The Lore Train: A Realm Reborn Part 2
A righteous song, a vengeful roar-
The chorus riseth to shatter pillars of ice
Shards of deception will rend flesh and faith
Mayest though find sanctuary in the Light
When last we left off in the first part of our tale, the last of the six elemental primals had been laid low and Moenbryda was drawing close to a method for extinguishing Ascian Souls. However, the Scions’ responsibilities have grown, and their allies in the north have gone silent. What transpires during the finale of A Realm Reborn as Nanamo lays foundations to abdicate the throne and Ishgard prepares to stand alone against imminent assault?
Read on and find out!
Minfilia laments that the Scions’ responsibilities have grown to encompass far more than the primal and Ascian threats, but Alphinaud maintains that – with the Crystal Braves at their disposal – they have the resources they need. As such, he expresses a desire to help the Immortal Flames maintain stability in the wake of the Grand Flame Marshal Roialle’s arrest. Riol informs Alphinaud that the Braves have caught wind of a large shipment of weapons discretely purchased near Highbridge, bringing to mind the merchant who incited the recent Ul’dahn riots. The Warrior of Light joins Ilberd’s unit in Thanalan in hopes of apprehending the black marketer and client mid-transaction.
With the 1st Unit guarding the perimeter of the transaction point, Ilberd recommends that the adventurer distract the one visible guard to draw out his unseen comrades while his unit slips past and apprehends the black marketer. When the two are reunited, however, the operation unravels; the merchant lies dead, his clients have slipped the perimeter, and the “large” shipment of weapons is but a single crate. Ilberd takes responsibility, blaming himself for bringing inexperienced soldiers and underestimating their foe. The 1st and 3rd regroup in Ul’dah, where Riol talks privately with the Warrior of Light, claiming that the 4th was given a different story and doesn’t believe for a second that his information was false. Before they can look into the matter, however, the adventurer is called back to the Rising Stones on urgent business.
In Mor Dhona, Lucia of the Temple Knights meets with Minfilia to request a thorough investigation of the Keeper of the Lake – the resting place of the great wyrm Midgardsormr’s corpse, entangled in the wreckage of the Garlean flagship he lost his life to fell – due to the Ishgardian Astrologians’ claims that the dragon star now burns with an intensity not seen since the Battle of Silvertear Skies. Haste and stealth would be required, however, as the Domans keeping watch over the wreckage on behalf of the Scions report that Garleans frequent the area, presumably trying to salvage materials for the isolated Castrum Centri.
Through scalekin, magitek, and Imperial soldiers the Warrior of Light fights to the apex of Agrius’ shattered fame and comes face to face with the dry, lifeless bones of the King of Kings. As the adventurer surveys the scene, convinced that Midgardsormr is truly dead, a deep, disembodied voice quakes through the sundered metal and the corpse’s eyes begin to glow. The soul of Midgardsormr manifests, angry at the intrusion upon his resting place. He conjures an aetheric frame and attacks, but the adventurer survives and swiftly forces its dispersion. Sensing the power of the Echo, Midgardsormr relents and allows the adventurer to speak.
The Warrior of Light expresses concern for the dragon star and the fate of Ishgard, but this causes the great wyrm to cut his audience short. He explains that he has risen only to join in the dragonsong, now sung by one of his seven children to rally their kind to war – nothing, he says, will halt their advance, and Ishgard will burn for its sins. Now convinced of the adventurer’s lack of worth, Midgardsormr moves to strike them down, but before he can attack, Hydaelyn raises a shield. The wyrm recoils upon recognizing the Blessing of Light, resentful that Hydaelyn would bless this being as Her champion but conceding that a covenant binds their fates. Having felt the ever-waning strength of the mothercrystal, Midgardsormr reaches through the adventurer and darkens the crystals of light. Too long, he says, has the Warrior of Light siphoned Her strength, and at great cost – if Ishgard is to be saved, it will be done with the Blessing sealed and with strength that is theirs alone. Midgardsormr then fashions a small physical frame, saying that he and the adventurer are bound, and that until his restoration is complete, he will observe and judge whether they are more than just a porter of borrowed power. Though the vessel vanishes, the adventurer can sense that he is no longer alone.
Returning to the Rising Stones, the Antecedent is briefed on the events that took place within Agrius. Though the danger to Ishgard has been confirmed, Minfilia recommends withholding the details of the conversation due to how it might affect the Scions’ tenuous relationship with the Ishgardians. When she senses that the adventurer is somehow changed, they confess that Midgardsormr has taken the Blessing of Light, but assure her that they are otherwise unharmed. Lucia accepts the grim news with full confidence that Ishgard will repel the assault, thankful that the advance warning will give Aymeric the support he needs to rally the defenses. Alphinaud shares not in the Temple Knight’s confidence, but holds his tongue, privately suggesting that their allies be prepared in case Ishgard requests aid.
Moenbryda calls an assembly of the Scions and reveals that the white auracite project may be nearing a breakthrough. Though the restoration of Iceheart’s shattered aetheryte proved the material’s effectiveness at channeling a vast amount of aether, it could not contain it for long. If the aether comprising an Ascian soul could truly be confined within, there would be little time in which to gather a greater amount of aether with which to shear it apart. The solution, Moenbryda posits, could come from tapping the aether trapped in the corrupted crystals littered across the realm, formed in the wake of the Calamity. Alphinaud suggests Northern Thanalan as a suitable proving ground for her theory, knowing that the Scions would first need to assist his Crystal Braves in repelling a desperate assault from the Garleans trapped at Castrum Meridianum on the Ceruleum Processing Plant. Moenbryda discerns his intent, but wanting for a safe location to study the crystals, she eagerly takes the bait.
The Warrior of Light joins the 3rd Unit of the Crystal Braves dispatched to Northern Thanalan, and with the help of Ilberd’s 4th Unit from Ul’dah, the Garlean raiding parties are cut down. When Moenbryda doesn’t return, the adventurer deduces that she’s already begun her experiments and meets her in the field, only to sense that an Ascian lurks nearby, quietly observing her success. Discovered, Nabriales reveals himself, expressing his frustration that the Warrior of Light thwarted his hard work, cryptically referring to Shiva’s vessel. His tone changes immediately, however, upon realizing that the protection of the light is no longer about the adventurer. Muttering something about a broken seal and an opportunity to thwart Lahabrea and Elidibus using “the staff,” the Ascian vanishes. Fearing that Nabriales was referring to Tupsimati, the shattered staff of Louisoix, Moenbryda and the adventurer teleport back to Revenant’s Toll.
The two burst into the Solar, where Nabriales is advancing on Minfilia, who desperately clutches Tupsimati. He berates the group for their ignorance, explaining that he Light’s protection blocked even the Scions’ headquarters from Ascian intrusion, though it had no effect on Lahabrea and Elidibus, who were originally of this world. Toying with Minfilia, he threatens to take the staff and bring about the next Rejoining, but his use of the word only sparks her to anger as she realizes that the recent deaths and the disappearance of the Isle of Val were of Ascian design. As he reaches to take Tupsimati, Moenbryda attacks, but Nabriales swiftly counters with a squall of Darkness that leaves her writhing on the floor.
Minfilia pleads that the staff is a shattered keepsake and that he abandon it, but it only frustrates the Ascian further to realize just how little the group actually understands. He chides her for not even have being able to piece it together that the staff was the key to Louisoix’s ability to draw enough aether to call upon the Twelve, which only makes her clutch the staff harder. Unwilling to so go against Elidibus as to kill Minfilia, Nabriales resolves to simply take her along with the staff, opening a dimensional rift that carries her away and following her through. Though the adventurer rushes to aid Moenbryda, the Scion denies aid, warning that the rift will soon close.
On the other side, the Warrior of Light finds themselves in the Ascian hall before a massive statue of Zodiark, in front of which Minfilia hangs floating and confined. As if prepared to use the adventurer’s intrusion on the Chrysalis as pretext, Nabriales attacks in earnest. The loss of Hydaelyn’s blessing has weakened the adventurer far less than the Ascian has assumed, however, and his mastery of Darkness and elemental magicks is not enough to bring them down. Even invoking Zodiark’s name and bending the flow of time fails to yield him the advantage needed to land a killing blow before he is spent.
The Paragon retreats from the Chrysalis, breaking Minfilia’s bindings, and the two give chase back through to the Solar. Nabriales’ physical vessel lies motionless on the floor, but dark aether swirls as the Ascian’s soul pours back into the corporeal realm. With a mere gesture, the body dissolves into shadow. Helpless to lay hands on Tupsimati, however, he can do little but flaunt his immortality and promise to return. Fading, but conscious, Moenbryda pulls the white auracite from her jacket, slides it across the floor, and activates the aetherial siphon. Taking it up, Minfilia holds the auracite to Nabriales; the Ascian’s form collapses as its shadowy aether is temporarily drawn into the vessel.
The Warrior of Light takes up Tupsimati, drawing the summoned aether and attempting to recreate the blade of light that drove Lahabrea from Thancred, but it’s not enough. Minfilia panics, crying out to the silent Hydaelyn for aid as Nabriales struggles to break free of the auracite’s hold and flee back into the interdimensional rift. Knowing that her body’s aether would be burning at its brightest as her life faded, Moenbryda struggles to her feet, finally realizing why Louisoix left her behind, and throws herself into the stream. The aetherial blade surges, and Nabriales screams in fear as his soul is riven and the auracite shatters. A smothering silence hangs over the room until the other Scions arrive, too late. Though they labor to find solace in what their friend’s sacrifice has bought, even the Warrior of Light is helpless to ease the emotional toll it takes on them. Urianger expresses crushing regret that he never explained Louisoix’s choice to her, but when he learns that she freed herself of such doubts in the end, his composure breaks and he takes his leave, reassured, but utterly defeated.
Shortly after, the Scions gather at the stone of prayer in Mor Dhona – upon which Louisoix carved Thaliak’s mark – to say their goodbyes, though Urianger cannot bear to come. The adventurer accompanies them, watching from a short distance behind. With the Scions distracted, Midgardsormr manifests and warns that this will not be the last victory requiring such sacrifice.
The adventurer does what they can to ease the Scions’ grief, but there is little time to mourn before the rallied Dravanians launch their most recent campaign against Ishgard. Lucia returns to the Rising Stones, bearing news that the first wave was repelled, but at such great cost that the city-state has swallowed their pride, broken their silence, and requested aid. If the Horde regroups for a second assault so soon, she admits, Ishgard will likely fall. Aware that few would be likely to come to the aid of a nation that for so long ignored threats to others, she asks that the Scions deliver Ishgard’s plea to the Alliance nonetheless. Lucia also passes along a message from Lord Commander Aymeric, requesting a private meeting with the Warrior of Light, regardless of the others’ commitment or lack thereof to Ishgard’s defense, hoping to glean some insight from their meeting with Midgardsormr.
Before the adventurer can make it to Camp Dragonhead, a small group of heretics launch a surprise attack on the Gates of Judgment, overwhelming the guards stationed there with the help of a traitorous Temple Knight. Before reinforcements can arrive to secure the Steps of Faith, however, Lady Iceheart manages to dispel the first layer of magickal wards protecting the city. Swiftly retreating, she calls out to the skies for the dragons to renew their assault.
At the meeting, Alphinaud plans to feign reluctance to aid Ishgard after being spurned during Operation Archon, but Aymeric outmaneuvers the attempt, reminding the boy that the Dravanians might withdraw leaving Coerthas an ashen ruin, but the Garleans would surely claim it shortly thereafter. Knowing he’d never convince the Ishgardians that he’d risk another Imperial province in Eorzea, much less one bordering Mor Dhona, Alphinaud withdraws the bluff. The Azure Dragoon, Estinien, explains that the Eye of Nidhogg, prized from the great wyrm a millennium past by the hero Haldrath, allows him to hear the dragon’s voice as well as channel his power. He confirms that Nidhogg is indeed the dragon rallying the Dravanians to war, and the next assault draws near. Returning to the Rising Stones, Minfilia assents to committing the Scions and Crystal Braves to the defense of Ishgard, but the burden of directly intervening in the Dragonsong War weighs heavily upon her.
While the Scions are dispatched to their respective regions, the Warrior of Light stays in Revenant’s Toll and attempts to recruit adventurers to Ishgard’s defense, but very few are willing. Riol of the 4th Unit of the Crystal Braves quietly calls the adventurer over, taking a moment of their time to warn that something isn’t right within the Braves. The weapons confiscated in Thanalan went missing from the vaults in Ul’dah at the same time as one of her men, Wilred, vanished. Though many connect these events and assume Wilred’s betrayal, Riol suspects the truth is both more complicated and more nefarious, but he takes his leave.
In Ul’dah, the Eorzean Alliance leaders meet to discuss the aiding of Ishgard. None object to the Crystal Braves’ intervention, but none offer more than a token force of their own. Citing the beast tribes, Garleans, and the squabbling over Cartenau, the cities return Ishgard’s earlier inaction in kind. Alphinaud’s inexperience and temper get the better of him, but his outburst only increases friction in the room. Only Raubahn concedes any further, offering to commit more forces from among the Immortal Flames and entrust the security of Ul’dah to the Brass Blades. As soon as Alphinaud leaves the Fragrant Chamber, however, he is hailed by linkpearl; Ishgard is already under attack.
Arriving in Coerthas, the token Grand Company forces and the Crystal Braves take up positions manning cannons along the Steel Vigil and chasing down Dravanian skirmish parties roaming the region. Only the Knights of Ishgard and volunteers from among the Free Companies stand between the Horde and the city-state when one of Nidhogg’s greatest champions lands on the Steps of Faith. Aiming to shatter the remaining arcane wards of Daniffen’s Collar, the scaled colossus Vishap ambles down the bridge to raze a path for the host at his back. Commanding weapons both contrived and improvised, Lucia leads a systematic withdrawal towards the Arc of the Worthy at the entrance of the city, conceding Vishap every step while the Free Companies thin the vanguard at his feet and allow the Temple Knights to tangle the wyrm in snares and pierce him with massive javelins fired from the watchtowers. The wyrm is finally exhausted mere paces from his goal and the Horde withdraws, their assault broken until Nidhogg can recover from his losses, though Estinien ponders why the wyrmking did not come himself. Yet, knowing that their city would otherwise now be in flames, many of the Knights rally to the adventurers’ sides, shedding their pride to express admiration and gratitude.
With the battle ended, the Warrior of Light returns to the Rising Stones, allowing Ishgard to tend to their wounded. Minfilia reveals that the Grand Company leaders are planning a feast in honor of the victory in hopes of capitalizing on the spirit of cooperation fostered by the Scions and luring Ishgard to return to the Alliance, though even she resents their presumption that they have any right to attend such a ceremony. Ever restless, however, the adventurer foregoes recess and spends their time helping Tataru with further soul searching on how to protect her friends, and helping fellow Scions make ends meet with thinned resources. In the course of these events, the Warrior of Light discovers the body of the missing Wilred, disemboweled in the Black Shroud; unfortunately, the investigation must wait until after the banquet.
Riol hails the adventurer to a private conversation again; stunned to hear about Wilred’s death. He’s sure, however, that the threat comes from within the Crystal Braves themselves. In his investigations, Riol had discovered that Teledji Adeledji moved quite a bit of money into the Braves’ coffers by way of poorly-concealed contributions to the 1st and 3rd Units. When the party arrives in Ul’dah, Momodi of the Adventurers’ Guild passes the adventurer a private message from Alianne of the 4th Unit, saying that she looked quite worried. By the time they are able to make it to the meeting place, however, Alianne is missing; the only sign of anyone having been at the meeting place is an empty – but otherwise unweathered – glass vial. Laurentius of the Crystal Braves passes the area on his rounds, claiming to have not seen Alianne and urging the Warrior of Light to return to the city, lest they miss the feast. The adventurer pockets the vial to inspect later, and heads back to Ul’dah.
As the feast begins, the Scions make for the Fragrant Chamber, but Sultana Nanamo Ul Namo requests a personal audience with Warrior of Light. As her handmaiden prepares her wine and departs, Nanamo appears uneasy as she confesses her intent to dissolve the sultanate at the banquet. She echoes her request to Merlwyb and Kan-E-Senna, as well; the transition will invite chaos, and she would have the Warrior of Light stand by Raubahn to ensure that order is kept. When the adventurer assents, Nanamo breathes a sigh of relief. Thought it meant going against the Flame General’s idealistic hopes and upholding her family’s legacy by extinguishing it entirely, she expresses that she finally feels confident that the outcome will be worth the sacrifice. Smiling, she sips of her goblet, but is immediately overcome with panic. The cup falls to the floor as she struggles for breath, clawing at her own throat until she fades and collapses to the floor. As if on cue, Teledji enters the Sultana’s bedchamber with a unit of Brass Blades, feigning shock at the turn of events and naming the Warrior of Light assassin.
At the banquet, Ser Aymeric announces that the Holy See has finally heeded his recommendation to re-open the Gates of Judgment; the Grand Company leaders shamelessly revel in the glory of what the Scions and Free Companies accomplished in Ishgard’s defense, hopeful that the political posturing and sentiments of unity will coax out further cooperation. Alphinaud is visibly bitter, but allows the charade to continue and leaves to meet with Yuyuhase of the Crystal Braves, who promptly detains him. Teledji enters the Chamber accompanied by Ishgardian knights, who escort Aymeric and Lucia back to Ishgard, which is allegedly enduring as surprise attack.
With the Ishgardian’s absent, Teledji plays his hand – revealing the Sultana’s death and accusing Raubahn of negligence. As proof, he presents the Warrior of Light, now held in chains by Ilberd, citing the handmaiden’s testimony and vial found on the adventurer’s person. When Minfilia protests, he reveals the existence of the Echo and accuses her of ensorcelling rather than assisting the Eorzean Alliance, hinting that this is the very reason Ishgard finally opens its doors and that she means to lead the realm to war. Further taunted by Teledji, the enraged Flame General draws his swords and cleaves him in twain before any can move to stop it.
Breaking his silence, Lolorito acts as if Raubahn’s reaction is proof of Teledji’s claims, accusing him of being in league with the Scions and all but revealing that he had manipulated every meticulous detail towards this outcome. When the Bull of Ala Mhigo turns his blade on him, however, Ilberd intervenes and dismembers his left arm as the other Alliance leaders are rushed from the chamber by their own guard before they can become entangled in the controversy. Lolorito moves to have them all arrested for regicide, and the Crystal Braves reveal their treachery as a whole, having rid themselves of elements loyal to the Scions. Captain Ilberd accuses Raubahn of having abandoned Ala Mhigo, taking credit for the Sultana’s murder. Discarding all but his fury, Raubahn bids the Scions flee and discover the true orchestrators of this plot before turning on the entire contingent of Crystal Braves and Brass Blades himself.
Accused throughout the realm and having lost the Rising Stones, the Scions debate to where they should flee, but it is not long before Raubahn is apprehended and the forces give chase. All but Miniflia and the Warrior of Light stay behind to stall their pursuers, though death seems a certainty. As the two succeed in their escape through the palace’s secret passages – revealed to Thancred by Papashan – and into the Sil’dih aqueducts under Central Thanalan, however, Hydaelyn breaks her silence and speaks to Minfilia. With dread in her eyes, the antecedent says that the Warrior of Light must go on alone, urging them towards the exit while she herself turns back. At first, the adventurer protests, but Minfilia is steadfast that there is no other option.
Outside, Alphinaud locates the Warrior of Light quickly, having been aided in his escape by Raubahn’s adopted son, Pipin Tarupin. Braves and Blades pour from the city’s gates as a chocobo carriage approaches the group and urges they climb aboard. Fate almost seems a rational concept as the adventurer recognizes its driver – one of the three brothers operating the supply service that brought them to their home nation as this adventure began, having been sent by Alisaie at the Waking Sands. At Black Brush, the group finds Cid waiting with the Enterprise, and with nowhere else to go, decides to flee towards Coerthas. At Camp Dragonhead, Lord Haurchefant is eager to return the Scions previous aid, his faith in them unwavering and pleased that the Ishgard’s cold disposition will – for once – protect rather than hinder the group. Though Ishgard cannot offer asylum until the looming Dravanian threat has passed, he offers Camp Dragonhead itself as their refuge in the name of House Fortemps and promises that all who seek them will be driven away.
In the camp, the group is surprised to find Tataru and Yigiri, who explain that the Crystal Braves turned on the custodians of the Rising Stones in the marketplace, taking the headquarters as their own. F’lhaminn offered herself as a distraction, Tataru says, so that she could escape, and Yugiri found her soon after, having noticed suspicious activity amongst the units. Together they fled to Urianger at the Waking Sands, where he activated glamours prepared after the Imperial assault. Though he remained there as its keeper, Yugiri and Tataru went on to Dragonhead while the Domans searched for other Scions. With the excitement fading, Alphinaud is overcome with despair as his naivety, admitting his arrogance at rushing towards glory in Eorzea’s salvation, blind to the realities of the world. Tataru takes up Minfilia’s mantle, urging him to not let the light of hope burn out, but she, too, breaks down and weeps as they agree to keep pressing forward.
In their forgotten corner of the world, Elidibus and Lahabrea speak of Nabriales’ demise, agreeing that in light of the rate at which the Scions progress, his haste may not have been unwarranted despite his failure to invoke the Ardor. Lahabrea recommends looking towards the northern lands, where war has so long reigned that unleashing the chaos required for Zodiark’s return will be easy. He hints that the north, too, is rife with faith, but Elidibus cuts to the truth of his intent to further meddle in primal affairs and rebukes him for prioritizing his obsession with curiosities over God’s will. Lahabrea takes his leave, affirming his dedication to Zodiark, and Elidibus turns instead to the arrival of an invited guest. Requesting to speak of fate – that of mortals, of the Ascians, of the planet itself – the emissary greets Urianger with a smile.
To preserve the Dawn’s light,
the heroes journeyed north
Their hearts filled with hope
and eyes fixed Heavensward
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