The Lore Train – Shadowbringers (Part 1)

The below summary details the events of the Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers main scenario — specifically those of patch 5.0.

Spoilers ahead!

All aboard the Lore Train as we “throw wide the gates” on Shadowbringers!

The Syrcus Trench

Win or lose, the path you walk leads only to oblivion. The better path leads you here. To me. I have need of your strength. Go to the Crystal Tower. I have left something for you near its base.

Soon we will throw wide the gates… And the path to the First will be yours to walk at last.

War still rages at Ghimlyt, though the Garleans have shifted to the back foot. The Scions — Thancred, Y’shtola, Urianger, Alphinaud and Alisaie — lie comatose at the Rising Stones, their minds and souls called beyond reach. Zenos yae Galvus (or whichever Ascian wears his skin) remains at large; the Warrior of Light escaped his vengeance only at the practised dramatic timing of the Azure Dragoon…

If what our enigmatic caller has said is true, the Scions remain in his stewardship; and the hero cannot hope to defeat this Zenos-puppet without them. Whatever his true intentions, the caller has offered us a means to follow them, a means to bring them back. The path to the First.

The Crystal Tower has remained sealed behind our Baldesion friend, G’raha Tia, but his former colleagues at the Sons of Saint Coinach and Garlond Ironworks have since discovered a path to the foundations surrounding the Labyrinth of the Ancients at the base of the tower — the Syrcus Trench. Eager to expedite the search for the caller’s beacon, the adventurer agrees to join Tataru on-site.

Ferried to the east shore of Silvertear and descending to the trench, the adventurer finds the Scions, Sons and Ironworks engineers deployed in an as-yet fruitless search; but they quickly discover a small trinket, shaped like a cog no larger than the palm of their hand, etched with markings near-identical to the Ironworks insignia.

A spasm grasps at the Warrior of Light; even as Tataru, Biggs and Wedge panic around them — they are whisked away into a rift beyond worlds.

Let expanse contract, eon become instant…

Fractured images and distant voices of old friends and foes flash past. Alphinaud and Alisaie; Lyse, Papalymo, Ysayle, Haurchefant, Yotsuyu, Estinien… One image hurtles close; the old Warrior of Darkness, Ardbert, once lured to our world by the Ascian — Elidibus — by false promises to spare his own from a terrible purgatory. 

His voice rings out above the clamour.

We did everything right — everything that was asked of us and still, still it came to this!

Suddenly, rising up to meet the adventurer — Minfilia, silhouetted by blinding light, arms held aloft as they fall into this shard of space. They stand behind her in an unmistakable vision of the Echo, atop some kind of parapet as she raises her arms against an incoming tidal wave of golden light. Turning her head, she gently insists: “Your time has not yet come”.

Another flash and a vision of the unravelling shadow of Ardbert stumbling alone down a ruined road beneath an unnaturally bright, swirling and featureless sky.

Finally, the adventurer awakens to the sight of a violet canopy beneath that same oppressive sky, in the middle of a sparse forest filled with foliage of this same alien purple-hue, as Arbert’s voice once again fills their head.

From endless dreams, I awake. Something vague… yet urgent… calls me to action once more.

The adventurer staggers, dazed, through this strange landscape until a familiar sight catches their eye — a chocobo, a campfire and a Hyur man smoking a long pipe; he looks almost familiar himself. He’s surprised to see them; he asks what they’re doing out at this time of night… but it’s as bright as high noon.

The peddler initially mistakes the hero’s incredulousness for humor and jokes along; but noting the genuine confusion, his levity turns to concern. He directs them east to the nearest settlement before stamping out his fire and setting off.

Eventually, the adventurer reaches a haphazard stone and lumber gate manned by a small handful of guards wearing hauberks and red cloaks. From the horizon stretches, somehow, impossibly yet unmistakably, the Crystal Tower. A white-haired viera (viis, as the adventurer soon learns they are called here) steps forward to challenge what appears to her an unfamiliar traveler. 

Unsatisfied by the exchange, she draws her chakrams and seems for a moment poised to strike until she rushes past, hurling them at a winged, white spectre that has leered up the path. The monster drops and dissolves in a flash of aether, leaving behind a ring that the adventurer recognises from the peddler they had met not a bell past. The guard remarks that this creature had evidently just eaten.

Footsteps beating up the path from behind the gate and both turn to see… him. The hooded caller from the visions; the one who has brought the adventurer here. 

The guard refers to him as “my lord”; to the creature struck down as a “stray sin eater”. He informs her that the adventurer is his guest and that he means to escort them to “the Crystarium” himself. He leads the way, with the guarantee that he will answer any questions soon enough. 

Out of earshot he expresses his gratitude, his relief and his contrition; introducing himself by his title of “Crystal Exarch”, he explains that he has brought the Warrior of Light to the First Shard of the thirteen reflections of the Source, to help fight back the Flood of Light which consumed nine-tenths of this world a century past.

The victims of the Flood were transformed into these “sin eaters”; they forever besiege the survivors in this last realm of Norvrandt. To combat this threat, to prevent the Light consuming what is left and subsequently to prevent an eighth Calamity upon the Source — this, the Exarch explains, is the crisis for which he summoned the adventurer hence.

The Crystal Exarch

Entering the Crystarium — a metropolitan sanctuary built around the base of the Crystal Tower after it first appeared in Norvrandt — the Exarch entreats the Warrior of Light to acclimate themself to the city and her peoples before hearing the rest of his petition in the privacy of his study, asking only that the truth of the adventurer’s origins be kept a secret from the locals as they have no knowledge of the worlds beyond their own.

Exploring the city, our adventurer meets Katliss of the Crystalline Mean, Moren at the Cabinet of Curiosity and Bragi of the Crystarium Markets. They elucidate on the city’s origins, the Vrandtic names for the spoken races and the events and cast of the Flood of Light including the apparently villainous Warriors of Light, the Shadowkeeper they defeated and the mysterious Oracle of Light whom halted the Flood before it could consume Norvrandt.

Finally, the adventurer joins the Exarch in the Ocular at the base of the Crystal Tower for some much-sought explanations.

The Exarch confirms that this Crystal Tower is indeed the selfsame from Mor Dhona, although he claims not to know from which era he pulled it. He also claims to have no knowledge of a certain G’raha Tia…

He explains that the Scions are here in the First, but that time flows quite differently between worlds. Although we are now reaching a point of near-equivalence, by this world’s pace Thancred has been here for five years; Y’shtola and Urianger for three and the twins for almost one. The Exarch did not intend to summon any of them hence — they were brought by his previous imprecise attempts to reach the Warrior of Light. It is for this reason that their bodies remained behind, their summoning was incomplete and they exist in this world as corporeal spirits. While the adventurer can ride the aetherial currents back and forth between worlds, the Scions are stranded.

The Exarch sought a means to send them back, but he claims that his search was waylaid by a premonition visited upon Urianger as he traveled through the rift between worlds — of the future; a rejoining between the First and Source, an Eighth Calamity resulting in the death of — among many others — the vaunted Warrior of Light themself. Ever since, the Exarch and Scions have dedicated themselves to forestalling these twin dooms, concluding that the answer lies in the elimination of the prime sin eaters — the Lightwardens. This effort would be possible only with the intercession of the Warrior of Light, and so the Exarch now bids our hero seek out their wayward comrades, beginning with Alisaie and Alphinaud in the lands of Amh Aerang and Kholusia… After a short rest, of course.

Leading the way through the markets, the Exarch explains that the Eorzean Gil is a recognised currency due to the post-flood reversion of coin value to that of its metal, and the basic unit “gil” named for coins found in the Crystal Tower. He points out other conveniences and commodities owed to the Tower, including — to the adventurer’s chagrin — the trade of Allagan Tomestones.

Hoping to provide a means for the adventurer to access their belongings from the Source, the Exarch calls upon an arcane acquaintance — the eccentric pixie, Feo Ul — to act as the adventurer’s retainer. Feo Ul agrees with relish at the opportunity to make such an arcane pact with the adventurer and visit the Source, and agrees to send a message to the Rising Stones.

Finally, the Exarch allows the adventurer to retire to a prepared lodging, to rest in expectation for a long journey ahead.

No sooner has the door swung shut behind them than they are accosted by a shade, slowly drawing into focus to reveal a familiar face — Ardbert; the “villainous” Warrior of Light whom these survivors of Norvrandt have held responsible for the Flood. He recognises his counterpart from the Source and expresses no small astonishment that they can see and hear him. He reminisces sadly at his time in our world, fooled along with his companions by the Ascians to play the villains and hasten a rejoining as the one possible release for the First from purgatory; how Urianger machinated to deliver them before Minfilia and travel back with her, back here to the First. Minfilia and Ardbert’s companions had surrendered their souls to halt the Flood and Ardbert was left alone to wander, a spectre unseen and unheard, slowly fading over the past century… until suddenly he finds himself here and now, though he knows not why.

The adventurer explains to Ardbert everything that has transpired and how they had been summoned to save the First. Ardbert balks at the irony, insisting that this world is beyond saving. All the same, he consigns himself to spectate, that perhaps he can finally find the end to his own journey.

Journey’s Head

The next morning, the adventurer joins a caravan of amaro — dark, winged beasts unique to the First — setting out for Amh Aerang, where the Exarch tells them Alisaie has taken up work. Guided by the caravan master Cassard, they fly south into the desert, making land at the ruins of Qasr Sharl, a northern fortress for the pre-flood nation of Nabaath Areng. From there, they travel on foot to Mord Souq — the town with which Cassard hopes to trade — occupied primarily by kobolds or “mords” as they are evidently called in the First. 

After exchanging some custom with the Mords, the adventurer meets Tesleen, a carer at the Inn at Journey’s Head, a hospice for the Light-afflicted where Alisaie has found employ as a guard. Agreeing to escort Tesleen back to the Inn, they set off together across the dunes until they arrive at an aetheryte surrounded by a few rows of ragged tents and crumbling plywood furniture, perched between spired crags jutting out from the desert floor; the Inn at Journey’s Head.

Figuring that Alisaie is out on patrol, the adventurer explores further south to the edge of the plateau, overlooking the ruined capital of Nabaath Areng, half-consumed by the frozen, glacial bow-wave of the Flood of Light. From atop a nearby derelict watchtower, Alisaie leaps in pursuit of a stray sin eater, bringing it down with a flourish. She almost seems straining to remain aloof as she greets her old friend.

Alisaie is glad to hear news from the Source, expresses contrition at her departure and no small frustration at the Exarch for the timing. She wants to return home, but not before their work here is done.

She explains her purpose in Amh Aerang. The sin eaters are born from the light’s corruption upon the aether of living creatures; they were created by the Flood and they proliferate when a powerful sin eater wounds and subsequently infects another creature or person. The Inn is a last respite for those doomed to turn — Alisaie’s impulses to both care for the afflicted and to fight against the scourge drew her to this place.

The adventurer agrees to help finish Alisaie’s patrol rounds, slaying the few prowling eaters along the way before returning with her to Journey’s Head. She explains that while the sin eaters can be handled individually, once their stronger brethren join the hunt they will swarm about them in legion. Only by regular cullings can their numbers be kept thin enough to ensure the settlement’s survival.

Together they return to Tesleen; she teases Alisaie for her apparent endearment with the Warrior of Light. They offer to help Tesleen with her chores, seeing to the afflicted and returning to Mord Souq for a fresh nectarine.

After bribing a Mord guard for a trip to the top of a tower in Mord Souq, Alisaie shows the adventurer a unique sight — a breach in the wall of light, through which they can see the world beyond; a vast, empty white desolation within which no life can survive. She explains that the nectarine they just purchased was for one of the afflicted, a young boy named Halric. When they seem on the cusp of turning, the carers prepare for their patients a favourite meal laced with poison, to spare them the agony of the transformation. Even with the Flood stalled, the light slowly seeps into this last pocket of life and Alisaie fears that soon enough, everyone left will turn.

They return again to Tesleen; at least for now the carers have decided to delay Halric’s final reprieve. She prepares a meal for them and remembers how she first came to Journey’s Head with her afflicted mother, deciding to stay on after she passed to help ease the suffering of others — although when it comes to euthanizing the patients, she wishes the fabled Warrior of Darkness would take up the burden.

Tesleen recites for Alisaie a tale familiar to every child of Norvrandt: 

Warrior of Darkness, servant of death,

Take care of our souls at our dying breath…

Let sinners and eaters of sin go with thee,

That all may return to the sunless sea.

Another caregiver interrupts in a panic, having lost sight of Halric. The other afflicted have turned their eyes to the sky…

Alisaie, Tesleen and the adventurer spread out to search for the boy outside the settlement, only to find a large, vicious sin eater descending towards him, a monster in the form of an angelic knight, like an Amdapori golem. As Alisaie and the adventurer rush towards them, Tesleen flies at the sin eater with sword in hand, clipping its wing and moving to protect Halric. In a single motion, the eater drives its blade through Tesleen’s back — the wound around it glowing white as she reaches out to the child, whispering hollow comfort to him.

The eater draws back its blade and Tesleen falls to her knees, screeching in agony as the light emanates from her chest. She keels over, retching, and the transformation seizes her whilst the child looks passively on. Alisaie, too late to save her friend, is overwhelmed by the sight and falls, sobbing, as the transformed Tesleen croaks a soft apology with her last shred of consciousness before flying dutifully off on the tail of the angelic eater.

Halric is brought safely back to the Inn, but Alisaie cannot remain here. She knows that their work is futile — the only way to make a difference is to expunge the Light, once and for all; she will wait for the adventurer back at the Crystarium.

The City of Final Pleasures

The Warrior of Light (it’s beginning to seem a perverse moniker here) continues on from the Crystarium via amaro to Kholusia, a large island off the west coast of Norvrandt. The gilded fortress-city of Eulmore perches just off the southern shore beyond a narrow peninsula crammed with derelict shacks and makeshift tents. Shut to outsiders and no friend of the Crystarium, the adventurer has been warned to tread carefully. They’re directed to the fishing village of Stilltide, all but a ghost town, there to await Alphinaud at the local tavern.

Dressed as inconspicuous as he evidently knows how; Alphinaud soon arrives. He greets the barkeep as a friend and presents her with a bag of barley seeds. She leaves them to their privacy.

Alphinaud’s greeting is stoic, but less reserved than his sister. He is glad for news from the Source, but troubled that open war with Garlemald could not be avoided. He, too, is keen to return, but knows that the Eighth Umbral Calamity must first be averted. He recounts his time spent with Gaius Baelsar and the discovery of Black Rose which — by Urianger’s apparent premonition — will prove to be the catalyst for the Calamity in the Source. The theory agreed upon by the Scions and Exarch for the Rejoining requires disaster to strike upon both the Source and First simultaneously, and that only here can the latter be prevented by defeating the sin eaters.

To this end has Alphinaud traveled to the threshold of Eulmore; he yet endeavors to find a way into the city. Naturally, the adventurer agrees to help. Together, they travel towards Gatetown — the sea of ramshackles erected before Eulmore’s gate by those desperate to earn their place in the city. Along the way they rescue an old woman beset by a wayward sin eater, the last resident of a village abandoned by its occupants for the safety of the city’s shadow.

As the pair reach the outskirts of Gatetown, a duo of gaudy jesters descend from the city laden with sacks, proclaiming their arrival with a flourish. The grimy locals rush to form an audience. With practiced pageantry, these Eulmoran representatives declare their business: a patron of the city wishes to sponsor a master culinarian, allowing them to live in the city in exchange for their indefinite service.

Alphinaud explains to the adventurer that Eulmore is known as “the city of final pleasures”, that it stands purely to provide decadent leisure for the wealthy as they await the end of days. Only those commoners that can fulfill the specific whims of the privileged are offered residence.

Having identified a prospective chef from the hopefuls, the jesters pull open the sacks to reveal a supply of white, dough-like substance to which the crowd reacts with ecstasy. “Meol”, a staple food for those within the city, and for those milling without, the most precious and anticipated of charity. The Eulmorans return to the city with their new servant; the townspeople grab their share of meol and disperse.

The scene serves as a fair demonstration of Alphinaud’s difficulty. This system for residency has apparently been in place for twenty years — since Eulmore’s current ruler took power and inexplicably ceased the struggle against the sin eaters. In that time, most of Kholusia has abandoned all industry and purpose for rations of meol and the false promise of paradise.

Sensing there is more to this culture than appears, Alphinaud has gradually formulated a plan to endear himself with the Eulmorans. Local sahagin — “ondo”, as they are called here — have agreed to trade for much-sought fresh fruit from the land, with pearls harvested from their own domain. Alphinaud has facilitated a supplier and an initial exchange and hopes to subsequently impress the Eulmorans with his mercantile aptitude.

Together with the adventurer, they make the short journey to the village of Wright to meet this supplier, only to find that their plans had been overheard by an imposter who has already collected the produce. The supplier describes a mystel (the Vrandtic term for miqo’te) with short blue hair; it does not take long for Alphinaud and the adventurer to catch up with the offender as he makes for the rendezvous.

The boy begs forgiveness and explains his desperation to enter Eulmore. Orphaned, all his friends have been chosen to serve within the city, leaving him alone and unable to procure even a scrap of meol. Alphinaud acquiesces to the mystel — Kai-Shirr — and instructs him on the rest of the plan, resolved to find another way for himself.

As the grateful mystel runs off, Alphinaud spies a figure across the bay — someone lying prone, washed up on the sand. Hurrying over, they find a man barely conscious and muttering for mercy. They quickly build a campfire and tend to the man; once able to speak he explains that he was a painter in Eulmore; unable to satisfy his patrons he was released from service and soon brought before the ruler, Lord Vauthry, whom had him flung from the top of the city into the ocean below. A relatively lenient punishment, it was a miracle that he survived. Grateful for the rescue and disenchanted at the prospect of continuing his trade, the painter supposes that his patrons will soon seek another to replace him; he offers Alphinaud his brush as a prop that might earn a way inside. Thankfully, Alphinaud has some experience with paint that might support the bluff.

Fortunately, it does. It doesn’t take long for the jesters to return in pursuit of a painter and in lieu of any portfolio they accept the weathered brush as proof of Alphinaud’s profession. He insists that the adventurer be brought along as his trusted assistant, the jesters decide to leave it to the discretion of Alphinaud’s patrons and lead both beyond the gate, into the gold and satin arms of Eulmore. They are processed at the Bureau of Immigration — registered, bathed and liberally perfumed — before being directed upstairs to the Canopy, a palatial promenade where they might find their new employers, Chai-Nuzz and Dulia-Chai.

The mystel matron Dulia-Chai is immediately taken with Alphinaud, but Chai-Nuzz seems a little skeptical of his need for an assistant. All the same, they give the adventurer leave to explore the city while Alphinaud prepares to paint the Chais’ portrait. 

The adventurer takes the hint and sets about the residents, hoping to pry the secrets for this supposed paradise. They learn of the relationship between free and bonded citizens; how the wealthy free taken into Eulmore society give up their estates to the city in exchange for their life of isolated luxury. How almost no one ever leaves, even as corpses…

They learn that Eulmore has enjoyed complete safety from the sin eaters, that Lord Vauthry possesses a unique power to control them. In the understory, they find a despairing bonded singer who has lost her voice and been unable to recover, terrified that her patron will cast her out. Instead, he assures her that he will have Lord Vauthry arrange her “ascension” to paradise by the sin eaters.

Back in the Canopy, Alphinaud has been dressed by Dulia and begun work on the portrait. Chai-Nuzz is not impressed with the work so far — he has no interest in realism.

A scream rings out from above; the jesters enter the Canopy to declare that a public display of justice is being meted out in Vauthry’s Offer for those that wish to spectate. The Chais give Alphinaud leave to do so, and together he and the adventurer take the lift to Vauthry’s audience chamber and a most disturbing display.

By the doorway, a throng of Eulmorans stand enraptured. Across the hall, propped up on a dais laden with velvet cushions, surrounded by tokens of affluence and pliant sin eaters sits the immense, corpulent form of Vauthry. Between them, bleeding on the polished floor kneels the blue-haired mystel, Kai-Shirr.

Alphinaud and the adventurer push through the crowd to attend to the boy, Alphinaud brazenly demanding an explanation from Vauthry. The grousing lord states that he is guilty of fraud — evidently Kai-Shirr could not follow through with Alphinaud’s plan. Vauthry had demanded that the boy throw himself from the balcony; when he begged mercy, Vauthry instructed him to carve up his own flesh to feed the sin eaters.

In this brief exchange, Alphinaud has learned all he needs to know of Vauthry’s paradise. He tends to Kai-Shirr’s wounds and together they promptly exit, leaving the dumbfounded Vauthry to reconcile with this rare affront before launching into a fury. His crowd of Eulmorans remain passively enthralled as a familiar figure observes from the doorway…

Back in Gatetown, Alphinaud is quite convinced that Eulmore will offer no aid in a fight against the sin eaters. Kai-Shirr promises to keep his head down, and although the Chais have followed him out in a bid to convince him to stay, Alphinaud joins the adventurer on their return journey to Crystarium.

Holminster Switch

The Leveilleurs reunited, they soon reconvene with the adventurer and Exarch in the Ocular, there to review their plan: in essence, to cut off the head of the snake. The sin eaters flock to “Lightwardens” — extraordinarily powerful individuals of their kind that apparently command all the others and hold the majority of the corrupting light within them. So great is their radiation of light that it blocks out the night sky. It is by defeating these Lightwardens and dispersing the Light which they radiate that the Exarch hopes to prevent the Rejoining.

The Exarch elaborates on the metaphysics of Rejoining. A massive imbalance in aspects of polarity or element in a shard will cause aether of this aspect to bleed towards the Source. A concurrent Calamity of the same aspect within the Source will breach the barrier between the two dimensions and cause the shard to collapse into the Source, utterly destroyed in a “Rejoining”. In the case of the predicted Eighth Umbral Calamity, the Light is the aspect — the circumvention, its removal.

Lightwardens have been defeated before, but upon death their Light is expelled and corrupts the nearest host — usually their vanquisher — transforming them into another Lightwarden. It is only with some curiosity of the Warrior of Light’s blessing that the Exarch believes they can be permanently slain.

The exposition is interrupted by Lyna — the white-haired viis captain of the Crystarium guard — bringing news that the nearby settlement of Holminster Switch has been attacked by a massive host of sin eaters. It seems that the Exarch’s theory might be put to the test sooner than anyone thought, he implores the Warrior of Light and the Leveilleurs to hurry north with Lyna and himself to the border of the town. Once there, Lyna confirms that the town has been beset by a veritable legion of eaters, quite likely lead by a Lightwarden. Wasting no time in preparation, the group barrels in.

Through the woods and into the outskirts of the town, they cut a path through the wildlife that have been transformed in the path of an wing-clipped angelic eater that Alisaie recognizes with horror from Amh Aerang. The monster puts up a harder fight than any yet of its kind; Alisaie earns her vengeance, but it proves short-lived. Pushing through the decimated fields of slaughtered or transformed townsfolk and livestock, they find another familiar eater — what was once Tesleen. After a struggle, they fell this twisted shade of Alisaie’s old friend.

Beyond the burning rubble of the town square they find the Lightwarden, all monstrous maw, fists and chains. It seems indomitable, but eventually it falls. The town is lost, but the party prevails and the first Lightwarden lies at their feet. It dissolves into an immense, glowing mass of aether which launches itself into the adventurer and slowly dims to a gentle aura. The Warrior of Light raises a hand aloft, a great beam of energy erupts skyward, breaching the haze of light, tearing it apart to reveal the night sky over Lakeland for the first time in a hundred years. 

The sunless sea… The Warrior of Darkness has come!

So whisper the people throughout the Crystarium and across Lakeland — it seems a better epithet for now than Warrior of Light. All the same, the Exarch asks that the adventurer yet conceal their role for a time, lest it cause chaos and draw unwanted attention from Eulmore. As Lyna sees to the evacuation of survivors from Holminster, the Exarch makes for the Crystarium to offer some explanation to the people. Alisaie means to return to Holminster, no doubt to put her friend to rest. Alphinaud and the Warrior of Darkness make the journey back together and retire to their chambers.

Ardbert visits the adventurer again, he has been watching as promised. He tells them to keep their friends close — he has lost everything on his path and he wonders what they will lose before the end.

Across Lakeland, a young, blonde maiden stares at the night sky and steels herself for a long-awaited meeting…

Back in the Source, the Azure Dragoon charges through an Imperial Castrum, falling upon a ragged Garlean before he is interrupted by the Shadowhunter, Gaius Baelsar. A cold exchange reveals that Estinien has been conscripted by the Scions, here for the same purpose as Gaius — the destruction of Black Rose. Gaius means to proceed to the Garlean capital, for more factories to sabotage and to investigate the truth behind Varis’ claim at the Ghimlyt parley — that the Empire was founded by an Ascian. Seeing their goals aligned, Gaius invites Estinien to join him…

The Oracle of Light

The following morning, the Warrior of Darkness is summoned to the Ocular, where the Exarch ponders before a framed crystal portal — some kind of remote viewing magic. The portal shows a Eulmoran airship perched by Laxan Loft, the abandoned fortress at the heart of Lakeland. Evidently, news of the Lightwarden’s defeat has traveled quickly; Vauthry has sent an emissary who even now makes for the Crystarium to parley. 

On cue, Lyna announces the arrival of this emissary from outside; the Exarch quickly casts an enchantment of concealment over the adventurer and Leveilleurs, not wishing to reveal his hand to Eulmore so soon.

Lyna enters; on her heel saunters an elderly hume, scarred and stern. His presence gives the Exarch pause, if only for a moment. General Ran’jit — commander of Eulmore’s armies since long before the rule of Vauthry. He speaks directly — demanding to know whether the Crystarium was responsible for the Lightwarden’s death. If they were found to be complicit, there would be dire consequences.

The Exarch replies that the Crystarium embraces the return of night, regardless of responsibility; he welcomes Eulmore to pursue their retribution. After a cold exchange, Ran’jit turns to leave — but not before staring directly at the supposedly invisible adventurer and companions, noting that Vauthry hopes to see a particular artist and his assistant revealed.

Alphinaud is alarmed at this escalation, but the Exarch knows that conflict with Eulmore was inevitable once his plan had been set in motion. The Crystarium will be prepared.

Lyna reports that the Eulmoran forces at Laxan Loft were observed taking a prisoner into custody, who has been tentatively identified as the Oracle of Light, Minfilia… Noting the adventurer’s confusion, the Exarch bids them consult with the scholar Moren for an explanation, while he himself makes ready for war.

In the Cabinet of Curiosity, Moren is only too eager to comply — producing a tome on the subject. Minfilia first appeared to halt the Flood of Light a hundred years ago, then disappeared. Fifteen years later — when the sin eaters sacked the nation of Voeburt — a young girl with the unique appearance and powers of Minfilia was there discovered and found to be immune to the Light’s corruption. She was declared the Oracle reborn and took the name Minfilia. She enlisted in the Eulmoran army and fought against the sin eaters until mortally wounded, with her dying breath promising that Minfilia would return. Some years later another Oracle with the same appearance and powers was found, fought for Eulmore, died, over and over to this day — most under the ward and tutelage of General Ran’jit.

The current Minfilia was discovered ten years ago; since Eulmore had then abandoned the fight against the Light, she was kept as a prisoner — until three years ago, she was rescued from the city by a man named Thancred.

Armed with this knowledge, the adventurer and companions are determined to rescue this young Minfilia, in defiance of Eulmore and as an ally for their quest. The Exarch interrupts that he shares this desire, but would have it undertaken as an official operation by the Crystarium at the consent of the people. He gathers the city’s notables and makes his proposition: that if the Crystarium is to declare its support of the Warrior of Darkness, it will mean war with Eulmore — a grave threat to everything they have built. So, will they relinquish hope for the restoration of night and defeat of the sin eaters… or will they fight?

The decision is enthusiastic and unanimous. They will answer in the field, by liberating the Oracle of Light. The plan is quickly drawn and the adventurer directed to join Lyna’s guard.

The adventurer flies to the Ostall Imperative to the west of Laxan Loft and makes ready. A squadron of amaro are deployed above the Loft, scattering dream powder over the Eulmoran forces — a substance which sends many of them into an unshakable sleep — and the guard flanks from east and west, pushing into the fortress before the Eulmorans have a chance to regroup.

Even with the disadvantage, the Eulmorans offer fierce resistance. Lyna and the adventurer waste no time cutting a path through to the ramparts where Minfilia is being trundled onto the airship. They release her bonds and together beat a hasty retreat. Descending to the courtyard, they find Alphinaud and Alisaie standing ready to face the imposing Ran’jit and his evidently attendant wyrm… insisting on Minfilia’s return to Eulmore, he attacks.

Ran’jit handily pacifies Minfilia, Alphinaud, Alisaie and Lyna before falling upon the Warrior of Darkness with a ferocious combination of martial artistry and magicks, empowered by his draconic familiar. The adventurer deftly navigates the onslaught until Ran’jit catches them with a blow which leaves them paralyzed. He dismisses his pet and upon recognising Alphinaud, slowly moves in, until with a flash a soaring gunblade descends towards his back. Parrying with a kick, Ran’jit turns to face Thancred in the regalia of a Gunbreaker.

Though they exchange a flurry of blows, Thancred is unable to land a strike upon the General — Thancred, too, is summarily brought to his knees, but he has bought just enough time. The party is surrounded by a crackle of runes and blinks away from the courtyard to some half-malm outside the Loft. Ran’jit sprints to the parapets and braces himself to launch after them, but the Exarch — suddenly behind the General — binds him in place. Before disappearing himself, the Exarch explains that a further pursuit of Minfilia might prove difficult; the party has made for a place that Eulmore dare not tread. The Fae kingdom of Il Mheg.

Ran’jit is left furious, denied his prize. 

Perched atop the castle, the figure of Solus zos Galvus looks on — perplexed at the abilities of this Exarch and confounded at his plans being complicated so… he muses that there might be another way.

Kingdom of the Fae

The adventurer and party cross into Il Mheg and a dense, unnatural fog. Free from the immediate danger of Ran’jit’s grasp, they take a moment to regroup. Five years have passed for Thancred since he was separated from his friends and he is glad for the reunion; he had been traveling with Minfilia when she ran off for the Crystarium, feeling unnaturally compelled to seek out the adventurer. Thancred was too late to catch up before Minfilia was waylaid by the Eulmorans; he consulted the Exarch and agreed to guide the Warrior of Darkness and company to Il Mheg if the rescue met with complications, here to seek Urianger and the Lightwarden of this land.

The local fae folk have other ideas. The chatter and giggling of childlike voices ring about the fog, insisting that these mortal trespassers provide them with some “fun”. Suddenly, the party struggles to find their bearings; Minfilia and Thancred cannot remember the way to Urianger’s abode — they have fallen under the illusion of the pixies.

They warily follow the path until they reach Lydha Lran — a small settlement set amongst fields of flowers and bizarre topiary figures, trying to ignore the pixies’ goading while they search around for a particular plant that might help break the spell. Thancred peers through the furl of this “looking grass” and, with a fae incantation, shatters the pixies concealment — revealing dozens of the creatures floating about. Thancred insists that they be allowed to see Urianger; the pixies are well acquainted with the archon, having lived among them for some time. The pixies agree to lift the illusionary fog, on the provision that the party assist them with some collection of chores.

The travelers comply — the pixies’ requests are less chores than pretext for a series of pranks, but they do learn something of their surroundings. This land was once home to the kingdom of Voeburt, which fell shortly after the Flood. The displaced pixies eventually found their way here and claimed the mostly abandoned region as their home, alongside the other fae folk — the fuath, nu mou and “reverted” amaro. Those mortals that didn’t leave and those that have since attempted ingress were transformed by the pixies into the morbid topiary figures of “leafmen”, or drowned by the fuath. The pixies themselves are believed to be born from the souls of deceased children, the fuath from those of the drowned.

The pixies do not seem inclined to release their guests from the pretext of service; the adventurer finally recalls their pact with Feo Ul — the fiery pixie introduced to them by the Exarch — and calls them forth. Furious at this neglect, Feo Ul forces the adventurer to beg for their assistance, but soon acquiesces, barraging their fellow pixies with a storm of chastisement and threats. It works — they finally lift the enchanted fog to reveal the great expanse of Il Mheg: rolling hills and mountains, a great lake glimmering atop the ruins of Voeburt, and a grand castle rising from a plateau at the centre.

At last recalling the way, Thancred and Minfilia lead the party north to the Bookman’s Shelves, an old Voeburtite villa now home to Urianger Augurelt — cluttered with the evidence of sleepless work and research. The elezen archon greets them with the expected dramatic flourish. He had not dared to expect the adventurer so soon, but he has not been idle.

Urianger describes the premonition he received upon traveling to the First: the Eorzean Alliance’s momentum against Garlemald answered with Black Rose. With countless dead and the land itself poisoned, all civilization across the star collapsed and every one of the Scions, even the Warrior of Light, counted amongst the fallen.

Since arriving in Norvrandt, Urianger has managed to unravel the mysteries of Black Rose and the Eighth Calamity. Scholars in the Source have long been mistaken about the aspects of aetherial polarity — the relationship between Astral and Umbral, Light and Dark. Contrary to their understanding, Umbral and Light are demonstratively synonymous — the aetherial pole of stasis. Black Rose kills by freezing the movement of aether and subsequently of bodily functions; the Flood of Light has caused the same phenomena upon the entire world of the First. The interaction of these two catastrophes is what has been fated to precipitate the Rejoining.

Eager now to join the adventurer in pursuit of Il Mheg’s Lightwarden, Urianger has discerned its identity and whereabouts; he has also prepared a white auracite — an artifact which had been used to defeat both Nabriales and Igeyorhm — in the anticipation of Ascian interference.

The Lightwarden makes its lair in Lyhe Ghiah, the castle at the centre of Longmirror Lake that once housed the seat of Voeburt. Urianger explains that it cannot be breached without the cooperation of each of the fae races, beginning with the pixies.

Before they depart (and with Minfilia safely out of earshot) Urianger bids Thancred recount for the adventurer an encounter with Minfilia… the “old” Minfilia. His recollection is enough to trigger an Echo vision for them. After rescuing Minfilia from Eulmore three years past, Thancred travelled with her to the ruins of Nabaath Areng, where her progenitor halted the Flood. There did the original Minfilia speak to him through the child. Over the past century, she had poured her essence into children unborn and gently nudged them onto a path that might keep Hydaelyn’s hope and blessing alive, but ever refusing to take possession of them in the means of an Ascian. She was already riddled with guilt over the liberty that she did take from them and decided that it must come to an end. 

Thancred wants his Minfilia back, but she assured him that she would give this child the choice — to live her own life, or cast it aside. Then would the old Minfilia either take the child’s form for her own, or concede her powers to the girl and allow her own undying essence to finally fade away. Until the day this choice would be made, Minfilia begged Thancred to guide and care for the girl along the path… and then she was gone.

The child has no memory of this event and Thancred has chosen not to enlighten her. Mistaking his conflicting feelings for dispassion, she believes that he only thinks of her as a contingency. Whether or not she understands it, the day fast approaches where her ultimatum must be faced.

The party soon returns to Lydha Lran, there with Urianger’s aid to entreat the pixies for their aid in entering the castle. With some small bribery they comply, but warn that the Warrior of Darkness goes to his death; for the Lightwarden of Il Mheg is none other than Titania — king of the Fae folk, imbued with all of their myriad powers. Titania had faced and defeated the first Lightwarden to threaten Il Mheg and was inevitably corrupted by its dispersing Light, taking its place. The fae had no choice but to seal their king within the castle, splitting the magic that would break the seal into four relics: each protected by one of the fae races. The pixies agree to yield their own relic to the party and direct them to the fuath, to bargain for the next.

At the edge of Longmirror Lake lies the Untouchable Gate, a portal to the fuath realm. There, Urianger calls out an entreaty for their relic, the shell crown. A watery voice replies that they care not for the crown, nor king, nor any concerns of the world. They invite the party through the Gate to Dohn Mheg, to retrieve the crown in exchange for their sport…

The party cautiously crosses into the illusionary twilight realm of Dohn Mheg, immediately beset by all manner of vilekin, seedkin and flowery golems. The apparent leader of these fuath — a blustering frog-man in formal attire — bars their path with a flourish of water magicks in way of greeting, spiriting away with a cackle after an exchange of blows.

After another gauntlet of ferocious beasts and treants, the group reaches a watery simulacrum of Lyhe Ghiah, forced to battle through the fuath themselves. Faced once again with their leader — Aenc Thon — and a repertoire of confounding illusions, they finally exhaust the challenge and the Fuath concede. Aenc Thon allows them to take the crown, but not before the chorus of fuath insist that they keep the Warrior of Darkness, to make them one of the fuath. Waves rise to claim them and they tumble into the inky depths.

The Warrior of Darkness regains consciousness at the rousing of Ardbert’s shade, drifting at the bottom of the lake. Without the kojins’ blessing, they would have surely drowned. Looking around, Ardbert reminisces sadly at the ruins of the once-great nation of Voeburt about them and again wonders exactly what his sacrifice was really for.

The adventurer swims back to shore to find Alisaie exhausted from her attempts to find them in the lake; the group is beyond relieved to see them. As the party catches their breath, Sul Uin of the pixies arrives to report that a column of soldiers has been spied marching for Il Mheg — no doubt the soldiers of Eulmore. Alphinaud and Alisaie agree to return to Lydha Lran to help the pixies “play” with these intruders and buy time for the Warrior of Darkness to complete the mission. The rest hurry north through an old mountain pass towards Pla Enni, home of the nu mou.

Through a tunnel set into the mountainside, they find the village within a cave, lit with bio-luminescent mushrooms cultivated to an immense size by the nu mou’s alchemical mastery — many into which the nu mou have built their homes. The curious residents are beside themselves with excitement at the sight of these rare mortal visitors; Urianger explains that as former servants of Voeburt, the nu mou forever crave the patronage of mortal men.

The elder Wyd Aenc is deeply reluctant to hand over their relic, afraid for the safety of the nu mou and mortals both should Titania be set free. With the invocation of certain words of power from Urianger — roll over, fetch — Wyd Aenc surrenders to consider the request whilst the mortals offer some much-craved patronage to the nu mou. In exchange for some requested ingredients and chores, the nu mou offer the party repairs and a variety of alchemical goods. 

A shriek and a vision rings out from Lyhe Ghiah; Titania is bored, they demand release. Hastened by this experience, Wyd Aenc agrees to yield their relic; the nu mou desire to see Titania released from their suffering, but have not the power to do so alone. Wyd Aenc implores that the Warrior of Darkness sees it done.

The final relic is held at Wolekdorf, a settlement of amaro that have inherited the rare gift of speech from their ancestors, first granted by the ancient mages of Ronka. Here the adventurer meets Seto, a giant of his kind and leader of these reverted amaro. Groggy from sleep, he briefly mistakes them for Ardbert…

Seto insists that their quest to defeat the Lightwarden is doomed. As creatures bred to serve and protect men, the amaro are adamant not to bring any suffering upon the adventurer and their companions. When Seto asks the adventurer why they labor and fight, their answer once again reminds him of someone. He asks the adventurer to demonstrate their conviction and strength by aiding him in a hunt for sin eaters that have been prowling around Wolekdorf. Seto recognizes that the Warrior of Darkness dispatches these foes with ease, but desires a little more time to think. He sends them to search for a medallion of singular sentimental value he had dropped in Longmirror Lake some time ago.

When the adventurer returns successful, Seto explains that this token had been fashioned into a collar by his master long ago, before Seto had inherited the gift of speech — a man named Ardbert. Seto treasures his time spent journeying with Ardbert, and wishes only that he could have spoken his heart to him back then… Unbeknownst to Seto, the spirit of Ardbert listens and watches on now, and he understands.

Seto admits that the adventurer reminds him very much of Ardbert, even that he can faintly perceive their soul, which seems identical. He will place his faith in the Warrior of Darkness and cede the final relic.

The Return of the King

A pixie arrives from Lydha Lran and reports that their fellows alongside the Leveilleurs had succeeded in halting the progress of the Eulmorans into Il Mheg, until a threatening old man joined the scene, immune to their tricks… They will not be able to delay him for long. With the relics now in hand, Urianger bids the Warrior of Darkness proceed to the castle to confront the Lightwarden whilst he, Thancred and Minfilia double back to assist in obstructing the Eulmorans and buying as much time as possible to see the job done. The party splits; the adventurer hastens to Lyhe Ghiah.

The gates of the grand castle yield to the presence of the relics; Feo Ul warns the adventurer that a price will be expected of them in meeting this challenge. Striding into the atrium of white stone and stained glass, the porcelain spectre of Titania drifts down to meet the Warrior of Darkness. They despair for frolicking missed, eager to make up for lost time…

Gleefully, Titania bears upon the adventurer the full might of both Lightwarden and fae regent with devastating elemental magicks, transforming the chamber into a deadly living forest, cackling all the way. Only after an extended and desperate struggle does the King fall, dissolving into the same glowing sun of umbral energy as the Lakeland Warden before them. The aether pours down into the Warrior of Darkness and with a flash, the sky above the castle breaks to reveal the dark of night.

The adventurer might be immune to the corruption of the Lightwarden, but not so to the pact of Titania… as the four relics levitate and glow, Feo Ul explains that it is the destiny of Titania’s usurper to take these sacred items and by them, become a successive Titania — forever surrendering mortality and binding themselves to the fate of the fae. Knowing that the Warrior of Darkness must walk another path, Feo Ul agrees to accept this burden. They embrace the relics and are summarily transformed. The new Titania, Feo Ul, extends their hand — it is time to banish the invaders from Il Mheg.

At Lydha Lran, Ran’jit squeezes the life out of a pixie in his grip, demanding that Minfilia be revealed to him. Their diversions spent, Alphinaud, Urianger and Minfilia decloak before the General. To his disgust, she draws her daggers to face him. Whilst Ran’jit is distracted, Alisaie and Thancred dispel their own illusions and dive upon him in defense of Minfilia.

Just in time, the radiating Light above them shatters, blanketing the valley in darkness’ embrace. The Eulmorans behind Ran’jit hesitate, then make ready to charge — but silently, their numbers are transformed to leafmen, launched skyward by nu mou incantations and dragged, screaming, into bottomless puddles by the grasp of fuath. From Lyhe Ghiah swoop a flock of amaro, led by the radiant Titania and the Warrior of Darkness. Spitting a final threat, Ran’jit turns to retreat, with the surviving Eulmorans tripping and flailing in his wake.

Before the assembled fae and Scions, the Warrior of Darkness lands with the newly ascended Titania to explain what has transpired. Il Mheg is free and reunited — King and night returned. Feo Ul assures them that the debt will be repaid in the Warrior of Darkness’ time of need.

Exhausted, astonished, but triumphant — the Scions prepare for the journey back to the Crystarium to report their victory to the Exarch and plan the next leg of their quest. 

Ascian Overtures

The Scions finally return to the city, noting with relief that Eulmore has left it unmolested in their pursuit of Minfilia. Standing in the grand plaza before the Dossal Gate, they are interrupted by the unlikely approach of a Garlean, whom Urianger instantly recognizes as the founding father of the Garlean Empire — Solus zos Galvus. Far too young a visage for a man recently deceased in old-age, the group concludes immediately that they stand before an Ascian.

Glad to be spared the introduction, Galvus introduces himself as Emet-Selch, Ascian of the Source. His plans for the Rejoining between Source and First have been confounded by the Scions’ progress against the Lightwardens, but he comes with a proposition. Emet-Selch suggests that rather than merely kill them all, he would like to explore the potential for cooperation — that allowing them to proceed with their quest might prove of mutual benefit; it may even persuade him to share with them the kind of ancient knowledge that might just prove their goals compatible. With the privilege of immortality, he sees nothing to lose in delaying a little further that they might begin to understand one another. His proposal delivered for consideration, Emet-Selch disappears with the promise that they would see one another very soon…