The following is a crash course for the plot of Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers. IT CONTAINS SPOILERS, it does not have any sort of personal insight, and is mainly meant as a tool for those who have skipped, forgotten, or want a refresher on the major plot points of the Shadowbringers narrative.
Chapter I: Beyond the Rift
In search of the mysterious beacon, the Scions send out a call for aid from their allies. Both the scholars of NOAH and the engineers of the Ironworks join the search. Scouring the depths of the trench surrounding the crystalline Syrcus Tower on the north side of Silvertear Lake, they don’t have much luck finding anything until the Warrior of Light is invited down to give it a chance. There the Warrior ventures beyond the already scouted areas and finds a strange sight, a gear bearing the mark of the Garlond Ironworks. Biggs and Wedge ponder if they have a counterfeiter on their hands before a piercing wave rocks the Warrior of Light off balance and the ethereal voice from beyond rips into their mind once more.
Focusing hard on the voice, the Warrior of Light is drawn into the space beyond space and is flung through shards of crystal, each bearing a memory of things that have come to pass: The Sultana’s assassination attempt, the death of Haurchefant, the encounter with the Warrior of Darkness and then a vision of something strange and foreign – Minfillia stopping a massive wave of aetherial light. Minfilia whispers that the hero’s time has not yet come before darkness takes the Warrior’s vision.
The Warrior of Light awakens in a strange new world, where they stumble across a familiar yet wholly unknown peddler who welcomes them to the woods on a fine evening. The Warrior of Light, perplexed, looks to the bright sky and comments that it’s bright as day. The peddler laughs thinking they are referring to an old joke while making passing reference to the fact that they haven’t had a dark night for over a hundred years. With that, the Peddler packs up to depart and tells the Warrior that they should make for the large shining tower beyond the woods – The Crystarium – where they can find some help.
At the gates of the Crystarium, the Warrior of Light encounters Lyna – the captain of the guard who watches over the entrance to the city of crystals. She inquires as to the Warrior’s origins and not believing them is about to deny them entry when a fiendish white monster appears and Lyna dashes past the Warrior to dispatch it. In its demise is left a single ring – the same ring the peddler wore – and Lyna comments that the abomination had recently eaten.
The Warrior of Light and Lyna are then approached by the mysterious man in robes that had made contact with the Warrior back in Ghimlyt. The man calls himself the Crystal Exarch. The Exarch explains that it is he that called the Warrior of Light and the Archons across the void to the First, one of the thirteen shards of Hydaelyn, in hopes of saving that world and sparing the Source, the Warrior’s home, another calamity. The Exarch asks that the Warrior speak to the various leaders of the Crystarium to get a feel for the way this new world works before joining him at the Crystal Tower.
At the tower, the Exarch explains the fate of the other Scions that were accidentally pulled into the First in his less than stellar attempts to draw the Warrior of Light. Indeed, while the Warrior was the intended target and thus came across with their full body and spirit whole and thus can travel back to the Source at will, the other Scions simply had their mind and soul brought to the First and while they have bodies made of aether, they are “illusions that you can see and touch” according to the Exarch.
Furthermore, the flow of time is in flux between the First and the Source and an hour in one can be nearly a year in the other. While the flow seems to currently be close enough to one-for-one, the other Scions have been on the First for years at this point. The other Scions spent much of their time attempting to find a way back until Urianger arrived having glanced a vision of the future when he was pulled through the Rift – the rejoining of the Source and the First, bringing with the Eighth Umbral Calamity and the death of the Warrior of Light. Since then, the Scions have been working to find a way to stop the calamity from occurring.
The Exarch suggests that before trusting him blindly, that the Warrior speak to the others. He invites the hero to stay and rest in the Crystarium before setting out to find the Twins on the morrow. To help make the Warrior’s stay on the First as easy as possible, the Exarch introduces them to the pixie Feo Ul who can aid in sending messages and passing items through the Rift easily and finally the Exarch sets the Warrior up with a room of their own in the local residence hall of the Pendants.
However, awaiting the Warrior in their room is the shadow encrusted visage of the Warrior of Darkness who aided the Ascians in Ishgard. He recognizes the Warrior of Light and is surprised when they can hear his words. He re-introduces himself as Ardbert, a hero of the First who was left behind to have his soul wander aimlessly after Minfilia and his comrades sacrificed themselves to stop the Flood of Light one hundred years prior. He is uncertain of why the Warrior can see and hear him, but he warns that this world is beyond saving and has had enough of heroes. He departs noting that he will be watching and hoping that the Warrior of Light’s presence may shine light on why he was denied his rest so long ago.
The next day, the Exarch prepares travel to seek out the Twins – Alphinaud in the island kingdom of Kholusia where the wealthy lock themselves away to live in indulgence until the end of days, and Alisaie in Amh Araeng, a desert region along the wall of primordial light that formed when the Flood was stopped and every day is spent in fear of Sin Eaters, the abominations of light that dwell in the Empty beyond the wall.
Chapter II: Seeking the Twins
Alphinaud’s work in Kholusia has him working on a plan to infiltrate the capital city of Eulmore, the “City of Final Pleasures” where the rich and noble wile the final days of the world away while outside the rest of Kholusia barely holds on to what they have. Many locals have congregated around the gateway to Eulmore living in the aptly named Gatetown where occasionally a pair of red and blue harlequins dance out from the city to seek out a fortunate individual that meets the criteria of the whims of a resident of Eulmore and to dole out a food stuff called meol to the remainder of the crowd that is lucky enough to nab one.
This system of acquired individuals to bring into the city has caught Alphinaud’s eye and he plans on using a bartering deal with the local sahagin – called Ondo on the First – to trade their pearls for the surface’s vegetables. However, a local named Kai-Shirr overhears Alphinaud’s plans and attempts to steal them for his own. Alphinaud lets him carry out the deal so Kai-Shirr can rejoin his friends that were already picked to go into the city.
On the way back, Alphinaud and the Warrior of Light spy a drowned man who was thrown from the balcony of Eulmore by its ruler Lord Vauthry after he was fired from his ‘task’ of painting a pair of nobles in the city and couldn’t find a replacement job. The artist offers Alphinaud his paintbrush as proof that Alphinaud can use it to get into the city when the harlequins return to seek a replacement artist.
Once inside, while Alphinaud begins to work on a portrait of his patrons, Chai-Nuzz and his wife Dulia-Chai, the Warrior of Light starts to form the picture of what kind of city Eulmore is. The wealthy and noble traded away all their possessions and riches to Vauthry in exchange to live out their lives in eternal luxury, with their every desire granted by plucking up the hungry and desperate from beyond Eulmore’s walls and making them “bonded”. When a Bonded is no longer useful they are either removed from the city or at the request of their patron granted ascension where Lord Vauthry claims the Sin Eaters who devour the wicked will take the pure of heart with them to the heavens.
This claim is shown to have at least some merit when Kai-Shirr is caught by Lord Vauthry as a ‘fraudulent businessman’ and demands that Kai-Shirr offer up his “living aether” to feed the Sin Eaters that Vauthry controls as “fellow citizens of Eulmore.” Alphinaud finally has enough, takes Kai-Shirr and makes his leave along with the Warrior of Light while apologizing to the Chai’s. All the while, an enigmatic figure watches from the doorway.
Meanwhile in Amh Araeng, the Warrior of Light joins a trader in his journey across the harsh desert to the trading town of Mord Souq where they encounter a young woman named Tesleen who works as a caregiver at the place where Alisaie has been working as a guard. She recognizes the Warrior at once from all of Alisaie’s stories about them. Now hot on the trail of the other twin, the Warrior of Light joins Tesleen on her journey back to the ‘Inn at Journey’s Head’.
Tesleen explains that the Inn is a place for those who are afflicted. When the Warrior questions what she means, Tesleen insists that Alisaie should probably be the one to explain it. She sends the Warrior of Light out into the desert to see if they can find Alisaie who is on patrol. Alisaie is busy hunting down Sin Eaters when the Warrior finds her but she is still bashfully elated to see her friend again. Alisaie takes the time to explain a bit more about the Sin Eaters. They’re not just monsters from the Empty beyond the wall of light – they’re people who were transformed when their bodies were flooded with light aether that now only mindlessly hunger for the aether of those who remain. Worse still is that the stronger Sin Eaters are capable of infecting their victims and causing them to transform into Sin Eaters. That’s what the Inn at Journey’s Head is for – a place for those who are turning to live out their final days in respite.
The pair return to the inn where they help with some of the patience including a young boy named Halric who is nearing the end of his time. His skin has become like porcelain, he cannot speak, and his eyes have become vacant. Alisaie then invites the Warrior of Light to join in her in Mord Souq where they pick up a nectarine from a vendor and she explains that in order to spare the afflicted the horrible and painful transformation into the Sin Eater, it is standard practice to serve them their favorite food laced with a lethal poison. Nectarines are Halric’s favorite.
Alisaie and the Warrior return to the Inn where Tesleen has prepared a hearty soup for dinner and shares the fable of the “Warrior of Darkness” who will come and claim the souls of the Sinners and Sin Eaters alike and take them beyond the light filled sky to the Sunless Sea beyond. The story is interrupted however by a panicked caretaker wondering if anyone had seen Halric. The boy had wandered off from the Inn when everyone’s back was turned. Alisaie and the Warrior immediately go in search of the child, but it’s Tesleen who finds him first and saves him from a towering powerful Sin Eater by cutting off one of the creature’s wings. Tesleen tries to hasten Halric to retreat, but she is impaled by the Sin Eater’s weapon much to Alisaie’s horror.
In Tesleen’s final moments, she encourages the dead eyed Halric to live out whatever time he has left happily. Tesleen then lets out an agonized scream as the primordial light expands and fills her, spilling out of her mouth as solid white bile and dripping down from her eyes. The caretaker writhes in pain with the vacant Halric watching on unemotionally as the woman’s body contorts and cracks before forming a cocoon around herself to finish transforming. The new Sin Eater emerges from the shell still bearing a distorted visage of Tesleen’s face and utters their final words as a living thing: “Forgive me, Alisaie” – before departing to the skies to follow the more powerful Sin Eater. Alisaie, jaded and broken by the experience, decides to depart from the Inn and return to the Crystarium with the Warrior of Light now more driven than ever to put an end to the Sin Eater threat.
Back at the Crystarium, the Levalieur Twins meet with the Crystal Exarch and the Warrior of Light. The Exarch explains the existence of ‘Lightwardens’ – insanely powerful sin eaters that exude primordial light enough that they hold sway over all local lesser sin eaters and even cast the sky in eternal daylight. The Exarch believes that defeating the Lightwardens is the key to halting another umbral calamity, though Alphinaud advises that Eulmore’s use of controlling sin eaters to exert power over its citizens would mean that Lord Vauthry would likely view any attempt to disrupt the Lightwardens and upset the balance as a threat.
The Warrior of Light however ponders how simply taking down a few monsters – even powerful ones – could forestall a calamity. The Exarch explains that the thirteen reflections or ‘shards’ of the Source are still connected to it in some deep way. So if one shard were to be overcome by an abundance of a single elemental aether, the excess would start to trickle back to the Source causing disasters to start – fire aether brings wildfires, earth would create quakes, etc – but as that flow continues more and more there inevitably will be a crack in the boundary between the two worlds. The crack would unleash a surge of aether as the shard is absorbed wholly back into the Source and causing an Umbral Calamity.
Any other talk or explanation is immediately cut short by the arrival of Lyna who warns that the local settlement of Holminster Switch is under attack by a swarm of sin eaters. The Exarch tells the Warrior that a practical explanation may be more explanatory and asks that they lend their strength to defending the people of the Switch.
The group heads northward to the Holminster Switch where Lyna reveals that they believe a Lightwarden leads the attack. The Twins are eager to test out the Exarch’s theory and kill the Lightwarden but Lyna warns that doing so is foolhardy. When a Lightwarden dies, the abundance of Light within it consumes the nearest living thing and turns them into the next Lightwarden. Hence why they haven’t been able to destroy a single one in all these years. The Exarch seems to shrug off this detail and insists they lead the charge to save as many as they can.
Within the village, the Warrior of Light confronts the sin eater with the severed wing that they encountered in Amh Araeng as well as Tesleen herself, now a mindless abomination. Finally, the Warrior of Light confronts the lightwarden of Lakeland – Philia – and slays it. Lyna calls out for a retreat before one of them is turned but the Exarch says that’s not necessary. They finally have the weapon they need to defeat the Lightwardens once and for all – a hero bearing the blessing of Hydaelyn. The Warrior of Light absorbs the light from the fallen Lightwarden and unleashes a blast into the sky that tears away the veil of unyielding light to give way to the jeweled night sky. For the first time in a hundred years, the people of Lakeland can see the inky blacks and twinkling stars. Rumors spread that the fabled Warrior of Darkness has come at last.
Back at the Crystarium, the Warrior of Light finds the ghostly spectre of Ardbert awaiting them. Ardbert warns the newly dubbed ‘Warrior of Darkness’ to keep their friends close. That they might risk losing everything if they keep up this pursuit to save everything.
Across Lakeland, a young blonde woman garbed in white looks up at the night sky and expresses her desire to seek out the Warrior of Darkness.
Back on the Source, Estinien – conscripted by Tataru and Krile to aid while the Warrior and the Scions are on the First – mounts an attack on an Imperial base in hopes of destroying the deadly chemical weapon known as Black Rose. Instead he finds the Shadowhunter – Gaius – and his team who just destroyed the production facilities. Gaius notes that this is only one of many bases they are making the weapon which is capable of stagnating the aether of any who breathe it in. The Shadowhunter invites the dragoon to join him as they make their way to Garlemald itself.
Chapter III: The Oracle and the Battle of Lakeland
The Eulmoran Army has appeared in Lakeland and they have sent an emissary to meet with the Exarch. The Emissary is General Ran’jit, the commander of the Eulmoran Army himself. He asks if the Crystarium is aiding the villains who killed the Lightwarden and jeopardizing the peace between man and sin eater that Lord Vauthry has forged. The Exarch states that they welcome the night sky and if that counts as aiding then so be it. It’s also revealed that the Eulmoran Army might have other reasons for being in Lakeland, namely to capture the Oracle of Light – Minfilia.
After the real Minfilia appeared 100 years before and stopped the flood of light only to vanish, a few years later a girl with the same blonde hair and sapphire eyes was born with the ability to resist the sin eaters’ corruption. She took up arms and fought until she died at a young age. Since then a new “Minfilia” has been born a few years after one has perished. The latest Minfilia had been held prisoner beneath Eulmore due to being a perceived threat to Vauthry’s decadent peace until a short while ago when Thancred himself broke her out and has been protecting her since. The Twins and the Warrior of Light agree to go rescue Minfilia and possibly reunite with another Scion. The Exarch however asks them to allow the people of the Crystarium to handle this matter.
The Exarch does not want to show his hand quite yet and reveal the Warrior of Light – or now the ‘Warrior of Darkness’ that they’ve quickly become known as on the First – to their enemies. Instead he calls a conference with all the various leaders and heads of the Crystarium and puts it to a vote. Without hesitation there is universal support for going to war with Eulmore. They all begin to formulate a plan: send their flying beasts – amaro – to the skies to keep the airships from departing, then bomb the Eulmoran army with sleeping powder to thin their numbers so the Captain Lyna and the Crystarium Guard can swoop in and save the Oracle of Light. The Exarch happily invites the Warrior of Darkness and the Twins to join the guard for some excitement.
The plan goes off without a hitch until the Warrior of Darkness and Lyne free Minfilia and make their way back to the rest of the guard where they find Ran’jit waiting. The legendary general makes quick work of the guard, Lyne, and the Scions before taking on the Warrior one-on-one. While the Warrior of Darkness puts up a valiant fight, they barely can scratch Ran’jit before being brought to their knees. Ran’jit then recognizes Alphinaud as the missing artist that Vauthry wanted ‘returned’ and seems pleased with being able to bring two targets in with a single capture.
Suddenly, Thancred appears on the scene and engages Ran’jit with a flurry of strikes with his gunblade. Though it seems that Ran’jit ultimately has the upper hand, Thancred uses the feint to teleport everyone away. Ran’jit aims to chase after but is magically stopped by the Crystal Exarch. Ran’jit confronts the Exarch saying that his city will be razed, but the Exarch is quite comfortable saying that they’d rather be destroyed than conquered. After giving the others sufficient time to escape, the Exarch allows Ran’jit to go and pursue them if he should wish but warns that they have ventured in the Kingdom of Faeries where even Eulmore fears to tread.
High above the Exarch and Ran’jit is the same mysterious man who before stood in the doorway of Eulmore after Alphinaud’s dramatic exit. He ponders who the Exarch is and how they were capable of summoning the Hero of the Source all the way to the First to spoil his plans with Eulmore. However, the figure thinks about it and hypothesizes a different plan utilizing a person with such a strong heart.
Chapter IV: The Kingdom of Faeries
Thancred leads everyone in the foggy woods of Il Mheg. There he expresses his joy in seeing all of his comrades once more. He explains that after losing track of the young Minfilia that he met with the Exarch who gave him instructions should the battle turn sour. First, seek out shelter with Urianger who lives in Il Mheg and second, kill the Lightwarden of the region.
Minfilia explains why she had wandered off and almost gotten captured was that something deep within her spoke to her in her sleep and told her to seek out the Hero From Another World – the Warrior of Darkness. Thancred scolds her for being reckless and bringing the threat of Eulmore down on their necks but is interrupted by strange voices echoing through the woods that taunt the travelers. Thancred quickly asks Minfilia which way they need to go to find Urianger’s house but the young girl suddenly can’t remember. Thancred curses and notes that they’ve already been caught in the pixie’s spell and they’ll be forced to ‘entertain’ them if they want to keep moving.
Thancred seeks out a small piece of flora that Urianger once showed him and Minfilia called a ‘looking glass plant’. Using it he reveals where the pixies are under their glamour of invisibility. The pixies spring forth in numbers but still won’t end the games until the entire group does some small tasks for them. After doing so, it seems the pixies are still unwilling to relent and keep insisting on just a few more things before removing the spell.
Frustrated with the fae, Thancred inquires if the Warrior of Darkness encountered any pixies during their chores that would be amenable to talking. The Warrior reflects that not while doing the chores, but they had formed a pact with Feo Ul. Calling out to the Warrior’s “lovely branch” starts something of a quarrel as Feo Ul was spurned by the lack of attention. After making amends, Feo Ul threatens the other pixies to leave the party alone. They agree to relent if they can hold on to the Twins until the Warrior’s business with Urianger is over. With the deal struck, the pixies drop the illusions and reveal the true splendor of Il Mheg, the Kingdom of the Rainbow.
Thancred, Minfilia and the Warrior of Darkness journey forth to the Bookman’s Shelves where Urianger lives. When they arrive, Thancred sends Minfilia outside to imbue his ammunition with aether while the rest talk. Urianger shares his vision of the Eighth Umbral Calamity: the Eorzean Alliance successfully begins to push back the Garlean Empire bit by bit until in Garlemald’s desperation, they unleash their aetherical weapon known as Black Rose. The weapon spreads, destroying the population of Eorzea to almost nothing. With nations in ruin, the Scions dead, and the very earth itself left dying from the horrible creation, the world reverts to the rule of the blade and savagery takes hold.
Urianger has spent his time in the First researching a reason why Black Rose was so potent as to bring about the end of the world like in his vision. His answer was surprisingly simple: on the Source, the two poles for all magic are Astral, which represents change, and Umbral, which represents stasis. However, on the First, these are not the terms they use. Instead it is Darkness that represents change and Light that is stasis. So if the Light Aether is being drawn from the First to the Source in a rejoining, then the potency of stagnating magic would be enhanced and Black Rose kills by stagnating the flow of aether in living things.
Thancred also shares a story about his time here on the First. The time he met Minfilia – the original Minfilia – when he brought his young ward to the Wall in Amh Araeng where the Flood of Light was stopped. The original Minfilia possessed the young girl, in a manner that she admits is the same as an Ascian would, to speak to Thancred and tell him that she will not be returning and he needs to accept that. Instead she will either carry on being reborn or should this young girl choose to live her own life, Minfilia will grant the child all of her remaining power so they can forge their own destiny. Urianger notes, as he prepares gifts for the pixies to persuade them to give passage to the castle where the Lightwarden dwells, that the time for the younger Minfilia to make that choice is drawing close. The world sits at the threshold of change one way or the other.
Back with the pixies, they happily accept Urianger’s gifts and explain that the Lightwarden is actually their king, who slew the previous Lightwarden and turned into one. The pixies sealed their king, Titania, in the castle at the center of the lake with four relics to act as keys. They present the Warrior of Darkness with a dress that serves as the first key and explain the rest were given to the other inhabitants of Il Mheg: the Fuath, the Nu Mou, and the Amaro. Since the Fuath are the closest, the party heads to the gateway to their magic underwater kingdom where they promise the relic in exchange for a good show.
The group fights to the Fuath castle where they applaud the excellent show and offer the relic – the shell crown – but demand the Warrior of Darkness stay as a permanent guest and attempt to drown the Warrior to turn them into a Fuath. Luckily, the Fuath were unaware that Soroban of the Kojin taught the Warrior to breathe underwater. The Warrior is awoken by the shouting of the spirit of Ardbert who shares some of his memories of Voeburt, a kingdom very similar to Ishgard, that once stood where Il Mheg now is. He departs hoping that the Warrior of Darkness comes away from all of this with a better answer of “what was the point of it all?” Then he did.
Back on the shore, the Warrior rejoins their much elated companions. The reunion is interrupted by the pixies with news that the Eulmoran army has entered the forests and ask if it’s okay to play with them. Alisaie and Alphinaud say it’s fine as long as they can double check if it really is the enemy first. The rest make their way to the mountains to meet with the Nu Mou.
The Nu Mou are incredibly friendly people who grow overly ecstatic at the idea of having someone to serve. However, they are frightened terribly at the idea of someone releasing Titania from their prison within the castle. After explaining the Warrior’s ability to resist the corruption, the Nu Mou ask if they could have a few weeks to discuss it. Urianger persuades them to debate a bit faster using Nu Mou ‘words of power’ like ROLL OVER and BEG. The commands alone have such weight on them that it proves impossible to resist. They ask that you help some of the other Nu Mou in the village while they discuss things.
During these errands, Minfilia tags along with the Warrior and discusses how she feels that Thancred hates her because she is nothing but a reminder of HIS Minfilia. She wants to do more, especially for Thancred as a way to thank him for freeing her from Eulmore’s prisons, but she worries it will only make him more depressed. Back at the Nu Mou village, the elders decide that there is nothing that the Nu Mou can do to either aid Titania or end Titania’s suffering. Thus they present the Warrior of Darkness with the stone scepter and give them the choice to help.
The final relic rests in the hands of the Amaro, the birdlike mounts used in the Crystarium. It would seem that as the decades after the Flood, many of the beasts had regained the ability of speech granted to them by their creators: the ancient Ronka people. Many have found their way to this small settlement where they live out their days in peace.
The Amaro who holds the relic is named Seto but he too is unwilling to give it to the Warrior. Not out of fear like the Nu Mou or malice like that Fuath, but for the hero’s safety. Many Amaro once served knights of old or heroes, and none of them like the idea of seeing another man or woman perish. Still Seto is willing to give the Warrior a chance. He puts them to the test by luring in waves of sin eaters for the Warrior to battle. After beating them, Seto asks the Warrior for one small favor while he thinks on what his decision will be – retrieve a golden medal that was lost to the bottom of the lake.
The Warrior returns with the trinket and Seto thanks them, explaining that the medal was a gift from his old master and dearest friend – Ardbert. Seto compares the Warrior to Ardbert kindly, saying they both seem the type to help others out regardless of the inconvenience. Seto notes that Amaro were bred to be able to see souls and that the Warrior and Ardbert even seem to have nearly identical souls, which the old Amaro can’t imagine is a coincidence. As such, he will trust the Warrior like he did Ardbert and turn over the final relic: The Crystal Shoes.
Suddenly, a pixie flies in bearing ill tidings. The pranks on the Eulmoran army were working for a while until Ran’jit appeared. None of their tricks are working on him. The rest of the party states that they’ll go and try to slow down Ran’jit and the Eulmoran forces while the Warrior gets to the castle and destroys the Lightwarden.
When the Warrior of Darkness arrives, Feo Ul joins them with a warning: while pixies seem free, this land is bound by laws. Give equal to what you take. Create equal to what you destroy. To all things there must be balance and that goes for the Warrior of Darkness too. With that said, they venture into the castle to confront Titania.
The battle is twisted and cruel as would be expected of Il Mheg, but in the end the Warrior of Darkness proves victorious and the Lightwarden slain. Feo Ul joins the Warrior and happily announces that now the true purpose of the relics can be revealed. They are not only the keys to the castle, but the gifts for the new king. Which would be the person who removed the old king, but since the Warrior is decidedly mortal, Feo Ul agrees to take the title of Titania in their stead.
Outside, a few minutes earlier, the stand off with Eulmore goes poorly. Ran’jit’s reflexes and instincts are honed enough to pluck an invisible pixie as it flies past. The rest of the party is all but ready to face direct combat when Alisaie looks to the sky to see the light fade away to the sparkling night. The pixies scream in delight announcing that the new king has arrived. All of the fae from around Il Mheg turn up for the celebration and to finish off the Eulmore soldiers – drowning them, turning them to leafmen, or tossing them through the skies – until Ran’jit is forced to retreat while declaring that anyone who aids the Warrior of Darkness will suffer justice at Eulmore’s hand.
Titania and the Warrior of Darkness arrive just as Ran’jit flees and the new King announces that while the fey folk do not care for the affairs of mortals, they do believe in repaying debts to preserve the balance. As such, should the Warrior ever need the folk of Il Mheg, they will gladly answer in repayment for the beautiful night sky they’ve been given.
With matters in the Kingdom of Rainbows now settled, Thancred wishes to get back to the Crystarium to ensure its still standing after Eulmore’s stunt. However, nothing is amiss whatsoever back at the Crystarium. It seems that Eulmore sent everything in pursuit of the Warrior of Darkness and Minfilia, much to everyone’s relief.
The group is not alone though. From behind them, a voice calls out chastising the party on their tardiness. The mystery figure that had watched on in Eulmore, who had debated with himself at top Lakeland’s tower, now stands before the Warrior of Darkness directly and Urianger recognizes the individual without a second thought: Solus zos Galvus, the founding father of the Garlean Empire – though appearing unnaturally youthful. Solus chuckles at the historian and commends his knowledge before introducing himself properly – while yes, he is Solus zos Galvus, that is only but one life he has lived. In truth, he is Emet-Selch, an Ascian of the same standing as Lahabrea.
The entire party gets ready for a fight when the Ascian announces himself, but Emet-Selch just continues on talking. He explains his utter irritation at the party’s success in tipping the balance even ever so slightly away from the light and stagnation and putting the Rejoining at risk. He admits that he was initially tempted to join forces with Eulmore and Vauthry to just kill the entire group but he then stumbled upon a strange thought. An alternate course that hadn’t been tried before: Cooperation.
He offers to not move against the Warrior of Darkness in their hunt for the Lightwardens, and even offers his knowledge and aid in the matter. In exchange, he wishes to learn what motivates the Warrior while also enlightening the party into the true goals of the Ascians. He hopes that somewhere along the way they may find some common ground to build from. After all, they might just be pursuing the same ends – just by different means. With his offer made, Emet-Selch makes his leave, but promises they’ll be seeing him again soon.
Back at the Pendants, the Warrior of Darkness returns to their room to find a basket of sandwiches from the Exarch. Ardbert appears and begins to wonder about the strange robed man that seems like a good person but asks where he was during the flood? Ardbert has no recollection of the Exarch or the Crystal Tower – let alone the entire Crystarium – back when he was alive. Ardbert doesn’t know if they could trust him, but he knows for certain they can’t trust the Ascians. He relates the story of how they manipulated and tricked him and his friends. How the Ascians’ deceptions cost him everything.
The Warrior of Darkness smiles at their spectral friend and notes that they haven’t lost everything. There’s Seto. Ardbert allows himself to get sentimental thinking of the Amaro and how much that medallion meant to the old bird. He asks the Warrior if they have a trusty steed that they call a friend back on the Source and to share some stories with him. They know so little of each other after all. By the time they finish talking, the basket of sandwiches is gone.
Chapter V: The Secrets of the Greatwood
Arriving at the Ocular the next morning, the Warrior of Darkness finds the party’s guest, Emet-Selch, waiting for them. He shrugs saying that he did say that they’d meet again soon. He tries once again to insist that he wants nothing more than to be an observer and occasional advisor. That he will happily allow the Warrior to slay each Lightwarden and prove to him that they are true heroes and he will be proud to call them allies worthy of knowing the ‘truth’ that the Ascians hold. Thancred wants none of it, and doesn’t mince words when it comes to telling the Ascian so. Emet-Selch sighs and resigns himself to a passive watcher but warns that decisions are coming that the Warrior will actively want the point of view of an eternal being. With that, the Ascian vanishes into the darkness.
The Exarch proposes to split up to hunt the remaining Lightwardens. Alisaie will head back to Amh Araeng, and Alphinaud will go back to Kholusia. The Warrior, Urianger, Thancred and young Minfilia will head to Rak’tika and seek out Y’shtola who has been living in the Greatwood. The Exarch admits that he and Y’shtola for some reason haven’t been on speaking terms, and suggests bringing her a present. A small tablet from a nearby church in Lakeland. The Exarch would like to join the search, but he has been summoned to speak with Lord Vauthry.
At the church, Urianger explains that before the flood the people of the First worshipped the Light. That is where the term Sin Eater first came from – creatures of Light that devour those who have sinned against the deific element. He also explains that as the world turned away from worshipping the Light, they instead found reverence of the Darkness and thus a new faith was formed – the Night’s Blessed. They mostly live in the Rak’tika Greatwood, but in ages past they had small churches like the one in the basement of the dilapidated Church of the First Light. It’s in said basement that they find the gift for Y’shtola – a small tablet from the ancient Ronkan Empire.
Once inside the Greatwood, the party is met once again by Emet-Selch who is feeling nostalgic in the wake of a “civilized” party marching into “primitive” territory much like the Garlemald of old. Thancred and Emet-Selch argue before Minfilia finally enters the debate, asking Emet-Selch to fight with them if he means to help. Emet-Selch declines, declaring that he is merely an observer and in the unbearable presence of so much Light, fighting is out of the question.
The party makes for the burned down ruins of a local fort that the Night’s Blessed once made their home. The Night’s Blessed swarms and surrounds the party, weapons drawn, and claiming that the party are sin eaters. Emet-Selch makes matters worse when he decides that he’s bored of these antics and teleports away, making the Night’s Blessed even more suspicious. It’s not until Y’shtola – going under the pseudonym “Master Matoya” – appears that tensions seem to ease a bit. She recognizes Urianger, Thancred and the young Minfilia’s aether easily enough but is worried about the final figure who seems to be bursting with so much light that they are doubtless a powerful sin eater. Urianger explains that the final figure is none other than their old friend – the Warrior – and Y’shtola’s face turns from concern to overwhelming relief. She invites the party back to the Night’s Blessed’s new home in Slitherbough.
Once beneath the massive tree that makes up the village, Y’shtola explains that she also relied on the Exarch when she first arrived in the First, but his abundance of secrets and penchant to hide answers in riddles quickly lost her trust. However she notes that the tablet the party brought is probably more than simple coincidence and surely will provide clues to hunting down the Lightwarden which she believes to be in Yx’maja – the ruined capital of the Ronkan empire. Y’shtola also takes this moment to poke and prod Thancred about his own attitudes and actions regarding the young Minfilia and his feelings about the original Minfilia which angers the other Scion to the point of storming off. Minfilia states that he knows that they’re not the same to which Y’shtola states that ‘knowing’ and ‘understanding’ aren’t the same, but what’s more important is that Minfilia needs to decide for herself what her life is going to be. Minfilia slips in sadness as Urianger reminds her that such a weighty decision doesn’t have to be made this second, and Y’shtola invites the Warrior of Darkness and Minfilia to go out and get to know the people of Slitherbough while she and Urianger works to decipher the tablet.
The Warrior and Minfilia seek out Runar, Y’shtola’s second-in-command who seems quite smitten with ‘Master Matoya’. He invites them to take practice in some of the Night’s Blessed’s rituals and help out with some of the chores around the village. They are preparing for the evening’s meal when another member rushes to Runar and exclaims that sin eaters have been seen in the forest and they’ll have to cut off the hunt for a recently deceased villager’s “heartstone” – a religious gemstone given to each member at birth which is important to include in funeral rites. Minfilia, seeing a chance to prove herself, jumps to offer to find it. Runar protests but Minfilia says that she can resist the sin eater’s corrupting touch. In order to quell Thancred’s potential anger, the Warrior of Darkness agrees to tag along.
Minfilia and the Warrior make their way into the Greatwood and defeat a pair of sin eaters scouring the area. They recover the jade heartstone and return it to Runar, who invites the pair to join in the funeral ceremony. The ceremony consists of prayers, words, and dropping the heartstone into a pool of darkened water that ignites with dozens of heartstones that represent the sunless sea. After the ceremony, Y’shtola discusses her initial findings with the tablet. It appears to be a treaty agreement from the Emperor of Ronka to seek aid from neighboring territories for the defense of the empire in its waning days of strife. It may prove the very thing they need to gain access from the tribe of guardians that watch over Yx’mal to this day but Y’shtola will need to finish the translation using Ronkan texts she doesn’t possess. The only source she knows is deep in the northern caves held by the Children of the Everlasting Dark, a rival sect of Dark worshippers that have butted heads with the Night’s Blessed several times over the years.
Y’shtola and the Warrior of Darkness sneak into the inner chamber so the mage can work her translation magic. Meanwhile, the Warrior ponders over the three large murals on the walls of the cavern which also catches the attention of the spectral Ardbert who explains them. The triptych depicts heroes of three different ages of Norvrandt’s history – the Age of Gods, the height of the Ronkan Empire, and the last being the most recent addition showing Ardbert and his friends battling a creature of darkness. Ardbert finds it amusing and explains that last time he was in these caves, he and his party were just helping out a researcher. The researcher joked and said maybe one day Ardbert and his friends would adorn the walls as heroes. The ghost muses that apparently the researcher went ahead and added them after all, though judging by the fact that it’s been scraped and scratched it was probably made before the Flood and the researcher had come to regret the decision.
Y’shtola finishes her work and the group heads back to Slitherbough where Y’shtola and Urianger lock themselves away in the study to work on finishing the tablet. The Warrior on the other hand takes a load off and sits by the fire while Runar finishes the stew. As the meal finishes cooking, Runar wonders where the other patrols are before asking the Warrior to fetch Y’shtola from the study for food. The Warrior goes to knock but hears arguing inside. Y’shtola chastises Urianger for what is happening to their friend. She says she doesn’t have proof but she thinks they’ve been lying when they say the Warrior of Darkness has been dispeling the light from the Lightwardens. Y’shtola believes that they are tricking the Warrior into absorbing the Light instead. Urianger says there’s no proof of that. Y’shtola continues on and inquires if Urianger actually had a vision of the Eighth Umbral Calamity but before Urianger responds the Warrior’s attention is diverted to one of the returning patrols shouting that Eulmore’s army is in Rak’tika.
Meanwhile, in Eulmore, the Crystal Exarch meets with Lord Vauthry. The two verbally spar about their personal philosophies about the future of the world and the nature of man. Vauthry believes the sin eaters are the tool that were given to this world to force all those who remain to seek shelter under Vauthry’s dominion as the world’s god and it’s his right to rule over them and see that they are all comfortable and cared for until oblivion consumes what remains of the world. The Exarch sees this as a fate only worthy of serving up an Eighth Umbral Age, and states that he believes that man is more determined and capable of rebuilding even from this edge. He has seen first hand that people are more than willing to work toward a future that they may never see themselves, or even their children. Vauthry scoffs at him and reveals that he’s already made a move to protect the remaining Lightwardens before blasting the Exarch – revealing him to be an illusion.
Back in Rak’tika, Ran’jit arrives at Slitherbough with a barely living patrol scout. He issues his declaration to “Master Matoya”: Rak’tika is now under the dominion of Eulmore and the Children of the Everlasting Dark are now in charge of the forest and theirs is the only permissible form of Dark Worship. The Night’s Blessed can either flee, join the Children, or be branded traitors to Eulmore. They have until Ran’jit’s return to decide. Back inside Slitherbough, Y’shtola treats the injured scout but all she can do is ease the pain from the myriad of poisons implemented by the Children. Runar states that the Night’s Blessed will not recant their faith. Y’shtola will not accept defeat either but would rather take the offensive. Reasoning that the only purpose that Eulmore has in Rak’Tika is to protect the Lightwarden, if they kill the sin eater and bring back night then Eulmore will leave the woods. She states that she has finished her work on the tablet and as soon as they gather what they need to proceed, they can head to Yx’mal.
Y’shtola sends the Warrior under the lake to seek out the medallion of the royal crest of Ronka using the clues to the puzzles hidden across the tablet. Using this royal crest, the party is able to convince the Viis of Fanow, the guardians of Ronka, that they are allies to give aid to the Empire – after about 3000 years. Still the Viis welcome the help. All of their settlements but Fanow were destroyed in the Flood and despite being able to live up to nearly 400 years, their numbers are dwindling. With that in mind, they are hopeful to pass on the knowledge of Ronka to a trusted keeper before their tribe dwindles to nothing.
The Warrior of Darkness mentions they are hunting the Lightwarden but none of the three viis they’ve been talking to ever remember seeing such a beast. They encourage the Warrior to ask around to the older members of the village and see if they might have an idea where it is. One villager had seen such a creature in the vicinity of Rak’tika Falls. They explain that the Falls are only accessible through the Qitana Ravel, which has long been sealed by ancient Ronkan magics. In order to unlock it, they will need to venture into the nearby pyramid and solve its riddles to reactivate the flow of aether back to the Ravel. More trouble arrives in the form of news that the Eulmoran forces have passed through Slitherbough, poisoning many of its inhabitants, and have started to make their way into Yx’mal. Thancred, Urianger and Minfilia join a number of Viis fighters to repel them while the Warrior of Darkness and Y’shtola make for the pyramid to work out how to unlock the Ravel.
The pyramid’s puzzle proves difficult and dangerous for the team, but they are able to open the way into the lower chambers only to get word that a group of two Eulmorans have not only broken through the line but outrun the Viis in getting to the pyramid. Y’shtola urges haste fearing that Ran’jit himself may come bearing down on them and her hunch quickly proves true. Luckily, Y’shtola and the Viis are able to hold off Ran’jit long enough for the Warrior to finish opening the final lock. Ran’jit breaks free of his entanglement and takes off to attack the Warrior of Darkness but Y’shtola throws up a shield to protect them. Ran’jit’s lackey stumbles in and sets off a trap that opens a massive bottomless pit in the center of the room.
With everyone trapped on the far side away from the door, the Eulmoran lackey tries to strike a deal with Y’shtola – the antidote to the poison the Blessed are inflicted with for passage out whenever help arrives. Ran’jit is put off by this, stating that there will be no negotiating with the enemy, and throws the lackey in the pit with the antidote falling through the air after him. Y’shtola dives into the pit as well and throws the antidote back to the Warrior before plummeting to the depths. With only the Warrior and Ran’jit left on the ledge, it appears a stand off is inevitable but just then the rest of the party tracks down their friend. Urianger throws out a spell to pull Ran’jit over the pit and Thancred launches himself out over it to knock the Eulmoran general down into the hole to join the lackey and Y’shtola in the darkness.
After escaping from the pyramid, Thancred inquires with the Viis if the hole may have led somewhere. They regretfully explain that there are no other openings to the temple and the depth of the hole means it’s unlikely any who fall in would survive. Torn by the loss of their comrade, Thancred tries to make sure her dying wish was fulfilled. The group splits the antidote – Thancred and Minfilia will take half to Slitherbough and the Warrior will join Urianger in Fanow to treat those who were brought there.
Runar was brought to Fanow after leading the revolt against the Eulmore soldiers. After several rounds of treatment with the antidote, he awakes to inquire about Master Matoya. Even with Thancred and Minfilia’s return, The Warrior is left to deliver the disheartening news of her fate to the tearful Blessed. The Viis then deliver Emet-Selch who they found wandering the woods. Thancred and Emet-Selch exchange verbal blows while the Warrior of Darkness suddenly remembers the gale of wind when Y’shtola fell. Urianger notes that this is similar to ‘Flow’ the spell that Y’shtola had used to spirit the Scions away after the Bloody Banquet but her re-emergence from the Lifestream then was a mere fluke. Emet-Selch says he’ll bring her back to help gain some trust. He plucks her soul from the Lifestream back into the physical realm with a single snap.
With the group reunited, they all go to the Qitana Ravel and venture through the ruins and to the Falls to defeat the Lightwarden. Y’shtola witnesses the absorption of the Light aether into the Warrior’s body first hand. On the way out, Emet-Selch appears to explain the murals in the cave: there once was a single glorious world with no problems. Then a great calamity came that threatened to bring about the end of the world. Out of desperation, the people prayed and sacrificed to bring forth “the will of the star” – Zodiark – to end the calamity. While many of the people rejoiced in their savior, others grew distrustful and summoned another being – Hydaelyn – to shackle and keep checks on Zodiark. This led to a battle between the two that ended with Hydaelyn casting out Zodiark with a blow so devastating it shattered the world into 13 shards and one Source.
Y’shtola asks how Emet knows this and he explains that the Ascians were the ones who summoned Zodiark, and are the only ones who truly remember the way the world used to be. He asks the Scions if he can really be blamed for seeking the Rejoining to bring back his world and his friends? Before Emet leaves Thancred stops him and asks him why he makes these Gods sound like they were summoned. Emet is amused at his thick headedness and spells it out clearly: They are Gods, but no different than the deities that the scions are used to. Hydaelyn and Zodiark are the first and most powerful of all primals. The entire group is shocked by this news as Emet departs.
The party bids their farewells to the people of Fanow and Slitherbough. During this time, Y’shtola takes the warrior aside and explains that the Light aether is being absorbed – not dispelled – and begs that they let her know if they experience any side effects. With all matters settled in Rak’tika, the group heads back to the Crystarium to meet up with Alphinaud and a greatly drained Exarch who was weakened from being away from the Crystal Tower for so long. The group all agrees to have some rest and meet up the next day.
Back in the Pendents, Ardbert talks to the Warrior about perspective – Hero or villain, paradise or nightmare, saint or sinner – that it all depends on who you ask. What he does know is that he always felt comfort in the quiet moments after the adventure, like when Night’s Blessed watched the night sky return for the first time in a century.
Meanwhile, back in Garlemald, Gaius and Estinien continue to work to dismantle the Black Rose weapon. Gaius has heard news of a General disappearing from the front lines of Ghymlit Dark without a trace. They ponder the possibility that another person has entered the game in the same fashion as Elidibus hijacking the Prince’s body but only time will tell. As they depart, a nameless soldier watches on waxing poetic about how bored he is with this bloodless conflict and how he yearns for the one person that can truly make him whole – his eternal friend and enemy.
Chapter VI: Claiming a Legacy – The Return to Amh Araeng
The Warrior of Darkness awakens in the dead of night to the sound of fighting in the Crystarium. A swarm of sin eaters are descending on the city. After activating a barrier wall around the city, The Warrior of Darkness rushes out with both Alphinaud and Alisaie to join the guard in the defense of Lakeland. The sin eater onslaught seems endless and the reason soon becomes clear – the guardsmen who fall to the sin eaters are being turned into other sin eaters. Ardbert watches on futilely trying to warn and defend the fallen before frustratingly crying out begging for an answer as to why he was “blessed” with this ghostly fate.
After Lyna is injured, the Warrior leads the guard to reclaim the area. After the battle, Lyna cries in frustration that she failed her men. Vauthry’s airships fly over and declare this was the result of the Crystarium’s rejection of Vauthry’s benevolent godhood and paradise with peace between man and sin eater. Confirming the Exarch’s suspicion that Vauthry was behind this. The Exarch explains to the Scions that he learned on his visit to Eulmore that Vauthry has been mind controlling people and that’s what Vauthry attempted to blast the Exarch with at the end of their meeting.
On the discussion of the next Lightwarden, Kholusia bore no new leads but Alisaie found a potential hiding spot in an abandoned mine in western Amh Araeng. However, it would take ages to search the mines and waterways with only the small group and no leads. Minfilia suggests that it is within the power of the Oracle to see primordial light thus the real Minfilia should be able to find the Lightwarden in the mine no problem. She proposes traveling back to the Wall to summon forth the true Oracle once more.
That’s when Emet-Selch realizes why he thought Minfilia was a ‘lesser’ reincarnation – the Oracle is dormant in her and the only way to fully awaken the power is for them to fuse in both body and soul. This of course means that one would consume the other leaving only Minfilia the Younger or Minfilia of Eld left. Thancred tells Minfilia not to do this, but Minfilia protests that she knows this is the right thing to do to help. Emet-Selch announces that he thinks it’s brilliant and they should set forth to Amh Araeng immediately. Thancred storms off saying he will meet them at the gates.
Minfilia talks to the Warrior and discusses how she doesn’t know what will happen to her, but she doesn’t want to stay as she is now. She wants to be stronger so she can do everything she can to help the world. With those stirring words, the rest of the Scions give her their support and discuss the plans. Alisaie notes that the Eulmoran army has been spotted around Mord Souq and she hopes to keep them away from the Inn and Journey’s Head. With that in mind, they propose splitting the party into two groups – one (Alisaie, Alphinaud, Y’shtola) to go the eastern route to act as a distraction to the Eulmoran forces, and the other to go to the western route to travel through the hills to reach Nabaath Areng – their destination.
In Amh Araeng, the group explores the nearby town of Garik, where a number of Mord have taken residence. They confirm that the Eulmoran army has appeared to the East, but they have avoided the barren Amber Hills entirely. They also make mention that the only way south would be via an old trolley system that used to run from a nearby mine to another local village.
The party goes to visit the mine where they encounter a couple of part-time trolley enthusiasts who mistake the group for robbers and scavengers. They explain that the trolley hasn’t run in ages because all the Talos – massive golems of stone and aether – have broken down and the company that maintained them packed up and left years ago. They offer to introduce the group to Magnus, an actual trolley engineer and the de facto leader of their settlement: Twine.
Unfortunately, Magnus is in no place to discuss anything let alone the trolley. He’s been in a drunken stupor for years after his son was devoured by a sin eater. The party decides to try and get a Talos working again on their own with Urianger identifying a number of structural failures that prevent proper aether flow. After repairing those, the Talos still won’t rouse and one of the local enthusiasts – Jerryk – suggests that it might be the golem’s heart that’s damaged. The heart is made out of a rare mineral found in the region called leonine, which is found buried deep in the mines surrounding Twine that have been closed off since Magnus’ wife – Agna – died excavating for leonine to get the Talos up and running again.
Thancred and the Warrior make their way to the mines where they manage to convince a local miner to share a trick to extract minerals from the deeper levels without actually digging around down there. All the while, Thancred shares stories of his time with the original Minfilia – her adventures in mining when she was young, his guilt at the fact that his stupid mistake robbed her of her father, and the dirty looks he would get from her mother while he threw himself into his work extracting secrets from local drunks. They successfully manage to not only find some leonine but a piece that bore a message from Magnus’ late wife.
They return and show it to the local leader, but he tells them to do whatever they want with it and he doesn’t want any reminders. With Magnus’ blessing, Urianger gets to work reviving the Talos once more. This time successfully. Magnus watches and curses that his wife died for a pile of rocks which triggers an emotional reaction in Minfilia the Younger who runs off. Urianger comforts her as she cries about how the world would be better off without her in it and she wishes Thancred would just say that he hates her. Urianger explains that if anyone deserves the hate, it’s him. He set all of these events in motion way back during the events of Heavensward. Thancred and the Warrior listen from the side, but Thancred refuses to speak to his young ward.
Meanwhile, at the Crystarium, the Exarch and Emet-Selch talk and it’s implied that it’s not the first time. They’ve had a number of discussions that the Exarch has not mentioned to the Warrior and the Scions. Emet-Selch is fiercely curious about the Exarch since he doesn’t ever seem to sleep and since Emet had a had in the rise of ancient Allag including the oversight of the Crystal Towers construction, he knows the tower is not capable of pulling a person whole cloth across the void into another world. So how did the Exarch do it? The Exarch replies in riddles about how his abilities are the product of sacrifices not yet made and that he guards a sacred history that not even Emet-Selch knows of.
Magnus sees the Scions off to the launch of the trolley, he’s now made his peace and is happy that his wife’s final wishes were fulfilled. Urianger splits off from the group to go and meet with Alisaie and Y’shtola and bring them back to the group. Thancred, Minfilia, and the Warrior take off on the trolley and pass through the gate to the southwest region only to be immediately interrupted by Ran’jit who saw through the ploy on the eastern front and was waiting for them to pass through here. He demands the return of Minfilia, implying that he only wishes to keep her safe from dying to sin eaters like so many other Minfilias he’s had to watch and hold as they suffer their horrible fate by keeping her safe in Lord Vauthry’s peace with the creatures. Thancred orders the Warrior to take Minfilia and go before giving his all in a one-on-one battle with the monk master. After a brutal battle, Ran’jit retreats to nurse his injuries and Thancred collapses in the sand, his thoughts turning to his original Minfilia once more before he closes his eyes.
The Warrior and Minfilia make it to the crystal wall where the flood was stopped and are given a vision through the Echo of that very moment: The people of Nabaath fleeing the wave of light when the Oracle of Light appears atop a tower and gathers the aether of Ardbert’s allies, she freezes the flood in its tracks. Ardbert demands to know why he wasn’t sacrificed as well – it was what he wanted. The Oracle tells him it’s because it is not yet his time and that someday he will need to give hope to another because no hero can stand alone when two worlds hang in the balance.
After the vision, the two Minfilia’s come face to face and talk about the burden placed on the younger that the Oracle never wished on her or any of the others that came before. The younger Minfilia states that she wants the strength and power to do everything she can to protect this world and the Oracle states that such power can be hers, but much like Emet-Selch had previously mentioned there is a great risk. Only one of them can remain in control. Minfilia agrees and the two are consumed in a flash of light.
The Warrior awakens to find a young woman in the sand dressed like Minfilia the younger, but with bright red hair and steely blue eyes replacing the sapphire pools that were once there. The girl confirms that she is the same Minfilia and that the changes must be a gift from the Oracle so that she could be her own person moving forward.
The pair return to the rest of the Scions who just resuscitated Thancred. They are introduced to the newly awakened Minfilia. Thancred states that he’s happy she is safe and succeeded in her quest. She says that he doesn’t have to say that and he responds that he wants to and that it’s only natural that family would be happy to see them safe. Y’shtola says that the young girl will need a new name and the rest of the scions decide that it should fall to her pseudo-father to give her one. He chooses “Ryne” – a word that means ‘Blessing’ in the language of the Fae.
Ryne happily accepts her new name and then gets to work directing the party to Malikh’s Well, a large aqueduct turned mine. With her new abilities, Ryne can sense the Lightwarden deep below and guides the group through the dungeon to find it. The Scions slay the Lightwarden of Amh Araeng and return night to the region but when the Warrior absorbs the light from greater sin eater, their body is wracked with a terrible pain much to the concern of both Y’shtola and Ryne who can now also see the effect the primordial light has on the Warrior’s body.
The group returns to the Crystarium where Y’shtola tells the Warrior to get some rest and that they’ll inform the Exarch about the mission. The Warrior returns to their room where they find Ardbert who states he wanted to be left alone and thus didn’t accompany the group to Amh Araeng. He is disheartened by the fate of the Oracle merging into Ryne because it means he’ll never know why he wasn’t sacrificed with his comrades. The Warrior wishes to comfort the spectre but is thrown from their chair by the horrible pain again. Ardbert rushes to their side only to trigger some kind of reaction between the two. The Warrior wonders if that’s what Minfilia’s final words meant but Ardbert shrugs it off saying he’s no hero, just a wandering shadow. The Exarch knocks on the door to check on Warrior and thank them again for their endurance and efforts.
That night the Warrior dreams of someone searching through “Heavensward,” the tome written by the Count de Fortemps that detailed the Dragonsong War. The mysterious point-of-view person states that the Dragonsong War would be too early and that maybe they should look at the point after the Battle for Ala Mhigo. Then a large roegadyn with a gun steps in and says they have to leave for the airship now. The unknown figure asks if there is anything they can do and the roegadyn states that this isn’t a war – it’s the end of the world. They depart hoping to still find a way to reach the hero they desperately need. The Warrior awakes the next morning to ponder on what they just witnessed.
Chapter VII: Deicide in Kholusia
The next morning at the Ocular, the discussion turns to the hunt for the last Lightwarden that hides in Kholusia. Y’shtola turns to mock Emet-Selch about his plans about to be thwarted, but Emet merely rolls his eyes. He explains that this is only a victory through the lens of their finite lifespans. Ultimately, they’ve only delayed the fate of the First. The Scions mock the idea that long life makes them the exclusive arbiters of change. Emet-Selch shakes his head and states that Ascians are not special in that way.
He reiterates the story told in Qitana Ravel but embellishes on the very nature of Hydaelyn’s decisive blow against Zodiark that shattered the star. It didn’t just break the world. It split it. Everything from the world, to the flora and fauna, were divided 14 times with each iteration landing on one of the shards or source with only 1/14th of their overall being – strength, intelligence, soul… everything.
Only 3 Ascians were spared this fate and thus preserved the power and eternal life that all things possessed before Hydaelyn cast out Zodiark. The rest of the Ascians are merely sundered pieces that were awakened to their true nature. The goal of all Ascians is to see the world returned to its true nature, which Y’shtola argues is fine from an Ascian perspective but they can’t excuse the millions of people they’ve killed to accomplish it. Emet-Selch dismisses it explaining that the devastation they wreak against each other is worse than any Rejoining besides since they are each only a fraction of a whole being that he doesn’t really view them as ‘alive’ and thus it isn’t murder if he kills them.
Still he has high hopes that the Warrior of Darkness will prove that they have the fortitude to open a brave new path of lesser tragedy. At that moment, Lyna rushes in with news from Eulmore. Apparently Vauthry has diverted large amounts of resources to reinforcing the defenses of the city. The group wonders if this may indicate that the Lightwarden is being kept inside the city proper. With Ryne’s newly realized powers, the Exarch hopes they’ll soon have the answer and this hunt will be the last. The group heads out to Kholusia.
In Kholusia, the Scions find the people of and around Eulmore succumbing to Vauthry’s mind control powers and praising his name. Ryne detects a powerful sin eater in the city but it’s tainted somehow. Alisaie finds Kai-Shirr who reveals himself to be the spy that has been sending updates about Eulmore to Lyna and the Crystarium Guard. He explains that Vauthry went on a ranting rampage before a ‘sticky’ wind flew out from the city and covered the region. After that, everyone except the few newcomers and Kai were overcome by Vauthry’s control.
It’s a puzzle that Urianger can’t piece together, why not newcomers? How come some show more resistance to control than others? Y’shtola and Ryne have the answer: Meol. The food stuff handed out en masse to Gatetown and served in Eulmore. It’s not just food – it’s the flesh of sin eaters. It’s not enough to turn someone instantly but over time you would little by little be turned into a monster. Alphinaud points out an even worse realization from his earlier findings in Eulmore – people come in, but no one alive or dead ever leaves. Eulmore is turning people slowly into sin eaters then butchering them to feed others. The group decides that the time for subtly is passed and that it’s time to storm Eulmore to put an end to Vauthry and the Lightwarden he’s hiding.
The battle rages through the Derelicts and up through the city’s towers until the Warrior of Darkness stands alone against Ran’jit for a final time. He states that he is under no form of control and willingly serves Lord Vauthry. He believes Vauthry is the only path forward to break the cycle of battles simply sowing future conflicts and bringing pointless death with it. The monk and the Warrior duel until Ran’jit finally collapses, happy to see the girls he trained and raised once more in the afterlife. The group reunites to storm Vauthry’s private chambers where the giant man is gorging himself on meol.
Alphinaud tries to confront him about his crimes but then Ryne realizes what’s going on. Vauthry is neither man nor sin eater but some monstrous amalgamation of both and even worse he is the Lightwarden of Kholusia. Ryne begs Thancred to stop Vauthry from eating but with a final piece of the white food – along with the fork – Vauthry’s humanity is cast away. A second face that had grown on his side awakens and a pair of wings rip out of his back. Vauthry sends a wave of noxious aether across the city rendering everyone – even the Warrior of Darkness – unconscious as he flies off to raise up the largest mountain in Norvrandt, Mt. Gulg, from the earth to become his new paradise.
With Vauthry firmly out of reach for the moment, the Scions take to helping the people of Eulmore recover. Ryne uses her blessing to remove Vauthry’s control, the Warrior puts people who Ryne hasn’t gotten to yet under a sleeping drug, and the others help the injured. After everyone has been treated, Alphinaud speaks to them and explains what has happened but makes a point to not absolve them of their actions before Vauthry took control. If they did something terrible to the workers that slaved for them – that’s on them. Alphinaud does hope that they can use this experience as a new beginning, which many quickly take to heart and offer to aid the Scions in their pursuit of their former ruler.
The first step to reach Mt. Gulg would be to get the Ladder working again. The Ladder is a massive elevator used to scale the Bright Cliffs to the north and reach the mines in the upper mountains but it hasn’t worked since Vauthry took control and let the Talos that ran the thing go to rust. Dulia-Chai speaks up and mentions that her husband, Chai-Nuzz, is the heir to Daedalus Stoneworks, the company that moved out of Amh Araeng and was responsible for manufacturing and maintaining all the Talos. Chai-Nuzz tries to explain that it has been years and he can’t promise any results but he’ll do his best.
While the work is being done on the Ladder, Emet-Selch pays a visit to the Warrior of Darkness to admire their ability to ‘treat those they conquered with dignity and convince the conquered to accept their conqueror.’ He insists that it’s a compliment. He becomes nostalgic for what life was like back in his true world and reminds the Warrior that every Ascian had family, friends and loved ones once and they’ve had to witness them become torn apart into fractions of beings. He also reminisces about their capital city of Amaurot and its wonders before noting that the Warrior wouldn’t remember. As the Ascian departs Ardbert appears and says that he does have some sympathy for Emet. He too knows what it’s like to lose everyone close to you and be forced to wander an eternity alone and watch everything you held dear deteriorate.
After ascending the Ladder, Alisaie, Alphinaud and the Warrior begin to explore the area at the top. They find the village of Amity, a home for Eulmore exiles and rejects where the painter Alphinaud saved ended up. They don’t have much to offer but they say they’ll do what they can to assist. Alisaie and the Warrior of Darkness continue exploring the path to Mt. Gulg where they are met by the Exarch who brings machina to test out Vauthry’s air defenses. The small machines are quickly destroyed by the flying sin eaters. This unfortunately dashes the idea of an aerial assault, even with a modified airship or amaro.
The twins, the Exarch, and the Warrior of Darkness reunite with the rest of their allies and the Scions at the Ladder where they share their findings. They can’t figure out a solution until an off comment by Dulia-Chai that the mountain should come back down to the ground inspires Y’shtola to an alternative: bring the ground to the mountain! Namely through the construction of a massive Talos. Chai-Nuzz scoffs at the idea. No one has ever made a successful Talos that was a fraction of that size! But as he starts to mentally crunch the numbers and notes the aspects of the design since it wouldn’t have to move, very little articulation, etc. He admits that it is theoretically possible but it would take immeasurable resources and an army to construct if they didn’t want it to take decades.
The Scions immediately set to work to gather the aid of everyone they’ve helped across Norvrandt: The Crystarium, the Night’s Blessed, the Mord and Miners of Amh Araeng. They even briefly entertain the idea of asking the Fae of Il Mheg but quickly decide that they would bring more mischief than help. Chai-Nuzz is floored at the amount of allies the Warrior and their friends have amassed, pondering aloud who are you people?
With most of the Scions off gathering help to work on the Talos, the Warrior of Darkness assists Chai-Nuzz who wants to survey the area to get some ideas of where and how to construct the Talos. The Warrior suggests Amity since the locals would have good answers to any questions that Chai-Nuzz has. Chai-Nuzz is worried however of how Eulmoran exiles would view him and his wife. With the Warrior’s encouragement, they travel to Amity where the Chai’s make a heartfelt apology to Tristol for their actions, and Tristol accepts hoping to work together to make a better future. With that bridge crossed, Chai-Nuzz remembers the final component they’ll need for the Talos: The heart. Tristol recommends the Warrior talk to the dwarves of Tomra who have been mining these hills for who knows how long.
The dwarves welcome the Warrior with a hearty ‘Lali-ho!’ and agree to provide not only the Earthseed needed to build the heart but also mining picks after they pass a series of trials to prove their worth. Returning with the supplies, the Warrior finds the gathered allies of the First waiting at the Ladder. The Warrior speaks with each of them and hands out tools before everyone gets to work.
Chai-Nuzz discusses with the Night’s Blessed about placing smaller, lesser hearts along the construction to help facilitate the flow of aether. The Night’s Blessed respond by providing the hearthstones of their fallen members. Each one is infused with enough magick to do the job. Meanwhile, Y’shtola corners Urianger about his back up plan in case the Warrior fails to contain the light after vanquishing the final Warden. Urianger refuses to divulge any details, stating that ignorance of the plan is required for it to succeed.
While the teams worked on finishing up the Talos, the Warrior of Darkness seeks out the Crystal Exarch who had vanished a while back. Following a trail, the Warrior finds the Exarch sleeping on a hill near the Bright Cliff and the two sit down and talk for a while. The Exarch begins to share some details about himself finally, such as his crystalized body being the result of having to fuse with the Tower itself so he could live long enough to see all his plans to completion. He also speaks of someone he only refers to as his ‘Inspiration’, but he laments about the struggle he has had in keeping his machinations secret from them. He wishes that could just come clean with his Inspiration and then go on adventures with them. The Exarch sighs and states that they should be ready by now, and invites the Warrior to join him in activating the Talos.
Back on the Source, the Ascian Elidibus – still possessing the body of crown prince Zenos – speaks to the Emperor of Garlemald. Elidibus explains that he has dashed any rumors that Zenos is “possessed” and that any other dissent will be crushed by patriotic fervor when the next war starts. Emperor Varis asks where his grandfather, Emet-Selch, has gone to and Elidibus explains that he’s off preparing the First for another Rejoining by some means. Emet-Selch is quite unpredictable even to other Ascians but he did send along an interesting bit of information in his last report: Hydaelyn’s Champion and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn are all on the First in some manner or another. Elidibus happily elaborates that this means that they will not be able to interfere in another attack on Eorzea.
Stepping out from the shadows of the throne room is a katana wielding centurion that draws his weapon and asks that Elidibus share more news of where his dear friend had gotten off to. Elidibus quickly pieces together that the figure is indeed Zenos, possessing a random soldier using the power of the False Echo. Zenos confirms that is the case and while he doesn’t care what Elidibus does with his title, Zenos would very much like to have his body back.
Back in Kholusia, the group all gathers to call forth the massive Talos from the Duergar Mountains. The titanic stone golem rises up from the earth and reaches forth to grab the floating Mt. Gulg. Sin Eaters descend in mass to destroy the earthen creature but the fae of Il Mheg arrive from the North and led by a very angry Feo Ul who sends their forces to fight the eaters while cursing their sapling for not calling on them.
The Warrior and the Scions fight their way up the arm of the massive Talos and arrive on Mt. Gulg where it appears that the sin eaters have been transforming it into paradise of white and gold for Vauthry. When they eventually ascend to the peak, Alphinaud exchanges a quick battle of words with Vauthry, who concludes the Scions will not yield and sends an endless wave of eaters to destroy them. The Scions send the Warrior of Darkness to finish off Vauthry while they hold off the eaters. The Warrior engages with the King of Eulmore but halfway through their battle, Vauthry completes his transformation into his true Lightwarden form – Innocence.
Once Innocence is defeated, the Warrior is given another vision from the Echo that shows a meeting years ago between Emet-Selch and the mayor of Eulmore. Emet offers to imbue the mayor’s unborn child with the power of a Lightwarden, giving him control over the sin eaters and becoming a new god-king for the dying world. The mayor is enamored with the idea since being the father of the god-king will grant him untold privilege and prestige. The Echo vision is abruptly ended however when the Warrior of Darkness’ body is wracked with pain as the control over the primordial light within begins to slip.
A magical circle appears and wraps its way around the Warrior as the Exarch appears. The hooded mage states that this was his plan all along: to have the one person who could absorb all that Light gather it up and then he could steal it to power up the Crystal Tower and escape this dying world. The other Scions move to protect their friend or intercept the Exarch but Urianger stops them, yelling at them to please let this happen. The anger quickly turns to Urianger until Y’shtola notices the flakes of crystal breaking off from the Exarch’s body and realizes the farce. The Exarch does not mean to escape or run, he means to sacrifice himself by throwing him and the tower out into the Rift.
As the debate rages on the sidelines, a gust of wind from the Exarch’s transference spell blows away the mage’s hood to reveal the faded red hair, twitching miqote ears, and piercing red eyes of the eminent Allagan scholar who worked with NOAH to explore the Crystal Tower originally: G’raha Tia. G’raha smiles at the Warrior to say his farewells and reveals that they are the inspiration he spoke of on the hill.
Suddenly, a gunshot rings out across the mountain top. G’raha falls to his knees with his eyes wide as Emet-Selch appears climbing the stairs with a smoking gun in his hand. The Ascian had figured out that the Exarch was from the Source some time ago, since he had helped build the Allagan Empire personally and the Crystal Tower with it. Since he knew the Allagan Royal Bloodline didn’t exist on the First, then there was no possible way a native could control the tower like the Exarch. The only thing he couldn’t piece together was the Exarch’s grand scheme until now. The Warrior painfully confronts Emet-Selch, claiming that he was responsible for creating Vauthry. The Ascian doesn’t deny it and explains that he had to do something after his subordinate Loghrif failed to use the First to bring about the Eighth Umbral Calamity when Minfilia and a group of heroes stopped the Flood. Emet-Selch expresses complete frustration as he rants about how now Vauthry is dead so that plan has failed too. Even his attempts to see if humanity was fit to be his allies has failed now that it’s become readily apparent that the Warrior can’t contain all the primordial light within them.
Emet-Selch teleports G’raha’s now unconscious body away, declaring it as payment for all his wasted time. Before departing himself, he offers condolences to the Scions who must now either kill their friend or be killed by them when they turn into a sin eater. He makes a final offer to the Warrior to join him beneath the waves of the Tempest where they can finish their transformation in peace before becoming the beast that will destroy this world. The Warrior of Darkness grits their teeth at Ascian before passing out.
The Warrior awakens back in their room at the Crystarium. Ardbert is there and explains that Ryne used her powers to stabilize the surging light within but it is only a delay to the inevitable. The spectral figure also explains that the night sky has once again vanished across Norvradt behind a veil of perpetual light, all from the now uncontrolled aether within the Warrior. Ardbert offers his apologies for the situation and urges the Warrior to go and enjoy what little time they have left.
Chapter VIII: Secrets Beneath the Waves
The Warrior of Darkness wanders out in the starkly bright Crystarium to pay a visit to the various leaders of the city, both to assure them of their safety as well as let those in charge know about what has happened to the Crystal Exarch. While visiting the Crystal Mean, there is talk about outfitting the Warrior with a new set of armor to help save the Exarch, but they don’t have the resources or time to make anything superior to what the Warrior already has. Another merchant chimes in and makes mention of a legendary smith named Grenoldt that could properly come up with something if they hadn’t vanished a few years back.
The Warrior stops at a watchtower for a moment of silence only to be joined by Ardbert who tries to offer some empathy. He mentions that he knows what it’s like to look out and see the sorry fate of the world that you know you are responsible for. Still he compliments the Warrior on pulling off feats that not even he and his friends would have been able to do. Rallying all of Norvrandt together to build a giant Talos? Pulling that off was all the proof Ardbert needed to believe in the Warrior but to solidify that point he offers his hand for a fist bump. When the Warrior bumps their hand back, there’s a flash of light once again. This convinces Ardbert that the two of them have an important role to play together and he has the Warrior of Darkness’ back no matter what. Feo Ul then appears to check on you and encourages the Warrior to speak with the people of the Crystarium.
The Warrior explores the city and discusses what people know of and what they think of the Crystal Exarch. The line of questioning eventually leads the Warrior to Captain Lyna who mentions that she was given a key to a secret locked room in the Crystal Tower. Inside the room, the Warrior of Darkness is given another Echo vision that shows G’raha Tia explaining to Urianger that he comes from 200 years in the future of the Source, where the 8th Umbral Calamity has already wreaked havoc. G’raha used the scientific theories originally put forth by Cid to use the Crystal Tower to travel through time and space to reach the First in the distant past and avert the Calamity before it happens. G’raha asked Urianger to disguise all of this as a vision to protect G’raha’s identity and hope that Urianger would help stop his friends when the time came for the Exarch to execute his master plan. When the vision fades, Ardbert is there with the Warrior and the two decide that it’s time to pay a visit to the Exarch and Emet-Selch. That means getting to the bottom of the oceans around Kholusia – The Tempest.
Outside the Crystal Tower, the Warrior of Darkness meets with Lyna to arrange an amaro to take them as deep as they can into the ocean. She directs you to discuss it with the amaro tamers at the launch but while arguing about how fruitless this journey seems to be the rest of the Scions show up. Urianger can see from the look on the Warrior’s face that they already know the truth and he begs for forgiveness. Urianger asks to accompany you on your mission as a way to make amends but Ryne chimes in and suggests staying at the Crystarium until a cure can be found. Alisaie yells at the young girl saying that the Scions have all been searching for a cure and none have found a trace of anything resembling a solution. The Scions all agree that the only way forward is to join the Warrior of Darkness in the journey below the waves.
Urianger leads the group out to Lakeland where he points out a strange looking island in the water. He reveals that this island is in fact the First’s very own version of Bismarck, the flying whale revered by the Vanu in the Sea of Clouds. The difference in the First being that the beast is in fact a fae and not a primal. Urianger attempts to coax the whale to lend its aid but the creature responds that it just wants to sleep until the end of the world finally comes. The Warrior of Darkness smiles and calls upon Feo Ul who joyfully arrives and states that any wish the Warrior wants should be treated as a command of the king. Unable to deny his king, Bismarck relents and launches into the air with the Scions upon his back. The massive beast dives into the ocean near Eulmore and uses its breath to create an air bubble at the bottom of the ocean akin to the ones in the Ruby Sea.
In the depths, the Scions find a small community of Ondo that ask if they are emissaries of the Ancients that have come because of the lights that have appeared in the deep. The Warrior and their friends are unsure of what to make of that and the Ondo refuse to elaborate further so they part ways to discuss an alternate strategy. After a brief discussion weighing their options and debating whether they can risk further delays, the group decides to take their usual approach to develop trust and start helping out the locals.
Through the course of helping out, the Warrior of Darkness learns that the Ondo here are a group of hunters that barely escaped the Flood of Light. They traveled northward and found shelter in the strangely modern ruins that they’ve come to believe was constructed by a group they call the Ancients. As thanks for unknowingly providing shelter, the Ondo took to worshipping the Ancients and acting as stewards of their ruins until they return. The ruins also intrigue Y’shtola who has noted that the design of the architecture as well as the unnaturally dense stone don’t match anything in the recorded history of the First or the Source. She asks the Warrior to find a ruin that matches a picture she hands them – a recreation of the cave paintings in the Qitana Ravel. Sure enough, the Warrior succeeds and confirms Y’shtola’s theory that these are ruins that predate the sundering of the Source – an ancient Ascian city. It would appear that Emet-Selch had not been lying before and that this might be the reason he fled here.
The final task to help the Ondo involves retrieving a lamp from a smith that has taken up residence in a custom forge at the bottom of the sea: Grenoldt – a man identical to the Source’s Gerolt but with long locks of hair. He descended to the ocean depths to study the Ancient’s ruins but became disillusioned with his craft after being unable to replicate the impossible materials and craftsmanship. With a little inspiration from the Warrior of Darkness, Grenoldt manages to finish the lamp and the Warrior delivers it in time for the ceremony. When the ritual concludes, the Ondo share what they know as a thank you. Recently, a number of glowing lights appeared in the deep trenches to the South. The Ondo believe this is a sign of the Ancients’ return. Believing that the Scions are also agents of the Ancients, the Ondo agree to grant them passage into the deepest levels of the trench to see the City of the Ancients with their own eyes.
The Scions descend into the trench and find not just a city but a verifiable metropolis. Even the aetherial-sighted Y’shtola can see in vivid detail as the entire city hums with magic. The group enters the city and finds a towering giant who speaks in an unknown language that can somehow be understood by everyone. It seems to think the Scions are all children, and explains that they are in the capital city of Amaurot and more specifically the Polyleritae District where Emet-Selch and the rest of the Convocation of Fourteen meet to debate a solution to the Final Days.
Urianger hypothesizes that this “city” is a memory of the last peaceful days before the apocalyptic events that necessitated the summoning of Zodiark and then Hydaelyn after. The party splits to investigate the area and speak to the spectral images that wander its streets. The Warrior of Darkness learns about the terrible sound that rang from the depths of the planet and began to warp living things’ forms and distort the creation magick wielded by the Ancients that started the Final Days. They also learned about the Convocation of Fourteen which is made up of the wisest individuals in existence, be it their speaker – Lahabrea – or their Emissary – Elidibus – or Emet-Selch. The Convocation is currently working on a plan to use the most powerful creation magick known to give birth to a new god-like being that will rewrite the laws of the universe.
The talk of Creation Magick intrigues Urianger and Y’shtola. The description is somewhat similar to the method of primal summoning that the Ascians teach the beast tribes. However it seems that the Ancients have an endless reservoir of aether where as when beast tribes attempt the same type of incantations it draws the aether from any nearby source – crystals, people or even the planet itself. Ryne and Thancred report back with word that they had no success getting into the capital. They were told they needed a ‘Writ of Permission’ but weren’t authorized to get one. However, the clerk that signed them did recognize the Warrior of Darkness’ name. With that lead, the Warrior heads to secure a writ.
While dealing with the bureaucracy of the ancient city, the Warrior of Darkness encounters Hythlodaeus, an ancient who is aware they are just a memory. Hythlodaeus explains more of the Convocation of Fourteen, which they reveal at the time only had thirteen members, and their plan to summon Zodiark. They reveal to the Warrior the true cost of the ritual – half of their society gave up their lives to summon forth Zodiark to stop the Final Days. However, after the world was saved there was still the matter of the ghastly damage wrought to the world. In order to fix the world, another half of the remaining population sacrificed themselves to give Zodiark enough power to restore the land to its vibrant nature. Finally, the Convocation came up with a plan to nurture the planet to bursting with life and then sacrifice a portion of the world’s essence to bring back all the people who sacrificed themselves.
At that point, for the first time in the history of the Ancients, the people became divided. Many people felt that after all the sacrifices to save the planet, the renewed world should be left to the next generation to decide what to do. That faction went on to summon Hydaelyn to keep Zodiark in check. Hythlodaeus warns that Emet-Selch is a devotee of Zodiark and has taken it upon himself to see the plan to resurrect those sacrificed to the end – no matter the cost. Hythlodaeus’ final comment to the Warrior of Darkness is that they can perceive a second soul with them. This suddenly gets both the Warrior and Ardbert’s attention. Hythlodaeus points out that they’re connection is no coincidence because in the time of the Ancients they were one. The Ancient wonders if Emet-Selch recognized a bit of an unknown “them” in the Warrior, and wishes a fond farewell to their “new old friend.”
With writ in hand, the Warrior of Darkness and the Scions enter the capitol building where Emet-Selch awaits. He confirms Hythlodaeus’ warning that he intends to rejoin all the shards with the Source to free Zodiark and then sacrifice the remaining life on the united planet to bring back those sacrificed to summon Zodiark. He also plans on using the knowledge of the Exarch to traverse through space and time to expedite the Joinings. Emet seems almost insulted that the Scions would be offended at his machinations so he lays it out plainly – all of their lives are worthless compared to a life of an ancient. The Ascian has seen what lesser beings’ lives are worth as he’s lived among them for thousands of lives. He knows that unlike the Ancients, he knows they wouldn’t sacrifice half their population to save the other. Alphinaud interjects and says that it doesn’t matter – the Ancients are the past, they exist in the present. Emet-Selch throws open the doors of the capitol to reveal a wall of flames and invites the Scions to come and earn their place in the world by enduring the Final Days themselves.
The Warrior of Darkness and the Scions pursue Emet-Selch through the burning and dying city of Amaurot until they finally chase him down once more. The Ascian claims that they haven’t proven anything. If he were to use his full power, they would fall like leaves in the wind. Each Scion attacks Emet-Selch while arguing their case for their world and each time Emet-Selch repels them with stronger and stronger spells. Finally, the Warrior of Darkness steps forward to challenge the Ascian but collapses when the Light surges and wracks their body in pain.
In a void, Ardbert speaks to the ailing Warrior. He asks the Warrior that if they had the strength, could they save both of their worlds? The Warrior responds with a grin and Ardbert offers them his axe saying that they’ll fight together then. Emet-Selch eagerly awaits the birth of the ultimate sin eater but is shocked when the Warrior’s body erupts in a pillar of light. For just a moment, the Ascian sees the Warrior not as themselves but as another Ancient which causes him to stammer out that it doesn’t matter and the Warrior still has no chance of beating him alone. The voice of G’raha Tia shouts out from behind that they won’t have to. The Exarch of the Crystal Tower begins his incantation and summons forth additional heroes from beyond the Rift. Emet-Selch roars at the turning tide and declares this to be the final judgement, doing away with titles and rank. He reintroduces himself by his true name: Hades, the one who will awaken his brethren from the dark slumber, and launches his full strength and the heroes.
The Warrior of Darkness repels the unbridled Ascian but Hades’ rage will not let him surrender or stop. Finally, Thancred and the other Scions manage to penetrate the darkness and impale the disciple of Zodiark with the shattered shards of white auracite. The Scions of the Seventh Dawn use everything they have to give the Warrior a chance. The Warrior summons an axe made of brilliant light and drives it straight through the center of the Ascian and ending the overwhelming darkness that Hades had summoned to consume them. As the light returns and the sights of a destroyed Amaurot surround them, Emet-Selch stands before the victors with a hole in his chest where the axe pierced him. He fades away with a simple final request of the Warrior of Light and Darkness: Remember us, and remember that we once lived.
The Scions rush to check on their friend only to find that the Warrior’s aether has returned to normal. They theorize that in the clash between ultimate light and ultimate darkness that the Warrior expended all of the surplus primordial light they had absorbed. Ryne is convinced that there is more to it than that because the cracks that had formed in the Warrior’s soul when the Light was ravaging their body have all been repaired. They ask how that could be possible and the Warrior looks at Ardbert’s slowly dissolving axe of light with a knowing smile.
G’raha Tia hobbles over to join the group and offers his apologies to them all. They return to the Crystarium where the Exarch explains that the original plan was for all of them to have their souls automatically return to the Source when he – the one that summoned them – died to dispel the primordial light. Seeing as he did not in fact die, they are now all stuck on the First. They all surprisingly seem okay with this and relish the chance for a breather and a means to give a proper goodbye before they depart. However, to ensure that Krile and Tataru are offered all the reassurances they could want, G’raha sends the Warrior back to the Source.
Meanwhile in the Imperial Palace of Garlemald, Estinien and Gaius dive deeper into the enemy stronghold and hear the cries of pain that Gaius instantly recognizes as the Emperor. The two rush the throne room to find Zenos with a sword driven into the chest of his father. The royals reveal that Elidibus fled Zenos’ body after facing off with the Crown Prince and now Zenos looks to remove his father’s warmongering from interfering with his hunt again. Zenos assures his flabbergasted father that nothing is more important to him than his hunt – not family and not the Empire. He now awaits for his dearest enemy and friend to return so they may each gorge themselves on the power of Hydaelyn and Zodiark and engage in the ultimate duel.
On the moon, Elidibus stands alone and confirms to himself that Emet-Selch, like Lahabrea before, is no more. Elidibus has no idea what Zenos will do with the knowledge that he was given, but the Ascian is devoted to keeping the Scions and Hydaelyn’s champion trapped on the first and hopes to do away with them once and for all. He begins to hatch a new plan as he suggests to himself that the natural enemy of the Warrior of Darkness should be the Warrior of Light.
More Coming Soon…