The Lodestone

Tales from the Shadows

One Name, One Promise

“In this den of pirates and thieves, those who cast the darkest shadows are wont to wear white. Helps them blend in...disappear into the streetscape. In that sense, I reckon ye were born for this line of work...”

So the man mused indifferently as he grabbed at the small boy’s silver locks. They were not father and son, nor blood relatives of any sort. Just a child who knew no life but that on the streets and a merchant of ill repute who was all too eager to employ the urchin in one shady scheme after the next. Business partners, and nothing more.

It was a different time, back in the days before Admiral Merlwyb forbade piracy and brought a measure of order to Limsa. In that lawless place, a street rat could do worse for allies than a black marketeer of questionable moral fiber.

Needless to say, some patrons were bad, while others were worse. Allow yourself to be lured in by the promise of easy coin, and you might find yourself with a cutlass to your chin. There was but one constant—once the job was done, both parties moved on, sometimes without so much as a fare-thee-well. And thus Thancred spent his formative years. For better or for worse, he was an apt pupil, agile of body and sharp of mind. He could take care of himself and gave the dangers that lurked at every turn a suitably wide berth.

At one point, he even managed to ingratiate himself with the Dutiful Sisters—keepers of the Code, feared even by the most fearsome buccaneers. And yet, in the end, he chose to move on. There was something about them—the quiet passion, the pride they took in their work—that never sat right with the boy.

It was by no means a glamorous life—nor less an easy one—but it was the only life he knew. That is, until the day he took it into his head to ply his trade on the piers. Word had it that a trader was arriving from across the seas, and coinpurses would be flush with gil and ripe for the taking.

The elderly Elezen whom he chose as his mark had other ideas, however. No sooner had the boy lifted a hand than he found himself flat on his back, his limbs bound by powerful magicks. A short life in gaol beckoned, or perhaps a quick death.

And then the strangest thing happened. The man took him by the hand, led him to a quiet corner away from the bustling crowds, looked him straight in the eye and said, “My name is Louisoix Leveilleur. I am a scholar from across the seas. What is your name, child?”

“Thancred,” the boy mumbled, still in disbelief.

“Thancred...what? Have you any family?” the old man continued, with a sympathetic smile.

“Just Thancred,” the boy shrugged. “And I don’t have a family—at least, none that I know of.”

The man who had called himself Louisoix paused for a moment, stroking his beard, before appearing to come to a conclusion.

“You are quick and able beyond your years. Were you only in a place where you could learn to use these gifts for the good of all, rather than merely as tools for your own survival—why, there is no telling what life you might lead...”

Thancred listened in silence, his frown speaking volumes. It’s not as if I chose this, you know. But Louisoix responded with a sad-yet-knowing smile, and the words that would change the boy’s life forever.

“Come with me to Sharlayan. You are a gifted child, and there is much that I would teach you...”

And so it was that Thancred’s new life began.

To commemorate the occasion, Thancred was to claim the surname of “Waters.” Such flourishes had been unnecessary on the Lominsan streets, but would be indispensable in more respectable locales. Thancred chafed at first, not keen to declare his lowly heritage to all and sundry, but Master Louisoix would brook no opposition. “Thaliak, guardian of rushing rivers and purveyor of knowledge,” the sage mused. “A lad such as yourself could do far worse for a protector.” And so Thancred grudgingly accepted the name he would come to wear with pride.

Louisoix also found a suitable mentor for the child—an old hand in covert operations who would train Thancred to follow in his printless footsteps. Sharlayan was a society that valued knowledge and expertise in all forms, and shadowy agents were not shunned as disreputable rogues, but respected as key contributors to the nation. It was in such a capacity that Louisoix hoped the boy might excel and find his true calling.

Stunned as he was at this turn of events, Thancred was no fool. He understood the future Louisoix envisioned for him, and endeavored to do all he could to meet his patron’s expectations. He honed his body that he might infiltrate the most impregnable of strongholds in the harshest of environments, and his mind that he might charm the wariest merchants and socialites in the most critical of circumstances.

Before he knew it, the streetwise child of the Lominsan alleyway was no more. In his place stood a confident youth who could pose as anyone’s friend and confidant long enough to procure the knowledge his client demanded.

A short while later, Thancred’s surpassing skills were recognized, and upon his skin was inscribed the sigil of an Archon. When Louisoix gazed upon this mark, he could scarce contain his joy. The boy he had personally led out of penury and taken under his wing had realized his potential.

It was at about this time that Thancred first met the child he knew only as Ascilia. One of the first recruits to Master Louisoix’s Circle of Knowing, he was on a top-secret mission in Ul’dah, tasked with doing what he could to quell the flames of war that threatened to engulf Eorzea.

To his acquaintances, he was simply a traveling bard hoping to hone his skills and study swordplay in this land of gladiators and mercenaries. In truth, his mission was to use his knowledge of the primals as a bargaining chip, that he might gain the trust of the Syndicate, the Sultana, and any others who wielded influence in this land overflowing with wealth and intrigue—in the hope that he might stave off, however briefly, the threat of warlike Garlemald.

But the best laid plans of men oft go awry, and it was not long until tragedy reared its ugly head, and the child Thancred had only just befriended was consigned to a crueler fate than even he had known. As the dust settled, the young girl clung to her father, pleading with the gods for him to remain a moment longer.

A part of him was keenly aware that the child was all alone now, as he had once been. This part pitied her, knowing what she would be forced to sacrifice to survive in this cruel and unfeeling world. Yet another part of him—a more selfish part, he would admit—seethed with pain and regret. As much as he had grown—as strong as he had become—in the end he was powerless. I failed her when she needed me most.

Fortunately, the child was not without friends in the world. The songstress F’lhaminn soon resolved to serve as her guardian and protector. And so Thancred’s role in the child’s story came to an end—or seemed as if it might. But, for reasons he struggled to explain, he could not let go so easily. Perhaps it was the knowledge that the child’s father had betrayed his Garlean spymasters before his death, and that danger might still follow in his wake. Or perhaps it was something far simpler—though the former made for a convenient excuse.

Needless to say, he had many more important responsibilities. Nevertheless, whenever his duties brought him to Ul’dah, he would make sure to look in on Ascilia lest she get caught up in anything unsavory. Dispatching common louts was easy enough, but on those occasions he found himself face-to-face with an undercover Garlean operative—no doubt one who had followed her father’s trail—shivers would run down his spine.

When it became clear that it would be nigh impossible to shake their trail, Thancred decided to step forth from the shadows and make a proposition.

“You should take on a new name, and assume a new life. Only then might you free yourself of your father’s legacy. Trust me, it is for your own good.”

Ascilia looked into his eyes and considered the implication of his words without prejudice. After a moment, she nodded in agreement. “...Very well. But what name shall I take?”

Thancred closed his eyes, thought briefly for a moment, then spoke.

“Minfilia,” he said with quiet conviction. “Minfilia Warde.”

It was nearly as inspired a name as the one Louisoix had convinced him to embrace so many years ago. A common enough name for a Highlander girl—yet not one so overused as to draw unnecessary attention. A name that would keep her safe in Thancred’s absence.

“Minfilia...” she said with a smile. “Yes, I rather like the sound of it.”

One night, after seeing to some reconnaissance task or other, Thancred found himself aimlessly wandering the streets of Ul’dah, as he was wont to do. It was then he spotted Minfilia, sporting a pickaxe and other assorted gear. The girl is nothing if not devoted to the cause.

“Is something the matter?” he asked. “Surely your tasks didn’t require you to stay out quite so late?”

“Oh, Thancred...” Minfilia responded calmly. “It’s nothing, really. I distracted.”

For all her outward projection of strength, something was clearly weighing on the girl’s mind. And so Thancred flashed an understanding smile and offered to escort her home. It was not far to the humble abode where she lived with F’lhaminn, and he hoped that he might learn more of her troubles. The conversation quickly turned from that topic to the rumors of the day, and several inconsequential laughs later, they arrived at their destination.

“Thank you, Thancred,” Minfilia offered, before fixing him with a look. “Do take care not to overdo it at the tavern. You are too quick to forget yourself, especially in the company of women...”

“I will heed your sage advice as if my very life depended on it,” Thancred replied in a tone that made it clear he had no intention of doing anything of the sort.

Minfilia sighed as she pushed the wooden door open. For a moment, the warm, orange-hued glow of the lanterns within bathed the alley and Thancred in light. With a farewell wave, the girl stepped inside, and as the door closed behind her with a creak, that fleeting glimpse of warmth and tranquility vanished along with her.

From beyond the threshold a thousand malms away came a gentle voice.

“Welcome home, my dear...”

Alone in the alley, Thancred took a deep breath. It is not for you. He had seen the girl safely home, and though it had been a simple task, he felt prouder than he had in a long, long time.

How many years has it been...? Thancred had long since lost count. He pondered the memory as he delved deeper into the tunnels beneath the city of Eulmore in the First—quite literally a world away from home. Just as he had been many times in his younger days, he was here on a mission: a mission to rescue a young girl.

The streets of Eulmore were lined with soaring, majestic buildings carved from pristine white marble. Though there were many differences, of course, Thancred could not help but be reminded of Limsa Lominsa. In this den of pirates and thieves, those who cast the darkest shadows are wont to wear white.

He had shed the Eulmoran soldier’s garb he had worn to gain entry, donning in its stead his own coat of purest white. The garments were light and flowing, befitting a man who had traded two daggers for a gunblade—a man resolved to serve as guardian and protector. The white, too, was Thancred’s choice—a color that would allow him to travel unmarked in this world flooded with Light. Were he an honorable knight burning with a sense of duty, no doubt he would have chosen to clad himself in black, raising high the villain’s flag in a land where despots draped themselves in the mantle of virtue. But such indulgences would have to wait until after. After he had saved her.

The reef from which the city of Eulmore was carved extended far below the surface of the ocean. The massive subterranean chamber in which Thancred found himself was said to have been used as a storehouse in one age, and as a safe haven to shelter the people from sin eaters in another. Under the rule of Lord Vauthry, it had been converted into a makeshift gaol and pantry for meol—the substance that served to provide sustenance to the citizens of Eulmore and to secure their loyalty.

It was the deepest chamber of those cavernous halls that Thancred sought, a location he had identified only after months of reconnaissance. He evaded the eyes of the watchmen, painlessly and effortlessly dispatching those whom he deemed might interfere with their escape. Were he on his own, infiltrating the most heavily guarded areas of Eulmore would be a simple task. But to spirit away a prisoner—a child who knew nothing of the battlefield, no less—he would need to take every precaution.

After disposing of yet another guard, Thancred arrived at his destination. Though his allies in the First called her “Minfilia,” the Exarch had cautioned him not to expect a reunion. Even so, Thancred felt a connection with this girl he had yet to meet. He knew in his heart of hearts what he must do. Exhaling softly, he turned the key and unlocked the door.

The chamber was unnervingly ordinary. Where Thancred had expected a dank cell, he found instead a simple yet all-too-comfortable-looking bed and a smallish chest of drawers. A desk and matching chair suitable for study, equipped with parchment and a quill. The centerpiece of the room was a mighty bookshelf, lined from top to bottom, end to end with impressive tomes. Aside from the lack of windows, one would scarcely have cause to complain. Yet this made this makeshift cell all the more unsettling. There was no despair, but nor was there any hope to be found. It was simply a place for the god-king of Eulmore to keep the Oracle of Light as his prisoner and pet until the end of days.

Sitting atop the bed in the center of the chamber, the young child turned to her unexpected visitor and stared at him with eyes of crystal. “You... You are?” The girl’s voice was at once reminiscent of and entirely different from young Ascilia’s.

Another life had been waiting beyond that door. A life of love and hope. Of family.

“Minfilia. It’s time to go.”

As Thancred spoke the name, he saw her smile in the dark. Her silhouette against the blinding light. He extended a hand. After a moment’s hesitation, the girl took it.

This time. This time, I will make it right.