Stormblood Text 5: The Azim Steppe

 [Lyse narrates: I remember the emptiness. Vast and endless. The Azim Steppe, home to countless roaming tribes. A sacred land watched over by the elder gods. Here we would find Doma’s salvation. With the wind at our backs we walked on. In search of hope. In search of him.]

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Yugiri: I give you the Azim Steppe, Auric. Though I should say that this is but one small portion of it.

Yugiri: Despite the close proximity, Domans rarely venture this far north. Most find these lands and their people strange and foreign…

Yugiri: Fortunately, those who frequent Reunion are more welcoming than most. Come─it is not much further.

[In Reunion village]

Yugiri: Welcome to Reunion, my friends. Here is where we will begin our search for Lord Hien.

Yugiri: When last I spoke with Lord Hien, he said he spent much time in these markets. I had hoped we might find him here today, but alas…

Lyse: Hey, Yugiri, I’ve been meaning to ask─there are an awful lot of Xaela here, aren’t there?

Yugiri: Oh, I assumed you knew. The Azim Steppe has been home to the nomadic tribes of the Xaela since antiquity.

Yugiri: More than fifty roam these lands, and though they do not constitute a nation, there is a hierarchy of sorts, determined through ritual combat.

Lyse: Funny… If they’re so busy fighting each other, you’d think the Empire would be able to march in and take the Steppe with ease. I wonder why they haven’t…

Gosetsu: Why indeed, Lyse? Why indeed…

Gosetsu: Perhaps they see little value in it, especially given the fierce reputation of the Xaela warriors who would fight tooth and nail to oppose them.

Yugiri: These lands were not made for men. The soil is thin, and the weather unforgiving.

Yugiri: The Xaela found ways to survive, it is true. But they are made of sterner stuff than most imperials─conscript or citizen.

Lyse: Thanks for taking the time to explain. It sounds like I’ve got a lot to learn. Later, I mean. We’re meant to be looking for Hien!

Yugiri: People from many tribes gather in Reunion to trade goods and information. I should be surprised if we cannot learn something of value here.

Yugiri: Let us make our inquiries separately. Auric, why don’t you speak with some of the merchants here?

Chambui: Buuz! Fresh buuz! Your choice of lamb or dzo! Guaranteed to satisfy! How many will you have, sir?

Chambui: Eh? A Doman? Unless another Dazkar is keeping him in her yurt, he is not here. <snort> More fool her if she took a Doman for a husband.

Chambui: But enough about Domans─let us speak of buuz instead! You cannot come to the Azim Steppe and not sample this most traditional of delicacies!

Yesui: What fortune you have to come hither at this time! Freshly slaughtered, every cut available on request. Organs too─hearts, livers, brains. Or a brace of blood sausages, if you desire only a snack!

Yesui: A Doman? Poor meat they make, Domans─ I jest, I jest. Hmm…I did see a young Mol in the company of one some few days ago…

Baidur: Roasted fish with pumpkin! An exotic foreign delicacy, cooked to perfection, beloved without the Steppe! Come, come!

Baidur: You seek Domans? Then you are come to the wrong place, my friend. Delicious as my foodstuffs are, they find little favor with those from the south.

Baidur: Now, if it were Goro you were looking for, on the other hand, then I might be able to help you. They flock to my stall!

Goro Horsemaster: I have brought you a new brush, my beloved. So smooth and silky your mane shall be─the envy of every other man…

Goro Horsemaster: Hm? Say again? You are seeking who?

Goro Horsemaster: Ah, the Doman. I know of whom you speak. He comes and goes with a Mol girl.

Goro Horsemaster: Though I could not describe her. I only know that she is Mol because I heard them talking as they passed.

[With the chat mode in Say, use your keyboard or the software keyboard to enter any phrase that contains “Mol” to ask the Xaela in Reunion if they are of the Mol tribe.]

Narengawa: I am Ura, if you must know. Come down from the mountains in the north. If there is nothing else…

Ucugen: You take me for a Mol!? I am Oronir! Compare me not with ones so weak and lowly!

Cirina: …Yes? I am Mol. My name is Cirina. May I help you?

Cirina: Oh… Oh, I see. You are looking for Hien. In that case─

Masgud: How urgent this business must be to leave our conversation unfinished!

Masgud: The kinsai. Will you buy it? There is but one bundle left. If not, then─

Cirina: I will, I will! Though I had not thought to pay so high a price…

Masgud: It is a bargain for which you should be grateful. If you lack the coin, then the fault is your own, and you will leave with nothing.

Cirina: Please, I must have the kinsai! The gods themselves requested it! We are bound to their will!

Masgud: …Pay me the difference in whisperroot. I will sell it to the next apothecary to pass through Reunion, and we will each feel fairly treated.

Masgud: But do not tarry. Should another come before you, coin in hand, I will not refuse him.

Cirina: I understand. Thank you for this kindness!

Cirina: I am sorry, but we must speak of Hien later. I cannot leave Reunion without that kinsai…

Cirina: You…you want to help me, is that it?

Cirina: I do not know what to say… Thank you, Auric, thank you!

Cirina: The lumbering ones we must fell wander the plains to the west of Reunion. If we each harvest two, then we should have enough whisperroot.

Cirina: Return here when you have finished. Good luck!

[Two whacked tree-things later…]

Cirina: Welcome back, Auric. Have you brought the whisperroot?

Cirina: Blessed is he who shows kindness to strangers, for with fortune does he ever ride.

Cirina: Will this quantity suffice?

Masgud: It shall. The kinsai is yours.

Masgud: The gods favor you more than you know, child. Udgan rarely have need of such herbs, and so my stock is limited. Had you come a day earlier or later, I would have none for you.

Cirina: Perhaps the gods guided me here, as they guided Grandmother. As they guided this man from the West…

 Lyse: Hey! How goes the search? Any luck?

 Gosetsu: Ho, what fortune to meet a friend of the young master!

 Yugiri: Well met, Cirina. If you have an inkling as to the current whereabouts of Lord Hien, we should be most grateful for your assistance.

Cirina: Oh, please… It is I who should be grateful.

???: Hold! What is this!? I came first─you second!

[There’s an argument starting up nearby in the market between two Au Ri men.]

Impetuous Warrior: Know you to whom you speak? All people of the Steppe should. Or have you fought so much that you have forgotten the face of your superiors?

Derring-do Dandy: Superiors!? I spit on your superiority, little prince. Twisted and mad as sand devils, your kind are!

Lyse: Those two don’t seem to like each other very much…

Cirina: Those boys are of the Oronir and Dotharl. The two strongest tribes.

Cirina: The Children of Azim are destined to rule. So they declare to all who will listen. Their word is law─for now.

Cirina: Grand, flamboyant fighters…but deadly. Very deadly. He prances as a horse, as do his brothers after their many recent victories.

Cirina: The undying ones too are strong. Fearless and vicious, they often reigned in the past. Now, they are sorely tested.

[A third Au Ra man walks up. The arguing pair back down.]

Cirina: Ah, the master of the markets. He is Qestir.

Cirina: To fight in Reunion is forbidden, and to break the peace is to be banished forever. This he says without words, for words are lies to the Qestir.They do not speak.

Lyse: That’s…interesting. And all these different tribes share the same lands, do they? No wonder it’s tense…

Derring-do Dandy: Hmph! I shall look for you on the field at the Naadam. Mark my words!

Impetuous Warrior: Hah hah hah! As shall I! Mayhap I shall take eleven more Dotharl heads to make a dozen with yours. I look forward to the day.

Yugiri: Their dispute will be settled at the “Naadam”?

Cirina: A great battle held on the final day of the Tsagaan Sar.

Cirina: During this time, all bonds of hierarchy are broken. All Xaela are equal and free to prepare for the fight.

 Cirina: The tribe which triumphs in the Naadam rules until the next Tsagaan Sar.

 Cirina: Which, in these lands, is now.

Cirina: Not all seek the Dawn Throne. Some are satisfied with their lot. Others, like the Qestir, have reason to remain neutral.

Cirina: The Mol are lambs among wolves. Long were we content to remain apart and live quietly, but…

Cirina: Never mind that! You seek Hien, yes? I know where he may be.

Cirina: Long ago, my grandmother, having received a vision from the gods, bade me go forth into the southern mountains. It was there that I found Hien, near death from many wounds.

Cirina: I brought him to our village, and there we nursed him back to health. Afterwards, he chose to remain, that he might repay us for our kindness.

Cirina: Domans set much store by honor and shame, so at first I did not question it…

 Cirina: Excuse me. If I could see your map for a moment… Here─he has grown fond of this place. It affords him a view of the markets and the Steppe.

Cirina: I would accompany you, but I must return to our village to prepare my grandmother’s meal. Thank you again for your assistance!

Yugiri: Our long-awaited reunion is at hand! Come, my friends─let us go and greet our lord and master!

[Hien is hanging out on a grassy rise near Reunion]

Gosetsu: The kami are merciful! My lord Hien, I see you are alive and well!

Hien: Ah… You are come sooner than expected.

Hien: So. My blade or my head. Which would you have of me?

Yugiri: The people of Yanxia remain loyal to Doma. I have seen the fire in their eyes─they are ready to rise up and fight.

Yugiri: The time is ripe, my lord. Return with us, blade in hand, and lead Doma to freedom.

 Hien: Naught less than liberty will suffice, then? A pity. It will prove far more difficult to deliver than my head.

Hien: But if my people wish to pursue an impossible dream, then who am I to deny them?

Hien: Yugiri! Gosetsu! And…uh…?

Yugiri: The Scions of the Seventh Dawn, my lord─good and true friends who opened their hearts and homes to us when we fled to Eorzea.

Yugiri: Far across the sea they have journeyed to stand with us in the fight for Doman liberation─to oppose the Empire, as they have in the West, where they are lauded as heroes for their many deeds─

Hien: Say no more, Yugiri. Say no more.

Hien: I observed how you helped Cirina, to whom I am deeply indebted. For that, and for the aid you provided my people, you have my deepest gratitude.

Hien: There is no doubting your strength, nor your character. It would be my honor to fight by your side.

Hien: So. What of Doma? Arise, my friends, and tell me of our home.

[Hien is brought up to speed.]

Hien: I have made my decision. Yugiri, I bid you return to Yanxia and take charge of our forces in preparation for my homecoming. As for our esteemed guests, I would ask that you remain here with me. I sense you will be a great help in the coming days.

Yugiri: Your will is my command, my lord, but…how much longer do you intend to stay?

Hien: Oh, only until I have won the contest. I mean to return at the head of a Xaela army.

Yugiri: You mean to participate in the Naadam?

Hien: Have you a better idea? Consider how soundly we were defeated before. The imperials may have since grown weaker, but we are weaker still.

 Hien: ‘Twould be folly to challenge them without first supplementing our forces. So yes, I intend to win the Naadam and enlist the aid of every able-bodied Xaela I can!

 Hien: Furthermore, by championing the Mol in the contest, I can at last repay their kindness. Lest you forget, they saved me from certain death─and a man who suffers such debts to go unpaid is without honor and unfit to lead.

Gosetsu: Hah hah hah! Just so, just so.

Gosetsu: Our lord has spoken, Yugiri. But take heart─I shall keep him safe…and should it come to it, bring him back by force.

Yugiri: This is no laughing matter, Gosetsu. But if these are my orders… Very well.

[To the Warrior of Light]

Yugiri: Once more I place my faith in you. Pray look after them both.

[Yugiri vanishes to go about her work.]

Lyse: Looks like it’s up to us, then… Though it does seem a bit risky. Isn’t Hien meant to be the next king of Doma or something?

Hien: So they say…though, in truth, I am but a pale reflection of my late father. All the more reason to entreat your assistance.

Hien: For ours is an impossible dream─to set in motion a revolution that will rattle the very firmament, and shake off the yoke of the most powerful empire in the world!

Hien: Auric Seagard, was it? Once again, allow me to thank you for your many deeds in service to Doma.

Hien: For twenty-five years did my father rule in name only. My rule─if one would deign to call it that─has been naught in comparison.

Hien: That changes now. We have a purpose and a plan, and after we take to the battlefield together, we will have victory as well.

Hien: But you are a practical man. I can tell. Disinclined to trust in words when actions speak truer. I can relate…

Hien: So─you too have heard of the Naadam.

Hien: “The great battle for supremacy of the Steppe.“ I learned of it during my stay with the Mol.

Hien: To my knowledge no foreigners have ever triumphed, much less participated in a Naadam. But, lack of precedent notwithstanding, I should think we would have good standing to bid them march with us to Doma─should we win.

Gosetsu: Will they even permit us to fight, my lord? We belong to no tribe of the Steppe.

Hien: We are not without options, given what Cirina has told me.

Hien: You see, in accordance with the gods’ wishes, her people shall participate in the coming Naadam…

Hien: …And when they take the field, I mean for us to fight alongside them as fellow warriors of the Mol.

Hien: But we need not discuss this at length here. Come, let us head north to Mol Iloh, where Cirina and her people have made camp for this season.

[North of Reunion]

Hien: My friends, I give you Mol Iloh!

Hien: The khanun of the tribe, Temulun, resides in the largest yurt. We should go and make our introductions.

[Inside the yurt. Temulun is a elderly female Au Ra.]

Temulun: At last, the traveler comes…

Hien: Temulun Khatun, Cirina, I am returned.

Cirina: Ah, you found each other!

 Temulun: Ours is the soil, Hien. The Doman’s and the Eorzeans’, too.

Lyse: You know us?

Temulun: The gods know you, child…as do the stars in the heavens, which shone bright at your coming.

Cirina: The Mol hearken to the whispers of the elder gods, which guide us in our daily lives. We know them through the udgan─like my grandmother.

Hien: Khatun, I am come to beg a boon of you and yours. That I might liberate my homeland, I seek to rally the strength of the Steppe.

Hien: To that end, I wish to fight in the Naadam─as a warrior of the Mol. Will you grant me this honor?

Cirina: To stand with the Mol is fruitless! Hien, do not do this! The gods may have willed that our tribe join in the Naadam, but…

Cirina: There is no path to victory! We are weak and our numbers few. Even with your help, it would be impossible.

Hien: I thank you for your concern, Cirina. But it is precisely because of the seeming hopelessness of your cause that we must needs cast our lot with you.

Hien: Were we to join hands with a more favored tribe, our victory would inevitably be attributed to them. And no one would follow me to Doma.

Temulun: ‘Twas the gods’ will that we fight. Mayhap this too is their design.

Temulun: Hear me, then. As khatun of the Mol, I invite you all to join with us in the Naadam.

Temulun: Will you look after them?

Cirina: Come with me, friends. There is much I would show you.

[The group heads out of the yurt. Temulun calls to the Warrior of Light.]

Temulun: You, wait. I would have words.

Temulun: A singular radiance. Shimmering. Like a jewel of the Dusk Mother, blinding in its brilliance.

Temulun: Stars flicker and flock to you. Before such gathered light, even the secrets of the gods may be laid bare.

Temulun: Some are fated to rise in grace and glory. Others to falter and fade, though not from memory. Both will be your strength and salvation come the end.

Temulun: Cherish the stars and the light they bring you in the dark. For you are a traveler, are you not?

[Clearly I need to introduce her to Urianger. They’ll get along famously.]

[Outside the yurt.]

Cirina: …Thank you all for coming, and for offering to fight with us in the Naadam. Though I still fear our chances grim, I am grateful for your assistance.

Cirina: To be recognized as warriors of the Mol, there is a trial you must overcome.

Cirina: But before we speak of such things, there is another, more pressing matter!

Cirina: My friends. I must warn you. The path upon which you embark is fraught with peril.

Cirina: You will journey unto the far reaches of the Steppe to confront a terrible foe, as did the warrior Bardam in days of yore. Three days he battled with the demon ere he returned to his people. So it is written, so must it be.

Cirina: Many who follow in his footsteps perish, lacking in strength of body and mind. Therefore…

Cirina: We must treat you to a great feast!

[The group is puzzled.]

Cirina: Have…have I said something strange? The hungry fox starves staring at the bull’s testicles, therefore warriors should be well fed on the eve of battle!

Hien: She does have a point. You have been keeping busy in my absence. A brief repast may be in order, lest we collapse of fatigue and malnourishment in the midst of our trial.

Cirina: Yes, just so! However, it will take time to prepare.

Lyse: Is there anything we can do to help? It might also give us a chance to learn more about your people and their ways.

Cirina: Well, if you insist, I am sure that the others would be glad of your assistance.

Cirina: Hmm… Would you go and speak with Dorbei, Lyse?

Cirina: As for you three─you can help me with another task.

Cirina: For today’s feast the gods decreed that we lure gulo gulo to slaughter with entrails. Perhaps you could be the ones to do this?

Gosetsu: That your people look to the gods for guidance I understand, but in your daily meals! I say, your grandmother must be quite busy.

Cirina: Some days more than others. But every night we come together around the cookfire.

Hien: Even babes must earn their keep on the Steppe. Give over the entrails, Cirina. We will bring you a bounty of meat!

[Out on the Steppes]

Hien: A word of advice. Our quarry is wont to avoid the Xaela and their settlements, but is fond of flowing waters…

Hien: Hmm. A thought occurs to me. How about we make a game of it, Auric?

Hien: I have six bags of entrails with which we may lure our gulo gulo. Three for you, and three for me.

Hien: Whoever returns with the greater portion shall be declared the winner. What say you?

Hien: Then it is settled! Gosetsu will stand as witness. Let the game begin!

[Hunting]

Hien: Ho! It would seem that, at the very least, you are the faster hunter.

Hien: But speed is not everything. For my part, I slew six gulo gulo!

Gosetsu: Aye, that you have, my lord. As for Auric…

Gosetsu: This day you are twice the hunter as he, for our friend delivered unto me but three portions─half your sum, my lord.

Hien: Oho! And there you have it. I shall try not to let it go to my head.

Hien: I know better than to expect the hawk to show his talons on a whim. Nay, when the time comes, I expect you will prove yourself more than my match.

Hien: And with that, our game is concluded. Let us return to Mol Iloh forthwith─and let us have Auric present our meat to Cirina.

Hien: Mayhap you are unfamiliar with traditional Xaela cuisine? Let not its appearance deceive you─it is quite hearty and nourishing.

Hien: Were it not so, I doubt they could have nursed me back to health. Heh heh, you should have seen the state I was in…

Cirina: You are returned, Auric. How was your hunt?

Cirina: My word, this is impressive! Or were you so hungry that you felt the need to kill so many?

Cirina: Well! I shall endeavor not to disappoint you all with my cooking!

Cirina: It will be a little while before the meal is ready. If you and Lyse wish to fill the time, perhaps you could assist Dorbei?

Cirina: He has many responsibilities, and would welcome your help. Nor would you regret making his acquaintance, for he is liked and respected by all.

Cirina: You may find him by the other yurt, taking stock of our supplies.

Dorbei: Ah. One of the newcomers. Welcome. I spoke with Lyse.

Dorbei: I bade her help the children gather fuel for the cookfires. I trust it will be a good experience for all.

Dorbei: For you too, perhaps. Seek them in the south, across the bridge.

Lyse: Oh, Auric! Are you here to help too?

Lyse: Great! So…I suppose Dorbei told you that the children and I are gathering “fuel” for the fires, did he?

Lyse: It’ll need to be dried before they can burn it, of course. You, um…you do understand what we’re here for, right? Only, some people can be a bit squeamish about this sort of stuff.

Lyse: Then again, you’ve never minded getting your hands dirty, have you? Anyway, we’re trying to get four piles each. Good luck! And keep an eye on the children while you’re at it, eh?

Lyse: Well? Have you found your share yet?

Lyse: Good work. I hope you took the time to talk to the children while you were at it.

Boisterous Mol Boy: Lyse! Lyse! Look how much dung we have!

Lyse: Wow, I’m impressed! I thought we’d gathered a lot, but it looks like we’ll have to admit defeat!

Willowy Mol Girl: Dorbei will be happy we found enough…

Bright-eyed Mol Girl: Not just Dorbei! Now we can continue making cheese! Not that I was worried─it was easier when we were living near that forest, but dung works just as well as wood.

Lyse: I heard the Mol move from place to place─that the gods tell you where to go. That must be hard on you all…

Boisterous Mol Boy: Hard? I do not understand. Why is it hard?

Boisterous Mol Boy: It is better for the animals to move─to have more food to eat and land to roam. To stay in one place is harder, no?

Reserved Mol Boy: …From the heavens comes the rain which nourishes the soil. From the soil comes the grass which nourishes the beast. From the beast comes the flesh which nourishes the Xaela. Ours is the soil of one and all.

Bright-eyed Mol Girl: But you Westerners are like the Domans─you live in the same place. In villages. And all the villages in one place are part of a “nation,” yes?

Bright-eyed Mol Girl: Hien talks about nations sometimes. When he was injured, he spoke of Doma in his sleep, but I did not understand his words.

Willowy Mol Girl: Whenever I ask him about Doma, he just smiles and looks to the south…

Willowy Mol Girl: It reminds me of my mother when she waits for my father to return from a long journey… But Hien will not wait any longer, will he? Because you came for him. To take him back…because his nation is more important…

Lyse: Um…I’m not sure how to answer this…

Lyse: A nation…is a place, I suppose. A place…and the people in it…and maybe the things, too…

Lyse: But more than that, it’s the history, the traditions, the words. The stories we tell ourselves and our children. Everything that came before and everything that comes after.

Lyse: The place we were born is part of who we are. We carry it with us, no matter where we go. Whoever…whatever we become, that part remains─that link to our fathers and their fathers before them…

Lyse: It’s…it’s not important to everyone, I suppose, and that’s fine. But it’s important to Hien. And to me.

Reserved Mol Boy: …Some call the Mol fools for listening to the elder gods, but it is our way. Our pride. Our…nation?

Lyse: Something like that. It’s something precious that you and others share─and that no one can ever take from you.

Lyse: But we can talk more about it later! It’s time to go home. Dorbei is waiting!

Lyse: I’ll stay with the children. Why not go and let Cirina know how we got on?

Cirina: Welcome back, Auric. Did you speak with Dorbei?

Cirina: Well, well! Then you will forgive me if I ask you to wash your hands. I shall pour you a cup of milk tea in the meantime.

Cirina: The meal is almost ready, so we should summon Hien and Gosetsu…

[By the cookfire, Lyse has dozed off.]

Cirina: The meal is almost ready, so we should summon Hien and Gosetsu…

Cirina: She needed the rest. To come so far and carry so much…

Cirina: Hien and his friend, too. Strange that they should vanish so soon.

[Sounds of sparring can be heard.]

Hien: Hah! Haaagh!

Gosetsu: Not troubled by your old wounds, I see.

Hien: Hm. Nor you by yours.

Hien: I know I should have fled with the others after Father died, instead of blindly fighting on.

Hien: It was reckless and foolish, and there was naught to be gained from it. Everything to lose, rather…

Gosetsu: We know no path save the one we walk. I myself am in no hurry to meet those who have gone before─not while I have still to make amends.

Hien: Well said.

Gosetsu: You are none the worse for your time in the wilderness. On the contrary, I would say you have improved.

Hien: Come now, your victories still far exceed mine. Or have you forgotten all the times you trounced me as a boy?

Gosetsu: I…feared I would not see you again.

Hien: A life so fortuitously saved should be spent wisely. Without regret would I have traded it for our people’s amnesty, had it been their will.

Hien: Instead they have called for the sword, and so that is what I must be. Until this blade is broken, I can but carve a path forward.

Hien: …Were you truly so concerned for my well-being? You never showed it when we used to spar.

Gosetsu: How you cried when you lost. And when your mother tried to comfort you. And when you inevitably came at me once more, swinging your wooden sword wildly…

Gosetsu: Mina’s little Master Shun. What a fine young man you’ve become!

Hien: A man should not be addressed by his childhood name. I’ve told you about that before!

Hien: Ah, the mask slips! And I was so close to cultivating a winning persona.

[The Warrior of Light walks up.]

Gosetsu: There will be opportunity enough for putting on airs after you have returned in triumph to Doma. Now is the time to show our true character.

[“ ‘Shun’, was it?”]

Hien: …Yes, yes, ’tis a name my parents gave me as a child─but I should like to think I have long since outgrown it!

Hien: But as you seem determined to bring it back into use, I believe a match is in order. If I win, you will be honor-bound to divulge one of your darkest secrets.

[The next day.]

Hien: Well, my friends! I for one am full of vim and vigor! I trust you feel the same?

Hien: Then what better time than now to undertake our trial, and become full-fledged warriors of the Mol!

Hien: Now then, Cirina, if you would tell us of the trial we must undertake that we might participate in the Naadam.

Cirina: Ah, yes! As I mentioned before, to be recognized as warriors of the Steppe, one must follow in the footsteps of the legendary warrior Bardam.

Cirina: He embarked on a great pilgrimage, eschewing cart and horse, and walked for many malms until he came to a holy place, thereafter named Bardam’s Mettle. There, at the altar, as he did, you must pray.

Cirina: The altar lies deep within the breeding grounds of the yol. To complete your trial, you must tame one. Only then will your trial be complete.

Hien: Fair enough. And where is the entrance to Bardam’s Mettle?

Cirina: You must journey far, far to the west─beyond Chakha Zoh, where lie the bones of a great and wise woman.

Cirina: Beyond the ruins of Ceol Aen, hidden within the mountains is a narrow pass. Follow it, and you will come to Bardam’s Mettle.

Lyse: Sounds to me like it’ll be a trial just getting to the trial…

Cirina: More than you may know. On the eve of the Naadam, many strive to improve their fortunes─some by abducting and enslaving the warriors of other tribes.

Cirina: Be ever mindful of your surroundings, lest you be taken as well.

Hien: Hah! What grim expressions you wear while nodding so powerfully! Warriors such as you are not like to fall en route to a mere rite of passage.

Hien: We shall proceed with all due caution, yes, but let us not worry overmuch.

Hien: We will overcome this trial, and the next, and the next, until we stand triumphant. That is all there is to it, no?

Hien: With me, my friends! To the west! To Bardam’s Mettle!

Cirina: W-Wait, Hien! Oh dear. I knew I would forget.

Cirina: Here─take these whistles. Once tamed, your yol will hearken to their call.

Lyse: Thanks. We’ll try them out once we’ve finished the trial.

Lyse: Let’s catch up to Hien and Gosetsu!

Lyse: We still have a long way to go, but I think I can see that monument Cirina talked about.

Lyse: I don’t see Hien or Gosetsu, though. We should hurry!

Lyse: Hey…I don’t know about you, but I can’t shake the feeling someone’s watching us.

Lyse: Cirina did warn us about tribes that kidnap warriors and make them fight for them. Something tells me we’re about to meet them…

[Jumped by three very foolish bandits. Easy fight.]

[Hien and Gosetsu have also found some bandits.]

Hien: Ah, there you are. As you can see, they left us little choice.

Hien: I gather you were forced to dispatch a few yourself? So it goes. A few less warriors to face in the Naadam, eh?

Hien: Ceol Aen is not much further. That said, I should be surprised if our would-be masters do not try to subdue us one final time…

[They do, of course, but it’s no problem.]

Hien: Right. This must be the pass that leads to Bardam’s Mettle.

Hien: They say no foreigners have overcome this trial, but, well, there is a first time for everything, no?

Hien: Nothing left but to begin, then.

Hien: To complete the trial, we must each pass through Bardam’s Mettle and tame a yol. How precisely we are to do this, I am not sure, but since countless warriors before us have succeeded, I imagine we’ll muddle through somehow…

Hien: But enough talk! We have a Naadam to win!

[Bardam’s Mettle Dungeon unlocked (Lvl 65)]

Lyse: I should’ve known you’d be the first to make it through.

 Lyse: I’m assuming you had no trouble? Good, good. I managed somehow, as you may have guessed.

Lyse: Looks like Hien and Gosetsu are still in there, though. Nothing for it but to wait, then.

Lyse: Oh, right. I’ve still got those whistles Cirina gave me.

Lyse: Here’s yours. I suppose we ought to give them a try like she said.

Lyse: Up there, look!

[A pair of huge gray flying parrots appear – yols.]

Lyse: I think that means we’ve won them over. That one there is yours, right? The other one is mine. Awww…

Lyse: So that’s that, then! We’re officially warriors of the Steppe!

Lyse: You don’t think they…no, of course not. Hien and Gosetsu will come out any minute now.

Lyse: I suppose we could chat a little while we wait… Oh! So the other day, I said to Alisaie, I said…

[Time passes. Finally Hien and Gosetsu emerge.]

Lyse: Mission accomplished! Everything still in one piece?

Hien: More or less, aye. That mountainous monstrosity came as quite a surprise. Who knew that the Steppe held such secrets!

Gosetsu: I see the two of you emerged similarly unscathed. Well, then! By my reckoning, there is naught left to prevent us from taking part in the Naadam!

[Footsteps sound and about a dozen Au Ri fighters run up. The leader is one of the two Au Ri who were arguing in the market.]

Impetuous Warrior: You! Yea, you who have walked Bardam’s Mettle. Newborn warriors of the Steppe. Our khan demands an audience. You will come.

Lyse: I remember those clothes. He’s Oronir, isn’t he? What should we do?

Hien: Ordinarily, I would politely decline. But this may be an opportunity to assess their strength, and we do have some time before the Naadam begins…

Hien: If all goes to plan, they will be fighting for us soon enough. What say you? Shall we go and greet our comrades-to-be?

[“Why not?”]

Lyse: Whatever happens, we shouldn’t keep Cirina and the others waiting.

Let’s be ready to make a swift exit, all right?

Hien: We accept your khan’s generous invitation. Lead the way.

[We are led off to the meeting place.]

Lyse: Two banners… So it’s not just Oronir we’re dealing with…

[We go inside. We are brought before the leader of the Oronir.]

Impetuous Warrior: Most radiant brother Magnai. We have brought the ones you seek.

Magnai: You conquered Bardam’s Mettle.

Hien: As warriors of the Mol, aye. You are the khan here, yes? Why have you summoned us? Mayhap to propose a joint endeavor?

Magnai: Nay, Doman. We shall not speak as equals. Born of the Sun are Oronir, and born of the earth are you.

Magnai: When I learned of trespassers, I bade my warriors take their measure.To flay them if they failed.

Magnai: But if by the grace of Azim they should survive their trials and emerge anointed, then bring them hither to pay tribute.

 Magnai: Tribute, should it prove satisfactory, shall earn you the favor of the Sun. His beloved shall bask in His radiance, and their supplications be duly considered.

Lyse: So you want us to bow down and serve you. What if we don’t feel like it?

Magnai: The defiant will suffer in shadow. It would be an affront to the resplendent Azim Himself to refuse this generous offer when by rights you should be condemned. But, in lieu of tribute…

Magnai: Swear fealty to the Sun. Pledge to Him your body and soul. Promise to serve Him unto death, and you may know His glory.

Magnai: A generous offer granted to but few…though perchance this is too merciful.

[Another Au Ra male – Daidukul — says something to the Oronir leader that we can’t hear.]

Magnai: Hm. It seems our brothers of the Buduga want you.

Magnai: The men only.

Magnai: Like the Borlaaq and women─though you know them not either, I am sure. No matter. All you need know is that you will serve, one way or another.

Hien: That much does indeed seem plain. However, as we are but newborn warriors who know little of your customs, we struggle to conceive of ways in which we might be of service to the most gracious and illustrious Sun.

[The leader seems infuriated by this.]

Magnai: You make mock of us, Doman. Do not do so again.

[His bad temper makes our group frown.]

Magnai: You will be given a task. It will be difficult. You will carry it out. When you have accepted this, you may ask me what it is.

[Sure, whatever. Jerk.]

Magnai: So you are the first to step forward. Hmm. Bold…or reckless. I see why Daidukul favors you.

Magnai: The Naadam approaches, and the Oronir will reign supreme once more. Such is the will of Father Azim.

Magnai: Yet only fools think to triumph by the grace of the gods alone─and we are not fools.

Magnai: Your task will be to aid us in our preparations. Baatu will tell you the rest.

[Baatu is the Au Ra formerly known as “Impetuous Warrior.”]

Baatu: Warriors of the Steppe! By the grace of our most radiant brother, you will not die this day, but instead be granted an opportunity to contribute to our cause.

Lyse: Question! You keep calling Magnai your “most radiant brother.” You’re not related or something, are you?

Baatu: …All Oronir are descendants of Father Azim. But if you mean to ask if our mothers are one and the same, then no. The most radiant is the elder brother to we younger─the strongest and most deserving of respect.

Baatu: No more interruptions! Your duties are as follows.

Baatu: You, the red woman. You will milk our beasts. To grow strong, one must be well fed, and we have great need of kumis and cheese.

Lyse: …Is that it? I mean, I’m not happy about all this, but I suppose I can go along for now.

Baatu: You, the one who lumbers as a mountain… Hm. An old warrior, I see. We have arms and armor in need of repair. Go and speak with our menders.

Gosetsu: I have no talent for delicate work, but if that is your wish, then so be it.

Baatu: You, the insolent fool. As for you─

Daidukul: This one carries the fire. The Buduga would take his measure.

Daidukul: Seek my comrade outside tending to the stores. He will give you your task. You will know him by his cloth─unlike they of the yellow, we are of the green.

Hien: I, for one, would welcome the opportunity to learn more of the Buduga and their ways. It would be an honor!

[Baatu turns to the Warrior of Light]

Baatu: …We shall speak of your task outside. With me.

[Outside]

Baatu: Your name, foreigner?

Baatu: …Auric, then. You are to dive into Azim Khaat, below the Dawn Throne, and gather swordgrass from the lakebed.

Baatu: It is an invaluable ingredient in many medicines. Eight bundles will you bring.

Baatu: You will need to dive deep to obtain that which you seek…but that shall pose no trouble for a true warrior, no?

Baatu: Some say that the dominion of the Dawn Father and the Dusk Mother does not extend beneath the water. But ours does. Indeed, the Oronir fear naught above nor below.

Baatu: Speak with the guard to descend. We shall speak again when you have finished.

Oroniri Spearson: Yes, yes, I know who you are. You wish to go below?

[SPLASH! Again.]

Baatu: He returns, and with swordgrass in hand?

Baatu: …That you would immerse yourself in the depths is a testament to your bravery. Well done.

Baatu: Lest you wonder, we will use it to prepare potions to induce paralysis. In the Naadam, we must use every means at our disposal to delay our foes.

Baatu: He who inscribes his deeds upon the sacred ground shall be declared the victor. However, none may know this place until the Gharl have scattered the soil.

Baatu: It matters not. We shall be swift as stallions and fierce as baras. The Steppe will be ours once more!

Baatu: Your tribute is accepted. We will return to the most radiant, and you may beg a boon.

[In the leader’s chamber]

Magnai: …Am I to understand you have completed your tasks?

Hien: I know not what yours was, but mine was surprisingly simple.

Hien: They bade me carry various goods and sundries from storehouse to storehouse. Alas, it was difficult to learn much with all the Buduga swarming around me…

Magnai: You dove deep into the waters to harvest swordgrass? I see. That is well.

Hien: Most radiant brother Magnai, we have given you tribute, as demanded. Were we to beg leave to depart with our comrades, would you consent?

Magnai: We never intended to press you into our service, and tribute offered in good faith cannot be denied. To grant you naught in return would be an affront to Father Azim.

Magnai: However, the boon must be proportional to the supplications. What you ask far exceeds what you have earned.

[Hien seems to be thinking.]

Hien: …Then if we must remain here, would you at least permit us to learn more of your people and your ways?

[The Warrior of Light looks puzzled.]

Hien: Temulun Khatun taught me but a fraction, you see…

Hien: How this world born of the gods was to be their battlefield, their creations to fight in their stead.

Hien: How Azim, Father of the Dawn, he who birthed the sun, and Nhaama, Mother of the Dusk, she who birthed the moon, made the Au Ra…

Hien: Yet though these children warred for a time, eventually they laid down their arms and came to love one another. And so the gods bequeathed this world to their children, and ascended to the heavens whence they came.

Hien: Those born of the Dawn Father were called the Raen, and those born of the Dusk Mother were called the Xaela. So it was and ever after.

Hien: But I say to you, Brother Magnai─how can this be? How can Oronir be the children of Azim, if they are Xaela born of Nhaama?

Magnai: …You amuse me, Doman. How you wield your ignorance as a weapon.

Magnai: Very well. I bid you speak with our elders and learn the truth of this world.

[Hien speaks to the Warrior of Light]

Hien: …I know what you’re thinking. And yes, I could probably have convinced him to let us go had I handled that differently. But then we would have learned naught for our troubles.

Hien: If there is one thing I know, it is that men of faith yearn to share it with others. And in learning more of their beliefs, we may learn more of other things─things which may prove useful in the Naadam.

Hien: When I was carrying out my tasks, I met an elder─a storyteller─named Udutai. Mayhap he can be our teacher.

[Udutai is preoccupied.]

Udutai: Hm? I can spare no time for you. Other troubles demand my attention.

Hien: What troubles? What ill fortune has befallen you?

Udutai: Not me, but my lambs. Some few wandered far and have yet to return.

Udutai: Mayhap they will return to their mothers in time. Mayhap they will not. Mayhap you can help?

Hien: If we must, then we must. Let us be about it, Auric.

[Lambs found!]

Hien: Greetings. I trust all of our little explorers are safely accounted for?

Udutai: That they are. My thanks to you, Doman. Now─you had questions for me?

Hien: Aye. I would know more of the Oronir─of their creation, and of Father Azim.

Udutai: As you wish. Come, let us sit.

Udutai: Before we begin, tell me:   what do you know of the Au Ra, and how they came to be?

[“In the days before men, Azim and Nhaama waged a bitter war…”]

Udutai: Yes, yes. A common tale, and one believed by many tribes.

Udutai: But what it does not mention is this: Azim and Nhaama were lovers.

Udutai: Oh, they fought in the beginning, as did their creations. That much is true. But when they saw how the Xaela and the Raen rose above their hatreds and joined hands in harmony, their hearts stirred, and the love their children shared became theirs as well.

Udutai: Alas, he was of the sun and she of the moon. Apart they must remain, lest day and night cease to be, and with them all creation.

Udutai: With sadness in their hearts they returned to the heavens─he to the day, she to the night, destined to walk before and after, never to meet.

Udutai: As time passed, Azim’s yearning for his beloved grew deeper still. Was there truly naught that could be done, he wondered. At last, he knew.

Udutai: “If the Father cannot be with the Mother, then he shall go amongst her children. Now and ever after.“

Udutai: So it was that Azim took a fragment of his being and with it fashioned an avatar. Clad in scale of midnight, he descended, and sought out the Xaela.

Udutai: Yea, he was the first Oronir. We are of his flesh and his blood. We are the children of Azim, and it is our duty to watch over and keep the Xaela safe.

Hien: …I confess, I did not expect the tale of your people’s beginnings to be quite so romantic.

Hien: Yet I must ask:  if it is your duty to defend the Xaela, how can you go to war with them in the Naadam? Is that not a contradiction?

Udutai: If a father disciplines his son, does that mean there is no love in his heart? Xaela are not wont to kneel. They must be made to─only then will they heed reason.

Hien: I see… Such is the way of the Steppe.

Hien: Thank you, elder, for sharing with us your wisdom.

Udutai: Eager to depart? Ere you go, you would do well to hear the end of my tale.

Udutai: When Nhaama looked down and saw the avatar of Azim, she knew him at once, and shed tears of love and longing.

Udutai: When they struck the earth, they rose anew, as a counterpart to the Oronir. Their fates entwined.

Udutai: So you see, for every son of Azim is a daughter of Nhaama for whom he must search. Even now.

Hien: Mayhap I am being overly optimistic, but I sense that these Oronir may prove loyal allies to Doma under the right circumstances.

Hien: Their arrogance is rooted in the belief that they must act as caretakers of all Xaela. Therefore, if we can prove to them that we come as kindred spirits, seeking to defeat a common foe…

Hien: But mayhap this is a discussion for after we win the Naadam. Come, let us return to Magnai.

Magnai: Hmm…you shine with the light of newfound wisdom. Could it be that you have at last accepted the supremacy of the Sun?

Magnai: No matter. You have each completed your tasks, and proven yourselves deserving of mercy.

Magnai: However, if it is freedom you desire, then there is one more thing you must do…

Magnai: …A pity you will not pledge yourselves to the Sun. You might have proved useful in the coming Naadam.

Magnai: Nevertheless, I will permit you to return and fight for the Mol. Their cause is futile, with or without your assistance. However, you must first complete a final task, as was my decree.

Magnai: You will reconnoiter the encampment of the Dotharl.

Magnai: For this task, two will go, and two will remain.

Magnai: Should the two who embark upon this expedition choose to flee, or be captured or killed by the Dotharl, then the others will be taken as slaves and serve the Sun unto death.

Lyse: We’d better not fail then, eh? The question is, who should we send?

Magnai: That is not for you to decide.

Magnai: All of you have conquered Bardam’s Mettle and proven yourselves warriors of the Steppe. You should all be equally capable of carrying out this task, and therefore, you should have no objections.

Magnai: The first choice of hostage shall be mine─though it is hardly a choice, given the circumstances.

Magnai: The red woman will remain. Doubtless you are not the moon I seek, but stranger tales have been told─and the men are of no use to me.

Magnai: You may have your pick of the men.

Daidukul: Hmm… Yes…yes…

[Daidukul studies Gosetsu, Hien, and the Warrior of Light]

[“What are you looking at?”]

Daidukul: The firewalker! Yes, this Doman is my choice.

Hien: Hah hah! I don’t know whether to be flattered or insulted. Mayhap both.

Hien: I had hoped to see these undying ones for myself, but it seems it was not meant to be.

Hien: I know you will be fine, but permit me to wish you luck all the same.

Gosetsu: We will return soon, my lord. But, if the kami are unkind, and we fail in our mission, then do what you must to survive. For Doma.

Magnai: Dotharl Khaa lies far to the south, where the grass turns to sand.

Magnai: Return with valuable knowledge, and all will be free to rejoin the Mol. Now go.

Gosetsu: Have no fear, my friend. We shall see them freed soon enough. Let us quit this place and speak of our plans outside.

[Outside]

Gosetsu: ‘Tis plain they hope we will never return. I shall enjoy disappointing them.

Gosetsu: According to my map, there is a colossal wreck to the south which should provide a vantage point from which to survey Dotharl Khaa from afar. Let us go and do just that.

[Down south at the scouting point. Gosetsu is peering out at the targets. You join him.]

Gosetsu: I spy tents to the west─theirs, I presume. What do you see?

[You immediately spot two Au Ri men under attack by large hairy creatures.]

 Gosetsu: Over there, look! Those men are in danger!

Gosetsu: Gah! Too late for the one, perhaps, but there is yet time to save the other.

Gosetsu: Come! We cannot abandon him to his fate!

Gosetsu: These ones are mine! Go! Help the man!

[On it!]

Wounded Hunter: <cough> <wheeze> I…I owe you my life.

Gosetsu: Nay, friend, think nothing of it. I but wish we had come sooner…

Gosetsu: I knew at once he was dead. It will come as scant comfort, I fear, but I slew the beasts responsible.

Wounded Hunter: Nay… That is no way for a Dotharl to die.

???: What is this? Who are these outsiders?

[The newcomer is a white-haired Xaela woman]

Wounded Hunter: Sadu Khatun! Forgive me. We were returning from our hunt when we were caught unawares by manzasiri.

Wounded Hunter: These ones saved me, but Geser is…

Sadu: Who are you? Why have you come? Not to cross the sands, that much is certain.

Sadu: I have heard tales of travelers in league with another tribe. Are you they? Who do you serve? Answer me.

 Gosetsu: If I may begin to answer your questions before you ask more…we are friends of the Mol, and we are come to see the strength of the Dotharl for ourselves.

 Sadu: The Mol? The little lambs who wander to and fro at the behest of their gods?

 Sadu: Bwahahaha! What fools you are to share the soil of such weaklings! Next you will tell me you wish to fight in the Naadam!

Sadu: Ah…so you do. Hah! That is unexpected…yet not unwelcome.

Sadu: I am Sadu. Khatun of the Dotharl. For your deeds, I grant you leave to walk among us. Come. Look on our glory and despair.

Sadu: We fear no tribe─least of all the Mol. Though, if you were of the Oronir, I would burn the flesh from your bones here and now.

Sadu: You can stand, yes? See to the corpse.

 Wounded Hunter: Y-Yes, Khatun!

Gosetsu: So that is the leader of the Dotharl. Clearly not a woman to be crossed.

Gosetsu: But how callously she spoke of her dead! “See to the corpse”? Surely this warrior deserves better than that…

Gosetsu: Forgive me, Auric, but I cannot in good conscience ignore the callous disregard that woman showed for her kinsman!

Gosetsu: We must seek her out at once! With me!

[Sadu is speaking to one of her tribesfolk.]

Sadu: How he died matters not. Geser was a great warrior. He will return to us in time.

Shar: Not soon enough, Khatun. The Naadam is nearly upon us! Mayhap we should counsel restraint until after…

[Gosetsu butts in.]

Gosetsu: I do not understand. If Geser is dead, how should he “return”?

Sadu: Silence. You come to spy on us knowing naught of our ways?

Gosetsu: We know you are fearless. And that you are called the “undying ones”…

Sadu: That is true. None are braver than the Dotharl, for we do not fear death.

Sadu: With death a warrior must dance boldly. Fearlessly. For thus does his soul burn bright.

Sadu: Then, in death, his soul shines white─exalted. The flesh rots, but the soul endures. And ere the seasons have turned, so he shall return.

Sadu: When he is glimpsed in the eyes of a newborn, he is blessed with the same name, that he may grow into a great warrior once more.

Gosetsu: You mean to tell me these newborn babes and fallen warriors are one and the same? Madness!

[Not a good thing to say.  The entire tribe looks pissed.]

Sadu: I gave you leave to observe. Not to insult our beliefs.

Sadu: Have care what you say. Otherwise, do as you will.

[Gosetsu gets that he messed up.]

Gosetsu: Such contempt as was in their eyes I have never known… But for the soul to live on as they say is not something I can so easily accept.

Gosetsu: Do they truly believe this? All of them? That in death there can be rebirth? …Retribution?

Gosetsu: …In any event, we came here in search of information. We cannot leave without speaking with her people.

[Talking to the Undying]

Koko: I know you! Reunion! The travelers with the Mol girl!

Koko: I marked you after I left the Oronir. Ones from Doma, others I could not place.

Koko: My name is Koko. Welcome to Dotharl Khaa.

Koko: Hm? Koko sounds to your ear the name of a woman? Well, of course. That would be because it is.

Koko: I died a woman and was reborn a man. It is of no moment─the soul is the soul, and the flesh the flesh.

Koko: Perhaps you scoff? Many would. Many look only to the name and the flesh, and let these things dictate their perceptions.

Koko: Consider Sadu Khatun. Three times before she died a man, yet she returns as a woman the fourth. Yet she is no less fierce, and any outsider foolish enough to think so will learn the truth to their peril.

Qoyar: The cycle of death and rebirth? It is simply that. Take me─I died in battle with the Hotgo. Fiercely did I fight, and so I returned.

Qoyar: Alas, we know naught of our past lives. I must learn what it means to be Qoyar again and again. It is difficult to remember everything, but important.

[There’s a dead hyena-like critter on the ground.]

Mergen: Impressive, is it not? ‘Twas slain by my boy.

Mergen: We were childhood friends, he and I, before he fell and returned. A master of the bow. It is good to see that he retains his skill.

[Back to Gosetsu]

Gosetsu: Ah, Auric. You have completed your enquiries?

Gosetsu: Aye, it is as she said. They believe with every fiber of their being that their bravest warriors will be reborn.

Gosetsu: As for me, I observed some of their warriors at practice. They are as formidable as the Oronir, perhaps more, and their weapons are their equal as well.

Gosetsu: Yet while they do not lack in skill and resources, ’tis plain to see that their numbers are inferior…

Gosetsu: This has been an educational experience, to say the least…

Gosetsu: Yet everything we have learned is common knowledge to the people of the Steppe. ‘Twill not be enough to earn our comrades their freedom.

Gosetsu: Naught less than the Dotharl’s plans for the Naadam will suffice, I fear.

Gosetsu: Well, I have never been one for skulking about. I will go to Sadu and see what secrets I can prise from her lips!

Sadu: The spies return. And they have learned naught.

Gosetsu: Mayhap so, but no longer! Though you hide it well, I know you have devised some manner of cunning stratagem for the Naadam! Out with it, I say!

Sadu: We are what you see, Doman. We are Dotharl.

Sadu: Other rely on tricks and traps. Subterfuge. Lies. We have need of naught but our own strength. We meet the enemy in battle and kill him.

Sadu: That is why I cared not what you did from the first. There is naught for you to learn. Tell your masters to meet us on the field, and make ready to ride with their ancestors.

Gosetsu: …Your confidence is plain, as is your strength.

Gosetsu: Yet you are not the most prosperous of tribes. The Mol you mock are few, but so too are you. Why?

[Sadu looks down.]

Sadu: …Though a glorious death is to be celebrated, it is yet death.

Sadu: While we kill many, many are killed in turn. In the wake of our battles, the soil drinks deep of the blood of the fallen, their bodies piled high.

Sadu: Not all are born again. Only the bravest. Yet one cannot return unless there is a vessel to inherit the soul, and if warriors die ere they birth children, then that is that.

Sadu: Even the brave warrior who finds a vessel will for many years remain a shadow of his former self. It falls to his elders to endure until he is ready to accept his responsibilities.

Sadu: Ever will we meet our enemies in battle without fear. Such is our way, even when our numbers dwindle. If we die, so be it─but know that we fight to live, not to die.

Sadu: Dotharl train and make ready for the day─but they do not rush to meet it. Not until we have done our duty.

Wounded Hunter: Sadu Khatun. Geser’s body has been given to the sands.

Sadu: Then our part is done. Rest, warrior. The Naadam draws near, and you will need your strength.

Sadu: If you intend to fight in the Naadam, you should return to the Mol and make ready. But know that when next we meet, you and yours will die. …Or you could fight for us and live. Think on it, travelers.

Gosetsu: …We shall. But if you would permit me a final question ere we part…where is this place that Geser has been lain to rest?

Gosetsu: Though I knew him not, I was there at his end. I wish to say a few words.

Sadu: Rites for the flesh? I have heard of this. Madness, I say, for his body is of the earth now. He will not hear you.

Sadu: But you may speak to the sands, if that is your will. They lie to the west. Make haste, for the gedan may already have caught his scent.

Gosetsu: My apologies, Auric. This will take but a moment.

[You join Gosetsu by Geser’s corpse, although you have to fight off a few hyenas first.]

Gosetsu: Left for the vultures… It seems an insult to the man.

Gosetsu: But the soul lives on, they say…these bodies no more than empty husks returning to the earth. Seen through those eyes, I suppose the sight is almost comforting.

Gosetsu: Pardon me.

Gosetsu: When first I heard the tales, I could not help but scoff. “Another queer tribe,” I thought, “with still queerer customs.” Yet having borne witness to their rites, I cannot deny there is a certain logic to it all.

Gosetsu: A samurai will die for his lord without hesitation or regret. But this is not because he delights in such sacrifice.

Gosetsu: It is because he has faith that his death will serve a higher purpose. There is an awakening in that instant, when the heart sings and the blood burns, and his soul…his soul finds peace.

Gosetsu: There is comfort in that…

[A few more hyenas make a play for the corpse. Gosetsu chases them off.]

Gosetsu: Nay, we dare not permit ourselves that luxury, my friend, tempting though it may be. Not while our loved ones yet remain in chains!

Gosetsu: Well, then. We must all be on our way─even Geser.

Gosetsu: Let us return to the Dawn Throne, and pray that our tale is enough to satisfy our “most radiant” taskmaster.

[Meanwhile, deep within the Dawn Throne….]

[Lyse and Hien are locked in a cell together.]

Lyse: Well, if there is a way out, I can’t see it. Shame we didn’t learn much before they locked us up…

Hien: ‘Tis little wonder the Oronir won the last Naadam. These people leave naught to chance.

Lyse: Hien…I’ve had something on my mind for a while, and now…

Lyse: In Ala Mhigo, where I was born, I found it strange that for all the people who supported the Resistance, there were just as many who didn’t.

Lyse: But then we came to this part of the world, and met with the Confederacy and lots of ordinary Domans, and almost every single one of them seemed content to just put up with things, no matter how bad they got.

Lyse: They─they all had their reasons, of course, and it’s not like I don’t understand them, but…the thought of it made me so angry. After everything they’d been through, everything the Empire had done to them, how could they not rise up? How could they not fight back?

 Hien: …People are pragmatic creatures at heart.

 Hien: They hold on to hope only until they taste true hardship. Then comes fear and regret. Safer not to dream, they conclude at last.

Hien: For even should a day go by without some new disappointment, the next will only bring more of the same. And so they choose the more sensible option…

Hien: They learn to abide the indignities and injustices, the pain and the shame─to accept them as normal. Such is the lot of most men. One cannot expect to spur them to action at a moment’s notice.

Hien: But if one who has known their pain can convince them to strive for something greater, and rekindle the fire in their hearts…then they will remember what they have lost. And they will rise.

Lyse: I had someone like that once. I didn’t know who I was or who I wanted to be, and…he risked his life to show me the way.

[Lyse rests her hand on her neck where her false Circle of Knowing tattoo used to be.]

Hien: Then honor him by doing the same for others─with all your might and main!

Hien: You know, when my homeland fell twenty-five years past, I was still in my mother’s womb. Never have I known a free Doma!

Hien: But my father did, as did many of my fallen comrades. As do many of my people now.

Hien: It may be no more than a dream to me, but if I do not chase it, then who will?

Lyse: …The way you carry it all. You’re just the same.

Hien: Hm? …As you?

Lyse: Oh, no, not me! Definitely not me. I meant the Warrior of Light. Out there, somewhere, doing what needs to be done…

Lyse: I won’t have you put me to shame any longer… I’m going to seize the future I want with my own two hands!

[Back at the corpse in the sands]

Gosetsu: You are ready to depart, I trust? Good. Then let us away.

[Back at the Dawn Throne]

Baatu: Welcome, travelers. The most radiant brother will hear your tale.

Magnai: All that you have seen and heard. Your knowledge. I would have it.

Magnai: …No secret stratagems, you say. That is well. I expected as much.

Magnai: The Dotharl are not schemers. They live only for war─for the contest of strength and will. They are fierce, aye, and to face one is to court death.

Gosetsu: “Meet us on the field, and make ready to ride with your ancestors.“ Such were the words of their khatun, Sadu.

Baatu: Speak not that devil’s name in the presence of the most radiant!

Gosetsu: You bade us tell you of the Dotharl, yet you will not hear the name of their leader?

Baatu: After the last Naadam, she gave great offense.

Baatu: The most radiant brother called to him the women of the Steppe, that he might look into their eyes and see if Nhaama looked back.

Baatu: But that gedan, that feral udgan! She spat curses and called forth flames! She scorched the soil and refused to present herself!

Baatu: Three days and nights had we fought to claim the Dawn Throne, and still she shows Brother Magnai such disrespect! Such defiance! By rights should she pay with her life!

Magnai: Speak not another word, Baatu, or you will pay with yours.

Magnai: Her words are air, as the Domans say. However, they are proof of your service to the Sun.

Magnai: Go and fetch the others from their cells.

[Baatu does as he’s told.]

Gosetsu: My lord, Lyse, you are unharmed?

Hien: Thanks to you and Auric. We are free to return to Mol Iloh, I take it?

Magnai: By your deeds have you proven yourselves to be warriors brave and true.

Magnai: You may return to the Mol and make ready for the Naadam…on one condition.

Magnai: To fight in the Naadam is to be bound by it. Swear, here and now, to abide by the law of the Steppe. To accept the supreme authority of the khagan, whomsoever it may be.

All: We swear!

[Outside]

Hien: Well done, my friends. I knew you would not fail.

Hien: I should be glad to hear of your experiences with the Dotharl, but as time is of the essence, let us converse en route.

Hien: Come, come─Cirina and the others are waiting!

[Off to Mol Iloh]

Cirina: Thank the gods you are all right! When you failed to return, I feared the worst.

 Cirina: But here you are, hale and whole! And you survived Bardam’s Mettle!

Cirina: Blessed are we to have you as allies. With your strength, we may have a chance…

Cirina: My friends. We are come to the final day of the Tsagaan Sar. To the Naadam.

Cirina: The battle will commence with the rising of the sun. The Gharl will scatter the soil, and the Steppe will be unbound.

Cirina: A great ovoo will erupt from the earth and call for a new khagan. All will converge upon the light, and the warrior who claims it will win the day.

Cirina: Precious little time remains. Pray use it to prepare for the battle.

Temulun: Many of the young ones have never taken part in a Naadam. They are nervous. Perhaps you might favor them with some few words? It would do much to ease their fears…

[Sure, why not.]

Bujeg: At the behest of the khatun you speak with us, yes? You are kind to do so, and I am grateful.

Bujeg: Do not underestimate the power of words. A warrior conquers one with his hands, but a thousand with his head. Even you cannot fight forever.

Cotan: When we were young, my friends and I could scarcely wait to challenge Bardam’s Mettle. We longed to become warriors…

Cotan: The day came and went, but we rarely fought men. Mostly beasts. And now we must stand against the Oronir and the Dotharl. You have seen them─taken the measure of them. Do you believe we can win?

[“You can and will. Have faith!”]

Cotan: Yes…yes! ‘Twas the gods’ will that we fight. Surely it is their will that we win! Of course!

Dorbei: Ah, it is you. The one who helped the children with their chores. For that I must thank you.

Dorbei: Though mayhap I will repay the favor in battle. Yes, I too will fight in the Naadam, though you may not see me. While you and yours contest the ovoo, my comrades and I will devote our efforts to preventing other tribes from interfering.

Dorbei: We are few, and we are weak, but we shall do what we can to aid you. Go well, traveler, and if it be the gods’ will, let us speak again when the day is done.

Diligent Mol Warrior: How strange this feeling… The thrill before battle… A battle in which I may die.

[“We will fight, we will win, and we will return to Moh Iloh together.”]

Diligent Mol Warrior: Yes…yes of course we will! I must have faith! I must have courage!

Diligent Mol Warrior: I have not always understood the motives of the gods, but I have accepted their guidance ever since I was a child. If they would have us fight, I must believe they have their reasons.

Diligent Mol Warrior: So I shall fight with all my might! And if it is the gods’ will, then we shall win!

 

Temulun: Already, I sense a change in the people. Their hearts soothed, their resolve strengthened. This we owe to you.

Temulun: We are of the soil. The wind and the water. We are not conquerors.

Temulun: But we are yet the children of Nhaama─we are yet Xaela. We were made for battle─to kill and be killed. We delight not in such things, but let no man doubt that they are in our nature.

Temulun: Flesh, blood, bone─that which was given, we offer unto the gods as tribute. This day we embrace death. Ours and our enemies’.

Temulun: So too must you embrace this truth, for this is who we are. Who you are become, as warriors of the Steppe.

Temulun: May the gods guide you to victory.

Cirina: All that remains is to wait for daybreak!

[Duty – Nadaam]

Cirina: You are ready for battle, Auric?

[In the sky, Magnai flies on his yol, watching the preparations for the Nadaam.]

Magnai: I see you, soil bearers…

[Four robed Au Ri carry a large urn out onto the steppe and empty the contents. A beam of shimmering light appears at that spot.]

[Sadu is watching with her tribe.]

Sadu: The soil has been scattered, and the Steppe reborn! Sanctified and unbound, she calls for a new khagan!

Sadu: Go forth and claim her, Dotharl, and bring death to all who bar your way!

[In Mol Iloh, Cirina and Temulun are also watching.]

Cirina: It begins, Grandmother.

[Temulun nods and points to the beam of light. Our group also takes note.]

Hien: I must say, it’s been a while… Is everyone ready?

Gosetsu: Hah hah hah! A samurai is always ready. You shall remember this soon enough once I have taken to the field.

Lyse: So we take on all comers, and then it’s off to Doma! I can’t wait!

Cirina: Thank you, my friends. Upon the soil of one and all shall our deeds be inscribed…

[To triumph in the Naadam, you and your allies must race from Mol Iloh towards the ovoo in the distance, while fending off attacks from other tribes.

Once you arrive at the ovoo, you must claim it for the Mol. But be warned that the warriors of other tribes can do so as well, and only the first will be crowned khagan.

Prevent your opponents from claiming the ovoo and endure their assault to win the Naadam for the Mol!]

Cirina: Grant us favor, O Mother of the Dusk, and to victory guide the Mol!

 Cirina of the Laughing Reeds: The ovoo lies to the south! I will lead the way!

Budugan Hunter: Warriors of the Mol! You will go no further!

Hien: That didn’t take long. Weapons!

[FIGHT!]

 Gosetsu Everfall: I will deal with this rabble, my lord! Make for the ovoo!

Hien: My thanks, Gosetsu! Forward, brothers and sisters!

 Lyse: Gosetsu had the right idea! I’ll keep them busy─the rest of you, keep moving!

Cirina of the Laughing Reeds: Thank you, Lyse! With me, Hien, Auric!

[FIGHT SOME MORE!]

Cirina of the Laughing Reeds: There it is! The ovoo! We are not too late!

Hien: The fighting is most fierce! No matter─charge!

[FIGHTY FIGHT FIGHT!]

 Hien: They falter! Now, Auric─claim the ovoo!

[Sure, no problem.]

[Oops, Magnai just used Holmgang or something to drag me off the goal.]

 

Magnai the Older: What folly is this? Who dares to challenge the Sun?

Magnai: You came, as I knew you would. For you too are a warrior of the Steppe.

Magnai: I salute you, traveler, and should be honored to face you alone…but the Dotharl thirst for blood and will suffer no duels.

[Here come the Dotharl.]

 Magnai: Bear witness, Father Azim! The soil shall drink deep of blood this day!

Hien: The most radiant brother has arrived! A pity…

Magnai the Older: Rise, brothers of the Sun!

Cirina of the Laughing Reeds: An opening! Defend me, my friends!

Magnai the Older: Know your place!

Magnai the Older: The battle has only begun, child! You will not deprive me of my pleasure!

[Here’s Sadu’s group. She’s a black mage.]

Sadu Heavensflame: Hearken to the chaos, brothers!

Magnai the Older: Lo, the mad udgan comes!

Hien: Still alive, Auric? Good! If we want to claim the ovoo, we’ll need to deal with those two first!

 Sadu Heavensflame: In death do our souls sing!

[Sadu cheats by summoning a couple of stone obelisks that render her invulnerable.]

 Lyse: I don’t like the looks of those giant stone thingies!

[Fortunately they’re not hard to kill. ]

Sadu Heavensflame: Hmph. How dare you…

[During this fight the point is to interact with the target – the ovoo – without getting interrupted. 

 Occasionally members of the various tribes will try to use the ovoo and you have to drive them away.

Meanwhile your own NPC friends are failing to take the target despite it being wide open several times. TYPICAL.]

Gosetsu Everfall: Well done, well done! Victory is within our reach!

 Hien: The ovoo, Auric! Claim it! Claim it now!

Cirina of the Laughing Reeds: Defend the ovoo! Let none pass!

[Got it!]

Sadu: The Steppe has spoken!? Then the khagan is…

Cirina: We have won… The Mol have won! The Dawn Throne is ours!

Hien: We did it… And you, my friend…you…you were magnificent. Magnificent…and, uh…not a little terrifying.

Sadu: What a strange tale this is become. To think I suffered them to live…

Magnai: On your guard, udgan. The wind warns of men in iron.

[What the HELL are Grynewaht and his goon squad doing here??]

Grynewaht: Hah-hah! I thought I’d find you here, Eorzean! Dearest of all my enemies!

Grynewaht: Today’s the day I finally get to kill you! And then they’ll give me a shiny medal, and my choice of posting! Bloody perfect, it is!

Grynewaht: Well, go on, then! Kill him! Kill ’em all!

Hien: Dearest of all his enemies, eh? Congratulations.

Hien: Hearken to me, honored warriors of the Steppe! Our enemies intrude upon this sacred ground! Have you yet the strength to oppose them!?

Sadu: You forget to whom you speak, Doman. We are the undying ones. We are Dotharl.

Magnai: If this be the will of the Mol and their khagan, so be it. The Sun shall abide by the law of the Steppe.

[“Warriors of the Steppe – with me!”]

Cirina of the Laughing Reeds: Drive the ironmen from our lands! The khagan wills it!

Hien: Such fortuitous timing you have to face a Steppe united!

Lyse: Now this is more like it! All the imperials I can punch!

Hien: That’s the spirit! Let’s not let her put us to shame!

Gosetsu Everfall: Never did the thought cross my mind, my lord!

 Cirina of the Laughing Reeds: Hold fast, warriors of the Steppe! We can defeat them!

Sadu Heavensflame: Let naught be left in our wake!

[Sadu summons her two stone guardians again and stars casting a channeled spell.]

Grynewaht: I don’t like the looks of those giant stone thingies! Get rid of them─now!

Magnai the Older: Oh, if I must… The Sun claims these ironmen!

 Hien: Aid the khatun! She must finish her spell!

[Sadu finishes and Flares the crap out of the Imperials.]

Grynewaht: Bugger, bugger, bugger!

Grynewaht: But I had you, I had you!

[Not even close, Grynnie old boy.]

Grynewaht: Impossible! He was there for the taking! What do I have to do!?

Grynewaht: I need more men…more weapons…more power!

Grynewaht: Graaaaaah!

[Grynewaht flees.]

Lyse: As if we’d lose to the likes of him! And we’re only gonna get stronger. Stronger and stronger until we’re strong enough to take back everything they stole!

Hien: I have kept my promise, Cirina. They are yours to command.

Cirina: Oh! Yes, of course!

Cirina: Brothers and sisters of the Steppe! The Naadam is ended, and we Mol now claim the Dawn Throne.

Cirina: No demands shall we make of you save these:  heed our comrades’ words, and honor the law of the Steppe!

Hien: Before I fought for the Mol, I fought for my homeland─for Doma…

Sadu: To Doma would you have us go, to fight your war and win your freedom?

Sadu: Very well. The battlefield matters not, nor else the enemy. In battle do our souls burn bright.

Sadu: And better the Mol’s law than that of the Sun. Arrogant and foolhardy were their pronouncements. Already you and yours show better sense.

Magnai: The Sun shall answer your call, Doman. Wild as the wind the udgan and her brood may be, but they will deliver you naught. We will deliver you your kingdom.

 Gosetsu: Well then! I believe naught remains but to return to Doma at the head of a Xaela army, my lord! I cannot wait to see the look on Yugiri’s face…

Hien: Nor I. We shall depart as soon as our forces are assembled and rejoin our comrades. And then, my friends, we shall bring freedom to the people of Doma!

[Back in Mol Iloh]

Hien: Your imperial friend has truly impeccable timing. Had he come even a few moments earlier, he might actually have stood a chance.

Hien: In any event, that is two battles won in a single day. Which, by my reckoning, gives us twice the cause to celebrate!

Hien: But first, I pray you grant me a moment to express my gratitude. Thanks to you, we are one step closer to freeing my homeland from the tyranny of the Empire. I am in your debt.

Hien: Of course…if all goes to plan, this is like to be but the first of many such debts. Yet I promise to endure my insolvency with a smile, out of gratitude to the kami for seeing fit to send you hither.

Hien: Ah, but it would be rude of me to monopolize your attention. Doubtless there are others who would speak with you.

Hien: Let us go and greet Temulun Khatun.

Temulun: Welcome, warriors of the Steppe. It is an honor to receive you once more.

Temulun: We observed the battle from a distance, and marked the moment of your triumph. In that instant, I wept tears of joy.

Temulun: Not only did you bring us victory in the Naadam, but you ensured that every one of my kinsmen returned with their lives.

Cirina: Some were more gravely wounded than others, but none were lost to us. We could not have asked for anything more.

Cirina: If it is not too much of an imposition, would you be willing to go and speak with them? A simple gesture for those with whom you shared the battlefield.

[What, more speeches? Sigh. Sure, why not.]

Diligent Mol Warrior: Some part of me still struggles to believe it, but we won! We defeated the Oronir and the Dotharl and won!

Diligent Mol Warrior: When they appeared before us I was filled with such fear as I had never known. But then I saw you charge with Cirina and the others, and before I knew it, I was running and shouting…

Diligent Mol Warrior: I will carry the memory of that moment with me always. As well as the moment when you became one with the ovoo and were declared khagan!

Diligent Mol Warrior: The victorypose you struck was a sight to behold! I say, would you be willing to show us again?

[/victorypose]

Zealous Mol Warrior: Aye, that’s the stuff of legends! That’s the khagan in all his splendor!

Diligent Mol Warrior: Praise be to the khagan, and to the gods for guiding him to us!

Weary Mol Warrior: Glory to the khagan and his comrades! Forever and forever! A hundred years! The khagan!

Cirina: Ah, Auric! I am told you gave the young warriors a fine show!

Cirina: Grandmother and I have been discussing how we might best express our gratitude to you. Mere words did not seem sufficient.

Cirina: This is a morin khurr─a traditional instrument of our people.

Cirina: The feats of our greatest heroes, like Bardam and Chakha, are preserved in song. Yours too will live on for years to come.

Cirina: Perhaps one day you might learn how to play it! But, even if not, you may look on the morin khurr and remember this time, this place. As we will when we hearken to the music.

[I’m a paladin at the moment, not a bard, but thanks anyway!]

Hien: At the risk of sounding impatient, we have certain pressing obligations. It is time that we saw to them.

Temulun: …You are right. To whom much is given, much is expected.

Gosetsu: Nay, do not think yourselves so indebted to us. Was it not you who gave us your blessing to participate in the Naadam─and you who saved my lord Hien from certain death?

Gosetsu: Doma is in your debt, and will ever be a friend to the Mol.

Cirina: And we to you, Gosetsu!

Cirina: A thought occurs to me. If you wish to return to Yanxia with all haste, the passage to the south of the Dusk Throne would offer the most direct route.

Cirina: The Dotharl sealed it with their magicks during the Doman rebellion, when more men in iron came from afar.

Hien: If ever there were a time to open the pass, it is now. We should journey to Dotharl Khaa.

Hien: But before that, might we visit the Dawn Throne? I wish to speak with our most radiant brother.

Lyse: Are you sure that’s a good idea? I know he agreed to fight for Doma, but I doubt he’ll be very happy to see us so soon after we beat him.

Cirina: Nhaama made us for war, Lyse. Ever since we came into this world, we have fought.

Cirina: In the Naadam, blood was shed, and lives were lost. Brown earth was stained crimson, and Xaela wept.

Cirina: But crimson is the dusk and the dawn. Death and rebirth. An ending to mark a new beginning.

Cirina: “We who are born are destined to die. As the seasons turn, we are born again.“ Thus spoke the first.

Cirina: So you see, we harbor no hatreds. The Naadam is the Naadam, and what comes after is what comes after!

Lyse: If you say so… The Dawn Throne first, then?

Cirina: Yes. And I shall accompany you!

[At the Dawn Throne. Magnai looks depressed.]

Magnai: The Sun is disinclined to entertain you at length. Speak your purpose in coming.

Lyse: <sigh> Humble as ever…

Magnai: Should I be humble in the presence of inferiors? I am a child of Azim, and you are not. Your triumph in the Naadam does not raise you to such heights.

[Baatu’s usual spot is empty.]

Magnai: Baatu will not be joining us. He was wounded in the Naadam.

Magnai: …His hurts are grave, and he requires rest. But he will walk again in time.

Magnai: Though it is no business of yours. Such pity does not become a khagan. We are not allies, traveler─far from it. The Naadam will come again, and with it our rule.

Magnai: I say again, why have you come? To bid us surrender the Dawn Throne to the Mol?

Cirina: N-Nay. The Mol are beholden to the will of the gods, and they would not have us reside here. The Oronir and the Buduga may remain.

Hien: We are for Yanxia, and wished to speak of your part in the coming war.

Magnai: Ah, the Domans and the ironmen. I remember our pact. Sound the call and the Oronir will answer.

Hien: Full glad am I to hear it. We have preparations to attend to, but will send for you soon.

Cirina: The gods are kind! I am sure the Oronir will prove a great boon in the days to come.

Magnai: Of the dusk…a maiden gentle and ethereal. A dancer in the morning mist. And a warrior besides…

Magnai: Look into my eyes, child! See you Azim? Are you my Nhaama!?

[He’s hitting on Cirina? Here I thought he had a thing for Sadu.]

Cirina: I…I know not of what you speak, Brother Magnai, but I am certain you are mistaken. Quite.

Lyse: We should get going. Right now.

[We meet with Sadu in the south by the closed pass to Yanxia.]

Sadu: Hmph. The khagan and his warriors.

Gosetsu: Greetings, my lady. We come to you on our journey south, bound for Yanxia where our comrades await us. How fare you and yours in the wake of the Naadam?

Sadu: Many were wounded. Some few to the death.

Sadu: …Resplendent were their souls in the chaos. It was a good battle─a good day to die. Soon we will greet them again.

Sadu: …And mayhap one who went before them also. Geser’s seed has quickened in his lover. When the child is born, we shall see who waits behind its eyes.

Sadu: Already we must look to the next Naadam. We must grow strong of body and mind, and your war will help us do so. Say the word and we will fly to the field.

Hien: Of that I have no doubt. For you are Dotharl.

Cirina: There is one more thing we would ask of you… The magicks you used to seal the passage to the south. Will you unmake them?

Sadu: If that be your wish.

Gosetsu: When next we come together, it will be on a great battlefield against a common foe. I trust you will fight with the same fervor you demonstrated during the Naadam.

Sadu: Hah! And you, ancient one, will be the demon I know you to be. Aught less would be a disappointment.

[The southern pass to Yanxia is open.]

Cirina: Sadu Khatun has done her part. This passage will deliver you to Doma.

Cirina: It is here we must part ways, until the day you call us to battle.

Lyse: It won’t be long, I know, but…take care of yourself, Cirina. And tell your grandmother and the others again how much we appreciate everything they did for us.

Cirina: I will. Oh, I nearly forgot! I have another gift for you.

Lyse: Oh, it’s…a red, um…? Wait, is this a banner of the Mol tribe?

Cirina: It is not the most practical of gifts, but we nevertheless wished to present it to you.

Cirina: I do not fully understand what has befallen Doma, or your homeland, Lyse. But I do understand that you and yours have suffered terribly.

Cirina: The Mol place their faith in the gods, and in turn they shepherd us. They watch over and keep us. We pray they show you the same favor.

Cirina: As it was in the Naadam, blood will be shed, your lands engulfed in a storm of fire and steel. Yet as it did here, it shall mark a new beginning there.

Cirina: May you ever walk in crimson. For in crimson there is life. There is liberation.

Hien: Thank you for your prayers, Cirina. We shall remember them.

Cirina: Until we meet again!

Hien: Right, then. To the House of the Fierce. With me, my friends!

Go on to Part 6: Yanxia Again

Return to Text Page Index