Stormblood Text 7: Return to Gyr Abania

 [Back in Limsa Lominsa]

Alphinaud: Here we are, home at last. I must say, the journey passed more quickly than I had expected.

Alisaie: That would be due to the absence of otherworldly interference, I expect.

Alphinaud: I-I should be glad if we did not speak of that unpleasantness again!

Alphinaud: Ahem. But in spite of all that and more, we return better for the experience─and, more importantly, triumphant.

Yugiri: Indeed. And with Doma freed of imperial oppression, it is only right that we turn our thoughts to the plight of Ala Mhigo.

Lyse: Well, I’m all for that, obviously, but I think you should go and see the refugees at Revenant’s Toll before doing anything else. They’ll be thrilled to hear what we’ve accomplished, and it’d sound best coming from you.

Yugiri: …Thank you. I shall do as you suggest.

[Admiral Merlwyb Bloefhiswyn, the leader of Limsa Lominsa, walks up.]

Merlwyb: I see I am not too late.

Alphinaud: Admiral! What are you doing here?

Merlwyb: The East Aldenard Trading Company informed me of your impending arrival. I have tidings I thought best to share with you in person.

Lyse: From Gyr Abania?

Merlwyb: Aye. The Alliance still holds the Wall, despite several imperial counterattacks. But we have been unable to press further into occupied territory.

 Merlwyb: Commander Kemp and his men, meanwhile, have made great strides toward rebuilding their depleted ranks. They have even taken it upon themselves to attempt some few operations…with mixed results, I am sorry to say. ‘Twas a complication arising from one such venture which moved me to seek you out.

Merlwyb: During a mission to transport wounded Resistance fighters to the Rising Stones, Krile Baldesion was taken prisoner.

 Alphinaud: Krile!? Do they know where she is being held?

Merlwyb: They do not. But your comrades were informed at once, and I am told Thancred is in Gyr Abania looking for her as we speak.

 Alphinaud: How could this have happened…? We must seek out Thancred without delay!

Alphinaud: …Nay. Krile taught me better than that. It would be unwise to act without first acquiring a full understanding of the situation…

Alphinaud: Thank you for informing us. Tired though we may be, we must make haste to Castrum Oriens. Pray excuse us, Admiral, Lady Yugiri.

[At Castrum Oriens]

Thancred: There you are! You have heard the news?

Alisaie: In broad strokes from Admiral Bloefhiswyn. What happened?

Thancred: Krile and a squadron of Resistance fighters were escorting Y’shtola and several other wounded to the Rising Stones for further treatment when they were ambushed by imperial forces.

Thancred: Arenvald and his men fought valiantly, but in the chaos─

Arenvald: I will make no excuses! We failed to protect her.

Alisaie: Do not be so hard on yourself. You protected Y’shtola and the others, did you not? Tell us about the attack.

Arenvald: It was the Skulls. They knew a path across the Wall we hadn’t found. We thought we were safe once we reached the Black Shroud. <sigh> We weren’t expecting an ambush…

Arenvald: During the fighting, I caught a glimpse of their leader’s memories. It was all planned.

Alphinaud: The advantage of having a Walker in the field.

Arenvald: I’m not as strong in the Echo as Auric is, of course. Half the time, it’s enough to knock me on my arse, like I’ve taken a dose of concentrated aether…

Lyse: So you walked in Fordola’s memories. What did you see?

Arenvald: A woman promised the world─education, training, citizenship─all that and more if she but sold her soul. A traitor to her people, a pretender to her masters…

Arenvald: …It was Zenos himself that gave the order. Told her to return with Krile Baldesion─alive.

Thancred: Our agents have been carefully monitoring imperial communications since the attack, but have yet to intercept any transmissions making reference to Krile or her current whereabouts.

Alphinaud: If their orders were to bring Krile back alive, we can save her if we move quickly enough.

Thancred: As you say, time is of the essence, which is why I intend to slip past enemy lines and see what information I can uncover on my own.

Thancred: In the meantime, it is up to you and our allies to command the imperials’ undivided attention. Lots of shouting and explosions and so forth. Keep them distracted, and I will find her.

Alphinaud: …Very well. I wish I could do more to aid you, but I understand.

 Thancred: Commander Kemp is on his way to the castrum as we speak for a meeting with General Aldynn. If you hurry, you could find him on the road, and discuss the situation beforehand.

Lyse: I think Auric and I are going to go and see Conrad like he suggested. You all wait here.

[At the river bank]

Conrad: Well, well! Isn’t this a pleasant surprise! It fills my heart with joy to see you two hale and healthy.

M’naago: Welcome home, Lyse, Auric. I’m sure you’ve heard about Krile by now…

Lyse: That’s why we’re here. I’m still not sure what to think about it…but we’ll save her. We’ll definitely save her somehow.

Conrad: Aye, I’ve no doubt that you will. You look stronger for your time in the Far East, lass, and that’s good news for Krile.

Lyse: I’d like to think so…But enough about me─how is everything with you and the Resistance?

Conrad: Better than when you last saw us, and no mistake. Arenvald’s been a godssend. Him and M’naago and all the other youngbloods have achieved so much in such a short time.

 

Conrad: We’ve been blessed to receive the support of the Flames’ Ala Mhigan Brigade, who’ve been instrumental in freeing our countrymen from labor camps throughout Gyr Abania, as well as some political prisoners from the city proper, believe it or not.

Conrad: Together with the refugees returning from Ul’dah and elsewhere, we’ve had no shortage of able-bodied men and women eager to join the cause.

Lyse: I knew you wouldn’t stop fighting, even after what happened at the Reach.

Conrad: Force of habit, I suppose. Though we’ve come a long way, we still have far to go. But we’ll fight for every ilm, and sooner or later, we’ll get to Ala Mhigo.

Conrad: But listen to me prattling on when we should be making haste to Castrum Oriens. There’s no point you telling me everything now when you’ll only have to say it all again for the Flame General’s benefit.

Lyse: You’re right. I’ll go on ahead and tell the others that you’re not far off.

[Back in Castrum Oriens]

Pipin: You have spoken with Thancred, then? Good. Take heart─if anyone can track her down, it’s him.

Pipin: I believe I hear Commander Kemp’s party approaching. If you are ready to address Father and the others, let us be about it.

Raubahn: There you are─and there is Commander Kemp, I see. I know you are eager to speak of our next move, but we would first hear more of your last. Tell us of your deeds in Doma.

Pipin: Pray join me in welcoming our Scion allies, but recently returned from their mission to the Far East. We have been most eager to hear a firsthand account of your time there, eventful as we understand it was.

Alisaie: Very well, allow me…

[Alisae fills everyone in.]

Raubahn: …Such victories are rarely won without sacrifice. But the prize is worth the price. Doma free, after all these years.

Conrad: Bloody hells… Flooding their own castle for a better chance at victory…We could learn a thing or two from that lad.

 Pipin: Our agents report a flurry of communications between Garlemald and Ala Mhigo in recent days. ‘Tis plain they are in the midst of deliberating their response to the Doman uprising.

 Raubahn: Good. Every imperial unit in occupied territory will be on the lookout for civil unrest. The fear of leaving critical locations undefended will make commanders think twice about committing their forces─giving us a chance to seize the initiative.

 Conrad: We have a chance, aye─mayhap the last one we’re ever gonna get.While we’ve done our best to rebuild the Resistance, the imperials have only increased their efforts to root out sympathizers.

Conrad: If we keep on playing for smaller prizes, it’s only a matter of time before they crush us again. And that we won’t come back from.

Pipin: A swift advance seems best for all concerned. Not least poor Mistress Krile.

 Raubahn: Then let us waste no more time. The campaign for Ala Mhigan liberation begins now!

Raubahn: Our first objective will be to capture Castellum Velodyna. Take the bridge, and the whole of the Fringes will be ours. From there, we can push east towards the Peaks.

 Raubahn: I name this operation Rhalgr’s Beacon. For as Rhalgr once sent His star to guide our ancestors to these lands, so too shall it see us home!

Raubahn: The success of this operation is paramount. So long as the Empire holds Castellum Velodyna, the main host cannot advance.

Raubahn: Zenos knows this, which is why he has ordered Fordola and her men to see to the bridge’s defense.

Lyse: So we’ll get to fight the Skulls again…

Raubahn: The Butcher is not to be underestimated. She is decisive, ruthless, and feared by foes and friends alike. But we have a plan to defeat her.

Raubahn: First, we send an Alliance force down the main road, signaling our intention to mount an all-out assault. The garrison will muster their forces and prepare for a protracted battle…

Raubahn: However, they will soon find that we are ill prepared for their counterattack. Our men will begin to break ranks and flee.

Conrad: I see… Show them your backs and give them a target too tempting not to pursue.

Raubahn: Aye, Fordola is too aggressive not to press the advantage. She will order her men to give chase.

Raubahn: We lure them as far as East End, where the commanders will rally their forces and attempt to hold their ground. If all goes to plan, we should be able to keep the greater part of their garrison occupied.

Conrad: …Leaving my comrades and I to tackle the bridge’s remaining defenders. Very clever, I’m sure. But what are we to do if the imperials smell a rat and return before we’ve taken the place?

Raubahn: I don’t need you to take Velodyna, Commander Kemp. All I need is for you to fly your flag from its tower.

Alphinaud: You mean to trick them into believing that the bridge has fallen!

Raubahn: Aye. We convince them Velodyna is lost, hit them hard with our reinforcements, and watch them go running for the hills.

Raubahn: Then, when the dust has settled, we regroup at the castellum. What say you?

Conrad: It’s a bold plan…but a good one. We’ll do it.

Alphinaud: In that case, we shall support both the Resistance and the Alliance forces.

Alphinaud: Auric, Lyse, Arenvald─I ask that you accompany Commander Kemp. Alisaie and I will remain with the Flame General.

Conrad: We will return to Rhalgr’s Reach and make our preparations. As soon as they are complete, we will join you in the field. Godsspeed!

[At Rhalgr’s Reach]

Conrad: In case you haven’t noticed, the flag flying above Velodyna is bloody massive. It’d take a dozen men to change it, and far too long besides. But there’s no need for all that─right, M’naago?

M’naago: Not so long as I have my griffin and a satchel of glamour prisms, no!

Conrad: Arenvald, you’re in charge of the runners between us and the Alliance. No linkpearls. Lyse, I want you to look in on the squadrons─make sure they’ve got everything they need. Everybody clear?

All: Aye, sir!

Conrad: All forces are to depart for Castellum Corvi when ready. That will be all. Auric, stay with me a moment, if you would.

Conrad: There’s a few men I’d like you to look in on personally. Each of them has lost people, and I can tell that it weighs on their hearts…

Conrad: There have been a lot of new faces since last you were here, so it’s best if I just tell you where to look. One’s an officer you’ll find in the Barber, another’s an older fellow who likes to pass the time on the shore of Starfall. The last is a fiery young lad from Little Ala Mhigo, who I’m told trains by himself by the river to the Fringes. You’ll know them when you see them. Come and find me when you’ve finished.

[Therapist of Light on duty!]

Swarthy Resistance Fighter: I say, if it isn’t the lad who helped me find the Ward I misplaced!

Swarthy Resistance Fighter: Ah, but there I go again treating you as an equal! It wasn’t till after you’d gone that one of my comrades pulled me aside and told me it was only the bleedin’ hero of Eorzea who’d taken time out of his busy day to help me!

Swarthy Resistance Fighter: Well, what is done is done. But know that I will fight with every onze of my strength in this coming battle, and the next and the next! Mayhap that will serve to repay the favor. Fare you well!

Hot-blooded Youth: …Auric, am I right? I doubt you remember me, but I’ll never forget you─saved my life in Little Ala Mhigo, you did.

Hot-blooded Youth: Wilred and the rest of us had got it into our heads that if we had enough crystals, we could summon Rhalgr like the Amalj’aa summoned their god. Thankfully, you put a stop to it.

Hot-blooded Youth: Ever hear about what happened to Wilred? Joined the Braves when they came calling, only to turn up dead one day. Never found out how or why, but I reckon it doesn’t matter. Dead’s dead, after all.

Hot-blooded Youth: But at least he died doing what he thought was right. And maybe that’s the best folks like us can hope for, eh? Not that I’m in any hurry, mind!

Ala Mhigan Brigade Officer: Wait, I know you! Lieutenant Seagard! It is an honor to meet you!

Ala Mhigan Brigade Officer: I was living hand to mouth in Ul’dah, but decided to enlist in the Flames after I heard tales of your derring-do. And now, as fate would have it, I’ve been sent here to join in the fight for my homeland’s liberation.

Ala Mhigan Brigade Officer: Ah, but this is no time to talk. I’ve got to prepare for the operation! Take care, Lieutenant! We’ll give those imperial whoresons what for!

[Back to Conrad]

Conrad: You’ve had a word with the men I mentioned, then?

Conrad: As I’m sure you noticed, they’ve another thing in common aside from tragedy:  you’ve touched each of their lives in one way or another. But that’s not the reason I wanted you to speak with them.

Conrad: A man who’s lived in Gyr Abania his entire life, who bore witness to the realities of the occupation for twenty unbroken years…

Conrad: A man who fled Ala Mhigo in search of a new life, who swore to serve another nation, only for fate to conspire to send him back here…

Conrad: A youth born on foreign soil, who never knew his parents’ homeland, yet nevertheless felt kinship with our cause…

Conrad: Three men, three stories, three reasons. Yet all belong to the Resistance. In growing larger, we’ve grown more diverse, and while there is good in that, there’s also the potential for strife and discord.

Conrad: It’d take a special sort to lead such men to Ala Mhigo, don’t you think?

[“Good thing they’ve got you.”]

Conrad: For now, aye, but not forever. And, to be frank, I don’t always know what to say to the ones who left, not to mention the youths.

Conrad: Nay, the Resistance needs a leader with a wider view. Someone who’s not lived their whole life in Gyr Abania; who’s known death and hardship but not been ground down by them.

Conrad: Aye. As you may have guessed, I’ve been thinking of asking Lyse. But it’ll be her decision in the end.

Conrad: I trust I needn’t say that this conversation is just between you and me?

Conrad: Good lad. Right, then─we’d best head to Castellum Corvi. Or what remains of it, rather.

[Castellum Corvi]

Conrad: We’ll lead the way while the other units launch their own separate attacks. Remember that we need to hold out until M’naago sees to the flag.

Conrad: Got your gear in order? Any moment now…

[Smoke billows up in the distance.]

Conrad: It’s begun, then.

 M’naago: Good. It’s the waiting that drives me mad. Standing around, knowing what’s to come. I’ll never get used to it.

Lyse: We’ve come this far, haven’t we? We just need to make it the rest of the way!

M’naago: Right!

[Arenvald runs in and gives a thumbs-up.]

Conrad: Looks like the bastards went for the bait. The bridge is ours for the taking!

Conrad: Now remember, M’naago:  I want you to make for the tower as soon as you see an opening and get that flag flying. We’ll see to the fighting.

M’naago: I won’t let you down, sir!

Conrad: Come, then! Rhalgr’s star shall burn bright this day!

Conrad Farsight: Quickly now! We’ve got to reach Velodyna before General Aldynn and his men are overwhelmed!

Lyse: Scouts, dead ahead! If they see us, they’ll warn the others!

Arenvald: Not if we kill them first!

[FIGHT!]

 Arenvald: That’s the last of ’em! Let’s keep moving!

Conrad Farsight: No sign of sentries. General Aldynn must have his hands full.

Arenvald: Then let’s seize the bridge and be done with it!

Arenvald: They left a token force behind. Nothing we can’t handle!

12th Legion Predator: Fire at will! Kill every last one of the savages!

Lyse: Cannons! They could use those to fire on Naago!

[FIGHT!]

Lyse: That’s the last of the cannons! It should be safe for Naago now!

 Fordola: Think you’re clever with all your little tricks? Think again! None of you are leaving here alive!

[One on one FIGHT with Fordola!]

Fordola rem Lupis: You may have survived the Reach, hero, but this time you won’t be so lucky.

Fordola rem Lupis: This bridge belongs to the Empire! I am not about to give it up!

Fordola rem Lupis: Hero or not, you’ll die just like all the rest!

Fordola rem Lupis: This is MY BRIDGE! You are NOT taking this from me!

Lyse: Naago made it! We’ve only got to hold on a little longer…

[Fordola is pushed back.]

Fordola: Gods damn you!

Lyse: No more running. No more hiding. Let’s finish this!

[A battle horn sounds.]

Lyse: Look! The flag!

[M’naago has gotten the Ala Mihgo flag glamour in place and stand atop the bridge sounding her battle horn.]

Conrad: The bridge is ours! Ala Mhigo, Ala Mhigo, Ala Mhigo!

Fordola: Stand your ground! It’s not over yet!

[Fordola throws a smoke bomb and her patrol withdraws.]

Lyse: Damn it!

Conrad: Let them go, Lyse! We’ve done what we came here to do. That’s enough for now.

[Elsewhere in the Fringes, the Imperial and Alliance forces are engaged in heavy fighting. 

Then they hear the battle horn sound and look up to see the flag of Ala Mhigo flying over Castellum Velodyna.]

Imperial Pilus Prior: Velodyna is fallen!? Impossible!

Raubahn: We have them on the run! Forward! No mercy!

Imperial Pilus Prior: Regroup, regroup… We have to regroup! All units─ Fall back!

[As the Imperials retreat, Raubahn smiles up at the Ala Mhigan flag flying in the wind.]

Skull Swordsman: Commander! The 4th Cohort has been routed! We’ll be at the mercy of the enemy’s reinforcements if we don’t fall back now!

Fordola: Idiot! We have the stronger force by far! Don’t be taken in by their tricks! Or would you rather tell Zenos you lost to this rabble!?

Skull Swordsman: No, but if the snakes betray us in the confusion, we’ll have no way out! I’m begging you, Commander─give the order, or we’ll all die here!

Fordola: …As common traitors who drank of muddied waters. For all the good it did us.

Fordola: Skulls, with me! The day is theirs, and so is this bastard bridge. Someone bring the snake!

Lyse: …I suppose. It’s our first victory, isn’t it? And that has to be worth something.

Lyse: It’s a shame Fordola got away, but we did what we came here to do.

Lyse: I have to remind myself it’s just the first step…but it’s a big one. We’re going to take it back…all of it─one ilm at a time if we have to!

Conrad: There’s still a chance that some imperials are holed up inside the castellum. We’ll need to search it top to bottom to be sure it’s safe.

Conrad: In the meantime, I want you to rendezvous with the main host. Keep your weapons at the ready─there’s a chance you might come face-to-face with soldiers on the run en route.

Conrad: On second thought, it might be prudent for you to do a preemptive sweep of the region for soldiers that have gone to ground. We shouldn’t afford them any time to regroup and launch a counterattack.

Conrad: When you’ve judged your work to be done, report to General Aldynn in Bittermill.

[At Bittermill]

Raubahn: Lieutenant. All’s well at the bridge?

Raubahn: Good, good. The fighting has died down here too, as you can see.

Raubahn: Pipin left but a moment ago with a contingent of troops to occupy Velodyna. If and when the imperials return, they’ll find us dug in behind their own walls.

Alphinaud: I could not have hoped for a better outcome, General. Splendidly done.

Raubahn: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’ll take more than one castellum to turn the tide.

Raubahn: My men and I will deal with the remaining enemy forces. Scions, I bid you return to Commander Kemp and his men.

Alphinaud: Delight not overmuch in victory─not when there are battles left to fight…

Alphinaud: Our work here is finished. Our Resistance allies are waiting.

[At Castellum Velodyna]

Conrad: Back so soon? I suppose the General and his men had matters well in hand.

Conrad: The vice marshal and his men showed up not long after you left. If the gods are good, there’ll be no one left to fight…

Conrad: I know you’re not one for waiting, but if you’ll bear with us─

Resistance Guard: Commander Kemp! Marshal Tarupin reports that their sweep of the castellum’s interior has been completed!

Conrad: So it’s finally over, eh? Pray extend to him my deepest thanks.

Alisaie: It’s official, then. Castellum Velodyna is well and truly ours. Mayhap this calls for─ Wait, where is M’naago?

Conrad: She took her bird and flew off towards the Peering Stones─the village of the M tribe, where she was born.

Conrad: I doubt that the imperials who fled Velodyna had a mind to give them trouble on their way back east, but she was nevertheless worried, so I gave her leave to go and see that her people were safe.

Alphinaud: Though I pray you are right, ‘twould be best if M’naago were not alone if she should encounter the enemy.

Lyse: Agreed! Let’s all go to the Peering Stones and make sure that everything is all right.

Conrad: If that is your wish, then I’ve no objection. Just let the guard know when you wish to cross.

[Near the Peering Stones]

Lyse: The path to the village is through a tunnel just east of here. Follow me!

[In the M tribe village]

M’naago: Ah, you’ve come. Welcome, friends, to my village. My home.

Alphinaud: How fare your people?

M’naago: Good, all things considered. Better than the Ananta, at any rate…

They’ve sent an emissary. I’ll take you to her.

Lyse: We’re here to help. Will you tell us what happened?

Vira Battlemaid: Aye. It began with a quarrel between the imperials and the Qalyana.

M’naago: The Qalyana are another Ananta tribe─the strongest and the most influential.

M’naago: Unlike the Vira, they want no part of our troubles. They swore fealty to the Empire and were content to remain within their borders.

Vira Battlemaid: Jussst ssso. The Qalyana forsssook their pride and the fight, and yielded to Garlemald long ago.

Vira Battlemaid: But then a new commander was sssent to hold the black bridge. She demanded the Qalyana sssurrender a hossstage, thisss Butcher.

Lyse: Fordola. It doesn’t make sense, though… The Vira are the ones working with the Resistance. Why would she threaten the Qalyana?

Vira Battlemaid: Because she is ignorant, like all imperials. She knows not the difference between Qalyana and Vira, nor does she care to learn.

Alphinaud: I see. All Fordola knew for sure was that the Resistance would come from the west. She reasoned, therefore, that if the Ananta on the east bank turned their coats, she would be trapped. I take it the Qalyana had no choice but to oblige her.

Vira Battlemaid: No, they did not. The imperials left with the Qalyana broodmother’s own daughter, Anamika.

Vira Battlemaid: Long days and nightsss she looked out on the black bridge, weeping for her child. Until you came.

Vira Battlemaid: The broodmother knew at once which way the winds would blow. She and her warriors met with the fleeing imperials in the road and demanded that her daughter be returned.

Lyse: Bad idea… Fordola’s not the kind to take threats lying down.

Vira Battlemaid: You know her well. The Butcher turned her blade to Anamika and bade the Qalyana move aside.

Vira Battlemaid: But the broodmother would not yield.

Alisaie: I know where this is going…

Vira Battlemaid: The Qalyana sssurrounded the imperials, one of whom, whether out of fear or ssstupidity, cut the child down. There was naught that could be done.

Alisaie: What madness…

Vira Battlemaid: The true madnesss was yet to come. For in her dessspair, the Qalyana broodmother cried out for her daughter to be ressstored to life. She bessseeched Sri Lakshmi’s intercession.

Alphinaud: She summoned a primal, then and there?

Vira Battlemaid: That she did, if only for an inssstant. Bereft of courage and honor, the broodmother sssought sssolace in her faith.

Vira Battlemaid: The imperials fled in terror at the sssight of the goddesss, abandoning these lands to the Ananta…

 Vira Battlemaid: Now the Qalyana bid usss make pilgrimage, to pay proper ressspectsss. Yet though we Vira revere Sri Lakshmi as the holiessst of the holy, we will not prossstrate ourssselves before Her.

Alisaie: And so you turned to us.

Vira Battlemaid: Aye. All who have fought with the Resissstance have heard tell of the warrior. The eikon-ssslayer.

 Alphinaud: I believe we have heard enough. Inconvenient though the timing may be, if a primal has indeed been summoned, we can scarce afford to ignore it. We must needs discuss how best to resolve this situation.

Alphinaud: Ahem. At the risk of sounding hopelessly naive…there may yet be a way to avoid a violent confrontation.

Alphinaud: In the past, I fear I have been rather too willing to accept that we have no other recourse than to risk our lives─or rather your life─to address these threats.

Alphinaud: Yet the primals we have faced thus far have demonstrated a variety of temperaments and objectives. Ravana may delight in battle, but Ramuh would sooner keep to the forests with his children.

Alphinaud: Ere we decide to challenge Sri Lakshmi, it would seem wise to learn more of her nature from those who summoned her unto this world.

Vira Battlemaid: If that is your will, then ssso be it. To the north will you find our village. Sssarisha shall unfold all.

Alisaie: We shall leave at once. M’naago, can you inform our comrades at the bridge of what happened?

M’naago: Of course. Be safe, my friends.

[In Vira Nilya]

Sarisha: …We do not often receive guestsss. What is the purpossse of your visit?

Alphinaud: Greetings and well met. We are the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, and we come seeking Sarisha of the Vira. You are she, are you not?

Alphinaud: You have petitioned us for aid and succor, and we intend to provide them, but we would first learn more of Sri Lakshmi, that we might better understand the nature of the threat she poses to you.

Sarisha: A sssimple requessst, and one which I shall gladly oblige.

Sarisha: In the beginning was Sri Lakshmi. We were created in Her image─daughters blesssed with Her beauty. Her breath became ours; Her ssserenity our sssolace. There is naught She would not give.

Alphinaud: Hm. ‘Twas the Qalyana broodmother’s desire to bring about her daughter’s resurrection which first called forth Sri Lakshmi from the aether. That being the case, I rather doubt the goddess will be spoiling for a fight.

Alisaie: That would depend. The primal’s motives will have been colored by the summoner’s state of mind─namely, that of a grieving mother who had just borne witness to her daughter’s murder. Though she apparently craved a miracle, she may also have harbored thoughts of vengeance. Moreover, the Qalyana’s conception of Sri Lakshmi may differ from that of the Vira.

Sarisha: Thisss is true. The Vira and the Qalyana do indeed regard the Lady of Blisss in different ways.

Sarisha: To the Vira, Sri Lakshmi embodies freedom. She would not sssuffer Her daughters to be bound to another’s will. And ssso we ssstand with the Resissstance againssst the Empire, and give our lives for the cause.

Sarisha: To the Qalyana, however, She embodies transsscendental beauty, which they ssstrive to create through their craft. To shape cryssstal is lesss art and more ritual─a sssacred duty wherein each tribute is imbued with a fragment of the sssoul.

Sarisha: The imperials do not interfere with thisss holy work, and ssso the Qalyana were content to turn inward and ignore our plight.

Alisaie: …Until reality asserted itself, and they summoned a primal. A fever dream to soothe their aching hearts.

Lyse: But surely they can see that it won’t do any good! The imperials will still rule these lands. Nothing will change!

Alisaie: The Ananta will. The Qalyana bade the Vira make pilgrimage to “pay proper respects,” remember? Those who do not wish to partake of their primal’s bliss will be made to do so.

Lyse: Not while we’re around they won’t!

Sarisha: Though our beliefsss are not the sssame, we are ssstill kin to the Qalyana. Will you help them to sssee reason?

[“You can count on us.”]

Sarisha: Then we shall, for without you we may be powerlesss to ssstop them.

Alisaie: If we do not act quickly, more lives will be lost, more families torn apart…more children made to suffer.

Lyse: Then it’s settled─we’re going to find that primal and put an end to this!

Sarisha: My sssister Vajra will guide you to Djanan Qhat…and I shall pray for your successs.

Vajra: Well met, Ssscions. I am Vajra. She who shines bright and unbroken.

Vajra: I ssstand ready. We leave upon your command.

[Near Djanan Qhat.]

Vajra: Djanan Qhat. The path leads to an entrance above.

Vajra: Within is an aetheryte. You must use it to enter.

Alphinaud: Understood. With me, everyone!

[We reach the aetheryte and use it. We watch from hiding as the Qalyana Broodmother, Shanti, beseeches her goddess.]

Shanti: Why, Missstresss… Why does my Anamika ssslumber ssstill?

Lakshmi: Look thee on her face, sssupplicant. Thy prayer hath been anssswered.

Lakshmi: Flesh sssundered hath been made whole. Blood ssspilt runneth through her veins. Breath ssstolen filleth her breassst.

Shanti: But she hears not her mother’s words, nor sssees her mother’s face! She…she is sssilent…and empty…

Lakshmi: Only the vesssel may be remade. Not so the flame which flickered within. Her soul hath been scattered to the four winds.

[Alisaie jumps up and moves out of her hiding spot.]

Alisaie: Now do you see her promises for what they are!?

Alphinaud: Alisaie! Have you gone mad!?

Alisaie: Mayhap I have! But I refuse to stand by and watch yet another tragedy unfold!

Shanti: Who intrudes upon thisss sssacred ground!? Imperials thirsssting for blood!?

Alisaie: No! We come not to shed blood but to save you from the false god who would lead you astray!

Alisaie: I understand how you feel, I do. You loved her with all your heart, but when the moment came, you still couldn’t save her. The anguish, the anger…I know it only too well.

Alisaie: But I also know where this path leads! To embrace a primal is to condemn yourself to an endless cycle of despair. You will never know peace!

Lakshmi: A worm-eaten heart may find peace and ssserenity in ssservice. In beauty and grace. Thisss hath ever been my promissse. Naught elssse.

Alisaie: You tempt them with visions of things that can never be, and leave them bereft and wanting!

Alisaie: No illusion, however sweet, can change the fact that your daughter is gone. Remember her as she was! Do not suffer this piteous shade to tarnish her memory!

[Lyse runs out to join Alisaie]

Lyse: For every prayer that primal “answers,” it’ll demand payment in kind. Do you have any idea how many more Ananta will die to feed its hunger for crystals!?

Lakshmi: They would have thee sssuffer man’s ssspite and live in fear. Far better to dwell in my beauteousss dream than endure ssso ugly a reality.

Lyse: She’s wrong! We hate the Empire as much as you! If you’d just listen─

Lakshmi: Poor, misssguided children. I would ssspare you the tormentsss of thisss cruel and misshapen world. Come, basssk in my radiance. Let it fill your heartsss and free you from your burdens.

[Sri Lakshmi throws several balls of blue fire at our group. We dive for cover.]

Lakshmi: Abide in misery then, fools. The Ananta are more deserving of my blesssing…

Lakshmi: Leave these lands and my dreamers be. I will not warn you a second time.

Alisaie: I know, I know, it was stupid and foolish but…but I had to try, Auric. I had to.

Alisaie: I had to try…and I failed. So you have to fight. There is no other way.

[“Never stop trying.”]

Alisaie: It means a lot to hear you say that. It does. But it doesn’t make it any easier to have to ask you to face that…that thing.

Alisaie: We can but do that which is within our power. Lyse, Alphinaud, and I will go and seize their crystal stores. This will not happen again.

Alisaie: And you… When it is finished…we will be waiting for you.

[FIGHT!  Down with the goddess of beauty and love!]

Lyse: You did it again. You saved them. I just wish I could’ve been more help…

Lyse: So…it looks like the Ananta did have a mountain of crystals after all. Like every other tribe. Gods, we’re all such slaves to our weaknesses…

Shanti: You! You ssslew our Missstresss! She was our hope, our sssalvation! Is there no end to your cruelty!?

Lyse: Listen to me, please! I know that you’re only trying to protect yourselves because you feel frightened and alone…

Lyse: But that’s how we all feel, don’t you see? If we could just turn to each other for help instead of the gods, I’m sure we could find a way to live in peace!

Lyse: Your crystals are important to you, aren’t they? Reflections of your souls, right? Well, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice something so precious to a primal…

Shanti: Who are you to quessstion our choice? You who fight without fear? We wish only to live in peace, and if thisss be the price we mussst pay, then ssso be it!

Lyse: I know there’s nothing I can say to convince you. But I hope that one day you look back and see we only ever wanted the same thing.

Shanti: Begone, damn you! Ssspare me your hollow words and leave me to mourn.

Lyse: I’ll go…but it doesn’t mean I’m giving up.

Lyse: Gyr Abania is our home too, and one way or another, we’re going to have to learn to live together.

Lyse: Come on. Alphinaud and Alisaie are waiting.

[Meanwhile, in the Royal Palace in Ala Mhigo]

Imperial Tribunus Militum: Ah, the savage returns. And with her tail firmly between her legs. Beaten by beastmen, I hear.

Imperial Pilus Prior: ‘Twas a shameful display, by all accounts. She may have curried the viceroy’s favor with her bold promises, but in the end, she’s just another plodding bungler like the rest of her kind.

Imperial Tribunus Militum: Strange, you would think him a better judge of character. Then again, I hear she’s not averse to a more physical mode of persuasion.

Imperial Pilus Prior: Hah, I thought she rose through the ranks rather quickly. But no longer. If only she had been content with her lot, she might have lived to see the morrow.

[Fordola grimaces, but walks past them and drops to one knee at the foot of Zenos’ throne.]

Fordola: Fordola rem Lupis, commander of the Crania Lupi, reporting as ordered.

Zenos Yae Galvus: …Why do you tremble so?

Zenos Yae Galvus: Could it be that the Empire’s Butcher is afraid? That she who walks with death is terrified of her own?

Fordola: I am terrified of dying having achieved naught. Gladly would I give my life to win a great victory on the battlefield, had I but the strength.

Zenos Yae Galvus: Alas, you do not. Indeed, you are weak. And born of this weakness is a blind fervor. A raging inferno which threatens to consume not only you, but everyone around you.

Fordola: Yes, my lord.

Zenos Yae Galvus: You were defeated by the Resistance on several occasions. You misjudged the Ananta and spurred them into summoning an eikon. Have you anything to say?

Fordola: I do not, my lord. My failures are my own. I am prepared to accept your judgment.

Zenos Yae Galvus: And that is very admirable. However, I’ve had enough of this dumb show. Give voice to that hunger I see in your eyes, or I will pluck them from your head.

[Zenos puts his hand under Fordola’s chin and jerks her head up so she has to look him in the eyes.]

Fordola: I…I want…

Fordola: I want to make them pay! All of them! Everyone who ever mocked or looked down on me─I want the power to make them pay!

Zenos Yae Galvus: …Hm. Very well.

Zenos Yae Galvus: Then I shall give you a chance. A chance to transcend your mortal limits. Assuming, that is, you are prepared to wager your life for such power.

Fordola: Transcend, my lord…?

Fordola: I came here prepared to die. Tell me what I must do.

[Zenos raises his hand to signal someone. An academic-looking Hyuran man in a caster’s robe and engineer’s monocle walks out. Could this be the mysterious Lord Aulus?]

Vajra: You have done us a great ssservice this day. Long shall my sssisters sssing the praises of the eikon-ssslayer.

Vajra: Let usss bear word to them of Sri Lakshmi’s passsing. Come, friends─to Vira Nilya.

[At Vira Nilya]

Sarisha: Ahh… The winds whissspered of your successs…and your eyes confirm their tessstimony. The Lady of Blisss no longer holds our Qalyana sssisters in Her thrall. For thisss we thank you.

Alisaie: Auric did the deed. We were but witnesses to his heroism.

Alisaie: However, I fear this is only the beginning, for there is no cure for that which drives the desperate to beseech the gods for salvation. Should they wish to use their crystals to summon Sri Lakshmi again, naught can be done to stop them.

Sarisha: We ignore our sssisters’ plight at our peril. Thisss we know. We shall endeavor to show them another path ssso that the day you ssspeak of never comes.

Lyse: We’re all in this together─Ala Mhigans and Ananta. We understand that. Hopefully, in time, they will too.

Sarisha: You and yours will ever be friends of the Vira. On that you have my word.

Lyse: We should be getting back to the Peering Stones. Thank you again, Sarisha. For everything.

[At the Peering Stones]

M’naago: Welcome back! Conrad and Marshal Tarupin came to render aid─but I hear that won’t be necessary…

Lyse: It won’t. Sri Lakshmi’s gone. Ah, but I should probably start at the beginning…

M’naago: Incredible. I don’t know what to say… If you hadn’t been there to stop her, who knows where it would’ve ended.

Conrad: You’ve saved a lot of lives, Auric. Take pride in that.

Pipin: It must be said that this is something of an unprecedented situation. Previous summonings were, to my knowledge, planned well in advance by a tribe as a whole.

Alphinaud: Indeed. There are several aspects of this incident which bear further investigation. In any event, the Qalyana’s supply of crystals must remain limited for the foreseeable future, and ambient aether levels closely observed.

Pipin: Understood. The Alliance will consult with the Resistance and the Vira on how best to enforce said restrictions.

Alphinaud: Thank you, Vice Marshal. To other matters, then. What news of the imperials?

Pipin: None─which itself is troubling. It seems as though the Skulls and the remainder of the garrison have fully withdrawn into the Peaks. We’ve seen neither hide nor hair of them since Velodyna.

Pipin: Regardless of their reasons, our path is clear. Father has decided that it is time to advance east.

Lyse: Finally!

Pipin: …He was also most emphatic that you be spared further duties for the present. You are to rest. It would not do for the Warrior of Light to collapse from exhaustion during the march.

Pipin: We may not be as strong or as quick as him, but we are soldiers nonetheless. We can deal with the imperials.

Conrad: Aye. You’ve earned this respite, so enjoy it. And the same goes for you, M’naago. You’ve been away from your family too long─don’t deny it.

M’naago: …As you say, sir. Thank you. We’ll make the most of our time here.

M’naago: Heh heh, looks like it’s up to me and mine to give you lot a proper welcome.

M’naago: My mother prepared a special meal for this occasion, and I have it on good authority that hers is the finest cooking this side of the Velodyna!

M’rahz Nunh: Honored guests, I pray you partake of our humble offerings as we give thanks for your many valiant deeds.

Alphinaud: Thank you, sir, for this warm welcome. We are honored to break bread with you and your family.

M’hahtoa: Come, come, eat your fill of our food, and drink deep of our spirits. There is more than enough for all.

Lyse: Well, when you put it that way─don’t mind if I do!

[Outside the house]

Lyse: She wasn’t kidding when she said her mother could cook.

Lyse: You know, seeing her with her family…I can’t help thinking of my own.

Lyse: How my father would come home from a hunt with dinner on his shoulder, and Yda would prepare it with herbs and spices… Our mother died when I was little, so she did most of the cooking…

Lyse: We didn’t have much, but we had each other. And that was enough for me.

Lyse: But they wouldn’t let us have even that. Theodoric, Gaius… Of course Father and Yda had to fight. I would have too, if I’d been older. But they didn’t have to die…

Lyse: It never ends, does it? They call us beasts…and they treat us like them. They push and they push and they…until someone pushes back. Until someone takes up arms or…or summons a god. A false god.

Lyse: If the Twelve are watching us, what are they thinking?

Lyse: What are they thinking when they see the strong hurt the weak? When people fight and die, and nothing gets better, and it just goes on and on and on…

[“You’d have to ask them.”]

Lyse: …I don’t think the gods listen to people like me.

Lyse: Thanks for listening. I know I was just rambling…but I feel better somehow.

Lyse: Who knows what the answers are─or if there even are any. Either way, life goes on, and we’ve got to…go with it. Sorry, that sounded better in my head. I must be getting tired. Time to turn in, I think.

Lyse: Tomorrow’s another day, eh? Let’s see what it brings. Sleep well, Auric.

[In the morning]

Alphinaud: There is something to be said for a home-cooked meal, is there not?

Alphinaud: We must cherish these moments, fleeting as they are. The fight will always be there, waiting for us to return…

Alphinaud: I trust you are well rested and refreshed, yes? Then let us return to the front.

Alphinaud: The greater part of the Alliance forces should have advanced into the Peaks by now, but I expect we will pass many of our comrades on the road east.

Alphinaud: There is a checkpoint along the way, as I recall, but we will need only to identify ourselves to the soldiers in order to pass.

[In the pass]

Alliance Recruit: Scions! A pleasure to have you with us again.

Alliance Recruit: You’ll be happy to hear we’ve taken Ala Ghiri, and have already begun fortifying it as our new base of operations in the Peaks. Give a shout to the lads as you pass, eh?

Go on to Part 8: The Peaks

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