The ship glided out of the harbor, slowly gathering speed as its sails caught the brisk coastal breeze. Standing atop the quay wall with their father, Alphinaud and Alisaie bore witness to the vessel’s departure—watched as Louisoix Leveilleur, their beloved grandsire, was carried away across the sea.
“And then he was gone.” Alphinaud’s voice was barely a whisper, his gaze fixed upon the dwindling form of the ship. Alisaie glanced at her brother with red-rimmed eyes but said nothing.
The twins had greeted the news of their grandfather’s forthcoming journey very differently. While one accepted his decision with a calm practicality, the other had railed and wept. Still, to see the two of them there upon the quay, their slight arms hugging hefty grimoires as if their young lives depended on it, one would struggle to tell them apart.
They were not so different as they cared to believe.
“Even had you not gained admission to the Studium—and made me exceedingly proud in so doing—these gifts would have been yours regardless. Here—one for each of you. When read together, these two grimoires form a single tome. Provided you support one another’s studies, I have no doubt that you will soon come to understand the lessons inscribed therein.” The volumes Louisoix gave to his grandchildren scant hours before his departure were curious indeed. Crafted such that the contents of one could not be deciphered without the other, they hinted at the impish humor which danced behind the ofttimes solemn visage of Sharlayan’s preeminent sage and scholar.
“Thank you, Grandfather.” Alphinaud accepted his grimoire with a practiced grace and dignity. Alisaie, meanwhile, received her gift distractedly, and swiftly resumed her attempts to dissuade Louisoix from his course.
“Must you leave, Grandfather? Is there naught I can say to make you stay?”
“Please, my dear. We have spoken about this.”
It had been almost a month since the twins first learned that Archon Louisoix would be leaving Sharlayan for the shores of Eorzea. His purpose, he had patiently explained, was to aid the distant realm in forestalling the ruinous arrival of the Seventh Umbral Era.
Sensing the fixity of his grandsire’s resolve, Alphinaud had chosen to swallow his melancholy and voice no word of complaint. Not so his sister, nor less his father, Fourchenault. Alisaie protested the journey purely out of her abiding love for Louisoix and the unbearable thought of his absence; Fourchenault’s strident objections were of a more political nature. Louisoix’s eldest son was an influential member of the Forum, the body responsible for shaping Sharlayan policy, and he, like so many of his colleagues, was a staunch opponent of military intervention. It was, he believed, the duty of his countrymen to chronicle world affairs, not to interfere in them.
When the steel-clad wolves of the Garlean Empire descended upon Ala Mhigo, it was Fourchenault and his fellows who had attempted to parley a peace. In the bitter wake of the failed negotiations, however, they saw no recourse but to forsake the colony they had built within the borders of the war-threatened realm. Following five years of elaborate and painstaking preparation, the plan to evacuate the settlement’s entire population to the northern archipelago of their homeland was put into motion.
In the year 1562 of the Sixth Astral Era, the city of Sharlayan—a renowned center of learning, situated in the Dravanian lowlands—became an uninhabited shell in the space of a single night. The twins knew that they themselves had taken part in this exodus, but could claim no recollection of the momentous event, being less than one summer old at the time.
“War is the favored resort of the uncivilized and the ignorant, Father,” began Fourchenault, seeking to launch his own sortie upon the heels of his daughter’s plea. “The wise abjure it. As Sharlayans, it is our task to observe—to chart the course of history, not to change it. Civilization shall not be advanced through petty conflict, but by the passing of recorded knowledge from generation to generation.”
“My mind will not be changed, Fourchenault,” Louisoix responded wearily. They had had this conversation, almost word for word, perhaps a dozen times in as many days. “To ignore the plight of those one might conceivably save is not wisdom—it is indolence. And such a passive stance will not, I fear, take us far upon the path to progress. That you would spare these younglings the horrors of war is a decision with which I am in full agreement. Thus do I refrain from exhorting you, or any other, to return to Eorzea at my side. We must all protect that which we hold most dear in the manner of our own choosing.” And so the discussion ended as it always did, with neither willing to deviate from the script of their oft-rehearsed play.
Alphinaud and Alisaie, it must be said, were children of exceptional intelligence. So advanced were they in their studies of aetheric theory and other such esoteric subjects that both had gained acceptance to the Studium at the tender age of eleven.
Thus it was that the sharp-minded Alphinaud, while able to recognize the logic of his father’s arguments, could also see that his grandfather’s cause was just. That the boy remained silent then stemmed not from simple stoicism but from a keen sense of his own inadequacy—a realization that his unpolished skills would yet prove more a hindrance than a help to Louisoix’s endeavor.
Though no less bright, Alisaie eschewed her brother’s affected maturity, and gave vent to her discontent, inwardly cursing Alphinaud all the while for his mute acceptance of their grandfather’s decision. How can he stand there and say nothing?
A small yet conspicuous crack had appeared between the siblings.
It was long after Louisoix had taken ship and vanished over the horizon that the fateful day came. Alphinaud and Alisaie were crowded into the Studium’s observatory, along with their professors and a throng of fellow students. The assembled sages and would-be scholars huddled around the base of the giant telescope, each taking their turn to gaze upon the looming spectacle of the red moon, Dalamud.
“Dalamud has shattered!” Alisaie cried out, pressing her face closer to the telescope’s eyepiece so that it dug into her cheek. The view provided by the device’s array of magnifying lenses was distorted and indistinct, but the fate of the satellite was unmistakable—she could see its crimson-fringed silhouette breaking apart in the skies over Carteneau.
“Shattered!? What…before it struck the ground!?”
“How is that possible!?”
Excited murmurs and hastily formed theories erupted from teacher and pupil alike.
“He’s done it! Grandfather has saved Eorzea!” Alisaie turned to find her brother’s face, her eyes glistening with tears of joy and relief. For some time now, Archon Urianger had been kind enough to relay to them brief reports of Louisoix’s efforts in those chaos-stricken faraway lands. It was he who had informed them of their grandfather’s presence at the Carteneau Flats, and of the battle that still raged like as not beneath that blood-red sky.
Shouldering aside his madly grinning sibling, Alphinaud squinted through the ocular lens. Though the air was thick with billowing clouds of smoke and ash, he was forced to agree with Alisaie’s assessment—Dalamud was no more.
But something is awry… Alphinaud continued to scrutinize the distant scene. The red moon’s bloody glow had been replaced by an equally unsettling incandescent rain, as if the heavens themselves were weeping tears of light. Terribly, terribly awry…
Dalamud’s spectacular demise gave rise to a tidal wave of aetheric energy which rendered linkshells all but useless for a period of many days. During this time, the Leveilleur siblings were left to stew upon the wonders they had viewed from afar. Then, after weeks without word, a letter from Urianger arrived.
The Archon’s elegant script described horrors the twins could scarce bare to picture. From the cracked husk of the red moon had emerged a dragon primal immense beyond imagining—an incarnation of wrath and raging flame that had laid waste to the land for malms in every direction. Undeterred, Louisoix had persisted with his plan to call forth the power of the Twelve, and thus, it seemed, was the abomination banished. Eorzea had been saved.
When the siblings reached the conclusion of Urianger’s staggering account, however, the pale flame of hope which both had been nursing was finally extinguished.
On the broken fields of Carteneau, did my dearest mentor—thy beloved grandsire—become as light and embark upon his final journey.
Alphinaud’s shoulders trembled with quiet sorrow, while Alisaie wailed aloud, caring not who heard her grief.
Five years later, a ship once more glided slowly out of the harbor. Alphinaud and Alisaie stood on the gently rolling deck, watching the gradually shrinking figure of their father, alone upon the quay.
Recent graduates of the Studium, the twins were now sixteen summers old─old enough to be considered of age in Sharlayan society. And so, although he opposed his children’s planned journey, Fourchenault had not sought to bar their way.
“And now it is our turn,” murmured Alphinaud, thinking back to the day of their grandsire’s departure.
“We follow in Grandfather’s wake,” replied Alisaie, her head bowed.
Looking over at her, Alphinaud was struck by how widely their convictions differed. As they gripped the rail, however, identical grimoires now hanging from their belts, one could hardly tell them apart.
No, they were not so different as they cared to believe.