(Shadowbringers and Casterquest spoilers present)
I was rooting through my bags before heading out to the kholusian mines on the plateau about a mysterious machine graveyard (thank you, Aislinn—yes, that was sarcasm) when I came across two memory spheres that I had thought I published but didn’t.
Memory Sphere 3
The day after my friends arrived we got together, and I filled them in as to what had been going on. I even replayed an earlier sphere for them. They were noticeably stunned as to developments as well as the general time scale that I had, in truth, been gone. Chloe came in and I managed to half-convince her to give them a tour of the area.
A call came in from my work boss reminding me about a work detail. I politely excused myself from them and headed to the amaro launch. On the way there, the mining lead from the Mean intercepted me and pulled me aside. I protested and said I was going to me made late for work and with purpose she contacted the work boss and told him that I wouldn’t be arriving.
What she wanted with me related to what had been discussed the first time—tracking down a theoretically extinct creature native to this world.
The researcher that looked into the fossils came back with an additional story. A large gust of wind and massive shadow had passed through Lakeland recently was reported by several guards.
How did I relate to all this? She wanted me to go hunting for droppings. Just about everyone else she tried to corner managed to wiggle out of the assignment and she looked desperate. Why she couldn’t go looking herself is beyond me, but I understood.
Sighing inwardly, I started looking around the shores for signs of excrement. Probably not the most tasteless assignment I’ve ever had in my life. I think I would rather have surveyed Aurum Vale naked than digging through crap—and this was a worse smell. But after awhile I bagged enough to take back to her. From the moment I stepped into the Crystarium, people were giving me a very wide berth. After what I just went through, I didn’t blame them. Finding her at the Mean, I unceremoniously dropped the bag on her desk though I was careful enough not to let the contents spill everywhere. For her part, she was thrilled and had someone take it down to the gardens for examination.
Some days, I really hate my job. But I don’t envy what he was about to do either.
I decided that rather than going through the markets to reach my room and offending nearly the entire city in the process I went back out to the lake and took a bath. It was great; found a little cove well outside any established fort or outskirt. The thought of going to the hot spring to the northeast did cross my mind, but I decided against it.
Just as I was finishing up, an announcement was being broadcast from the Crystarium Tower to my tomephone. I imagine it hit many other devices too. It seems like a call for every able-body that can mine, cast magic, or move equipment was being called to Kholusia for a massive undertaking. My curiosity piqued, I returned and talked with the launch. They had an airship from Eulmore—of all places—ready to transfer people. That really took my notice. I made a few enquiries about what happened out there during the ride. Reportedly, someone outside the city not receiving alms from Eulmore had seen several people turn on other inhabitants. They were clubbed senseless. Also someone was seen to go into the city itself to deal with what was going on. Then a large object was flying from the top of the city to the north to Mt. Gulg which then promptly levitated into the air. Same person rallied a member—heir according to some people—of the Stoneworks to build a massive talon to create a land bridge up to the floating island.
That’s where we come in. There was material to be gathered and stones to power through focusing our mana. We arrived at one of the mining/empowering camps and I saw a familiar face. A fellow adventurer named Jinx Shinjiraku, leader of the Demons Mask. She used to hang around with me and Jess back when I was a young adventurer. Now she looks like she is searching for someone, or something. Didn’t get a chance to ask after it as I was promptly given a small crate of stones to infuse with aether.
With so many volunteers doing various jobs, it took perhaps a bell when all the work was done. The foreman assembled some beasts of burden and took everything to the main construction location. A bell after that, I felt a massive surge of aether and a…well, let me paint a picture. Imagine a stone statue about the size of two mountains rising slowly from the ground. I focused my gaze and looked up to where the massive hand was reaching. The sin eaters that were circling the floating island were attacking it, with little to show for it. Then my pixie came into view and points to the air, exuberant. “She comes! The King comes!”
Anyroad, just beyond the stone hand some pixies flanked by amaro begin to assault the aerial defenders. Titania looked like she was saying something but at this range I couldn’t make out with any clarity. The sin eaters are mostly driven off in the assault.
“And now, all gathered sinners,” the foreman said, “we wait and see what the Warrior of Darkness will do.” This jogged me out of my internal reverie of the moment. He or She was here? I've been bells behind their works in this world all along. That alone made me find a rock and do some hard thinking. About the aether being absorbed by several regions; the clearing of the sky. But more urgently-the amount of power that the individual must be holding at bay.
Sometimes I hate it when I’m right. For after perhaps another two bells, the sky cleared up and nighttime returned. But only for a few minutes. The oppressive curtain of Light snapped back into place. My tomephone was going off the hook with messages that the other territories have regained their Light curtains and sin eaters were starting to return en masse.
But worst of all was the sudden explosion of aether I felt. So tightly focused; so mixed with corrupt sensations. I nearly passed out then and there but only by supreme focus I was able to maintain consciousness. Several of the spellcasters around me were not so fortunate. I lost track of Jinx; I hope she was ok from the outpouring of Light. Morosely, the camp boarded the airship and returned back to the Crystarium carrying the unconscious on litters.
It was night by then…or we thought it would be night. People were scared; that much was evident. The Warrior of Darkness was immediately sent to their room. A rumor that the Exarch, leader of the Crystarium, has gone missing. What or why he was even in Kholusia remained a mystery hashed over by several of the bar patrons. Even I was tempted to drown my sorrows in alcohol. But no. I needed to clear my head. So renting an amaro from the launch, I went to pay a visit to Mord Suuq. The sky was, of course, oppressed here too. In short order I looked up Serriq and Taynor. They reported that Taynor was ready to do his part. Bolstered by action, I readied my magerod and we departed into the desert to finally hunt Phronesis.
We found him by the hospice. He too looked raring for a fight. Possibly he sensed our approach. A ring of aether interference rose around us and combat began in earnest. I felt…guided. It was an unusual experience. I sensed where he would cast voidgates and moved well in advance to their completion. Spells of ice, fire, and thunder were flung by me and him. For Serriq’s part, he stayed mostly out of range and fired arrows from his massive bow; some scoring home and others missing. Taynor was on portal override. I can’t really say how long the combat went on until our shared victory. Taynor was on his last legs and Serriq was severely hurt. I was drained mentally and breathing hard.
The psudobody dissolved into aether and its ghost strode forward a moment. He said some words in a language that I couldn’t understand. Taynor obviously did, and by the striken face and response in that language he was sorrowing over…something. I didn’t know. Eventually, the ghost, or after image, faded into aether as well. Serriq and Taynor went a distance. I was about to follow when I noted a glimmer buried in the sand. Going over to it, I uncovered what appeared to be a spent aether crystal. It was very beautiful, in a manner of speaking. Serriq waved me over as I pocked the crystal. We talked a little while and Taynor offered to be Serriq’s next partner hunter. I smiled at them both. They knew their limitations, yet were willing to work them out and complement each other by their strengths. Serriq gave me a bag of currency and they wandered away.
Well, with that diversion over, my mind went back to the problem at hand. Tired, I went back to the launch point between here and the crystarium. During flight I saw the strangest sight. A massive shape came out of the lake and headed west. One of the islands in the distance was also missing. My pixie came out and flew along side us. He looked…pensive. Over the wind I asked him what was on his mind. “That shape…that was an elder fae,” he said. “Something strong enough to stir it from slumber.” Then he pouted. “I wish I was there.” Bemused I left the conversation in silence.
Two days later, people were still trying to carry on as best as possible. The curtain was overhead, and everyone was tense. Suddenly I felt a pulse in the air. A light tingle; a faint breeze; a lessening of aetheric density coming from the west.
And the curtain fell for the second time.
Immediately I checked with people near and far on my tomephone. It seemed that this phenomenon was occurring everywhere. The sky—real sky—has returned to the world. And from this I felt Hope.