Finally--we've finally returned to the Thirteenth.
The sky is as beautiful as I remember it.
Our landing place is "The Fell Court of Troia"--same as Norvrandt, I know it instinctively, though it's likely otherwise lost. But I won't be trying to refer to the Thirteenth as "Troia" yet, even if it tastes better than calling our reflection by a number. I'd rather avoid another Nabaath Areng/Mord Souq mixup.
Better to focus on the questions, for now, anyway.
Both voidgates connected to floating islands--everything below is shrouded in a dark haze. But was everything above the clouds before the fall? Because of it? Coincidence, and both are in the Thirteenth's Sea of Clouds?
The statues within the castle--I don't recognize the creatures, not even from Elpis. The robed figures also resemble the shades of Amaurot, though the nobles in the portraits wore no such robes. Are they ceremonial? Coincidence? Or artistic simplification, given how many needed to be made?
And there's no dust--everything is worn and old, and corrupted by dark aether or warped unbelievably in some places....but not a speck of dust. A side effect of dark aether? I doubt the voidsent are in the habit of cleaning...
On that note....I think this island is older than the Thirteenth's fall. Having seen the Empty, that seems impossible, yet....I don't think the voidsent built this place, with their current forms and priorities. Or if they did, it was with methods unknown to the Source.
Really, the only question I might have an answer to is the portraits in the hall--the woman in the central painting, specifically. Beatrice, I suspect.....but can't confirm. Which would make her the twice former ruler.
But that's unrelated to either of the current investigations.
The voidsent have been oddly docile, at least, with no leader--even the ones incapable of speech. That doesn't make them have useful information, but.....at least they're not trying to eat us.
And their focus on losing their aether source is painting a picture of how life has restructured after the fall of the shard.
....Something else to add to the list of dark aether's potential qualities--speech. Of the sin-eaters, only Titania and Innocence were coherent. The other Lightwardens were bestial, and everyone else--even the Cardinal Virtues--was either silent or had their perception warped.....most often both.
Even weaker voidsent can communicate, yet the patients at Journey's Head could barely speak, even though they hadn't turned.....it's haunting, thinking back on it--on what almost happened.
Whether I mean Norvrandt or myself, though, I....I'm not sure.
But now isn't the time for memories and what-ifs--I need to find Beatrice's would-be dinner.
---I don't--how didWe were on the far edge of the stars, and yet she
If the fates abandoned Garlemald, then they have it out for me.
I.....I must confess, I thought it would be him. Rejoined, maybe, or corrupted, or.....or something. He's come back from the dead before. And.....a part of me hoped he'd managed it again. The rest of me assumed his luck was twisted enough to pull it off, too.
If nothing else, I know we'll be trying to kill each other again in the aetherial sea.
But, for her to have been his avatar, a unique existence on the Thirteenth, and just happen
to be in Troia at the same time....the odds are unfathomable.
That she said her contract warped her appearance and called it one-sided worries me, though. Have I inadvertently done the same? Or is the traditional method "fair", and Zenos's contract unique in its illegitimacy?
If I can find my avatar here, I'll have to ask.
Zero is....bristly. Or maybe just lacking common sense.
Then again, if most of what she's seen of the Source was through Zenos....it's more impressive she's as amicable as she is.
Still, I doubt the Thirteenth was this transactional before its Flood--that it's so ingrained in her now is....off-putting? But she has answers--not to everything, but it's a start.
Contramemoria--the name of the last war. I'd heard of it from Cylva and Unukalhai. But for Zero to have lived through it, to remember how things used to be, it.....it's beyond comprehension, to be honest. I realize I keep saying that, but even this fragment of the Thirteenth continues to surprise me.
Regardless, it means she knows the Thirteenth's isolated imitation of the aetherial sea isn't normal, and that we would need to be told about it. Incidentally, the high-speed cycle here explains the lack of "morality" of the other voidsent I've met--death, and even being eaten, isn't the same here.
And then....Memoria. The power to cut off the cycle, but also the cause of the Flood. That full voidsent are unable to use it is unexpected, but the question of "why" isn't one lost to time.....even if it may need a team of scholars and alchemists to decipher it later.
She answered a question I hadn't asked, as well--domains like Troia are brought forth from the memories of their rulers. Beatrice was likely the woman in the painting, as I suspected, and it would explain the warped structures in the dungeons--the ruler wouldn't have visited them often.
Creation magicks, basically. I don't know the requirements, yet, but I suppose it's easier under the influence of Darkness.....or something like that. So in a way, Troia both does and doesn't predate the Flood.
Anyway, we will be leaving Troia by Nisroch--it seems some voidsent get by relatively peacefully by providing transport in exchange for aether. I'm not sure about their inclination for eating others if the opportunity arises, but....after enough passengers, I'd assume they'd be off the menu, at least.
Zero's domain is.....the best way I can describe it is that it reminds me of the Crystarium.
But not the same way as Sharlayan, which shares the layout and collaborative atmosphere, rather.....what the early Crystarium must've been like.
A fragment of safety in a destroyed world. A place for people to huddle together, sheltered by a powerful guardian, who is both the same and fundamentally diverged from their citizens.
In other words, I don't think Zero is as ruthless as she acts--a bleeding heart that can't quite go against the contract culture fueling the Thirteenth.
We can't, either, to be fair. It would be culturally taboo, like well-meaning magick use to a Garlean. I'm thankful, in a way, that we're so starved for information--that every answer springs forth more questions.
Information, after all, doesn't take from a voidsent the way aether or risking danger might--especially with how Y'shtola has begun to twist minor comments into transactions after the fact.
.....Somehow, I think Urianger will take to voidsent transactions like a Loporrit to carrots.
But I digress.
We're lacking most in details about Golbez--he seems to have Azdaja, but even after sealing both Barbariccia and Scarmiglione, the most we know is that he's powerful, and.....we probably have his attention now.
It's not really surprising, though--of the citizens of Zero's domain, only Farfarello and Ciriatto have a relation to him, and they were only minions of Golbez's now-sealed archfiends.
Sure, one other citizen had a master I recognized.......but that was Scathach. And should we cross paths again, I doubt she'd try to fight us.
We've learned much of the way of life here, at least. It's straightforward, but we wouldn't have been able to even leave Troia--especially so quickly--without Zero's help.
And there does seem to be a threat to voidsents' lives, aside from Memoria--loss of their sense of self. I'm not sure how many have realized it, what with how common absorbing each other is, but....
Even a willing rejoining like mine is.....I still get our memories mixed up, to be honest. So for a voidsent, I suspect it's closer to Estinien's possession by Nidhogg. And that....it changed him, more than Ysayle or the end of the war did.
And....I'm worried--what will happen if we do, somehow, restore everyone's aetherial balance. All three aethers of life, split and blended and split and blended, for gods know how long.
I know it's a problem for "later", but....it's an uncomfortable parallel to the Ascians. The Thirteenth, in a way, has borne a new kind of life--just because it takes another form, has another culture....
In other words, if the voidsents' restored forms are incapable of life--if it would return most or all of them to the aetherial sea, if it would restart the Thirteenth by force in such a way.....it would be hypocritical of us to follow through blindly.
It would be worse, even--it wouldn't restore what once was, but destroy both.
I should table it for now, I guess--we don't have the means to restore balance, let alone a clue what the effects would be.
There's an irony, I realize, in where I've chosen to write the last of this entry. The base of the statue in Zero's domain--"The hero who will save the world", according to one of the locals.
Zero didn't remember it, when we passed it before, even though she should have been its creator. A statue worn into facelessness, shield broken, the surroundings it's poised to guard in shambles.
There's a story to it, I'm sure, but it's one we won't know until she wakes up.