the sickroom.]

[Later, after Maxima’s visit.]

Maxima: When word reached me that Alphinaud had returned, it seemed only right that I visit him. Poor lad… It pains me to see him thus. But I take solace in the knowledge that he is safe and well cared for. He fought valiantly at the Burn. The Populares could not have wished for a more committed ally. I know not how he came to be so afflicted, but I pray a cure will be found soon. On an unrelated note, you may be interested to know that I traveled here in the company of another acquaintance of yours. He awaits my return at north Silvertear, and I am certain he would be glad to see you. Assuming you can spare the time, that is.

[On the shore of Silvertear Lake. Cid’s airship, the Excelsior, is docked there. ]

Maxima: Ah, there you are. I was beginning to think you would not come.

[Cid disembarks.]

Cid: It sounds like you’ve been through the mill. You should have called me. Though I must confess, tracking down missing souls isn’t exactly within my field of expertise.

Maxima: As you may have surmised, I heard much of Master Garlond growing up in Garlemald. Indeed, he has long been a source of inspiration to me.  Most Garleans would say he is a traitor, that he turned his back on his country. We of the Populares, however, consider him a revolutionary ─ a man willing to defy the Empire’s dreams of subjugation, that his inventions might bring about a better future for all mankind.

Cid: Please ─ “revolutionary” is a term best reserved for my work. I am but an imperial defector who thought to aid another imperial defector.

Maxima: Whatever Master Garlond says, I am humbled to find myself in such distinguished company.

Cid: Speaking of distinguished company, we heard from Raubahn that you ran into an old friend in the Burn. Is it true? Gaius still lives?

Maxima: Like most in the army, I never had the privilege of seeing the legatus without his mask. To think I walked halfway across the Burn in the presence of the Black Wolf…

Cid: And he claimed to have severed ties with the Empire to hunt Ascians, did he?  Should we meet again, I shall be sure to tell him so.

Maxima: Commander Aldynn also spoke of the Alliance’s meeting with the Emperor…though I still labor to believe what he told us. Did His Radiance really claim that Garlemald was founded by the Ascians?

[The Warrior of Light nods.]

Maxima: But that is madness. The very notion is absurd! Every fiber of my being rails against it… And yet I see there is no escaping the truth. From the very founding of my homeland, my brothers and sisters have laid down their lives in service to a lie.  The Ascians must be stopped. To save my people, to save all peoples.

Cid: For all the Empire’s many crimes, even I did not suspect. Had I known, I would have left a lot sooner. But that is in the past. Here in the present, we must apply ourselves to the problem of how the Empire’s ambitions may be thwarted, not only in Eorzea, but in the Far East as well. The Ironworks will spare no effort to achieve that end. Seiryu’s Wall was a good start, but we can do more ─ and we will. We’ll show them what it means to achieve “Freedom through Technology”!

[An Alliance Herald runs up.]

Alliance Herald: Begging your pardons! I bear a message for the Warrior of Light!  Commander Aldynn requests your presence at Alliance Headquarters in Ala Mhigo. He would discuss matters of strategy at your earliest convenience.

Cid: Ah yes. The inevitable messenger. I knew it wouldn’t be long before duty called you away.  Time no doubt being of the essence, could I tempt you to a ride aboard the Excelsior? If there’s a faster way to Raubahn’s side, I will personally apologize to the commander for keeping him waiting.

[At Porta Praetoria, in the Lochs of Ala Mhigo.]

Cid: I swear, every time you board my airship, you seem to be barreling headlong into danger. And every time, you somehow contrive to emerge victorious. Which, of course, is an admirable skill.  But no one is invincible, Auric. Not even you. So please, take care of yourself out there.

Maxima: I pray you remain safe on the front lines. Though ill-equipped to join the fray, I shall do all I can to assist from headquarters.

Cid: My colleagues and I have been tasked with evacuating casualties by air. See that you aren’t among them, eh?

Quest: A Requiem for Heroes

Resistance Fighter: Commander Aldynn is waiting, sir. It would be best if we proceeded to Alliance Headquarters at once.

[Inside the Alliance HQ. Raubahn waits at the strategy table.]

Raubahn: You’re here. Good. I summoned you to discuss strategy, but first I would apprise you of the Garleans’ movements. There have been several skirmishes along the border, but as yet, neither side has delivered a decisive blow. We had long assumed that the Garleans would overwhelm us in a straight fight, but we seem to be gaining ground, albeit slowly. As to why that might be… The most likely explanation is that they have yet to commit all their forces. Still, we’re winning, and our latest intelligence suggests the Emperor has retreated back to Garlemald. In light of this, we’re considering launching an offensive, with the aim of pushing the front line forward, and giving ourselves some room to breathe.

[An Ala Mhigan infantryman runs up.]

Distressed Soldier: Commander! The imperials ─ they’ve broken through our defenses to the east.

Raubahn: What!?

Distressed Soldier: Our scouts say their forces are being led by Lord Zenos!  Lord Hien and Commander Hext have taken their troops to provide support, but we don’t know how long they can hold out.

Raubahn: So they’ve been biding their time, waiting for his arrival, have they? Very well. Send word to our allies, requesting reinforcements for the front line. Should the worst come to the worst, I may need to enter the fray myself. But what of you? Do you still have the strength to fight?

[“You need only say the word.”][As long as you leave the Ascian to me.]

Raubahn: Much obliged. Given the choice, I’d take you over a hundred soldiers.

[Suddenly the Call strikes again!]

Mysterious Voice: Why won’t they open?  Please…I bid you, open!

[The Warrior of Light falls to his knees.]

Raubahn: What’s wrong? Is it the voice again?

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[The Warrior of Light nods.]

Raubahn: Are you sure you’re in a fit state to do this?

[The Warrior of light nods once again.]

Raubahn: May Rhalgr grant us strength… Give them hell, lad. I, for my part, will defend this place to my dying breath.

[Meanwhile, at the border of Ala Mhigo, Hien, Lyse, Yugiri and a few alliance troops face down “Zenos” — or rather, Elidibus in Zenos’ body.]

[Roleplay as Hien! The goal:  to delay “Zenos” until the Warrior of Light arrives.]

Zenos yae Galvus: So, there are still those would stand before me ─ before Zenos… Interesting.

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Lyse: Let’s put an end to this here and now!

Zenos yae Galvus: Do you truly believe that possible? Then let us test the limits of this Garlean vessel.

Yugiri Mistwalker: A formidable foe… But we have come too far to fail now.

Zenos yae Galvus: Soon I shall give the lie to man’s indomitable spirit.

Hien: To be battered and beaten here…Auric would never let us hear the end of it.

[The warriors converge on “Zenos,” seeking an opening, but the faux Garlean is unshaken.]

Zenos yae Galvus: Fight and struggle if that is your wont, but you will not escape your fate.

Hien: Our fate is not for you to decide!

Zenos yae Galvus: Enough! You will learn your place.  Behold ─ a taste of my true power!

[“Zenos” binds Hien in blood red magic tendrils.]

Hien: Grrr… Ngh… What is this sorcery!?

Zenos yae Galvus: Look upon Ame-no-Habakiri and know the depths of your folly!

Lyse: Oh no you don’t!

[Lyse shoulder-checks Hien out of the trap, taking his place in the center of the tendril net.]

Hien: Lyse, no… What have you done!?

Yugiri Mistwalker: If he would bring all to bear then so must we!

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[Yugiri uses her Ninjitsu magic to destroy the source of the magic net.]

Hien: Well done dispelling his phantoms. Now hurry, we must protect Lyse!

Zenos yae Galvus: Still you choose to struggle against the inevitable…

Hien: We may be on the back foot, but it’s not over yet!

Lyse: If we can at least hold out until Auric arrives, I’m sure we can turn this around.

Zenos yae Galvus: He comes, does he? Then I need not waste any more time with you.

Yugiri: Fall, fiend!

[“Zenos” backhands Yugiri and she falls hard.]

Hien: Yugiri!

[Hien’s attack is also effortlessly repelled.]

[Lyse launches herself at “Zenos” and strikes a solid blow that cracks his mask, revealing a blue eye, but “Zenos” fells her with a blast of shadow magic from his hand.]

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Hien: Magic? With a Garlean body? That’s hardly fair… Still, he must be stopped…no matter the cost…

[Hien tries to rise to his feet, but stumbles and falls again.]

[The Warrior of Light dashes onto the field of battle at last.]

Zenos: Ah, Bringer of Light. It has been too long.

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[The Warrior of Light stares “Zenos” down.]

Zenos: No words to mark our reunion? …So be it.  Equilibrium must be restored… And only your death will redress the balance.

Zenos yae Galvus: We will suffer your interference no longer. You think you know of the dark, but I will show you the true nature of our power! The potential of this vessel is transcendent ─ without limit! You are strong, Bringer of Light, but Her blessing will avail you not. To redress the balance ─ to ensure the salvation of this star ─ you must fall!

[The Warrior of Light does not fall.]

Zenos yae Galvus: Impossible… How is it you have grown so powerful in the gift!?  No matter… You may have bested Lahabrea, but I will not be cast aside so easily!

[After a long fight, “Zenos” falls…]

[…only to rise again a moment later in a swirl of purple and red light.]

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Zenos: Your Mother chose Her champion well. Yet for all your strength, you will still fail.

[“Zenos” slams the Warrior of Light backward with a heavy hit. The Warrior grits his teeth and charges back into the fray –but then — the Call.]

Mysterious Voice: Please…I beseech you

[The Warrior falls to one knee, gasping.]

Zenos: Hm? Someone calls to you… Too late, alas.

[“Zenos” strides forward and lifts his katana.  The Warrior stares up at him, his vision swirling with the distortion of the Call.]

[The sword descends.]

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[Darkness.]

[Then light.  The Warrior opens his eyes. He is standing on a circular platform of light that floats in a starless void.  The platform is marked with patterns of circles and lines.]

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???: At last, I’ve found you.

[The Warrior turns. A male figure wearing a red, black, and white hooded cowl and holding a staff, stands on the platform behind him. What can be seen of the face is pale, but there is what looks like blue and brown crystallization on the neck, cheek, and the right hand which holds the staff.]

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Enigmatic Figure: Please! There is no cause for alarm! …Though, I confess, this is not where I had intended to meet. But the place of our meeting is of no consequence ─ like the war you wage. Win or lose, the path you walk leads only to oblivion. The better path leads you here. To me. I have need of your strength.

[Who are you?!] [“You have to send me back, now!”]

Enigmatic Figure: The battle is over. The danger passed. But your work is not yet done. Go to the Crystal Tower. I have left something for you near its base. It will serve as a beacon of sorts. One which I pray will help you on your journey. All you need do is find it. I will take care of the rest.

[The figure holds out his uncrystallized left hand.]

Enigmatic Figure: Soon we will throw wide the gates… And the path to the First will be yours to walk at last.

[Darkness again.]

[The Warrior awakes, blearily, in an unfamiliar room of Ishgardian style, on a bed.  He sits up. A  young Ishgardian, apparently watching for this, darts out of the room.  Through the open door, Ser Aymeric appears.]

Aymeric: You’re awake. Thank heavens!

[Aymeric sits in a chair by the bed.]

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[“What happened?”] [Where is Zenos?]

Aymeric: Do you recall the confrontation with Zenos? You were the first to come to the aid of Mistress Lyse and the others on the front line. In the midst of your duel, it is said you faltered, and that the crown prince seized the opportunity to deliver a mortal blow. Yet before his blade could find its mark, he was distracted by the arrival of a second adversary who bore you away from the battlefield and into the hands of our chirurgeons. Lest you wonder, he left before you awoke. As is his wont.

[Flashback:  Estinien delivers the unconscious Warrior of Light to Aymeric.]

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Aymeric: Estinien never was one for emotional farewells. Though Zenos bested all before him, the battle clearly took its toll, for he retreated shortly after your rescue. Seeing this, the remaining imperial forces decided discretion was the better part of valor and pulled back, allowing us to reestablish our position. We have since received word of renewed unrest in the provinces, doubtless inspired by the efforts of the Eorzean Alliance and our Far Eastern allies. Nor does the good news end there. We have also come into possession of intelligence suggesting unrest within the imperial court. This would certainly explain why both the Emperor and Lord Zenos appear to have abandoned the fight. A long-awaited ray of hope in these dark times.

[The Warrior frowns.]

[“Is Alisaie all right?”] [What of the Scions?]

Aymeric: Yet to awake, I’m afraid. But, please…concentrate on your own recovery for now. You have carried the hopes of some half-dozen nations ─ and we are all eternally grateful for your efforts ─ but no one is without their limits. Not even you. Leave this fight to us, my friend. You have earned your rest. Ah, but before I forget… I was asked to deliver a message as soon as you awoke. A reminder that you are not alone, though many of your allies have fallen. When you are well and rested, you are to return home, where friends will be waiting for you. Now, if you will excuse me, I must return to the front. May we meet again soon. Under happier circumstances.

[The Warrior of Light steps out of the room into the hall.]

???: Well, this is a most unexpected surprise. I thought you confined to bed.

[Count Edmont de Fortemps is there.]

Count Edmont de Fortemps: When I heard that you had collapsed on the field of battle, I confess I feared the worst. But with you standing here before me, I see now that the reports of your defeat were greatly exaggerated. Thank the Fury. As long as we have you, Master Seagard, history suggests we have a fighting chance. Speaking of fighting, you may be surprised to hear that the war’s effects can already be felt even here in Ishgard. In anticipation of a need for reinforcements, Artoirel will soon be departing for the front lines with a contingent of our finest knights. I would advise you to stay until your strength had returned, but I know it would be an exercise in futility. Indeed, I suspect you have already decided on your next destination. Dark days lie ahead, of that I have no doubt, but the light of hope shall ever guide our steps so long as we have the will to press onward. And press onward we must. Farewell, my friend. I pray our next meeting will be under happier circumstances.

[The Warrior of Light leaves Ishgard and heads to the Rising Stones in Mor Dhona.]

[The remaining Scions, including Tataru, are in the common room. Tataru is delighted to see the Warrior of Light walk in. She rushes up, her eyes brimming with tears.]

Tataru: By the Twelve, I don’t believe it!  I rushed back as soon as I could. I swear, my heart nearly stopped when I heard you’d collapsed like the others. What in heavens’ name is going on?

[The Warrior of Light fills everyone in.]

Tataru: “Win or lose, the path you walk leads only to oblivion.” …Well, that’s helpful. And what else did he say? The better path leads to him? Hmm… If his is the voice you’ve all been hearing, perhaps the others are with him. Ser Aymeric said the fighting had reached a stalemate, didn’t he. But if that monster masquerading as Zenos comes back… Thancred, Y’shtola, Urianger, Alphinaud, Alisaie…You’re going to need all of them on your side to defeat him. And I forbid you from going to face him on your own. Do you hear me? So if you must leave… Go and find the others. Bring them home.

[The Warrior of Light nods solemnly. Tataru smiles and wipes her eyes.]

Tataru: As for where to start, you said the stranger had left a beacon for you at the Crystal Tower, right? But how are you to find it now that the tower has been sealed shut? There has to be a way… If anyone would know, it’s Cid and the researchers of Saint Coinach’s Find. Don’t you worry. We’ll find that beacon for you.

[The remaining Scions cheer.]

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[Meanwhile, in the Imperial Palace…]

[“Zenos” confronts Garlean Emperor Varis zos Galvus in the Imperial throne room.]

Zenos: …I pray you have good reason for abandoning the front.

Varis zos Galvus: How could I remain there while the rumor that my son is possessed by a demon spreads like a sickness here at home? I will not be made to fight for the throne a second time. But what of you? Did you not tell me you would destroy Eorzea’s champion with the ease that one might swat a fly?

[“Zenos” looks away.]

Zenos yae Galvus: A minor setback. He will not escape me again.  Where is your grandsire? I would have words with him.

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Varis zos Galvus: How should I know? Do you hide from each other’s sight as well? I imagine he is doing what all Ascians do.

Zenos yae Galvus: Hmmm… He must have found a way to take advantage of this turmoil.

Varis zos Galvus: Men are not pawns to be played with, Ascian. You underestimate us at your peril.  This war will not be decided by you and yours. Man must choose his own fate, and I for my part will do all within my power to see Garlemald emerge victorious.

[“Zenos” turns and walks away without a word. Varis stares at his throne in silence.]

[An Elezen in a white lab coat enters.]

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Imperial Magitek Engineer: Pray forgive the intrusion, Your Radiance, but the requested preparations are now complete.  We stand ready to begin production of Black Rose, upon your order.

[Varis stares at the Garlean banner over his throne for a moment.]

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[Then he smiles  — a truly terrifying expression.]

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[Back at the Waking Stones, Tataru has a parting gift — new clothes!]

Tataru: I knew you’d be all right. And to celebrate your return, I made you this ─ a brand-new traveling outfit! Oh, I do hope it fits… But now is not the time to fuss over your measurements. I must go and speak with the researchers of Saint Coinach’s Find. You go and rest while we track down that beacon.

[At the site of the battle with “Zenos.”]

[The mysterious blue-eyed Elezen in Alliance soldier garb, last seen stealing an Imperial scout vessel, stares around at the carnage.  For a moment his eyes glow bright red with the geometric patterns of the Resonance. Unlike Fordola, both of his eyes are marked.]

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Katana-wielding Soldier: My enemy. My friend. Had I been but a step faster…

[An Imperial soldier spots the mysterious Elezen and charges.]

Imperial Centurion: Bloody savages!

[The Elezen in Alliance uniform cuts him down with one strike of his katana, and  dismisses the body from his mind without a second thought.]

Katana-wielding Soldier: A pity your hunt leads you elsewhere… Not that I am surprised.  May you find joy in it. Grow stronger, more savage, and savor every triumph…

[He stares at a Garlean banner flapping in the wind.]

Katana-wielding Soldier: In the meantime…I will reclaim that which is rightfully mine.

[Back in Mor Dhona, the Warrior of Light strides up to the base of the Crystal Tower spire, and looks thoughtfully up at it.]

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In the midst of a requiem for heroes,

A voice rings out across time and space…

In fields of tranquil light,

Sow ye seeds of darkness.

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