Tales From The Calamity: The Sultana’s Seven

Nanamo watched from her private terrace as the Immortal Flames filed out of Ul’dah. The host left the city via the Gate of Thal─an egress symbolizing passage into the afterlife─in hopes of cheating death upon the battlefield. Crowds had gathered for the occasion, their boisterous cheers resounding through the sultanate, but Nanamo did not hear them. She stood transfixed before the balustrade as Raubahn put his spurs to his courser, and there she remained long after the dust had settled in the rearguard’s wake. She had steeled herself for this moment, but when it finally came, she found that her courage had deserted her all the same. Suddenly, the reality of her isolation was only too plain, and the mere thought of it made her struggle for breath. I am alone. May the gods grant me strength.

As the days went by, the weight of responsibility and uncertainty began to tell. Nanamo’s nights were sleepless. Not even her favorite dishes would pass her lips, and her round Lalafellin cheeks took on a hollow cast. Sure enough, despite the best ministrations of her ladies-in-waiting, her health began to fail. She became a ghost of herself, and her duties went untended.

Whenever a difficulty presented itself, she would invariably think, If only Raubahn were here, cursing her own weakness, even as the thought took shape. She knew very well that, as Flame General, Raubahn’s place was with the host at the Carteneau Flats. It was his duty to lead his men into battle against the XIVth Imperial Legion. I shall soon be six and ten summers old. I cannot rely upon others forever. Sooner or later, I must stand on my own two feet. I only hope I have the strength…

Another meal came and went untouched. Taking her leave of the dining hall, Nanamo glanced apologetically at the silent shadow that was Pipin Tarupin, adoptive son of Raubahn and officer of the Immortal Flames. The earnest young soldier remained at her side at his father’s behest, entrusted with her care in the Flame General’s absence. Pipin would never admit it, dutiful as he was, but Nanamo knew that he would sooner be fighting beside his comrades at Carteneau. She could not help but feel responsible for denying him his wish—and for what? Though Pipin was his father’s son, it was plain to both of them that it was the father that she needed.

And so the days dragged on, each fading into the next, until the hour of reckoning came at last.

“Word from Mor Dhona, Your Grace! The battle is joined!” Nanamo was in the Fragrant Chambers, holding private audience with Thancred of the Circle of Knowing when Pipin burst in with the tidings. A weak “I see” was all she could manage in response. While Pipin strove to hide his disappointment at this tepid utterance, Thancred was quick to make his feelings known.

“Begging your pardon, Your Grace, but I had hoped for something a little more rousing.” Since agreeing to serve as an advisor to the sultanate, the self-proclaimed bard had made himself at home at court, becoming ever more irreverent in the process. “When last I looked, your people had need of you.”

“What could a powerless puppet like me possibly do!?” Nanamo snapped back, immediately regretting her petulance.

The bard was not discouraged, however, and responded with uncharacteristic force. “You are not powerless, Your Grace. You can pray for Eorzea’s salvation.”

Prayer? she thought. Has it really come to that? But of course it had. Even as they spoke, Dalamud drew closer. According to Archon Louisoix, only by the power of the Twelve could the lesser moon be returned to the heavens and the coming of the Seventh Umbral Era forestalled. And only by the prayers of the faithful could that power be summoned forth. It was to allow the summoning ritual to proceed unhindered that the soldiers of the Eorzean Alliance—Raubahn among them—now fought at Carteneau.

Thancred went on, his voice taking on a gentler tone. “If you pray, so too will the people. And the combined strength of their faith shall bear their plea for Eorzea’s salvation unto the heavens.”

A moment passed in silence. If praying is all that I can do, then I will do it with all my heart. Composing herself once more, she nodded, rose from her seat, and turned her steps towards Arrzaneth Ossuary.

Upon arriving at the temple, Pipin helped Nanamo to her knees and stood guard as she prayed. On the far side of the city, at Milvaneth Sacrarium, Thancred was doing the very same, she knew. O gods of my forefathers, deliver us from destruction. O gods of my forefathers, bring Raubahn safely back to me.

A few hours into her vigil, chaos erupted. The Ossuary shook violently, as if struck by a giant’s fist, prompting Pipin to draw close as masonry fell about them. Terrified screams filled her ears, but Nanamo did not give in to panic. In defiance of the tumult around her, she prayed with all her being.

Her determination was soon rewarded. The stone plinth bearing the mark of the Dusk Trader began to glow. Moments later, a pillar of light burst forth from its surface, enveloping the image of Thal that stood upon it and illuminating every corner of the hall. In that instant, Nanamo felt the presence of the divine. Even as she basked in the sensation, a familiar voice echoed in her mind. “Let Eorzea be born anew,” it said.Louisoix, she thought, and knew no more.

Nanamo awakened to find herself lying prone on the Ossuary’s smooth stone floor. Footfalls rang out all about her. From the corner of her eye, she saw Pipin rise to one knee, seemingly struggling to shake off the selfsame torpor which gripped her. For a time she remained still, content to gaze up at the stone plinth. Its divine light had faded, she noted dimly.

A shrill yell brought her back from her reverie. “Rioters at Sapphire Avenue! They’re headed this way!”

Consternation swept over Pipin’s face. “Your Grace, we cannot linger! Let us return to the palace at once!”

“I will not hide while my people suffer!” The answer rose to her lips unbidden, with a swiftness that surprised even her. Rising to her feet, she surveyed her surroundings. Robed figures were scrambling hither and thither, bearing precious tomes and artifacts away, presumably to safety. At the heart of the bustle, a small yet commanding figure was barking out orders. Nanamo recognized him as Mumuepo, High Priest of the Order of Nald’thal and Master of the Thaumaturges’ Guild.

“The rioters cannot be allowed to defile the Ossuary!” the man fairly screamed. “Incinerate any foolish enough to come near!”

These words set Nanamo’s blood to roiling. “And you call yourself a man of the cloth!?” Checking her fury, she addressed all present. “Our citizens are in the grip of fear. They but want for a voice of reason to restore them to their senses. Who among you will aid me?”

Pipin stepped forward, as Nanamo knew he would. “Though I am but a poor substitute for my father, I live only to serve you, my sultana. Pray command me as you see fit.”

Next came Papashan of the Sultansworn, followed by five thaumaturges of the guild─Lalafells all, and brothers besides. No more answered the sultana’s call, however. Only seven, she lamented as she took stock of her volunteers. But they will suffice. They must.

With gritted teeth, Nanamo stepped out onto the stricken streets of Ul’dah. Of their own accord, her hastily assembled escort formed a protective ring around her, and together they trudged through the smoke and rubble. No matter where she looked, her eyes were met with scenes of carnage. A girl cried over the charred body of her mother. A man lay moaning, his legs crushed beneath a tonze of stone. Their plight wrenched her heart, but she could not stop for them. First she had to quell the unrest, else there could be no lasting relief. I will return for you all. This I promise.

As Nanamo’s band reached Emerald Avenue, the mob of rioters came into view. Shops and homes had been ransacked in its wake, the occupants fleeing for their lives. Undaunted, Nanamo forged onward to within earshot of the advancing rabble, where she stopped, took a deep breath, and set about her task.

“Papashan! I must have their attention!” Nodding, the elderly paladin produced a blinding flash that staggered some of the rioters. Many, however, continued their rampage, oblivious.

“Thaumaturges! Light up the sky!” In unison, the five Lalafellin brothers let loose a warning barrage of spells overhead. Most impressive among these was the conflagration unleashed by the brother with the bandaged face. Those rioters who failed to take notice before did so now. Satisfied, Nanamo turned to Pipin. “Lend me your back.”

With a booming voice that belied her size, Nanamo addressed the rabble. “Heed me, my beloved citizens!” she began. “The realm lies upon the brink of the Seventh Umbral Era. Yet so long as we live, we must not forget our compassion. Now is not the time to take from your neighbor, but to proffer him the hand of succor.

“The brave men and women of the Immortal Flames risk their lives that we might go on with ours. Would you have them return to an Ul’dah that has torn itself apart?” Looks of shame manifested upon begrimed faces. “I ask that you be strong. Give in not to fear and despair. If we join hands in common cause, there is no hardship that we cannot overcome. Together, let us tend the wounds of our nation─of our shared home!”

Hearing these heartfelt words from their sultana, the madness began to melt from the rioters’ eyes to be replaced by the gleam of reason. Soon after, a semblance of order returned to the city, and organized relief efforts commenced in earnest.

Some days later, the remnants of the Immortal Flames trudged back into Ul’dah, entering the city by way of the Gate of Nald. Wounded and weary though the soldiers were, they yet had homes to which they might return. In the midst of rebuilding, Nanamo issued a decree stripping Mumuepo of all official titles and accompanying privileges. Though such an act would ordinarily have been beyond her authority, it was made possible owing to clever maneuvering on Pipin’s part. Evidence of rampant corruption was found, with the high priest in its midst, and his order had no choice but to abide by the sultana’s will. In place of the incarcerated Mumuepo, the five Lalafellin brothers were made joint masters of the Thaumaturges’ Guild.

In the months and years that followed, Nanamo often revisited the events of that fateful day. I am not powerless, she would remind herself.There are things that even a puppet might achieve. If she could do her duty as sultana in the midst of the Calamity, she could surely carry out the task to come.