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You have dimmed my boundless light. What power of death do you mortals wield...?
— Sephirot, the Fiend

The Adventurers are a part of Eorzea's peacekeeping forces. Made up entirely of volunteers, the Adventurers have a guild in all of the major cities of Eorzea. They perform all manner of tasks, from creating items, to delivering them, to combating monsters, Adventurers wander the realm to find and aid those in need. A small subset of these Adventurers have the Echo, and are called upon by the Warrior of Light when they need backup fighting Primals, the local physical manifestations of gods.

The Adventurers are the only branch of Eorzea's military and peacekeeping forces not beholden to any nation or chain of command. As such, they are free to cross borders and help anyone in any way they wish, with the only real oversight being other Adventurers as well as the guild. The Adventurers have also contributed to the restoration of several destroyed cities, such as Revenant's Toll, Idyllshire, the Doman enclave, and a district of Ishgard.

They further participated in the campaigns against the Garlean Empire, and then the relief efforts as Garlemald was consumed by civil wars and strife. They further proved instrumental in stopping the Final Days, a cosmic catastrophe. While the latter's actual cause was fought by the Warrior of Light and the Scions, the monsters created by it were handled by Adventurers across the three continents. Several Adventurers are expected to cross the ocean to Tural alongside the Warrior of Light and the Scions, in search of new thrills.

Battle vs. Hawke's Party (by Leolab)[]

Prologue: Fuck Sebastian[]

“We will meet them here,” Hawke says, casting Pull of the Abyss to clear away some pews, “The Chantry is the most defensible part of the city. Merrill, Varric, Sebastian – head up to the dais in front of the statue. You’ll pelt them with ranged attacks. Anders, go up to heal them…”

“No,” Sebastian says, “I will not let them breach this place.”

“Come on, Choir Boy,” Varric says, “You may not like all of us, but…”

“I’m sorry, Varric. I… I can’t. We should not fight within the Chantry; it is not just,” the man says, taking p his bow and walking out the door, “Please, help me defend the steps.”

“Let him,” Anders sneers, “I could do without his preaching in my ear.”

Hawke sighs dramatically, and continues directing his crew in preparations.

“For a bunch of Voidsent and their summoners, they’re dropping pretty easy,” Aldwyn Lancebane says, pulling his axe out of a young, blonde-haired Templar.

“Aye,” Aurifort replies, dislodging his lance from a mage with a three-headed staff, “Makes you wonder why the Guild asked for the eight of us.”

“We’re just lucky they don’t have any Crystals. I’d hate to see this ‘Maker’ they pray to be summoned as a Primal,” Argarar says, parrying a Red Lyrium-enhanced greatsword strike from a female Templar and impaling her on his own sword. “That would be bad, wouldn’t it, Leo?” The group turns towards their Black Mage, who stoically nods. They continue towards the Chantry, and look at the massive set of stairs.

“The righteous stand before the darkness, and the Maker shall guide their hand,” a man in white armor chants, as he aims an arrow towards Helala. The White Mage swiftcasts Stoneskin on herself, and the arrow is halted in its tracks. A’libo draws and aims an arrow at the attacker, letting it loose just as a fireball erupts over Sebastian’s head. The clergy member collapses in a smoking heap, dying instantly as the arrow whizzes through where his head was and plants itself in the notice board behind him. A’libo flicks a slightly annoyed glance at Leo, who nods.

“You ready for this?” Argasar asks, “This is the last fight. It’s been easy so far, but let’s not get too cocky.”

Aldwyn roars his approval and hefts his axe, prompting a few looks from his crew. “Yes,” he says sheepishly.

Hanagin draws a card from her deck, and smiles mysteriously. “I am.”

“As am I,” Aurifort says, leaning on his spear.

“And me,” Helala says, finishing a Stoneskin II cast.

“Ready,” Artur says, swiftly flashing Mudras to cast Huton.

“I’m ready,” A’libo says, smiling.

Leo stoically nods.

“Let’s go, then!” Argasar says, and the group storm the Chantry and fling open the doors.

Phase 1: Deus Non Vult[]

Argasar immediately raises his sword, cleaving a Sonefist cast in half. Hanagin barely has time to use an expanded Balance on the party before the scene devolves into chaos. Argasar uses Plunge to try and get into Unleash range, but the melee has quickly spread out. He looks towards Hanagin and Helala, who both gesture confidently while engaging their foes.

Fenris scythes towards Aurifort, who leaps over the sword swipe and attempts to stab the broody elf on the way down. Fenris barely dodges the blow, and swings at the Dragoon as he dislodges his spear. The sword is stopped short by Stoneskin, while Aurifort slides around him and strikes at his flank. Fenris brings his sword around in another slice, catching Aurifort in the gut and sending him flying. He lands, wounds taken care of by a spell, and launches a Geirskogul at him. He jumps back into the fight, launching a flurry of stabs at his foe. Fenris dodges most of them, taking only superficial wounds.

The elf activates his Lyrium tattoos, attempting to phase through Aurifort’s armor and rip the man’s heart out. Aurifort jumps back to elude the strike, also dodging a Stonefist from Merrill that would have taken off his head. The projectile shatters against Leo’s Manaward, and the Black Mage summons a massive column of ice at Merrill’s position. Merrill evades most of the strike, and uses Firestorm. A massive volley of fireballs rains down on Leo, but they fizzle ineffectively against his magic defenses. Leo swiftcasts Thunder 3, and Merrill cries out in pain as a core of electricity sends shocks throughout her body.

Going for the kill, he summons a massive ice crystal above the blood mage’s head. As he lets it drop, however, a knife slices into his left arm, throwing off his aim. Artur throws several knives around the mage, revealing Isabela in stealth with blood on her daggers. The Ninja charges in, flicking through Mudras to cast Suiton. Isabela coyly steps out of the geyser, as Artur does a flip over her to launch an attack at her back. The pirate cartwheels out of the way, aiming a kick at Artur. He deflects it with the flat of his blade, and she follows up by dropping a flask of smoke. Artur throws several knives, trying to figure out where the elusive woman went. He stops in shock as two daggers sprout from his chest, and Isabela leans in to his ear.

“Sorry, love,” she whispers, “you shot too soon for me.”

As the ninja bleeds out, Helala casts Benediction. She then casts Medica 2, sending a wave of succor out across the battlefield. Hawke casts Group Heal as well, mending his own allies. Helala casts Stone 3 at him, and Hawke ducks, barely dodging the rocks that erupted where his chest was.

“Why do we have to fight?” he asks, trying to buy time, “Why did you attack us?”

“The Guild called, we answered. You and your ilk did something to threaten our home.”

“Well, you’re razing mine,” he says, “And I kind of like it here,” Hawke unleashes a Telekinetic Burst at the last word, sending the diminutive Lalafell flying. She crashes into a pillar, and falls to the floor. She casts Tetragrammaton on herself, healing the broken bones, and grabs her staff to see Carver bearing down on her, sword ready to strike.

Aldwyn sweeps the blow aside with his axe, in a state of furious ecstasy. He rained down blows on Carver, swinging his axe in reckless abandon. The Grey Warden countered the furious swings with precision, riposting towards the Warrior’s weak points. Aldwyn presses forward, his rage that someone would dare harm his teammates blinding him. Carver sees an opening, and stuns Aldwyn with a swift pommel strike. He unleashes the Maker’s fury on the dazed man, launching blow after blow against him. As he was about to throw the final strike, however, a projectile hit him in the back of the head, distracting him long enough for Helala to restore Aldwyn to health.

He turns to see Argasar continuing his duel with Aveline. The Dark Knight uses swift, sweeping strikes to force the guard captain on the defensive. She attempts to strike back, stabbing her blade forward, but her focus on defense left her offense slow. Argasar deflects the strike and lands a kick on her shield, and nearly impales her as she staggers. She swipes at him with her shield, and focuses all her efforts on offense. Argasar, however, had used his inner darkness to improve his defenses, lessening the blows he did receive. He does a quick Souleater combo, and feels a card slapping against the back of his armor.

Hanagin looks back towards Anders, having nudged fate enough to ensure Argasar wouldn’t get hurt too badly. She draws and channels Aether from the stars, and uses her magic to materialize a clump of it within the apostate. Anders switches to Panacea, letting healing energies from the Fade flow through him. The magic halts the advance of damage, but Hanagin shoots a clump of aether at him, while he retaliates as best he can with his offensive spells sealed. Hanagin waltzes around the attempts at barraging her with small elemental bolts, performing another speed Tarot reading, this time for A’libo.

The Bard feels a card hit her side, and the Aether within made her limbs feel lighter. She rapidly drew and fired her bow at Varric, who sprayed bolts from Bianca at her. A’libo starts to hum the Mage’s Ballad while she fights, and the jaunty tune helps her allies regain mana. She fires off two arrows in rapid succession at Varric; the first contains a potent poison, and pierces most of the way through his armor, but only nicking the flesh. The second one had a blunt tip, and struck the first square in the back, pushing the venom into the dwarf’s blood stream. She then ducks behind a pillar, shielding herself from the flurry of bolts as she scans the battlefield.

A’libo catches Argasar’s eye and moves her finger in a circle. Understanding the gesture, he activates Living Dead and throws all notion of defense to the wind. His teammates take note as well, and draw their enemies towards him. Healala, noticing that the mages and Varric were still engaging at range, casts Fluid Aura on the latter, who gets knocked into the crowd. Argasar uses Unleash several times, and Hawke’s companions focus their energies on him. Aveline shouts as she pierces Argasar’s heart, a fatal blow. The Dark Knight, however, continues to fight, nearly taking off her head in reprisal. “Merril, Anders!” she shouts, “Help us kill him!”

At her request, Merril breaks off her duel with Leo and charges towards Argasar, who just used Salted Earth. Hawke’s companions kill the man several times over, yet he keeps fighting. Fenris rips through his armor, bisecting him at the waist. Argasar simply turns and slashes at him. Varric puts a bolt through his eye, only for Argasar to cast Unleash, forcing the party to avoid spikes erupting form the ground. Merrill rips out his blood while Anders hits him with a fireball, but to no avail. Hawke’s Party continues trying to kill Argasar in vain, barely noticing the rain of arrows, fire, and other attacks from the Adventurers.

Roasted, impaled, and frozen, Hawke’s Party drops like a bundle of stones. Anders swiftly changes to Panacea and casts Regroup, bringing his allies back from death. He switches back to Vengeance in time to see Argasar flying towards him, sword in the air. Hanagin casts Essential Dignity on the Dark Knight, fully repairing both flesh and armor, just before Argasar lands, turns, and rips Anders in half with his sword. “Do you really think you can kill us all?” Hawke yells, trying to intimidate the Adventurers.

Leo stoically nods, and swiftcasts Freeze, binding the rest of Hawke’s living companions in place. Aldwyn stuns Carver using Brutal Swing as the Black Mage plants his staff into the ground and throws his arms out.

“Wait!” Helala yells, “I think that might-” Her plea fell on deaf ears, however, as Leo finishes casting his Limit Break.

Outside, the non-combatants of Kirkwall look up in horror as the sky opens above the Chantry. A massive meteor casually falls on top of the building, reducing it to rubble and sending a shockwave through the city. Within, the Adventurers frantically dodge pieces of the collapsing building, as Hawke’s Party gets crushed by the debris. The Adventurers look around, confirming that they survived. The group of eight gathers together, and Helala casts Medica, closing their wounds.

“Please don’t drop meteors on buildings again,” Aurifort says, looking at Leo, “Or at least promise you’ll only do so as a last resort.”

Leo stoically nods.

An explosion under the rubble, however, interrupts the group’s victory celebrations. Hawke, battered and broken, stumbles out from the wreckage of the Chantry, his Healing Aura curing his wounds as he walks. “Well,” he quips, “Since you’ve saved Anders the trouble, I guess he should thank you.” Hawke then raises his staff and casts Revival. He casts Group Heal right afterwards, as his party claws its way out of the rubble. Both teams square off, and start to fight again.

Phase 2: Slaughter[]

“Can we just kill the healers first? Please?” Argasar asks, to which the team agrees. Argasar uses Provoke and Unmend to draw in Hawke’s other companions, while the rest of the Adventurers split up to strike down Hawke and Anders.

Anders left Panacea as Aurifort leaped, intending to impale the healer. He dodged the downward strike, and cast Stonefist at Artur. The attack hits, and disrupts his Mudras; his Ninjutsu summoned a small rabbit on his head. Cursing, he charged in with his shortswords, the rabbit balancing perfectly. The pair strike in unison, with Artur ducking in for a stab as Aurifort swipes just over his head – the rabbit jumped – but Anders sidesteps both blows.

He then stops stock still as several stony spikes erupt from his chest. He has just enough time to spot Helala casting Stone 3 again before the spell fades; he falls, bleeding, to the ground. Hawke turns, intending to aid his bleeding ally, when he feels his consciousness start to fade. A’libo, taking advantage of Leo’s sleep spell, shoots an Aether-infused arrow. The arrow causes spikes to erupt from within Hawke, killing him.

“Ma vhenan! No!” Merril yells, breaking off from Argasar to try and engage A’libo, only to be roasted alive when Leo casts Fire 4 at her.

“The mages are…” Fenris says, also looking away. Argasar takes off his head for his concern.

Artur tries his luck against Isabela again, raining strike after strike against her. She still dodges out of the way, twisting left and right as if dancing. He finally scores a hit, grazing her leg; she drops another vial of smoke in response, vanishing. Artur swiftly channels his Mudras, casting Doton. The Ninjutsu saps Isabela’s strength, and she drops out of hiding.

“You’re getting better,” she wheezes.

“Aldwyn! Stop her!” Artur yells, and the Warrior obliges, slinging a Holmgang at the pirate.

“Binding’s a little much for the first time,” she says, “You know you don’t have to tie me down to get it in, right?”

Artur simply stabs her. “You’re not my type,” he says, cleaning off his blades. He flinches as Aveline’s shield soars past him, hand still attached. Aldwyn finishes off the guardswoman, panting an axe through her skull. The group then starts to converge on Varric, who pelts them with bolts from Bianca. Snarling, he tries everything to halt the Adventurers’ advance, but to no avail. A’libo finds an opening, and shoots him through the eyes.

“Wasn’t there another?” she asks. She’s answered with a clatter, and the group turns to see Carver bearing down on Leo, having just knocked the staff from his hands. The initial stab is blocked by Manawall, and Carver brings the sword down in an overhead strike. Leo dodges the blow, and astonishes everyone by throwing a haymaker at the Grey Warden. He hits, square in the face, and launches into a flurry of punches, kicks, and jabs. Carver, unprepared for this avenue of attack, gets knocked flat on his ass. Leo then repeatedly hits him in the face, splattering blood, brains, and bone.

“Was that…” Aurifort says, “Did you train with the Fist of Rhalgr?”

Leo stoically nods.

“Why? You’re a Mage, you shouldn’t need to…”

Leo stoically nods towards the weapon that had been knocked from his hands.


“Well, now that we’ve finished that, should we get going?” A’libo says, “I’d quite like a pint at the Quicksand.”

Leo stoically nods as he picks up and stows his staff.

“Hah, I agree as well. Let’s see if we can get free beer for our stories,” Aldwyn booms, and the group makes their way out of Kirkwall.

Expert's Opinion[]

Individually, all eight members of both parties are extremely powerful, able to deal, sustain, and heal incredible amounts of damage. Where the Adventurers shined, however, was that their party worked better together, compensating for each others' weaknesses.

To see the original battle, weapons and votes, click here.

Battle vs. Inquisition (Dragon Age) (by Leolab)[]

Prologue: Seriously, Fuck Sebastian[]

“So,” Josephine says, the candle that somehow never melts firmly attached to the board she carries around, “Since the three of us are the only Inner Circle members here…”

“It falls to us to run the place. And receive ‘guests’” Cullen grumbles, looking at an impatient man in armor, polished to a mirror gleam.

“Any volunteers to talk to Prince Shiny?” Josephine asks, noticing where the commander was looking.

“I’ll do it,” Leliana says, “We have a history, and he should be easy to control.”

“How so? He is… quite stubborn,” Josephine says, “Even came here in person after the Inquisitor ignored his requests to help annex Kirkwall.”

“He’s easily fooled by appearances and soft words. Even now, he still thinks Elthina was a force for peace. Anyone looking at her actions would realize she was anything but.”

“Go, then,” Cullen says, “Maker knows I can’t stand the twit.” With a nod and a smile, Leliana turns and walks towards the man in question, Sebastian Vael, the Prince of Starkhaven. He looks up, and his eyes flash, recognizing the woman in front of him.

“Sister Nightingale!” he says, breaking out into a sad smile, “It’s been quite some time.”

“Indeed, it has. Pity the Grand Cleric didn’t listen to my warning.”

“Yes. That cursed apostate… I wish your Inquisitor would listen to reason and support my annexation.”

“He seems to be… ill-disposed towards Starkhaven,” Leliana says, “Something about a payment dispute when he was with the Valo-Koss. I’ll try to convince him, but it will take doing.”

As Sebastian opens his mouth to reply, an explosion rocks the mountain fortress, followed by a messenger sprinting into the throne room.

“Report!” Cullen says, sparing no time.

“We’re under attack from some… flying… thing. It’s using its canons to break the bridge as we speak. There are people inside.

“The Maker shall provide,” Sebastian mutters, just loud enough for Leliana to hear. “Come, men,” he shouts, waving his guard, “We will help defend the fortress. Ready your bows.” He and his men trot towards the gate, making a show of coming to help.

The Adventurers line up in their airship, a trio of Dark Knights at the fore. The archers on the other side fire volley after volley, but the arrows simply clatter off of the shielding they create.

“All right,” one of them says, holding a horned helmet in his arms, “As we discussed. Once the third Blackest Night pops, we charge in and create a beachhead with Quietus. I call the shiny one.”

The other two nod in agreement and pick out their own targets, separating along the deck, and a Monk and a Paladin step up behind the knight in the center. The Paladin looks slightly nervous, while the Monk is doing warm-up stretches.

“You don’t know the meaning of tense, do you, Tee?” the Paladin asks.

“Hey, I get to punch things,” the Monk replies, “I’m cool.”

“You’ll do fine, Marshal. There’s, what, 300 of us?” the Dark Knight says, resting his greatsword against his thigh, “Someone will pick up your slack.”

“I’m more worried about you, Leo. You sure you don’t want to swap to a healer?” Marshal says.

“I may swap here and there,” Leo says, putting on his helmet, “but I’m gonna start off as Dark Knight. Shield’ll drop soon; get back.” He stabs his sword to the sky, activating Darkside, and uses Dark Arts to boost his next attack. The snarling man in shining mail looses another arrow, which finally makes the shield drop. On cue, the three Dark Knights that made the van use Plunge, diving towards the mass of archers.

All three hit their targets, the two on the edges cleaving straight through Starkhaven’s finest while Leo impales Sebastian. The prince, still living, attempts a last, desperate strike, but is quickly flung off the blade as Leo flicks it behind him. The three Dark Knights all use Quietus, spinning their swords in a lateral circle, causing several small explosions of magic along the arc. Starkhaven’s soldiers get thrown backwards or off the gatehouse, slamming between the mountains as they fall to join their prince. A few slashes and spells later, the Adventurers take a landing point. Their airship comes closer, and the mass of Adventurers pours into Skyhold.

“So much for that,” Cullen mutters as he runs across the walkway to the tower that served as his command post. “Inquisition! Fight for your lives!” he yells, putting some more heart into the soldiers. A raven swoops past him, and leaves a note on his desk as he slams open the door. Leliana had already sent word to the Inquisitor, so they only had to hold out until the Inner Circle returns.

Part 1: The Breach[]

“Vanguard! With me!” Marshal yells, as he charges into the gatehouse, activating Hallowed Ground. The other five members of his group sprint to catch up with him as he draws the attention of the mages and archers within the gatehouse. A Roegadyn pauses for a second to grab her Greatsword from Leo before plunging in, impaling one of the scouts as she leaps to her friend’s aid. Marshal draws attention away from the large woman as she’s joined by other adventurers. An Elezen ninja quickly flashes through Mudras before launching a fireball at one side of the room, and uses Shukichi to move in its wake.

She tosses several throwing knives at the cluster of foes, injuring some, before vanishing as a Lalafell Black Mage launches a trio of flares on the other side. The gatehouse cleared in a manner of seconds, and the Adventurers start to stream into Skyhold. One Samurai charges in ahead of the rest, forgetting he’s not a tank, and gets impaled by an Inquisition soldier waiting behind a corner. Another Adventurer gets snagged by a warrior’s chain and hauled to the top of the wall, here she gets stabbed in the back by a scout and tossed over towards the gap. The Miqo’te does not fall for long, however, as Leo uses Rescue, bringing her plummeting into the stone gatehouse.

Leo draws his personal weapon – a long, thin sword with no guard – and uses the pommel’s focus to cast Benediction, fully restoring the bard to normal. She charges back into the breach with a nod of thanks, and Leo follows, the arcane geometries on his sword and armor flashing as he channels mana to heal his allies, along with the occasional spell to harm his foes. He ducks around an Au Ra machinist firing at any Inquisition targets she can find, and tosses a shielding spell on her as he moves to the front, using Plunge to slam his sword through another opponent and land next to Marshal.

“Their main chokepoint is that arch,” Marshal says as Leo falls in beside him, “I’ll use that against them, you keep them off my back.”

Leo flips his sword around, holding it like a staff as he applies a rapid succession of protective and regenerative spells on his friend, topping the mass of magic off with an Enhanced Bole and Celestial Opposition to ensure those spells lasted for a longer time.

“I’ll see if I can help us take the other side,” Leo says, “Rally the other healers towards you.” Marshal nods, and Leo casts Aetherial Manipulation in rapid succession to cross the growing bubble of Adventurers storming the courtyard.

“Come on, look alive!” Krem yells as he deflects an arrow from a bard, who follows the attack up with a fireball, which he swiftly blocks with his shield. “Dalish! They got one of you!”

“Aye,” Dalish says, and the elf casts Dispel Magic to cut off the longer attack the Bard was about to do. The horned man barely has time to grimace before the Inquisition’s scouts turn him into a pincushion, and the large man falls back into the mass of his comrades. Krem frowns, having seen that their foes possessed near-miraculous healing magic. The troublesome mage would be back in short order.

“Templars!” he shouts, grabbing the attention of the handful of soldiers Cullen had trained, “See if you can disrupt their mages. They have a bloody army of them.”

The Templars rush in at his request, covered by the few Champions on this side of the castle. They use their abilities to dispel magic, and all the Adventurers around them falter. Their swings are now simply swings, not the aether-manipulating techniques they normally are. One of the fighters winces in pain as the punch he thought would be enhanced slams into the unyielding steel plate of his foe, breaking his hand.

The Inquisition rallies in that brief lull, finally forming a defensive line and killing a few of the Adventurers while their ire turned towards the Templars. The valiant warriors were swiftly targeted and slaughtered by the Adventurers nearby, and their corpses were pulled behind enemy lines to deny the Inquisition’s mages the ability to revive them. Their purpose was served, however, and the Adventurers now faced a proper battle formation. The line pushed forward and back a few meters at a time, neither side holding an advantage for long.

Krem wipes the sweat off his brow, and notices a raven swoop in, delivering a message for him.

Good job stabilizing that line. We’re having trouble holding the archway on the other side of the courtyard; work your magic there. -Cullen

Krem sighs and dips his finger in the blood running freely at his feet, and uses that to pen a reply.

Work your anti-magic. That’s what helped here. – Krem

That done, he passes command over to the remaining Champion and gathers the Chargers, moving up the wall and behind the expanding ranks of Scouts and Mages filing in to pepper the Adventurers from above.

The Adventurers’ line parts, admitting a massive Roegadyn male, covered from head to toe in plate armor. The human soldier swallows at the ten-foot lump of muscle and steel, but calms down when he notices that the man is unarmed. He activates Walking Fortress, and catches the man’s attacks on his plate, unharmed. A strike at his foe’s face is dodged, the fighter moving at a speed which belied his bulk. The champion is barely able to attack, taking all he can do to hold his ground.

Then, sensing that his ability to block his opponent’s attacks is running low, he dodges a hook. Rather than pull back, however, the Monk throws a straight, catching the Champion directly in the chest. He is thrown back as his armor crumples, breaking his bones and stabbing into his flesh. The soldier bleeds out quickly, lamenting that the Inquisition never thought to learn healing magic.

With their commander broken, the Inquisition soldiers only put up a token resistance. Leo activates Hallowed Ground and charges into the hole the monk opened up in their ranks. He uses Swiftcast to cast Holy, blinding the Inquisition soldiers unlucky enough to get caught nearby. A quick spin kills or knocks them back, giving the Dragoons space to leap in and the other mages softer targets for their spells. In short order, the soldiers in the lower courtyard retreat to other positions or are massacred, the pelting from above doing little to slow their advance.

“Good thing Moerfian was there,” Tee says as he finds Leo, cradling his hand, “I don’t think we could have beaten them back otherwise.”

“He is a hard man to stop, yes,” Leo says while casting Cure to fix up Tee’s hand, “The question is where we go from here. Marshal’s blocking the upper courtyard, so we can go through along the wall or inside the castle itself.”

“From what I can see, that tower along the wall is their command post,” the massive Monk says, walking towards the pair, “But the tower there is where all their communications go through. That’s probably the better target.”

“Yes… that is reasonable. Tee and I will take… half our forces,” Leo says, “The rest of us should hold this area and rotate out with Marshal. Don’t have him fight everyone by himself.” “Looks like we can get to that tower from two places,” Tee says, “I’ll take top, we pincer them?”

Leo gives a fierce grin at this suggestion, which is hidden by his helmet. He nods, and the Adventurers set about splitting up their forces.

Part 2: Light Remains[]

“Let’s go!” Tee says, as Leo charges up the ramp to the lower door. He grabs a spear, and leaps. He gets nary a meter in the air before he lands back on the ground, confused. One of the Dragoons grabs him by the shirt and executes his own Jump, scaling the entire tower in seconds and ramming his spear through the throat of the soldier looking below. The Dragoon lets go as he returns to the courtyard to ferry up more of his comrades, letting Tee roll on the ground, surrounded by a knot of Inquisition soldiers.

He quickly leaps to his feet and uses Arm of the Destroyer, letting a swift burst of aether flood the ground, knocking his foes off balance. He kicks off of the breastplate of one of them as they stagger, using the height to polish off a small group with Elixir Field, directing another blast of aether from his palms toward the ground. He activates Perfect Balance as he lands, and finishes off the rest with a flurry of Rockbreakers, the shorter-range blast pulverizing flesh and bone as easily as its name suggests. As a pair of Dragoons ferry two White mages up, he directs one final blast at the door, blowing it off its hinges.

Across the room, Leliana lets loose a pair of arrows, which hit home in Tee’s throat. He gurgles as the blood runs down, pulling the arrows out. Both White Mages offhandedly use Regen on him, one following up with Tetragrammaton and the other using Divine Benison to erect a barrier around him before going back to ferrying up more Adventurers by using Rescue. Satisfied that he was healed and protected, Tee vaults the railing and uses Shoulder Tackle to dash across the empty core of the tower and slam into Leliana.

“The righteous shall stand before the darkness…” she mutters, drawing her bow.

“Eh. Darkness has never been my thing,” Tee says, as the arrow falls out of the air, “Don’t suppose you could surrender for me?”

“Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him,” Leliana says, hiding behind scripture as she leaps out of reach of a punch.

“I’m not a mage, though,” Tee says, shrugging as he ducks under a knife swipe. He returns the attack with a kick, but Leliana jumps out of the way and draws her bow again, aiming an arrow at his groin. He barely dodges the shot as she activates Mark of Death. Another punch misses, and she grazes his arm with her next shot. The Adventurers stream in through the door, as they fight, leaping down to the lower levels and taking the fight to the Inquisition.

Growling in frustration, Leliana throws a knockout bomb at Tee’s feet, making the monk fall asleep where he stands. She draws her dagger and activates Hidden Blades, lacerating him in several places. She wipes the blood off her blades as Tee bleeds, confident in her victory.

Tee uses Second Wind, curing enough of his wounds to stand. He circles to Leliana’s side and executes the Forbidden Chakra, sending a powerful uppercut Leliana’s way that catches her under the chin. The force behind it lifts her up in the air and over the railing.

She screams as she falls, the sound cut off by the wet thud as the stone floor at the bottom of the tower breaks her fall and her skull. The Inquisition falls silent for a brief moment before being cut down in a rout, attempting to flee the site where one of their commanders fell. A raven lights off her body, and flies over the heads of the Adventurers still fighting in the courtyard.

“Marshal, move!” a Roegadyn woman yells, pulling the Paladin out of the way of sword strike.

“Thanks, Askwyb,” Marshal says as he staggers next to Moerfian, the massive monk having made his way to where the fighting is. Moerfian holds up his right fist, and the gem in his gauntlet glows purple as he casts Flare, the Black Magic spell knocking back several of the defenders. He extends his left fist towards Askwyb, and the small panel of wood within that gauntlet glows white as he casts Regen on her, the White Magic spell invigorating the Dark Knight.

“You can make an opening, Wyzwilfwyn?” he asks her, and she nods. She activates The Blackest Night, shielding herself as she dives into the fray, impaling a soldier behind the lines as she does so. A flurry of wide sweeps creates a pocket for her to move in, and Marshal and Moerfian attack the Inquisition soldiers who turned to help their comrades.

This is enough to shift the tide of the battle, and in short order the remaining section of the courtyard is taken and held by the Adventurers. “With me!” Moerfian yells, and the shout directs the swarm of Adventurers up the stairs towards the throne room. The Inquisition attempts to defend from the frontal assault, but that leaves them open to the flanking strikes from Tee and Leo.

Leo charges into the room, using Tri-Bind to root a knot of Inquisition soldiers in place before casting Foul, the explosion of energy sapping their lives. He detaches the focus from his sword’s hilt and spins in a circle, discharging some of the mana stored within in a flash of enchanted swordplay. He leaps in, using shielding magic on himself, and uses Triplecast to start spamming Holy, the massive outflow of unaspected aether stunning the Inquisition while slamming past their armor.

The other White Mages in the group follow suit, while the Black Mages cast Flare and the Summoners use Painflare to enter Dreadwrym Trance. The massive outpouring of magic saturates the throne room in its deadly energies, and the Inquisition falls within, the bodies unable to decide if they’re charred, withered, or simply pulverized.

“Fall back to the towers!” Cullen bellows, getting the attention of the remaining Inquisition soldiers, “I want at least one Templar and one Knight Enchanter per building. Per floor, if you can! Go!”

As his soldiers rush to follow his commands, the Templar picks up his lion-shaped helmet and slips it on, fastening it tight. He draws his sword and unlimbers his shield, and finally looks to a small wooden box on the table.

“Maker, my enemies are abundant. Many are those who rise up against me. But my faith sustains me; I shall not fear the legion, should they set themselves against me,” he says, speaking the beginning of the Canticle of Trials as he pops open the lid. The hateful blue Lyrium shines from within, the very blood of the stone giants that provided Templars with power. He had sworn not to use it, but the need was dire.

“Maker, though the darkness comes upon me, I shall embrace the Light. I shall weather the storm,” he says, bringing the vial to his lips. He drinks it contents in one swig, and smashes the glass against the ground.

“I shall endure.”

Part 3: The Maker Has Turned[]

Marshal hacks and slices his way up the stairs, smashing the occasional straggler out of his way. The constant shielding output by the group’s Scholars rendered most of the Inquisition’s attacks useless, breaking through the enemy mages’ and templars’ abilities to dispel magic through sheer brute force. Marshal reaches the top of the ramparts without much difficulty, and a shield swipe from him and a couple broad lashes from Askwyb clears a path for the rest of the Adventurers to stream up. They split into two, Moerfian and Askwyb charging towards the Mage’s Tower while Marshal makes his way towards the towers flanking the gates.

He smashes open the door of the first tower, and a White Mage slips in as he bashes the Inquisition soldiers within aside. The Lalafell uses her short stature to sneak into the crowd and swiftcast Holy, blinding and stunning all the soldiers inside. He steps to the side, making way for a Warrior to barrel in, yelling in fury. The large, sweeping motions of his axe battering aside even the heavily-armored Inquisition soldiers. The burly Miqo’te does what the Adventurers do best: overwhelm with skill of arms. The small pocket expands to a channel, letting Marshal smash his way through the door and onto the final stretch towards the gatehouse.

On the other side, Moerfian and Askwyb lead the way, their massive frames smashing and slicing apart their foes. A Knight Enchanter tries to stop them, but his mana blade shatters on Askwyb’s own magic shield. As they reach the tower, a shout draws her attention above. She parries Krem’s downward slash, while the other Chargers pile onto Moerfian. The narrow ramparts pin the rest of the Adventurers down, forcing them to take temporary cover.

The first casualty is Grim, when Moerfian uses Black Magic to materialize a pillar of ice around the silent man and smash it with a haymaker. Krem parries one of Askwyb’s slashes, only for her to let go of her sword and cast Dark Passenger. A quick-thinking mage uses Dispel Magic, saving the Tevinter warrior and allowing him to draw blood on his foe. Another quick exchange gives him a second opening, which he takes without hesitation.

Askwyb uses Living Dead to survive the stab to the heart, and headbutts Krem. He loses his grip on his sword, which the Dark Knight rips out of her chest and tosses aside. He leaps back into action, tackling the larger woman to the ground. He then straddles her and slams his shield into her face, yelling with each strike. She laughs in his face, spitting blood while Living Dead keeps her from dying. As he brings his shield up for one final blow, Askwyb manages to right her sword and plunge it through his bound chest. One of the Astrologians behind her heals her, reversing time so that her injuries never happened.

Krem coughs up blood as Moerfian punches through Dalish, and uses the other fist to smash Rocky’s skull. A quick Blizzard cast stops the dwarf from exploding after his death, and Krem finally pulls the sword out of him. Askwyb retrieves her blade and stands over his kneeling form, and he sighs.

“Well, shit.”

And a stroke of the blade later, the last of the Chargers fell.

The swift pulverizing of the cream of the Inquisition’s crop of soldiers demoralized those within the tower, making them easy prey for the first wave of Adventurers to swarm in. They attempt to rally, but are in no state to fight, and the Mage’s Tower is taken in short order.

Cullen stands before the first Adventurer to make it past the guard tower, sword drawn and shield at the ready. Marshal takes his own stance, and Cullen lets out a war cry as he charges. Marshal blocks the first sweep, attempting to get a strike in as well. Cullen uses his Templar abilities, which saves his life as the blow glances off his shield. The pair locks shields, putting their full weight against each other. They strain, evenly matched, until Marshal raises his arm, thunder flowing into his sword. He uses Requiescat, the simple overhead strike rending Cullen’s helmet and sending him reeling.

Marshal then brings his hands before him, sword pointing up, as if mimicking a prayer. Cullen raises his shield just in time for him to cast Holy Spirit, the blast of magic pushing him back, and the following four send him reeling into the tower. A machinist fires behind Marshal, and her projectile glances off of Cullen’s shield, killing one of the men behind him. Marshal runs to close the gap, sending a quick stab Cullen’s way. The Templar parries the blow, and launches a strike of his own, which skitters off of Marshal’s shield.

After a brief flurry of exchanges, Cullen activates his Templar abilities again, and hews through the aetherial defenses of his foe. A momentary lapse due to surprise allows Cullen to slice through his foe’s neck, and Marshal staggers out, and is pulled to safety by a Scholar, who patches him up. Cullen lets loose another cry of victory, heartening the soldiers in his tower. The last bastion of the Inquisition rallies, secure behind their walls.

Leo stabs the last Inquisition soldier in the castle’s garden, the soil drowned in blood and caked with gore. He nods to the Miqo’te Machinist, who uses a Linkpearl to inform the rest of the Adventurers that the garden area is clear.

“Looks like that tower’s the last holdout,” she says, using one of the horns on Leo’s helmet to turn his head, “They’ve got one of those blue glowy soldiers at each entrance. One killed Marshal, but my sister brought him back. Let’s go help.”

Leo grabs her wrist, clamping down until she lets go, and sighs.

“You’re thinking small, P’fhiroh. With all the fighting that’s been going on, we can just destroy the tower.”

“That… feels like overkill.”

Leo just shrugs, and uses Aetherial Manipulation to teleport to one of his allies in front of the throne room, followed by a Plunge on one of the defenders who had sallied forth to the bridge connecting Cullen’s Tower to the throne room. He plants his sword-staff hybrid into the ground, and channels the energies of his party members through it. A pair of Paladins intercept the Inquisition’s attempts to dispel Leo’s magic, and the spell completes. He draws his sword out of the ground and points it dramatically at the sky, causing the Inquisition soldiers to look up in confusion.

The massive meteor bearing down on the tower quickly turns confusion to horror, the chunk of rock tearing through the once-sturdy stone tower, killing everyone inside.

Tee strolls into the wreckage and slams the standard of Ul’Dah into the rubble, causing his footing to crumble and sending him flat on his face, to the general mirth of his companions. Mission complete, the Adventurers file over the rubble to board their airship, leaving the blood-soaked castle for whoever manages to find it next.

Expert's Opinion[]

Overall, the Adventurers had more versatility and power to their attacks, as well as the all-important ability to heal. Lacking this, the Inquisition was able to be whittled down while the Adventurers could replenish their stamina and cure their wounds.

To see the original battle, weapons, and votes, click here.

Battle vs. Agito (by Leolab)[]

“So you want me to look through Marshall’s eyes and tell you what I see happening? And you’re not going to tell me why you need this? And you think a pot of homemade goulash is going to convince me to help despite your track record?” Skully asks, staring at Leo incredulously, “I mean, sure, we’re friends, but this is real shady.”

“Not that alone, no,” Leo says, “I’ve prepared something extra to show goodwill. Should be coming around the corner any minute now.”

Skully looks behind him, surveying the open-air dining area sprawling one of the 1% Districts malls. As Leo predicted, around the corner came a blonde man in a green tunic and a blonde woman in a skin-tight blue suit walking arm-in-arm with normie smiles on their faces.

“You… hooked Link and Samus up? How?”

“Nothing malicious, really. Just reminded people we have more than one Samus.”

“Well, all right. If you’re going this far it must be really important.”

“Thank you.”

“Still curious why your Adventurer changed from Black Mage to White Mage.”

“Well, I made the switch in Stormblood. Where White Mage got Lilies.”

“That is… oddly convincing. So, when does this start?”

“About five minutes ago.”

“Damnit, say that sooner,” Skully says, vanishing with the pot of goulash. Leo vanishes as well, smiling under his mask as he teleports back to his office. He immediately closes his eyes, linking his vision with an Adventurer.

The Adventurer, also known as Leo, jumps to the side to dodge a lance charge from Volk as he readies Swiftcast. The White Mage flicks his mystical tree branch at the dead Aurifort, throwing a Raise on the Dragoon before pointing it at Marshall, casting Benediction and returning the Paladin to full health.

Marshall parries a flurry from Tartarus’ blade, checking the two portals on the field out of the corner of his eye. Amalia, their replacement for Tee as a Monk, stumbles out of one and activates Mantra as it closes. Marshall looks back, eyes wide as Tartarus brings his sword down, the laser blade engulfed in darkness. His vision flickers green for a split second, and the pair of barriers blunt the impact enough for the sword to be deflected.

Marshall nods at the group’s Scholar, Melisie, in thanks as she and the other healers bathe the party in their magics, the spells finally working as they should. Tartarus staggers, a different explosion of magic and an arrow to the back of the head forcing the dragon to his knees.

“Feral Shroud! Expand!” he growls, and a sphere envelops him, Marshall, Aurifort, the Bard, and the Astrologian before vanishing.

“Where the hells did you take my sister, you…” the Red Mage, A’nashi, says, “Leo, Theobalin, that was similar to how the Ascians move. If we can…”

“We’d have to cast with Lucian instead of Leo,” the Black Mage replies, not interrupting his explosions, “Mel can’t heal ten by herself.”

“Besides, A’libo can take care of herself,” Leo says, casting Glare as he speaks, “And even if she can’t, she’s got Marshall to take the heat and Hanagin to patch her up.”

“Right. And if this works anything like Alexander they’ll probably pop back in after killing whatever that giant tries to sic on them,” A’nashi says, taking a deep breath, “Then let’s see if we can burn down some of Anton’s enemies. He’s probably going to Superbolide any minute.”

“You do that; Mel’s got him covered. I’ll make sure Argasar doesn’t kill himself with Living Dead,” Leo says.

“And Aldwyn?” TTheobalin asks.

Before either Leo or A’nashi could answer, the Warrior in question yells at his opponent.


“Well, you heard him,” A’nashi says, grinning, “He’ll be fine.”

And with that, she throws her focus, creating a tether of magic she uses to pull herself towards one of the twins. The follow up rapier thrust grazes Ayaha’s horn, distracting the girl before a human-sized robot shoulder tackles her. The group’s Machinist, Reja'tan, follows up with a flurry of shots, before launching a projectile that binds her in place. He finishes the combo by launching a giant drill at his foe. After it finishes spinning, both twins drop to the ground, panting as Tartarus returns to the battlefield, a bloodied and lifeless lump of flesh and metal. The four Adventurers he had taken with him are battered and injured, but alive.

“Feral Shroud! Expand!” Ayaha and Otoha say in unison. They vanish, this time taking the Gunbreaker, Red Mage, Machinist, and Scholar with them. Leo and Hanagin quickly restore their allies to fighting strength as Marshall provokes Ciella, drawing the bunny-girl’s attention away from Argasar. The Dark Knight has little time to give thanks, as he focuses on weathering the blows from Volk’s lance.

Volk uses Pestilent Wind and vanishes, leaving Leo more than enough time to cleanse Plague. The group’s Dancer, Eljn, uses Shield Samba before Volk reappears behind the team’s Ninja, Artur. He teleports out of the way and casts Raiton, sending the man to his knees.

“FERAL SHROUD! EXPAND!” he yells, vanishing. This time, Leo, Argasar, Eljn, and the group’s Samurai, Dacien, vanish with him.

“Irremissible… IRREMISSIBLE!” Volk snarls, “I am the fangs of the fangless… you WILL taste my resentment!”

He lets loose a blast of wind as he shifts into his beast form: a massive, winged, green-furred wolf on two legs. He charges forward as Leo, Eljn, and Dacien roll out of the way, while Argasar simply casts The Blackest Night to absorb the impact. The adventurers strike him with a flurry of blades, chakrams, and magic as he summons a massive storm, with them at its eye. Leo throws down Asylum, letting the bubble’s passive healing keep the team alive.

As the storm fades, Volk send a whirlwind after Eljn. The Dancer simply runs, not letting the tempest disrupt her attacks. The wolf then roars, casting Lunatic Judgement. A massive, blood-red moon appears over the battlefield, only to be hit instantly with Afflatus Misery from Leo. Dacien sheathes his sword, concentrating before unleashing a devastating strike, following it up with a second. He then leaps into the air, summoning a sword made from his and his teammates’ Aether and strikes, unleashing the second stage of his Limit Break.

The Blood Moon shatters, sending Volk to his knees. Argasar leaps, plunging his sword through the wolf’s snout and holding it in place while Eljn throws a chakram through his throat. Volk collapses, returning to his human form as he bleeds out rapidly.

The isolated space fades, depositing the four adventurers and their adversary back on the battlefield. They look around at the strangely quiet space as Marshall spots them ang jogs towards them.

“There’s nine of us,” Leo says, “The other eight are..?”

“In those strange spaces, yes. Just before you popped back out, too.”

“So there’ s nothing to do but wait, then,” A’libo says, fetching a pair of gloves made of a woven gold-banded metal and matching bag, “Might as well get what we came here for.”

Agreeing with her, the eight adventurers on the field set about gathering the three masks, carefully slicing them off and putting them into the prepared bags. They finish their task once their comrades return victorious and make their way back to the city.

Expert's Opinion[]


To see the original battle, weapons, and votes, click here.

Battle vs Dominion of Rubrum (by Leolab)[]

Prologue: Casus Belli[]

Where the arid deserts surrounding the city-state of Ala Mhigo fade into the fertile plains extending around the military fortress of Limbo, a small tent rests in the buffer zone between a great alliance and a great nation. One side opens towards Rubrum, its military camped in neat, orderly rows across the grassland. The other shows the eastern reaches of Eorzea, its chaotic mess of tents showcasing the hodgepodge nature of its Adventurer forces.

On the Rubrum side sits a Dominion Warden, Shouhei Katsumoto, his cape draped over the chair as two soldiers, nearly identical in red-and-gold save for the skirt on the woman and pants on the man, stand at the ready behind him. The woman, sensing the mood, had her hand halfway to her sword, while the man has taken a half-step back.

A piece of paper lies on the table, flanked by candles. On the other side, in grim silence, glares an Au Ra man, Bayar Gharl, who towers even above the usual height for his race. The candlelight shines off his glasses as he glares at his counterparts, the gesture shared by the Viera woman behind him. The white-and-blue panoply of a Sage and her leporine features make the glare no less harsh, and the Hrothgar man swathed in black leather beside her sighs, hand ready to grab at the scythe on his back.

“What did you just say?” Bayar asks, slowly.

“I was talking about our Eidolons, Mr. Gharl,” Shouhei says, taken aback, “Upon my name, I guarantee they will not be used offensively, should the treaty be signed…”

“We have nothing more to speak of. The treaty will not be signed,” the man says, scaled horns glinting in the firelight as he stands, “Not with those who have given their souls over to another. Glinta, send a message to Idyllshire. We will need their Porxies before long.”

“Got it, boss,” the Viera woman says, putting a hand to her ear as she turns to fallow her rapidly-leaving leader. The Hrothgar man, regret softening his leonine features, gives the stunned Dominion representatives a solemn bow before departing as well. Shouhei turns to his guard, shock and worry painting his face.

“Come on, we have no time to waste,” he says, activating his COMM for his next words, “Negotiations have failed.”

Back at the Dominion camp, the woman at the negotiations hurries to her tent as the camp bustles and bristles around her, preparing for the battle to come. She steps inside and looks around, finally spotting a man sitting at the small writing table, a book open in front of him and a deployment list beside him. He looks through the list, occasionally pausing to write a name in the book. She puts a hand on his shoulder as he reaches the end, giving a small smile as she sees her own name bracketed with hearts. Her husband looks up, finally noticing that she had entered.

“Kotone!” he says, getting up and sweeping her in a tight hug, which she returns. They share a brief kiss before separating, still holding hands.

“Sorry, Haruto,” she says, “I don’t know why the talks failed. They were going so well, until Shouhei mentioned Eidolons.”

“It’s not your fault, you were just there as a guard. I’ve written to Shiori already, telling her we’ll be away for longer. You just need to sign it, too.”

“Sure. She’s at the age where her parents embarrass her, so don’t expect an ‘I miss you’ in response,” Kotone says as Haruto laughs. She reads it over, adding her name to the bottom as another soldier stomps outside their tent.

“Hey, the two Hiratas. Get out here, your units are lining up.”

On the other side, the Hrothgar who had been at the talks sits on a stone at the edge of camp, gazing at the buffer zone over the top of his book. He stares at the flat plain stretching before him, the arid soil slowly but surely turning fertile and temperate. The abandoned negotiating tent stands tall, one of the few breaks in the field alongside the few scattered rocks. He feels a sharp, insistent hunger, and reaches into his bag to toss a couple crystals behind him. A claw shoots out from his shadow, grabbing and absorbing the aether within.

He hears a pair of footsteps behind him, and puts his bookmark – made from hand-lacquered pressed flowers – to save his page before closing the tome. He turns to see Glinta pointing at him, saying something indistinct to Bayar before running off somewhere else. The Hrothgar waves the Au Ra over, who sits next to him and puts an arm around his shoulder.

“I’m sorry, Bazhen,” Bayar says, “I know how much you dislike wars, but…”

“Do you really think Glinta would allow peace once she heard about their ‘Eidolons’? Or anyone else here?”

“No, no they wouldn’t,” Bayar says. Bazhen sighs, and leans on his chest.

“Then war was inevitable. I’m running low on crystals for the Voidsent, anyway. Might as well feed it with a Primal.”

“That’s… one way to look at it.”

The pair stare out at the landscape in companionable silence for a few minutes, before it’s broken by a buzzing in their ear. They press their linkshells in unison, as Glinta’s slightly annoyed voice comes through.

“Oi, lovebirds, we’re forming up. Get over here.”

Glinta Oghu runs in the thick of the massed Adventurers, as part of the second line. The disorganized mass of bodies crashes into the solid ranks of the Rubrum Legions, conjured walls holding the advance back for a second. A hail of magic shatters them as she catches up to the front line, which breaks through. A quick wave of her hand activates her Nouliths. The four thin, gunlike devices float in formation around her as the Warrior next to her spins his axe through an unfortunate Legionnaire.

She spots a collection of Rubrum mages regrouping and twitches her fingers, the Nouliths dancing as a wave of aether shields her comrades. She points at the knot of foes, sending her tools off as their blasts of fire fizzle and fade on the barriers. Lasers dance from her Nouliths, creating arcane geometries in the ground as they slice through her foes. The magic circle erupts as Glinta turns to the next knot, summoning aether to her back to propel her forwards.

As she reaches the rallying Rubrumites, she channels magic through her fists, sending it through her foe with a quick pair of jabs followed by a haymaker. The arcane energy explodes outwards, staggering her foes as her Nouliths return to their usual formation. A spectral bird comes flying in from the side, trailing a wave of blue fire that finishes her foes off. She gives the dancer who had fired it off an appreciative wave. Eljn, a frequent partner of Glinta’s both on and off the field, waves back before dashing back into the fray.

Shaking off thoughts about how good the other woman looks in the wavy, red dancer’s outfit, Glinta turns back to her role, sending a quick healing spell towards a slightly singed paladin. A quick shield completes the treatment as he charges back into the battle. She spots another group of Rubrumites, seeing the telltale glow of healing magic. She points, and a cluster of lasers from her Nouliths bite into the healer’s chest. A couple more and one finally puts up a magic wall, shielding them as a Rubrum soldier charges low from behind it.

She quickly creates a series of shields around herself as her new foe charges in and leaps, sword in hand. One shield fades as a barrage of lightning shoots from the soldier’s fingers, and the other repels her follow-up strike. A swift kick to the stomach sends Glinta’s foe flying.

Haruto quickly launches a curative spell at Kotone, who sails through the air and into the melee. Drawing comfort that he can still remember his wife, he strengthens the defensive wall as it repels laser blasts from the strange rabbit-eared woman. Several of his compatriots ran to stand alongside him, creating a fairly long barrier. That the enemy had pushed far enough to reach a medical center so quickly was not anticipated, but he had to protect the wounded.

Another soldier leaps out from behind the defensive wall, seeking to take out the lone woman attacking them. She saw a little more success than Kotone, only to be cut short as a man in an armored coat leaps in with a sword. He says something to the long-eared woman, who nods and heads away. The new arrival advances, gunblade casually resting on his shoulder as the advance guard leaps in, drawing their swords. A broad slice followed by an explosion knocks away several, who are rapidly healed before a hidden contingent of mages launches a barrage of fireballs. These hit their mark, but the man walks forward unscathed.

Haruto heals the solders as they charge back in, only to be knocked back by an explosive ring. He redoubles his healing, the magic stitching his allies back together as they rise again and charge in a third time. Their blades finally hit their marks, piercing through and drawing blood. They rip out their swords, widening the wounds as the mages charge up their fireballs again. The man coughs blood, only to look up and grin fearlessly as he brings his blade near his head and pulls the trigger on the handle.

His wounds spurt fresh blood as a thin shell of magic forms around him. The mages launch their fireballs, and Haruto’s eyes widen as they do nothing. The man launches himself at the mage contingent, and Haruto tries to cast another wall to separate them. The man simply tears through the magic and his blade finds its way through the mage’s throat. A pair of spinning slices tear through the rest of the unprepared squad and the last remaining one collapses on the spot as a summoning glyph sprouts under him.

A massive stone golem erupts from the earth, uppercutting the man as it does so. He flies into the air and spins, righting himself as he descends.

“PRIMAL!” he shouts, far louder than a mostly dead man should, and aims his sword at the earthen titan’s head as he falls. Another fist slams into him, cutting him in half. Haruto stares in awe as the man’s body falls to the ground, body healing others on autopilot.

“By the Crystal, there’s an entire army of him,” one of the wounded says, and the entire medical unit pauses for a second, before an order comes through the COMM.

“Retreat! Those of you on the North Wing, head to Meroë. The rest, to Limbo. The Eidolons will cover the rear. Glory to the Dominion!”

Bazhen looks up at the towering stone figure in front of him, one of several that had manifested on the front lines. He had no Echo, but he also couldn’t feel anything tugging at his mind. These may not be true Primals, but they still required sacrifice. He claps Bayar on the shoulder, striding to stand in front of the healer. A Viera woman in a dancer’s attire stands next to him, glaring at the golem.

“Well, ain’t this a fine spot for a double date?” Glinta says, standing behind Eljn and next to Bayar.

“Amalia’s not here,” Eljn says.

“Oh? Are the three of you finally official? No more dancing around it?” Bayar teases.

“Fuck you.”

“Let’s just win,” Bazhen says, laughing and ripping a hole in space to teleport forwards. The golem’s fist slams into an arcane barrier as Bayar finishes his spell, and Bazhen slices with his scythe. A wave of magic extends from him to his allies, powering up the blasts of magic the two healers sent out and the burst of aether from Eljn’s dance. As the aether returns to him, he slides to the side while summoning his voidsent avatar.

The pale, clawed beast unleashes a blast of void energy, powering up his next strikes as Eljn throws and rebounds her chakrams at the beast’s joints, stalling its movement as he unleashes a massive spike of maroon crystals at it and fuses himself with his avatar. His clothing changes to a dark robe and his eyes grow bloodshot as the ravenous hunger for life fuels him, moving and striking faster than the eye could see. He rips another hole in space as he gets to the front of the golem, pulling him out of reach of its fists, and flings a dark orb from his palm. It strikes the golem, creating an eruption of shadowy blades from beneath it, tearing it apart.

Bazhen staggers as the voidsent leaves him, feeling satiated by feasting on the aether of such a massive beast. He’s vaguely aware of Glinta shouting something into her linkshell as his perception of the world returns to normal. Looking around him, he sees a host of cheering Adventurers and two separate bodies of fleeing Rubrum soldiers.

“The bulk of their forces are going to a large fortress,” Glinta says, “Bazhen, Bayar, go there. Eljn and I will pursue the other group to the town in the foothills. I’ll be in touch again once one of them falls.”

Ch. 1: Opening Blows[]

Ch 1 Start

The docks of Limsa Lominsa bustle far more than usual, a motley crew of Adventurers clamoring and crashing on the wood and stone. Three large ships await in the harbor, with a collection of smaller ones scattered about. A Roegadyn man lumbers near the largest of them, jovial smile on his face and a large hammer looped into a leather belt, separating simple cloth trousers and a shirt

“All right. All those boarding the Flagon over here. Captain Laughing Hammer, at your service,” says the appropriately-named man. A cheer runs through the crowd as a sizable chunk breaks off, carrying crates of food in their hands and their personal effects on their backs. Several have prominently-displayed horns and animal whistles, with a few seeming to have some form of device. A few bulkier shapes draped in cloth roll onto one of the other large ships, the Uncharted Course, which had a lot more space for that kind of cargo.

Laughing Hammer looks over the wide and varied peoples boarding his ship with a feeling of pride. He and his ships had been supporting Adventurers since even before the Calamity, long before the occupation had been popularized by one Warrior of Light. And now he was helping them do what they do best: get to a problem and wreck the shit out of it.

He spots a few stragglers, a group of four he’d know anywhere. He waves at them, and they wave back before making their way down to the boarding plank. There was much yet to be done before the ship departs.

Kotone Hirata leans against a wall in the town of Meroë, nestled near the base of a mountain. The foothills make for scant cover, however, and the invading Eorzeans push farther by the hour. She peaks through a small gap in the wall, spying the array of fires that betrayed a camp. A siege of this town wouldn’t be long.

The tapping of blood dripping off her sword interrupts her thoughts, the result of a rare successful ambush. A squad of ten against two Adventurers foraging, and their victory was still a close thing. She closes her eyes as she fishes a cloth out of her bag, suddenly realizing she could only remember four members of her squad. She opens her eyes again, wiping down her blade, and jumps as she sees a child in front of her, barely more than ten.

The brown-haired girl stares at Kotone, clutching an oversized stuffed bear. The girl wears the typical loose dress and vest of a Dominion child, and the woman sees a pair of thin chains around the neck of the bear. The odd pair sits in silence, until finally Kotone relents.

“What’s your name, kid?”


“Do you recognize my uniform, Saki?”

“Yes. You’re part of the Legion, right? Like my parents.”

“Oh? What’re their names?”

Kotone’s eyes widen as Saki takes a look at her bear, the telltale glint of Knowing Tags around its neck. The child reads out the pair of names on them in a halting, small voice.

“My mom was Kaede Kamiya, and my dad was Shou Kamiya. I was told they got killed by some Adventurers in the big battle.”

Kotone lays her sword down, getting to her feet and picking her way around the masonry towards the child, who continues to stare. She reaches out her hand and ruffles the kid’s hair, and Saki finally breaks into a small, nostalgic smile, as if remembering the vestiges of something.

“Well, Saki, some Adventurers were trying to attack us here, too. My squad and I beat them back, so you can rest assured. You won’t be in danger while we’re around.”


“What say we get you something to warm up with? I’ll take you to meet the rest of my squad.”

“Really? Thank you!”

Kotone holds out her hand, and the child grasps it in her own. The pair make their way back to the inner parts of the city, towards the sounds of civilization.

Outside the fortress known as Limbo, a Hrothgar glad in black leathers leans against one of the trees in the sparse outskirts of a forest west of the Adventurers’ camp. The rasp of a whetstone on his scythe permeates the small clearing, showing that Bazhen is truly alone. Bayar was one of those coordinating the siege, and the origin of Scholars as Nymean tacticians meant his discipline was suited to the role.

Bazhen, however, was a Reaper. Not only did he have a contract with a Voidsent, but the art originated with Garlean assassins. Despite a growing number of Adventurers learning its ways, the discipline was still looked upon with fear and suspicion. Which suited him just fine; solitude allowed more time for his hobbies. Satisfied with the blade’s edge, he kneels down and focuses on a small red flower in the field in front of him. He hadn’t seen its like in Eorzea, so he grips its stem carefully in one hand while the scythe in the other separates it from the ground.

He feels his contracted Voidsent’s curiosity as he examines the flower, carefully putting it between the pages of a blank tome. It partially manifests, a hooded eyeless face peeking over his shoulder, on which rests one of its blood-red claws. It opens its fanged maw for a second, as if confirming something, before vanishing. As it does, Bazhen’s ears perk up, hearing the sounds of someone trying to travel stealthily and failing.

He drops his tome and grabs his scythe, spinning in the direction of the sound and ripping a hole through space to leap towards it. He lands in sight of what appears to be a chocobo, though it was subtly different from the varieties used in Eorzea, ridden by a woman wearing the black, gold, and red outfit of a Dominion Warden. She tries to flee, so he launches a bolt of dark magic at the chocobo.

The yellow bird collapses, throwing its rider to the ground and knocking her unconscious. Bazhen binds her before rifling through her saddlebags, seeing information. He finds a few scrolls, and a small book. He flips through it as he returns to retrieve his flower, waiting until his captive rouses. A few minutes later, she does, and he pulls her to her feet as she glares.

“You are?” he asks.

“Miyu Aoyama. Logistics officer assigned to Limbo.”

“Good. Walk.”

She does as bidden, walking in front of him and following his instructions.

“Where were you going?”

“You think you’re going to get anything else out of me?”

“I may not. Others, however…”

“Hah. I’ll tell it to them, if they can.”

“Very well, then. I do hope you’ll indulge one question, though. It’s about that book in your saddlebag. Full of names.”

“What about it?”

“I’ve seen it on other soldiers of your country. What purpose does it serve?”

“Huh? We make a list of people we’re close to who are being sent out on a mission.”

“But why?”

“If we don’t recognize a name when we come back.”

“How could you not recognize the name of a close friend or partner?”

“If they’re dead, of course.”


“What do you mean ‘what?’ Isn’t this the most basic of things, that the Crystal erases your memories of the dead?”

“You… your people can’t remember the dead?”

“No. Yours can?”


“What a horrifying life you must lead…” the two say in unison as the sparse forest thins out to the plains where the Adventurers have made their camp. Bazhen gives a wave to the camp guards, who return his greeting with a nod. He gives Miyu a rough shove forwards, pushing her in their care. Bayar and the rest of the planning contingent needs to be made aware of what he learned.

Farther north, in the outskirts of Meroë, several Adventurers surround a map in a tent, scribbling notes and talking on their linkshells. Glinta raps twice on the table, getting everyone’s attention before speaking.

“We’ve lost contact with several Adventurers. They’d all been working alone or in simple pairs. It’s probably a good idea if we start moving in Light Parties at a minimum when we go scouting or foraging.”

“We probably shouldn’t go larger than that,” one of the others says, “More than four can get us noticed by people who know the land well.”

“Right, good call. We agreed?”

At the room’s assent, everyone rushes back to their linkshells to inform the Adventurers participating in the siege about their new strategy. A few more scouting notes scribbled on the map later, and a Hyur woman in the yellow garb of an Ala Mhigan monk strides in, looking around until Glinta spots her.

“Amalia! What’s up?”

“Some Sharyalan blokes turned up, figured someone here would know what to do with them.”

The entire room turns to look at Glinta, the only Adventurer in the command center who was a Sage, a very Sharyalan discipline. She sighs, taking a set of linkpearls out of her long rabbit-like ears and setting them down on the table before following one of her girlfriends out the tent.

“Any news besides the assholes?”

“One of our scouts found a cave. They think it connects to the one that comes out behind the city.”

“Good. I’ll get those of us with mining experience to investigate,” Glinta says as they near a small group, huddled separately from the rest. They were in white robes similar to hers, though clearly not tailored to combat. They gaze around them with an air of smug superiority, which turns to barely-disguised hostility as their gaze falls upon Glinta.

“I don’t think they like you.”

“No shit they don’t. They hate it when Sharyalan disciplines are used by outsiders like me. I hear they tried to kill someone in Ishgard over Astromancy, though a certain Warrior of Light humiliated them.”

“They won’t…”

“No. They’ve come to recognize the potential of Adventurers like us. Even if they hate it.”

“Indeed,” the lead Sharyalan delegate says, “though I believe it must be said, we will not participate in the fighting.”

“No, your role comes afterwards,” Glinta says, taking on the more clinical tone she uses as a doctor, “An Aetheryte in the town. The Adventurer’s Guild will provide you with materials and funding.”

“Very well. We do owe you,” the leader says, grudgingly, “But are you sure this place will fall first?”

“Quite. The other’s a strongly defended fortress, but if we cut off potential for a pincer attack here it should fall quickly.”

“So we needs must work fast. Call us when we are needed. We will be in our tents until then,” the leader says, offering his hand. A surprised Glinta shakes it, and the group walks towards their lodgings as promised.

“That went better than expected,” Amalia says, stretching as the pair turns to look at the camp, taking in the roiling mass of bodies.

“It did, yeah. What say we find Eljn and get dinner? I’ll probably be a little late tonight, so you two don’t have to stay up for me.”

“Sure. I’ll call her on our linkshell,” Amalia says, putting a pearl into her ear.

A few days later, far away from the fighting, a group of four students lounges near the fountain in front of Akademeia. At their center is a teenage girl wearing the standard Akademeia uniform: black shirt with gold pauldrons over a red skirt that barely made it halfway to her knees, and shin-length black boots. A light blue mantle draped over her back and tied in front shows that she is a proud member of the elite Class First.

“I heard your parents are on the front lines, Shiori,” the girl next to her, Shinobu Tomioka, asks. She is dressed identically, save for the purple mantle showing she belongs to the magic-focused Class Third.

“Yeah. They sent a joint letter at the start of the fighting,” she replies, “Mom’s in Meroë now, and dad’s in Limbo.”

“Your dad is Haruto, right? He was one of the few boys who graduated from my class, so I hear a lot about him from our instructors,” the other girl, Miyabi Koizumi, says. She wears the orange mantle of Class Fourth, one of the healing-focused classes.

“How are they doing? And how’s the war going? Bloody COs won’t tell us anything,” the lone boy of the group, Jirou Shinkawa asks. Rather than the skirt of the girls, his uniform features pants, and he wears the yellow-green mantle of Class Fifth, the less elite all-rounders. He snakes a jealous hand around Miyabi’s waist as Shiori frowns, gathering her thoughts and sifting through what she’s allowed to talk about.

“Well, dad’s group’s doing fine. Mom won’t tell me much, but dad’s worried about her. Which should tell us what we need to know.”

The other three think for a second, and nod as they put the pieces together. The conversation lulls for a few seconds before Shinobu leans in with a conspiratorial whisper.

“Say, my brother’s in Class Ninth.”

“Those buffoons?” Jirou snorts.

“I’m not sure they’re as silly as they pretend,” Shiori says, “I’ve known Shinobu and her brother for a while. He’s about as smart as me.”

“Yeah, anyway. He says that something big’s happening in the airship hanger today.”

“There’s a back way in. I don’t think any of the instructors know about it,” Miyabi says, pouting as everyone gives her incredulous looks, “What, I like airships, okay?”

Meanwhile, north of Meroë, within a network of caves and tunnels, an Adventurer swings his pickaxe towards the wall. He’d only taken up mining as a hobby, but the needs of the campaign were paramount. He sighs as he brings the tool down again, pausing as he hears a change in how the wall sounds. His face lights up as he swings with renewed vigor, eventually rewarded with the distinct feel of breaking a hole through the rock. He taps it wider, feeling and smelling the flow of fresh air and hearing a low growl.

The thrill of discovery running through his veins, he sets aside his pickaxe and picks up the staff identifying him as a White Mage. He casts Glare III through the opening, sending several balls of light streaking through it and towards whatever was lurking on the other side. As the balls of light pass through, they illuminate a wide, open cavern with a waterfall on the far end.

The spell strikes a large beast, similar to an Eorzean Behemoth, though with different coloration. The Adventurer launches several more spells at his foe, killing it as it spins and launches itself towards the opening. Grinning widely, he rushes off to tell everyone else the good news.

Back in Akademeia, Shiori and her friends crouch in one of the upper balconies of the airship hangar. The group peers over the railing, spotting a bustle of activity down below. True to Shinobu’s word, there are several extra airships compared to the usual one or two. A large contingent of the Diminion Legion marches in, boots shaking the ground. There was even a few cadets in there, mostly wearing the brown mantles of Class Ninth.

One of them, who Shiori recognizes as Shiobu’s brother, looks up towards the balcony where the group is hiding and gives a wave, easily lost in the bustle on the ground but quite visible to those watching. Shiori gives a wry smile and returns the gesture as her friend glares. Clearly the ‘intel’ was an excuse to get his friends to send him off. The legions vanish into the hulls of the airships, which rapidly take off and head west towards the enemy.

In the halls of the fortress of Limbo, Haruto sits on a bench outside the infirmary. Another day of treating the wounded over, he flips through his book of names, pausing to stare at Kotone’s whenever it pops up. He leans back in his chair and sighs, noticing his friend walking towards him.

“Hey Kenzo,” he says.

“Sup Haruto,” his friend says, plopping down next to him and giving a glance at the book, “Feeling lost without your wife around?”


“Oh, wait, hold up. If you’re admitting it, something’s wrong.”

“Kotone’s part of the defense at Meroë.”

“It’ll be fine, Haruto. She’ll hold them off. She was part of Class First back in Akademeia, right?” In lieu of a response, Haruto looks at the infirmary he had just exited. Representatives of all of Akademeia’s classes were inside, wounded without care. “Okay, yeah, the enemy’s pretty tough, but…”

“You weren’t at the big clash, Kenzo. It took twenty of us to kill one of them. The tiniest mistake, even from someone else, and Kotone’s dead. We’ve known each other since we were children, and suddenly I won’t remember her, or anything we did together. Shiori won’t remember her mother at all. I joined Class Fourth to stop her from dying, but now I’m here and she’s way over there.”

“Well, the answer to that’s pretty simple. I’m on the front lines. So are the people in the infirmary. Keep us healthy, and we can break through and get you to her,” Kenzo says, tapping his fist against his friend’s chest, “Buck up, man. If you need to keep your mind off it, we’ve got supplies what need unloading.”

“Yeah… Yeah, you’re right! Thanks, man,” Haruto says, getting to his feet, “So where’s the airship come in?”

North of Meroë, Glinta crouches in a cave mouth, hand on the linkpearl in her ears. Upon receiving confirmation that the Adventurers south of the city have begun an assault, she turns to her compatriots.

“All right guys. This is it. Remember to only target members of the Legion, and accept surrenders. Let’s go. Stay quiet util you can see the rivets in the door. For those we can yet save.”

The force makes its way down quietly. Everyone in it, from the White and Black Mages to the Gunbreakers to the Machinists and even Glinta herself, had one thing in common: all had worked with and picked up tricks from Doman shinobi. Few more so than the majority of the contingent, who had actual training as Ninja. A few short minutes later, and the stealth force has reached the end of the path, and Meroë’s barely defended rear walls.

The din of the diversionary forces out front drowns out the hum and roar of magic as the Black Mages charge and unleash a wave of fire, heating the metal door until it glows. They fall back as the Machinists walk forwards, grabbing and aiming their multitools. One of them holds up his hand, counting down from three, and when he reaches zero a massive wave of drills slam into the glowing metal door, tearing it apart.

The group starts to get loud, charging in and attacking the unprepared defenders. They turn and attempt to fight, but the overwhelming surprise, and the Machinist’s flamethrowers, seems to have shattered their morale. Glinta flits across the battlefield, healing and defending her allies as needed but mostly just firing lasers from her Nouliths at stragglers. She hears the crash of the south gate falling as she spots a familiar-looking Dominion legionnaire. She fires a cluster of lasers, which Kotone barely blocks with her sword before another Dominion man gets between them and falls, glyph forming on the ground below.

“They’re summoning!” she yells, “Countermeasures!”

One of the Black Mages sends a burst of dark magic at a nearby house, toppling the roof towards the street. The summoning circle fades when it crashes, as the Eidolon no longer has space to materialize. This sight finally broke the Dominion’s legions, as she hears cries to retreat from across the field. They turn and run, streaming towards the eastern gate.

Saki Kamiya stands on the outskirts of town, looking eastwards. The Adventurers had taken the town, and unlike what the Legions had told her were sparing anyone who surrendered. She clutches her stuffed bear as the armies of the Dominion, sworn to protect her, flee. As the mass of people fades over the horizon, the clouds of dust their passing kicks up rises above it.

The girl touches the Knowing Tags of the people she was told were her parents, wrapped around her bear’s neck. She closes her eyes, remembering the soldier she had spoken to barely a week ago. She glares at the retreating army, realizing that this meant the woman who had promised to defend her town to the last was still alive.


Ch. 2: Levinwar[]

Ch 2 Start

Sirens blare within the fortress of Limbo as the Dominon Legion inside roils and rushes through the building. Meroë had fallen. Haruto Hirata could still remember his wife for the moment, but this is a cold comfort as he throws everything into his bag. With the Adventurer line now focused on a single point, command has given up on holding Limbo.

“Come on, hurry!” one of the Dominion’s Wardens, Shouhei Katsumoto, shouts at him, “Airship’s going to Mi Go.”

“Not Togoreth?” Haruto asks, closing his bag and tossing it over his shoulder.

“No, there’s no guarantee we’ll make it there in an orderly fashion. Mi Go is far behind the enemy advance,” the other man says, “Command wants us to head there, regroup over a couple days, and head to Togoreth.”

The entire fortress rocks with a bang, the lights flickering as Shouhei, Haruto, and the other stragglers stumble. Something had just hit the gates with massive force, and if reports from Meroë were to be believed more would follow. The Legionnaires evacuate with renewed urgency, and as soon as the last boards the ships they cast off.

The fortress shudders again as Haruto’s ship leaves, and Shouhei is thrown off the transport. He rolls on the docks, and Haruto leans over the railing, holding his hand out. The Warden looks and runs, trying desperately to make the jump. Another slam rocks the fortress and he stumbles, but continues to sprint to try and escape the oncoming Eorzeans.

Another shudder hits as he leaps, throwing his footing off. He falls, the look of betrayed surprise burning into Haruto’s face until the man hits the ground. He sighs, withdrawing his hand and straightening. Whoever the man was, by his armor he was a Warden. A decently high ranking officer. In that case, it was probably for the best that the soldier died, rather than give Dominion secrets to the Adventurers.

As the airships leave, a glance shows him what was shaking the fortress. A line of what looked like Imperial magitek soldiers, slamming their piledrivers against the door in unison. The metal is already twisted and buckled, and one last strike collapses it. The Adventurers stream in with a cheer, a few pointing at the fleeing airships as they rush in to neutralize anyone remaining.

Haruto turns and sits against a wall, opening his small book of names and looking through them one by one. He recognized almost all of them, thankfully still Kotone’s, though his hand stopped at one he didn’t.

Shouhei Katsumoto, classmate of Kotone’s. Warden. Best Man.

In the city of Meroë, Glinta presses a small linkpearl in the base of her long, rabbitlike ears and nods. She turns and looks at the massive blue crystal floating in a town square, which a local has told her was known as Lupinus Park. The device had been set up far quicker than she had thought possible. She extends her hand, a glowing light connecting her and it as she attunes to the Aetheryte.

The process completes in a few seconds, and she begins the simple spell to transport herself across the Aetherial Sea. Her body discorporates, turning into pure aether and flowing along the very blood of the world itself. She passes several bright beacons, flowing along the current to the specific one she had picked out.

She turns corporeal once again in a large stone roundabout, a local band blasting bagpipe music into her ears as she looks around the bustling hub of Idyllshire, clear across the continent. She makes her way to the local branch of the House of Splendors, giving her name as part of the Rubrum contingent. They quickly get what she was here for, and a quick wave of her hand sees her Nouliths wind into the ropes holding crates of food, while she picks up a fifth herself.

A quick repeat of the process that got her here takes her back to Meroë, where she sets down the goods. The Nouliths extricate themselves from their cargo and return to her back as she turns to the Sharyalan delegation. The white-robed group looked insufferably smug, and while Glinta wanted nothing more than to punch the smirks off their faces she had to admit they’d done a fine job.

“It was a little more difficult finding this beacon than others,” she says to them, “But I suspect that’s got more to do with Rubrum than your work. Limbo’s fallen, by the way, and we’re like to take the next town over. Iscah, I believe it’s called.”

“I’ll take that as ‘nice job, thank you,’” the lead Sharyalan says, extending his hand. Glinta shakes it as he continues, “I can’t quite say I’m fully on board with the violence and brutality you lot revel in. But I was always an ardent listener to Louisoix. You’ve convinced me that we can save lives.”

“Uh… sure?” Glinta says, tilting her head in confusion. She couldn’t quite tell if the man was being sarcastic or not.

A young girl loiters in an alleyway, clutching an oversized bear with Knowing Tags wrapped around its neck. Saki was used to going under the radar; when Meroë was controlled by Rubrum, a quiet child would get a warm smile and sent on their way. The Adventurers seemed to be similar, though if the mountain of candies at her home was anything to go by they were more generous.

They had also killed her parents. Not that she remembered anything about them, but the nice Dominion man reminded her of that and that they could make other kids like her be… like her. Orphans was the correct word, but she didn’t quite have the schooling to understand that. The Legion wouldn’t help; Kotone and her squad had abandoned them.

So Saki just had to do what a child could. Stick around, look cute, and listen. Remember, but don’t write. That’s what the nice man had told her. If something happened and she had notes, her friends would forget her. So she remembered, very clearly, when the scary men in white robes told the bunny woman in different white robes to ‘not let these savages near,’ since breaking the crystal thingie would be bad.

The bunny woman looked annoyed, but agreed. It’s like the nice man had told Saki; when the important people tell you to do things, you do them. So, even if the bunny woman had given her candy, if the scary men say to kill Saki, she would. Keeping these in mind, the young girl turns and walks down the alleyway. Not quite fast enough to be hurried, but not slow enough that someone would think she’s lost.

Just like the nice man had told her.

Bazhen barrels through the town of Iscah on his Falcon, making a beeline for the large fortress in the distance. The citizens stayed in their homes, while other Adventurers lined the streets. The town was taken with minimal resistance when the Rubrum army, rather than trying to put up even a token defense, decided instead to bypass the town on the way to Togoreth.

Miyu had told them that might be the case; the former Warden was an Iscah native, and the town was always the first to be abandoned if Limbo or, less likely, Togoreth falls. The woman had killed herself after a rather lengthy interrogation session, casting an ice spell to lodge a shard directly in her own chest when left in her cell. While likely a good delaying tactic against Rubrumites and their usual enemies, the seemingly foreign ability of Bazhen and his cohorts to remember the dead made it futile.

He's pulled out of his reverie as he feels a tug on his ear. A brief glance shows the greenish form of Bayar’s fairy companion, as essential part of his abilities as a Scholar as Bazhen’s voidsent is to his as a Reaper. He slows his vehicle, dropping back to meet his husband at a speed where they could actually speak.

“Glinta just called. They got an Aetheryte set up in Meroë. One more to come in Limbo, then another here.”

“Good. That’ll make resupply easier.”

“You think Togoreth will take that long?”

“You think it won’t?”

“If we focus on taking and holding it, yes. But that’s not the only option we have.”

“You don’t mean destroying it, right?” Bazhen asks as they ride through the other gate of Iscah.

Bayar simply looks at him with a grim expression.

“Right?” Bazhen asks again.

“Look, from what Miyu told us, that fortress is a labyrinth filled with traps. Maybe if we were intimately familiar with Dominion technology from years of war and spycraft we could turn it to serve us, but all it takes is one or two things we miss. I’d rather take it myself, but we need to keep options open and keep moving.”

“The average Adventurer isn’t really the ‘sit and wait at a siege’ type, true. And if we slow down too much, we might not get going again. So what’s the plan here?”

In lieu of a response, Bayar holds up a bookmark. Made of a very special pressed flower, presented to him by Bazhen on their wedding day. To the unending teasing of Glinta, naturally. Bayar focuses on it, and it changes color.

“Oh. That. I suppose we have enough people for it, but…”

“It’s why this isn’t our first option. Let’s hope we don’t have to use it.”

Bazhen gives a nod and holds his fist out. Bayar taps it with his own, and they speed off towards the front.

Aldwyn Lancebane rests his axe on his shoulder as he scans the horizon. The Flagon had made a temporary stop to fish in some shallows, so a large contingent of Adventurers lean back with fishing lines while others had leapt into the waters with spears. Aldwyn, only really aware of how to swing his axe, was there on guard lookout. He spots a shadow decently far above; an airship, and not and Eorzean one he knew of. He taps the Linkpearl in his ear, wanting to make sure.

“Hey, Aurifort, any of us got a bigass airship in the sky?”

“No,” came the surly Elezen’s response.

“It’s Rubrum’s, then,” he says, tapping a device on his belt, “I’ll see you up there!”

Aldwyn grins and leaps off the side of the boat as his manacutter slices next to it, pulling up into the sky as some of his compatriots watch. He climbs rapidly, and is spotted by the airship. Already confused and lost, the Legionnaires within rush onto the deck, firing bolts of magic from their autoturrets. Aldwyn weaves in and out of the fire as he climbs over the deck, slamming the auto-return engage on before unbuckling his belt and letting himself drop onto the deck.

He roars as he channels his Inner Beast, the rage enhancing his swings as he cleaves through the recovering Dominion soldiers. He directs his aether to deflect and diminish the onslaught as the entire crew of the airship turns their blades and magic on him.

Aurifort shakes his head as his friend swings his axe with wild abandon, shuddering the airship as he approaches. His mount of choice, a T-Rex he had gotten from an expedition, was a tad slower than a manacutter, but he was also a Dragoon. He gets in position, slightly lower than the airship, and balances on the saddle. He flexes his legs and leaps, spear pointed forward.

The T-Rex drops from the sudden force, looking at its rider with an expression of sadness and betrayal before it remembers it can fly. As it hovers back to the ship, Aurifort’s lance pierces through a propeller. A tinge of aether makes the device explode, launching him higher. His lance glows red as he targets what appears to be the flotation device, a glyph appearing as he dives towards it. Another explosion rocks the ship, throwing what few Dominion soldiers remain to the ground.

Aldwyn continues to swing his axe without mercy, slashing through all opposition until he reaches the airship’s command room. He slams his axe into the floor, the sheer force causing the steel to rupture and the delicate equipment inside to explode. He runs out as explosions continue to rock the ship, looking for his friend.

“Aurifort! We gotta bail!”

“Way ahead of you,” the Dragoon says, using one of his signature jumps to zoom down towards the ocean surface. Aldwyn leaps off as the vessel explodes behind him, tucking into a spin as he holds his axe in two hands.

“CANNONBALL!” he yells, spinning rapidly as he slams into the ocean axe-first, sending up a massive spray of water around him. His feet touch the bottom as he crouches and pushes, rocketing right back to the surface.

“Stop scaring the fish, assholes!” one of the Adventurers yells as a dingy rows out from the Flagon to pick the pair up. Aurifort simply lifts his spear in response, displaying a neat row of fish skewered upon it.

That night, far to the northwest, Kotone sits in Togoreth Stronghold, observing the area on the walls. She sighs, seeing that the coast was clear for now. She reaches for her new sword, but drops her hand slightly lower to draw the knife made from her old one. The metal had been nearly destroyed in Meroë when she used it to defend against an enemy attack. It was the third time she had met the rabbit-eared woman who had been across from her in the negotiating table, and the second time the same woman had tried to kill her.

She stows the blade and closes her eyes, thinking back to the report she had heard earlier. The airship carrying Haruto would reach Mi Go within the day, and soon he would be here with her again. Something in her feels that the next encounter she has with the rabbit woman would be her last, whether she won that one or lost.

Or she might not even get to that. She was one of the better remaining fighters, which all but guaranteed her a place on the front line. She gives a bitter smile as she recalls the vicious cycle: desperately fighting and training for a difficult mission, succeeding and surviving, and then having to do so again because she was now the better choice for a yet harder assignment. All to come back home to her husband and child, to not be forgotten until she was old, grey, and forgetting herself.

She peers out again in the dark, and her breath catches as she sees a small fire materialize from the woods near the stronghold’s edge. Her eyes grow wide with terror as one fire becomes two, then four, then twelve, then a countless sea of flickering torches as the Adventurers materialize out of the woods. She grabs the alarm horn next to her and blows. The fortress needed to know that the enemy was at the gates.

The siege of Togoreth had begun.

Across the sea that separates Eorzea from Rubrum, Shuu Morishita carefully controls his airship as he brings it around to land in the desert. Out of the large fleet that had set out, surprisingly only one vessel was lost. A navigation malfunction had sent it far south, and there had been no contact since. The ship touches down on the sand, smooth as if it were on silk. Shuu grabs the microphone and shouts into it.

“Oi, you dumb lugs, we’re here. Get out.”

As the ship shakes from the boots of the soldiers running to and fro, Shuu steps out onto the deck, giving a look around. Canyons behind him, bits and pieces of greenery and rock in front of him. And, rising on a small incline, a city of stained marble and tarnished brass. The massive mercantile hub known as Ul’dah, ripe for the taking.

He could see tents set up outside the city walls, which now buzz with action. The captain’s lip curls in anticipation; the siege would not be easy for its inhabitants, especially not with a few agents from Intel already within the city. With luck, there wouldn’t even be much fighting. But the pilot wasn’t one to count on luck.

Not when the Adventurers who had stolen much of his memories lay before him.

The sound of metal scraping on wood echoes through an Ul’dahn infirmary as a large Sea Wolf puts the finishing touches on a mask. The reddish wood and design brought an Ascian to mind, causing one of the other three men in the room to frown.

“Look, Applebee’s, I know you like this whole ‘masked heel’ thing, but…”

“What? This is an Ascian mask. One that’s dead, Gator. Surely people can’t take this worse than they did Leviathan?”

“Not a high bar, that,” the lone elezen says.

“Shut up, Arthur.”

“It’s Arthuroix.”

“Yeah, that’s what he said, Arthur,” Gator says with a fairly nasty smile.

“Guys, we literally just got saved from Ifrit’s tempering,” the last man, a Hyur, says, “Can we not?”

“Ah, it’s fine, Gawain. Just a bit o’ ribbin’ between friends,” Gator says, giving his friend a hearty slap on the back. The Ala Mhigan mage winces, still not fully well, and turns to look as he hears the thudding of boots as someone rushes up to them.

“Hey guys, sorry to ask this of you so soon,” a Lalafell, Momodi Modi, says as she enters, “But the city’s kind of under siege, and we need all the hands we can get.”

“Sure!” Abylbhar says, as Gator and Arthuroix both facepalm.

“Well, I guess it’ll raise your profile if you want to get into the Bloodsands. Come on, let’s go,” Gator says, grabbing a focus. Arthur and Gawain strap on their swords, while Abylbhar simply cracks his knuckles and stows the mask he had been carving. The four make their way out, with the occasional grab on the shoulder ensuring that Gawain didn’t get lost.

Ch. 3: To Rend the Sky[]

Ch 3 Start

A few days later, Haruto leans against an airship in Mi Go, staring at the infirmary. All this time at a seaside town and the only memories he had was healing people in a military hospital. He looks up at the ship, which would bear him to Togoreth to meet up with Kotone. Both of them had been on the front lines since the start of the war, so Akademeia wanted them back for planning. Their perspective was valuable.

He still worries; his memories of Kotone are intact, meaning she still lives. But beyond that, whether she was hale, safe, sick, or captured, he doesn’t know. He sighs and stretches, supposing he would find out in a few hours either way. He hears some boisterous voices nearing the ship, and opens his eyes to see a group of four Legionnaires heading his way. One spots him, and they walk over.

“Hey, it’s the healing bro!” the man says, sticking out his hand. Haruto takes it, and the soldier pulls him to his feet into a hug.

“Um… hi?”

“Oh, right,” the man says, releasing him, “Takeo Yuan. You saved my life a few days ago. Thank you.”

“Oh, no problem. I’ve just happened to be good at healing for a bit,” Haruto says, blushing slightly.

“Yeah. Sorry, though,” Takeo says, holding up a small scroll, “Looks like I’m going to waste that gift.”

Haruto’s eyes widen, recognizing authorization to use a summoning contract. He straightens into a Dominion salute; he was looking at a soon-to-be hero.

“You won’t be wasting a thing. You will do yourself and your family the highest honor, and I myself am honored to have treated you,” he says, voice trembling with awe. Had it not been for his talent with defensive magics, he might be in the man’s place. He counts himself lucky, of course – it means he’s more likely to be able to spend time with his wife and daughter. But those who make such sacrifices for Rubrum are to be revered.

“Of course,” Takeo says, smile suddenly showing an edge, “An honor. Well, Sorcery’s furnished me with a new version of Bahamut, so we’ll be clearing out these Eorzeans soon. See you on the ship.” The man walks away stiffly as Haruto looks at him, slightly confused by the reaction. He puts it out of his mind as he opens the book of names he carries, adding Takeo’s.

Far from Mi Go lies Ul’dah, surrounded by far more sand and far less water. A group of four sneak outside it, reconnoitering the enemy forces. These seemed more vicious and willing to use their not-quite-Primals than reports from the other front showed. With this in mind, the unarmed Abylbhar leads the way, followed by the lithe Arthuroix. Gawain and Gator brought up the rear, wary of an ambush.

They crouch as they hear a group of Rubrum solders talking. Abylbhar creeps against the large rock separating them, moving around it as Arthuroix sticks on his tail. Abylbhar takes out a pen and ink, taking notes on their conversation.

“These bloody Eorzeans are too strong for us on our own,” one of them says, spitting on the desert soil.

“Good thing we got the Eidolons, eh? Captain Shuu did us good getting blanket permission.”

“Just need to get inside before we all die. Captain Shuu says he has a lead on – who’s there?” the soldier asks, as Gawain shifts and sends some rocks tumbling down.

“Bloody oaf,” Arthuroix mutters as the group moves out of cover, only for one of the two to collapse, dead, as a glyph expands beneath his body. A massive, green-skinned humanoid replaces him, hoofed feet digging into the earth as the flames on his arms and head blaze. Its horns frame its face, which grins in a very familiar yet very different way.

“Get them, Ifrit!” the remaining soldier yells, falling back to a safe distance. The four Adventurers freeze upon hearing its name, memories of a cramped cave and the slow, inexorable twisting of their minds intruding on their will to fight.

“AAAAGH! FUCK YOU! NOT THIS TIME!” Arthuroix screams, charging forward with a primal rage. He swings his sword a couple times, feinting under a punch from the beast as he unleashes a wave of frost. The beast roars as his companions shake off their fear, charging in to support their friend.

Ever so slightly too late, as the enraged Eidolon slams an orb of fire into Arthuroix. The elezen yells for a second, before falling silent and charred. The Ifrit turns to launch a similar attack at Gator and Gawain, before a shout distracts it.

“Over here you godsdamned piece of shit!” Abylbhar snarls, throwing Gator a glance. The glow of magic surrounds the two Roegadyn, as the masked fighter’s form glows before taking on the appearance of a massive gorilla. It catches the fiery giant’s punch as Gawain dashes forward, slicing at its knees. The Ifrit flounders, taking a return punch from Abylbhar. Another glowing slice from Gawain drives it to the ground, where an overhead slam from the gorilla finishes it off.

The three remaining Adventurers look around, seeing that the other soldier had escaped in the confusion. Abylbhar returns to normal, picking up the dead body of their friend before making their way back to the city. The Rubrumite leader had some plan in mind to get in, and those coordinating the Adventurers ought to know.

Later that day, Haruto watches the sun set from within the airship. The four that he had talked to earlier were on the same transport, sitting nearby, but were silent. He turns his gaze south, towards the front of the ship, and sighs in relief as Togoreth Stronghold comes into view.

“Enemies to starboard! All hands man the turrets! Man the – argh!”

The mood within the hold grows deathly still at the announcement, which is quickly followed by an explosion that rocks the ship. Haruto looks out the window, seeing a large contingent of Adventurers on the hill separating him from Togoreth. A group with staves rapidly cast magic, creating a variety of fiery explosions on the deck. One fires a bow, a single arrow shattering and growing into a rain of spears that pierces the hull. Those with staves cast another spell, and several dozen blades of fire erupt from within the airship, shattering it.

The massive explosion throws Haruto in the air, alongside a clump of corpses that would be unrecognizable even if he did remember them. A small scroll slips through a corpse’s hand, stained with blood. Haruto recognizes it as a summoning contract, which would allow him to manifest an Eidolon in exchange for his life.

As his ascent slows, he looks towards Togoreth. He thinks he sees Kotone on the battlements, but that shouldn’t be right. She was on the morning shift. Regardless, Haruto closes his eyes, reaching for the scroll. He holds it and activates it, seeing the summoning gate of a Bahamut expand below him.

He barely holds onto his consciousness, keeping Kotone and Shiori in mind, as the circle shudders and grows larger, encompassing the entire wreckage of the airship. His soul is blown apart, summoning an Eidolon far more powerful than normal.

In the place of the destroyed vehicle rises a massive dragon, shining vermillion crystals piercing its flesh. Its arms and back were missing, and instead the masses of crystals support an intricate bronze clockwork structure. Several massive pillars connected by teeth of fire make a mockery of wings, while a halo of coppery gears rotates and spins slowly above the monstrosity’s head.

It was not quite a Verboten Eidolon, but it was also clearly more than a simple Bahamut.

For a moment, both sides are stunned as the bronze, crimson, and black dragon hovers in the sky. Its shimmering metallic maw cracks open, revealing rows of sharp, reddish crystal teeth, and it roars. The sound jolts the Adventurers to their senses, and a Hrothgar Reaper amongst them notices a buildup in Aether.

“INCOMING!” Bazhen yells, diving out of the way as a swathe of jagged, crackling ruby light lances out from the dragon’s maw, taking out a chunk of the Adventurers and turning the ground upon which they stand to the same reddish crystals that adorned their foe. The dragon swoops in, body wreathed in fire and light as several Adventurers scatter. Bazhen lashes out with his scythe, scoring a hit and drawing the creature’s attention.

It swipes at him, but finds its claws blocked by a nondescript Paladin. A Sage in dark robes and armor covering his entire body gestures, and his Nouliths radiate shielding aether as the aura surrounding the dragon bursts, fire and searing light striking all on the field.

Shards of ice chase the beast as it passes, the group’s Black Mages keeping up the assault as waves of soothing magic pulse from the group’s healers, knitting wounds and restoring stamina. The beast spins as the Adventurers continue to pelt it with magic, the dragon placing itself between the fortress and its attackers. It spreads its wings wide, which crackle with reddish energy that appears to push away the clouds themselves.

The Adventurers gather behind the normal-looking Paladin, who plants himself in the ground, surrounding his allies in a protective cone of aether, looking almost like wings. The Sage in black and Bayar both place a hand on his shoulder, channeling their magics to improve his own. The shielding wings grow brighter and larger as the dragon finishes charging.

The destructive wave crashes against the immovable wings, the two energies warring against each other. The Paladin’s shield trembles as the sheer force pushes him away, even with two sturdy companions steadying his back. He flips his sword around, planting it in the ground as he yells in defiance. The two hands on his shoulder tighten, their owners channeling and refining his aether into a wedge.

The maneuver works, and the unstoppable force splits to travel around the immovable object. The light sears the eyes of the Adventurers as it passes, and as his vision clears Bazhen looks around him. Fire and gemstone dominate the landscape, stretching as far as the eye could see. He glares at the dragon, and draws his voidsent’s power into himself more strongly than before. Bayar, the Paladin, and the Sage had collapsed, having used most of their power. This was no time for limits.

He dashes forward, the voidsent manifesting more strongly than ever before. He channels its chaotic aether into his scythe, striking twice as it unleashes its own fell magics on the dragon. He passes the scythe to the voidsent as he leaps, channeling his own spells as the twisted beast strikes and passes the scythe back to him. He feels its chill touch invade his soul as they merge, the blade of his scythe growing to massive proportions. He brings it down on his foe in a massive overhead swing, rending the beast in two.

He raises his scythe, yelling in victory as he turns back to his teammates. Bayar lifts him in a bear hug, as the Paladin and Sage share a fist bump. Bazhen grins, allowing himself a bit of elation.

“Hells yeah!”

“NO!” Kotone yells, tears streaming down her face as the Bahamut-like-creature dissolves and fades, leaving behind a pile of corpses. The rest of the soldiers look at her in confusion for a second, before going back to their work. The other airships need to be received, thanks to the space the Eidolon had brought them, and then boarded.

She sits down on a crate, closing her eyes and trying to sort out her emotions. For some reason she feels empty, and she looks into her memories to try and figure out why. She remembers her daughter, Shiori – the light of her life. But she can barely remember anything before her child was born. Troubled, she takes out a small slip of paper, and sees two names on it. One was, naturally, Shiori’s. The other, completely foreign to her. She had apparently known someone named “Haruto,” who had been important enough that she wrote down his name next to her daughter’s.

Far from the front lines, within the storied halls of Akademeia, a Dominion Commander strides through the command room, trailed by a large man, still wearing a tattered Cadet uniform with a red cape, and a tall woman in a stately ball gown.

“Bring out maps,” Yamato Nakai shouts, clearing aside a large table, “Lord Zhuyu and Lady Caetuna wish to see the situation.”

The command room stops for a second and then buzzes back to life. They had been taking losses, sure, but the mere mention of the l’Cie taking interest in the fight brought hope back to the eyes of the room. A map is quickly rolled onto the table, pinned down with stones. Yamato places several markers on it, showing the current state of the war.

The room frowns, seeing once again the massive swathe of territory lost to the invaders, with more gains seeming likely. Yamato pulls out a small pointer, tapping places on the map as he gives an update on the situation.

“We have sent reinforcements to Togoreth, though they seem to have summoned something unexpected.”

“That will not answer your summons again,” Caetuna says, “The fact that it did now is… irregular.”

“We might hold Togoreth if you go. Alternatively, we have an ongoing operation in Ul’dah,” Yamato says, filing that in the back of his mind, “As well as something in the works at Meroë to reclaim the city.”

Zhuyu and Caetuna close their eyes for a second, as it listening to something not in the room. Likely the Vermillion Bird Crystal, and the entire room falls into reverential silence. They open their eyes, looking at the map once more.

“Give us ten of your fastest airships,” Zhuyu says, “We will tell you when to execute the Meroë operation.”

“Certainly. We will be prepared to execute it once you arrive.”

“We are not going to Meroë.”

“What? But then where…”

“Element of surprise, Commander,” Caetuna says as the two walk out. The command center buzzes behind them, interest and excitement at the new development. The Eorzeans hadn’t displayed anything approaching the powers of a l’Cie; this might be just the break they need.

Shuu Morishita strides through a tunnel, barely large enough to fit the line of soldiers behind him He nods at the diminutive Lalafell in front of him, wearing the silks of a rich merchant instead of the armor and weapons of an Adventurer. He steps aside, waving through the two soldiers carrying a large chest between them.

The little man in front of him opens it, looking through the contents. Half of it was filled with gil; fortunately, Eorzean and Rubrum gil was roughly interchangeable. The other half contained jewels, cloth, ores, and other raw materials – a sample for a savvy merchant.

“All is in order,” the merchant says, “And you’ll guarantee the safety of myself, the other Monetarists, and our rule over the city?”

“Certainly,” Shuu says, extending his hand to shake on the deal. They do, as the Legionnaires stream out into the city, to cries of alarm. One topples, dead, summoning Shiva. The icy blue woman, barely two feet tall, spins around and under the attacks of Adventurers in her path. She leaps and spins, striking a pair and freezing them where they stand.

Another Legionnaire falls, and in his place rises a six-legged horse, sending a wave of magic that left those nearby vulnerable. A swing of Odin’s sword sends a shockwave to reap the harvest, killing those it hits instantly. As more Eidolons and Rubrum soldiers pour into the city, resistance is swiftly shut down. Shuu, satisfied, turns and draws his sword, slicing the merchant through the heart.

“You betrayed your city for coin once,” he says in response to the man’s confused gurgle, “Who’s to say you won’t do so again? Besides, no one’s going to remember you in a few minutes, anyway.”

The corpse of the merchant falls with a thud, and true to Shuu’s prediction the entire Rubrum contingent simply moves on, unable to recall who the collaborator they owed their victory to was.

Bazhen sits outside Togoreth, looking at the massive fortress. It had resisted their attempts to conquer it so far, and there was only so much time they could take away from their advance. The Adventurers were growing impatient and restless, and it was time to put Plan B into effect. Especially since no one knew if they would summon another massive dragon like that again.

A roar echoes through the field, though far quieter and less sinister than last night’s. The smaller Bahamuts still require effort, but they weren’t likely to wipe out entire squads. He takes out a pair of goggles, on loan from the Sharyalan delegation, and puts them on. He sees the roiling and writing currents of pure, dense Aether, alongside the fainter but still visible Dynamis. The rush of victory against the summoned dragon, the hope and despair of the Rubrum soldiers, the impatience and thirst to avenge fallen comrades from the Adventurers… the battlefield was thick with the manifest energy of emotion.

“It’s time,” Bazen says, speaking into a linkpearl.

Several dozen Black Mages step out, and Bazen watches through the goggles as the Aether and Dynamis surges and flows through them, transforming their staves. As one, they slam their transformed tools into the ground and throw their arms open, launching their collected power to the sky.

There, it takes the form of a swarm of meteors, each as large as a building, within the sky over Togoreth. The stones hover in the air for a second before glowing red hot, the force of magic and simple gravity dragging them to the ground at high speed. The buildings and fortifications of Togoreth, one of the prides of Rubrum, crumbles and buckles under the strain.

It collapses, sending a massive wave of dust and debris through the area. It clears quickly, leaving behind a mess of slag, rubble, and flame. Bazhen bows his head, saying a prayer for the Rubrum soldiers trapped within. Their minds were enslaved by this “Crystal” of theirs; they didn’t deserve this fate. No one did.

In Meroë, a young girl holding a large stuffed bear ducks into a house at night. A boy waits inside, wearing the classic black shirt and white pants of Akademeia Cadets with a brown mantle over his shoulders. The boy is all of seventeen, but compared to Saki’s tender years he may as well have been a man full grown.

The nice man pats her on the head, splitting a hunk of bread and placing a bowl of soup on the table in front of her. She eats it greedily, as he gives her a warm but slightly guilty smile.

“At least their food’s good,” he mutters, and she found herself nodding.

“Thank you.”

“Of course, Saki,” the boy says, sitting down at the table as well, “Now…”

“I heard one of them say that Togoreth is gone. But that can’t be right. Togoreth is huge! They say they’re going to Corsi, and also near the bridge to Mi Go.”

“Togoreth is true,” the Cadet says, “From what I hear, they summoned a hail of stones from the sky. That’s why we’re going to stop them here, Saki. So that we don’t lose any more of our memories.”

He continues in that vein for a while, the little girl enthusiastically nodding along, eating his words as if they were a desert after the meal. He checks a timepiece and gets up, holding his arms out. She leaps into them as he lifts her to his shoulder, walking up the stairs to the roof. He points up, and she can see a fiery line across the sky, followed by several dots of blue.

“That’s Lord Zhuyu. One of those airships behind him has Lady Caetuna. They’ve promised to make us an opening. The time is close, Saki. We will have our town back. And then our nation back.”

“Yes! We will!” the child says brightly, as the Cadet brings her back inside. He sets her down and opens the door.

“It was a fun conversation as usual, Saki, but you have to go back home.”

“Okay. I’ll come visit again!”

“Sure, kiddo.”

Ch. 4: Counteroffensive[]

Ch 4 Start

Zhuyu Voghfau Byot flies through the air, well ahead of the airships that hold the Dominion Legions and his counterpart, Caetuna. One of the Dominon Quaestors impertinently suggested that his current course might be helpful, and to his chagrin the Crystal agreed. His wings of fire blaze in the night air, a shining beacon for any who so much a look up. Though, considering his ease of passage, no one in this part of Eorzea really looks to the skies this close to dawn. Just as well, for his mission would be easiest with the element of surprise.

He sees his target ahead. A small market in the open, surrounded by fences. Arid rocks on one side form a valley, restricting ground access. A river, banks not quite lush with greenery, rages on the other, fed by a waterfall whose roar reached even this high. To the north is a terraced canyon wall. The small light of torches on it at irregular intervals show him nothing from this height, but if the Quaestor was right about this ‘Ala Ghanna,’ it was where the citizens slept. He turns his wings off, plummeting as he summons his axe to his hand. He unleashes short bursts of fire as the wind rushes past him, adjusting so that he lands hear the massive, glowing blue chunk of magic in the center.

He flips in the air as he nears it, tapping strongly into the power of the Vermillion Bird Crystal. The head of his axe ignites as he slams it into the Aetheryte, the blue structure cracking and shattering as he pours power into it. The earth under him scorches and blackens as the thunder of his arrival rips through the square, dousing the torches and rousing some of the people. He reaches the ground as the blue glow fades, the massive crystal falling as he unleashes a wave of fire which incinerates anyone – man, woman, child, Chocobo, or Adventurer – unlucky enough to be in the market that night.

Zhuyu digs deep into the Crystal’s power, slamming his axe into the ground. The stone cracks and melts, pure fire erupting into existence around him. The searing pillar grows and spreads, melting the rock in the square. The valley to the west and buildings in the north shudder and soften, flowing down and in towards the rapidly sinking market center. The plants by the river carbonize and fuse into glass in instants as the fire roars. The heat evaporates the riverbed, even turning the waterfall into vapor. The magic lights up the sky for malms around, until it suddenly winks out of existence as fast as it had appeared.

The l’Cie breathes heavily and shudders. The Vermillion Bird Crystal had shut off his connection to it for a second, before restoring it with a vague feeling that it wasn’t the right time for him to crystallize. The roar of the waterfall returns as the molten slag that used to be a city cools to glass, its inhabitants not even afforded the time to scream before being charred and fused with their mountain home. He dismisses his axe and floats on his wings of flame, rising a few hundred feet to what used to be ground level.

The sun rises, its rays glinting off of the water in the rapidly-filling new lake as Zhuyu turns to the southwest, seeing the Dominion airships close on his next target. His wings flap, propelling him towards the other city in this region of Eorzea. He sees the faint flash of cannons, both from the ship and from the walls of Ala Mhigo as the siege of the city begins.

Bazhen Avesna tromps through a field south of Togoreth, alongside the rest of the Adventurer contingent. After spending some time to ensure the stronghold to the north was truly collapsed, one section of Adventurers went farther to hold the land bridge to Mi Go and Keziah. A larger force heads south to Corsi, seeking to strike at the heart of the Dominion.

His boot kicks an nameless man dressed in red, black, and gold out of the way, one of several who had sacrificed themselves to summon somethings that looked like Odin. Given space, those horsemen could unleash attacks that had killed large numbers of the invading force, necessitating fresh troops. Bazhen himself had only dodged one thanks to a timely shield from Bayar. Then, unexpectedly, the linkpearls of all the Adventurers ring.

“Ala Mhigo needs reinforcements,” Glinta’s voice says in his ear, slightly panicked, “Ala Ghana is… gone. You’ll need to teleport directly there. They have someone as strong as the Warrior of Light. Volunteers only.”

Bazhen makes his way to his husband at the news, the hulking Au Ra Scholar openly weeping and sitting on a rock. The Hrothgar wraps him in a hug, and Bayar sobs into his chest.

“Bazhen… Udutai is… My brother is…”

The Horthgar simply strokes his husband’s back in silence, letting the grief flow out until he hears the distinct sounds of teleport being cast. He pats the other man on the back, pulling away and kneeling down, taking one hand in his own. He lifts it, looking his partner in the eyes.

“Let’s go, Bayar.”

“To Ala Mhigo? But…”

“We’re Adventurers. For whom do we fight?” Bayar takes a deep breath, before clasping his free palm to the back of Bazhen’s hand, the light of determination back in his eyes.

“For those we have lost.”

“For those we can yet save,” Bazhen says, completing the phrase. They decouple their hands, casting Teleport as the Reaper reflects on that simple statement. A curse and a blessing both. He had always preferred the second half, a reminder that there was always good to be done. But in grief, the first had priority.

And a second later, the pair vanishes, trading the fertile plains near Corsi for the harsh, battle-torn stone of Ala Mhigo. If they were to face someone as skilled as the Warrior of Light, they would need their best. And such Bazhen and Bayar had proved to be.

The large teleporter in the center of Akademeia’s shimmers, a Dominion Legionnaire walking out of the light. Kotone has her hood down and mask off, revealing her face for what felt like the first time in ages. She clenches her left hand, feeling the binding of a book and the cold metal of a Knowing Tag. Apparently the ‘Haruto’ that shared her last name was her husband, who was a healer before he died. Something she should have realized earlier, honestly.

Their records state that he was part of the summoning ritual that called what they had named Crimson Bahamut. She uses the teleporter to head to the barracks, stowing the mementos, before heading to the Ready Room, intending to grab a bite. There, she spots a Cadet wearing the mantle of Class First. She smiles, recognizing her, and rushes over, calling her name.


“Mom!” the Cadet responds, squawking as she’s swept up into a hug in front of her friends.

“Oh, it’s good to see you’re all right,” she says, breaking the hug and holding her by the shoulders.

“Mom, come on…”

“Look, with your father gone and how narrowly I escaped Togoreth…”

Shiori frowns, as does her friend, Shinobu, and the other two Cadets at the table, a boy and girl she doesn’t recognize, do the same. Kotone sighs, and puts on her best parenting smile. Shiori picks up on this and the child tries to comfort her mother.

“I’m just worried, mom. I don’t want to forget you, too.”

“I don’t want you to forget me either, sweetie. That’s why I train and fight so hard,” she turns to Shinobu and adds, in a far colder voice, “Kouta better not forget I can kick his ass, either.”

“I’ll keep my brother in line, ma’am.”

“Good. Now, I’m off to Ala Mhigo soon. Are the roast chicken sandwiches as good as I remember?”

“They’re the best item on the menu, at least,” Shinobu says, “Just like… someone? Said?”

“Well, if you can’t remember who, let’s make more memories in their place,” Kotone says, moving to the counter, “Lunch is on me.”

A group of Rubrum scientists, some of the best Sorcery has to offer, steal down through a tunnel into an indoor rotunda. It was the dead of night in Ul’dah; while their control of the city was solidifying and expanding to the surrounding area, rebellious elements still threatened their hold on it.

And, as expected, a Hyur man plunges a rapier into one of the scientists. The blade blazes with holy power, finishing him off. A large Roegadyn charges in, fury in his eyes, reducing two more to red stains with his bare fists. A bolt of light from a second Roegadyn fries a third, and a summoned scythe spins and slices the fourth to ribbons.

Abylbhar cleans the gore off of his fists while Gawain waves a small group of Garlond Ironworks engineers through the secret tunnel they had used to access the Aetheryte. They work in silence, the alert trio watching over them.

“How long do you think we have?” Gawain whispers.

“Well, if the past couple days is anything to go by, anywhere from five minutes to an hour,” Abylbhar says.

“Not very organized, are these Reds?” Gator whispers back in disdain.

A few minutes later, the careful setup along the tunnel is nearly complete as a cacophony of boots on stone echoes near the mouth. The Ironworks engineers grimace, as do Gator and Gawain. Their abilities might set off the delicate balance of the devices being set, with catastrophic consequences.

“Hold my beer, I got this,” Abylbhar says, grabbing one of the dead Rubrum scientists by the ankles. He whirls the body over his head and flings it at the onrushing soldiers, knocking their front lines down and back. The engineers hurry to finish their work as Abylbar flings the remaining bodies, running out just as they finish. Gawain hurries them through the access tunnel as Gator channels magic within the tunnel.

A copy of Gator – identical save for the Hawaiian shirt, jeans, and afro – materializes within the corridor, and launches a radiant bolt at one of the Rubrum legionnaires.

“One of them is here!” a Legionnaire yells, turning as his compatriots slash, shoot, and cast at the illusory double.

“Come on, blow it. Sir Croc-a-Lot’s not actually real,” Gator whispers to one of the engineers. As instructed, the man presses the button on a detonator, and the Ceruleum explosives lining the wall detonate. A shock of blue fire and stone pulverizes the invaders, and the city shakes with its force.

A moment of silence later, the dust has settled. The only light in the chamber comes from the soft blue glow of the Aetheryte, the massive crystal still spinning in a stately manner.

“Well, that’s those sealed. But how are we going to get our forces into the city now?”

“The mini-Aetheryte network,” Gator says, “You smart ‘uns set up a way for people to move around the city fast from the big Aetheryte. We’ll use that to put people in the right places.”

“A good idea.”

“We should be getting back,” Gawain says, “The others are probably worrying about now.”

“Yeah, let’s do that,” Abylbhar says, “Wouldn’t want them to do anything rash.”

“All right, landlubbers,” Laughing Hammer, the captain of the Flagon shouts, “It’s time to get yer legs back. Prepare to disembark!”

The Adventurers on the ship cheer; the lengthy voyage grating on the nerve of some of the less patient members of the landing party. They stream forth as Laughing Hammer brings his ship in, anchoring it in shallow water that the Adventurers simply leap into and swim through. His skin tingles as he feels the flaring of aether that accompanies most combat the Adventurers take part in. He and his crew lower a disembarking boat, waiting as the Sharyalan engineers who accompanied them climb down.

He slides down to join them, rowing the group towards the beach. They look behind him, slack-jawed at the sheer ferocity a group of Adventurers can bring to bear. He didn’t even have to turn his head; the bright flashes of sunlight glinting off of a slice, the fiery eruptions from a Black Mage’s spells, and yet more are reflected in the water itself.

“Quite a sight, aren’t they?” he says.

“Indeed. Beautiful, but terrifying. Like a coeurl tearing through its prey,” one of the engineers says.

“And the worry of when they may decide you’ve offended them enough to turn their claws on you,” another mutters warily.

“Hah. Well, take it from me,” the captain says, “I’ve worked with this lot for years, and that’ll only happen for one of two things. Either you threaten the realm, or you make it personal.”

Kotone Hirata leans against an airship hull, her late husband’s book of names open in front of her and set to a blank page. The only name currently on it was her daughter’s. She closes her eyes and sighs, penning in the names of her squad as well. She was used to losing them; a consequence of being assigned high-risk missions fairly often.

“That’s a big book,” a voice says, and Kotone looks up to see an unfamiliar woman looking at her.

“It was my husband’s. He died at Togoreth.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I’m Wei Ueda, by the way.”

“Kotone Hirata. Please, sit. I was done writing, anyway,” she says, scribbling another name inside.

“More sentimental than I would have expected from a frontline elite,” Wei says, sitting down.

“Used to be I only wrote down his name and that of my daughter, Shiori. But most of my life is gone now. Maybe this can help with that.”

“Ah, I… I’m afraid I’m not sure what to say. Been living life with shallow relationships to avoid that myself.”

“Well, if we both get back to Akademeia I’ll buy you a sandwich in the Ready Room,” Kotone says, laughing at the disgusted face the other woman makes, “Don’t be like that, there’s one good one on the menu.”

Shiori gathers with the other cadets in the seats of Akademeia’s arena, the usual field for training bouts taken up by a podium at which the Chancellor is speaking. Shinobu, Jirou, and Miyabi sit beside her, leaning in to listen. It wasn’t often that the head of state for the entire Dominion gave a speech, so today is a momentous occasion. Even if she can’t remember the man’s name.

“Greetings, Agito Cadets,” the man says, “I’m sure many of you have been following our war with Eorzea with interest. It is not going quite the way we would like. As such, the Consortium of Eight has issued a decree, and I have signed it. The Agito Cadets are to be deployed alongside the regular Legions. Each class’ homeroom teacher will act as its CO, and the Moogles will act as liaisons between Central Command and those COs. In addition…”

The man drones on as Shiori looks around the field, seeing the white uniforms of the Dominion Commissaries. Most of its members were Akademia students too young to be proper Agito Cadets, and the oversized clothing made them look adorable.

“Remember when we wore those?” she whispers to Shinobu, nudging her childhood friend and nodding at the children.

“I do, yes. Those were good times. We had to stop your mom from killing Kouta when he saw you in yours, as I recall,” Shinobu replies with a giggle.

Shiori snaps to glare at her friend for a second, before focusing on the speech.

“And finally, each class will be assigned a commissary to support them. We did not start this war, and fight only for the defense of our great nation,” the Chancellor says, “With Lord Zhuyu assisting in the capture and annexation of Ala Mhigo, and the already proceeding annexation of Ul’dah, I believe we will be able to finish it.”

Shiori tilts her head as the stadium erupts in cheers. While the Adventurers did indeed walk out of the tent first, her mother said it was also clear that it was the Rubrum side that gave offense first.

“Does it count as defense if we’re taking over territory?” Shinobu asks, and the two girls shrug. It wasn’t their place to doubt; they just needed to follow orders and fight to ensure the Eorzeans didn’t take over all of Rubrum.

Zhuyu hovers in front of a group of eight Adventurers near the royal palace of Ala Mhigo. The bodies of their dead friends lie behind him as he looks over the group. An armored man with a greatsword, another with a sword and shield, a walking lion with a scythe, a man with long ears holding a katana, a large horned man with a book in hand, a cat-eared woman in red with a rapier, another with her bow drawn taut, and finally a tall, muscular woman with a staff held in front of her.

He stares at the eight in silent respect. Most Militesi, Concordians, and even Loricans would have fled in the face of his appearance. Instead, these Eorzeans stood firm to challenge him. As if they did so daily. Then, the man with the large sword leaps in, attempting to plunge his weapon into Zhuyu’s heart. He hooks the blade in his axe, twisting to throw the man upward as he feels several different kinds of magical afflictions eat away at his body at the same time.

As the poisons, disease, and the simple pure power of magic itself eats at his flesh, he unleashes a blast of fire at the seven before him, only to meet the magicked barriers and upraised shield of one of the Adventurers. The metal comes away glowing, but holds for now. He moves to the side as the man with the large sword flips in the air and slams his blade downwards, parrying a strike from the man with a katana as he does so.

He catches the leonine man’s scythe in his hand as he swings, throwing him aside as he lashes out with a kick to send the charging woman with a rapier away as well. He flares his power, incinerating the arrows launched at his head and twisting his axe around the long-eared man’s katana. The Samurai gasps in surprise as the weapon slips through his defenses, carving a burning furrow into his chest. As his foe falls, Zhuyu leans back to avoid another thrust from the rapier-wielding woman.

She dances around his axe, slicing and slashing until she leaps back to make room for a compatriot. A wave of fire catches her in the air, burning her to a crisp as the man with a scythe reappears in front of him, with the two remaining swordsmen to his sides. The Reaper hooks his axe, only for his eyes to widen in surprise as Zhuyu simply lets it dematerialize. He holds his hands out to his sides, creating pillars of fire to incinerate the two swordsmen on either side.

Before the leonine man can react, Zhuyu summons his axe back to his hands and throws it, ripping through the archer as another blast of fire catches the mage. He dismisses the axe again as the man with a scythe thinks he sees an opening, summoning it back as his foe’s eyes grow wide, seeing his impending doom.

A blur interposes between them, the large horned man with a book taking the blow instead.

“Bayar!” the man yells, leaping back through what appears to be a portal, cradling the dead man. Bazhen glares at Zhuyu before using the strange transport again, winking out of sight. For his part, the l’Cie straightens and sighs. The day was won.

Ch. 5: Francs-Tireurs[]

Ch 5 Start

A pair of Rubrum soldiers patrol through occupied Ala Mhigo, swords in hand as their few pieces of exposed skin tan under the sun. The citizens had fled to their homes, locking their doors in fear. The Dominion was far from welcome, but a few Eidolons quelled resistance fast. The soldier on the right spots a shadow skulking between two buildings and turns towards it, only to find a small purple shape floating in the air, as if something had torn a hole through space itself.

His eyes narrow, cursing. He had come out alone, despite the commander’s warning to always operate in pairs. If he had a partner, he could have investigated. He turns back to the street, only to stare at the alleyway again upon hearing a door open and shut quickly, the tear gone.

Bazhen sighs as the legionnaire moves on, wiping the blood from his scythe and letting the other soldier’s body drop to the floor. He holds a green gem with gold etching to his forehead as if in prayer. The half of Bayar’s soul crystal he kept didn’t respond. The other half, whose own etching would complete the symbol of a Scholar, was on its way to Glinta in the company of a Ninja.

The three of them had started their career as Adventurers together, a chance meeting at the Caraline Canopy turning into an inseparable friendship. And, in the case of the two men, something more. The Reaper’s ears twitch as he hears movement below, snapping out of his reverie. Killing Dominion soldiers quelled some of this rage, but he knew that true vengeance wasn’t gong to be his to take.

He steps back outside, calling on his Voidsent to teleport him to the top of the building across the street. He runs across the rooftops, far quieter than you’d expect from one of his solid stature. The Reaper’s discipline was originally used for assassination, so his own soul crystal had imparted the knowledge and techniques needed to steal around a city unnoticed in broad daylight.

He spots another pair of Rubrum soldiers as he nears the main Aetheryte plaza of the city, stopping to lean off the side of the building. A swipe from his scythe impales one through the heart without a sound, and another swift movement hauls him up and out of sight. With how the invaders forgot their dead, it was more efficient to only pick off one of a pair or a couple in a patrol. With any luck, the bastards wouldn’t notice their dwindling strength until too late.

Bazhen reaches the Aetheryte plaza, one of the most hotly contested areas between the occupiers and the insurgency. Bodies from both sides litter the area, and Rubrum soldiers keep watch, their blades drawn. Were they to try and attack the crystal, it would result in a massive counterattack from the Adventurers hiding out of sight. But were the Adventurers to bring reinforcements, the soldiers would die to summon an Eidolon.

A near-perfect stalemate. But one Adventurer was due to arrive, who could break it. Bazhen descends into one of the abandoned houses that sat over an entrance to the network of tunnels under the city, watching outside. The slight shimmer of teleportation magics appears, though the Dominion notices almost as fast as he.


In the blink of an eye, Bazhen calls upon his Voidsent to again transport him through brick and stone, appearing in front of the materializing Adventurer. As the man grows corporeal, the Reaper grabs the new arrival’s wrist and vanishes, returning to the house where he started. He waits a second to make sure the one he grabbed was the one he was waiting for, and nods.

The man was nondescript as it comes, but no Adventurer – nor anyone in Eorzea, to say nothing of Othard or Ilsabard – could fail to recognize the Warrior of Light.

“Warm welcome,” he snarks, “I can see why people mix Ul’dah and Ala Mhigo up sometimes.”

“Is it as bad there?”

“Worse. Monetarist scum. But I’m told I can actually make a difference here?”

“They have a champion, one they call Zhuyu. If you take him out while they march on Gridania tomorrow…”

“We can reclaim the city.”

“Yes,” Bazhen says. And the Warrior of Light nods and moves on, patting him on the shoulder. The man was right; the city had to be retaken.

At the very least, for those that were lost.

In Meroë, a young child listens intently as a teenager speaks by dim firelight, addressing a knot of people under the stars. The crowd varies, from the young and passionate to the old and frail, but Saki is by far the youngest. She, like the rest, hangs on to every word. The Agito Cadet is a very charismatic speaker, filling their heads with promises. Glory restored, vengeance for those even memory cannot reach, one’s duty to one’s country. All these and more swirl and gather, inspiring the crowd.

It mostly flies over Saki’s head, though. The nice man had helped her, given her food when she was hungry. So she should help him back when he’s in need. So said the orphanage director. His speech done, the nice man passes out a small bundle to each of them. He kneels in front of Saki, giving her the last one.

“Here you go, Saki,” the nice man says as the group disperses, “Wait a few blocks from the big blue crystal. We’ll call you on this,” he continues, putting a small device in her ear, “And use this to make a distraction,” he finishes, pressing a blade into her hand.

“Okay,” Saki says, smiling brightly and looking at the weapon. On most people, including the Cadet, it was a simple dagger. In Saki’s, it was a proper sword. She puts it in the sheathe he offers, hiding it between her large stuffed bear and her body. The nice man smiles at her, tousling her hair before standing. As he turns, listening in on his COMM, she trots off to do as he tells her.

A few minutes later, though to Saki it feels like hours, the roar of magic and ring of steel hitting steel resounds through the town. She sees the nice man standing at a vantage point, known only to residents of the town. The girl quickly looks away, not wanting to draw attention to him, as a woman calls out to her.

“Hey, kid, you shouldn’t be out here,” a tall, muscled woman in yellow says, walking up to the child. Saki recognizes her as being close with the bunny-woman who gave her candy sometimes. “Come with me, I’ll take you somewhere safe,” she continues, grabbing Saki by the hand and leading her away.

“Saki, use that dagger I gave you. She’s not taking you anywhere good,” a voice comes through her ear. The nice man continues, allaying her doubts, “You won’t remember her after, but if she takes you away I won’t remember you. And that would make me sad.”

And at that, she shakes off the woman in yellow’s grip, dropping her bear as she draws the dagger. The Adventurer turns as the child gives an inexpert thrust, slicing through her side. The Monk yells in pain, falling over in a pool of blood as the weapon is ripped out of her stomach. Saki steps beside her, holding the blade above the woman’s throat.

A blast sends her flying backwards, tumbling to her side. She turns her head as she starts to feel a chill, seeing the bunny-woman in white clothing glaring at her. The woman’s eyes were cold, hard, and unapologetic. The woman in yellow rises as Saki’s consciousness dims, and the girl sees her victim fully healed. She shivers, oddly only able to feel one arm shaking, as she suddenly realizes she can’t remember why she attacked the Adventurer.

Her vision goes dark as she tries to think, wondering why she felt so cold when resting in a puddle of warm liquid. And then, she stops thinking at all.

Slightly behind the front lines in Rubrum’s assault on Gridania, a tall woman in a stately ballgown stands, holding a lotus-shaped focus aloft. Behind her stands a group of some of the Dominion’s best fighters, channeling their magic towards her. Kotone lends her power to the ritual, hoping that the soldiers dying on the front lines and – more importantly – the enemies they were killing would provide enough to augment her.

As part of the contingent assigned to help summon Alexander, she was given a brief on Phantoma, essentially souls and life energy, and its link to Eidolons. Summoning a Verboten Eidolon required a lot, and she was chosen to be part of the catalyst. The Adventurers they were fighting had particularly potent Phantoma, so the hope was to use their deaths to provide fuel.

Kotone’s thoughts drift towards her daughter. Shiori would lose most of the memories of her childhood after this operation. Save for her friends, Shinobu and Kouta. But, if the tactic succeeds, it would open a direct path to the heart of the Eorzean force, a small hamlet known as Revenant’s Toll. Siezing the momentum and capturing that, well… her daughter would be able to make new memories.

She just hopes that Shiori could find better than a Section Four spook. But Kouta being free to make his moves is part of the price she would pay for bringing this war to an end.

As the Rubrum Legions focus on the campaign to the west, several Adventurers lie concealed within Ala Mhigo. The large square overlooking the city, the Royal Menagerie, served as the general posting of the one who made this conquest possible: Zhuyu, an elite Dominion soldier they called a “l’Cie.” A message comes through their linkpearls, the signal to start.

“Warrior of Light, heading up.”

As their champion heads to fight Rubrum’s, the Adventurers rush their foes, striking their patrols and emplacements with speed and precision.

On the front lines of the Dominion assault on Gridania, Wei Ueda crouches behind a tree, breathing heavily. The terrain worked both with and against them; they were able to set up traps and ambushes easier, taking down a superior foe with cunning and strategy. But the Adventurers knew the ins and outs of the forest better than they.

“Fall back! Fall back to Point C!” her squad’s leader yells, the orders to retreat coming through her COMM for the fourth time today. She sighs and listens, trying to determine if it is safe to move. She nods to herself, hearing nothing, and slips out from under her tree.

She is pretty far from her squad, having gotten separated when fighting… someone. She couldn’t remember who it was, but she also couldn’t remember most of her comrades, so they must have been quite strong. A few steps later and she halts, gasping as a pair of blades sprout from her chest.

She falls, bleeding out as her assailant pulls his swords free. She barely registers him cleaning his blades before she, too, is forgotten by her friends.

Kotone grimaces as she lends her magic to the summoning ritual, the COMM in her ear buzzing about the Rubrum retreat. She continues to send everything she has to Caetuna, almost feeling her Phantoma leaving her body as she tries desperately to stay conscious. She feels the magic humming, a gate opening to wherever the Eidolons reside.

And then it’s suddenly cut off, as a man appears behind the l’Cie and sinks his daggers into her heart. Caetuna staggers, coughing blood as the power fades. Her flesh rapidly turns to crystal as Kotone channels and unleashes a barrage of lightning, her few remaining compatriots following suit.

The lighting scorches and cracks the remains of the l’Cie, the man who killed her nowhere to be found. Kotone turns, looking for her foe, and spots him just as he summons a massive frog that spits fire at the grouped Rubrum soldiers. They are helpless to resist in their weakened state, the aborted ritual taking much of their power.

Kotone falls back into the singed knot of flesh, her last thoughts with her daughter. Shiori would have to fight for the future her mother wanted to give her. But she believed; her precious child was good enough for Class First. Surely she could stand against any threat.

On the wide, square platform of the Royal Menagerie of Ala Mhigo, a lone man runs at Zhuyu. The l’Cie sneers as he strikes with his axe, assured of his victory, until the man’s shield turns his strike with minimal effort. He staggers as his foe charges his blade with lightning, striking him and summoning a massive blade from under him. Zhuyu rises with the sword, manifesting his fiery wing before gasping in muted surprise.

His foe, suddenly wielding a spear, has leaped high into the air, catching up to him. He deflects the stab with his axe, only for his foe to flip even higher into the sky, the spear in his hand changing to a staff crackling with magic. It bursts forth, summoning a massive chunk of ice above him as his foe swaps to a sword and shield. The iceberg crashes on his head, splintering as a flurry of swords rain down from above, sending him crashing back to earth as his foe descends, shrouded in fire and wielding a lance once again.

Zhuyu rolls out of the way, leaping to his feet and swiping with his axe. The Warrior of Light simply leaps back, his spear turning into a pair of chakrams which he launches in an arc. The Adventurer rushes forward, launching an aether-charged punch right as the Chakrams close. The l’Cie parries the blades, only to reel as the blow connects. A desperate swipe from his axe creates space for a moment, until his foe charges in yet again.

Zhuyu staggers back, a shell of fire warding off a dizzying series of slashes, strikes, and stabs from an equally dizzying series of weapons. One moment his axe was swept aside by a massive sword, the next deftly dodged by a rapier, and yet another smacked aside by a rod. He had often been told he has the strength of an army. Only by meeting this man in battle did he realize what that meant. His foe, rather than being as strong as an army, was practically an army by himself.

A minor distinction, but an important one, Zhuyu realizes as he incinerates an arrow aimed at his head and parries a katana aimed for his heart, for it meant that he was the stronger. His eyes glow red as he pulls upon the power of the Crystal, a series of fiery slashes forcing his foe to break off. He manifests his wings and rushes in, slashing again to force his foe out of a stab and again to force him back, finally scoring a hit as lines of blood run down the man’s arm.

The Warrior of Light stumbles, clearly not used to being pressured quite this much, until finally one of Zhuyu’s steps forward lands squarely on his foot. The l’Cie smiles, slashing with his axe and carving a furrow through his foe’s chest. He steps back, only to realize the furrow isn’t quite deep enough as his foe’s weapon changes to a sword with a trigger on the handle. The Warrior of Light grins as he presses it to his head, pulling the trigger as a thin, impenetrable shield of magic surrounds his body.

The odd sword switches to a staff, which bathes his foe in a soothing light. Less than a second later, the Warrior of Light leaps back, a pair of daggers in hand and fully cleansed of wounds. Zhuyu rushes in as the man is surrounded by the glow of magic, making hand signs furiously. A swipe at his neck is halted by the shell, as is a spinning strike at his hands. Zhuyu leaps back as blades of light manifest above his enemy, each shaped like one of the weapons the Warrior of Light had used. He even spots a few that the man hadn’t: books, hammers, even a cane and a fishing rod. The aetheric shell over his opponent fades, and the weapons slam into his chest.

As Zhuyu lies on the ground, bleeding, he hears footsteps approaching. He lifts his head, seeing his foe aiming a gun. And with a bang, all goes black.

A Dominion soldier sprints on a rooftop, signaling to her compatriot on the other side. He nods and charges magic, leaping to the street. Fen Ma charges her own spell, an experimental new weapon from Sorcery. Kenzo Tomioka lands, unleashing a Thundara BOM-II on a straggling Adventurer, leaping back as the lingering puddle of lighting trapped the large, green-skinned man with a sword and shield. The man’s compatriots turn to help as Fen unleashes her own spell.

A portal of gears opens above the alleyway, spawning a rain of crimson spears, piercing the ground and sending out a reddish haze. Several pierce through the Paladin, who collapses, dead.

“That was…” one of the other Adventurers mutter, glaring.

Fen smiles, tossing a basic Fire ROK-II, the explosion creating space for her and her friend to get away. They leap into a small airship, their pilot taking off and flying above the fray.

“A success, it looks like,” Kenzo says, giving her a high five.

“Yep. Feels good to hit these bastards with their own magic,” she says, grinning. Her smile falters as she looks towards the massive palace in the city center. A massive banner unfolds over it, a red meteor over a sable field. Recognizing the standard the Adventurers chose for themselves, she tugs at Kenzo’s sleeve and points.

“Well shit. Don’t worry, that’s where Lord Zhuyu is. I’m sure he…”

“Urgent report!” their pilot yells, “Lord Zhuyu and Lady Caetuna have fallen! We’re heading to the airships. The Commandant’s ordered a full retreat.”

“He what? The bastard…” Kenzo starts, only for Fen to raise her hand and cut him off.

“This operation was predicated on Lord Zhuyu and Lady Caetuna helping. The enemy’s marching on Corsi, and will soon be at McTighe. You want to return to your wife and kids, right? Not face whatever took out two l’Cie?”

“Right. Let’s – ”

An explosion cuts off the words of the stranger next to her, tossing her to the other side of the cabin. The ship careens, and through the brand new hole in the hull she spots a man leveling a large weapon platform at her, next to a woman surrounded by the glow of magic. The man fires a drill from his weapon, piercing through the cabin in front. A massive block of ice forms overhead, slamming into the ship and finally breaking it apart.

Fen’s body splatters under it, staining the streets of Ala Mhigo red.

Two Roegadyns and a Hyur skulk through the royal palace of Ul’dah, careful to stay in the hidden alcoves and passages that Momodi had told them about. They hear laughter and the sound of a meal coming from one of the private rooms in the side corridor. This was likely one of the meetings they had been told about, a Rubrum agent and a Monetarist collaborator. They spot two guards on either side of the door, and a brief burst of mana from Gator allows his companions to move devoid of any indication they were there.

Abylbhar and Gawain make their way down either side of the corridor, careful to make no sound. A rapier to the heart topples the guard on the left, and the Roegadyn uses a simple squeeze to shatter every bone, artery, and piece of cartilage in the guard on the right’s neck. Gator drags the bodies into a small square of stone and presses his hand to it. It ripples with holy power, the top sinking and then covering itself back up with the sides, entombing the soldiers.

Gator grabs his portable battering ram, modified slightly to make it easier to grip in one hand. He slams it through the door, knocking the marble slabs back off their hinges. His grip slips slightly, sending it sailing through the room and pulping the lalafell man sitting across from the Dominion operative. A teenager, from the looks of him, wearing a brown cape. Seeing that he had been compromised, he collapses, dead, as an armored man on a six-legged steed takes his place.

The three Adventurers feel a warping in their aether as he arrives. The two Roegadyn slip out of the room and on either side of the door as Odin takes a swipe at them, but Gawain was a fraction too late. The pressure wave shifts as it hits him, what would have been a graze slicing through his neck instead. Gator pops out and fires off a bolt of light as Abylbhar screams in grief and rage, charging in and leaping into the air.

He brings a double axe handle down on the horse’s head, sending it to the ground. He then spikes a small ball on it, followed by a fire crystal. The skin, doused in oil, ignites and the firesand within detonates, leaving the horse flailing on the ground. He then turns his attention to the trapped rider, and brings his foot down in a vicious stomp on the armored figure’s throat. He repeats the maneuver again several times, until the Eidolon abruptly shifts back to the teenage boy’s corpse. Another stomp splatters the man’s head as Gator rushes in, fumbling around the room.

Abylbhar sees a diamond ring on the dead monetarist, and rips off the man’s finger to give to Gator. The Roegadyn priest nods in thanks, dashing over to the dead Gawain and attempting to use a ritual to return the dead man’s spirit to his body. He grimaces as the ritual fails, inspecting the jeweled ring. He yells in frustration, throwing it at the wall. It chips and cracks, showing the distinct patters of glass.

Across the sea which separates the two nations, Glinta charges into Corsi as part of the second line of Adventurers. Amalia and Eljn were in the front lines, which were breaking through pretty easily. She fires a few blasts from her Nouliths at a group of Akademia Cadets, putting a hand to the linkpearl in her ears.

“Target the teenagers with capes until they run. Do not spare any with brown capes,” she says, the sight of a bleeding Amalia and the actual child manipulated by these Cadets standing over her with a bloody knife flashing through her vision. She shakes it off as a fireball hurtles past her head, nodding at the group of eight men of varying sizes, all holding some sort of rod or staff.

Another group of Adventurers she had known for a while; by coincidence, all of them were named Steve, and all had grabbed a pilfered soul crystal from Amdapor or Mhach, becoming a fairly powerful collection of White and Black Mages. The Steves with Staves, as Bayar had liked to call them. She allows herself another brief flash of reminiscence as she squeezes the small pouch hanging around her neck. The green stone inside is cold, but it gives her the resolve to press on. She must end this war.

For those who can yet be saved.

Ch. 6: Denouement[]

Ch 6 Start

Bazhen launches a whirlwind of magic at a group of retreating Dominion Legionnaires, the dark magics felling them all. He feels a twinge of satisfaction – whether it be from continuing to avenge Bayar or from his Voidsent feeding on the life of the dying, he wasn’t quite sure any more. He turns his lion-like features to gaze at the town behind him. Glinta had told him it was called McTighe, practically on the front gates of the enemy capital, Akademeia.

He walks back through the scarred gates and the blasted, burning streets. The Reaper studiously ignores the cries of the citizens, much sharper here than they were at Limbo. The Adventurers had lost comrades, friends, and lovers to the attacks on Ala Mhigo and Ul’dah, not to mention the attempted rebellions at Meroë and Limbo.

The Dominion citizens had finally exhausted the natural patience and goodwill of the Adventurers, And McTighe was facing a much harsher initial occupation. One civilian tries his luck, charging an Adventurer with a knife as a woman covers a child’s eyes. The Adventurer turns, stabbing the man through the chest with a grimace. Bazhen sighs, contemplating his brief conversation with Miyu Aoyama near the beginning of the war, a veritable lifetime ago even if it were only a few months at most.

The Dominion forces, military and civilian alike, forgot their dead. He had initially thought this was horrifying, but now he wasn’t quite as sure. If they could kill without remorse, without having to remember that the dead were once living and breathing like them, maybe the Adventurers could have come here faster. Maybe he and Bayar wouldn’t have needed to be at Ala Mhigo that day.

He shakes his head as he approaches the command center, a commandeered mansion. Nothing that would force him to forget his husband could ever be good. He tramples on a piece of stone, etched with the name “Hirata,” and walks in, making his way to what clearly used to be a dining room but was now plastered with maps and readouts. A large device dominates one corner of the room, with the Garlond Ironworks sigil emblazoned on it.

A small tube connects it to the ear of one Adventurer, who nods and writes something down. She passes a note to Glinta, who is pacing near a set of what appears to be bulletins. She reads it and nods, walking towards the map of Eorzea and scribbling a few notes down next to Ul’dah. That done, she notices Bazhen, giving the man a wave.


“Hi,” he says, casting an obviously curious glance at the device.

“The latest from the Ironworks,” Glinta says, noticing his gaze, “We can intercept their comms. Gives us a better picture on the war. For example, take Ul’dah. If you only listen to our chatter, we’re fighting a losing battle. But listen to theirs, and it’s a lot better for us. Especially now that we’re at Akademeia’s gates and their reinforcements are tied down.”

“Fascinating. And those?” he asks. Indicating a spherical device.

“Was told to set it inside our foothold in Akademia. Not sure what it does. Anyway, I think I’ve got a way to wrap this up. We just need to get into the city and hold a camp at the other end of that bridge. That and hope you didn’t accidentally kill the other major source of pressure.”

“Not to worry. If they were one of ours, they’d be fine.”

“I’ll hold you to that.”

A woman dressed as a Dominion Legionnaire turns and makes a hand sign secretively, throwing a fireball at an Adventurer. It misses wildly, as Mathilde had intended. The arts of the Ninja were suited to infiltration, and the Dominion habit of forgetting their dead made it all the easier. Did no one remember this soldier because she was part of another unit? Or because she didn’t exist? As best as she could tell, no one tried to question.

She stands firm as the Bard opposite her sends an arrow sailing over her shoulder. A little too close; maybe she should have tried a little harder not to get into a fight with Albin just before a mission. But her boyfriend was putting cilantro on scrambled eggs. That was just wrong. She glares at him through her mask, sending a lightning bolt at the tree next to him. That was the signal, and he broke off.

“That’s enough. Let’s go reinforce the town. We’ll get them eventually,” he says, loud enough for the retreating soldiers and civilians to hear. A shudder ran through the ranks; they knew this wasn’t likely to be an easy fight for them.

“Soldier, report,” an important-looking man says.

“Mia Miaka, Third Flame Squad. Been running since Limbo, sir.”

“Who’s your CO?”

“Don’t know,” Mathilde shrugs, “Can’t remember my squadmates, either.”

“All right, fine. Report in to Central Command. They’ll get you sorted.”

“Yes sir!” she says, saluting and running off. This was perfect; her target was a member of their command structure. She ducks into the crowd, weaving her way through the massive tiered city. She absolutely would not want to be part of the army breaching its gates. The long bridge, the easy line of sight for defending magic… she shudders slightly. Definitely shouldn’t have fought with Albin; she was safe, but he might be called on for the attack.

Mathilde pushes her worries to the back of her head. She has a job to do, one that should end the war. That would be hope enough.

Shiori Hirata sharpens her sword, sitting in her dorm room in Akademia. The light blue mantle of an elite Class First cadet lies next to her, a few metal shavings making it slightly shiny. She looks up at a knock, telling her visitor to come in. There were only three people who would do so, anyway. And, as she predicted, Shinobu Tomioka opens the door, purple mantle fluttering as she enters. They were going to be in the same four-man cell, with their other two friends Miyabi and Jirou. Mixed-class formations were unusual, but Central Command had decided upon it due to the desperate circumstance.


“Nothing much. Just needed someone to talk to before the big battle. Figured you might, too.”

“Yeah. How’d you know?”

“I’m an only child too,” she says, shrugging, “And I don’t want to worry Mom. I’m all she has left, after the bloody Eorzeans took McTighe.”

“She said they destroyed your house. Once we reclaim mine, let’s share it. It’s too big for just me, anyway.”

“Oh, Shiori, thank you!” Shinobu says, giving her friend a hug, “I swear, I might just take you for myself instead of… uh… huh?”


“Was there someone with a crush on you?”

“You expect me to know?”

“Right. You didn’t even realize that Jirou had a thing for you before he started falling for Miyabi.”

“Wait what?”

“Oh, by the crystal you’re dense,” Shinobu says, laughing, and the two continue talking. Their conversation lasts late in the night, until their CO knocks on their door angrily.

“Mia, this is dangerous talk,” Yamato Nakai says. Mathilde, however, notices the slight twitch around the man’s eyes. He was not just interested, but agreed. Interesting, and explained why she was dragged to his office.

“I just want the Dominion to survive, sir,” she says, “Regardless of what the Consortium of Eight thinks of things.”

“You think they’ll continue the war?”

“You think they won’t? Chancellor Chival may be smart enough, but his position’s too weak to force the rest to follow him.”

“Hmm… you do have a point,” the man says, looking pensive, “But I can’t just go against them unilaterally. Not without a genuine crisis.”

“Yes… if only we could forget their pigheadedness and save the Dominion…”

Something subtle changes behind Yamato’s eyes, and Mathilde holds back a smile of victory. The man needed surprisingly little prodding to do what she wanted him to; he must have already been considering this course of action. Seeing the gears turning, she excuses herself. She heads to one of the private rooms in the Crystarium, the school’s overly fancy name for its library, and places a linkpearl in her ear.

“Have interest. Do your bit soon.”

A knot of Adventurers charges towards the bridge leading to Akademia, which is protected by groups of teenagers projecting magical walls. Glinta barks an order into her linkpearl, and moments later a barrage of magic, gunfire, and other projectiles slam into the wall, breaking it. The mantled student maintaining it staggers and falls, only to be replaced by another. The Sage waits, patiently, as the charge gets closer. She speaks again into her linkpearl, just before hitting the distance where a melee would erupt and break the already disorderly lines.


Another hail of projectiles breaks the arcane barriers, allowing the group to break through. The Adventurers in the lines in front of her quickly peel off to attack the Eidolons popping up, leaving her exposed as a group of four teenagers rush her, each wearing a different colored mantle. She barely has time to register Bazhen zipping past her and breaking the Rubrum line before they’re on her, a quick gesture surrounding her Nouliths with protective aether.

“Jirou! Go left!” the girl with a light blue mantle yells, and the boy with yellow-green complies. Two Nouliths on either side ward off her sword and his pair of daggers, and a tilt of the head dodges the arrow the orange-mantled girl looses at her head. A quick glance shows that the girl with a purple cape was unarmed, but clearly glowing with magical light.

She tries to charge up a spell, but dodging a swipe from the girl broke her concentration. Another try was interrupted by the boy, so she settles for a quick pair of movements to throw an arcane barrier around herself. She ducks under another dagger, channeling magic into her fists. She lets it loose with an elbow to the stomach, following through with a kick to the head. She twists as she sees the glow of restorative magic surrounding the boy, uppercutting the girl into the air. The magic in her follow-up punch explodes outward as a fireball fizzles inches in front of her face.

“Shiori!” the girl in purple yells as the frontline girl sails through the air and over the bridge. Glinta pays it no heed as she points at the boy, her Nouliths flying above his head and launching a barrage of lasers at him. He collapses as the ground under him explodes, and Glinta speeds up her personal Aether, a formation of blue magic spreading around her. A massive beam fires from her stomach, ripping through the other two kids and through the defenders’ front lines.

She launches forward on wings of aether, reaching Bazhen’s back in the middle of the bridge as the rest of the Adventurers catch up. She presses her back against his, conjuring several layers of magical barriers to protect them. Lasers, swipes, punches, and fell magics fly from them as they disrupt the Dominion’s attempt at a counter offensive. As the Eorzean front line reaches them, the Rubrumites turn and break. Glinta concentrates for a second, feeling the Aether in the air. And, so faintly that she wouldn’t feel it unless she looked, Dynamis.

“Albin! Eljn! Now!”

She layers yet more defensive magic upon the pair as Albin kneels, bow drawn taught and aimed at the sky while Eljin moves through the steps of a complicated dance. Glinta tears her eyes away from her girlfriend, scanning the retreating defenders as Albin looses his arrow, while a line of magic roses appears in front of Eljin. A portal opens up over one side of the bridge, sending a rain of arrows down to pierce through the retreating Legionnaires, while the ones trying to dodge through the roses are impaled by a series of sudden strikes from between the flowers.

Albin gives a theatrical bow as the group rushes ahead, taking over the part of Akaedemeia at the bottom of the bridge. The device from the Ironworks is rolled in and activated, giving a greenish tint to the area but seemingly doing nothing else until a Dominion soldier tries casting magic at them. The flicker of lightning abruptly stops at the edge of the affected area, and the couple attempted saboteurs are quickly dispatched as their magics fail to function.

“Fascinating…” Glinta mutters, looking at the device.

“Good, we’ve got a beachhead,” Bazhen says, coming up next to her, “When are we going back in?”

“We’re not,” Glinta says, mildly concerned that her friend seems perfectly fine with his fur covered in blood.

“What? Why not?”

“If my plan works, at least. Mathilde’s convinced a couple of the enemy military commanders to conduct a coup and come to negotiate.”

“Negotiate? Why?!”

“Look at this city, Bazhen. Going through, block by block, clearing out all resistance… it’ll take longer than the war to get through. Cost more lives. I can’t make that call.”

“You would let these people live? Whatever Primal has them in their thrall forces them to sacrifice even children.”

“They aren’t driven by a Primal. Matoya’s Porxies don’t work. This is simple indoctrination.”

“And what of Bayar? What of everyone else we lost? You expect us to just put down our arms and forget them?”

“No. I expect you to put down your arms and honor them. They fought so that we could have peace.”

“We’re Adventurers, Glinta! Remember why we fight. For those we have lost!”

“That’s not all, Bazhen! Finish the statement!”

“I…” Bazhen says, starting to argue but faltering.

“Finish. The. Creed. The second part used to be your favorite saying.”

“For those we can yet save,” he finishes, seeming to shrink down into himself. Glinta steps forward, wrapping her best friend in a comforting hug.

“I once asked Bayar what he saw in you,” she says, gently, “He told me he loved your kind soul. How you cared about helping others, how you never let the darker nature of your powers make you violent. Live up to that, friend. You know losing yourself to vengeance is the one thing he would hate to see.”

She feels a warm wetness on her shoulder, and continues to hold her friend as he cries his emotions out.

Dominion Central Command whirls and buzzes, their best minds trying to figure out exactly what the hell was happening. The Eorzeans had halted their advance into the city, seemingly leery of clearing it block by block. A smart decision, Yamato Nakai privately admits to himself. He looks at the COMMs, seeing one line flashing urgently. He presses it, mentally preparing himself for whatever freshly poor news was coming.

“We’ve lost Ul’dah!” a panicked voice comes through, startling the room, “Commander was killed, we are…”

The line cuts off as the man screams. Definitely alive, as they could all remember him, but clearly in danger. A second later, a new voice resounds through the room.

“Hey, shitheads. This is Gator, an Eorzean Adventurer. We took out your commander and his men,” a rough, angry voice says. This ‘Gator’ was right about at least one thing; Yamato couldn’t recall who he had sent to take Ul’dah. The voice continues, “Lay down your arms if you know what’s good for you. We’ll ship you back to what’s left of your home. If anything is,” he finishes. Yamato had no idea what the man looked like, and the COMM was voice only, but he could envision a cruel smile crossing Gator’s face.

And with this, he knew that Mia was right. How the bigwigs would take this threat was patently obvious: an order for a full frontal assault He slips open a drawer, revealing one of Sorcery’s newest armaments. A Magicite Pistol, using a small shard of crystal to fire bolts of pure magic. It was slower to fire than a normal gun, but never actually ran out of ammunition.

He slips it into his pocket, heading towards the hall. Someone had to deliver the news to the Consortium.

Shiori dries herself off as the waits near the Eorzean camp. She glares at it, opening a book of names, miraculously mostly dry despite having to swim halfway to Akademeia. It had been sent to her after the loss of Ala Mhigo, along with a Knowing Tag. As she flips through it, she sees one set of handwriting filling about half the book, followed by a second one filling a couple pages. It lands on a fresh page, a cluster of names on it written in her own hand. Of those, she recognizes a single one, a small note indicating that she was the mother of one of the other names on the page.

She fixes her hatred back on the camp. She could barely remember any of her life, and it was all their fault. She sees a stirring in the front lines and rises, only to be stalled by a Legionnaire nearby.

“Our orders are to stand down.”

“What? But…”

“And what do you want to do? Be forgotten by everyone in that book?”

“I barely remember any of them anyway!”

“Barely. So you still have some. Don’t throw that away.”

Shiori grinds her teeth, but quiets. It rankles, but the man was right. A large table, hoisted by Rubrum Legionnaires, is placed at the edge of the greenish bubble. A pair of Adventurers lift it up, bringing it halfway to their side, and a third grabs a chair and sits in it as a member of Central Command sits on the Dominion side. Shiori’s eyes flick towards the Adventurer, and her vision turns red with rage for a brief second.

She recognized those rabbitlike ears. The woman she had fought against. Who had killed people she no longer remembers but were probably her friends.

Glinta sits on her chair, looking at the man in front of her. She raises an eyebrow, silent. Bayar had always said to let the other side speak first, especially when you have the upper hand. Her counterpart sputters, and speaks up.

“I am Yamato Nakai, the current Chancellor of the Dominion of Rubrum.”

“And I’m Glinta Oghu. I don’t speak for all the Adventurers, but I’ve been coordinating this front.”

“I see, I see…” the man says, trying and failing to grasp leverage, “I’ve come because I want an end to this war.”

“I accepted because I do, too.”

“Well, for a start maybe we could pause territories where they are – ”

“No. I’ll admit, it’s tempting now that we have control over Ul’dah back,” Glinta says, smirking at the man’s scowl. He was clearly hoping she was unaware, and could later claim that it was taken after negotiations. “We gain control of Akademeia. You and any citizens that wish to do so can head to Mi Go or Eibon.”

“Well, if you’re so certain you want to fight alley to alley in this city…” Yamato says, rising.

“The trick we used at Togoreth seems more likely.”

The Dominion man hurriedly sits back down, continuing to talk through the terms with Glinta. They settle on what she had proposed, and as they wind down the new Chancellor pipes up again, taking a small metal tag off of his neck.

“You see these?” he asks, showing it to her.

“Yes, I’ve seen them on many of your citizens. It’s helped us identify names.”

“That’s exactly what they’re for, though we usually use them to identify the dead.”

“Ah, yes. The amnesia thing.”

“Exactly. We will also need to have unfettered access from Class Eighth, our specialists at collecting Knowing Tags, to be able to get them.”

“Unfettered is too much. But we can have Adventurers supervise them as they work.”

“That… will have to be enough,” the man says, as aides to both write down the terms of the agreement. A pair of inelegant scribbles later, and the treaty was signed. The war had ended.

Epilogue: Pax Fragilis[]

A week later, a pair of Roegadyns stand outside Ul’dah, glaring at the remaining Dominion soldiers fleeing to their airships. Gator and Abylbhar walk a few extra meters out, visiting a pair of graves by the roadside. They kneel in prayer, Gator standing up first. He turns towards the city and the prominently displayed corpses of the Monetarist collaborators. There was going to be a lot more coin injected into city soon.

“Come on, Applebees,” he says, giving his friend a pat on the shoulder, “You wanted to compete in the Bloodsands, right?”

“Well, yes, but…” Abylbhar says, looking at the graves.

“Think about it. We die, and our souls return to the Lifestream to be reborn anew. Join the Bloodsands. Do real well, and who knows? Their souls might be reincarnated as fans of yours.”

“That… I would like that,” Abylbhar says, standing up. Gator gives a big smile, and raps him on the chest.

“Attaboy! Now come on, let’s get you signed up. I happen to be a pretty good promoter, you know…”

On the other side of the land, Shiori Hirata stands under Mi Go, staring at the Vermillion Bird Crystal. The once-grand Dominion was now reduced to a mere three cities: Mi Go, Keziah, and Eibon. The Eorzeans had established a permanent outpost on the bride leading into what used to be Togoreth.

“This can’t be right,” she mutters, holding the cluster of Knowing Tags that had been returned to her. Her friends and family, dead. Reina Tomioka, a former neighbor of hers, was taking care of her now. The woman said she always felt prepared to accept her into the family, but was unsure why.

Either way, this couldn’t possibly be the will of the Crystal. Rubrum’s finest dead, the remainder with their memory so full of holes it was like they hadn’t lived at all. Chancellor Yamato Nakai couldn’t have been right to accept this “peace.”

Thou hast a strong heart, worthy of a l’Cie.

Shiori startles, a voice echoing in her head. She looks around, gaze eventually settling on the crystal in front of her.

A query: wilt thou become a l’Cie, and protect me, the Vermillion Bird?

She knew the answer immediately, without even considering. She feels the scarlet power filling her, eyes turning red. A small sigil appears on her stomach, which vanishes quickly.

A new l’Cie was born.

Glinta stretches and yawns, shaking herself back to alertness and focusing on the reports in front of her. The remaining Dominion soldiers had exited Eorzea and their former territories, concentrating in their three remaining towns. Mathilde reports that they’re starting to construct a fourth near Eibon, which would bear watching.

The creatively-named Bridge Camp was also sending regular reports; apparently something had happened earlier. They weren’t sure what, but the Sharyalans were in a tizzy about weird Aetherometer readings. Glinta closes her eyes and sighs, startling as she feels two pairs of lips, one on either side of her cheek. One was full and sensual, promising care and attention; the other was rough and strong, but no less affectionate.

“Hey girls,” she says, opening her eyes and pulling Eljn and Amalia into a tight hug, “Come to rescue the damsel held hostage by paperwork?”

She holds out her hands, which are promptly seized, pulling her to her feet. They shuffle to the side as the other pair join hands as well, creating a small triangle.

“So. Where are we going tonight?” she asks.

Bazhen kneels before a pair of graves, praying. Bayar, his husband, and Udutai, his brother-in-law, lay inside each one. He places a bouquet on each; a standard set of Nymeia Lillies on the latter, and a bouquet of Elpis Flowers on the former. He gets up, looking at the blasted lake that was Ala Ghana, and turns west.

The original Reapers were farmers, which is why they had adopted scythes. Gridania was home to the Botanist’s Guild, which reportedly used them as part of their harvesting techniques. Perhaps it was time to use his tools to thresh wheat instead of lives.

He fishes a crystal out of his pack and tosses it into his shadow, where a clawed hand lazily plucks it out of the air. His Voidsent likely got enough aether to last it a lifetime from that single war. But if not, he had heard from the Warrior of Light that you could find crystals of intense aetheric energies as a Botanist. Those would have to serve.

Final ADV Rubrum

Expert’s Opinion[]

The Dominion had several advantages going in, such as their greater organization and their experience in being the actual occupiers and main force in a campaign. The Adventurers, by contrast, were irregulars who specialize in hit-and-run tactics and small operations. However, the natural defenses of Eorzea compared to the breadbaskety plains of Rubrum tilted the scales in the Adventurer’s favor, and the individual superiority of their fighters meant that Rubrum couldn’t quite mount an effective enough defense or offense to pull through.

To see the original battle, weapons, and votes, click here