The Lore Train: Heavensward (Part 1)

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With a new patch comes a new installment of The Lore Train’s episodic summary of the main scenario, focusing on the story so far… between versions 3.0 (Heavensward) and 3.1 (As Goes Light, So Goes Darkness). Skipped your cutscenes? Barely remember the binge a few months back? As always – we’ve got you covered. Come prepared, for this one is longer than Hunberct’s legendary lever.

First time Story so far… reader? Forgotten what came before this, as well?
Feel free to check out the summaries of A Realm Reborn, Part 1 & Part 2!

Eorzea – A land embraced by Gods,
delivered from destruction by the Warriors of Light…
However… Fate has cast down these heroes,
and their Light now threatens to fade…

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THE GATES OF ISHGARD

Alphinaud, Tataru, and the Warrior of Light set aside rage and sorrow as Haurchefant bears news that his father, Count Edmont de Fortemps, has granted his request to accept the remnants of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn as wards of his house, thus granting them asylum within the walls of Ishgard. Through the Gates of Judgment, across the Steps of Faith, and under the Arc of the Worthy, the group is escorted to the highest levels of the city, where the wealthy and influential reside. However, even the brevity of their first visit to Foundation cannot mask the scars left in both masonry and morale by the attack that drew Aymeric from the victory celebrations in Ul’dah. The wyverns of the Dravanian Horde had been without mercy.

The Count de Fortemps offers the Scions a warm and sincere welcome into his home, dismissing Alphinaud’s concern that their presence might garner the house ill favor with their ilk and assuring them that – so long as the Scions act as they always have – Ishgard will grow to trust them. Edmont offers them leave to take a tour of the city, a display of his acceptance that the group may well be quartered at his manor for some time, though Alphinaud sees it also as an opportunity to increase the Scions’ self-reliance, not wanting to unduly impose on the count’s hospitality. The tour concludes at the Forgotten Knight – a tavern popular with soldiers, merchants, and commoners alike – where Tataru resolves to stay behind to listen to the small talk and network with the regulars.

Upon the return to Fortemps Manor, the count is moved by an Alphinaud’s offer of Scion aid despite attaching no condition to their protection (though if he did subtly imply that it was needed). Admitting that he is in no place to refuse assistance, Edmont suggests that merchant contacts from outside the city may yield desperately needed provisions for his house. While he and Alphinaud see to these details, the count bids that his sons accept the Warrior of Light’s support in their duties, though he’s compelled to harshly reprimand their lack of decorum when the elder sees the adventurer as a threat to their glory and the younger is excited by the prospect of a famous hero acting in their service.

RECLAIMING THE WESTERN HIGHLANDS

Alone with the adventurer, Ser Artoirel – the count’s elder son – finds his composure. He explains that he felt accused of being unequal to his duties and that he was agitated over the very assignment with which they will be assisting – supporting the operations of houses Durendaire and Dzemael, neither of whom are particularly friendly with House Fortemps. Setting these thoughts aside, he requisitions a pair of black chocobos, a breed with a capacity for flight, so that the two can make their way to the newly-refortified Falcon’s Nest in the western highlands, where the knights of Ishgard struggle to reclaim what was abandoned in the Calamity.

Ser Redwald of House Durendaire greets them, grateful for the assistance. The adventurer sets about assisting the artisans with odd jobs about the hamlet while Artoirel and Redwald discuss the current state of affairs, but when a reconnaissance party in search of the heretics’ hideout fails to return, the group resolves to find them before the unforgiving landscape claims further lives. At the abandoned Camp Riversmeet, they find the party’s lone survivor seeking shelter from a heretic ambush and fearing that his party is dead. Artoirel sees him safely back to the hamlet, but the Warrior of Light presses on, tracking the heretics to the basement of the abandoned Gorgagne Mills … only to find Lady Iceheart, herself.

Midgardsormr reveals his presence before Iceheart can attack, musing that even blessed with the same gifts the two persist on opposite paths. Stunned to see the Father of Dragons at the side of her enemy, she speaks plainly – indeed, Hydaelyn saw fit to bless her with the Echo some years ago, as a child living in Falcon’s Nest. Before she could discern the meaning of Her gift, however, the Calamity saw Coerthas turned into a frozen waste, and her family perished in the exodus from the hamlet. Alone, she fled to Dravania, where she was chanced upon by Hraesvelgr, one of the Seven Celestial Dragons – first brood of Midgardsormr – and Shiva’s beloved.

The Echo allowed her to see the Dragonsong War through the great wyrm’s eyes, along with the falsehoods spread by Ishgard about its origins. Feeling that she had discovered the purpose of her gift, she rallied the heretics with these truths and summoned Shiva’s soul from the Lifestream to dismantle the lies of the Holy See and unite man and dragon once more. The Warrior of Light spares not her feelings, reminding her of the massacres left in her wake, not the least among them the innocents lost in the attack on Foundation. For a moment, her conviction breaks – she pleads for the adventurer to believe that this was never her desire. She abruptly takes her leave, saying only that she knows her sins, but cannot turn back now, for she and Shiva and yet one.

Midgardsormr vanishes and the Warrior of Light is left alone as Artoirel and the knights of Ishgard descend too late on the heretics’ hideout. Still, the purging of the base, however hollow a victory for the adventurer, is taken as a triumph for the Holy See. Given leave to return to Ishgard, Artoirel admits that he is ashamed, for he had desired to see the Warrior of Light fail, proving his father a fool for indulging the fantastical tales of his bastard son. Humbled and sincere, he promises not to doubt you or his half-brother again.

INTO THE SEA OF CLOUDS

Returned for Fortemps Manor, the younger son of Count Edmont, Emmanellain, is eager to take possession of the adventurer, bidding the two make for the Pillars’ airship landing immediately. In flight, he explains that they are headed deep into the Sea of Clouds that perpetually hangs over Ishgard – where countless floating islands remain unexplored – to an outpost of House Haillenarte used to watch for Dravanian incursions from above. Having yielded both the Stone and Steel Vigils to the Horde, and dogged by constant accusations of heresy, the Haillenarte name is in decline, he reveals, but they remain steadfast friends of the Fortemps and he aims to surpass his brother’s glory by coming to their aid.

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Arriving at Camp Cloudtop, they are greeted by Laniaitte de Haillenarte, who takes the meeting as an opportunity to finally thank the Warrior of Light in person for saving her brother Francel from the accusations of the false inquisitor not long past. Emmanellain’s briefing turns out to be more fantasy than reality, however. Camp Cloudtop is known as a place for cravens and the unskilled, where intense combat is considered unlikely. She is quick to give the boy a simple task to distract him while the adventurer assists Ser Marielle’s forces against the minor incursions of the area’s beast tribe, the Vanu Vanu. Though they had initially shared peaceful relations a few years past, they had suddenly soured after but six months and the two had remained in constant conflict since.

When Emmanellain tires of watch duty and attempts to assist the Warrior of Light, Lady Laniaitte’s fears are realized when he is abducted by the Vanu Vanu. The boy’s manservant rushes to Camp Cloudtop to seek help, but the adventurer charges alone into the Vundu tribe’s stronghold. After sneaking past the Vanu to where Emmanellain is being held, Vundu Chief Honu springs the trap, and the Warrior of Light is surrounded. Hopelessly outnumbered, the adventurer cannot make any ground towards the exit, but manages to hold the enemies at bay until Haurchefant arrives with a unit of knights. Yet another group of Vundu aggressors close off the only path of retreat, backing the group against an overhang with naught but sky below. Chief Honu proclaims that they shall be sacrificed to The White – Bismarck, Lord of the Mists, and at his call the great feathered whale rises from the Sea of Clouds to devour all within his reach. A familiar voice cuts through the commotion, beckoning the group towards the overhang, where the Enterprise lies in wait to make a narrow escape.

Cid hovers between frustration and laughter as he recounts the blind luck that led him to be nearby – repairing the Ishgardians’ flagship, the Protector – at the time Emmanellain’s manservant came seeking reinforcements for the Warrior of Light. The revelation that a primal swims the Sea of Clouds weighs heavily on the knights, though Laniaitte now understands the sudden change in the Vanu Vanu. The group disbands, with Cid returning to his repairs and Haurchefant returning to Ishgard to report the outcome to Ser Aymeric, Lord Commander of the Temple Knights. The adventurer is left to see Emmanellain back to the Pillars, thought he boy quickly forgets his terror and helplessness in favor of priding himself on “his” discovery of a new primal (until the Count sees him severely punished for his recklessness).

ACCUSATION

Yet even Count Edmont de Fortemps conveys an outpouring of gratitude from within the other high houses, news arrives that their political squabbling has yet ceased – Alphinaud and Tataru have been detained, accused of inciting heresy. As the charge stems from Ser Grinnaux of the Heavens’ Ward – a member of both House Dzemael and the Archbishop’s personal guard – the count theorizes that a prominent member of the rival house is attempting to retaliate against warming public sentiments towards the Scions (and the honor they have won for House Fortemps).

The Warrior of Light turns to Ser Aymeric, but in spite of his belief that the charges are false (and of Lucia’s fury that those who stood with her on the Steps of Faith now face such treatment), not even he has the authority to contradict a member of the Heavens’ Ward. His suggestion is to invoke the Inquisition’s right to trial by combat, allowing Tataru to be replaced by a capable champion alongside Alphinaud against Grinnaux and a second of his choosing. Though Haurchefant and Aymeric both volunteer to stand for Tataru, they know the Warrior of Light is their best chance at securing the pair’s release.

Ser Grinnaux chooses Ser Paulecrain as his second, likely as much due to his history of having been expelled by House Fortemps and taken in by House Dzemael than his station as a fellow brother of the Heavens’ Ward. With Alphinaud’s support, however, the Warrior of Light manages to gain the upper hand against the two knights, securing the Scions’ release. Yet the plan to regroup at Fortemps Manor is interrupted immediately, as a courier arrives bearing news that that archbishop himself has requested the adventurer’s presence within Ishgard’s seat of power, the Holy Vault.

From atop his throne, Archbishop Thordan VII offers an official and public apology for the false charges leveled against the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, admitting that the fault lies with the Heavens’ Ward and prompting their commander, Ser Zephirin, to personally relay that the receipt of false information and the zealousness of Ser Grinnaux’s service were responsible for a grievous lapse of justice. With this formality concluded, the archbishop dismisses Temple Knight and Heavens’ Ward alike, even in spite of Zephirin’s concern.

No sooner are the two alone than does Thordan free himself from the air of ceremony, addressing the Warrior of Light with a direct question that leaves them in stunned silence, “What do you know of the Ascians?” In what amounts to an unsolicited confession, the archbishop reveals that – as Ishgard’s resources dwindled and its desperation grew – the harbingers of chaos came to him proffering the power to continue their holy war against dragonkind … and he had not refused. Indeed, he had since received them as guests, even heeded their council. But this, he claims, has been a ruse. Unable to turn them away, he drew them close and learned of their methods and beliefs, plotting to turn on them when the time was right. Knowing that the Ascians fear nothing more than Hydaelyn’s chosen, he offers an alliance that may yet wrest Eorzea from their grasp, allowing the adventurer leave to consider the notion.

FATE OF THE FLAME GENERAL

Returning to Fortemps Manor, Alphinaud is stunned by the archbishop’s revelations and sure that the presence of the Ascians can only lead to the presence of more primals. As he contemplates how the threat may be combated by so few, Tataru explodes into panic, having forgotten in the recent troubles a rumor that she’d heard in the Forgotten Knight – Flame General Raubahn is soon to be executed for his crimes against Ul’dah. Unwilling to lose one of their few remaining allies – and their only hope of freeing themselves from accusations of regicide – Alphinaud sets all other concerns aside, revealing that they have one option yet available to them. In securing provisions for House Fortemps from Limsa Lominsa, he had been able to make contact with Chief Admiral Merlwyb Bloefhiswyn, who affirmed that she too remains the Scions’ stout ally. He proposes they seize immediately on the admiral’s offer to assist with any operation that might secure Raubahn’s freedom.

In the Thalassocracy, Merlwyb confirms that she and Kan-E-Senna had pressured the Alliance into inaction by demanding that the Syndicate provide irrefutable proof before risking the stability of the realm to accuse its saviors of political assassination. So far as the general public knows, she reveals, the sultana is but bedridden with illness. However, when the admiral confesses that Nanamo had confided in them her plans to convert Ul’dah into a republic, Alphinaud realizes that the conspiracy cannot be as simple as it appears. Replacing the chaos that would ensue from the sultana’s abdication with chaos stemming from her assassination was a plan from which only Teledji Adeledji could possibly profit; Lord Lolorito would never have gone along with it. And now Teledji himself was dead… A momentary flicker of hope sparks to life within Alphinaud – could Lolorito’s machinations still be in motion? Could that be why Raubahn had been spared this long?

Merlwyb agrees with Alphinaud’s assessment, but warns that the matter may now be out of Lolorito’s control, for the Brass Blades were not the ones who abducted the Flame General from the Marasaja Pit for execution; it was soldiers in blue. Rage swells within Alphinaud – the Crystal Braves. Before he can declare his intention to hunt down his fellow comrades, however, Merlwyb smiles; the Domans are already searching. As Alphinaud and the Warrior of Light set out for Revenant’s Toll to make contact with the shinobi, Merlwyb stops them, compelled to confess that leaving them to their fate in Ul’dah has weighed heavily on her conscience since, and that even if they think her craven, she will find a way to make it up to them.

The Domans track Yuyuhase from the Rising Stones to Halatali in Eastern Thanalan, realizing that it is to be the site of Raubahn’s execution once Ilberd’s unit arrives, as well. Reunited with Yugiri for the first times since the escape to Camp Dragonhead, the allies cut through the Crystal Braves towards Raubahn. Upon finding him, however, Yuyuhase closes the arena’s gates and makes his exit, activating a canister of poison to kill all within. By the time the group is able to free Raubahn and disable the canister, the Crystal Braves return in force to finish the job as intended. Though the Warrior of Light and shinobi are able to overpower the unit, Alphinaud stays his fury and gives Ilberd, Yuyuhase, and Laurentius a chance to surrender – inadvertently giving them the chance they need to escape. Yugiri holds Alphinaud back before he can give chase, reminding him that Raubahn is more important.

Outside, the Scions are met by a robed stranger who claims that he was sent bearing a message of goodwill, bidding that the group make for Urianger’s refuge at the Waking Sands on his mistress’ behalf. There, Raubahn is reunited with his adopted son Pipin, and the dark stranger’s mistress reveals her identity – Dewlala, the prioress of the Order of Nald’thal and a neutral member of the Syndicate. She claims that they have all been victims of a ruse by Lolorito to undermine Teledji’s own conspiracy, manipulating Raubahn into killing him and thus preventing either of his greatest rivals from interfering whilst he manipulated events from the shadows towards his desired outcome – ensuring the survival of Nanamo Ul Namo. She confirms that the sultana lives, speculating that Lolorito switched the fatal poison for a nonlethal substitute and has since confined her while he sees concludes his scheme. Though the ends may not justify the means, she concedes, she asks that they focus on the fact that Lolorito has saved the Sultana’s life and paved the way for the stability of Ul’dah, taking her leave to give them time to consider her words. Before any plans can be made, however, Alphinaud receives a panicked call on his linkpearl – the Dravanians have renewed their assault.

DELAYING THE ADVANCE

The Warrior of Light returns to Ishgard to find it making frantic preparations for assault – the Observatorium bells toll and Nidhogg’s host makes for the Holy See. The Count de Fortemps harbors no delusions, admitting that he can no longer guarantee the Scions’ safety and recommending that they seek asylum elsewhere. As Haurchefant rallies his knights to fight to the last in what may be Ishgard’s fall, Alphinaud beckons the Warrior of Light and Tataru outside, suggesting last-ditch effort to save the city – find Iceheart. If she truly wishes to atone for her sins, he reasons, perhaps she could afford them a chance to parley with the great wyrm. Overhearing the proposal, Estinien, the Azure Dragoon, interjects that he would like to accompany them, hoping to buy time for Ishgard’s preparations and, if the opportunity presents itself, simply slay Nidhogg outright. What started as desperate musing becomes a plan of action, with Alphinaud accepting Estinien’s company on the condition that he stay his lance until diplomacy fails. Though they appraise Aymeric of few details, the thought of the Warrior of Light and Azure Dragoon side-by-side fills him with a naive hope. He agrees to countermand the voices calling for an ill-advised pre-emptive attack on the Horde and pressure them to instead shore up Ishgard’s defenses until the last possible moment.

The trail of the heretics leads Gorgagne Mills back to Akh Afah Amphitheatre – where Moenbryda’s aetheryte somehow yet functioned – and then back to the western highlands, towards the Dreaming Dragon. What few are found, however, refuse to trust in Alphinaud’s claims of parley, instead partaking of dragon’s blood in hopes that the transformation will grant them the power to survive. In the end, it is a Convictor stationed at a camp nearby the Dreaming Dragon who holds the key to finding Iceheart; he claims that the disenchanted knights who recently rallied to the side of the heretics –hoping for freedom if nothing else – talked of a signal fire with violet smoke that would declare their intent to defect. Sure enough, when the group lights such a fire of their own, it is Iceheart who finds them.

As Midgardsormr had done at the wreckage of the Agrius, Iceheart dismisses their hopes as futile; the attack on Ishgard cannot be stopped. At last given the chance to speak at length, however, she finally reveals the source of her conviction: the contents of the vision that the Echo withdrew from Hraesvelgr’s soul. The tale begins as the Ishgardians tell it: a thousand years past, a tribe of Elezen entered Coerthas seeking to establish their new home – but the land was already settled by dragonkind. Neither side willing to relinquish their claim, a bloody war raged with each side determined to annihilate the other. Making a heartfelt plea for parley with the dragons, an Elezen woman named Shiva found not only that they were intelligent and reasonable beings, but found in Hraesvelgr a soulmate – a sentiment, against all odds, shared by the great wyrm. Unwilling to lose Shiva to a fleeting mortal life, he gave in to her pleas that he consume her so that their souls would be entwined forever.

But here the account separates from its Ishgardian counterpart, for in Shiva’s recounting, tale of Hraesvelgr and Shiva’s love spread through both cultures until neither could bear raising arms against the other. Over the next two centuries, man and dragon lived in peace, raising great cities whose like the world had never seen. But envy of the dragons’ power and longevity never withdrew from the Elezens’ hearts. Knowing that the dragons’ endless wellspring of power was stored within their eyes, a power-hungry group of knights betrayed the dragons and took that power by force. Shiva claims that this is how Nidhogg’s eye was lost, and that neither he nor Isghard will know peace until it is reclaimed.

Estinien claims that, though he does not doubt her tale, he knows that she is wrong about Nidhogg’s intentions. Revealing that the eye is even now in his possession, he claims that Nidhogg no longer pursues him, evidence that the wyrm now cares only for the destruction of the Holy See and its people. If Nidhogg is lost to reason, Alphinaud suggests, perhaps it would be wiser to parley with Hraesvelgr, whose brood has not joined Nidhogg’s despite that they are both brothers of the first brood. Moved by their commitment to peace and knowing that her recent efforts have resulted in naught but bloodshed, Iceheart agrees to lead the group through Dravania and into the clouds where the great wyrm resides. As the allies depart to make camp before their journey, the Warrior of Light is overcome from within as the Ice Crystal of Light awakens. Midgardsormr senses that the adventurer’s power may yet be enough to lift his blockade on Hydaelyn’s blessing, but says nothing.

PILGRIMAGE

The path to Hraesvelgr’s domain first takes the group into the forests of the Dravanian forelands, where Ysayle fled the Calamity as a child. Using the dense canopy to shield them from airborne attack, they make their way to Tailfeather – a small hamlet of chocobo trappers that sell their prizes to the breeders of the Holy See – where she was brought after the visions of Hraesvelgr and Shiva left her unconscious in the forest. Though Ysayle still has friends here, including the hunters’ leader, Marcechamp, they warn that the journey will be more dangerous than expected. The Gnath, an insect-like beast tribe native to the forelands, have become fiercely aggressive, challenging the dragons for territory and drawing them into a bitter conflict.

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The party makes for the foot of Sohm Al, the highest peak in Eorzea, a sacred resting place for dragonkind and the path to their dominion in the skies. With every step of the path, Ysayle and Estinien passionately bicker about everything from one another’s motives to the origin of the forelands’ ruins, but it never boils over into violence – or even resentment. The conflict with the Gnath, however, has indeed made the dragons wary – Vidofnir, daughter of Hraesvelgr, refuses to open the way so long as the Gnathic god remains free to challenge them. Shocked to hear that the presence of primals has brought conflict even here, so far from the city-states, Alphinaud volunteers to see that the primal threat is eliminated – failing to realize that he speaks less for the Scions of the Seventh Dawn than does he blindly volunteer the Warrior of Light.

Without much trouble, the group is able to make contact with a small group of Gnath who had been exiled from the hive on account of lacking the telepathic connection – the onemind – that links the beastmen to one another and their leader. These Vath – the nonmind – are of little assistance, however. The storyteller explains that, a few moons prior, a dragon wounded in battle with Ishgard had collapsed in Gnathic lands, and through this display of weakness and the encouragement of the Paragons did the Gnath become emboldened as to summon their god and expand the hive through conquest. His only suggestion for breaching the colony would be to allow themselves to be captured, engaging the primal directly when offered as sacrifices. With no alternatives, Alphinaud and Estinien are forced to stay behind as the Warrior of Light and Ysayle, both blessed with the Echo and immune to primal influence, infiltrate Lost Ast Gnath.

The beast tribe at least proves predictable, and the pair are brought immediately before the Lord of the Hive upon capture. Roused from the aether, Ravana appears intrigued that the pair would risk their lives to speak with him, yet will not accept any proposition that interferes with the glory of Gnathic conquest, for life is without meaning save for that won in combat. Hoping that Ravana’s beliefs imply a soldier’s honor, Ysayle challenges him to battle, demanding the Gnath stand down from conquest should she or the Warrior of Light emerge victorious. Ravana accepts on the condition that, should the two fail to defeat him, they will serve under him in the very conquest they sought to end.

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Drawing forth aether from the crystal veins in the Gnathic hive, Ysayle reveals her deception, infusing her soul with Shiva’s essence and engaging him god against god. Yet she exhausts what aetheric energy she could acquire too quickly, and the might of fire and earth shatters the ice goddess. Relinquishing her deiform, she yields the arena to the Warrior of Light, too injured to continue. A smaller target, the adventurer focuses on evading the primal’s bladed waltz until his carapace can be broken, seizing on the opening to exhaust Ravana’s strength and vanquish him to the aether. As he fades, the Lord of the Hive proclaims the Warrior of Light the rightful victor and lays down his blades, allowing the adventurer and Ysayle to flee Lost Ast Gnath. Watching from above, the Ascian Igeyohrm expresses frustration that the Warrior of Light continues to achieve the impossible, taking solace in the fact that too many mortals yet succumb to hopelessness and rage to prevent the warring gods from continuing to plague the land, ever spreading the influence of chaos.

ASCENT

True to her word, as well, Vidofnir opens the way to Sohm Al in the depth of Mourn, warning that she may have granted them passage, but Nidhogg’s minions will not welcome them. Estinien expresses his confidence that they might be slain, causing he and Ysayle to lash out at one another once more, butcher versus heretic. In the end, however, the sentiment is well-founded; many of Nidhogg’s brood attempt to bar their passage with tooth and claw, relenting only in death. At the mountain’s peak, Hess Afah – the Eternal Watch – Nidhogg’s consort and the guardian of Sohm Al falls upon the intruders with unquenchable rage. Tioman’s death at the hands of the Warrior of Light and the Azure Dragoon weighs heavily on Ysayle, though she does not deny its necessity, going as far as to compare her fury to that of the wyverns that immolated the innocents of Foundation. As the party advances towards the mountain’s exit, the adventurer’s consciousness is again momentarily withdrawn from reality as the Earth Crystal of Light regains its luster, though the moment remains a private revelation.

Emerging from the mountaintop, the party finds themselves in the dominion of the dragons – the Churning Mists – a series of floating islands not unlike those of the Sea of Clouds. Structures even more enormous and ornate than those of the forelands stretch as far as the eye can see, forcing Estinien to concede that the Ishgardians’ claims that such constructions were built by heretics to honor their masters and deceive the faithful cannot be accurate. But even more breathtaking is the sight of… a moogle, which promptly vanishes.

The idea that moogles could be present here is a great relief to Alphinaud, as the Churning Mists are home to not only dragons loyal to Hraesvelgr, but also those of the Dravanian Horde loyal only to Nidhogg. With a moogle’s aid, the group might be able to find the elusive Hraesvelgr while themselves eluding the dragons incensed by the rage of his brood-brother, which Estinien assures the group seethes through the very air of the region. Utilizing an ancient aetheryte amongst the ruins once shared by man and dragon, Alphinaud and the Warrior of Light teleport to Gridania confident that they can easily return. Seeking the wisdom of the Elder Seedseer, Kan-E-Senna, in contacting the moogles of the Mists, she agrees to lend her assistance. Before they can leave, Kuplo Kopp sheds his glamours and reveals that he’s been listening. Ecstatic that the legends of Great King Moggle Mog’s home in the sky might be rooted in truth, he eagerly agrees to join them.

The presence of a fellow moogle and a gift of warmth and light from the Padjal is enough to convince the chieftain of the moogles of the Mists come out of hiding. The moogles reveal that the group must undertake the “Trials of Trustworthiness”, for they are unsure that aiding them is in their best interest. Hraesvelgr has given them a home amongst the clouds in exchange for tending to his lands, and they don’t wish to draw the ire of Nidhogg’s minions. The trials in question turn out to be a nigh-endless stream of simple errands and chores, which Chieftain Moglin admits at their conclusion were a distraction to give the moogles time to repair the horn used to summon Hraesvelgr, damaged by disuse and possibly even neglect.

Lighthearted frivolities are set aside as the trio leave their allies in Moghome to nurture newmade friendships while they make their way for Zenith to call down Hraesvelgr. Ysayle places the success of the encounter on her own shoulders, believing that, as Saint Shiva’s vessel, she can sway the great wyrm to their cause. When the horn sounds and the dragon descends, however, the mere invocation of his beloved’s name fills him with sorrow and rage. The spirit within her heart, he reveals, is – as all primals are – a shade born of misplaced faith, no different from the mockery of his brood-brother called conjured by the Meracydians three ages past.

For a moment, Ysayle is silent as the foundation of her faith collapses. The vision brought by the Echo was but pieces of truth that led her to assume a false destiny, lead as a false savior, and in the end her sins would not be endured by a martyr, but a fool. The only hope she had left for the future she envisioned was to gain Hraesvelgr’s aid, and he saw her for what she was. Alphinaud cuts in, defending her at least her desire for peace as genuine, but the dragon is not swayed. Instead, he recounts the complete tale of which Ysayle saw but glimpses. After two hundred years of peace between man and dragon, King Thordan and his knights twelve lured Ratatoskr – brood-sister to Hraesvelgr and Nidhogg – into an ambush, tearing out her eyes and consuming them like beasts. Learning of this betrayal, Nidhogg fell upon the knights in fury, killing Thordan and half of his knights before Prince Haldrath took up his father’s spear and thrust for the dragon’s eyes.

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Estinien can barely refute the tale, as it mirrors Ishgard’s own scripture save for its omission of all between the Elezens’ arrival in Coerthas and Nidhogg’s descent to challenge Thordan. Still, the Azure Dragoon asks the great wyrm why he should believe in a tale that absolves dragonkind of all responsibility. Hraesvelgr’s answer eliminates any lingering doubts the Dragoon might have; to see the truth requires but to look upon Nidhogg’s actions. The wyrm has spurned every chance to truly destroy Ishgard, instead tormenting its people until they were so weak as to shed their faith. Those who accepted a drink of the dragons’ blood awakened Ratatoskr’s essence – the sin passed down from the founders of the nation through every family line – turning them into that which they betrayed. Nidhogg’s war was never to claim their lives, but their spirits – to consume those who had inherited their forbearers’ sins until naught remained.

Hraesvelgr leaves them to contemplate the futility of their quest, though Estinien embraces the simplicity of it: there is no way to end a war that is not a war – Nidhogg must die. Ysayle cries out to reject the notion, feeling that it signifies the manifestation of her failure, but she can offer no defense for the position. Estinien leads Alphinaud and the Warrior of Light towards Nidhogg’s lair, leaving Ysayle unable to carry on. The eye leads the pair east, towards a floating island surrounded by a barrier of wind and static – the death of Tioman has caused Nidhogg to withdraw and raise his guard. Reminded of the barrier summoned around Garuda’s sanctuary, Alphinaud suggests they seek assistance from the Garlond Ironworks. Estinien, hopeful that they have stalled the advance on Ishgard, stays behind to keep vigil.

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AWAKENING

Alphinaud tracks Cid Garlond to the Pillars’ airship landing, still assisting with Ishgardian repairs. While he would normally be quick to offer the Enterprise for a dangerous mission, he confesses that its agility is no match for that of dragons. Instead, he offers two smaller, personal craft – successors of the Tiny Bronco designed by Biggs & Wedge. Without warning, Tataru comes sprinting into the room, saying she’s been looking everywhere for them – Flame General Raubahn has just made contact, claiming to know the whereabouts of the sultana. Cid tells the Scions not to feel conflicted, knowing that it will take time to prepare the craft in question, and recommends they see to the situation in Ul’dah for the time being.

In Vesper Bay, Raubahn reveals that Dewlala has passed along information indicating that the Sultana has been in her own palace the entire time, trapped in continuous slumber with a potion devised by the previous master of the Alchemists’ Guild. In search of the means to counteract it, he has tracked Nanamo’s lady-in-waiting, who laced the goblet used to poison her, to the Silver Bazaar. The group tracks the handmaiden, now living under an assumed name, back to her residence, but before she can be questioned, Lolorito himself interrupt’s the Flame General’s search and offers to provide the truth he seeks in her stead.

When Teledji Adeledji learned of Nanamo’s plans to abdicate the throne, he set aside the Cartenau Reclamation Bill (designed to claim the Allagan machine known as Omega) and attempted to take power by way of assassinating the sultana and replacing her with a more pliable substitute – a maid whose bloodline could be traced to the fallen Thorne Dynasty that briefly interrupted the Ul line some centuries before. Feeling that Teledji overestimated his control over the scheme’s outcome – and sure that it cut into his profits either way – Lolorito usurped the scheme and let Teledji seal his own fate. The Crystal Braves had been his from the start – funded by shell companies with Ilberd’s compliance bought with assurances that Lolorito, once in power, would fund the reclamation of Ala Mhigo. Never intending for Raubahn to be executed, he assures the General that Ilberd is no longer in his employ, though this does little to abate his rage until Dewlala offers a reminder that Raubahn himself executed a fellow Syndicate member without trail. Freely handing over the sleeping potion’s antidote, Lolorito takes leave, assenting to Dewlala’s promise that both the Flame General’s leadership of the Immortal Flames and Nanamo’s rule will soon be reinstated.

True to Lolorito’s claims, Nanamo stirs from slumber, Raubahn holding back tears and explanations until she has recovered. Vowing to support her in Ul’dah’s transformation into a republic, Lolorito recommends against the idea of destabilizing the city until conflict with the Garleans has been resolved, especially since his latest intelligence suggests the Emperor Varis has overseen the construction a flagship as powerful as the fallen Agrius. As a gesture of his sincerity, however, he signs over the whole of Teledji’s wealth – and half of his own – to the crown.

Leaving the Syndicate to put their affairs in order, Alphinaud returns to Mor Dhona and summons the loyal remnants of the Crystal Braves to the Rising Stones. His attempts to formally disband the company, however, are turned on him when Riol and Alianne refuse to go their separate ways, stubbornly insisting that they’ll all remain together as Scions of the Seventh Dawn, instead. Vowing to do everything they can to find their missing allies – F’lhaminn, Hoary Boulder, and Coultenet now confirmed among them – the group stays behind to man their old headquarters. Having done all that he can do, Alphinaud calls for reassembly in Ishgard to prepare for the assault on the Aery.

ON THE OFFENSIVE

In Foundation, Aymeric has seen to the city’s defenses, but fears that it will not be enough. Instead, he becomes adamant that he stand with the Azure Dragoon and Warrior of Light against Nidhogg. It takes the protests of all present to persuade him to stay and lead Ishgard’s knights, but the momentum allows Estinien to convince the group as a whole to allow he and the adventurer to see this task through alone – Ishgard’s defense will fall to them should they fail.

As promised, the airships, dubbed Manacutters, allow the pair passage through the barrier and into the Aery, but Nidhogg descends upon them immediately. Using the eye, Estinien draws the wyrm’s attention and disappears into the winds, leaving the adventurer to battle through a host of his minions. Reunited at the dragon’s sanctuary, the Azure Dragoon and Warrior of Light challenge Nidhogg directly, and thankfully it is not long before drawing upon his wrath leads the wyrm to exhaust much of his power. Estinien exerts his control over the eye in his possession, enfeebling Nidhogg and allowing him to drive Gae Bolg through the one that remains. With his last words, Nidhogg vows that – as he had once before – Estinien would again succumb his influence, yet, for now, the Azure Dragoon stands victorious.

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Nearby, the adventurer doubles over as the Lightning Crystal of Light awakens within and the Echo resonates with Nidhogg’s fading spirit. The vision is of Nidhogg’s previous defeat; Price Haldrath stands with not one – but both of Nidhogg’s eyes. The remnants of the Knights Twelve decree that, their revenge complete, the wyrm be left to die of his wounds. Yet Haldrath shares not in the vision of his father or his knights. He forsakes the throne of Ishgard and vows that his penance for partaking of Ratatoskr’s eyes will be to protect his people from the dragons’ rage until his death. Several knights follow Haldrath into obscurity, one declaring that he will fulfill the duty of a son rather than a knight, taking over his father’s tavern. Only four knights remain, deciding to leave the truth in darkness and protect their nation as stewards of an empty throne – Dzemael, Durendarie, Haillenarte, and Fortemps.

Relating the tale to Estinien, he doubts not a word, but is left to wonder – if Nidhogg had lost both of his eyes to Haldrath, what became of the one that was not passed down through the line of Azure Dragoons? And whence came the eye prized from Nidhogg but moments before? Sure that yet more of the story had been kept from them, Estinien makes immediately for Hraesvelgr’s domain. Returning to Zenith, Ysayle has not moved from where she was left, and despite her pleas that Nidhogg’s brood-brother be left to mourn in peace, Estinien calls for the Warrior of Light to sound the horn. The dragoon wastes no time in bearing his accusation – Nidhogg would have died ere the Dragonsong War had even begun had he not been sustained by one half of Hraesvelgr’s power. The wyrm denies nothing, accepting the return of his missing eye and admitting his role in a thousand years of Ishgardian suffering. Shiva’s lingering presence within him, he reveals, is all that stays his own rage. With naught but misery and loneliness, Hraesvelgr casts the mortals out and returns to his isolated perch in the heavens. Ysayle refuses to judge Estinien further; for better or worse, the Dragonsong War is ended, and the group makes for Ishgard unsure if they share in victory or defeat.

RISING CHAOS

The party returns to find Foundation a bedlam of panic – Haurchefant’s knights stand ready to engage a group of heretics that have infiltrated the city. Ysayle throws herself between them, declaring the war over and begging that peace embraced. When the Temple Knights move in to arrest Iceheart, Haurchefant too turns them back to aid the wounded. Learning of the secret incursion into the Churning Mists, Haurchefant suggests that all involved return to Fortemps Manor, where he will see that Aymeric is summoned, as well.

The Count de Fortemps expresses fear that chaos will surely engulf the city should the people learn that not just the High Houses, but all Ishgardians can trace their lineage back to the Knights Twelve. However, Aymeric insists that – with their greatest threat vanquished and the truth already spreading – the fall of the old order is already inevitable and that only unity can prevent disaster. Unable to be swayed, Aymeric leaves at once to confront the archbishop, leaving a stunned group to discuss the obvious likelihood that he will be arrested for heresy.

Lucia declares her intent to reclaim him by force if necessary, recalling rumors that Aymeric’s good fortune in society was a result of his birth – a secret bastard son of the Archbishop himself – and hoping it might afford him some protection. Estinien pledges to lead the attack on the Holy Vault himself, believing that Aymeric represents the city’s best chance of stability. Even Haurchefant vows to join them, dismissing his father’s concern for his safety and claiming that there is no greater calling for a knight than to protect his fellow man.

With half of the Temple Knights and the forces of House Fortemps insufficient to lay siege to the Vault, Lucia looks to rally the disenfranchised of the Brume to her cause, knowing that they stand the most to gain from the truths Aymeric seeks to unleash and suspecting that it was they who invited the recent heretic attack in the first place. The search leads to Hilda, a half-Elezen, half-Hyuran woman with a taste for revolution, known as the Mongrel. Yet barely do they begin to talk in the relative privacy of the Forgotten Knight before Ser Charibert of the Heavens’ Ward enters and demands the wards of House Fortemps and the Mongrel arrested for plotting insurrection. Hilda raises arms against the knight and the brawl spills into the streets. Temple Knights with wavering loyalties to the Lord Commander arrive to support Charibert, but are driven back by Lucia and Haurchefant, who confirm that Ser Grinnaux has taken command of the Temple Knights due to Aymeric’s arrest.

Hilda agrees to support the assault on the Vault, admitting to plotting insurrection but blaming the recent heretic incursion on the Heavens’ Ward, suspecting that they sought to use the attack as pretext to round up sympathizers until Iceheart intervened. The conspirators divide into three groups; the lowborn under Hilda stage a false heretic attack outside of Ishgard to draw the attention of the High Houses’ forces while the Warrior of Light charges towards the highest levels of the Vault. Fearing an attempt on the archbishop’s life, the Heaven’s Ward withdraw from the gaols, allowing the group led by Estinien, Alphinaud, and Lucia to overwhelm the token force that remains and secure Aymeric’s release.

The Warrior of Light pushes the Heavens’ Ward all the way to the rooftops, where the archbishop boards an airship as means of escape. Lucia’s party arrives in time to confront him, but Aymeric’s pleas that Ishgard be allowed to start anew fall on deaf ears. Believing the Holy See’s lies as the only acceptable solution against a foe that will never relent, Thordan VII refuses to dismantle the status quo that has kept Ishgard from submitting for over a thousand years. Haurchefant and the adventurer sprint forward to detain him, but Zephirin springs a trap meant for the Warrior of Light, tapping into the knowledge of the Paragons and a millennium of prayer to take the form of one of the Knights Twelve. Conjuring a lance of pure light, as in the legends, he unleashes the energy in the adventurer’s direction… but it fails to meet its mark. Haurchefant dives in front of the Warrior of Light, shield raised in defense – but the metal fails against the aetheric blade. Haurchefant’s allies rush to his side, but find him rapidly bleeding out as the residual energy pulses through his wound. A final wish, he requests that the Warrior of Light not look upon him with sadness – “A smile better suits a hero.” – but none can maintain the delusion once he is gone. The archbishop departs uncontested, breathing only the name of his destination, “Azys Lla.”

Regrouping at the seat of the Lord Commander, Aymeric officially entreats the aid of the Scions of the Seventh Dawn in bringing his father to justice, unable to do so himself while Ishgard’s government threatens to collapse and the rift in the knights is still fresh. Alphinaud accepts, doubly convinced of their responsibility once he reasons that the Heavens’ Ward are acting as vessels for primal shades of the Knights Twelve. Estinien quietly wonders if Nidhogg could sense their power – if this was the cause of the sudden campaign against the Holy See.

PURSUIT

Having tracked sightings of the archbishop’s airship east into the Sea of Clouds, Alphinaud convinces Cid to commit the Enterprise to the search, beginning with the dozens of islands normally inhabited only by Vanu Vanu. The Ishgardians are not the only intruders on this land, however – shortly after arriving, the party finds a group of peaceful Vanu Vanu under siege by soldiers of the VIth Legion of the Garlean Empire. Mistaken for Ishgardians and dragged into the fray, the party drives back the Imperials. In the aftermath, Alphinaud is surprised to find that the Vanu is not hostile, but appreciative and generous, going so far as to invite them to Ok’Zundu – his tribe’s home.

From the Vanu encampment, a battle can be seen unfolding in the distance between the VIth Legion and the primal Bismarck, yet these peaceful beastmen only decry the torment brought upon them by the Lord of the Mists. Focusing on the search for the archbishop, Chief Sonu Vanu confirms the Ishgardians’ presence and that they seek a land known as Azys Lla – the birthplace of sin, home of forbidden secrets. The key to finding this place, the chief reveals, was once kept on one of these islands, but it has since been devoured by Bismarck. Reasoning that the only way to prevent the Heavens’ Ward from obtaining the key is to slay Bismarck before they do, Cid and Alphinaud strategize on a way to bring him down. Piecing together that an abundance of highly wind-aspected aether is what enables the lands to float, it becomes clear why Bismarck is wont to consume smaller islands to restore his strength. Cid thus suggests towing one behind the Enterprise, latching onto him with dragonkiller cannons should he take the bait, drawing him close enough to attack. The Zundu tribe consent to the plan, confident that this violent shade is not the benevolent god of legend.

Cid’s plan to skyfish for the primal proves an unquestionable success, but the attack itself is more complicated than expected. Seeing their god under attack, warriors of the Vundu tribe take to the skies on sanuwa mounts to come to his defense, forcing the Warrior of Light to deal with their ranks – and their steeds – before the party is able to focus the primal. The operation is further jeopardized when Bismarck takes to ramming the island bait whence his assailants launch their assault. Though this cycle repeats several times, Bismark’s scaly carapace is broken, leaving the corona beneath vulnerable to a fatal blow. As the primal reverts to aetheric mist, a small trinket of Allagan make appears before the adventurer, but at the same moment the Wind Crystal of Light regains its glow. Pulled from reality, the Warrior of Light clutches their head in pain as Hydaelyn’s distorted voice rings through their awareness, but no sense can be made of the message. Coming out of the vision, the adventurer reaches for the key once more, but turns to find Igeyorhm and the archbishop arriving by Ascian teleportation magicks, blocking the path back to the Enterprise. The Ascian lashes out with a stream of Darkness, but the partially-restored Blessing of Light affords a measure of protection. Bound, however, they are helpless to prevent the archbishop from activating the key, sending a ray of light into the heavens. Before help can arrive, the archbishop’s airship docks with the island and the enemies escape yet again, following the light towards Azys Lla.

Having failed to keep the key from Thordan – having handed it directly to him, in truth – the party returns to Ok’Zundu with at least the knowledge of where the archbishop is heading. However, with Bismarck slain, the VIth Legion has returned its gaze to the Vanu Vanu; the Warrior of Light returns to find the beastmen rounded up for execution, only to be detained themselves. Yet, as the Legatus of the VIth Legion, Regula van Hydrus, moves to engage them in conversation, a voice from behind causes him to give pause and kneel; Alphinaud waits in dumbfounded silence, recognizing Varis zos Galvus, Emperor of the Garlean Empire. He, too, he says, seeks Azys Lla – a lost relic of the Allagan Empire – where sleeps the power to bind and control eikons. Assuming the Scions seek it for the same reason, he claims the two but disagree on solutions to a common problem, causing Alphinaud to find his courage. He accuses the Empire of embracing a “solution” that amounts to whimsical genocide, though the charge fails to bother the Emperor. The annihilation of a group – a culture – even a region is permissible, he reasons, should the world itself be saved.

His intent clear, the soldiers of the VIth Legion move to kill their captives, heeding not the beastmens’ own hatred of Bismarck. Yet explosions engulf the Imperials as Lucia reveals her presence, making a charge for the Emperor on a white magitek Reaper. The safety of His Radiance in question, Regula van Hydrus orders immediate withdrawal, signaling a nearby airship for evacuation. Alphinaud and the Warrior of Light receive only a momentary glimpse of the craft known as the Gration before the area is consumed in a flares to cover the Garleans’ retreat, but the silhouette is unmistakable; the Agrius had indeed been rebuilt. With the Garleans withdrawn, the group makes for the Blue Window, where Cid waits to continue their pursuit. Knowing at least the direction of Azys Lla, he expresses confidence that the Enterprise can close the distance.

In flight, aware of what her allies must be thinking – tall, white hair, with the knowledge to pilot a Reaper – Lucia divulges the truth without prompting, removing her circlet to reveal the third eye of a pureblood Garlean. Cid breaks the ice, joking that, in Ishgard, he nearly called her Livia. A sister, she reveals, though not one she knew well; orphans of an uprising, separated long ago. Sent to Ishgard as a spy, she found in Aymeric a kindred spirit; like her, he was held captive by an inconvenient past and birth. Yet seeing how Aymeric rose to overcome his circumstances, Lucia confessed her treasons – believing him to be a man worth following – only to be welcomed into his service. Cid chimes in again, welcoming a fellow Garlean to their group; her apprehension fades into a smile.

The Enterprise breaks the cloud barrier, seeing at last the monstrosity known as Azys Lla – great spans of land ripped from the earth and chained together into a makeshift floating territory, a colossal magitek fortress at their center. The archbishop, possessing the key, sails towards the floating continent without issue, but the Enterprise slams into an energy barrier, threatening to break up in flight. Another Allagan annoyance, and another gods damned barrier, Cid laments, without option but to retreat to Ishgard before the airship fails.

BREAKING (MORE) BARRIERS

Regrouping at the seat of the Lord Commander, Aymeric is apprised of recent developments. Cid assumes that the barrier is elemental in nature, but points out that the Enterprise will never be able to transport enough crystals to nullify it as had been done in the past. Instead, he suggests an aetherial ram that would pierce the barrier, though he has no idea how to build one. Musing that the Archons of Sharlayan would know what to do, Count Edmont suggests speaking with Tataru, as he believes that her recently-uplifted spirits related to information concerning one such “Archon.” Cid takes leave to begin repairs on the Enterprise while the Scions rush for Tataru, who reveals that something has been found by Flame Marshal Pipin.

The Scions remnants gather in Ul’dah, where Pipin hands over Y’shtola’s wand – the only trace of the missing Archons. All bodies recovered, he claims, were either Crystal Braves or Brass Blades. Urianger instantly senses a strange trace on the weapon, speculating that Y’shtola made use of an ancient teleportation magick, less reliable – but faster – than those used today. Alphinaud’s hopes are lifted, but dashed at once as Urianger reveals that the spell was forbidden for good reason: a great number of its users failed to ever emerge from the Lifestream. Holdng the wand at the location where Y’shtola invoked the spell, Urianger senses that the residual trail arcs towards Gridania, concluding that she must be lost to the Lifestream if no one has seen her since.

Unwilling to accept defeat, Alphinaud makes for the Lotus Stand – the seat of power of the Seedseer Council of Gridania. He pleads with Kan-E-Senna to entreat with the Elementals that they may search for Y’shtola’s wayward essence, but the Padjal cautions that it’s not so easy. The Elementals exist only in terms of aetherial energy; their words do not impact the corporeal, and our words to them are but wind. With nothing to identify with Y’sthola – such as a relative with a similar essence – the Elementals will not understand what is requested of them. Tataru bursts with excitement, knowing that not only did Y’shtola have a sister in Eorzea, she had a sister in Gridania, studying with the Sons of Saint Coinach. For once, the fates were smiling upon them.

Beneath the Everschade – the great tree at the heart of the Twelveswood, home to the oldest Elementals – Y’mhitra waits as the three Seedseers conjure the living aether around them and reach out for their aid. The presence of the great old ones causes the tree to shimmer, and the aether swirls until too bright to behold… but when the light fades, Y’shtola is left in its wake, naked an unconscious, but alive. Though it takes time for her to regain consciousness, she explains at what took place in the tunnels beneath Ul’dah, but cannot account for Thancred or Minfilia. Eager to get back on her feet, Y’shtola is apprised of recent events up to and including the search for an aetheric ram. She declares that she has not the faintest idea how to make one, adding a playful silence to afford Alphinaud time to contemplate the anticlimax of the fates’ good fortune before revealing that she does know someone who can –whether they’ll share the knowledge is the question.

Tataru returns to Ishgard while Y’shtola leads the Scions to the Dravanian hinterlands, to the ruins of the Sharlayan colony abandoned in 1562 after peace talks with the Garlean Empire collapsed. Here, Y’shtola claims, her former master – having stubbornly refused to follow the exodus – has lived as a hermit on the ruins’ fringes ever since. Yet, to their dismay, the Sharlayans return to find that their home is no longer abandoned. A band of goblins and treasure hunters, having forged an alliance, have raised a settlement amongst the ruins known as Idyllshire. Working together, they labor to salvage that which was abandoned in hopes of establishing a common home.

Aiming to avoid being driven out as trespassers, the Scions are forced to dedicate precious time to assisting the settlement’s leader, Slowfix. However, the goblin is more than amiable, and after disabling the Sharlayan golem sentries and rescuing his ally (Brayflox, of all gobbies) from the Illuminati (a fellowship of goblins at odds with Idyllshire, hellsbent on hoarding knowledge and technology for themselves), Slowfix declares them friends and citizens of Idyllshire. Free to seek out Y’shtola’s master, the group leaves with a feeling that perhaps the ruins are in good hands.

In the south of the hinterlands, Y’shtola leads them to a small clearing surrounded by well-tended herbs and inhabited by frog-like familiars with a curious capacity for speech and simple magicks. Almost amused as the Warrior of Light is forced to drive off the poroggo sentries, Y’shtola reveals a door hidden in the rock face and bids them welcome to Matoya’s cave. It becomes immediately apparent whence the Archon acquired her brevity and stony humor, though she thankfully did not acquire her master’s prickly disposition. Still, Matoya readily discusses the past, even recognizing Alphinaud as the granddaughter of her old rival, Louisoix – realizing now that, compared to the others among the Forum, the only thing she disliked more than having him around … was not. Alphinaud sets aside being yet again mistaken for his sister and changes the topic to Azys Lla; Matoya goes pale. According to the old tomes of Sharlayan, it was a research facility of Allag, she claims, dedicated to the enslavement of primal and dragon alike. Breaking the barrier might be possible, but would require records of weapons designed to resist the Garlean Empire after they consolidated rule of Ilsabard fifty years past – long since filed away in the forbidden sections of the Great Gubal Library. She sends the Warrior of Light ahead alone to secure the tome in question, keeping Y’shtola and Alphinaud behind to assist her, not in the least to create new poroggo sentinels.

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Through the depths of the abandoned Library, the adventurer faces not only invading fauna, but defenses spanning the entirety of Sharlayan knowledge – from golemized constructs to magicked familiars that summon voidsent trapped in tomes. In the depths of the forbidden section, guarding the records that Matoya seeks, is a creation whose like the adventurer has ever seen – a living vault, brought to life with golem magicks, able to summon bound voidsent from the very tome it was built to protect. Emerging victorious, surrounded by the legacy of those who toiled in Thaliak’s name, the Water Crystal of Light stirs and regains its glow. With the records are claimed, Matoya furnishes them with the designs for an aetherial converger. Powered by the wellspring of aether within the Eye of Nidhogg, Alphinuad theorizes, the converger should act as the ram needed to break the barrier. Thankful, the group departs, but Matoya pulls Y’shtola aside, knowing what she hides from her allies – the forbidden invocation of flow not only trapped her in the Lifestream, by robbed her of her sight. The old sage warns her that to see by sensing the aether, as the Elementals do, will rob her too of her lifeforce, should she not be careful. Y’shtola, however, remains without regrets.

CONFRONTATION

Returning to Ishgard, Cid’s overhaul on the airship has created what almost amounts to an entirely new craft; dubbed the Enterprise Excelsior, all that remains is to build the ram. While the Garlond Ironworks dedicate their full resources to this task, Alphinaud and the Warrior of Light set about saying their goodbyes in case either fail to return. As the party bound for Azys Lla prepares to cast off from the Pillars’ airship landing, however, Urianger quietly approaches the adventurer, thankful he arrived in time. With sorrow in his voice, he withdraws a white auracite vessel from his robes – explaining that he found it mixed in with Moenbryda’s belongings. Fighting to keep his pain from giving way to rage, Urianger extracts a promise from the Warrior of Light that, should a servant of Darkness reveal themselves in Azys Lla, they will be destroyed.

Alone, Ysayle returns to Zenith and calls down Hraesvelgr, begging for a chance to atone for her sins. She claims that, even stripped of all else, she will not relinquish her dreams of peace, even if the path she walks is not as a chosen savior in the company of a saint, but as a sinner beside the Azure Dragoon and Hydaelyn’s true champion. The great wyrm reveals that he can sense the eyes of his brood-brother, one inbound for Azys Lla… and one already there. Ysayle’s determination to deny those who would abuse Nidhogg’s power – and that of the Allagan’s depraved relic – finally moves Hraesvelgr to action. He departs Zenith with Ysayle on his back, basking in renewed memories of his time with Shiva.

Again before the barrier to Azys Lla, Estinien draws upon the eye’s power, nearly succumbing to its corruption before the lightning-aspected shield fails. Relief washes over the party on board the Excelsior for but a moment, but the cloud cover below parts and the Gration ascends in ambush. Cid struggles to evade the colossus as it opens fire, but even the Enterprise is not swift enough to escape the barrage.

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Hraesvelgr breaches the clouds to a sight that fills Ysayle with dread – she has come too late. Forgive me, she whispers, withdrawing her own Ice Crystal of Light from her robes – gifted from Hydaelyn long ago, a symbol of her assumed righteousness – and allowing it to dissolve. Welcoming her beloved false goddess back into her heart, she becomes Shiva once more and lays siege to the Gration, empowered by Hydaelyn’s grace. Clear of danger, the party on the Excelsior looks back helplessly as Shiva exhausts the last of the crystal’s power and becomes engulfed in cannonfire. Taken by gravity, Ysayle withdraws into memories of Saint Shiva and allows her mortal frame to dissolve into mist. Even Estinien laments her passing as the group realizes that she gave her life as a friend, yet in all likelihood died sure that she was, as she had always been, alone.

More determined than ever to see the mission through, the party lands in Azys Lla. Thankfully, time with the Sons of Saint Coinach had left the Ironworks with enough experience with Allagan relics to make use of some of the facility’s technology, though some has not yet heeded the key’s call to awaken, and yet more has not survived five thousand years of neglect. Each phrase displayed on the monitor is more ominous than the last – Aetherochemical Research Facility, Fractal Continuum, Warring Triad. The search for the archbishop is hindered, however, as the damaged Gration safely docks with the facility – the Garleans aiming to be the first to secure the knowledge of binding primals. Ysayle, Estinien, and Alphinaud stay behind to delay the Garlean advance while the Warrior of Light presses on alone. A final consideration, the Azure Dragoon hands over the eye of Nidhogg, claiming that it is not yet fully exhausted.

Arriving at a section of the facility dedicated to the binding and control of dragons, the adventurer pauses when confronted with an unexpected sight: a great wyrm, not unlike Hraesvelgr or Nidhogg, confined in Allagan fetters, yet otherwise unharmed. Midgardsormr manifests, urging the Warrior of Light to speak with his child and think upon the suffering born of conflict between man and dragon. Tiamat reveals that the first brood was born of Midgardormr after his arrival on Hydaelyn from a time before time. When the seven great dragons spread to the corners of the world and gave rise to all of dragonkind, she and her brood-brother, Bahamut, settled in Meracydia … until Allag came in conquest. Though Bahamut would fall in battle, the Ascians came unto Tiamat and proffered his resurrection, and in her sorrow did she give rise to the primal shade that profaned his memory. She warns that such beings lie in slumber throughout the world, brought to heel by Allag, and that they cannot be suffered to awaken and drain Hydaelyn of Her strength. She encourages the Warrior of Light to stay true to their course to defeat the Ascians, but remains adamant that it is her punishment to stay as she is until the world finds its end, though it causes her father visible anguish.

Moved by Tiamat’s tale, the adventurer has little time consider her words before they are drawn away from the moment; the Fire Crystal of Light awakens. Shorn of Midgardsormr’s fetters, the Blessing of Light bursts forth to unite the crystals – finally restored to their rightful brilliance – and Hydaelyn’s encouraging voice rings clear once more. As the vision fades, Midgardsormr appears pleased to have been so mistaken when first they met, finally acknowledging the adventurer as a worthy inheritor of the Light. He conjures the aether around him and fashions a larger vessel for himself, offering to bear the Warrior of Light to battle the Darkness.

The wings of the great dragon make for the central Flagship of the Allagan complex, where the adventurer gains access to the Aetherochemical Research Facility – Thordan’s destination. Within, the adventurer finds Legatus van Hydrus besieged by Allagan machinery. He soon overcomes them, challenging the adventurer directly, but wisely retreats, realizing that he stands no better chance than the Black Wolf. Gaining momentum, the Warrior of Light cuts through the Allagans’ mechanical soldiers and chimeric monstrosities, surely gaining ground on Thordan and the Heavens’ Ward. However, upon arriving in the depths of Triad Control, it is not the Ishgardians that lie in wait, but Igeyorhm… and Lahabrea.

The realization hits the Warrior of Light in an instant: these machinations had been in motion since Gaius van Baelsar had fallen. Granting the Echo to the Sahagin elder, the manipulation of Ysayle and the heretics to give rise to a new deity, the fusion of heretic and goddess; each had been a progressive step towards Elidibus and Lahabrea granting the Ishgardians the power of King Thordan and the Knights Twelve – new pawns to hasten the coming of Zodiark. Revealing the true power of the Echo as the ability to negate the very barriers of existence, Lahabrea and Igeyorhm merge into a single being, a tattered and monstrous shade. The Ascians yet fail to account for the increased strength of the restored Blessing of Light, empowered by Midgardsormr’s trials. The Warrior of Light’s power somehow deprives the Ascians of their abilities, forcing the separation of their essences. Panicked, Igeyorhm conjures a dark crystal and prepares to retreat into the rift between corporeal and void. Without thinking, the Warrior of Light hurls the auracite vessel in her direction, imprisoning the Asican and shearing her essence with the eye’s remaining power.

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Lahabrea at first taunts the adventurer for having exhausted their resources, but it is then that the archbishop finally makes his appearance. The Heavens’ Ward bear forth the casket of Prince Haldrath, the first Azure Dragoon, his body unaged and merged with Nidhogg’s missing eye – consumed by it a millennia past. In Lahabrea’s arrogance, he had failed to account for Thordan’s treachery, and finds himself outmaneuvered as the archbishop assumes his primal form: the exaggerated and idealized king imagined by holy doctrine. Feeding on the aether within the eye, Thordan transforms Haldrath’s corpse into Ascalon, the sword of legend, with the eye at its hilt. Still aghast that his pawns would dare raise arms against him, Lahabrea is helpless to act before Thordan unmakes his soul and consumes its aether with a single swing of the blade, which is then turned on the Warrior of Light.

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Thordan asserts his intent to reign as god-king, annihilating any who would cause strife, be they dragon, primal, or Ascian. Knowing that it will only lead to more chaos, however, the Warrior of Light strikes as Thordan moves to drink of the warring gods contained in Triad Control. In defiance of all mortal limits, the adventurer manages to whittle the Heavens’ Ward down one by one until only Thordan remains, separating the archbishop from his primal shade and causing him to die with the unanswered question on his lips, what are you?

The Warrior of Light sits alone for a time, but Estinien eventually comes upon them. Though he is disappointed that the battle is already over, he seems eager to put their trials to an end, planning to secure the eyes beyond reach of both man and dragon. With both eyes in his possession, however, the rage of Nidhogg spills forth from within them, finally catching the Azure Dragoon off guard. Estinien’s form is twisted, taking the shape of Nidhogg and vanishing into the heavens before anything can be done otherwise. The adventurer, helpless to do aught else, returns to their waiting allies.

CONCLUSION

Aymeric personally awaits the arrival of Ishgard’s saviors in the Pillars, amazed as the Warrior of Light arrives on dragonback. Realizing that the wyrm is none other than the Keeper of the Lake, the Lord Commander seizes this first opportunity to declare his vow: Ishgard has both learned of and cast off its falsehoods, and though the sins of the past cannot be undone, every effort will be made to see that peace is restored and maintained. Midgardsormr expresses like sentiments, but warns that the true test will be in keeping this promise, as Nidhogg’s soul will return with Estinien as its new vessel. The news shocks and deeply unsettles the Lord Commander, but he stands by his commitment. Soon after, acting with the authority of the archbishop, Aymeric takes Ishgard’s first step towards reform by re-joining Eorzean Alliance. Many threats remain – Garleans, primals, warring gods, Ascians, and Nidhogg to name but a few – but Alphinaud affirms that the Alliance and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn ever stand ready to face them.

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Looking upon the planet from the face of its moon, Elidibus expresses his frustration that Lahabrea’s complacence led to the collapse a promising machination in its critical stage. The campaigns of God-King Thordan against the remnants of the Dravanian Horde, against the Garlean Empire, against any who defied his new world order would have engulfed the world in a massive confluence of chaos, perhaps great enough to bring about the return of Zodiark. Instead, Lahabrea and Igeyorhm were lost, and the Warrior of Light had become stronger than any of them had foreseen possible. Desperate to see the balance restored, he turns to his unseen ally, the Warrior of Darkness…

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Spires of deception crumble to dust,
to lay bare truths long concealed.
Beyond simmering shadow
lieth shimmering light.

  • Cevaras

    Thank you for these summaries! They’ve done an amazing job of catching me up with the story. All my friends have enjoyed it as well.