The Lore Train – Heavensward (Part 3)
The final arc of Heavensward is upon us, and with it comes another installment of The Lore Train’s episodic summary of the main scenario, focusing on the story so far… from Patch 3.4 (Soul Surrender). Packed with closure and more answers than questions, Soul Surrender will gave its own spotlight until extended for 3.5. Skipped your cutscenes? Barely remember the binge a few months back? Didn’t quite understand what was going on? We’ve got you covered.
In time, the transformation of Ishgard settles into its first lull, allowing the freshly-inaugurated Lord Speaker Ser Americ de Borel to make good on an aging promise. It is more than drinks that await the Warrior of Light at Borel Manor, however; over a lavish dinner, the two trade tales of events bridging their time as allies on the battlefield. Yet when Aymeric asks what the adventurer might do with this chance to pursue ends of their own choosing, it seems too much for fate to resist; a knight of House Fortemps arrives in a panic, revealing that Thancred has returned to the city bearing a young woman who may not last the night.
Alisaie had finally been discovered mousing into the affairs of the Ascian in white. Had Thancred himself not been tailing the Warriors of Darkness to the same clandestine meeting, she would have received worse than an arrow to the shoulder. Alas, that arrow had been laced with poison, and her life now hung in the balance. Alphinaud curses the misfortune; the petty politics of Eorzea had seen the two go their separate ways, and though she too had come to find the realm worth fighting for, their reunion was poised to be cut short.
Yet the girl stirs, offering a dire warning: the actions of the Warriors of Darkness—traveling the realm and putting down primals—were but the first stage of a more nefarious plot. To interrupt this momentum, she urges the adventurer to make haste for the Ixali stronghold in the mountains of Xelphatol. The beastmen there would be goaded by the Ascians into summoning Garuda, only for the Warriors of Darkness to make an elaborate spectacle of her downfall. Trusting in the chirurgeons that had saved even Estinien, Alphinaud forces himself from her bedside as Aymeric promises Ishgardian support in driving this threat from their borders.
Aiming to avoid the Ixali dirigibles that rule the skies of Xelphatol, Alphinaud recommends a swift push through the mountain pass east of Camp Dragonhead and directly into the heart of the stronghold. House Fortemps—responsible for the camp’s garrison—readily commits a contingent of knights to the task, and by the time the Warrior of Light arrives, the way has been opened. Alphinaud and the knights continue to press the frontline, feigning a direct assault on the First Mountain and drawing the Ixal into the field while the adventurer breeches the stronghold proper. Though the Ixali ritualists complete their hurried summoning, the primal possesses but a sliver of her power and is easily dispatched—along with those who called her—before Alphinaud even reaches the summit.
The Warriors of Darkness arrive but moments too late, visibly aggravated to find the Warrior of Light in place of their quarry. Through gritted teeth, the leader of the party offers a reward for his foes’ persistence: an explanation in place of further violence. When the exile of Zodiark cracked the fabric of the cosmos and created thirteen reflections of the primeval world, life was not only seeded on the Source. The self-proclaimed Warriors of Darkness had come from the one such otherworld—The First.
Bearing Hydaelyn’s Light, they had taken up arms and driven the Ascian overlord Mitron from their dimension…but they had done their job too well. The primordial balance of The First had swayed towards Light from its very creation. This not only allowed them an advantage in their battle against the Dark, but ensured that their victory would push that imbalance past the point of no return. A Flood of Light now threatened to consume their realm, shearing away all aether and leaving a monstrous emptiness in its wake. As evidence, he reveals that what Eorzeans know as the void was once another such dimension—The Thirteenth. Inherently imbalanced towards the Dark, the Ascian overlord Igeyorhm endured little trouble in conquering Hydaelyn’s champions, only to usher in a Flood of Darkness. The only way to prevent such a fate from befalling The First, damning every soul they sought to protect to grotesque oblivion, was to trigger an Umbral Calamity and Rejoin the shard to the Source.
Alphinaud struggles to believe the tale and presses for more information, but his adversary can stand to speak no more, promising only that they will stop at nothing to see their mission accomplished. As the Warriors of Darkness take their leave, Alphinaud’s attention is called to the newest member of their party, a masked Elezen with blonde hair. The mage lingers for a moment longer than his comrades, but ultimately leaves without speaking.
Back in Ishgard, Alisaie has pulled through and begun to recover. The Scions debate whether to believe that another world can possibly be saved by putting two dimensions in peril, but Alisaie expresses concern that there may be more to the plot. Long had the Ascians spurred the beastmen to aspire for more powerful incarnations of the primals. Why now give them the power they’d long sought only to make an exhibition of its futility? Breaking their spirit and eroding their faith seemed unnecessary for the escalating conflict. Did the Warriors of Darkness labor to see the beast tribes abandon their gods…or did the Ascians scheme to steer their faith towards another?
Yet the motivations didn’t change the reality: to whatever end, the Ascians continued to furnish the beastmen with crystals and conspired with the Warriors or Darkness to slay the gods they summoned. The Scions resolve to scatter to the corners of the realm and halt the flow of crystals, thus stalling the plot. Y’shtola and Krile engage the Ixal, while Thancred and Aymeric entreat with the Gnath. Alphinaud, Alisaie, and the Warrior of Light return to Urianger at the Waking Sands in hopes of finding inspiration on where to head next.
In Vesper Bay, Urianger recommends crossing the Strait of Merlthor bound for Mount O’Ghormoro, believing that the Kobold move to awaken Titan. Suspect of the scholar’s uncharacteristic brevity, Alisaie gives him the opening to confess that he knows more than he is letting on. After all, she had the Scion meeting in secret with Elidibus in the Great Gubal Library. When he fails to seize the opportunity, however, she pointedly states that a tome known as the Gerun Oracles might provide the answers they seek. Urianger struggles to maintain a straight face as he accepts the suggestion.
The lead pans out as the twins arrive in upper La Noscea to find Camp Overlook in a panic, ready to call in Maelstrom reinforcements. Commander Bloeidin, relieved beyond expression to see the Scions’ arrival, requests immediate assistance in clearing the camp due to rumors that a kobold was seen lurking near their stores. Fortunately, the kobold in question turns out to be but a child, and not one in search of a fight.
Frozen between fear and determination, Ga Bu of the 620th Order stammers through his plea. Many kobold had spoken out against the patriarch’s plans to summon Titan after the last attempts had brought only more suffering, only to become imprisoned. If they didn’t have iron in their hearts, the patriarch had said, they would be coke for the furnace. Alisaie is horrified, recalling the ritual foci fashioned from beastmen bones for use in summoning. The young kobold beseeches the Scions to prevent the summoning and save his family.
With all interests aligned, the Scion and Maelstrom forces move to sever the kobold supply line and confiscate their crystals. In the process, Alphinaud observes that the crates bear telltale Ishgardian markings that the smugglers had attempted—but ultimately failed—to conceal. He speculates that the Ascians had indeed facilitated the transaction, given the unlikelihood that the kobold consorted with factions half a continent away. Unfortunately, however, a cache of crystals had already been transported into the mountain, necessitating that the Scions infiltrate the stronghold and seize them by force.
Fighting through U’Ghamaro Mines and utilizing the aetheryte within to teleport directly into the Navel, the party finds that they are too late. Ga Bu’s parents lie slain amongst the others as the patriarch scrambles to prepares the summoning. Alphinaud attempts to reason with the kobold chieftain, but he will not be dissuaded, convinced that the overdwellers mean to yet again take their fill and demonize those who defend themselves. However, all present in the chamber fail to notice Ga Bu, who has knelt beside the corpses of his family—and the crystals—and begun to beg, plead, and pray for an awakening. The child inadvertently completes the ritual; around him the crystals dissolve and become the catalyst for the primal’s manifestation.
Warped by Ga Bu’s tumultuous grief, Titan is consumed with pain and rage. Even weakened by the depleted cache of crystals, the primal’s onslaught tears indiscriminately through his own worshippers as Alisaie moves to shield Ga Bu. Alphinaud summons Obsidian Carbuncle and distracts Titan while the party makes their escape, but the Warrior of Light is forced to return and put him down before he can gorge himself on the aether of the land.
Upon returning to Camp Overlook, the adventurer finds the Leveilleur twins in low spirits. Despite the escape, the young kobold remains unresponsive—conscious, but as if hollow. Alisaie prays that Ga Bu is simply in shock, but Alphinaud concedes the unpleasant truth: if the child has been corrupted by primal influence, the only course is his execution. All that can be done is but to wait.
As the party takes in a night of rest at the camp, Alisaie sits amongst the ruins of Nym and watches the stars, reflecting upon her journey to find why Louisoix had found Eorzea so worth saving that he left even his family to defend it. Beneath its petty conflicts and mislaid priorities, the realm was still filled with decent people, but more than that it was the frontline of a greater struggle. She found herself continually returning to her grandfather’s creed; words that she finally understood. “To ignore the plight of those one might conceivably save is not wisdom—it is indolence. We must all protect that which we hold most dear in the manner of our own choosing.” To forsake the realm to oblivion when it might be saved, she would be guilty of worse than that for which she judged it. Without aspirations and hope, even when the cause seemed lost, the battle was already over.
At the Silver Bazaar in western Thanalan, the Warrior of Darkness contemplates his Crystal of Light; even tainted gifts had their uses. The masked Elezen arrives bearing word that the Warrior of Light had again ensured the manifestation of a feeble primal, thus slaying it in a way that inspired little desperation in the beastmen. When the news is followed by instructions to continue as planned, the warrior is furious; of course the languid progress failed to concern the Ascian; it wasn’t his world on the line.
The Elezen offers another path: toss the machination aside and slay the adventurer outright. How could Eorzea bear the loss of its champion? They would sow the seeds of despair and chaos themselves. The warrior expresses doubt that the masked man would lure the adventurer into such a trap, but he replies only that if the Warrior of Light would see The First lost to the Flood, they were no hero; to ignore the plight of those one might conceivably save is not wisdom, but indolence.
The next morning, Alphinaud receives word from Thancred and Y’shtola; the Ixal and Gnath, too, had received shipments of Isghardian origin. He suggests returning to Urianger while Ayermic launches an investigation into the matter. His sister is reluctant to leave Ga Bu, but as if the gods themselves were rewarding her faith, the young Kobold speaks a single line of thanks. Putting the camp behind her, Alisaie finds that with rekindled hope has come rekindled anger; for whomever orchestrated these events there will be a reckoning.
In Vesper Bay, Urianger confirms that he was indeed able to glean insight from the Gerun Oracles. While it was true that a Calamity would result in the destruction of The First, killing everyone on that plane, the tome suggested that their aether would be rejoined to the Lifestream of the Source. In time, their souls would beget life anew. If left to the Flood of Light, however, they might never know life or death again, damned to suffer whatever fate befalls the denizens of a void.
Alphinaud has little time to contemplate the horrors of such a choice before Urianger moves on to more immediate concerns. A massive cache of crystals had found its way into the hands of an extremist faction of the Ala Mhigan Resistance, who he recalls once contemplated the summoning of Rhalgr. Moveover, the smugglers were indeed Ishgardians, the remnants of the very network of spies utilized by Flame Marshal Eline Roaille─The Ivy.
With a new goal, the trio move to leave the Waking Sands, but are hailed by Thancred via linkpearl. Aymeric’s investigation had led to the capture of the smugglers, revealing that a shipment had just left for Little Ala Mhigo. That Urianger could offer this information even as the raid was occurring fails to surprise Alisaie, but she quietly tends her anger rather than sharing the implication. Alphinaud for his part fails to reach the same conclusion unaided, even expressing confusion as to why his sister would treat their grandfather’s most dedicated pupil so coldly.
The party arrives in Little Ala Mhigo to find the settlement ablaze with excitement and rumor. Led by a reclusive man known only as the Griffin, a faction of the Resistance has inflamed fading sentiment that the homeland might be liberated from the Garlean Empire. That the Masks inspire fanatical devotion and promise untold power leaves little room for doubt that they were the recipients of the crystal shipment.
Gundobald, the leader of Little Ala Mhigo, admits that the Griffin has sparked a fervor that even he finds difficult to resist. Yet even if the Griffin has proven wholly devoted to his path and a capable commander besides, Gundobald cannot help but recall how easily passions are led astray. If not for the adventurer’s intervention, what fate would have befallen the settlement had Wilred and his accomplices succeeded in summoning Rhalgr? The comparison stings. Wilred had sought redemption in the Crystal Braves following the Warrior of Light instead of men in black robes, only to be led astray once more. Yet Gundobald urges the party to weigh the Griffin’s words themselves, as he is expected to speak at the Sunken Temple of Qarn within the day.
Even before speaking the Griffin is a spectacle to behold, garbed in elaborate silver armor with a gilded hood and an imposing mask. Across his back flows a violet cape onto which was emblazoned his namesake heraldry, as if he bore the city-state’s fallen standard on his very shoulders. With his first words, he speaks for every Ala Mhigan present, and he admits only shame. Consumed with thoughts of a glorious revolution against a tyrant king, the Ala Mhigans had all but gifted their nation to the Empire, and rather than face the consequences of their actions, they had fled. They had abandoned the most loyal of their brothers and sisters and even after twenty years those who did not perish remained yoked to the imperial machine.
The last of crowd’s pride demolished, the Griffin begins to kindle it anew. Their people had suffered the King of Ruin, and after him they had suffered Gaius van Baelsar, and with the fall of the Black Wolf they now suffered a ruler worse than all before him. Their kin were powerless, the Eorzean Alliance faithless. The time had come to make their stand, to exact bloody retribution upon all who had cast them down, and if only they would give him their hearts, he would give them the power. Alphinaud anxiously scans the crowd as they rally to the Griffin’s side, but the spell is broken as his eyes fall upon familiar faces; Yda and Papalymo had finally been found.
Outside, the pair reveal that they had been spirited away from the bloody banquet by friends amongst the Resistance, and there sheltered ever since. As thanks, they had joined the efforts against the Empire, only to become entangled in sensitive operations and unable to make contact without their linkpearls. Upon the resolution of the events in Ul’dah, Papalymo had attempted to send word, but suspects that the correspondence had been intercepted. So secretive were the Masks that even the orator they had just witnessed was but an imitator. To the day, investigation into the Griffin had yielded little; perhaps he would resort to a plan as reckless as summoning.
Posing as prospective recruits of great potential─vouched for by Yda and Papalymo─the party draws the false Griffin to a meeting in hopes that he may reveal his master’s ambitions. The double sees through the ruse with ease, recognizing the Scions of the Seventh Dawn for precisely who they are. Furthermore, he recognizes the Warrior of Light as having personally saved his life in Quarrymill and shown many of his recruits that an individual can indeed make a difference. He confirms the acquisition of the crystals, however, and freely admits to an equally reckless plan: buying the loyalty of the Amalj’aa in battles to come. The protest of the Scions kindles only rage; such idealism would not reclaim their homeland from the Empire. There was nothing that the Griffin would not give to take back Ala Mhigo.
The false Griffin departs, but the Warrior of Light has little time to contemplate the consequences of which lives they had taken or saved. Ifrit would soon be called back to the corporeal realm; the machinations of the Warriors of Darkness must yet be in motion.
Finally rejoined by Thancred─traveling by foot to conceal his aetherial deficiencies─the party makes for Zahar’ak. The Amalj’aa stronghold is ominously poorly guarded; the party faces scant resistance as they push all the way to the Bowl of Embers itself. Yet what awaits them in the primal’s den is but a field of beastmen corpses…amidst which stand the Warriors of Darkness. The adversaries leave not a moment to consider the Griffin’s complicity before launching their assault, but the Scions stand their ground. Alisaie, no longer content to be the protected rather than the protector, reveals the extent of her training as she conjures and aetheric blade and charges alongside Obsidian Carbuncle.
The Scions prepare their defense, but the trap has been too well prepared. After their initial push loses momentum, binding magicks are unleashed across the battlefield and fetter them in place. The warrior singles out the adventurer and prepares his axe to deliver the final blow, but the masked Elezen descends on the fray and shatters the bindings. Urianger casts the mask aside and reveals his deception; by masquerading as one of the man in white’s many pawns, he had moved the Warriors of Darkness out of concert with the others, thus usurping a portion of the greater scheme for his own ends.
Forsaken by the last of their allies, the Warriors of Darkness make their stand, revealing that they─like the Ascians─have become eternal. Once Hydaelyn’s chosen, they had succeeded in their mission only for their world to be abandoned to the Flood. In the end, they had given their lives for The First, utilizing the Echo and the Mother’s crystals to travel betwixt realms. Their struggle would continue on the Source without end until their world was saved. The Warriors of Darkness raise their Crystals of Light high, preparing to draw upon their wellspring of power. Urianger calls for the Warrior of Light to do the same, praying for Louisoix’s guidance as the adventurer takes a leap of faith.
The battlefield is consumed by Light, a familiar and irresistible pull drawing all consciousness deep into the aetherial sea.
His machinations finally reaching their end, Urianger beseeches Hydaelyn to accept the power of the Crystals of Light gathered before Her and restore Minfilia. The Mothercrystal, having long watched powerlessly as Her children fought and suffered, gives Her assent. Manifesting before the group spirited away from the Bowl of Embers, Minfilia gives voice to Hydaelyn’s will: liberated as Her emissary, she would travel to the First and halt the Flood of Light.
The warrior is overcome with sorrow; why now─after all they had done, after all they had lost, after turning their backs and joining Her enemies─why now would She make good on Her promises? He moves to strike Minfilia in his grief, but she slows his axe to a halt and offers explication. Just as Zodiark can only wield influence through the intercession of the Ascians, Hydaelyn has been long been powerless to act on Her own. Their prayers had not been ignored, their suffering had not gone unnoticed, and through the emissary, the excess of Light would be halted. She would not allow the First to fall.
Urianger seizes this one opportunity to confess his trespasses. Since the Warrior of Light returned from the Antitower, he had known that Minfilia had been granted a sliver of Hydaelyn’s grace. Since approached by Elidibus, he had known of the future awaiting the First and its people. Thus had he conspired to thwart the Ascians and avert the Rejoining, believing that there must be another way to return stability to both worlds. And all the while had he known that this stability would be purchased with Minfilia’s exile: one life for one world. Yet in following his heart and Louisoix’s creed had he committed a terrible betrayal.
Minfilia offers her forgiveness and comfort in that she would have made the same decision giving the choice…but it’s plain to see that forgiveness will not come so easily from the other Scions, or from himself.
The Warriors of Darkness─crystals spent and weapons cast aside─make but one request: that whatever becomes of their souls, they share her journey home. As she bids farewell to her allies, Minfilia returns Tupsimati to the adventurer, and Thancred finally allows himself to say goodbye to the child he had sworn to protect, and the woman that she had become. Yet she promises that she will ever strive to return in impossible triumph, as did the Warrior of Light so many times before.
The Scions each find their own way home, trying to process all that has just occurred. Thancred returns to Zahar’ak to seize the crystals, lest they be forgotten. Alisaie silently departs by Urianger’s side, grateful for the ways he did not betray them, unable to condone the ways he did. In Little Ala Mhigo, Alphinaud and the Warrior of Light reunite with Yda and Papalymo, who can scarcely believe the tale, yet concede that the time has come to rejoin the Scions.
The conversation is cut short, however, when Gundobald approaches the party in disbelief that the woman before him yet lives. Even beneath the mask, he claims to recognize Yda, the Yda, daughter of a revolutionary leader that had overthrown the King of Ruin, symbol of hope to the Resistance even after his fall in battle with the Empire. Yda stammers through an apology for worrying them with her absence before weaving a clumsy string of excuses about her whereabouts. Eventually, the anxiety overwhelms her and she rushes off, leaving Papalymo to promise their return and curse himself for ever giving her a mask to hide behind.
In time, the Scions of the Seventh Dawn each find their way back to the Rising Stones, together for the first time since the death of Moenbryda and the bloody banquet in Ul’dah. Yet it is clear that reunion is not restoration; the organization is not as it once was. Emboldened by the Scions’ successes in following their hearts in the absence of explicit objectives, Alphinaud suggests that they each continue to follow their own path in service to Eorzea’s salvation.
There is not one voice of dissent. Thancred resolves to continues gathering intelligence and waiting for his blades to be called upon. Y’shtola remains committed to the identification of primal threats. Yda and Papalmo return to the Ala Mhigan Resistance to keep watch over the Griffin and the Empire. Tataru returns to the front desk and her beloved ledgers.
It is Thancred that first speaks for Urianger, urging him to continue his research into the Ascians as Minfilia would have wanted. Even if not all were prepared to forgive, none seemed prepared to judge. He had striven to do the most good for the least harm, and who among them had offered better? Elidibus had counted on Urianger─a man of reason─to trust that the fractured cosmos was an abomination of nature that must needs be redressed. Yet the Warrior of Light ever inspires irrational hope, and the Ascians ever serve but one cause.
As Papalymo prepares to depart the Rising Stones, he privately requests that the Warrior of Light entrust Tupsimati unto him for the time being. Though he would not say why, his confidence that it might soon be needed leads the Warrior of Light to hand it over without question. And with that, the Scions scatter to the winds once more.
Along the border between desert and forest, Elidibus approaches the Griffin as he lays preparations for the battle to come, admiring how easily passions are kindled the hearts of the naïve. The insinuation offends him; what had he promised the Ala Mhigans that he would not deliver? Under the Griffin, the resistance thrived. Could the Ascian say the same of his pawns? One by one, they were led by false promises towards futures never intended to manifest and cast aside when their use was at its end. Elidibus dismisses the criticism; musing that so long as the First had not been lost to void, it could be still be Rejoined to empower Zodiark in the future. The Warriors of Darkness had accomplished one thing at least, the Ascian reveals; they had recovered the Eyes of Nidhogg from the abyssal ravines of Coerthas. Many candidates had been considered, but in truth none were equal. The Griffin knew only rage and despair, hungered only for vengeance. If anyone could make use of the Eyes, it was he.
Yet the tension mounting on the borders of Gyr Abania was not the only spark threatening to set the realm ablaze. To the west, on the fields of Cartenau, Nero tol Scavea gazed down into an Allagan control panel, realizing that a plaything worthy of his attention had been slumbering there all along…