Tales from the Dragonsong War

What Remains of a Knight


Ser Vaindreau de Rouchemande, the Very Reverend Archimandrite of the Heavens' Ward, was a man plagued by doubt.

Now well into his seventh decade, his body had long since begun a daily protest against the physical demands of his office. Yet it was not the constant aching of his knees nor the niggling twinge in his back that troubled the knight, but his faith in the man he had sworn to protect. For the first time in over forty years of service, Ser Vaindreau questioned the righteousness of the archbishop.


It had all begun a month before, on a morning like any other. He had been standing guard at the entrance to the Vault's inner courtyard, a haven of tranquility where His Eminence Archbishop Thordan VII was wont to meditate in solitude. The elderly warrior had kept many such vigils whilst the archbishop communed silently with the divine, and was thus startled when he caught the faint murmurings of conversation from the gardens within.

Praying aloud, Ser Vaindreau reasoned. But at the sound of a distinctly different voice, his hand found the hilt of his sword. Only the fear that he had somehow misheard prevented him from charging into the courtyard there and then. Cursing both his failing hearing and stubborn pride, he opted instead to edge forward as quietly as his clanking plate would allow.

Craning his neck to see past the flowering creepers, he sought about for an intruder, and all but lost his balance when he espied his master in hushed conference with a man in black robes.

A Paragon.

First Inquisitor Charibert Leusignac had never been a patient man. Though his was a divine calling, he could not help but curse the sparsity of heretics upon whom to practice his craft. The unannounced entrance of his most incompetent apprentice did little to improve his mood. The boy shuffled in startingly, his body seemingly in disagreement with his feet, shooting nervous glances about the chamber as he came. Finally, after fixing his gaze somewhere below Charibert's chin, he gingerly proffered an envelope.

"And this is?"

Plucking the missive from the novice's quivering hand, Charibert noted that neither the parchment nor the featureless wax that sealed it bore any hint as to the identity of the sender.

"A man in black robes gave it to me. He offered no name..."

And you did not think to ask, he observed silently, his lip curling as he imagined how he would punish the boy. Still staring at him, Charibert extended his index finger towards the seal and conjured a tiny tongue of flame, melting the wax but leaving the parchment unsinged; a reminder of his skill as a pyromancer─and torturer─not lost on his apprentice.

When the heat had done its work, he drew forth the letter with a flourish, his severe expression gradually giving way to one of unholy glee as his eyes danced back and forth across the page. A divine calling indeed.

Gazing out over Ishgard from the highest battlements of the Vault, Ser Vaindreau scarcely felt the icy sting of the night air upon his cheek. For what felt like the hundredth time, he asked himself what it was to be a knight of the Heavens' Ward...only for the rote reply to chime in as it always did.

We are the champions of the Holy See. We embody the virtues of the knights twelve who fought alongside King Thordan against dread Nidhogg. We are the chosen guardians of the archbishop, keeper of the one true faith. The Fury's shield and Her spear both...

But the creed said naught of an archbishop who consorted with the servants of chaos! He had heard the man discussing the finer points of a summoning ritual─intent not on calling forth Halone, but another. And although the exact nature of this blasphemous deity had escaped him, he knew that even to contemplate such an act violated the Church's most sacrosanct law.

There was naught else for it: he would confront the archbishop with the truth of what he had witnessed. And though he be condemned for heresy himself, he would hold Thordan to account.

Turning his back to the sleeping city and the last of his doubts, Ser Vaindreau descended into the deserted depths of the Vault, arriving all too soon at the doors to the papal residence, where Ser Hermenost stood watch.

"I must speak with His Eminence on a matter of utmost import."

"The hour is late, Archimandrite. What dire tidings are these that cannot wait until─"

Ser Vaindreau silenced the younger man with a gesture of his hand, indicating his unwillingness to speak further with a single shake of the head. And though entry was strictly forbidden to all, Ser Hermenost stood aside─for this was no interloper, but the archimandrite of the Heavens' Ward. Closing the doors behind him, the old knight let out a quiet sigh of relief, and after pausing to clear his thoughts, pressed on into the silence of the entrance hall. As he neared the gloomy doorway beyond, however, his eyes made out the shape of a hooded figure.

"Who goes there!?"

Though he barked the perfunctory challenge, his every fiber screamed the answer─the Ascian! ─and he squared up to the shrouded phantom, barely conscious of having drawn his sword.

"'Tis past your bedtime, ser knight. Whither art thou bound with such haste?"

The figure threw back its cowl, revealing features split by a twitching smirk. Marking the man's tightly tied-back hair and predatory gaze, Ser Vaindreau needed only a moment to identify the intruder.

"I will ask the questions, First Inquisitor. Your office does not permit this trespass!"

Though relieved that it was no Paragon that stood before him, Ser Vaindreau did not relax his grip on his weapon. Charibert was a man of sinister reputation, and the knight instinctively gauged the distance he would need to cover to put the grinning mage within sword's reach.

"You know of me, Archimandrite? I am honored!" Charibert replied, his unctuous tone eliciting a wince of distaste from Vaindreau. "As for the matter of my 'trespass,' why, that is easily explained," he continued. "The inquisition received certain intelligence that a heretic would seek to pass through this very hall on this very night, and thus was I granted leave to lie here in wait."

At this revelation, Ser Vaindreau's grim expression grew darker.

"You imply that I am suspected?"

The knight knew not how his actions had been anticipated, but there could be only one reason the man he had served faithfully for four decades would invite such a viper into his house: the archbishop wished him dead.

Though his tired mind reeled at the revelation, Ser Vaindreau was nevertheless one of Ishgard's finest warriors. When the flames came, he was already hurling himself away from their blistering heat. He rolled to his feet with a clatter, and barreled forward with shield upraised.

Charibert, a seasoned war mage himself, clucked his tongue in annoyance, and calmly intoned another spell.

"Burn, heretic!"

A fiery sphere burst forth from the tip of the inquisitor's ornate staff and exploded against Vaindreau's shield. With reflexes honed by a lifetime spent battling dragons, the veteran flung aside the rapidly melting lump of metal and lunged with his blade in one fluid motion.

"Hmph. For all your creaking, you do your order proud, old man." Though a timely backward leap had saved his eye, Charibert bled freely from a cut running down his right cheek.

"You think to claim a knight of the Heavens' Ward with such feeble fires!?" Vaindreau raged. "A clean kill may be your intent, but you spare the stones a blackening at your own peril!"

The inquisitor had indeed been holding back, meaning to boil the aged warrior inside his armor without leaving a mark on the marble. And now it seemed his miscalculation would prove his downfall─the last exchange had left him with his back against the wall. He would have no time for lengthy incantations. Yet even though every advantage now lay with his opponent, he could not help but smile.

"How fine it is to fight a wolf after so many sheep," Charibert purred. "I shall remember you with fondness, Ser Vaindreau."

The following morning, somewhat earlier than was his wont, His Eminence Thordan VII emerged from his chambers. Beyond the entrance hall, a sleepless Ser Hermenost yet stood at his post, while Ser Vellguine de Bourbagne waited patiently to accompany the archbishop to morning mass.

"Ser Vaindreau came to me last night to announce his retirement," Thordan announced in a quiet voice.

"Beg pardon, Your Eminence? He said naught of─ The archimandrite has resigned?"

The archbishop nodded gravely. "As a man past the prime of life, he confessed the burdens of knightly service had begun to take their toll. We spoke at great length upon this and many other things until the small hours of the morning..." Thordan glanced back towards his residence. "Ser Vaindreau now takes his rest in the antechamber, and I would not have him disturbed. We old men need our sleep."

Emotions warred across the faces of both Ser Hermenost and Ser Vellguine as they contemplated how such a decision must have pained their pious commander. Of any knight living, Ser Vaindreau had been the staunchest advocate of the Heavens' Ward and its sacred duty. But what was done was done. Leaving their comrade to his most well-deserved rest, the two knights took their places at the archbishop's side and departed for the cathedral.


Some few days later, the Holy See officially announced the retirement of Ser Vaindreau de Rouchemande from the Heavens' Ward, and introduced Ser Zephirin de Valhourdin as the order's new archimandrite. Addressing Ser Vaindreau's conspicuous absence at the anointment ceremony, the archbishop explained that the knight had begged leave to depart on a pilgrimage─a final wish for peace and solitude that the Church could hardly deny.

And thus did the Heavens' Ward lose its last true champion, his passing marked by little more than a faint scorching that yet mars the cold stones of the papal residence's entrance hall floor.


Words, Deeds, Beliefs


"When I set out to master the dragoon's jump, 'twas not to strike fear into the hearts of high-hanging fruit."

Alphinaud chuckled as he remembered Estinien's ennui.

In the days since the dragoon vanished from his sickroom, he had found himself with an overabundance of leisure. Catching himself mindlessly tracing the patterns on the ceiling of his room at Fortemps Manor, he closed his eyes and let out a sigh. Another sleepless night.

Resigned, he rose from his bed and walked over to the great oak desk. Sinking into the chair, he reached for the leather-bound journal he had begun writing a lifetime ago. When I saw my arrogance and vanity for what it was─then, in the very depths of my despair─he spoke to me.

"Are you content to remain a broken blade? Is there no flame hot enough to reforge you?"

Mayhap not. A flush crept up his neck as he closed his eyes and recalled the kind words Lord Haurchefant had spoken to him, and the brave face he had put on at the time. Old habits. And then they had left behind the Falling Snows and embarked upon the journey that would change everything. Even me─albeit slowly.

Though the whole of Eorzea looked to the adventurer as a hero, to Lord Haurchefant the great Warrior of Light was above all else a friend. And the feeling was plainly mutual. Kindred spirits. Like the Warrior of Light, the knight lived to serve. To protect. To sacrifice. For there is no greater calling.

Though he had welcomed them both with open arms, it was only later that Alphinaud came to understand the true depth of the knight's love for his friends and for his nation. How it would save them, how it would save him. Too late.

Accordingly, in the peaceful interlude following the war's end, he had returned to the memorial atop the cliff overlooking the capital, and there said to the north wind all he had failed to say before.


Opening his eyes, Alphinaud returned his gaze to the journal which lay before him and began to turn the pages. Instantly, his mind was transported back to the time when the four of them, each from different walks of life, had taken to the road on an impossible journey.


"How lightly you propose the destruction of this god. Has it occurred to you that you may be sending the Warrior of Light to his death?"

Estinien's words had stung more than a slap to the face. Only his grandfather or Alisaie could have been so blunt. What would you have said, dear sister, had you been there to hear me, the supposedly reformed commander of the Crystal Braves, blithely send another in my stead, having so recently resolved to fight my own battles?

And still he fought. And still he fought... And if he resented me for it, I would not blame him.

Alphinaud had found himself pacing while they waited for Ysayle and the Warrior of Light to return triumphant from Loth ast Gnath. In that eternity, Estinien had watched him, sometimes stone-faced, other times wearing a strange expression. He will come back to us. He always does...

Alphinaud Leveilleur. Words were his weapons─his intellect, his reason, his wit. Grandfather's gifts to me, like all else. Alphinaud Leveilleur. There but for the name did men hearken to him─respect him. What have you wrought by your own hands?

Alphinaud. Not a man who sacrifices his friends and family for a cause, but one who fights with them─fights for them. Anything less would be empty words and hollow promises.


"Master Alphinaud possesses a rare talent for the arcane arts. Should he continue to apply himself to their study, he will become a formidable mage in time."

Though he had trained in the martial applications, it had ever been purely as an academic exercise. But with Ysayle's encouragement, he had resolved to pursue a more practical education. Mayhap not today, nor even tomorrow, but one day...one day I will stand at your side.


Alphinaud turned the page, and his breath caught in his throat.


We have made camp in a clearing not far from Zenith, and on the morrow hope to meet with Hraesvelgr. Ysayle saw to our evening repast, and all agreed that her stew was the finest we had ever tasted. I, for my part, gathered the requisite firewood, taking care to remember Estinien's instructions...

Some part of me still labors to believe that we have come this far. That we have treated with dragons...and even a distant tribe of moogles! And that Estinien did not give the latter a thrashing. Then again, had he tried, the Warrior of Light would inevitably have intervened. Would that I had such strength and courage.

Until some few moons ago, I was supremely confident of my own abilities─convinced of my own superiority─only to be shown, all too clearly, how ignorant and powerless I truly am. I said as much, earlier, when we were gathered around the fire...

In the end, Ysayle received my confession rather more sympathetically than I had expected. "We all of us are guilty of a similar ignorance," she told me.

What matters, then, is that we strive to replace our ignorance with knowledge, while remaining true to our convictions.

If only it were that easy...

A soft rapping drew his eye from the journal to the doorway, from which a sliver of lamplight slowly widened.

"Master Alphinaud?"

Closing the journal, he rose and turned to acknowledge the former count.

"It seems I am not the only restless soul this night," Edmont smiled. "Personally, I find that a warm cup of herbal tea can oft work wonders at such times. Would you care to join me in one?"

"I would be honored."

As they made their way towards the kitchens, Alphinaud shared some of the thoughts born of his insomnia with Lord Edmont, who nodded understandingly. Upon arriving, the nobleman refused the assistance of the sole manservant present, instructing him instead to deliver extra blankets to the Scions' chambers. Lord Edmont then set about heating the water and preparing a mixture Alphinaud did not immediately recognize. When asked, he explained it was made from the roots of Nymeia lilies.

"A difficult plant," Alphinaud observed.

Lord Edmont smiled faintly and said nothing.

They enjoyed their tea in silence. Several times Alphinaud thought to speak, but found himself unsure of what to say. And then the cup was empty.

"I must thank you again for your most generous hospitality," he finally began.

"Full glad were we of your company," came the reply, with a promptness which took Alphinaud aback. "May the Fury watch over and keep you safe on your journey."

He knows.

Gently setting down his cup and saucer on the table, Lord Edmont met his gaze and smiled. "You are a good man, Alphinaud Leveilleur," he said, and left.

Alone, Alphinaud refilled his cup and took another sip. A bitter draught. Wincing, he reached once more for the honey, but stopped when the dancing fragments of Nymeia lily root in the tea chanced to catch his eye.

Seated at his desk once more, Alphinaud returned to his journal and the memories contained therein. At the sight of the words "Falcon's Nest," he shuddered. That I should live to see the emissaries of dragon and man meet─only for the promise of peace between their peoples to be torn asunder by the avatar of their vengeance.

The dragoon's crimson armor was unmistakable, as were the massive, twitching eyes fused to his arm and shoulder. In one fluid motion, Ser Aymeric snatched up the bow, drew, and loosed an arrow straight at the heart of his dearest friend. He knew what needed to be done and did it. And in that instant, I knew that I could not.

Nor could the Warrior of Light.

So we laid hands on those hideous things and pulled. Pulled with all our might, even as our bodies cried out in agony. And when our arms faltered, and our hopes faded, whence came the strength to wrench them free?

For those we have lost. For those we can yet save.


"Where once I craved vengeance, I now crave rest."

The sickroom was empty when they returned from Ser Aymeric's investiture, save for a vase of Nymeia lilies and the crimson armor Estinien had forsworn. For all his protestations, he had not the strength to suffer heartfelt thank-yous and tearful good-byes. And so it was that Alphinaud Leveilleur once more failed to say what was in his heart─failed to thank a man who cared not a whit for his name nor his station. A man who treated me harshly but fairly. A true friend and comrade. A brother.


In the morning, Alphinaud set forth, journal in hand, on a pilgrimage to retrace his steps throughout the north. Traveling alone, he was waylaid by bandits and beasts on occasion─but he was not the boy he once was, and easily defended himself with now well-practiced magicks.

After a time, he came once more to the peak of Sohm Al, and then to Zenith. He remembered the time he first stood before Hraesvelgr, how the earth had shaken when he descended from the heavens to weigh man's worth. He remembered the great wyrm's words and everything they had set in motion. The Aery. The Vault...

And so Alphinaud came again to Azys Lla.

There, at the landing's edge, he spied a bouquet of Nymeia lilies. Estinien. He had no way of knowing, and yet he knew.

We four, each from different walks of life, who took to the road on an impossible journey... Whatever else we may have been in the beginning─in the end, we were friends.

And we will meet again.

Closing his journal, Alphinaud finished his herbal tea and retired to bed. After taking a moment to stretch, he clasped his hands and rested them on his chest, turning his drowsy eyes heavensward. Before sleep claimed him, a thought came unbidden.

A bouquet of lilies for those we have lost. And for the living...

He knew.

As Alphinaud lay there, he could not help but smile.

"When I set out to master the dragoon's jump, 'twas not to strike fear into the hearts of high-hanging fruit."

Alphinaud chuckled as he remembered Estinien's ennui.

In the days since the dragoon vanished from his sickroom, he had found himself with an overabundance of leisure. Catching himself mindlessly tracing the patterns on the ceiling of his room at Fortemps Manor, he closed his eyes and let out a sigh. Another sleepless night.

Resigned, he rose from his bed and walked over to the great oak desk. Sinking into the chair, he reached for the leather-bound journal he had begun writing a lifetime ago. When I saw my arrogance and vanity for what it was─then, in the very depths of my despair─he spoke to me.

"Are you content to remain a broken blade? Is there no flame hot enough to reforge you?"

Mayhap not. A flush crept up his neck as he closed his eyes and recalled the kind words Lord Haurchefant had spoken to him, and the brave face he had put on at the time. Old habits. And then they had left behind the Falling Snows and embarked upon the journey that would change everything. Even me─albeit slowly.

Though the whole of Eorzea looked to the adventurer as a hero, to Lord Haurchefant the great Warrior of Light was above all else a friend. And the feeling was plainly mutual. Kindred spirits. Like the Warrior of Light, the knight lived to serve. To protect. To sacrifice. For there is no greater calling.

Though he had welcomed them both with open arms, it was only later that Alphinaud came to understand the true depth of the knight's love for his friends and for his nation. How it would save them, how it would save him. Too late.

Accordingly, in the peaceful interlude following the war's end, he had returned to the memorial atop the cliff overlooking the capital, and there said to the north wind all he had failed to say before.


Opening his eyes, Alphinaud returned his gaze to the journal which lay before him and began to turn the pages. Instantly, his mind was transported back to the time when the four of them, each from different walks of life, had taken to the road on an impossible journey.


"How lightly you propose the destruction of this god. Has it occurred to you that you may be sending the Warrior of Light to her death?"

Estinien's words had stung more than a slap to the face. Only his grandfather or Alisaie could have been so blunt. What would you have said, dear sister, had you been there to hear me, the supposedly reformed commander of the Crystal Braves, blithely send another in my stead, having so recently resolved to fight my own battles?

And still she fought. And still she fought... And if she resented me for it, I would not blame her.

Alphinaud had found himself pacing while they waited for Ysayle and the Warrior of Light to return triumphant from Loth ast Gnath. In that eternity, Estinien had watched him, sometimes stone-faced, other times wearing a strange expression. She will come back to us. She always does...

Alphinaud Leveilleur. Words were his weapons─his intellect, his reason, his wit. Grandfather's gifts to me, like all else. Alphinaud Leveilleur. There but for the name did men hearken to him─respect him. What have you wrought by your own hands?

Alphinaud. Not a man who sacrifices his friends and family for a cause, but one who fights with them─fights for them. Anything less would be empty words and hollow promises.


"Master Alphinaud possesses a rare talent for the arcane arts. Should he continue to apply himself to their study, he will become a formidable mage in time."

Though he had trained in the martial applications, it had ever been purely as an academic exercise. But with Ysayle's encouragement, he had resolved to pursue a more practical education. Mayhap not today, nor even tomorrow, but one day...one day I will stand at your side.


Alphinaud turned the page, and his breath caught in his throat.


We have made camp in a clearing not far from Zenith, and on the morrow hope to meet with Hraesvelgr. Ysayle saw to our evening repast, and all agreed that her stew was the finest we had ever tasted. I, for my part, gathered the requisite firewood, taking care to remember Estinien's instructions...

Some part of me still labors to believe that we have come this far. That we have treated with dragons...and even a distant tribe of moogles! And that Estinien did not give the latter a thrashing. Then again, had he tried, the Warrior of Light would inevitably have intervened. Would that I had such strength and courage.

Until some few moons ago, I was supremely confident of my own abilities─convinced of my own superiority─only to be shown, all too clearly, how ignorant and powerless I truly am. I said as much, earlier, when we were gathered around the fire...

In the end, Ysayle received my confession rather more sympathetically than I had expected. "We all of us are guilty of a similar ignorance," she told me.

What matters, then, is that we strive to replace our ignorance with knowledge, while remaining true to our convictions.

If only it were that easy...

A soft rapping drew his eye from the journal to the doorway, from which a sliver of lamplight slowly widened.

"Master Alphinaud?"

Closing the journal, he rose and turned to acknowledge the former count.

"It seems I am not the only restless soul this night," Edmont smiled. "Personally, I find that a warm cup of herbal tea can oft work wonders at such times. Would you care to join me in one?"

"I would be honored."

As they made their way towards the kitchens, Alphinaud shared some of the thoughts born of his insomnia with Lord Edmont, who nodded understandingly. Upon arriving, the nobleman refused the assistance of the sole manservant present, instructing him instead to deliver extra blankets to the Scions' chambers. Lord Edmont then set about heating the water and preparing a mixture Alphinaud did not immediately recognize. When asked, he explained it was made from the roots of Nymeia lilies.

"A difficult plant," Alphinaud observed.

Lord Edmont smiled faintly and said nothing.

They enjoyed their tea in silence. Several times Alphinaud thought to speak, but found himself unsure of what to say. And then the cup was empty.

"I must thank you again for your most generous hospitality," he finally began.

"Full glad were we of your company," came the reply, with a promptness which took Alphinaud aback. "May the Fury watch over and keep you safe on your journey."

He knows.

Gently setting down his cup and saucer on the table, Lord Edmont met his gaze and smiled. "You are a good man, Alphinaud Leveilleur," he said, and left.

Alone, Alphinaud refilled his cup and took another sip. A bitter draught. Wincing, he reached once more for the honey, but stopped when the dancing fragments of Nymeia lily root in the tea chanced to catch his eye.

Seated at his desk once more, Alphinaud returned to his journal and the memories contained therein. At the sight of the words "Falcon's Nest," he shuddered. That I should live to see the emissaries of dragon and man meet─only for the promise of peace between their peoples to be torn asunder by the avatar of their vengeance.

The dragoon's crimson armor was unmistakable, as were the massive, twitching eyes fused to his arm and shoulder. In one fluid motion, Ser Aymeric snatched up the bow, drew, and loosed an arrow straight at the heart of his dearest friend. He knew what needed to be done and did it. And in that instant, I knew that I could not.

Nor could the Warrior of Light.

So we laid hands on those hideous things and pulled. Pulled with all our might, even as our bodies cried out in agony. And when our arms faltered, and our hopes faded, whence came the strength to wrench them free?

For those we have lost. For those we can yet save.


"Where once I craved vengeance, I now crave rest."

The sickroom was empty when they returned from Ser Aymeric's investiture, save for a vase of Nymeia lilies and the crimson armor Estinien had forsworn. For all his protestations, he had not the strength to suffer heartfelt thank-yous and tearful good-byes. And so it was that Alphinaud Leveilleur once more failed to say what was in his heart─failed to thank a man who cared not a whit for his name nor his station. A man who treated me harshly but fairly. A true friend and comrade. A brother.


In the morning, Alphinaud set forth, journal in hand, on a pilgrimage to retrace his steps throughout the north. Traveling alone, he was waylaid by bandits and beasts on occasion─but he was not the boy he once was, and easily defended himself with now well-practiced magicks.

After a time, he came once more to the peak of Sohm Al, and then to Zenith. He remembered the time he first stood before Hraesvelgr, how the earth had shaken when he descended from the heavens to weigh man's worth. He remembered the great wyrm's words and everything they had set in motion. The Aery. The Vault...

And so Alphinaud came again to Azys Lla.

There, at the landing's edge, he spied a bouquet of Nymeia lilies. Estinien. He had no way of knowing, and yet he knew.

We four, each from different walks of life, who took to the road on an impossible journey... Whatever else we may have been in the beginning─in the end, we were friends.

And we will meet again.

Closing his journal, Alphinaud finished his herbal tea and retired to bed. After taking a moment to stretch, he clasped his hands and rested them on his chest, turning his drowsy eyes heavensward. Before sleep claimed him, a thought came unbidden.

A bouquet of lilies for those we have lost. And for the living...

He knew.

As Alphinaud lay there, he could not help but smile.


A Malm in Her Shoes


Leveilleur. Alisaie took immense pride in her name. It served as a constant reminder to the world of her connection to her grandsire, the great Louisoix Leveilleur─the man who spared the realm of Eorzea from the worst ravages of the Seventh Umbral Calamity. Needless to say, such noble heritage came with certain expectations, and she had worked tirelessly at the Studium to surpass them. Despite her many laudable academic achievements, however, Alisaie's tomboyish behavior and sharp tongue─honed through years spent bickering with her equally gifted twin brother─had earned her the scorn of her peers. But Alisaie took solace in the thought that Louisoix had himself been possessed of a mischievous streak, and had never been one to suffer fools gladly.

Having completed her schooling, Alisaie had traveled to Eorzea in a fever of expectation, eager to see the realm for which her grandsire had sacrificed so much. But what she found there was not at all as she had imagined. And so, after much soul-searching, she had resolved to explore the land in search of a cause for which to fight─a purpose of her own. She would travel alone, accompanied by neither servants nor adventurers─and certainly not by her brother─adamant that the impressions she formed be unsullied by the opinions of others.

And now, after many days on the road, she found herself in the barren lands of Thanalan. Having toiled for malms in the relentless midday heat, she relented and sought refuge in a wayside tavern.

"Stubborn bitch!"

She squinted towards the source of the outburst, her eyes not yet adjusted to the dim interior, and made out a burly man towering over a young lady. The girl─a traveler, judging by her attire─stood undaunted, even as the brute raised a meaty fist.

Alisaie sighed. She had grown weary of these barbaric people and their childish squabbles, but had not forgotten her grandfather's old admonishment: "To ignore the plight of those one might conceivably save is not wisdom—it is indolence."

"It is far too hot for fighting," Alisaie announced loudly. "But if you insist on hitting something, then I would be happy to arrange a meeting between you and the floor."

Both quarrelers flinched at the sound of Alisaie's voice, turning to meet her cold gaze with almost identical expressions of stunned surprise.


And thus did Alisaie make the acquaintance of young Emery, the traveling merchant.

According to Emery, her caravan was ordinarily accompanied by a guard, but after said sellsword had unexpectedly refused the offer of a new contract, she had been left at the mercy of a customer who thought to intimidate her into accepting a less than favorable trade. Having witnessed how effortlessly Alisaie cowed the man, however, the merchant now seemed determined to convince her savior to serve as the caravan's new escort.

Like all roving peddlers, Emery explained, her associates made their living trading goods between far-flung settlements. But, she claimed, the traders of her particular caravan knew all of the shortest routes, and were famed for the swiftness with which they brought new wares to market. In short, one could wish for no finer employers.

Despite the nakedness of Emery’s patter, Alisaie found that she was enthralled. Every aspect of the merchant's nomadic lifestyle seemed unspeakably fascinating. Though she took pains to hide her enthusiasm, lest she seem ignorant of the world, the grin on the merchant's face suggested that Alisaie's attempt to feign disinterest was less than successful. And so, after pausing as if to weigh the decision, she agreed.

In the days that followed, Alisaie studied the merchants’ ways, swiftly growing accustomed to their routine, such that when the caravan eventually pulled in to its next port of call─a village nestled at the base of the Sea of Spires─she felt like a changed woman. With new eyes, she appraised their destination. The settlement’s central bazaar was meager compared to the sprawling markets of Ul'dah, but the steady stream of visitors who came and went lent the place a kind of bustling energy.

Though her duties had thus far asked little more of her than to clear obstinate flocks of aldgoats from the road, she breathed a sigh of relief as the wagons trundled safely into the village. I shall never take caravan guards for granted again, she vowed, feeling utterly drained by the demands of constant vigilance.

For a time, Alisaie simply stood and watched as the merchants hurried back and forth in a flurry of preparation. Her silent observations were soon interrupted, however, by the arrival of a breathless Emery.

"There’s much and more to be done, Mistress Leveilleur," the young woman chirped. "We'll need your help with the selling."

"Selling? But I've no experience with─"

Seizing her hand, Emery dragged Alisaie towards the stalls her colleagues had erected in the village square. Residents and visitors alike were already crowding around the merchants, inspecting the wares that neatly lined the makeshift shelves.

Alisaie stopped short when she saw the swelling throng. This is a task for my brother, she thought with a twinge of panic. If Alphinaud were here, he would already be striding into their midst, sporting that infernal grin of his. Yet even as she attempted to back away, the merchant girl yanked her forward once more.

"You remember the talk we had about pricing, don't you?"

"Well, yes, but surely you do not expect me to─"

But Emery had already swiveled on her heels and begun serving a waiting customer, leaving Alisaie to talk to the breeze. She was still standing openmouthed behind the counter, entertaining thoughts of escape, when a matronly middle-aged woman thrust a bolt of cloth towards her.

"How much for this, then?"

Alisaie stared blankly at the cloth, her mind in disarray. And then she glimpsed Emery's brief backwards glance, and the mischievous smile that played on her lips. At least one of us is enjoying this. The noise in the square rose as the haggling began in earnest, and Alisaie permitted herself a sigh.

After a hard day’s bargaining, the caravan had sold much of its stock, and that evening the merchants retired to a dilapidated inn on the edge of the village proper. Exhausted, Alisaie sat down heavily on one of the two beds in her cramped room, and began flicking through the volume on arcane theory she had purchased during her stay in Ul'dah. Ever since her days as student, it had been a nightly ritual for her to open a book before bed and note down new findings in her journal. Should she discover any promising techniques, she would rise early the following morning and attempt to put her learning into practice.

But hours of unfamiliar work had taken their toll, and she was only a few lines into her current chapter when her eyelids began to droop. By the time Emery came in, she was all but asleep. The merchant girl stifled a laugh as Alisaie snatched reflexively at the tome that had begun to slide from her lap.

"Sorry for dragging you along today," Emery said, smiling. "I thought you might find it entertaining."

"'Twas certainly...an experience," Alisaie replied with a tired grin.

Emery sat down on the bed opposite, and glanced at Alisaie's book with interest.

"You never miss a day, do you," she said, shaking her head. "Trying to keep up with that brother of yours, eh?"

"Mayhap at first," Alisaie admitted. "But it was my grandfather who taught me the value of reading. And it is a habit that I am proud to have maintained."

"It is well that you respect your grandsire's teachings, Alisaie, but I doubt he meant for you to fall asleep sitting up," Emery chided gently.

With that, she took the still-open volume perched on Alisaie's knees, flipped the silk bookmark back into place, and snapped it shut.

"I hadn’t finished..." Alisaie managed, even as the girl dropped the book onto the pile of her belongings.

Emery stretched and yawned.

"It will still be there on the morrow," she said, and then her impish grin returned. "And it's not as if you didn’t learn a few things today─you made your first sale, for heavens’ sakes! I'm certain both Nald'thal and your grandsire would forgive you for missing a single night of study."

Ordinarily, Alisaie would not countenance such convenient excuses, but the warmth of Emery's manner had disarmed her. There was a familiar kindness in her words that set Alisaie's heart at ease.

Both girls readied themselves for bed, and Emery illuminated the room with another of her radiant smiles before reaching out to extinguish the lamp.

"Sleep well."


And that was the last night Alisaie would spend in her young friend’s company.

A sliver of sunlight fell across Alisaie's face, and she slowly opened her eyes. Pulling herself up to a sitting position, she spent a moment looking around before remembering where she was─in one of the private rooms of a Gridanian inn. The day had just dawned and she had been dreaming.


The journey she made with Emery had ended long ago, the vault of her mind the only place where she would ever see the girl again. On the day following Alisaie's debut as a merchant, the caravan had set off for its next destination during one of Thanalan's rare thunderstorms. The deluge made it hard to see, and still harder to steer, so the wagons were spaced out more than usual as they slipped and slid along a muddy path that cut through an otherwise impassable bluff.

A muffled rumble was the only warning they had before the cliffsides collapsed. In the space of a heartbeat, the carriages bringing up the rear and all who rode aboard them were buried beneath a mountain of sodden earth. And Emery was gone.

As fate would have it, Alisaie had been riding on the lead wagon, and emerged from the ordeal without so much as a bruise. She duly carried out her contract, escorting the surviving merchants to the next town before bidding them farewell. Mind still numb with shock, she was some distance away when she chanced to glance back at the caravan and saw how few of the wagons remained. Her chest constricted with sudden grief, and the tears finally fell.

After that, Alisaie had returned to traveling alone, filing the memory of each new meeting and parting away inside her breast, and taking none into her confidence. It was in the lonely days that followed that she chanced to hear rumors of an unknown band of heroes that appeared to be doing the work of the Scions. And thus, at long last, she found a purpose. The gossip in the ports made much of the recent events in Ishgard, but she doggedly followed the underlying thread of primal activity. Alisaie would learn the nature of these champions whose course appeared destined to cross that of her brother and his comrades.

She swung her legs over the side of the bed, stretched, and threw open the shutters. As she gazed out at the morning sky, a fragment of her dream rose unbidden: the image of Emery's smiling face. Alisaie recalled the girl's well-meaning words with an aching sadness.

Some things do not last until the morrow.


Thoughts Unspoken


Be present, yet unobtrusive. Predict, but never presume. Head bowed, ears open, stepping softly, he was ever ready to serve, as he had for nearly five years. Though well-liked by his peers, to the lords and ladies he was but another nameless face among five score and more men and women who labored tirelessly for House Fortemps. But your day will come─for do we not live in changing times?

The end of the Dragonsong War was only the beginning. The manor had since seen an endless cavalcade of esteemed personages, eager to pay their respects to the old count and earn the favor of the new. Yet not all were so calculating─the newly elected representatives of the Commons seemed less interested in playing the great game and more in simply learning its rules. Poor sods.

Rounding the corner of the manor hallway, the manservant found himself face to face with the head steward of the household.

The old wolf grinned. "Ah, there you are. Walk with me. There is a delicate matter which I would entrust to no other."

"O-Of course, Master Firmien!"

He listened in a daze as his superior listed the legal documentation that served as proof of House Fortemps' historical claim to Camp Dragonhead, which the count apparently required for reasons Firmien did not disclose. Pausing at a window, the steward clasped his hands behind his back and inclined his chin towards the noonday sun. "You should arrive before nightfall if you leave now. And lest there be any lingering uncertainty: you are not to return without those papers. Do I make myself clear?"

The manservant swallowed and gave an earnest nod, when a figure in the courtyard below chanced to catch his eye. Even at a distance, the man was unmistakable. Slayer of Gods. Rider of Dragons. Savior of Ishgard.

"Master Firmien, is not that the Warrior of Light? I was told he would be staying with us for a time."

"I am given to understand that he means to make a journey of remembrance─inspired by one of your compeers, no less. Let us pray you both return to the manor ere long."

The western sky burned crimson at the manservant's back as he was shown into the great hall at Camp Dragonhead. There, the knights listened patiently as he detailed his task, and he was duly granted free rein to search the stronghold for the requisite documents.

It soon became plain that his task would be far from simple. For all Lord Haurchefant's many fine qualities, the late commander of the garrison had plainly not been one for paperwork, his approach to the administrative aspects of his role apparently amounting to stuffing reports, schedules, and invoices into the drawers of his desk at random. Nor were the young pages any help, as none had even the faintest idea where their master might have kept documents of greater import, if not in his office.

With a sigh, he called for ink and parchment. Your day will come. Just you wait...

Out of respect, the manservant had refrained from searching Lord Haurchefant's private chambers on the first evening, but after a fruitless night, he requested they be unlocked on the morrow. Alas, they too yielded naught. His hopes were further dashed at midday, when a raven bearing the head steward's simple reply arrived. Don't ask questions you don't want answered.

And so the manservant remained at Camp Dragonhead, scouring every location in which the documents might reasonably have been stored─and many more in which they should not. As the days wore on, he began to entertain elaborate fantasies as to their fate. Mayhap a pack of highland goobbues wandered through the gates unseen and...no─a goblin thief! Yes, a goblin thief would have little difficulty hiding a hundred such documents in his pack's many secret compartments...

Secret...

In the twilight hours of yet another sleepless night, the manservant made his way to Lord Haurchefant's private chambers once more, lamp in trembling hand. At once his eyes were drawn to the desk.

He found the drawer with the false bottom almost immediately.

"Fury be praised," he whispered as he fumbled for the papers within. There was no mistaking the seals. As he pulled them free and began to leaf through them, an envelope slipped between his fingers and fell to the ground. He knelt and saw it bore no markings. It wasn't even sealed... Intrigued, he set the other documents on the desk, picked up the envelope, and extracted the parchment within.

Oh...bugger.

My dearest friend,


I pray this missive finds you in good health and high spirits.

It has been some several days since you and Master Alphinaud embarked upon your journey to the west, having learned of the impending Dravanian invasion. Of course, I have no way of knowing when these words will reach you. Mayhap these troubled times will be but a distant memory when they do.

I realize that matters of great import command your attention at present, but when I looked to the distant skies the other day and found myself praying for your safe return, I felt compelled to put pen to paper. Do forgive me this indulgence.

Well then, what to write. I would ordinarily ask if you had been enjoying your time in Ishgard, but given the circumstances of your coming, and your subsequent embroilment in yet another battle not your own, mayhap it were better that I did not. I imagine it is by now altogether too familiar a tale. Even so, it pains me to say that it is distressingly easy to imagine you fighting to the bitter end regardless...

Nevertheless, I cannot deny that it filled my heart with joy to see you finally set foot in our fair city. The thought that I would be able to witness your daily feats of heroism firsthand was quite simply... Well, let us say that I was tremendously grateful for it. And the idea that I might once more fight by your side seemed no less thrilling!

Ah, yes, I have been meaning to say─I do hope my (likely misguided) decision to name your home away from home the Falling Snows did not grate. It was but my artless attempt to raise your spirits. When you sought us out in your hour of need, and I saw firsthand how utterly despondent Master Alphinaud was, I knew at once that I must do everything in my power to help you to preserve the dawn's light, be it as a friend (with a jest) or as an ally─which is why I resolved to petition my father on your behalf.

It was, to be frank, no easy thing for me.

Lest you mistake my meaning, my father is an honorable man, good and true. Doubtless that is why my late mother fell in love with him. Mayhap that is also why she thought it best to leave the family's service─that in doing so, she might help preserve his reputation, though she ultimately chose to place me in his care.

He loved her, of course, as I am sure he loves me, and I him, though we rarely speak of such things. But then our conversations are invariably rather brief.

Mayhap that is why I chose to become a knight.

Alas, my father was firm in his refusal, for although he had supported our shared endeavors with Revenant's Toll and the Scions in the past, providing safe haven for wanted fugitives was another matter altogether. Still I persisted, prompting my father to ask what could possibly have driven me to fight so fervently on your behalf.

And so I told him of the man who had unexpectedly come into our lives─a bright, shining paragon of virtue, whose very presence drove others to be better than themselves. I told him that this man, this cherished friend of mine, was a hero, lies and slander be damned, and that as his friend, it was only right that I help him.

Looking back, it may well have been the longest conversation we had ever had.

Afterwards, he simply stared at me in silence for what felt like an eternity. And then, when I had all but resolved to take my leave, he told me he would give me his answer on the morrow.

The rest, you know.

Thanks to you─and indirectly my father─I have come to appreciate my visits to the manor all the more. You are rarely there, of course, given your propensity for disappearing off on grand adventures, but I forgive you on the grounds that most are undertaken on our behalf! Truly, your famously calm disposition notwithstanding, I suspect, given the right encouragement, you would have some decidedly colorful observations to share. I should be honored to lend an ear someday─mayhap over a drink!

But you will think me facetious. Pray then allow me to speak plain.


My dearest friend, in whom I trust without hesitation, without doubt─

Come what may, I know you will strive on.

You will strive, and in the end you will triumph, on this journey and the next, and the next, and the next.

And when you have fought the good fight, only to find, yet again, that it is not enough─

I will be there.

This I promise. This I swear.


Beyond darkest night waits a new dawn. I pray you greet her with a smile.


Your friend,

Haurchefant Greystone

The fresh snow crunched underfoot as the manservant trudged up the path towards Providence Point the following day.

Eyes bleary from lack of sleep, he had set out upon hearing that the Warrior of Light had passed through the camp less than an hour ago. Still on that journey of his. Though the snow conspired against him with every labored step, he forged on, mindful of his task, for the envelope pressed against his burning breast.

Cresting the hill, the manservant slowed as he caught sight of the figure just beyond the standing stones. As he withdrew the unsent missive from his coat and approached, he opened his mouth to call out, only for the words to die in his throat.

The Warrior of Light knelt before the memorial, motionless. Even at a distance, the manservant could make out his face, a mask betraying nothing... And then, with soldierly abruptness, he rose to his feet, a curious smile spreading across his face. You know, don't you? Everything he never had the chance to say...

In that instant, the north wind laid claim to the letter, plucking it from the manservant's hand and spiriting it away into the heavens. As he craned his head upwards and shielded his eyes, he saw it spiral higher and higher and higher, until at last it was swallowed by the distant sun.

Be present, yet unobtrusive. Predict, but never presume. Head bowed, ears open, stepping softly, he was ever ready to serve, as he had for nearly five years. Though well-liked by his peers, to the lords and ladies he was but another nameless face among five score and more men and women who labored tirelessly for House Fortemps. But your day will come─for do we not live in changing times?

The end of the Dragonsong War was only the beginning. The manor had since seen an endless cavalcade of esteemed personages, eager to pay their respects to the old count and earn the favor of the new. Yet not all were so calculating─the newly elected representatives of the Commons seemed less interested in playing the great game and more in simply learning its rules. Poor sods.

Rounding the corner of the manor hallway, the manservant found himself face to face with the head steward of the household.

The old wolf grinned. "Ah, there you are. Walk with me. There is a delicate matter which I would entrust to no other."

"O-Of course, Master Firmien!"

He listened in a daze as his superior listed the legal documentation that served as proof of House Fortemps' historical claim to Camp Dragonhead, which the count apparently required for reasons Firmien did not disclose. Pausing at a window, the steward clasped his hands behind his back and inclined his chin towards the noonday sun. "You should arrive before nightfall if you leave now. And lest there be any lingering uncertainty: you are not to return without those papers. Do I make myself clear?"

The manservant swallowed and gave an earnest nod, when a figure in the courtyard below chanced to catch his eye. Even at a distance, the woman was unmistakable. Slayer of Gods. Rider of Dragons. Savior of Ishgard.

"Master Firmien, is not that the Warrior of Light? I was told she would be staying with us for a time."

"I am given to understand that she means to make a journey of remembrance─inspired by one of your compeers, no less. Let us pray you both return to the manor ere long."

The western sky burned crimson at the manservant's back as he was shown into the great hall at Camp Dragonhead. There, the knights listened patiently as he detailed his task, and he was duly granted free rein to search the stronghold for the requisite documents.

It soon became plain that his task would be far from simple. For all Lord Haurchefant's many fine qualities, the late commander of the garrison had plainly not been one for paperwork, his approach to the administrative aspects of his role apparently amounting to stuffing reports, schedules, and invoices into the drawers of his desk at random. Nor were the young pages any help, as none had even the faintest idea where their master might have kept documents of greater import, if not in his office.

With a sigh, he called for ink and parchment. Your day will come. Just you wait...

Out of respect, the manservant had refrained from searching Lord Haurchefant's private chambers on the first evening, but after a fruitless night, he requested they be unlocked on the morrow. Alas, they too yielded naught. His hopes were further dashed at midday, when a raven bearing the head steward's simple reply arrived. Don't ask questions you don't want answered.

And so the manservant remained at Camp Dragonhead, scouring every location in which the documents might reasonably have been stored─and many more in which they should not. As the days wore on, he began to entertain elaborate fantasies as to their fate. Mayhap a pack of highland goobbues wandered through the gates unseen and...no─a goblin thief! Yes, a goblin thief would have little difficulty hiding a hundred such documents in his pack's many secret compartments...

Secret...

In the twilight hours of yet another sleepless night, the manservant made his way to Lord Haurchefant's private chambers once more, lamp in trembling hand. At once his eyes were drawn to the desk.

He found the drawer with the false bottom almost immediately.

"Fury be praised," he whispered as he fumbled for the papers within. There was no mistaking the seals. As he pulled them free and began to leaf through them, an envelope slipped between his fingers and fell to the ground. He knelt and saw it bore no markings. It wasn't even sealed... Intrigued, he set the other documents on the desk, picked up the envelope, and extracted the parchment within.

Oh...bugger.

My dearest friend,


I pray this missive finds you in good health and high spirits.

It has been some several days since you and Master Alphinaud embarked upon your journey to the west, having learned of the impending Dravanian invasion. Of course, I have no way of knowing when these words will reach you. Mayhap these troubled times will be but a distant memory when they do.

I realize that matters of great import command your attention at present, but when I looked to the distant skies the other day and found myself praying for your safe return, I felt compelled to put pen to paper. Do forgive me this indulgence.

Well then, what to write. I would ordinarily ask if you had been enjoying your time in Ishgard, but given the circumstances of your coming, and your subsequent embroilment in yet another battle not your own, mayhap it were better that I did not. I imagine it is by now altogether too familiar a tale. Even so, it pains me to say that it is distressingly easy to imagine you fighting to the bitter end regardless...

Nevertheless, I cannot deny that it filled my heart with joy to see you finally set foot in our fair city. The thought that I would be able to witness your daily feats of heroism firsthand was quite simply... Well, let us say that I was tremendously grateful for it. And the idea that I might once more fight by your side seemed no less thrilling!

Ah, yes, I have been meaning to say─I do hope my (likely misguided) decision to name your home away from home the Falling Snows did not grate. It was but my artless attempt to raise your spirits. When you sought us out in your hour of need, and I saw firsthand how utterly despondent Master Alphinaud was, I knew at once that I must do everything in my power to help you to preserve the dawn's light, be it as a friend (with a jest) or as an ally─which is why I resolved to petition my father on your behalf.

It was, to be frank, no easy thing for me.

Lest you mistake my meaning, my father is an honorable man, good and true. Doubtless that is why my late mother fell in love with him. Mayhap that is also why she thought it best to leave the family's service─that in doing so, she might help preserve his reputation, though she ultimately chose to place me in his care.

He loved her, of course, as I am sure he loves me, and I him, though we rarely speak of such things. But then our conversations are invariably rather brief.

Mayhap that is why I chose to become a knight.

Alas, my father was firm in his refusal, for although he had supported our shared endeavors with Revenant's Toll and the Scions in the past, providing safe haven for wanted fugitives was another matter altogether. Still I persisted, prompting my father to ask what could possibly have driven me to fight so fervently on your behalf.

And so I told him of the woman who had unexpectedly come into our lives─a bright, shining paragon of virtue, whose very presence drove others to be better than themselves. I told him that this woman, this cherished friend of mine, was a hero, lies and slander be damned, and that as her friend, it was only right that I help her.

Looking back, it may well have been the longest conversation we had ever had.

Afterwards, he simply stared at me in silence for what felt like an eternity. And then, when I had all but resolved to take my leave, he told me he would give me his answer on the morrow.

The rest, you know.

Thanks to you─and indirectly my father─I have come to appreciate my visits to the manor all the more. You are rarely there, of course, given your propensity for disappearing off on grand adventures, but I forgive you on the grounds that most are undertaken on our behalf! Truly, your famously calm disposition notwithstanding, I suspect, given the right encouragement, you would have some decidedly colorful observations to share. I should be honored to lend an ear someday─mayhap over a drink!

But you will think me facetious. Pray then allow me to speak plain.


My dearest friend, in whom I trust without hesitation, without doubt─

Come what may, I know you will strive on.

You will strive, and in the end you will triumph, on this journey and the next, and the next, and the next.

And when you have fought the good fight, only to find, yet again, that it is not enough─

I will be there.

This I promise. This I swear.


Beyond darkest night waits a new dawn. I pray you greet her with a smile.


Your friend,

Haurchefant Greystone

The fresh snow crunched underfoot as the manservant trudged up the path towards Providence Point the following day.

Eyes bleary from lack of sleep, he had set out upon hearing that the Warrior of Light had passed through the camp less than an hour ago. Still on that journey of hers. Though the snow conspired against him with every labored step, he forged on, mindful of his task, for the envelope pressed against his burning breast.

Cresting the hill, the manservant slowed as he caught sight of the figure just beyond the standing stones. As he withdrew the unsent missive from his coat and approached, he opened his mouth to call out, only for the words to die in his throat.

The Warrior of Light knelt before the memorial, motionless. Even at a distance, the manservant could make out her face, a mask betraying nothing... And then, with soldierly abruptness, she rose to her feet, a curious smile spreading across her face. You know, don't you? Everything he never had the chance to say...

In that instant, the north wind laid claim to the letter, plucking it from the manservant's hand and spiriting it away into the heavens. As he craned his head upwards and shielded his eyes, he saw it spiral higher and higher and higher, until at last it was swallowed by the distant sun.