The Lodestone

Tales from the Twilight

True of Heart

In the year 1572 of the Sixth Astral Era, the city-state of Gridania was beset by myriad crises. From without, Ala Mhigan refugees flooded into the Black Shroud, fearing invasion and subjugation at the hands of the Garlean Empire. Within the Twelveswood, the Ixal stole past Wailer sentries to fell sacred trees, and in turn offered the hewn trunks as offerings to Garuda.

It was in the midst of this turmoil that the Archons of Sharlayan came bearing a monumental request. They beseeched the city-states of Eorzea to look beyond their borders and join with their neighbors in common cause once more: to revive the Eorzean Alliance.

This bold request could not be given full consideration until many questions had first been answered, and so the Seedseer Council was called to order. Made up of the gifted Hearers, who could hearken to the voices of the elementals, the council governed Gridania in accordance with the will of man and elemental alike. However, the spirits of the forest did not speak as people did, for their thoughts were borne on waves of aether. Any effort to translate them into words was, at best, an interpretation of their intent.

Thus were the Hearers forced to infer and embellish─not out of a desire to mislead or manipulate, but out of necessity. Nevertheless, this process invited interpretations of interpretations, which all too often led to disagreement and discord. Matters of great import would become mired in debate, which would subsequently be settled with a vote.

Such were circumstances in the best of times. Now, however, the chaotic fluctuations in the aetherial currents confounded the most seasoned of Hearers. The air was thick with urgency, but they could not discern any meaning in the morass of emotion. All eyes in the Lotus Stand looked to their leader for clarity─the Elder Seedseer, Kan-E-Senna.

Displaying a singular talent for magic, even by Hyuran standards, the Elder Seedseer ever commanded the attention of others. This was in no small part due to the horns which grew from her head and marked her as a Padjal—a Hyur blessed by and possessed of an uncanny ability to communicate with the forest. Her natural gifts and unyielding determination ensured that, before she had seen her twelfth summer, Kan-E-Senna would be chosen as Elder Seedseer by the great one, that she might lead the Seedseer Council.

Although much of her life since had been spent in quiet solitude, she attended every council meeting and served as a mediating voice whenever arguments grew heated. She heard the elementals more keenly than any, and could divine their intentions when no one else could.

And so, on this momentous occasion, the future of a nation and its people would be dictated by her words. The elementals must needs have a voice, and it falls to me to provide it.

Kan-E opened herself to the aether of the Twelveswood, and at once she felt the elementals clamor—their dread and terror threatening to engulf her. Holding fast, she concentrated and tried to make sense of the confusion. Yet no sooner would an image begin to form within her mind than it would be swept away by a surge of intense emotion.

For the first time in her life, the thoughts of the elementals were too entangled for even Kan-E to unravel. She dared not share this with the council; the Elder Seedseer was the caretaker of Gridania, and if the people's faith in her was shaken, then all could fall to ruin. But by the same token, she could not misrepresent the elementals, even if only to beg a brief reprieve. Doing so would be a betrayal of her station and her gift, and would surely invoke the ire of the forest's guardians.

Kan-E stood mute before the council. I know not what to do.

Before she could find her bearings, the spirits cried out once more—the aether surged and crashed against her, and when it had receded, all that remained was the quiet murmuring of the troubled Hearers.

The forest has fallen silent. Though none could know her mind, the Elder Seedseer's expression made it plain that something had gone terribly wrong. The Hearers erupted into discussion, talking over one other, speculating as to what the elementals were saying even as Kan-E was deaf to them. With only the faintest hint of a tremor in her voice, she called an abrupt end to the meeting.

Kan-E had been denied. Striving to push the panic from her mind, she began searching for accounts of similar incidents. She scoured the records of past council meetings, studied the chronicles of historians, and made discreet inquiries into the tales of traveling bards and wandering minstrels. Each time she came upon a story bearing even a passing resemblance to hers, she took great pains to reenact the hero's triumph. Ceremonies to appease forgotten gods, esoteric prayers and rituals, obscure meditations of dubious intent—she attempted every method, for the Elder Seedseer would spare no effort. Nevertheless, the elementals remained silent.

At the end of her tether, she turned to the instructional texts for novice conjurers. Compounding her frustration, Kan-E realized that she had yet to internalize some of these most basic lessons, for she had struggled to find time for her studies in the years following her appointment. She resolved to address her deficiencies and to learn all she could about the elementals, and buried herself in the histories of the Fifth Astral Era, which told of a Twelveswood before the rise of Gelmorra. Yet while the breadth of Kan-E's knowledge grew by leaps and bounds, the answers she desperately desired eluded her still.

I cannot lead if I cannot fulfill my most important duty. Absent the judgment of the elementals, all Gridanian affairs would grind to a halt. And so, bereft of other options, Kan-E called upon an old friend and mentor: A-Pitat-Rapa.

The former Elder Seedseer, who was said to be nigh on three centuries old, had been spurred by ailing health to retire to the mountains that he might live out his remaining days unburdened by leadership and its never-ending demands. When his successor came to his doorstep with furrowed brows, however, he beckoned her into his home with a warm smile.

It had been ten years since last they had met—when Kan-E had taken up the mantle from A-Pitat. Some within the Seedseer Council had regarded the young Padjal with skepticism, and did not scruple to let their opinions be known, even in the face of the great one's blessing. It was A-Pitat's endorsement that had put their minds at ease, for if the Elder Seedseer himself vouched for her, what cause had they to gainsay him?

Perhaps they should not have been so quick to withdraw their objections. So great was her shame that, despite having come to confide in her mentor, she could not share the most disgraceful detail: that the elementals had abandoned her. A-Pitat sat and nodded as she related her story, observing how a decade of service had deepened the wrinkles on her otherwise youthful face.

Kan-E had anticipated many reactions to her tale, but his kindly chuckle was not among them.

"How ironic that you cannot hear the elementals, considering how alike you are at present," he said. The young Padjal stood speechless, as she had not so long ago before the Seedseer Council. Fortunately, unlike the elementals, A-Pitat could clarify his intent.

"You speak of troubles, yet give no voice to those darkest within. So long as you keep your own counsel, I can offer you no words of comfort."

Before Kan-E could muster a reply, a shrill cry from outside the window cut through the silence. "Elder Seedseer! Come quickly, kupo! We need your help!" the distressed moogle said, motioning for Kan-E to follow.

With an abrupt farewell, she left A-Pitat's home and ran after the moogle until they reached a small clearing in which lay an ashen A-Ruhn, Kan-E's younger brother. Attending to him was their sister, Raya-O, whose grave expression spoke volumes.

Kan-E joined her at A-Ruhn's side and called his name, only to hear him reply in a strange tongue before being overcome with convulsions and voiding the contents of his stomach onto the verdant grass.

This is my doing. Unable to depend on the Elder Seedseer, the elementals were attempting to speak through A-Ruhn. The sudden tumult of aether was too much to bear, and it burned through his body like a fever. He would not survive much longer.

"A-Ruhn is in such pain! Sister, do something!" Raya-O cried.

As Kan-E raised her hands and began to work her magicks, she was struck by an epiphany. Ask, and they will answer. A simple thing, to ask for help, yet for the longest time she could not. My duty. My responsibility. My burden alone.

But it needn't be so.

Kan-E took A-Ruhn into her arms and carried him to the Guardian Tree. Within this eldest tree of the Twelveswood did the great one reside.

"O great one, I come before you with a confession," she began, but when she listened for a response, she heard naught. Kan-E and Raya-O rested their brother against the ancient trunk, but his suffering did not abate.

Speak and be heard. Kan-E looked up at the mighty boughs and laid bare the truth of her heart.

"I can no longer hear the elementals," she said. Hearing this, Raya-O's eyes went wide with shock.

"But my true failing was that I kept this fact hidden. That I refused to share my plight with those who look to me for guidance, and with my mentor who has put his faith in me. That I said nothing to my own family, whom I treasure most of all."

"I was deaf to the elementals' calls for succor, yet I said naught. You who I am duty-bound to heed I neglected in your hour of need. Thus did you reach out to A-Ruhn instead of me, so deep was your despair."

There was no wind, and yet the branches of the tree began to sway and shake.

"Though it shames me, I confess this truth, and beseech you to place your trust in me once more. Trust in me and I shall make your voices heard, that together we can shape the future of the Twelveswood."

As Kan-E finished her plea to the great one, A-Ruhn's ragged breathing calmed. Slowly, he began to mouth words, as if taking great pains to choose each one.

In this way did Kan-E address the elementals, A-Ruhn speak their response, and Raya-O listen. The three siblings worked in concert and together gave form to the once-unintelligible message.

"Within the moon doth our doom stir."

With this grave revelation, the lesser troubles of Gridania were eclipsed by what lie on the horizon. The destruction of all Eorzea. A Calamity which would have remained unforeseen if not for the efforts of the three Padjal.

In that moment, Kan-E conceived a plan. A plan which surprised her siblings in its boldness, but which they soon agreed was wise. In spite of the prophesied annihilation itself, the Elder Seedseer had found renewed hope, and as she basked in the shade of the Guardian Tree, the thick branches rustled in the warm wind, until something fell from above and landed at Kan-E's feet. A gift...and a promise.

Upon returning to Gridania, Kan-E reconvened the Seedseer Council, and when the Hearers arrived at the Lotus Stand, they were greeted by a perplexing sight. The Elder Seedseer was present, as were her brother and sister, who were not officially council members. A-Pitat, who had scarcely been seen since his retirement and convalescence, was in attendance as well. But their surprise at these unexpected guests paled in comparison to their horror when Kan-E spoke and confessed that she had been unable to hear the elementals.

"Thankfully, with the aid of Raya-O and A-Ruhn were the elementals calmed, and their warning finally understood," she said. At once, the Hearers began to whisper amongst themselves, but when Kan-E told them of the coming Calamity, they fell deathly silent.

"The trials ahead will be greater than any we have ever faced, and I do not possess the strength to lead you alone. I confessed this weakness and this doubt—this truth─and after did receive of the Guardian Tree this gift."

Kan-E drew forth and held aloft a staff.

"This is Claustrum, bestowed upon me by the great one. The elementals often speak in riddles, but the great one's intent in this matter is plain: my siblings and I must work as one to see that the elementals are heard." 'Tis a key. A constant reminder that true strength lies in the courage to bare your soul and beg succor.

"From this day forward, I propose that the duties of Elder Seedseer be carried out not by one, but by three." Her siblings looked to the gathered Hearers with a resolve none would question. Seeing this, A-Pitat stepped forward and spoke.

"Three hearts united in single purpose. Doubtless the elementals are overjoyed at this news, and together with the Seedseers shall lead the peoples of the Twelveswood unto a future most bright."

As their first act, the trio of Seedseers took inspiration from Kan-E's studies of the Fifth Astral Era and proposed the reformation of the Grand Companies and the reestablishment of the Order of the Twin Adder. The Archons of Sharlayan had offered similar counsel, and the emergence of a shared threat provided the impetus needed for Eorzea's city-states to come together in the spirit of cooperation.

Satisfied, A-Pitat returned to his home to live out the rest of his days in peace, though Kan-E would call upon him again many times before he passed. In one of their final conversations, he reflected upon the incident which had spurred her to involve her siblings in governance. "Only when we are true of heart does the path reveal itself," he reminded her with a smile.

Sage wisdom that delivered me and our people when all was nearly lost, and that I shall not soon forget.

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