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 Areng, 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 Areng, 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 Areng 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 Areng 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 Areng, 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.
More Coming Soon…