Those that will soon journey to Eorzea for the first time had the fortune (or misfortune) of not running into a man that would forever change the face of the realm by bringing about the Seventh Umbral Era.
Nael Van Darnus was ultimately the main villain of Final Fantasy XIV 1.0. What were his motivations behind Project Meteor? What were the events that lead to the invasion of Eorzea by the Garlean Empire? What happened to make Dalamud, the red moon, come down unto Eorzea and unleash the Elder Primal Bahamut?
You’re about to read the answers. To all of it.
The Rise and Fall of the White Raven
Final Fantasy XIV Version 1.0
Ne’er till land consumes sun can sea bear moons,
Heavens spew crimson flame, hells seep black dooms.
Stray seeds quicken in ash’s gray embrace,
Valiant blades forged under the Twelve’s good grace.
Seven waning moons see seven suns rise,
Divine order roils, fallen corpses writhe.
Souls from aether far, strangers from strange lands,
Yester with thine eyes, morrow by thine hands.
— The Divine Chronicles (Seventh Verse)
Mezaya Thousand Eyes
The story of Nael van Darnus is built on foundations laid by the most influential Garleans of a generation past—slightly more than 50 years before the Calamity of the Seventh Umbral Era. In this time, what would one day be a great empire was little more than a remote republic in the northern territories of Ilsabard, the middle of the Three Great Continents of the planet Hydaelyn. As is the case with most small nations, Garlemald regularly found itself at war with other regional powers. Through these conflicts arose that generation’s distinguished generals, and among these warriors who had risen to the rank of legatus was the father of Nael. The elder Darnus possessed not only patriotism and skill, but secrets guarded by generations of his family’s house—secrets of the fallen Allagan Empire.
This lost civilization once ruled over much of Ilsabard, as well as the continent to the southwest, Aldenard—home to the realm of Eorzea. Though the Allag had fallen around five thousand years beforehand, their technology is known to have far surpassed any that has existed since. The elder Darnus was thus able to use his family’s arcane knowledge to his benefit on the battlefield, achieving victories that would both make him a hero to his homeland and contribute to earning its independence from other regional powers. With the development of advanced magitek war machines soon to follow, Garlemald’s military conquered the whole of the northern territories and forged it into the Garlean Empire, with Darnus considered a founding member alongside the newly crowned emperor, His Radiance Solus zos Galvus.
The Empire spread all but unchallenged as their airships and machina conquered first the rest of Ilsabard and then the majority of the eastern continent of Othard. It was in the east that the Garleans first encountered the awe-inspiringly destructive capabilities of beings known as primals, otherworldly entities whose physical presence in Hydaelyn is maintained through the consumption of aether, a substance thought to be the source of all life and magic. Declaring them eikons (icons) and false gods, the Emperor deemed these beings a threat to the Empire, a danger to the world, and a non-negotiable target for annihilation. Though it came at a heavy cost, Othard was conquered, leaving the realm of Eorzea the only land on the Three Great Continents outside of Imperial control.
By 1557 of the Sixth Astral Era—36 years after the founding of the Empire and 15 before the Calamity—the Garleans had, for the most part, solidified control over the eastern theatre and recovered military losses. His Radiance placed the invasion of Eorzea into the hands of Gaius van Baelsar, Legatus of the XIVth Legion—a man personally responsible for the downfall of four enemy cities to date. The war was scarcely declared before the Black Wolf added Ala Mhigo to his list of victories, toppling the city from within by inciting revolt against the tyrannical King Theodoric from the shadows. In its weakened state, the city fell to the might of magitek with nary a fight, leaving what loyalists remained to scatter to the safety of other nations or be hunted down. The fall of Eorzea’s mightiest nation signified the Empire’s successful establishment of a foothold beyond the land bridge that separated their two continents, and the Garleans would spend the next few years solidifying this position.
It was in the midst of these new military campaigns that Nael van Darnus rose to power upon the unexpected and rapid decline of his father’s health. A formidable warrior in his own right, Nael inherited the title of legatus upon the elder Darnus’ death. Among his first actions was the public execution of his father’s officers and guard, fueling rumors that Nael himself had a hand in his sire’s demise. Where most leaders would condemn such behavior from their elite, the Emperor saw only potential. Now, more than ever, Garlemald needed officers who would let nothing stand between themselves and their goals.
Like his father before him, Nael had been looking to Allagan knowledge to solve the problem of subjugating rival nations. For some time, House Darnus had been in possession of an artifact excavated from within an ancient Allagan ruin. Successful restoration of the machine’s functionality revealed that it was somehow able to interact with the smaller of the planet’s two moons, Dalamud, leading them to refer to the device as the lunar transmitter. In this machine’s capabilities, Darnus saw great opportunity. Though the Garleans were themselves devoid of magical talent, legends remained of a lost spell known as Meteor, said to rip celestial bodies from the heavens and fell them to the world below. It was suggested to Imperial leaders that study of the lunar transmitter might unlock the secret to influencing other celestial objects, thus recreating the Meteor sorcery without any need for magical talents. Hoping to discover the platform for an entirely new series of weapons, the Emperor had seen to it that the lunar transmitter, as well as all information that could be amassed on the Allag, was transferred to a large Imperial city, the Bozja Citadel, for study. Here, the project had been left in the hands of Grand Minister of Industry Midas nan Garlond.
Distracted by this obsession, Midas had become estranged with his son Cid. Declared a Minister himself, Cid had been developing magitek for the crown in the Imperial capital, where Garlond family friend Gaius van Baelsar had taken over as the young prodigy’s guardian during his frequent trips to the court. Five years after the fall of Ala Mhigo, however, the Meteor project experienced both breakthrough and tragedy. Dalamud seemed to stir from slumber, taking on a red hue and glowing radiant in the sky—and in that moment, Bozja Citadel was destroyed. A blinding white flare burst forth from within the crimson orb and eradicated the city. Nothing remained—Midas nan Garlond, the lunar transmitter, the testing facilities, the amassed records of the Allag, and all citizens of the Citadel were erased in but a moment.
Unwilling to share Nael’s opinion that the incident, while a setback, was technically a successful advancement of the project, the Emperor ordered Meteor abandoned. With no way to convince His Radiance that the fall of Dalamud could be controlled, and would thus not be a threat to the Empire, Darnus’ VIIth Legion was instead deployed to stations in the Eastern theatre. Without a new weapons platform, the conquering of Aldenard would remain in the hands of Gaius van Baelsar and his XIVth Legion, who had by now solidified control of Ala Mhigo’s region of Gyr Abania. Cid nan Garlond, realizing the lengths to which the Empire would go to achieve victory, fled Garlemald, accompanied by many of his fellow researchers. Knowing that their magitek creations would inevitably be used against Eorzea, they defected in hopes of finding a way to prevent unbridled massacre.
With a critical foothold in Eorzea firmly established, Garlemald was prepared to begin their conquest in earnest. Ancient mythology revered Silvertear Lake, deep in Aldenard’s forest region of Mor Dhona, as a profound focus of spiritual energy, earning it such attributions as the source of all water and the fount of all magic. Measurements of the land’s aetheric flow led Garlean researchers to believe that the area was a massive convergence of aether, if not the center of a global network. If the beast tribes of Eorzea learned to utilize this abundance to summon their eikon gods, the Empire would be drawn into another prolonged and onerous campaign against primals. Knowing that such an act of defiance might embolden the conquered nations of Ilsabard and Othard into renewed rebellion—possibly summoning their own primals—Imperial high command ordered Gaius van Baelsar to take control of Silvertear in a preemptive assault on Mor Dhona. With Garlemald’s future stability on the line, the homeland committed numerous additional airships and magitek juggernauts to the operation. Centered on the gargantuan flagship, Agrius, the armada sailed deep into Aldenard in the year 1562 of the Sixth Astral Era—however, where the Empire had identified one authentic claim within Eorzean legend, they had overlooked another.
Creation myths attributed to the falls at Silvertear Lake a guardian appointed by Althyk and Nymeia—brother time and sister fate—the eldest of Eorzea’s pantheon, the Twelve. For some, the Gods were confirmed that day as the great serpent Midgardsormr stirred from beneath the waters of Silvertear and soared into the clouds to rain destruction upon the Garlean fleet. Countless dragons from the region known as Dravania hailed the call of a king among their kind, blackening the skies with wing and smoke as together they tore through the armada. The battle concluded as Midgardsormr coiled himself around Agrius and brought it to ground, igniting the tanks of unstable ceruleum fuel and setting off an explosion that would see the end of them both.
The Empire’s failure was absolute—the war effort on the western front lay crippled and the seal on Mor Dhona’s aether had broken. Within weeks, the beast tribes had summoned their primal gods into nearly every region of Eorzea. With the realm’s aetherial veins flowing in overabundance, engaging the eikons in battle would be a futile gesture—the beast tribes would simply re-summon the fallen back to the physical realm. The XIVth Legion was ordered to return to Ala Mhigo until a solution could be determined, and as the bulk of his remaining forces retreated from Mor Dhona, Gaius van Baelsar sensed the influence of something more powerful than even the primals—something Garlemald would need its full strength to oppose.
As acting viceroy of Ala Mhigo, Baelsar continued to hunt down resistance groups and maintain the Empire’s only foothold in the realm. He would even go as far as to have his airships distribute linkpearls over the city-states which would play repeating messages to any who would listen: Accept Imperial rule, take up arms against the beast tribes, and you shall have the full protection of Garlemald. Unsure whether or not this was another act of the Black Wolf’s famed subterfuge, these offers were met with silence. Before the Eorzeans could commit to any plan of action concerning the beast tribes or the Empire, Nael van Darnus, now commonly known as the White Raven, returned from the eastern theatre in 1572 of the Sixth Astral Era, claiming to have discovered a way to control Dalamud’s fall.
The Emperor was desperate; he could see Aldenard slipping from Imperial grasp and all his forces had accomplished was the squandering of precious time. Eager to see the stalemate broken, Imperial interest in the Meteor project was renewed. Though Gaius van Baelsar had been in command of the western front until this point, the Emperor began to favor Nael’s ruthless and uncompromising methods. The children of Ala Mhigo, having grown up knowing only Garlean rule and ideology, were enlisted to bolster the ranks of Darnus’ VIIth legion, and the XIVth was ordered to support them. The tone within the legions shifted radically towards Nael’s brutal standards. Spies within the Garlean ranks reported that troops were forced to kill daily in an attempt to harden their hearts and make slaughter mere reflex. Ala Mhigo itself was heavily fortified and used as a staging ground to transfer magitek, airships, and troops to Gaius’ hidden bases in Mor Dhona, now a crystalline wasteland due to the aetherial imbalance of the realm.
The magical energy requirements for a technique such as Meteor, Darnus claimed, necessitated the realm’s aetherial network to be measured and mapped in order to harvest massive quantities of crystals from high-production areas. Seizing control of areas with high aetheric concentration, including the Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak and the Dzemael Darkhold, soldiers of the VIIth secured mining operations within, using magitek devices to both hold back beasts driven mad by the aether-saturated atmosphere and allow Imperial soldiers to teleport past them. Though few, if any, were privy to how this feat was accomplished, the White Raven solidified the resolve of those under his command as Dalamud’s luster shifted to the same red hue it had ten years before.
Superstition became epidemic as Eorzeans struggled to make sense of the change, but one rumor in particular attracted the Empire’s attention. An enigmatic, cloaked mage by the name of Urianger Augurelt had begun to frequent aetheryte camps and city-states across the realm, reciting words of what he claimed to be an ancient prophecy that calamity was upon them and a seventh umbral era would soon engulf the world. Rumors about this Urianger were boundless; some reports claimed that he was seen working sinister magics in the Twelveswood, some declared him a ruthless killer, others even contended that he was responsible for the previous umbral era and still others speculated that he himself was among the Archons that ended it!
Nael van Darnus was well-versed in the very prophecies of which this arcanist spoke; the Divine Chronicles were essentially guidelines for his campaign. The White Raven became distracted from other pursuits as he focused on apprehending this Urianger. Heralds within the cities were secretly paid with Imperial coin to declare him a false prophet and mark him for capture. Legatus Darnus would even deign to show up personally to aetheryte camps at which Augurelt was seen and declare himself an ally to Eorzea in hopes of drawing him out of hiding.
“Those who style themselves Archons, chanting of death and doom and the end of all things, are themselves agents of the destruction they foretell. Before the twelfth bell tolls Eorzea’s fall, it is I who will deliver you from danger, free you from despair. Can you not hear it—the twisted harmonies that echo throughout Eorzea? Trust to your strength and the truth of my words, and in time you will see the light.”
― Nael van Darnus
This misdirection allowed Urianger’s allies—Y’shtola, Yda, Papalymo, and Thancred—time to see the Grand Companies of Eorzea restored. Inspired by the words of the alleged Archon, and the accomplishments of adventurers hailing from their lands, charismatic members of each city’s elite accepted the responsibility of reviving these organizations, meant to combine a city’s military, economic, and technical resources under a comprehensive command in hopes of better preparing it for an approaching umbral era. Some within the city-states initially resisted the concentration of so much wealth and power in the hands of so few, but increasingly frequent attacks by Imperial foot soldiers and vanguard magitek would eventually make it clear that survival truly would depend on the Grand Companies.
Imperial forces slowly became less visible outside of Mor Dhona, especially after adventurers under Grand Company banners reclaimed Toto-Rak and the Darkhold. These early successes owed much to Cid’s team of researchers, now known as the Garlond Ironworks, who had not only advanced Eorzea’s technology over the past ten years, but were helping the Companies to reverse engineer magitek recently stolen from the Garleans, thus helping to predict their movements and locate their bases. Garlond himself traveled between the cities, warning leaders that measurements of the realm’s aether and observations of Dalamud suggested that the prophecies of the Seventh Umbral Era should be taken seriously. Sure that Nael van Darnus had resumed his pursuit of Meteor, he devoted the Ironworks entirely towards uncovering the White Raven’s ambitions.
With little information to act on towards the Imperial invaders, adventurers’ attention was returned to the Archons, whose leader, Louisoix Leveilleur, had arrived in Eorzea to aid in preparations for the coming calamity. The aged scholar claimed that his organization, formally known as the Circle of Knowing, endeavored to archive all extant knowledge in order to ascertain the origin and destiny of all things. Though their home city-state of Sharlayan in the northern region of Dravania had been abandoned when peace talks with the Empire fell though in 1562, his fellowship had chosen to stay in Eorzea and put their understanding of history and prophecy to the best possible use. Armed with the cumulative knowledge of untold generations, Louisoix provided Eorzeans with perspective on why the Empire seeks to annihilate the primals. In order to maintain their form in the physical realm, primals must consume copious amounts of aether—but this means more than simply exhausting supplies of crystals. Aether is the very breath of life itself, and unchecked consumption by beings such as primals would leave the planet devoid of life as its essence was drained and the crystals grew dark. Claiming that there were greater threats to Eorzea than an Imperial advance, Louisoix called upon adventurers to fell the primals and restore the aether to the land. Rallying members from every Grand Company, he marked Ifrit, Lord of the Inferno and primal to the Amalj’aa, as the first who should fall.
Though many who challenged Ifrit were lost, the primal was overcome. Clearing skies over the Bowl of Embers revealed an airship from which the White Raven himself had been observing their struggle. Entreating the victors to converse with him, he came to ground and explained that, while Eorzeans see the Empire as craving for naught but power and territory, the truth of the matter was that a great evil looms over their world. Seeing that Hydaelyn would perish, the Empire had moved to deliver lesser nations from shadow and bathe all in the purifying light of judgment. Reciting the same prophecy of which Urianger spoke, he saw that the words were lost upon the adventurers. Disappointed, he digressed into a tirade that shocked and confused even those under his command as he began to glow with aetherial light.
“That the children of this land should have grown up ignorant of the sacred prophecies of yore… The slumbering emperors of old Allag are surely turning in their graves. But I will not blame you for your forefathers’ negligence. Permit me to explain it as I might to a child of Garlemald. Naught is eternal. Nay, not even the dance of the stars upon the celestial sea. The hour of reckoning is at hand. Soon the crimson star shall descend, and the land shall be purged of its taint. Oh, but what manner of foul shadow will the unredeemed souls of your countrymen cast by the light of judgment!? The mere imagining of it cuts me to the quick.”
― Nael van Darnus
With eldritch power at his command, the glowing vapor around him concentrated at the tip of his lance as he severed the aetherial lines leading to the Bowl of Embers, causing them to rupture and bleed across the surface. Though the surviving adventurers were able to escape, the events disquieted Louisoix deeply. Victory over a primal lasts only as long as it takes to summon them forth again, and with the Bowl of Embers now saturated with aether, Ifrit would return far sooner than expected—likely stronger than before. Moreover, why Nael van Darnus would do this at all eluded the Archon completely. Louisoix retreated to his research in hopes of finding a more permanent solution.
Investigations conducted by the Garlond Ironworks soon revealed that the entire realm’s aetherial network was in chaos. The flow no longer centered on Silvertear Lake, but on the skies—Dalamud was drawing aether unto itself as it drew closer to the planet. Beasts of the realm were being driven to madness by the changes and the light of crystals was extinguished as their aspects were drained. Worse yet, aether released upon the felling of a primal no longer returned to nourish the land, but obeyed the moon’s bid to rise; each successive summoning only bled the planet further.
Soon, Dalamud would break free of its orbit around the greater moon and begin its descent. Nael’s only remaining objective was to construct and safeguard the device that would ensure the campaign’s success—a reproduction of the lunar transmitter. Imperial airships observing blackout, cloaked against the night sky, began covertly transporting building materials into Mor Dhona. While the White Raven would oversee the construction of the fortress within which the apparatus would be housed, acquiring the final components required to make it operational fell to Gaius. In order to function properly, Darnus contended, the lunar transmitter would require objects known as tomestones. These chunks of quartz-like material were believed to be a medium on which the Allag stored information and possibly even technological programming. Without the information contained on these relics, he would be unable to control Dalamud’s fall.
Knowing that the point of no return was fast approaching, Gaius implored Nael to see that there was little worth in claiming dominion over a barren land. Darnus would not be persuaded, instead challenging the Black Wolf to see that in nothingness was the potential for creation. Though Gaius detested Nael’s methods, and remained skeptical that Allag rubble could ensure Garlemald’s safety, he was left with no choice. Nael would bring Dalamud to ground and the Emperor himself would gladly see it done. Accepting Nael at his word that at least their homeland would go unharmed, he agreed to dedicate the XIVth Legion to searching ruins throughout Eorzea for tomestones.
It was in his search for these relics on the island of Vylbrand that Gaius crossed paths with Cid Garlond, but the circumstances did not allow for an amicable reunion. Cid, hoping to beat the Garleans to recently discovered Allagan ruins in La Noscea, had damaged his airship in an attempt to fly low enough to avoid Imperial attention. The resulting distress signal drew the attention of the Maelstrom, and volunteers from within the Grand Company were dispatched to ensure the Ironworks’ safety. Though the adventurers were able to overcome the Imperial scouting parties searching for survivors of the crash, the battle drew the attention of the Black Wolf himself. With Baelsar ready to execute the adventurers and return to his search of the ruins, Cid was forced to interject by offering the weathered tomestone he’d found in the area. Gaius’ recognition of the object confirmed Cid’s suspicions that the Meteor project had resumed. Garlond viciously criticized Baelsar for supporting an attempt to save the known world by annihilating a third of it—accusing him of losing his sense of honor and self-worth simply because the Emperor no longer favored him over the White Raven. Vexed by the hurtful truths, Gaius countered by implying that, had Cid not defected, they could have claimed Eorzea for the Empire together years ago and saved it from this fate. Clearly disquieted, the Black Wolf took his leave, leaving Garlond enraged at the accusation that he was to blame for woes of two continents.
The Ironworks took solace in the belief that the tomestone, weathered by years of exposure, would be worthless to van Darnus—however, this assumption would prove to be mistaken. With the data extracted from the tomestone, the lunar transmitter would soon be calibrated to precisely guide the descent of the red moon, now in geosynchronous orbit, onto Eorzea. In the interim, it would be necessary to keep Eorzea’s growing armies both divided and distracted, preventing them from discovering the fortress being raised in Mor Dhona or amassing forces capable of jeopardizing it. Raiding parties, magitek vanguard attacks, and exploitation of those who would turn on their homeland for a price would see the Grand Companies preoccupied, but a more harrowing class of adversary was needed to deal with the distinctive adventurers that rallied around the Archons. By continuing to set Louisoix’s chosen against the eikons, either the adventurers would perish, or the aether of fallen primals would be given over to Dalamud—and either outcome would equally serve Nael’s endgame. To this end, soldiers of the VIIth Legion began to collect any information that might be of use to Darnus on the subject of primals, going as far as kidnapping prominent theologians to obtain their theories.
Before Louisoix could organize the pre-emptive assault of another tribal sanctuary, Garuda, primal of wind and matron deity to the Ixal, emerged from the region of Coerthas to assail the Black Shroud anew. Capricious and prone to violence, it was expected that this wave of aggression, like those of the past, would be sporadic and seemingly for her own amusement—but as adventurers rushed to the aid of Quarrymill, a Gridanian hamlet deep within the forest, they found Garuda rapt with purpose and implacable rage. As otherworldly gales ravaged the settlement and eviscerated any who dared enter, the Lady of the Vortex howled from the eye of the storm that this was her retribution for the woken races’ audacity to use the power of the crystals, which she considered to be hers alone, to awaken the other from slumber. The frenzied paroxysm had left Garuda drained of her vigor, and she took her leave with the promise that she would return to claim the lives of Gridania’s padjali leadership.
The accusations against the nations of Eorzea made by Garuda perplexed Louisoix—but, knowing that this may be the only opportunity they would have to defeat her, he set the matter aside. By way of a secluded aetheryte gate used by Ixali shamans to enter their primal’s sanctuary, adventurers loyal to the Archons stole into The Howling Eye and confronted Garuda. Dauntless, the Lady of the Vortex descended from the clouds and confined her challengers in a bulwark whirlwind. Using the rocky Coerthas terrain to their advantage, the warriors were able to hold defensive formations against the squall until Garuda’s energy was spent, overcoming her with a concerted blitzkrieg in a moment of fatigue. Her form gleamed with aetherial light as her physical body was torn asunder and dissolved into a rising mist, ascending towards the red moon.
Beyond the walls of the collapsing cyclone stood Nael van Darnus, again having made a personal spectacle of the adventurers’ tribulations. Marveling at the power of the crystal through the swirling debris, his demeanor had radically shifted since his appearance at the Bowl of Embers. He seemed to mock his own imperial objectives, laughing as he proclaimed that the Garleans owed the adventurers a debt for felling their mutual eikon enemies. As if discarding a long-upheld pretense, he confessed that the unfolding events were not merely a military campaign, but the culmination of his life’s work toward a greater ambition. Confident that his victory was assured, he acknowledged the futility of Eorzean resistance, but encouraged the adventurers to fulfil their role as his adversaries to the best of their ability before submitting to defeat.
“Deeds done for the good of all are rarely seen for what they are. Thus am I styled the villain. I have accepted my lot, and do what I must. As must you, adventurer. Let your fears and desires spur you to action, and struggle for all you are worth. You will tire of futility. Your floundering shall subside, and before long you shall grow still. Only then shall I take your head, lest I do you the dishonor of an unclean cut.”
— Nael van Darnus
The admissions made by van Darnus brought Louisoix no closer to understanding what goals he might harbor aside from the defeat of the primals, but he was sure that these ambitions were different from those of the Empire at large. Hopeful that Cid Garlond, once among the Garlean elite himself, could assist in uncovering the truth of the matter, Louisoix requested that the adventurers consult with him, and with their Grand Companies, in order to determine the best course of action. Knowing that the Empire would not have resumed the Meteor project if it posed any threat to Garlean territory, Cid had become convinced that the trajectory of Dalamud’s fall was being controlled from a base within the realm. Dedicating his Ironworks to uncovering its location, the discovery of a colossal fortress in the heart of Mor Dhona was a grievous revelation. Particularly disquieted by the report was Kan-E-Senna, leader of Gridania, whose nation was now vulnerable to Imperial attack from both occupied Ala Mhigo in the northeast and this new fortress to the southwest.
A century past, the city-states of Eorzea had united under a single banner to repel a brazen Ala Mhigan king’s campaign to expand his nation’s boundaries. In what would become known as the Autumn War, Ishgard, seeing that the imminent collapse of Gridania would compromise its own borders, enticed the nations of Limsa Lominsa and Ul’dah to unite with them and expel King Manfred’s forces. This alliance, however, was built on a foundation of selfishness and mistrust, with each nation taking part only for reasons of self-interest. When Ala Mhigo fell to the Garlean Empire decades later, attempts to reforge the Alliance had fallen through when Ishgard, seeing the Imperial advance halt shortly after it began, withdrew their support and closed their borders to focus on their holy war against dragonkind. Nevertheless, with her nation on the brink of ruin, Kan-E-Senna extended an invitation from the nation of Gridania to the leaders of the Maelstrom and the Immortal Flames that the old accord be renewed.
Merlwyb Bloefhiswyn, Admiral of Limsa Lominsa, could see that her nation’s strength was wavering after a failed treaty with the city’s pirate captains and a stalled initiative to build ships capable of opposing the Empire. Hesitant to enter into an alliance whose misuse might lead to her nation’s downfall, she put her conditions to paper—leaving the outcome of the negotiations in the hands of Ul’dah. Even with the formidable military resources of two nations to be gained, Raubahn Aldynn, general of the Immortal Flames, confessed that the requests of Limsa Lominsa and Gridania might be too much to bear. Ul’dah would be asked to bear the monetary cost of the war effort, and this alone would ensure opposition from the city’s elite. Nonetheless, on the condition that control of the three-nation army would be equally shared among the Grand Company leaders, Raubahn vowed to convince his nation that the alliance was not a charity to save Gridania from collapse at the cost of Ul’dahn prosperity, nor an invitation for Lominsa’s bolstered naval armada to tyrannize the five seas of Eorzea, but a necessary investment to save the realm. The aggregate of conditions and counteroffers was returned to Kan-E-Senna, but further discussions were postponed as Cid Garlond called upon the Grand Companies for immediate assistance.
With the aid of the Ironworks, an Imperial airship bound for the new Garlean fortress, Castrum Novum, had been downed near Silvertear Falls. Hopeful that critical information could be recovered from the wreckage, Cid appealed to veteran adventurers from every nation to strike quickly and recover anything of value. The disoriented soldiers of the VIIth Legion could muster little defense, and Imperial response to the crash appeared suspiciously delayed. Breaking open a strongbox filled with documents and schematics, the adventurers were approached by Gaius van Baelsar, and though his words expressed unconditional loyalty to the empire and devotion to the annihilation of the primals, he made no attempt to prevent this intelligence from falling into enemy hands. Confident that Nael van Darnus was deceiving the Emperor and that Dalamud was no mere rock, Baelsar offered a choice—an end by the red moon, or an end by Garlean might.
“Of those in your realm, only the son of Midas nan Garlond sees the red moon for what it is. His Radiance will reach the same conclusion in time. Yet by then it will be too late. The shadow of Dalamud will already be dark upon these lands. Oppose van Darnus and Meteor, if you wish. It is the only hope you have of sparing Eorzea from complete obliteration.”
— Gaius van Baelsar
Returning to Camp Brittlebark, the adventurers relinquished the documents to the Ironworks, who were able to identify that, as Garlond feared, Castrum Novum was constructed to house the rebuilt lunar transmitter. Moreover, he recognized that information was a condescending gift from the Black Wolf. Beneath the superficial threats and Garlean patriotism saturating van Baelsar’s words, Cid discerned a simpler message—Gaius had downed the airship himself. He held no illusions, however, that the Legatus of the XIVth Legion was now an ally of the realm. Even should the Eorzean Alliance prevent the fall of Dalamud and save the realm from complete annihilation, Baelsar would eventually return to eradicate the primals—as well as any who stood between him and this objective.
With the information obtained from the wreckage, the Garlond Ironworks were able to ascertain the exact location of the lunar transmitter and determine a way to destroy it, but the success of an assault on Castrum Novum would require no less than the combined strength of all three Grand Companies. Kan-E-Senna again called upon the leaders of Limsa Lominsa and Ul’dah, inviting them directly to a council in Gridania. With encouragement from the Archons, surrounded by the allies that bound them together, Merlwyb Bloefhiswyn, Raubahn Aldynn, and Kan-E-Senna declared the Eorzean Alliance reformed. Scarcely had the leaders pledged their support to one another, however, before their vows would be tested. Officers of the Order of the Twin Adder interrupted the council to relay word from Mor Dhona that a brilliant column of light had risen from the Imperial fortress—the lunar transmitter had been completed. Resolving to send Dalamud back to the heavens, the three leaders took leave to prepare their armies to move on Castrum Novum.
High commanders from within the Companies established a base of operations deep in the caves of Mor Dhona, amassing equipment and troops in preparation for their first joint-operation. As the daylight bells waned, a detachment of solders just large enough to overwhelm the external Castrum guard launched the attack. Confident that a moderate division of soldiers and magitek would easily overcome the unit, the impassable gates preventing unrestricted movement between the discrete internal sectors of the fortress began to open, allowing forces from within to be deployed against the siege. Drawn into the open, this modest force was quickly surrounded as the Grand Company infantries, united as one, emerged from the caves in ambush. Caught off guard, Castrum commanders hastily ordered their cohorts to the front lines, causing many of the interior gates to open simultaneously. With a direct path to the lunar transmitter open for this brief window, a small, elite strike team on chocoback stole into the Castrum and infiltrated the transmission tower.
Entering the chamber that housed the lunar transmitter activated a series of countermeasures protecting the device. A piercing alarm would soon draw the attention of security patrols, ceruleum-powered generators enveloped the transmitter in a potent shield, and a vanguard sentinel rose from dormancy to engage the intruders. The lone magitek’s powerful, but sluggish, attacks were easily avoided, allowing the party an opportunity to deactivate the generators and dismantle the transmitter before being overcome by soldiers responding to the alert. The pillar of light emanating from the heart of Castrum Novum was extinguished, signaling to the forces of the Eorzean Alliance to retreat before suffering unnecessary losses. Before the adventurers could regroup to make their escape, however, Nael van Darnus announced his arrival with an aetherial burst that cast their bodies as if weightless across the chamber. Speaking of Dalamud as if sentient—even divine—he expressed his frustrated bewilderment that anyone would attempt to prevent the manifestation of its will, drawing aether to his spear and preparing to execute those who filled with him such indignation.
As if responding to the White Raven’s conviction, the aether coursing around his form took on the red hue of the lesser moon. Stricken with epiphany, the legatus paused to give audience to Dalamud’s message. Nael’s rage faded into elation—with renewed direction and purpose, he turned his spear on the remains of the lunar transmitter, declaring that he no longer had need for the creations of lesser beings. The discharge of magical energy ignited the unstable ceruleum in the nearby generators, engulfing the room in azure flames. Impervious to the heat, Darnus stood amongst the blaze and vowed that he would sacrifice body and soul to bring about Dalamud’s return. Unable to cross the inferno in pursuit, the adventurers made their escape from the Castrum and the White Raven vanished.
Though the adventurers had received a hero’s welcome upon return, the destruction of the lunar transmitter was a bittersweet victory. Nael van Darnus had deceived both Eorzea and Empire alike; Dalamud was never a means to advance the Meteor project—the Meteor project was means to bring about Dalamud’s return. If not for the White Raven’s claim that he had no further need for the transmission tower, his ravings could be easily ignored—blamed on his increasingly erratic demeanor finally descending into madness. The possibility that Dalamud could still be controlled, however, could not be ignored. Nevertheless, the Eorzean Alliance had made their first stand against the Garlean invasion and emerged victorious, emboldening many from across the realm to join their cause. Unfortunately, the struggle against van Darnus was far from over.
Awakening Allagan ruins long-buried beneath Coerthas, the Raven had raised the land itself into the clouds, and from this floating island arose a pillar of light nearly identical to that which was generated by the lunar transmitter. As allied Grand Company forces converged on the area beneath the hovering landmass, they were hailed with a cascade of flaming rock that rained from the heavens and left the earth below in smoldering ruin. Impossibly, van Darnus had mastered the very sorcery that the full support of Garlemald had failed to help him emulate, and it would not be long before this unlost art brought Dalamud to ground. Adventurers at the forefront of the Eorzean resistance, having felled war machine and beastmen god alike, inherited a mission as simple as it was perilous: Assault the floating island—Kill Nael van Darnus.
In an offer that was equal parts hoping to make amends for past sins and fearing that any alternative would lead to failure, Cid Garlond volunteered his airship, the Enterprise, to be the craft that saw them safely to the Raven’s perch. Since his defection from the Empire, Cid had considered himself a coward, having been able to muster only courage enough to flee from what he saw as evil. Seeing this as a chance to correct his deepest regret, he all but begged to stand against van Darnus with those who chose to fight. With Cid at the helm, the Enterprise evaded the hail of boulders protecting the island and skimmed it close enough to deliver the party to their last stand against the White Raven. Their opponent, however, would be this man only in name.
For over a decade, Dalamud’s influence had warped what was once a child of Garlemald into a fervid thrall incapable of discerning that he had become the undoing of everything to which he professed his loyalty. He fought as a Garlean general guided by naught but divine purpose, but fell to the blades of those whose passion arose from more than hopeful illusion, and in his final moments the effigy of Nael van Darnus fulfilled his promise to sacrifice both body and soul to the will of Dalamud. The body of the White Raven was risen over the battlefield—crimson mist surged about his form, condensing outwards into great crystalline wings. Nael’s disciplined lance technique vanished, replaced by magic bursts delivered with inhuman speed and precision. Unable to best the adventurers in this unfamiliar frame, however, the controlling force could sense its host body failing. Concentrating all of its remaining power into a single decisive stroke, Megaflare tore through the center of the floating island, evaporating pieces of rock and ancient ruin—but failing to destroy the adventurers. Relinquishing control of his body, the unknown force abandoned the White Raven, leaving him reaching out, wistful and helpless, towards Dalamud as he collapsed into aetheric mist and was absorbed by the red moon.
The defeat of Nael van Darnus saved the realm from complete annihilation, but nonetheless failed to halt the rapid collapse of the Sixth Astral Era. Eorzea’s aetherial network, compromised by ten years of unnatural change, began to unravel. Chaotic surges of aetheric energy through the largest veins of this failing system inundated naturally high-concentration areas, overaspecting aetherytes and causing the threshold between the physical and aetherial realms to become increasingly thin. Through these rifts came essences of the void with an insatiable hunger for aether, beginning with a nightmarish entity with the visage of an enormous, demonic maw. Rumored by Eorzeans to be Atomos, a mythological creature with the power to breach the boundaries between worlds, this voidsent monstrosity hovered over camps along the overburdened network, leeching aether directly from the gates. Witnesses described being overwhelmed by a hypnotic stillness at first, but fled in terror as the fissure between realms swelled, expelling swarms of voidsent and undead ashkin.
Surely the black dooms of hell mentioned in the prophecy of Mezaya Thousand Eyes, the rise of the Seventh Umbral Era could no longer be denied; Dalamud would continue its descent. As if to signify that hope remained, the symbols of the Twelve appeared across Eorzea, etched into stone and pulsing with a faint, comforting glow. Claiming that the gods would be stirred from slumber by the united prayers of their vassals, Louisoix encouraged the people of Eorzea to seek out these symbols and offer supplication to the Twelve. Soldiers, adventurers, and civilians alike gathered with their families to make the pilgrimage, putting their faith in the man they now believed to truly be an Archon of their gods. Around Louisoix gathered his chosen adventurers, to whom he confessed that the symbols were carved by none other than himself. On his search for an item he would describe only as Daybreak, he had created these spiritual anchors as part of a ritual to save their realm—the summoning of the Twelve. Acknowledging the irony that they should be reduced to performing the very practice he aimed to abolish, he admitted that there was no other way. It would tax the land greatly, draining it of its lifeforce, but if bringing the realm to the brink of destruction could save it from being pulled beyond the edge and into the abyss of oblivion beyond, there was no choice.
The adventurers, too, made the pilgrimage, and in the remote terrain of Coerthas, they were quietly approached by a lone Gaius van Baelsar. He congratulated the adventurers on their victory, thanking them for the opportunity to remove his forces from their land before Dalamud would see it laid to waste. Still, he wished them luck in saving it from this dire fate so that, one day, he could see their lands consolidated into the ever-expanding Garlean Empire. Though the XIVth Legion would be returning with him to Ala Mhigo, he warned the Eorzeans that the remnants of the VIIth had coalesced into a single unit, entrenched in Mor Dhona’s Cartenau Flats. Having seen their legatus perform feats thought impossible, these soldiers remained steadfast in their mission to ensure the red moon’s fall. In order to summon the Twelve at the heart of Eorzea, the final destination of Dalamud, these forces would need to be overcome.
“The red moon of Allag shall come and lay this land to waste, and the White Raven shall realize his twisted ambition from beyond the grave. It falls to you to prevent that from happening, old friend—so be sure to fight with all your strength, and leave me something worth conquering. I shall enjoy watching the drama unfold from my vantage point on high. And when all is said and done, Garlemald’s mighty standard shall rise in every corner of the realm.”
— Gaius van Baelsar
As Dalamud slowly broke through Hydaelyn’s atmosphere, great chunks of flaming rock broke free of its surface and rained upon Eorzea, causing sporadic and unpredictable damage. Beneath this encrustation, the red moon’s artificial features were more clearly revealed. Great spires extended from the spherical form in ordered positioning and the surface was comprised of thousands of interlocking pieces. Joining the Eorzean Alliance as its chief military tactician, Louisoix himself would lead the three-nation army gathering to repel the VIIth Legion in one conclusive battle before this falling machination rendered everything to ash. Under a cloudy night sky bathed in Dalamud’s crimson glow, the two great armies fell upon each other in waves across the rocky fields of Cartenau Flats. Valor against might, magic against magitek, the front lines met in unbreakable stalemate, but the battle slowed to a halt and all stilled themselves in awe as Dalamud awakened.
The spire at the southern pole of the sphere broke free and crashed to the fields below. Compromised, the manufactured moon’s form buckled, and through the splintering apex emerged colossal, membranous wings silhouetted against the clouds by flame. A tortured and furious bellow echoed throughout every corner of the realm as Dalamud burst, launching burning shards of its shattered frame in every direction. Though its name had been distorted by centuries of imperfect record, though knowledge of its nature had been lost to history, the great sin banished to the skies by the lost Allag was revealed. Liberated from eras of imprisonment emerged the elder primal Bahamut, relentlessly determined to purify with flame the tainted world that had exiled him.
The VIIth Legion remnants were instantaneously destroyed and the city-states continued to be ravaged by falling debris. Facing a needless massacre, the leaders of the Grand Companies ordered their forces to retreat—but even without the support of enlisted soldiers, the adventurers converged on Louisoix, unwilling to forsake the Archon. Sensing the mage’s power, Bahamut descended to face him, rupturing the protective spell under which the adventurers took refuge with a torrent of flares. With his enemy motionless for this crucial instant, Louisoix summoned the power of the Twelve, and from the stones marked by his fellowship erupted great columns of light, encircling Mor Dhona.
Though the city-states burned—though the loss of life had been great—though the land bled of its aether, the Twelve stirred from slumber to answer Eorzean prayer. As if responding directly to pleas that the lesser moon be returned to its place in the heavens, the columns of light took shapes reminiscent Dalamud’s spires and pierced Bahamut twelve times over, binding him in place as a radiant sphere established itself around him. Aetherial glyphs manifested in the skies, surrounding the elder primal’s prison with the symbols of his captors and—in that decisive moment—the ritual failed.
Knowing that the simultaneous summoning of twelve deities would grievously, perhaps mortally, wound Hydaelyn, Louisoix had mercifully held back, summoning only their strength, and it had laid to ruin his last resort. Nourished by the aether of a dying realm, Bahamut overpowered his fetters with an eruption of flame, shattering Louisoix’s staff and causing the summoned magics to dissolve. Shocked and disheartened, hopelessly defeated, the adventurers yet stood by the Archon as Bahamut summoned his full strength. Arcs of flame bent and twisted above the elder primal, converging on a growing sphere that threatened to deliver the light of judgment promised by Nael van Darnus. Finally understanding the significance of the prophecy’s seventh verse, Louisoix consigned himself to his fate, using what energy remained to conjure the power of Althyk and deliver the adventurers beyond the reach of time and space. Seeing the allies around him spirited away and realizing that he had been saved against his will, a fading Midlander let his axe fall to the ground and exchanged a final glance with the Archon, who smiled lightly, free of burden, as a blinding light engulfed the battlefield…
Anonymoosely Contributed Note: This project is more than the product of a moose driven; it’s the product of a community. Like the Eorzea that was, Final Fantasy XIV Version 1.0 has been lost to time—but as we move on to A Realm Reborn, we should never forget the story were were given one chance to experience. Thanks to everyone who helped me pull this together; Gamer Escape for giving me a place to host it, Catapult and the rest of you loremongers for enthusiastically discussing every crazed fringe theory that led us here, Eternal Garden for not making me bitterly solo this game, and, most of all, everyone’s favorite voidsent, Fernehalwes, not only for always supporting those who want to remember Eorzea long after the servers go dark, but for offering to help a project I started in hopes of preserving the true story of Version One become a project that actually makes it look like I understood the true story of Version One. I look forward to seeing all of you in 2.0!