A World Forsaken
Objective: To record and analyze events surrounding the Eighth Umbral Calamity, based on information extrapolated from statements and reports made by Cid Garlond.
Following a series of decisive victories, the former imperial colonies of Doma and Ala Mhigo overthrew their provincial rulers and secured independence from Garlemald. This prompted other occupied territories to rise up against their oppressors and join forces with the Eorzean and Eastern alliances.
The Garleans responded by marching the bulk of their troops to Ghimlyt on the Ala Mhigan border, where the Allied armies gathered to repel them. Though peace negotiations were attempted, the differences between the opposing sides proved to be irreconcilable, with open warfare the only viable recourse.
Against expectation, the well-equipped and highly organized imperial legions failed to capitalize on their early advantage, allowing the Alliance to stage a counterattack. One possible cause for such an ineffectual display on the part of the Garlean troops is the high proportion of conscripted soldiers, who─in the words of Master Cid─lack the “conviction” required to maximize their combat capabilities. Unfortunately, I am not programmed to assess such unquantifiable variables, and this theory must therefore be dismissed as mere conjecture. I can, however, state with some degree of certainty that the arrival of the ones known as the Scions of the Seventh Dawn was a critical factor in the Garleans’ defeat.
After the Empire’s withdrawal, Cid Garlond and his Ironworks colleagues─including the elusive Nero Scaeva─traveled to the Burn on the Othardian subcontinent to bolster the field generators at Seiryu’s Wall in preparation for the Garleans’ next offensive. They set about their work unaware of the events unfolding elsewhere that would change the course of history until they received the first report, which, according to Master Cid, was unusually brief:
“The Garleans have deployed a powerful new weapon on the Eorzean front. We tried to contact our comrades at Rhalgr’s Reach, but received no reply.”
Despite lacking several essential details, the message was entirely accurate. The reason the sender had been unable to communicate with said comrades was simple: they had been annihilated by Black Rose, a poisonous gas developed by the Garleans. This ingenious weapon halts the flow of aether within organic beings, causing near immediate cessation of respiratory functions. Being highly potent and capable of rapid dispersal across a wide area, the majority of settlements in nearby Ala Mhigo were almost entirely depopulated in the aftermath. Contemporary reports state that the damage extended far beyond Alliance-held regions such as the Black Shroud and Thanalan to several imperial territories, resulting in significant loss of life.
As my present configuration is only equipped with basic audiovisual receptors, I must draw my conclusions from limited and─I am compelled to admit─unreliable sources of information. At the time of Black Rose’s deployment, I was otherwise engaged deep within O’Ghomoro and was unable to make detailed observations of the weapon’s effects. The yellow-plumed creature that was accompanying me appeared to sense something at the approximate moment that the gas was released, gazing into empty space with an expression that mortals describe as “perturbed.”
Objective: To record and analyze events surrounding the Eighth Umbral Calamity, based on information acquired from Cid Garlond.
Master Garlond has made numerous attempts to initiate conversation with me despite my current vessel being no more than a simplistic automaton conceived as a plaything, lacking any oratory mechanisms with which to respond. These utterances, though made in a state of obvious intoxication, provided me with invaluable data. While the individual recordings contain a wide range of observations, many are superfluous to my investigation, so I have compiled only those I deem relevant.
Black Rose wrought immeasurable destruction to organic life-forms, resulting in widespread environmental upheaval. The ambient aether ceased to flow along its normal channels and stagnated, rendering the land barren and uninhabitable. Inevitably, the wild imbalance of natural energies affected neighboring regions and, in some cases, led to sudden and unpredictable alterations in flora and fauna. Overnight, the crops on which man relied for sustenance became toxic, further increasing the death toll. In the aftermath of these unprecedented disasters, the communities formed by sentient beings fell into disarray, and all forms of societal organization, from small settlements to entire nations, were abandoned as individuals struggled desperately to avoid annihilation.
It did not take long for the cascading environmental repercussions to be felt in Garlean territory. Due to the aftereffects of Black Rose, the ceruleum that once supported daily life in the Empire and powered its magitek armies failed to combust. The machines duly fell silent, bereft of the energy required to set them in motion.
The creatures that escaped the initial devastation were thrust into a battle for survival. Among them, those belonging to supposedly civilized races were particularly quick to turn on their brethren in a bid to seize control of land and resources. While they attempted to justify these wanton acts of violence with a range of superficially logical explanations, it is my assessment that greed and desperation were the primary motivating factors behind their actions.
Master Cid and his colleagues frequently referred to this situation as a “quagmire,” though in a figurative rather than a literal sense. Much like an actual quagmire, it threatened to pull mankind into an inescapable predicament. Correct interpretation of the audio data recorded at the time is dependent on accurate comprehension of this metaphorical expression.
The mortals who found themselves in this “quagmire” were no longer governed or protected by social conventions or societal norms, instead reverting to a more primitive way of life, closer to those referred to as “beastkin.” However, certain groups of sentient beings were reluctant to accept this descent into savagery, with Garlond Ironworks being one such example.
Its members expended considerable time and effort in largely unsuccessful attempts to bring an end to the numerous conflicts that had erupted. In addition, they hunted down and reprimanded those who sought to profit from the desperation of their fellow survivors, and offered a safe haven to the exploited. While their deeds earned them the support of many like-minded individuals, the number of comrades gained paled in comparison to those lost in the days which followed.
I recorded one particular incident in which a Lalafellin engineer was carried back to headquarters after being mauled by a carnivorous beast while overseeing the digging of a well. Despite the treatments administered by trained chirurgeons, his wounds were beyond healing, and his vital signs began to fade. As he lay dying, one Ironworks member in particular─a Roegadyn male considered to be the stricken Lalafell’s closest friend─refused to leave his bedside. Gripping the patient’s limp hand and whispering words of encouragement appeared to revive him for a few brief moments. Drawing on his final reserves of stamina, the diminutive engineer demanded that his counterpart live on and produce offspring to continue his legacy. To this, the larger man responded with a trembling voice, “It’s high time you started a family yourself,” though that was, regrettably, not a realistic prospect.
Smiling, the Lalafell replied, “Sorry, but no one will ever compare to her...”
These were his final words.
The Lalafell’s death prompted an emotional response from my feathered associate, who pressed his tear-stained cheek against the lifeless body. Some time later, once Master Cid and his colleagues had finally exhausted their supply of tears, they gathered for a lengthy discussion, their expressions growing ever more despondent as the talks continued. They eventually arrived at the conclusion that they lacked the means to restore their shattered world, with their only viable option being to entrust future generations with the knowledge that they had accumulated, in the hope that their successors may one day find a solution. This was met with some resistance, however, as many expressed disapproval at the idea of forsaking those in the present day in order to save a world they would never live to see. Unable to deny this, Master Cid simply nodded and said:
“Even so, our sacrifice will not be for naught.”
With that, Garlond Ironworks found what I believe to be its true purpose.
Objective: To continue recording and analyzing events surrounding the Eighth Umbral Calamity.
The researchers of Garlond Ironworks continued to investigate the process by which Black Rose─possessed of a destructive power far exceeding its creators’ expectations─triggered the Eighth Umbral Calamity. They believed that understanding the nature of this catastrophe could reveal a means by which it might be averted entirely. Their aim was to change the past to create an alternate reality in which the Calamity never occurred─a feat rendered conceivable by their knowledge of the advanced technologies of fallen civilizations. However, many of those who would bear the burden of continued existence in a world ravaged by Black Rose failed to see this as a viable stratagem. Such responses were consistent with my projections, as it is generally the primary objective of all life-forms to secure their own survival in the here and now.
Many of Master Cid’s followers either refused to cooperate or expressed a desire to leave the Ironworks altogether. Certain former employees went as far as to appropriate equipment and supplies by force before heading into the wilderness to fend for themselves.
Although the vast majority opposed Master Cid’s radical proposition, a select few remained to lend their assistance. Research into the Eighth Umbral Calamity continued, aided by experts in the fields of magic and aetherial science. During this period, one loyal scholar noted that while preventing the disaster may not solve all of the problems that had afflicted the world of the past, the one dubbed the “Warrior of Light” would still be alive. The various members of the team each had their own personal connection with the deceased, and the notion of creating an alternative past in which their hero survived the Calamity met with unanimous approval.
It is impossible to discern the manner in which this theory affected the motivation of the Ironworks staff and their associates, or whether some other external factor triggered a sudden increase in their mental faculties, but the fact that they eventually succeeded in unravelling the mysteries surrounding the Eighth Umbral Calamity is a matter of record.
In addition, by presenting their plan as an attempt to save the Warrior of Light rather than a bid to rewrite history, they were able to gain the support from survivors of many different species and subgroups. Representatives from various settlements came to donate resources and foodstuffs to Garlond Ironworks, despite possessing barely enough to sustain themselves. Many of them were also acquainted with the Warrior of Light, some even claiming to have been beneficiaries of the late hero’s acts of philanthropy.
A semiaquatic creature known as a “Namazu” who had arrived bearing donations imparted information apparently gleaned from premonitory dreams. The following is an extract of his recorded testimony:
“The world was never in such a ruinous state in the visions sent to me by the Big One, no, no. Seigetsu the Enlightened said that the future I witnessed was part of another history, a different chain of events with no Eighth Umbral Calamity at all! Whatever that means...”
It remains to be seen whether this is anything more than the nonsensical ramblings of an anthropomorphic catfish. But I shall store it in my data banks for future analysis.
Over time, support for the Ironworks continued to grow, their cause finding allies in the most unexpected of quarters. Memorably, during a routine mission transporting research materials, one of their vessels was ambushed by bandits, only to be rescued by an immense airship captained by a golden-haired Hyur female claiming to be a sky pirate. She is reported to have made the following declaration:
“My mother was once snatched from the jaws of death by this champion of yours. As her successor as queen of the skies, I mean to see that debt repaid in full!”
Instances of Ironworks representatives being extricated from perilous situations were abnormally frequent, their apparent saviors including multiple non-humanoid entities. In one such example, an emissary who was attacked and thrown overboard while crossing the Ruby Sea reported waking upon the shore of a nearby island with a vague recollection of having been borne to safety by a large beast, possibly chelonian or serpentine in nature.
In a similar incident, an ill-equipped messenger would have fallen to his death while traversing the peaks of Sohm Al were it not for the intervention of a colossal white winged creature, later identified as a dragon. According to the official report, there was a brief exchange in which the Dravanian rescuer expressed its disinterest in the affairs of man, particularly his insatiable thirst for conflict, before disappearing into the clouds. It must be noted that due to the lack of independent eyewitnesses or material evidence, this account remains unverified.
Objective: To continue recording and analyzing events surrounding the Eighth Umbral Calamity.
With admirable dedication for a mortal, Master Cid continued to labor until the end of his natural lifespan. The years of painstaking research clearly took their toll, however. One day, as he penned the final words of his grand theory, I observed his hand quiver as if the weight of his quill had at last defeated him. Breathing a weary sigh, he turned to Master Nero, who made the same shrugging gesture that I have observed on many occasions before saying:
“Well, it certainly took you long enough.”
Previous analysis of Master Nero’s behavioral patterns indicates that this was meant as a compliment, though Master Cid’s exasperated expression appeared to suggest it was not received as such. Be that as it may, the brief smile which subsequently crossed his lips led me to believe that he understood his counterpart’s intent. Slowly rising to his feet, he then shuffled towards a well-worn device referred to as a “Boilmaster” and poured coffee into two metallic containers, passing one to Master Nero. They duly raised the receptacles, and brought them together in a percussive “toasting” motion─a ritual I have seldom witnessed, there having been little cause for celebration. The pair sipped their drinks and, for once, Master Nero refrained from expressing his distaste for the brew; a noteworthy anomaly. Master Cid then turned his gaze to the stack of papers on the desk and initiated the following exchange:
“So, do you think this mad scheme of ours will ever come to fruition?”
“Only time will tell, Garlond. Lest you forget: the road to ruin is lined with good intentions─which your young protégés have in abundance. We can but hope they do a better job of saving the world than we did.”
“Indeed. It’s in their hands now.”
No further words were exchanged, and my sensors yielded no indication as to the thoughts which occupied the pair’s minds.
So, as they stood in silence, I attempted to form my own answer to Cid’s question. I could by this time emulate the cognitive processes of organic beings, as I had done on one particular occasion many years ago, in the moments immediately prior to the irreversible dissolution of my previous vessel.
With what might be termed “wakeful eyes,” I reviewed the reports made by Ironworks members following their investigations into the Crystal Tower, the mechanical primal known as Alexander, and the interdimensional rift, the findings of which were instrumental in formulating the plan to alter the past. Thus did I discover that each of these missions had one common element: they ended with a key figure entering a form of self-imposed exile, not unlike a deep slumber. At times such as these, when one is to be separated from one’s companions, whether it be by sleep or by death, there is a phrase which I have found to be particularly fitting.
And after the night comes the morning, as the sun rises to greet the new day. While it may already be too late to mend this dying world, there are those who would strive to create a place where the sun will shine again, not for their own sake, but for those in a past that may yet be saved.
I think this must be what mortals call “hope.”