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Final Fantasy XIV Theories And Information - Light, Darkness, Floods, Souls, and more

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Let’s talk about Light and Darkness, those two forces that keep coming up and fighting each other over and over in FFXIV. That duality that we just cannot seem to escape. Only… this time, in Shadowbringers, Light is the problem and we need to return Darkness to a world. That little reversal has led to us discovering some very interesting things about elements that seemed to be pretty direct before.

 

Firstly, we know from people in the game two very interesting sets of information:

  • In the world of the First, Darkness is the collection of all things, the Astral Element of life – and Light is the negation of all things, the Umbral Element of stasis.
  • In the world of the Source, Light is the heart of all things, the Astral Element of souls – and Darkness is the destroyer of all things, the Umbral Element of consumption.

What makes these two sets of information especially interesting is that both of them verifiably work. While it’s brought up in-game in the context of ‘maybe we were wrong about how Light and Darkness works?’ that is clearly not true! It is genuinely possible to use Light to restore life and energize, rather than impose stasis, and the Cloud of Darkness – in fact, the whole Void - is an extreme embodiment of consumption and destruction, the end of life.

The obvious connection, to me, is this: All of the other six elements have both Astral and Umbral aspects. Light and Darkness are not unique, as each world thinks, in having only a single aspect! Just like any other element, Light comes in both Astral and Umbral forms, as does Darkness.

 

Looking at the properties expressed by Light and Darkness, I think they can be generally collected to have properties something like this:

Astral Light: Literal illumination, energy, invigoration, compassion, restoration, the shining light of souls, harmony.

Umbral Light: Literal illumination, energy, stasis, judgement, amoral purity, order.

Astral Darkness: Literal darkness, vitality, growth, creation, freedom, the diverse colors of souls, diversity.

Umbral Darkness: Literal darkness, vitality, consumption, smothering, rage and hatred, amoral purity, chaos.

 

We know that some elements have, on the Source, Astral or Umbral ‘tendencies’ – Earth, Ice, and Water all tend towards the Umbral alignment while Wind, Lightning, and Fire all tend towards the Astral alignment. This is made clear in some of the Anima Weapon quests. At the same time, we know that this is only a tendency, and that all six of the physical elements have both Astral and Umbral forms from the Astrologian quests where it is explained that the Seven Heavens represent the six elements and the overall Astral alignment of the Heavens, while the Seven Underworlds/Hells also represent the six elements and the overall Umbral alignment of the Underworlds/Hells. These Astral or Umbral tendencies also do not match their tendencies towards Light or Darkness – White Mages have a tendency towards Light and towards Earth, Water, and Wind, which form a mix of ‘Umbral’ and ‘Astral’ tending elements. Black Mages have the other four elements, again making a mix. Meanwhile, Astrologians have cards to manipulate all six elements, but because they draw on the Heavens it seems that they only have the Astral alignments of those elements!

 

Going back to Light and Darkness, it is certainly clear that both forms of Light have some things in common – an association with literal illumination, for instance, and a tendency to manifest in lasers. And by the same token, both forms of Darkness have some things in common – an association with literal darkness being the most obvious, but also a close relationship to vital energy: whether that is ‘animate true life’ or ‘suck the life force out of things’ falls to Astral/Umbral alignment, but it’s just a matter of direction.

 

Broadly speaking, for Light and Darkness, Astral alignments seem to be about ‘giving’ things or ‘expanding’ things, while Umbral alignments seem to be about ‘taking’ things or ‘reducing’ things. Expanding, in this case, means both making more of something that already exists, but also making new variations on a thing. Reducing, meanwhile, also means homogenizing or purifying – we know that Umbral Light on the First was not inherently bad until the Flood, and indeed that the Shadowkeeper on the First (who we know only a few things about) was using Astral Darkness to turn some of its servants into powerful monsters in order to cause chaos and destruction (and possibly creating the Wargs entirely.)

 

For the other elements, Astral and Umbral alignments are a little bit fuzzier. Black Mages use Astral Fire that burns ‘more’ – the more stacks of Astral Fire they acquire, the more their spells cost but the stronger they are. At the same time, their Umbral Ice doesn’t just cost less but actively restores their magical stamina and, in the case of Umbral Heart, reduces the cost of future spells. This would seem to be a reversal of how Astral and Umbral alignments work for Light and Darkness. I believe that Astral Fire is ‘Fire which is expanding’, rather than ‘Fire which expands you’, explaining why it would be costlier – there is literally just more fire, burning more magical fuel and providing more magical power. Umbral Ice is a little bit harder to get a grasp on, and I do not yet have a perfect explanation for why it does what it does. It may be that it ‘purifies’ and stabilizes your magic. If it were only available to Black Mages, I would say that it allows you to stabilize yourself and draw in more external aether, but it also functions for Thaumaturges, who are using only their own aether.

It could be a game abstraction, but that is quitting talk, so let’s instead say that my understanding isn’t complete.

 

To leave you with something a little less uncertain: Astral Darkness finally gives us a bit more of an explanation for why the Dark Knight quests keep splitting off bits of our selves and thoughts into semi-independent beings. That’s not a thing Umbral Darkness does, no – but it’s exactly what Astral Darkness does!

 

Still have questions? Like theories and speculation? Leave a comment and I’ll do my best to answer, either in the comments or in the next chapter!

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Let us begin with aether. Aether is the basic energy of which all things in FFXIV are made. There are different varieties of aether which have different properties, but all ‘things’ – matter, energy, or immaterial – are made up of aether, only having particular forms. This may seem rather magical, but it is really no different from saying of the real world that all ‘things’ are made up of energy and subatomic particles, only having particular forms. Aether is unusual because it has different rules than real-life matter and energy do, and because in addition to forms of matter and forms of energy, aether appears to also have immaterial forms such as souls and certain forms of magic. Aether is also unusual because the laws which govern aether take one form for Hydaelyn and native of Hydaelyn, but take a noticeably different form for Dragons! Dragons are, essentially, running on a different form of physics not quite like those of Hyur and Elezen.

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The first thing to understand about souls, no matter what sort of soul you are looking at in FFXIV, is that souls are made of aether just like everything else. Aether is the basic energy from which souls are made – just like aether is the basic energy from which a rock, a fire, or life energy is made. For natives of Hydaelyn, souls come from and return to an ‘Aetherial Sea’ which is in some ways apart from the world, but in some ways not – it is an immaterial existence which overlays the physical world, rather than being separated from it.

So, if souls are made of the same energy, what makes them different? Well, firstly, souls are a specific aetherial structure – so they are different in the same way as a heart is different from a stomach, or the same way your heart is different from some other person’s heart. Secondly, however, souls seem to be the part of a living being which actually is the person – they are bound to bodies, but the soul is the part which has and is personhood and consciousness.

For natives of Hydaelyn, souls arise from the Aetherial Sea and are held to return to it after death to be dissolved. There is evidence that this is not always the case – the Dotharl Au Ra in Othard believe that if a soul shines brightly enough at the end of life, they can be reincarnated whole… and there is a particular plot point in a Shadowbringers quest which relies upon the possibility of a soul reincarnating in a recognizable form, although without their memories. That particular detail will be discussed more in a later chapter.

Every playable race and Beast Tribe of Hydaelyn has three pools of Aether that you might call ‘theirs’ or ‘them’ – their soul, their life energy, and their physical body. This is not the only structure which exists, however. The Elementals of Gridania are immaterial aetherial beings, who do not have a physical body and are capable of interacting with souls and life energy in a more direct way (but cannot similarly interact with the physical world.) The Fairies of Nym seem to be a similar form of being; without a Scholar to embody them, they do not have a body – and if a Scholar with Tonberry-twisted aether attempts to embody them, the process fails to work properly. Fairies, like the Elementals, have senses which are particularly attuned to certain immaterial events, although they seem to be much closer to the physical world and haven’t been shown to be able to interact with souls directly.

There is a specific amount of aether which forms the body, life, and soul of each being – it may be possible to grow this amount through exercise and practice, but it is very difficult. It is entirely possible for a being to simply not have enough aether available in their body/soul/life to cast certain forms of magic (as is the case for an NPC in the Thaumaturge quests.) However, when a Hydaelyn-native being is in the process of dying, the aether which forms their soul ‘shines brightly’ and becomes enormously more powerful – briefly, before dying and returning to the Aetherial Sea as a dead soul. This is why certain characters have been able to deliberately ‘spend their life’ in order to achieve feats they otherwise could not.

Finally, a note on ‘dead’ souls in the Aetherial Sea as opposed to ‘live’ souls in the Aetherial Sea: These are genuinely two different things. Through certain teleportation spells, it is possible to dissolve a body, life, and soul into the Aetherial Sea while they are still alive; this is what Y’shtola’s ‘Flow’ spell does. Unlike a dead soul, this leaves the user still alive – they can end up spontaneously reassembled elsewhere in the world, or left in a dissolved and immaterial state, but even if they are ‘stuck’ dissolved in the Aetherial Sea it is possible to recover them, while a dead soul cannot be returned to life. There are other ways to evade death, but the only way we know of to return a dead soul to an alive state is for that soul to be reincarnated through the normal means (being born as a normal baby.)

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Dragons are a different matter. First of all, Dragons are not native to Hydaelyn – they come from a world which is not tied to our world at all, making them in some ways more alien to us than the Voidsent who come from the Void – that world, at least, is tied to the main world and runs on the same rules, albeit twisted by the Umbral Darkness with which that world is flooded.

Midgardsormr traveled through what seems to be interdimensional space, fleeing from Omega, and arrived on Hydaelyn in the particular world we know. After arriving, he made some sort of unspecified agreement with the being Hydaelyn in order to be allowed to stay on the planet Hydaelyn, in the world which contains Eorzea.

Firstly, Dragons do seem to have souls. When we first meet Midgardsormr, his body has been killed, but his mind and some sort of ethereal presence still exist – and, in fact, is perfectly capable of attempting to kill us. More importantly, however, are the following two things: When Nidhogg loses both of his eyes, and is given one of Hraesvelgr’s eyes, Nidhogg remains the same ‘person’. When Nidhogg’s body is killed, and he has to possess Estenien’s body, Nidhogg again remains the same ‘person’, albeit twisted by even more hate than before. This means that the personhood of a dragon is not contained in their eyes, nor in their body, but in some third, immaterial source. In other words, it is a soul. Additionally, the Echo allows us to understand Dragons, and the communications powers of the Echo rely upon the other party in a conversation having a soul.

The life energy of dragons is very different to the life energy of natives of Hydaelyn, however. For natives of Hydaelyn, life energy seems to be spread throughout the body, diffuse and constant. For Dragons, their life energy is concentrated almost entirely within their physical eyes, such that a dragon which is separated from its eyes will swiftly die unless it can obtain at least one replacement.

More strangely, though, is this: Natives of Hydaelyn largely do not generate aether from nothing. Aether cycles through them, and the power and focus of that aether changes, but a Hydaelyn-native being cannot create something from nothing. This rule does not apply to Dragons. The eyes of a Dragon are constantly producing aether – not merely accumulating it, but actually producing more from nothing! This process appears to be slow, and constant, so usually the eyes of young dragons are not particularly different from the heart of a Hydaelyn-native creature, and the eyes of ancient dragons are extremely deep ‘wells’ of aether, built up over millennia or longer.

To match this, however, Dragons also have never been able to exhibit the capacity for natives of Hydaelyn to ‘shine brightly’ – the aether of a Dragon has a certain amount of power, and while they slowly add more and more aether, it does not seem possible for the power of a certain amount of draconic aether to vary from moment to moment. They can choose to spend more or less aether, and they create units of aether from nothing over time, but they cannot make one unit of aether ever have more or less than one unit of power.

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Finally, the Echo is a third type of soul – and requires so much explanation that it will form the basis of the next chapter all on its own.

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The Echo. That strange, special power which the Scions of the Seventh Dawn seek, and which later comes to be sought by other factions, not least by some factions of the Garlean Empire. The Warrior of Light has it, several of the Scions’ allies have it, and every Ascian has it

Sadly, what little information we have on what the Echo is comes largely from the Ascians, and so is fragmentary, arrogant, and deceptive. We will talk about what little we know of that first, but then we shall have to focus on what the Echo does.

According to the Ascians and certain Primals, the Echo is a gift, implied to have been deliberately given, and it is the “power to break the barriers of existence”. The Echo may be a soul-structure which is unlike that of other Hydaelyn-native mortals, one which can extend outside itself and remain whole after the death of the body. If the Echo is a gift, which is not truly guaranteed, it seems to be one which can be given by multiple sources – the apparent source of the Warrior of Light’s Echo would be Hydaelyn, while the Ascians would likely have gotten it from Zodiark. In practice, it seems that the Echo arises without specific intention – some people, whether they be adventurers or scholars or priests or otherwise, possess the Echo without any clear cause or reason.

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What the Echo is may be vague and unknown, as are the origins of it, but it has many known properties, from an increased sensitivity to certain forms of aether, to unique powers developed by individual people. First, we will address the four known ‘universal’ powers of the Echo – those abilities which every person who has the Echo is able to use, even without training it. This section is going to be decently long, because there is a lot to discuss here.

The first and most obvious effect of the Echo is the ability to experience the past of other beings, including emotional content. This ability is almost always triggered in proximity of the subject of the vision, but has sometimes been triggered in the location where an event took place as well. There is no known way to force a vision to occur, nor to prevent a vision from occurring, but every vision is accompanied by a flood of aether into the person receiving the vision. This flood of aether causes headaches and even temporary incapacitation. Although there is no way to control it directly, ‘stronger’ instances of the Echo seem to allow the viewing of more detail, longer and more connected stretches of events, and a reduction in the negative side-effects. Fordola’s particular version of the Echo also shows that it is possible to have different ‘thresholds’ for activation, and implies that it may be possible to be preferentially attuned to a certain ‘type’ of event, as she is near-constantly assaulted by visions of how those around her have suffered.

The second obvious effect of the Echo is that those who have the Echo cannot be Tempered by Primals through any normal means. We do know that Tempering exists on a spectrum, and Zenos’s theories about the Echo imply that a Primal of sufficient strength (or a sufficiently weak Echo, or potentially a deliberate surrender to Tempering) could allow for Tempering to still take place. Specifically, even people who do not possess the Echo can have different levels of resistance to Tempering – in Azys Lla, the aura of the Warring Triad members tempers some of the soldiers faster than others, with a handful of soldiers managing to resist being tempered even when their fellows are overtaken. While all people with the Echo are passively immune to being Tempered themselves, Arenvald of the Scions also develops a skill which allow for the Echo to be used as a shield that also prevents nearby allies from being Tempered. This ability seems to be so simple that merely being aware that it can be done allows the use of it, hence why I mention it here.

The third and last of the obvious effects of the Echo is an ability to allow deliberate communication from any being with a soul, and to communicate back in turn. This extends even to quite unusual languages, such as the that of the Ascians and even to the vaguely telepathic Dragon-song. However, it does not extend to speakers who lack a soul even if they would like to communicate and are clearly capable of it. An example of such is Alpha (in the Omega storyline,) who is unable to communicate with the Warrior of Light except through gestures or using Midgardsormr as an intermediary – until they become an independent being, at which point they are able to make themselves understood.

The fourth and final universal power of the Echo is one which is not always obvious, as it consists of traits which can be trained even by those who do not have the Echo. All known characters with the Echo are able to use it to manipulate aether with unusually great capability. This was only confirmed to be because of the Echo and not chance with the case of Fordola, who is able to use the Echo to channel aether more effectively and in greater amounts than she could without it, and critically, whose ability to channel that aether is disrupted again when her control of the Echo is disrupted. Characters without the Echo, but with great capability for channeling aether, seem to be potentially capable of the same feats this power of the Echo allows – enhanced speed, strength, and durability, or high capabilities with casting spells – but every person with the Echo is able to use it to be one of these high-power individuals.

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The four abilities listed above are inherent to the Echo, and all save immunity to Tempering appear to be tied to a greater sensitivity to personal aether. This, then, is a known ‘root’ power of the Echo: a particular inherent sense for aether. Individuals with the Echo can also learn certain additional powers such as the aforementioned ability to shield others from Tempering, possessing corpses, living bodies, or even powerful Primals, fusing physically with another being who has the Echo to temporarily become a single, shared being of greater power, shedding their physical body while still remaining alive and able to influence the physical world, and probably other abilities not yet known. All of these ‘learned’ abilities also seem to share a single root power, which is that a soul with the Echo can potentially remain whole and alive independent of a body.

Noteworthy is this: Not all Ascians have been able to learn the same degree of power with possession. Red-masked Ascians with personal titles are able to possess living bodies, but the black-masked Ascians with titles like "Ascian of the Twelfth Chalice" are only able to possess corpses, and can be killed simply by slaying their current body in an area with no nearby corpses to possess.

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There is one final ‘type’ of ability in addition to the universally inherent abilities, and the learned abilities of an independent soul. This last type consists of unique powers which accompany the Echo for some who possess it, and cannot be learned by other people even if those people have the Echo. There are four examples of this sort of power.

First, Krile Baldesion has an advanced power of understanding, something which accompanies her ability to understand languages but goes deeper in vague ways. This appears to allow her to sometimes understand the perspective or intentions of those who speak with her, but it is unclear what the exact mechanism or effects actually are.

Secondly, the Warriors of Darkness who invade the Source from the world of the First at Elidibus’s urging have a joint power of self-resurrection. This power may be part of their Echo, or it may be part of their Blessing of Light, but given that they have control over it the more likely explanation is that it is part of their Echo.

Thirdly, Fordola - once she is made Resonant and has the Echo - has such detailed senses for the immediate movements of aether in the bodies of others that she seems prescient or a mind-reader, although it is confirmed to be closer in function to a sort of extreme understanding of physical tells and even the subtlest telegraphed movements. This ability may be an alternative expression of Krile's ability, since Krile served as the template for Fordola's artificial Echo, but it seems more likely to be unique to Fordola, as Zenos also received an Echo templated from Krile and does not seem to have a corresponding power at all.

And finally, the Warrior of Light – the player character – is capable of precognition of certain important fights. This is the Watsonian explanation for how we can fail to complete a Trial critical to the plot, but then immediately respawn and try again with no-one reacting to our ‘deaths’ – the entire failed attempt was a vision of a possible future which we had, giving information which allows for us to try again. This power seems to also extend into the past – this is why the Wandering Minstrel’s songs can unlock Savage versions of certain fights, because the described battles are inspiring enough that we can actually experience visions of them! Amusingly, the orange area markers for certain attack areas are actually not part of this precognitive power; those appear to simply be either an expression of our combat experience or a true gameplay abstraction with no Watsonian existence. This again might be part of our Blessing of Light, but this is still quite unlikely.

The reason that I do not believe either of these powers stems from the Blessing of Light is thus: Krile, who does not have the Blessing of Light, has a unique power like this… but Ysayle, Tenzen, and the historical Ramza, who all had the Blessing of Light, have no such unique power.

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The Echo is normally something a character has always had, or will never had, but there is an exception. Research done at the behest of Zenos yae Galvus resulted in a process that can, through the use of someone with the Echo as a 'template', give someone the Echo artificially. These people are called Resonant, creating them requires the draining-unto-death of the aether and souls of dozens, if not hundreds of living people, and except for a peculiar design which appears in their eyes while they actively use the Echo's powers, they seem to have exactly the same capabilities as a 'natural' Echo.

The existence and traits of the Resonant have actually given us most of the information on how the Echo works at its core. The powers of the Resonant confirmed that the Echo allows for greater capabilities with channeling aether, but more than that, the process of turning a person Resonant have confirmed that the Echo is related to the 'shape of the soul', striking down the idea that the Echo is a purely external blessing. Even if the Echo is a blessing granted by some powerful force, it is a structure of the soul, something done as a permanent alteration rather than a constant attention of Hydaelyn or some other force.

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To leave you with a final comment of my own – the reversal of the Warriors of Darkness and our Warrior of Light as regards their unique Echo powers is quite interesting to me in a Doylist sense.

The Warriors of Darkness have an exceedingly blatant power which ensures they can try again, no matter how often they fail. By contrast, the Warrior of Light has a much subtler power, but one which makes it much easier to ensure that failure doesn’t happen in the first place.

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This is a warning. This chapter is going to address some Shadowbringers spoilers. If you have already completed the Main Story Quest ‘Shadowbringers’ then you probably won’t see any spoilers here, although I hope I can provoke thoughts you hadn’t yet considered. After the line break, there will be no further warnings!

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Let’s get some of the big, obvious spoilers out of the way first. The First of the alternate world-shards of the main one (the Source) is suffering from an event called a ‘Flood of Light’ – this event seems to have been caused by the overall aether of the world being unbalanced towards Umbral Light, the power of judgement and stasis. This event is not accidental, but was deliberately precipitated by the Ascians to achieve a specific goal: an event called a Rejoining, where the aether and souls of the world-shard is forcibly merged with the aether and souls of the Source. The process of this Rejoining – the transfer of massive amounts of aether of a particular element – empowers the events known in the Source as Calamities, of which there have been seven so far.

I use the word ‘empowers’ very, very deliberately with regards to Calamities, because it is important to understand that a Rejoining doesn’t cause any specific events in the Source at all. It only adds large amounts of a particular element of aether, which is then discharged in a focal event – some elementally-aspected disaster which would have been perfectly normal, but is instead made a world-ruining event through the added aether. To give an example quite important to the plot: Project Meteor, which freed Bahamut, was not caused by a Flood in another world which the Ascians used to perform a Rejoining. However, the massive amounts of Dark-aspected aether made him enormously more powerful and unstoppable than he otherwise would have been.

Every Calamity means that there has been a Rejoining, and every Rejoining destroys one of the thirteen world-shards split from the Source, using its aether and souls as raw material to make the Source more powerful and – from an Ascian perspective – closer to the ‘whole’ state which existed before the world-shards were split from it.

For a world-shard subjected to this process, the timeline looks like this:

                First, events occur on the world which unbalance its aether until one element begins to entirely take over. This is a ‘Flood’ of that element, and it is a process just like that which turns people into Sin-Eaters but on a much larger scale: That element suppresses all others, produces more and more of itself in a runaway process, and if it is not stopped it will kill that world, ruining it for the Ascians as well as everyone else. The Thirteenth Shard, now known as the Void, is a shard where the process was not stopped in time by a Rejoining or by Hydaelyn’s and Minfilia’s interference. In the First Shard, these events seem to have been the destruction of the last powerful being of Darkness, the Shadowkeeper, by the local Warriors of Light – in addition to the actions of Eden, which haven’t yet been fully explained, in thereafter instigating the Flood.

                Second, the unbalanced aether of the world-shard begins to ‘flow’ into the Source. This begins to cause noticeable effects in the Source – the ‘dead crystals’ and the stilling of magical effects from the end of Stormblood and beginning of Shadowbringers were not the result of our actions as the Ascians implied, but rather the result of enormous amounts of stasis-causing Umbral Light entering the world from the First. This relies upon, and strengthens, the connection between the worlds – if the unbalanced world-shard is brought even slightly more into balance so that it ceases to flow into the Source, the next step cannot occur.

                Thirdly, if the Ascians succeed in triggering a large-scale event of the appropriate elemental aspect (or if one happens anyway) in the Source, the world-shard breaks and all of its remaining aether and souls enter the Source and are merged with it. Souls are merged with their corresponding souls, and aether is merged into the world. The actual effects appear to mostly be relevant to the Ascians’ beliefs, not to anyone else, in practice.

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That’s the boring bits out of the way. Now let’s talk about some fun, and more speculative things! Did you notice that while the second and third steps only work because of how the world-shards currently are, the first step – a Flood – is just a property of extremely unbalanced aether? It can happen to individuals, it can happen to worlds… and it’s just a runaway reaction, not something specific or intentional.

If you have finished the dungeon Amaurot, and if you spoke to many of the NPCs in the area Amaurot before that, you may see where I’m going with this – the events which Emet-Selch and his memories of Amaurot describe match the expected results of a Flood of Astral Darkness, with a contagious, spreading imbalance that lowers the threshold for creating new life and effects until it happens unexpectedly, triggered by emotions and fears even without conscious effort. Notably also, Emet-Selch mentions that after this event was halted by Zodiark, most of the planet was still in a damaged state, mirroring the results of halting the Flood of Light on the First – it took a great deal of power to stop the Flood from progressing, but restoring the areas destroyed by it is another massive project in its own right.

The behavior of the Ascians in response to their Flood is telling: Both we and they sacrificed people in order to halt the Flood. But when the Flood was halted, the Ascians chose to sacrifice more people to restore the world, rather than seeking to restore it through understanding and correcting the problems, simply planning to then later sacrifice the new life to resurrect their own people into the restored lands. It is that action – choosing to spend lives rather than understand the world, and probably more so planning to sacrifice the new life of the world against its will - which seems to have convinced the Fourteenth of the Council of Amaurot to summon Hydaelyn so that she could stop Zodiark and remove the control of the planet from the Thirteen Ascians.

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A final note on the actual effects of Rejoinings: Despite Emet-Selch’s claim, the practical effects of Rejoining on the power of those people who are Rejoined seems to be rather lacking. While Emet-Selch believes that Rejoined souls are more powerful – and closer to being a ‘real person’ in his eyes – one need only look to the works of Allag and the mages of Amdapor, Mhach, and Nym to notice not only that the actual power of individual souls doesn’t seem to have varied all that much after Calamities, but also that consistently the best results have been a result of knowledge and cooperation, not ‘more power’ – and certainly there’s been no noticeable climb in individual power. It is likely that the measurement in question is something like that of Dragons, or coming closer to the high levels of aether possessed by the Ancients of Amaurot – Rejoinings cause individuals to have deeper wells of aether, but don’t improve their ability to channel and shape it, and so since the most powerful magics shape external aether anyway there has been no change in what is possible.

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Firstly, the ‘disclaimer’ bit: Obviously, all beings are in some sense aetherial. Aether is what makes up all things – material and immaterial as well as matter, energy, and magic. There’s nothing ‘less aetherial’ about a dog than a fairy; the dog is material and the faery is immaterial, but they’re both made of aether.

What we’re really looking at when we talk about ‘aetherial beings’ are beings who are naturally immaterial. We’re deliberately ignoring Primals, although some Primals have a few similar properties; they’ll be covered in another chapter because they’re different from everything else. In deference to the game, I’ll keep calling them aetherial beings, as opposed to physical beings (although most aetherial beings are capable of manifesting themselves physically in some way, they are not natively physical like plants, animals, Voidsent, and the like are.)

Other than Sprites (an unusual case,) there are three main ‘types’ of known aetherial beings. In rough order of their first appearance, there are the Elementals of Gridania, the Fairies of Nym, and the Kami of Othard. There are few traits which are entirely shared by all three groups. All three groups are naturally immaterial, and require deliberate action to manifest physically, all three groups are made up of individuals rather than being a general force or singular being, and all three groups are either unaging, or long-lived enough to seem so.

In addition to these three types of aetherial beings, souls with the Echo are capable of enduring in a semi-immaterial state in some cases, and other souls pass into and out of the Aetherial Sea. This will be discussed at the end.

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The Elementals of Gridania live in the forest of the Black Shroud, and require its natural life to live. They seem to especially favor the trees, but their specific and very strong injunctions against poaching imply that living animals are also of use to them. The border between where elementals end and free-floating natural aether begins can be somewhat vague, and the Elementals are accordingly more alien than the Fairies or Kami. Elementals have senses which are very attuned to souls, to free-floating aether, and to the overall motions of aether through nature. However, even when they manifest physical bodies they appear to have so little comprehension of the physical world’s objects and motions that they have difficulty telling friend from foe, and cannot understand physical languages at all, being unable to detect the difference between specific words and more general wind. For this reason, they communicate with Gridania through particular people called Hearers, who are capable of communicating with and understanding Elementals in a more empathic way. These Hearers become ‘translators’ for the Elementals.

Elementals certainly cooperate and communicate with one another, and are fully sapient and capable of thought; they worked together to cause the Sixth Umbral Calamity in order to end the War of the Magi, but on a more immediate level they are capable of negotiation as a group, setting and enforcing laws, and making or agreeing to requests. In addition to communication through Hearers, forms of magic which draw on the surrounding aether of the world – primarily Conjury, but also White Magic and Black Magic – can be used to interact with Elementals either to help or harm them.

Elementals are sometimes implied to be of the same general type of being as Sprites, but of a different specific kind. However, since Sprites still manifest physically throughout the Black Shroud while Elementals do not, Sprites almost always have a physical body with a permanent, physical ‘core’ that remains after death, and Sprites have never shown the capacity for communication (even with Hearers or Conjurers) or thought as Elementals do. All of these imply that Sprites and Elementals are only related in that they are both tied to natural flows of aether. Given their behavior, it is more likely that Sprites are most like naturally-formed golems.

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The Fairies of Nym are rarely seen in the modern era, due to the deliberate elimination of the Scholars who were able to give them physical form. They may have mostly died out, or may simply be dormant until they can be found and reinvigorated – the player Scholar’s fairy, Lily, was able to linger among Nymian artifacts for over a century without any physical harm, manifesting as soon as it was useful to do so, but she was largely amnesiac after re-manifesting, possibly from long isolation or hibernation of some sort. Since use of the Dissipation ability to temporarily return Lily to being incorporeal is not harmful at all, nor is using jobs other than Scholar (and thus having Lily un-summoned for long periods of time) it is most likely that Lily does not need a physical body, but rather the long isolation (which would certainly harm any human mind) or something about the aether-twisting plague which was released on Nym harmed her.

In contrast to Elementals, Fairies understand the physical world, although they are still possessed of more immaterial senses. Fairies also do not seem to naturally be able to manipulate aether to perform magic without a physical body. Despite this, Fairies who do not have a connection to a Scholar cannot manifest their own physical bodies and remain immaterial – they require that symbiotic relationship in order to function in the physical world at all. The bond that a Fairy forms with a Scholar allows the Scholar to give the Fairy a body, allows the Fairy to share knowledge and senses with the Scholar, and allows them to cooperatively work to heal and protect more effectively than they could alone. Despite this close bond, Fairies are definitely individuals with independent thoughts, memories, and opinions, able to disagree with or even oppose the one they are bonded to.

The aether used to manifest a Fairy is somewhat specific, or at least, certain forms of tainted or corrupted aether are incapable of properly manifesting a Fairy in physical form. It is by this mechanism that Mhach’s Voidsent-made plague was able to cut off the Scholars of Nym from their Fairies; Scholars who were turned into Tonberries are corrupted such that they can no longer use the right aether at all. This is separate and in addition to the ‘Rancor’ that afflicted the Tonberries due to a figure called the Tonberry King, which seemed to be an infectious, forceful hatred. This is why Lily is unable to rejoin her former Scholar despite him still living, and why attempting to forcefully manifest Lilac instead sends the Tonberry who made the attempt into a coma from having her aether ‘stuck’ without being able to manifest a physical body for Lilac or return to her own body.

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The Kami of Othard seem to come in two varieties – there are some Kami who are immaterial presences that have no specific physical vessel, but can be summoned into one deliberately, and there are Kami who are an immaterial presence housed in a specific physical object, who do not usually leave it. Although it is known that the former type exists because Soroban summons one into himself by accident, almost all of the interaction we see with Kami involves the second group. The Kami do seem to be able to understand the physical world, and indeed it is unclear if they have any particular senses which are not possessed by any magic-using creature. Despite their generally hands-off approach, they are capable of obvious magic, such as the blessing which permanently allows the Warrior of Light to breathe underwater. This is unusual magic – most spells need refreshing, but this one seemingly does not, and the spell is clearly a part of the Warrior of Light as it works just fine even in the world of the First.

Unlike Elementals and Fairies, Kami have not been shown to ever manifest their own bodies directly, even with help - technically. The Kami from the three treasures of the Red Kojin are able to manifest a joint body for themselves in the form of Susano, but this body is recognized by the characters as only being a Primal, and the use of plural pronouns indicates that Susano seems to be a manifestation for multiple Kami to use. Given that Susano takes the form of a suit of armor which conceals whether there is a body inside, it is likely that Susano is a Primal body possessed by multiple Kami in a similar manner as the Kojin monk Soroban is able to summon a Kami or spirit into his own body to reshape or possess it.

Unlike Elementals, Kami do not seem to have any particular needs, although they desire and appreciate faith and care for their vessels. Old objects which have been left unnoticed and uncared for do not have ‘dead’ Kami attached to them, and there are no legends of the Kami demanding any specific sort of aetherial behavior other than individual care as the Elementals of Gridania do. It may be that Kami are like Fairies and require this attention in order to interact with the physical world, or they may simply be able to act on their own.  Regardless of which case it is, Kami are much less prone to constant action than Elementals or Fairies. It may be that this is because they are content to be worshipped, cared for, and provide obvious blessings only rarely, because most of their blessings are subtle, or because they cannot, lacking an obvious source of power like the Elementals and Fairies have other than being slowly empowered by the care they are given.

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As for souls, we will start with the simpler case of souls without the Echo: It is possible for most of the aether of a soul to linger as a ghost, but these are generally material beings, though occasionally fluid enough to confuse the matter – it is the parts of the soul that do not become a ghost which definitely become immaterial. Certainly, the vast majority of ghosts are material beings that can be killed 'again' with a simple sword, whereas souls cease to interact with the physical world after death. However, it is unclear whether dead souls can be considered individual people until they are reincarnated – not only have they never interacted with the physical world, they also do not interact with other immaterial beings and cannot be retrieved like a living person in an immaterial state (from using the spell Flow) can be, and there is no indication that dead souls are aware of the world or even of other dead souls. It is a state of uncertainty at most.

Souls with the Echo, however, are a somewhat different story. Depending upon the strength of the Echo and the training of the individual, such people may be able to linger for a short time or indefinitely, able to possess only dead-but-whole corpses or able to possess the living – or even able to shape their own body, or interact with the world using a spiritual-yet-material body that blurs the exact borders between material and immaterial existence. Although the exact rules are unclear, being able to make their own material body as Elementals do is a thing only the most powerful, trained Echoes are capable of. Being able to linger immaterially with no body, or to possess a living body still seems to require an extremely strong Echo, but less training – potentially none. Being able to possess viable corpses seems to be a sort of ‘minimum’ power, possessed by some people with the Echo who are outright unable to possess the living or linger for more than a short time on their own.

Chapter Text

This is a warning. This chapter is going to address some Shadowbringers spoilers. If you have already completed the Main Story Quest ‘Shadowbringers’ then you probably won’t see any spoilers here, although I hope I can provoke thoughts you hadn’t yet considered. After the line break, there will be no further warnings!

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There are two sides to Primals in FFXIV: The political side, what people do because of Primals (either to support them, to try and use them, or to oppose them,) and the functional side, how Primals are made and how they work (envisioning them, summoning them, what they do while incarnated, and what happens to them after they are destroyed.) We’ll be addressing the functional side first, which will involve most of the Shadowbringers spoilers.

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Primals are ‘summoned’ through a particular magic known by the Ancients of the original, pre-shattered world. The Ascians – especially the three unshattered Ascians of the Source – know this magic and can teach it to others, although they long concealed the exact mechanics of the magic. This magic was known as the Art of Creation to the Ancients, and rather than ‘summoning’ something that existed elsewhere, it can more properly be said to condense large amounts of aether into the form of some being, object, or effect which is imagined precisely by the caster.

This is where the two factors required to summon a Primal enter as we have previously known them – faith and aether. Faith, in this case, is a bit of a misnomer; rather, it is the combination of imagining something and desiring/believing that it exist which is needed. Faith can provide these requirements, but it is not the only way to do so, as demonstrated by Alexander (an entirely new being designed deliberately through a wish for a perfect civilization and world,) Shinryu (an entirely new being incarnated through a wish for vengeance,) and the cataclysmic end of Amaurot, where the Art of Creation ran wild and incarnated those things feared or dreaded by the Ancients for even a moment. Aether, of course, provides the magical material for assembling whatever is imagined – but there is more subtlety to it than that.

The aether required to fuel the Art of Creation is enormous by modern standards, and the Art was originally developed with the assumption that it would be entirely fueled by personal aether provided by the one casting the magic. This was possible because the Ancients of the original world had incredibly massive stores of personal aether by modern standards. However, this is not the only way to fuel the Art of Creation; unlike many spells, it is possible to cast the Art without paying all of its costs. When this is done, it creates a being that constantly consumes aether from the land around itself to exist, rather than creating a being which is aetherically self-sufficient. Since even Alexander was unable to correct this despite its enormous atemporal calculation abilities, it is likely that a being created in this fashion cannot be satiated by any amount of aether – it will continue to drain the land endlessly, unable to ‘naturally’ correct itself with the consumed aether, unless it is somehow forced into a stable state.

The Art of Creation has another flaw known to the Ancients, as well as the later-discovered flaw that unpaid castings create aether-draining Primals. Namely, the thing created is made exactly as it is imagined – distractions, uncertainty, or even the smallest of whims in the envisioned desire can result in strange or even unwanted aspects becoming part of the actual creation. Objects can be made smaller or otherwise twisted, creatures can be created with unexpected behavior (for example, living children’s toys being violently murderous,) and similar deviations. This does not always need to be entirely negative; the Primal Alexander is more capable than intended of operating without a pilot, with its own mind and self – and due to its genuine desire to create an ideal future, it uses these things to ensure that its power is not misused.

In the case of the recognized Primal gods summoned in Eorzea (Ifrit, Titan, Garuda, Leviathan, and Ramuh,) however, there are indications of continuity of personality and memory that are not easily explained as simply bluffing because they are ‘expected’ to know things. Specifically, Garuda appears to have no interest in giving her people what they believe she will give them (the power of flight,) being concerned instead only with gathering more aether and prayer to herself to gain power – and Ramuh is able to recognize an artifact that the Sylphs who summoned him did not expect. Based on other discussions and the function of the Egis summoned by Allagan-method Summoners, this is likely because of having been summoned by beings Tempered by them.

Tempering a being consists of overwhelming its aether with that of a particular Primal, and forces that being to worship, obey, and advance the interests of said Primal. Most importantly, though, it means that the aether of that Primal has overwhelmed the being’s original aether – and that aether remains even when a Primal is destroyed. Just as Allagan-method Summoners use the aether-remnants of a dispersed Primal to give their Egis form, the Art of Creation used by a Tempered being may use the forcibly-shaped mind of that Tempered being as a sort of ‘memory’ of the past incarnation that is intended for the summoning. As further evidence for this, when Titan is incarnated by the Kobold child Gu Bu, who was not Tempered at the time, the Titan that results has the same shape and powers, passed down through myth and witnesses, but he does not show any evidence of the same personality or memory, instead being based on Gu Bu’s thoughts and feelings at the time. Tempering seems to reach every part of a person’s aether, but not the soul, as no person has ever been reincarnated in a Tempered state, but it has also never been possible to undo Tempering.

After a created being is destroyed – whether its creation was fully-paid or left unstable – its aether otherwise returns to the world normally, dissolving. Those who are nearby passively ‘catch’ some of that aether, but as it continues to spread through the world it becomes less and less shaped, reduced to more basic elemental components. The ‘caught’ aether forms the basis of Allagan-method Summoning, which has safeguards and limits not present in the original Art of Creation to prevent the formation of an unstable, aether-draining creation. Allagan-method Summoning has three main restrictions – it uses existing aether as a template to reduce unexpected divergences (but not eliminate them,) it keeps the created being bound or connected to the Summoner rather than making an independent one, and it is incapable of manifesting a being that the Summoner cannot fully imbue with aether. These three restrictions make Allagan-method Summoning more limited, but also much safer and less prone to unexpected flaws.

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The functions of Primals are, in a sense, almost wholly divergent from their politics. The secret history of the Art of Creation, and its exact requirements and function, do not particularly matter when nations are deciding what to do about existing Primals that are draining aether and attacking, nor does that secret information much help with making peace or otherwise getting Primal-summoning groups to stop doing it.

With regards to the function of creating Primals, Tempering is a mere curiosity – an explanation of how beings repeatedly killed and remade-from-imagination can have continuity of memory, and a power that is available to beings made with far more power than their creators. With regards to politics, however, it poses the second-most-important problem that leads to aether-draining creation of Primals, second only to the more general problem of hostile cultural oppression. Because a being that has been Tempered is compelled to serve the interests of the one that Tempered it, Tempered servants of Primals will seek to summon them even without a good reason (although having a good reason makes it much easier for them to recruit non-Tempered allies to assist them.)

In addition, if it serves the interests of the Tempering Primal, such servants are compelled even to kill their allies, friends, or family, or even to be happy to do so. This means that once a Primal is summoned as part of a conflict, one side has members that will press to summon the Primal again no matter what, and the other side is faced with the terror and threat of having its own members Tempered into a fate worse than death – having their personality destroyed, their memories and bodies used to attack the people they cared about, and potentially having the soul portion of their aether trapped and bound until that body is slain. This turns what might once have been a conflict that could be resolved with negotiation, war, or simply changing circumstances into a much more deeply-rooted one, so long as the Tempered people remain. Some Primals Temper many people and thus make this problem very extreme (Ifrit, Garuda, Sri Lakshmi,) and some do so far less often or even not at all and are thus more easily handled by political means (Titan, Susano,) and of course there are exceptions that are just unusual (Alexander chooses not to Temper people at all, and Ramuh’s Tempered group is almost entirely maintained by his Touched Sylphs Tempering other Sylphs via ritual, with Ramuh no longer doing so himself.)

In terms of cultural oppression, although it is not strictly necessary, essentially all current Primals have been summoned by large groups that identify closely with each other and are desperate enough to want someone, anyone, their gods to save them. With enough aether to start the process, a firm enough imagined being, and a strong enough will (or desperate enough wish) it is possible for one person to use the Art of Creation, but this is neither widely-known nor particularly easy. Until Tempering runs rampant, Primals are not summoned without causes. The Ascians deliberately manipulate smaller nations and empower larger, conquest-leaning ones in order to create ideal situations for people to become willing to use the Art of Creation, then teach it to them to create the entrenched problems that factions with large numbers of Tempered members generate. By the point of Shadowbringers, these problems have been much reduced – with the Ascians distracted by the Warrior of Light, the Garlean Empire held back by the Eorzean Alliance, and several of the smaller groups like the Kobolds and Kojin being actively negotiated with rather than simply attacked, the causes that give rise to the desperation necessary to fuel Primal-Summonings without large, Tempered groups have all been steadily reduced.

And so comes the big spoiler of Shadowbringers – that Zodiark is, in fact, a Primal (and so is Hydaelyn) and the Ascians are Tempered by Zodiark. This is a tragedy more than anything else, because in the process of learning enough about the Ascians and the Ancients to consider negotiation, we have also learned that they are Tempered and so impossible to negotiate with until actual resurrection becomes possible. Actual resurrection would almost certainly suffice to strip Tempering, since souls are not Tempered but everything else about a person, even their aether which might as well be part of their soul for any other purpose, is part of the Tempering process.

This leads into a question brought up, but not yet fully addressed – are those who have the Blessing of Light Tempered by Hydaelyn? I think that the answer is no, but they could be, and Minfilia was Tempered – and despite that, was also still free in some key ways. Hydaelyn uses several behaviors which are somewhat unusual. She does not manifest physically in the world, avoids direct interaction even with most people who have the Blessing of Light, only gives to give the Blessing of Light to people who already have the Echo, and repeatedly uses the imperative phrase, “Hear. Feel. Think.” when she communicates. To me, all of this points to the idea that Hydaelyn can Temper people if she overwhelms their aether, like any other Primal, and is trying to avoid doing that by minimizing contact, restricting most of her direct contact to those people who are extremely resistant to Tempering, and expressing her dogma in a way that instructs people to use their own senses, feelings, and thoughts rather than simply obeying. As for Minfilia… she is clearly altered physically by being used as Hydaelyn’s vessel, and maintains an independent personality but subsumes it in favor of speaking for Hydaelyn in several of her appearances. While still trying to aid the world, this does seem like Tempering to me. Notably, the Warrior of Light does not show the same symptoms. It is an amusing meta-explanation for why the Warrior of Light *must* follow the plot and be a hero – but not, I think, an accurate one.

Added 7/23/2019:An additional note on why the Warrior of Light is almost certainly not Tempered: In the Dark Knight quests, the Warrior of Light's own Esteem is able to decide to abandon Eorzea and the entire job of 'Warrior of Light'. While the winning part of the Warrior's self does choose to continue to be the Warrior of Light, this indicates that they still retain the capacity to choose otherwise, which would not be present in a Tempered subject, as Tempered subjects cannot even resist the will of their Primal slaveholder.

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Even after all of this, there is more that I can say, especially about the politics, or just going into more detail. The Ixal and Garuda could make up a chapter on their own, and maybe someday they will.

Chapter Text

I feel it is polite to mention that, while there are NO Shadowbringers spoilers in this chapter, there are a few Stormblood spoilers that extend essentially to the very last cutscenes before Shadowbringers starts. If you have started the Shadowbringers expansion, then you won’t see any spoilers here.

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The Garlean Empire; the force so overwhelmingly powerful and direct that the Eorzean Alliance was assembled to resist it, the nations of Ul’dah, Gridania, Limsa Lominsa, and sometimes Ishgard and Gyr Abania. These five nations, together, making up the greater share of civilization across an entire continent, are barely able to defend themselves against the Garlean Empire, with little hope of gaining ground save through nigh-miraculous heroics or further support such as from the Domans of Othard.

It is important, before proceeding, to understand that there are two different things which are referred to as ‘Garleans’.

Firstly there are members of a specific Spoken race, the ‘pureblood Garlean’ race, always recognizable by their third eye in their forehead and usually recognizable by being very tall with a mixture of Hyur and Elezen proportions. (I say ‘usually’ because if we ignore the third eye and non-visible differences, Cid can pass for Hyur and Nero could pass for Elezen if his ears were the right shape.)

Secondly here are members of the ‘Garlean Empire’, which is theoretically made up of two classes – Citizens and Slaves. All pureblood Garleans and people born to Citizens are automatically Citizens with theoretically equal rights (not actually at all true,) all conquered people are automatically Slaves, who can become Citizens with equal rights by 20 years of military service (but will actually still be heavily, heavily discriminated against.)

Hereafter, I’m going to refer to members of the ‘pureblood Garlean’ race as Garleans, and members of the Garlean Empire as Imperials.

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The pureblood Garlean race is biologically distinct from the other Spoken races to a great degree; while superficially they look almost entirely like a Hyur-Elezen mix, there are significant invisible differences. To start with the big one: every other Spoken race – including so-called Beast Tribes like the Kobolds, Ixal, Kojin, etc. – can deliberately channel aether, and Garleans cannot. This means that Garleans are entirely incapable of using magic, and also largely incapable of using Eorzean non-magical fighting styles, as even swinging a sword can be enhanced and altered by channeling aether.

The third eye which Garleans have is implied to have a handful of aether-related detection capabilities; it is sometimes implied to assist with spatial awareness and intuition, but it also may provide some resistance to illusions and similar influence. This latter has only shown up once, when Cid alone is able to detect the Warrior of Light as being a reincarnated/time-displaced pre-Bahamut Warrior of Light. However, Cid believes it might also be a function of having the Warrior of Light’s Echo reaching out strongly to him in similar circumstances as both incarnations. Overall, despite Cid’s unusual experience, the third eye appears to be simply a third eye – it provides a different and in some ways more detailed visual sense, but that’s it.

Pureblood Garleans also believe that they are stronger, faster, and most importantly smarter and wiser than all other races. As regards strength and speed, this is broadly true; despite being unable to channel aether, Garleans are physically capable of keeping up with, or even surpassing other races in terms of long-term physical capabilities, only requiring Magitek devices to match ‘bursts’ of power and special techniques which aether channeling allows. Zenos is able to surpass even that with raw strength alone, and then go yet further when he supplements his strength with magical swords. As regards intellect and wisdom, there is no particular evidence of this; Garleans are not particularly prone to seeing through deceptions, making choices which more effectively promote their goals, nor are they more inventive, intuitive, or skilled with technology.

While Cid is an unsurpassed engineer for standard airships, Wedge actually provides more of the cutting-edge technology, even including counters for several of Alexander’s functions – and Alexander was designed to be as close to technologically perfect as his designers could envision. Whether or not Garleans have a ‘more effective brain’ in some way they can measure, when their actual actions are reviewed they do not make more effective decisions, more reliably make effective decisions, have a superior ability to operate past distractions or emotions, have a superior understanding of concepts, have a superior understanding of people, have a superior understanding of tactics, strategy, or logistics, or have a greater awareness of or capability for manipulation. I suspect that what Garleans actually have – if there is any real data underneath the massive amounts of Imperial propaganda and racist bias – is better spatial coordination with regards to marksmanship, and possibly a slightly faster ‘calculation speed’ with regards to memorization and mathematic recall, so long as they have actually learned the relevant material.

In theory, if ‘improved spatial coordination’ is a whole-body trait rather than a purely visual one, Garleans might also be excellent dancers. The fact that Garleans are capable of using their magitek devices in high-speed combat, often just as mobile, sometimes even more mobile than their Eorzean counterparts, implies that they do possess the needed capabilities – that whether it be a matter of body awareness or simply being able to translate their visual sense to whole-body movement, they have that whole-body coordination.

As a final mention: Zenos’s extreme strength even in comparison to other Garleans can be explained fairly simply (though he is still an extreme outlier!) Garleans are still made of aether and have additional aetherial capacity like any other being, they merely cannot channel it to perform magic or external enhancements like firing lasers from a sword. Garleans are almost certainly still improving the capabilities of their bodies with aether, and indeed devoting their entire aether capacity to that purpose. Zenos, in that case, has his incredible strength and speed for the same reason that a sufficiently-trained Samurai with sufficiently massive aetherial capabilities can cut through bullets by using aether to improve themselves, and like the Samurai is capable of some otherwise-ridiculous feats. Zenos almost certainly has a massive aetherial capacity which he is only able to use for strength and speed. He is an outlier, but in the same way that the Warrior of Light is, explaining why he can be so strong without looking outwardly divergent.

Of potential interest is that an Ascian possessing a Garlean body lacks the normal magical limits of a Garlean and is fully capable of casting magic. This implies that the barrier is somehow spiritual or mental in nature; not exactly part of the soul, since it is physically inherited, but possibly some change in how the body-mind-spirit-soul connections function. It may also be that this lack is a deliberately inflicted curse on the pureblood bloodlines not unlike those that some Voidsent can perform. Unfortunately, we have no way to tell one way or the other yet – especially as Ascians are known to be capable of altering the bodies they occupy, so even if the magical issue is entirely physical after all it could still have been deliberately removed.

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Imperial Magitek provides Garleans with an answer to their lack of magic. Their devices are based on simplified version of the same principles which Allagan aetherochemical technology made use of, but rather than having aether channeled through the devices by technicians or aether-operated power sources, Imperial Magitek relies upon a fluid called ceruleum which is rich with condensed aether and can be refined to be yet more useful. In essence, being incapable of ‘moving’ aether themselves, they move an aether-rich physical substance in order to artificially provide the same effects. Some Magitek designs can also use crystals to provide power, although it appears that ceruleum is preferred for most military machines. It is likely that this is for the same reason that modern tanks run on refined fuel rather than solar power – without the ability to deliberately channel aether, crystals provide steady power rather than condensed power.

(Imperials also use conscripted slaves who are not pureblood Garleans and therefore are capable of magic, but they do not have any focus on powerful mages or magics.)

Magitek is often more limited and specific than magic, but any effect which can be performed by magic seems to be possible for Magitek as well. The Magitek necessary to create an independent tiger of burning ceruleum can be small enough to be man-portable, integrated into a sword and armor – if not actually smaller! It is also confirmed possible to manipulate portals to the Void (Crystal Tower,) manipulate and even shape the soul (Zenos’s experiments with the Echo,) and to tap into Linkpearl communications.

While it is not emphasized as extensively, the Empire also has extensive alchemical knowledge, being capable of creating Black Rose, a killing agent which is at least as effective as Ul’dah’s now-forbidden Zombie Powder. Like Imperial Magitek, Black Rose is effective but extremely direct and singular in its effects – it kills as effectively, maybe more effectively than Zombie Powder does, but it does only that rather than also raising victims as a zombie army. (It is difficult to say if Zombie Powder is fallible in cases Black Rose is not, because the only survivor of Zombie Powder of them was Hildibrand, who is probably immortal. I would bet on Hildibrand against Black Rose also.)

All of this combines to form a curious situation – the Empire is more mechanically advanced than Eorzea, but in terms of applicable knowledge they do not actually have an advantage. Eorzea’s technologies are passed down mostly as magical techniques, principles, and designs, while the Empire’s technologies are passed down almost entirely as Magitek devices and blueprints. The Empire’s advantage, rather, is threefold. Firstly, they can fund and field (and provide pilots for) far more weapons of great power than Eorzea can fund and field knights with sufficiently enhanced gear and training. Secondly, they use their conquered peoples as a massive supply of cannon fodder to overwhelm smaller nations with numbers. And thirdly, their propaganda is extremely developed and benefits from Ascian experience with manipulation, giving their forces excellent morale (though the information is false, the morale it provides is sadly real.)

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Imperial History is a difficult subject to analyze, because much of the available information comes from Imperials, and it is known from other sources, from high-placed Imperials, and from comparing Imperial claims to geographic fact that at least several of the most important Imperial traditions and claims are lies, created entirely to fuel falsified propaganda. The Ascian Emet-Selch claims to have founded the Empire entirely, not manipulating its leader but in fact being its first Emperor, Solus zos Galvus, and to have founded the Empire in order to do exactly what it does – to bring strife, chaos, and oppression to the world so that the desperate might be forced to summon Primals, and that the Empire might provide the means of triggering Calamities.

Imperial propaganda is so effective for a few reasons. It isn’t directly confirmed, but Emet-Selch is a manipulator with literally over ten-thousand years of experience, including specific practice with the Allagan Empire that the Garlean Empire admires as having given them the technology to crush their enemies (after a cultural claim of having been oppressed beforehand.) Additionally, the Empire is extremely serious about preventing any education except for Imperial schools, even if that causes its colonies to be less economically viable, ensuring that the only education available is tightly controlled even if that means that it cannot provide all of the education it needs. And finally, perhaps most importantly, the Empire’s structure ensures an absolute minimum of cultural contact between its people and other peoples, to the point that they even limit patrols of the lands they occupy as opposed to those which border enemies, allowing monsters to run rampant.

The Imperial view of its own history is known to us in the form of a few definite events around the time of its founding, a few definite recent events where they’ve interacted with Eorzea and Othard, and a few assumed ones in the middle. I will be going in chronological order, and making clear what is known to be believed by the Empire and what is only assumed – as well as poking holes in those beliefs which are definitely false.

The Empire believes that their people once lived in the Clockwork City of Goug, a technologically-advanced city-state which disappeared somewhat mysteriously in the past. The Clockwork City does in fact exist, and can be visited – briefly – in the Ridorana Lighthouse raid. The technology of the Clockwork City is certainly advanced, but we can determine little of how it runs – and whether its makers were capable of channeling aether.

Sometime after the disappearance of Goug, the remaining Garleans/Gougans traveled Ilsabard, with their histories saying that they were pushed out of their lands at every turn by those who used magic to oppress and defeat them, until they came to the far north of Ilsabard and discovered ceruleum (and assumedly also Allagan floating ruins there, based on the World Map.) There is a bit of uncertainty about the details here; the Imperial histories seem to not particularly distinguish whether they were refugees, nomads, or repeatedly settled-and-were-driven out. We don’t really know whether this is true or not, as we lack most history of Ilsabard, with one exception – the Imperials claim that they have a right to the land and were driven out, but Hrothgar histories say that they have lived in Ilsabard long enough to have fought the Allagans. Fundamentally, some of this seems to be true, but it may have been exaggerated for propaganda to provide a fabricated ‘claim’ to the land.

After settling in the far North, in empty lands that nobody else wanted, the Garlean people developed ceruleum-fueled Magitek and Solus zos Galvus arose to found the Empire. Supposedly, at this point, they were not conquering; we’ll cover more on that in the next point. This part of the Imperial history is surprisingly sparse; we know that Solus is essentially worshipped as all but a god-king, but we know little of the Empire’s early expansion and behavior, save that they shortly turned to conquering.

The Empire’s histories show that Solus visited The Burn, at the edge of the Empire’s lands, and ‘seeing the destruction that Primals wrought, decided to seek out and oppose them wherever they could be found’ – quote paraphrased. This is where we know that there are several factual flaws, because the original Garlean-held lands are at the far North of Ilsabard, but The Burn is at the far Southwest of Ilsabard. This means that to reach The Burn from the Northern ceruleum mines which were supposedly their only holdings during the Empire’s founding, the Empire would have needed to have already conquered its way across the entire continent.

Additionally, the Burn is not a Primal-made wasteland at all, though it is unclear if the Empire as a whole ever investigated to discover this; Solus, being Emet-Selch, would have already been aware but had every reason to ensure nobody else knew. The Burn was, in fact, made by Allagan technology – the land drained of aether by a massive aetherial dam in order to launch flying islands (at least Azys Lla, maybe others,) and then the aetherial dam was left on, cutting The Burn off from aetherial flow.

After this, there is an interminable period of conquest that completes the Imperial domination of Ilsabard, and expands into Othard and Eorzea in the last 25-50 years or so. There are few details about Ilsabard in general, let alone exactly what the Imperials were doing there, sadly. From there, the Empire fights in Doma and Gyr Abania, possibly not in that order, and is temporarily held back in Eorzea, launching Project Meteor – an attempt to crash the Red Moon of Dalamud into Eorzea to destroy it entirely. Not all of the Empire agreed with this; some factions believed that it was wrong to do so, at the very least because a destroyed land could not be conquered and its resources and slaves used for the Empire. We’re not covering it in much detail today, but Dalamud turned out to have Bahamut inside, and the empowered Bahamut caused massive destruction across Eorzea in the brief period he was free before being defeated.

After the failure of Project Meteor, the Empire is then soon stymied by a succession crisis which eventually installs Varis zos Galvus as Emperor and Zenos yae Galvus as crown prince, stalling their military conquests at their current borders for some time. This stalling and internal strife is due to Emet-Selch/Solus deliberately timing his supposed ‘death’ to cause maximum chaos, stalling the Empire at the point where they can threaten and oppress most of Eorzea and Othard, but not complete their conquest, in order to drive the peoples of those lands to desperation and fracture their alliances, especially the so-called Beast Tribes.

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This chapter is likely to be a bit shallower than some of the others in places, both because it covers a somewhat broader topic than normal in some ways, and because the available information is somewhat more widely spread and thus difficult to gather in one place. I will mention now that I actually do not have access to the lore books; almost all of my information comes from in-game sources. That said, there’s still plenty to examine. In all likelihood, the next two chapters will cover Ul’dah and Gridania, then Ishgard, Ala Mhigo, and Doma.

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The Eorzean Alliance is made up of five major city-states as of the end of Stormblood. Of these, three of them are the ‘primary’ part of the Alliance, those who stayed together (albeit somewhat loosely) in the wake of the Calamity when Bahamut devastated much of the Eorzean continent; these are Limsa Lominsa, Gridania, and Ul’dah. Later joining them as part of the Alliance itself are Ishgard and Ala Mhigo, and closely allied with the Alliance but still somewhat separate are the Domans from the far eastern continent of Othard.

The Alliance is a military one, founded on the principles of resisting conquest by the Garlean Empire. While the closeness of the military alliance has brought about closer relations in general between the member-nations, none of the participants in the Eorzean Alliance have any sort of shared authority or laws outside of military action. Even in military matters, each nation’s military has its own leadership, although they co-ordinate closely.

In the period between the Calamity caused by the Empire’s release of Bahamut, and the averted Calamity when the Ultima Weapon was destroyed, the Eorzean Alliance began to drift apart, though they were all still interested in maintaining ties. The Alliance became bound more closely together once again as they were all aided by the Scions of the Seventh Dawn against attacks by Primals, and by responding to the resurgence in Imperial attacks.

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Limsa Lominsa, the ‘pirate haven’, a major port city located on the western subcontinent/island of Vylbrand – specifically the southern coast of it. They supply the largest share of the Alliance’s naval power, of course, having not only the largest and most powerful navy, but also using privateering against Imperial shipping as a means of keeping their many loosely-aligned formerly (sometimes ‘formerly’) pirate captains in check. They also have some of the best cannon and gunpowder technology, now vying for that claim with Ishgard. Limsa Lominsa is led by Admiral Merlwyb, who is in theory a military dictator of sorts, but in practice is somewhat like a powerful monarch who has only loose fealty from most of the captains of the city-state. Many captains did choose to join directly, but just as many remain semi-independent. Merlwyb has also encouraged many of the former pirates now directly under her banner to become farmers, having set up a sort of land-clearing arrangement. Limsa Lominsa’s usual leader with regards to the Alliance is also Admiral Merlwyb.

Limsa is unusual among the three main city-states in that it has few prejudices and fewer laws against so-called Beast Tribes, including not actually having that term in common use. Qiqirn, Goblins, and some Amalj’aa are all present in Limsa and the lands it controls, possessed of the same rights and privileges as any other citizen or visiting merchant (as appropriate.) However, Limsa is also at war with the Sahagin (who mostly dwell underwater.) and the Kobolds (who dwell in the northern portions of Vylbrand, but especially underground in the areas surrounding the volcanic mountain O’ghomoro.) In the past, Limsa has had loose treaties with the Kobolds multiple times, but these treaties have been broken – largely, but not entirely by Limsa itself.

The primary point of contention with the first treaty between the Kobolds and the Lominsans was that, while the ‘fruits of the earth’ from underground were to belong to the Kobolds, and the ‘fruits of the sea’ were to belong to the Lominsans, surface borders were never clearly stated. This ambiguity created problems when the Lominsans began to actually use the surface of Vylbrand rather than relying exclusively on piracy to sustain themselves, and a war began between the Kobolds and the Lominsans. Limsa Lominsa won the resulting war, though not crushingly, and a new treaty was made that gave the northern lands of Vylbrand to the Kobolds and the southern lands to Limsa Lominsa. Although it is not precisely clear, it seems that the lands near the center of the island were mostly not extensively used, preserved as a buffer. This slightly more specific treaty lasted for some time, until the Calamity badly damaged both the Kobolds and the Lominsans – followed up by the Sahagin stripping much of Limsa Lominsa’s farmland with Leviathan. The resulting resource pressure, combined with the general fear and chaos in the wake of the Calamity, led to both nations attempting to expand into the center areas of the island and coming into conflict once again. Admiral Merlwyb accepts responsibility for breaking the treaty despite the ambiguity, so it is likely that the Lominsans attacked first, especially due to their desperate need for farmland after the Sahagin destroyed much of the pre-existing farmlands and raids the farmers to the present day.

As for the Sahagin, they certainly attacked Limsa, summoning Leviathan in order to scour a huge area of farmland of soil. This was done, again, due to damage dealt by the Calamity – the Sahagin require* a specific sort of above-water terrain to bear and possibly raise their young safely, and Bahamut’s Teraflare destroyed their former spawning grounds. Faced with this, they chose to summon Leviathan in order to destroy a massive area of Limsa Lominsa’s lands, stripping and salting the earth to make it useful only to Sahagin; since they, the Sahagin have also continued to attack Limsa Lominsa to take slaves, in addition to working with some groups of formerly-Lominsan pirates choosing to actively work with the Sahagin in order to have protection for continued piracy against non-Imperial targets. Broadly speaking, ‘Serpent Reaver’ pirates are those who willingly joined the Sahagin, and ‘Drowned’ people are those who have been taken and enslaved with Leviathan’s power; Drowned is just the term for those people Tempered by Leviathan. It is almost certain that the Sahagin’s choice of target – maximum damage to Lominsa, rather than the easiest or the least-aggressive target – was influenced by the Ascians, but I have not seen direct confirmation of this beyond that the Ascians were involved enough to teach the Sahagin how to summon Leviathan.

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Gridania, the servants of the Elementals, the only civilization permitted to linger and even live in the Black Shroud. The Black Shroud is the largest single forest of Eorzea, located centrally to the continent between Coerthas to the northwest, Xelphatol to the northeast, Gyr Abania to the east, and the misty lands of Mor Dhona to the southwest. Gridania is a land founded upon the only widely-available healing magic in Eorzea: Conjury. Conjury is quite literally the only way that Gridania can even exist – until its invention allowed a beginning to communication and peace with the Elementals who occupied the Black Shroud, the only civilization of the area for most of the Sixth Astral Era was the underground people of Gelmorra.

Gridania’s people are Elezen and Hyur – especially the Wildwood Elezen, those who left their underground lands as soon as possible. In terms of what they offer to the Eorzean Alliance militarily, Gridania has not only the best healers, but also the most healers and the least expensive availability of healing, as other nations are limited to alchemy as their primary source of healing, with only a little bit of healing magic learned as part of other specializations. They also supply the best archers, but are the poorest at direct conflict. Perhaps more important than their military contributions, however, are their diplomatic contributions. While the highest leaders of all the city-states in the Alliance agree with it in principle, Gridania’s people as a whole are more devoted to peace and harmony in Eorzea; while isolationist personally and quick to bar ‘outsiders’ from the forest, they are the people most enthusiastic about altruistic cooperation with those outsiders in a more general sense. This is further supplemented by their chosen leader with regards to war and, therefore, the Eorzean Alliance – Kan-E-Senna, a powerful White Mage and voice for harmony in the Alliance.

While Kan-E-Senna is the ‘face’ of Gridania towards the rest of the Eorzean Alliance, she is not an absolute ruler even in theory, being instead one of the most respected of the multiple leaders of Gridania. Gridania’s government is a highly ritualistic theocracy, directed by the Hearers who can communicate semi-directly with the Elementals. Everything in Gridania comes back to the Elementals sooner or later; these sometimes-immaterial spirits of living nature have destroyed civilizations before, would do so again, and are both able and willing to kill anyone who violates the rules they set for the forest. Gridania survives and even thrives because their Hearers and Conjurers carefully maintain and enliven the overall balance of the forest’s nature, and negotiate with or calm the Elementals to enable Gridania’s people to gather food, build homes, and live safely without the Elementals deciding to kill them. This is hardly a one-sided arrangement; not only do the Elementals and the thick forest defend Gridania against their enemies directly and aid in refining and empowering Conjury, the demands of the Elementals are mostly concerned with keeping the forest lush and healthy – which benefits the Gridanians just as much.

The Gridanians are ‘middle of the road’ in terms of their relationships with so-called Beast Tribes; unlike Limsa, they do actively use the terminology, and Qiqirn and Goblins are not allowed in their towns. However, the Gridanians do maintain good relations with one Beast Tribe, the Sylphs, and the Ixal who assault their lands are doing so to take resources, rather than out of fear or broken treaties.

The Sylphs are small, flying, fairy-like beings (though they are fully physical, unlike the Fairies of Nym.) They dwell in the northeastern portions of the Black Shroud, and largely shy away from outsiders. In recent times, Imperial aggression has triggered the Sylphs to summon their Primal, Ramuh, multiple times out of fear – he is very protective of his chosen people, and the Sylphs lack any other form of large-scale military power, personally specializing only in tricks and illusions. Only those Sylphs who have been ‘Touched’ by Ramuh will generally use violence at all. Unfortunately, Touched Sylphs also seek to kidnap free Sylphs and Temper them into more Touched Sylphs. Gridania now maintains diplomatic ties with the free Sylphs, although the two groups largely maintain the ties only to ensure that both are certain the other will not invade. Gridania also provides some protection against the Empire, while the free Sylphs help keep Gridania informed about the Touched Sylphs, to ensure that Ramuh is summoned as little as possible.

The Ixali are, in many ways, the opposite of the Sylphs. They routinely invade the Black Shroud from Xelphatol, their mountainous home, seeking to clear-cut entire areas of the forest to provide the lumber that they use extensively but can no longer obtain much of from their own lands – partly because Xelphatol simply doesn’t provide as much lumber as the thick forests of Gridania, partly because the Ixal take so much lumber that the forests have difficulty recovering, and partly because their Primal, Garuda, is both highly aggressive and focused on consuming as much aether as possible to increase her own power… which drains the life from Xelphatol, rendering it incapable of supporting as much as it could have in the past. Between their desire to strip the land of resources rather than carefully husband them, their worship of a goddess who exalts aggression and war, and the leadership of that same goddess when she is summoned, the Ixal and Gridanians have not even suggested the idea of peace in the modern era. In theory, Garuda has promised that she will someday restore the power of personal flight to the Ixal… but in practice, Garuda has never so much as granted it as a blessing, preferring to focus on increasing her own personal power and slaying her enemies. It is unknown how many of the Ixal, if any, are Tempered, and Garuda seems to prefer killing her foes to Tempering them, but Garuda’s servants are among the most fanatical in Eorzea.

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Ul’dah, the jewel of the desert, located in the southern deserts of Thanalan, is a city whose wealthy class has grown extremely wealthy from the mineral resources of Thanalan and from cutthroat trading practices. Ul’dah is the city-state that displays the most wealth, but I hesitate to actually claim that the nation itself is any wealthier than its peers – while the rich of Ul’dah are richer and have reach into other lands, that wealth is built less on greater resources, special techniques, or more effective trade and more upon the oppression and exploitation of most of Ul’dah’s people, deception about their own history, and cutthroat assassination or suppression of their personal rivals. Ul’dah has, in effect, two governments – the Sultanate, an inherited monarchy currently held by Nanamo Ul Namo, and the Syndicate, a council made up of the six most personally wealthy people of Ul’dah. The Syndicate has two factions – Royalists who support the monarchy, consisting only of Raubahn, and Monetarists who would like to see the Sultanate reduced to a figurehead. The struggle between the Sultanate and the Syndicate for power is ongoing, and has swung back and forth during A Realm Reborn, Heavensward, and Stormblood, with Sultana Nanamo’s power largely varying between ‘is as powerful as one member of the Syndicate’, ‘is a figurehead with only what power the Monetarists permit’, and ‘is more influential than any single member of the Syndicate, but must negotiate with them.’

What Ul’dah offers to the Alliance is largely ground infantry – the Immortal Flames, the Grand Company led by Raubahn, are more capable of direct combat on land than either the naval-focused forces and heavy artillery of Limsa Lominsa or the specialists in healing and indirect warfare (archery, guerilla tactics, etc.) of Gridania. Ul’dah’s wealth is erratically useful to the Alliance; it is their companies who spread airships (though, they did so by killing and erasing the achievements of one of the actual partner-inventors, an Ixali engineer,) but the Monetarists of the Syndicate also regularly scheme to advance their own wealth at the expense of the Alliance, sometimes to the point of badly destabilizing the political relations of Eorzea.

With regards to their leadership facing the Alliance, Ul’dah divides duties between the two members of the Royalist faction. In military matters, General Raubahn has been their leader for most of the time, partly because most of the forces provided by Ul’dah are the Immortal Flames, funded largely by Raubahn. In non-military matters, Raubahn often still had a leading role, with some things handled by Sultana Nanamo. During Stormblood, however, Nanamo’s power over Ul’dah has increased, and Raubahn has joined his original homeland of Ala Mhigo (leaving leadership of the Immortal Flames to his son, Pipin.) In the future, it is likely that Nanamo will be the primary ‘face’ of Ul’dah with regards to the Eorzean Alliance, especially as she was one of the most central figures in the negotiations between the Alliance and the Empire which took place after the Alliance and their Doman allies freed Ala Mhigo.

Ul’dah’s internal military force, the Brass Blades, are unique among the nations of Eorzea in being entirely separate from their external military force. The Brass Blades are funded and run wholly or almost wholly by the Monetarist faction, after a series of assassinations and sabotage efforts ruined the ability of the Sultansworn to provide similar security and law enforcement. While it would be easy to write off the Brass Blades as entirely corrupt, they do still serve to protect Ul’dah as a whole to some degree. However, their extreme corruption has repeatedly proven to be one of the elements leading to Ifrit being the most-summoned Primal of the continent, as they are easily bribed into approving under-secured crystal shipments or betraying people to Amalj’aa raiders – they don’t even need to be Tempered, they’re just corrupt.

Ul’dah is the nation most invested in the idea of the inhumanity of the Beast Tribes (besides the Empire, anyway,) and this is another contributing factor to their constant clashes with the Amalj’aa tribes of Thanalan. Among all the primals, Ifrit is second in aggression only to Garuda, but he is summoned far more often. Ifrit is also the Primal who most often Tempers foes, with the Amalj’aa deliberately kidnapping people alive in order to offer them as sacrifices to Ifrit. The Amalj’aa routinely raid Ul’dah’s caravans for resources as well as sacrifices, though of course the losses that are most dangerous are when they steal large amounts of crystals to summon Ifrit. The Amalj’aa are perhaps the most fractured of the major Beast Tribes, as well; in addition to the raiders who are most commonly thought of as ‘the Amalj’aa’ and a smaller tribe more obsessed with honor than with Ifrit, Amalj’aa can be found living or visiting peacefully in Limsa Lominsa. They are not so widespread or obviously multicultural as the Qiqirn or Goblins, but they are less unified than the Kobolds, or even the Ixal or Sahagin.

As a final note – Ul’dah used to have a sister city-state, Sil’dah, with the two having split a larger nation into two. However, a few generations back, Ul’dah destroyed Sil’dah and rewrote its histories to obscure the true reasons why and methods how. Ul’dah destroyed its sister-state with Zombie Powder, an alchemical, airborne toxin which is extremely lethal and raises its victims as zombies. The creation and use of the powder is now forbidden, but its aftereffects seem to linger to this day – zombies are more widespread in Thanalan than in any other region, not being restricted only to a handful of cursed sites, though they are hardly unique.

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Ishgard, the dragon-fighting knights of Coerthas, a nation locked – until recently – in a war with a concealed and falsified history, against the dragon Nidhogg and his children. Coerthas is located between the Black Shroud to the south and Dravania to the west, but even within that region Ishgard has retreated from much of Coerthas due to terrible freezing and blizzards caused by the Calamity. Like Gridania, Ishgard is a nation of Elezen and Hyur, formerly a theocracy, defined by their responses to a supernatural threat; in all of the particulars, however, Ishgard is more the opposite of Gridania than its kin.

Ishgard is a nation that changes greatly in the course of the Heavensward expansion. We will be handling Ishgard’s present status first, and then diving into its history. Militarily, Ishgard possesses an army of knights seemingly larger than any single Grand Company, and perhaps even a near match for all three together. Their knights are extensively trained, well-equipped, and usually well-led, but they lack a certain flexibility that the militaries of the other nations possess. Compared to the other nations, Ishgard is lacking in healers, in siege weaponry, and indeed in any military specialties save for direct warfare and cannons useful for bringing down large, but non-architectural targets (intended for dragons – but perhaps just as useful against Magitek colossi and armored weapons.) I mentioned in the last chapter that of the three core city-states, Ul’dah was a ‘specialist’ in direct combat – but once Ishgard joins the Alliance, Ul’dah could be thought of more as being the generalists of the Alliance, able to fill many roles but not the best at any of them. In Alliance matters, Ishgard’s leader is unquestionably Sir Aymeric, who is leader of Ishgard’s knights, but also more recently one of their strongest voices for diplomacy and international cooperation as well as a leader in their newly representative civilian government.

Although his many roles combine to make Aymeric capable of nigh-unilateral decisions in many situations, Ishgard’s new government after abolishing the secular powers of their Archbishop is in fact a representative democracy, also known as a republic. Their government’s power rests primarily now with a House of Lords and a House of Commons, not entirely unlike England, with both Houses having elected representatives who debate and vote on decisions and policies. Sir Aymeric is also a proponent of hope and change, proving to the Alliance that there is more to their nations than simply maintaining traditions or opposing the Empire; that their members can continue to revolutionize and improve themselves through peace, not war.

Ishgard does not particularly use the ‘Beast Tribe’ terminology, and has only minor contact with any major ones – a little skirmishing with the native Vanu groups in the Sea of Clouds, and a little skirmishing with Ixal due to recent expansion attempts into southern Coerthas. Ishgard’s long policy of isolation means that neither Goblins nor Qiqirn have entered their towns… but nor has anyone else except for a handful of adventurers. The only neighboring nation that Ishgard has close contact with are the dragons of Dravania. Most recently, Ishgard has made peace treaties with the children of the great dragon Hraesvelgr, but it is at this point that the basics Ishgard’s history must be brought up to give some context.

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Until the plot of Heavensward, Ishgard had been locked in the ‘Dragonsong War’, a constant war with the children of the great dragon Nidhogg. However, Ishgard did not understand that the dragons had multiple lineages with separate, different policies – even the ‘heretics’, those Ishgardians who turned on the Church of Halone and joined the Dravanian side, often did not understand that the dragons of Hraesvelgr and the dragons of Nidhogg have fundamentally different goals and orders given by their ancestral leaders. During this period, Ishgard was controlled by its priests and high-ranking noble houses. As the noble houses owed fealty and obedience to the Archbishop of the church, the Archbishop essentially acted as a theocratic feudal monarch, one chosen by the church rather than inherited by bloodline.

Before the war, the humanoids of Ishgard and the local dragons coexisted for roughly two hundred years, both groups intermingling throughout Coerthas and Dravania, supposedly a unified nation (although in fact, both groups had separate leadership and social groups – making them more two nations peacefully occupying the same lands.) This ended when King Thordan attacked one of the three Great Dragons of the region, Ratatoskr, killing her and using her eyes to grant him and his twelve knights draconic power. In response to this, Hraesvelgr retreated from the world to mourn and Nidhogg decided to make the Ishgardians and all their future children suffer eternally. Thordan’s heir, the prince, successfully defeated Nidhogg with the help of the Knights Twelve and removed both his eyes to ensure he died, with the prince and the majority of the knights then deciding to leave behind that life, with only four of the knights choosing to continue ruling rather than abandoning government of the kingdom in disgust over its crimes.

Matters would likely have ended there, except that Hraesvelgr arrived to give one of his own eyes to Nidhogg (after a little convincing) so that Nidhogg could continue to live and torment all Ishgardians. Thus the Dragonsong War turned from a series of assassinations into a long war, with Nidhogg choosing not to end it even when he later had opportunities to destroy the Ishgardians because that would have stopped their suffering. Unfortunately, the four knights and especially the Archbishops of the Church of Halone concealed, falsified, and generally destroyed the records of all of this, including concealing the fact that not all dragons chose to participate in the war… which prevented Ishgard from seeking to repair the issues as well.

This led to Ishgard steadily becoming an intensely isolationist nation – a trait they have only now begun to shed – and locked them into constant war, such that while they temporarily joined the Eorzean Alliance before the Calamity, they swiftly withdrew once the Imperial threat was less immediate, only rejoining after Sir Aymeric took command of the nation and encouraged a new focus on peace and diplomacy. Only after the plot of Heavensward ends the Dragonsong War and reveals to Ishgard that they had been kept deliberately ignorant and isolated by their own leaders and by Nidhogg did Ishgard once again join the Alliance.

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Ala Mhigo, the city-state which had until recently been under Imperial rule, freed only in the course of Stormblood’s plot. Ala Mhigo is the largest single nation in the region of Gyr Abania, a heavily mountainous region occupying the land connection between the continent of Eorzea and the Imperial-held continent of Ilsabard. The region of Gyr Abania borders the Black Shroud on the west, the area around Xelphatol to the northwest, and part of Ilsabard to the northeast, with the capital city, Ala Mhigo itself, being in the eastern portion of the region.

Ala Mhigo’s people are largely Highlander Hyur with few exceptions, and Ala Mhigan refugees were a common sight throughout Thanalan (being largely expelled from the Black Shroud on the orders of the Elementals.) After being liberated by the Eorzean Alliance, in cooperation with Doma and the local resistance forces, Ala Mhigo is now likely to be the primary battlefield between Eorzea and the Empire for some time, as it occupies the only land border with the Empire and is heavily fortified. Militarily, Ala Mhigan forces have had the most conflict with the Empire, but they also provide an enormous morale boost – like the liberation of Doma, freeing Ala Mhigo proves that the Empire can be not just resisted but also pushed out of the lands they have conquered. Ala Mhigo’s leaders facing the rest of the Alliance are still being determined, but currently it looks like Ul’dah’s now-former General Raubahn and the former Scion of the Seventh Dawn Lyse will be their primary ‘faces’ for international purposes.

Ala Mhigo was formerly an inherited monarchy, with the monarchy passing through family lines for many generations based on their extensive royal tombs. After the liberation of Ala Mhigo, the entire region of Gyr Abania seems to be developing a sort of loose federation of local leaders, with representatives from local Miqo’te and Ananta tribes, major villages, and Ala Mhigo itself all being asked to meet, discuss, and agree on policy for the region. Given the new setup, Ala Mhigo itself has something of an uncertain government, being run currently by Lyse as the leader of the Resistance, supplemented by the more politically experienced Raubahn.

Due to cooperating in the face of Imperial oppression, Ala Mhigo and the other local groups are on good terms with some of the local Ananta, who are classed a ‘Beast Tribe’ by the Imperials. There are two major groups of Ananta; the Vira, who worship Sri Lakshmi as a goddess of freedom and beauty, and the Qalyana, who worship her as a goddess of bliss and beauty. The Vira tribe joined the Resistance, while the Qalyana initially retreated into isolation, avoiding and appeasing the Imperials as much as possible.

All Ananta are primarily-female, perhaps all-female people with snake-like features, especially their entirely snake-like lower bodies. After the Imperials are driven out of Gyr Abania, the Vira have retained their stronger ties to other local groups, and have participated in the joint government as equals to the other villages and towns. Unfortunately, the Qalyana were driven into accidentally summoning a Primal of Sri Lakshmi (possible due to their extreme desperation at the time, a specific prayer, and using high-quality aetherial crystals in their jewelry,) who aggressively Tempers people into her ‘Dreamers’, whose minds are supposedly enjoying eternal bliss while Sri Lakshmi uses their bodies as her soldiers. This Stri Lakshmi is, to be clear, the Qalyana version only, and has very little if any connection to the ideal of freedom. Though invited nonetheless to join in the joint government, the Dreamers (both Qalyana and enslaved Resistance members) ultimately attempted to sabotage and Temper all of the other leaders; while they were stopped, it has driven a wedge between the Qalyana and the other powers of the region, especially as it is not entirely clear whether there are any unTempered Qalyana left.

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Doma, one of the major nations of the continent of Othard, far to the east from Eorzea, another nation held by the Empire until being freed in the course of Stormblood’s plot. Doma is centered on the Yanxia region of the mainland of Othard, separated by mountains from the Azim Steppes to the north and The Burn to the west, with Kugane further east across the pirate Confederacy-held Ruby Sea.

Doma’s people are mostly Hyur, Roegadyn, and wolf-like Lupin, with the local Hyur and Roegadyn being closer in appearance to each other than the Eorzean groups of the same kind. After being freed from Imperial rule, Doma has managed to power a massive Allagan-based defensive wall along its border with Ilsabard, making it untenable for the Empire to assault them directly without rebuilding much of the infrastructure the Empire itself destroyed in response to another rebellion in Rabanastre, in southeastern Ilsabard. Doma is allied with the Eorzean Alliance, rather than being a member in full, since they are far more distant from Eorzea than the other members; nonetheless, due to their debt to the Scions of the Seventh Dawn who helped free Doma, and thanks to the aetherial wall currently protecting them from Imperial assault so long as the Empire must focus on Eorzea, they can offer many of their ninjas and what other military forces they have to aid Eorzea.

Doma is ruled by an inherited monarchy, which has passed to Lord Hien, who holds power through the combination of inheriting legitimacy from Doma’s pre-Imperial government, and personal loyalty gained by his charisma and the personal negotiations and ties he made with Doma’s allies and resistance movement. Lord Hien has currently replaced his vassal, Yugiri, as the political ‘face’ of Doma with regards to the Eorzean Alliance, and is likely to continue doing so in order to build stronger relations with Doma’s allies in Eorzea, and to keep Yugiri free to work in the field as a powerful ninja.

Thanks to the efforts of Lord Hien and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, Doma has close relations and near-alliances with several local groups. In the Azim Steppes, Lord Hien and the Warrior of Light have some claim to being the official leader of the Au Ra tribes of the area (though wisely, Lord Hien still exercises diplomacy with almost no commands, since his status among them is unusual,) who include some extremely powerful warriors, and in the wake of Doma’s liberation are also opening up trade with the Domans. In the Ruby Sea, Doma has fairly good relations with the Confederacy of ‘pirates’ who occupy the area (though given their behavior, the Confederacy is reliable, organized, even-handed, and recognized sufficiently to badly stretch the definition of ‘pirate’) and with the Blue Kojin, deeply spiritual turtle-like traders, though there are still some troubles – for now – with the distrustful Red Kojin, who have been thrown into chaos by betraying and then being betrayed by the Empire while working as mercenaries.

Both Blue and Red Kojin worship the Kami of Othard more directly than the Domans, collecting old or beautiful objects to serve as physical receptacles for the Kami. While it initially seems that this might be a matter purely of religion, or even that the spirits involved were called into being *through* faith like Primals, it becomes clear in later quests that while normally invisible, Kami do seem to exist normally – not unlike the Elementals of Gridania, but usually behaving with much more subtlety.

Chapter Text

The first thing to understand about fighting styles in Eorzea is that the line between magical spells and extremely specialized weapon techniques is very fuzzy, sometimes nonexistent. All Eorzean fighting styles include the channeling of aether, although they do not all achieve this in the same way, and many styles use both magical spells and special weapon skills. This capability – channeling aether – underlies all of the most powerful Eorzean fighting styles in the same way as all real-world fighting styles assume that the user has bones and connective tissue that they can use to generate leverage or position objects. And, also like real-world fighting styles, not all Eorzean styles use that underlying capability in the same way, to the point that some styles have almost no overlap in actual skills and methods, and people have different variations on the underlying capabilities. Just as someone who has had their legs amputated will find kicks unsuitable for their use, someone who has a very shallow pool of personal free-flowing aether will find casting Thaumaturgy spells dangerous.

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The separation between ‘magical’ skills and ‘technique’ skills in Eorzean fighting styles is a bit vague, as it includes abilities which could be either type (the Dark Knight’s Stalwart Soul, the Paladin’s Circle of Scorn,) abilities which include elements of both (the Gunbreaker’s barrier-creating slashes,) and of course Red Mages, who use magical means to empower their physical attacks – and Ninjas, who use physical means to create magical effects.

The real answer is that there is no simple answer, only a few rules of thumb: Magic channels the ‘free-flowing’ aether that is represented in the game (currently) by MP, sometimes called Mana, while physical techniques channel the physical aether of the body. Magic is – usually – shaped entirely by aether in an initially internal and immaterial state, and can be augmented by controlling external aether, while physical techniques are shaped by physical actions and objects at first, and augmenting them with external aether requires first drawing it into and through the body. The types of aether-channeling which generate magical effects are mental, while the types of aether-channeling which generate physical techniques are physical. A Thaumaturge likely could be at least a *decent* Conjurer or Arcanist on the strength of their will and free aether capacity, and a Marauder likely could be at least a *decent* Gladiator or Lancer on the strength of their physical coordination and conditioning.

Physical techniques extend to effects that would be impossible in real life; not only preternatural feats such as being impossibly strong and fast, causing a sword not to break when struck, or enhancing reflexes - but also supernatural feats such as creating coherent energy waves by swinging a sword, causing a thrown weapon to always return to the hand, and significantly altering momentum in midair (without even generating massive windbursts.) This much is clear, and not a gameplay abstraction; Raubahn makes use of ‘sword beams’ in a few cutscenes, Estinien can genuinely jump over castle walls, and there are other scattered examples of the same.

Now we enter speculation with regard to physical techniques – the defining gameplay feature of weaponskills is, generally, that they do not cost MP. (In former expansions, they would cost TP instead; in Shadowbringers, that entire resource has been removed.) To go beyond this, we need to look at what sorts of aether a person has. Firstly, of course, there is the physical aether which makes up their body – in other words, they have the normal muscles, tendons, bones, and etc. which allow for real-life fighting styles. Physical techniques supplement that with something more, and I think the answer is the user’s vitality, or life energy (not to be confused with health points, which are more an abstraction of literal physical wellness.) For magical techniques which expel aether, using vitality would quickly and dangerously deplete it, but for physical techniques, that energy mostly stays inside the body, only temporarily moving to enhance one part or another, and so the actual loss of it might be minimal – the user would get physically tired and pained before they could begin passing those limits to a dangerous degree, though it’s still possible to do so (as it is for normal people by continuing past the point where severe pain warns us of bodily damage.) A similar idea – though applied to magic instead – may apply to an Arcanist’s Carbuncle; because the free aether they supply is tied up in the effect rather than ‘expelled’, and because the effect was already partially there in the form of the gem (metaphorically similar to the user’s body for weapon techniques) they do not need to constantly supply additional aether, only keep it invested, so long as they do not break the gem.

For magic, the effects are more obviously supernatural; Thaumaturges not only generate but control and direct fire, ice, and lightning, Arcanists can imbue a gem with energy in such a way that it turns into an adorable magic fox, and so on. All of these effects rely on a sort of ‘free-flowing’ aether, referred to in people as ‘aetherial capacity’ or sometimes 'mana' when aspected, which is a bit like stored energy such as a spring or battery. Just as not everyone’s bodies are necessarily well-suited to the same types of physical activity, not everyone’s bodies necessarily have the aetherial capacity for the same types of magic. Thaumaturgy is the type of magic most reliant on raw aetherial capacity; it is entirely the user’s power which creates and controls the effects. Conjury and Arcanima use work-arounds that reduce the need for raw aetherial capacity by leaning on external tools (the borrowed power of nature for Conjurers, the gems used for Carbuncles by Arcanists) and, in the case of Arcanima, also on workarounds such as artificially creating aether ‘dams’ in the body to store additional aether in prepared charges, and the use of geometric designs to generate spells which rely on precision rather than power.

Magic cannot, however, safely use the vital energy of the body. Note safely – it is absolutely possible for a mage of any type to spend their own life energy, but doing so removes it from the body. This does not necessarily cause permanent harm – so long as it is not done to such an extreme that the spellcaster dies, it is generally possible to recover life energy over time. Nonetheless, casting magic in this way always carries the risk of spending too much or too suddenly and then dying due to having expelled all of the aether that had been tied up in keeping the caster alive.

Although not directly part of any fighting style, there is a fourth type of aether that a Hydaelyn-native person has and can use for specific feats. In addition to their physical body, life energy, and free-flowing ‘aetherial capacity’, a person has the aether which is tied to their soul. This aether can be spent in exactly one way, dying, and normally returns to the land or sometimes creates an undead being – if directed deliberately, that aether can instead provide an immense surge of power. At the cost, of course, of simultaneously dying. (Note that it’s not possible to spend the actual soul; that passes into the Aetherial Sea separately when a person dies. The aether we discussed is merely attached to the core which is their actual soul.)

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Having gone over a lot of general information, let’s look at a few of the more interestingly unusual cases – starting with White Magic, Black Magic, and Red Magic. These three styles of magic date back to the Fifth Astral Era (or the Sixth Umbral Era, in the case of Red Magic.)

White Magic and Black Magic share a key factor that makes them both incredibly powerful – they are methods by which enormous amounts of external aether can be shaped into spells. Conjury uses a much more limited form of the same principles. While a person has a limited aetherial capacity to create spell effects from, all that really matters is that the spell effect is fueled by aether from somewhere, and the world has enormous amounts of free-flowing aether available for use – filling the air, flowing through the water, collecting into Sprites and Crystals (and then radiating back out.) There is power for some truly massive spell effects available. The flaw, of course, is control – both the more obvious flaw that controlling much more power than the spellcaster’s body can normally handle requires special techniques, and the flaw that was less obvious until it triggered a Calamity, which is that taking direct control of the aether of the world is taking direct control of the foundations for the ecosystems of the world without necessarily understanding what effects that will have – and the Elementals of the Black Shroud can, and will, take action to destroy everyone involved (and anyone nearby) before that control causes irreversible harm.

White Magic manipulates four elemental forces: Earth, Water, Wind, and Light. It is specialized in healing wounds, but also more generally in the application and movement of vitality; Amdapor’s mages were great healers, but they were also expert creators of golems. While it is not available to players nor, apparently, used at all in the modern era, at least some of Amdapor’s creations can also use the ‘Reverse’ effect to turn healing effects from restorative Light to corruptive Dark.

Black Magic also manipulates four elemental forces: Fire, Lightning, Ice, and Darkness. It is specialized in raw destructive power, but also has connections to the manipulation of dimensional barriers – basically, opening holes through the world to the Void and pulling Voidsent through. Mhach’s mages made much use of voidsent as slaves, batteries, guardians, and sources for certain magical effects that they could not create on their own, such as incurable plagues.

Red Magic was developed as a response to White Magic and Black Magic, and skews entirely in the opposite direction – like Thaumaturgy, Red Magic uses no aether that is not present in the caster’s own body. This limits them to using very, very small amounts of aether at a time in comparison to White and Black Magic. What makes Red Magic unique is that it exercises control over that aether in ways not possible for a White or Black Mage, accelerating the spellcasting process inside their own body and releasing it – and using White Magic principles and Black Magic principles, controlled correctly, to ‘balance out’ the caster’s internal aether flows to prevent internal imbalance. This control is enhanced by the use of physical motions, including using the buildup of White-aligned or Black-aligned mana in the body to empower physical weaponskills.

Red Magic manipulates at least Earth, Wind, Fire, Lightning, Ice, and Light, along with being able to heal and being closely tied to physical motions and internal aetherial control through active body motions. Red Magic is not incompatible with Darkness or Water, but players mostly don’t get access to that. Red Magic is also possessed of ‘non-elemental’ effects, possibly representing a 'balanced' sort of spell, or a development of the Scathe spell along very different lines, or perhaps an indication that Nymian Scholars were also involved in the creation of the style – Scholars, being somewhat related to modern Arcanists, may have used non-elemental spells to attack, though it was never their focus, and although most of Nym's Scholars were isolated by a Mhachi plague before the end of the era, it is possible that a few survived just as a few White Mages and Black Mages survived. 

Historically speaking, White Magic and Black Magic were developed in the Fifth Astral Era by rival nations in Eorzea; Amdapor for White Magic and Mhach for Black Magic. Mhach also delved into the summoning, binding, and even consumption of Voidsent, as mentioned, and constantly sought power - both internally, through power struggles between mages, and externally, through attacks against and sabotage of their rivals. In the end, Mhach started a too-major war which Amdapor escalated still further through the overuse of White Magic. This lead to the Elementals summoning or creating a sort of ‘collective elemental ‘ – possibly an Elemental Primal – to flood the continent, perhaps much of the world, starting the Sixth Umbral Era. Red Magic was then developed by the survivors, who knew all of the theory of White and Black Magic, as a deliberate reaction to the flaws which led to the Calamity of Water. Developing it included reinforcing their oaths not to abuse the power of White and Black Magic by making the internal acceleration of spells that Red Magic uses incompatible with the use of external aether. (It is implied that attempting to do so would kill the spellcaster with over-powered, over-accelerated magic inside their body. That didn’t stop a handful of Voidsent-summoners from figuring out a way to modify their body to do exactly that, at the cost of needing to constantly drain vitality from other people just to survive, and spending that vitality to cast any spells – in effect, making themselves magical vampires. While this might count as 'Darkness' manipulation, Water is still sadly ignored.)

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I, the writer, have not completed all of the job questlines – not even all of the class questlines. I know a little bit about most of the classes and jobs I have not done, from the people I play with and lore available elsewhere in the world, but my knowledge is incomplete. Here is my citation list of what I have completed myself for each class and job.

Disciples of Magic

Conjurer – Complete and White Mage – Level 30 quests only
Thaumaturge – Complete and Black Mage – Level 30 quests only
Arcanist – Complete, Summoner – Complete, and Scholar – Complete
Astrologian – Level 45 quests and below
Red Mage – Level 70 quests and below
Blue Mage - Nothing

Disciples of War

Gladiator – Complete and Paladin – Level 50 quests and below
Dark Knight – Complete
Gunbreaker – Level 60 quests only
Lancer – Level 5 quests only
Rogue – Complete and Ninja – Level 30 quests only
Machinist – Level 45 quests and below
Dancer – Level 60 quests only
Marauder/Warrior, Pugilist/Monk, Dragoon, Samurai, Archer/Bard - Nothing

Chapter Text

There are three general styles of combat-speed magic in Eorzea during the Sixth and Seventh Astral Eras (so, the ‘current day’ of the game.) These are Thaumaturgy, Conjury, and Arcanima. Thaumaturgy and Conjury are not ‘exclusive’ types of casting, and so some characters have learned how to cast spells using both methods; Arcanima is technically not exclusive either, but because its requirements are different and very demanding and its results are very flexible, most Arcanists do not learn much of the other two arts, nor do Thaumaturges and Conjurers learn Arcanima.

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Conjury originates from the end of the civilization of Gelmorra, people who lived underground beneath the Black Shroud. Due to the hostile Elementals, the people of Gelmorra could not safely live on the much more pleasant and lush surface of the region, but they desired to. They developed Conjury in order to both control and understand the natural forces that Elementals are tied to, in order to both make contact with the elementals and have something to offer them. Conjury’s basics are therefore founded in being able to use personal aether to manifest and manipulate earth, wind, and water – the primary aetherial elements which sustain the forest of the Black Shroud.

Basic Conjury was considered ‘finished’ once it allowed for successful coexistence with the Elementals, but it was developed further and refined to its modern state with the help of the Elementals and the ‘Hearers’, people who are said to be blessed by the Elementals with the ability to understand them. Conjury’s modern form is more precise in its ability to use specific elemental spells, but it has also become intertwined with an additional type of spell – healing wounds through the infusion of life force. The Elementals taught early Conjurers how to heal by accessing the life force of nature as a whole, which is for most practical purposes limitless. Until this development, Conjury could not be used to heal effectively, since using its methods to heal would have spent the caster’s life force – a dangerous and limited practice at best.

Conjury relies upon understanding and channeling the natural aetherial flows surrounding the caster as well as personal aether, which make an individual’s internal aetherial power less important than understanding and harmonizing with nature. It uses some of the same principles of White Magic – shaping external aether to create spell effects – but it exerts ‘softer’ control, uses a greater proportion of the caster’s internal power, and is both less powerful and less risky (for the caster and the ecosystem.) In practice, Conjury and White Magic are different points on a shared spectrum, different only in the magnitude of the power they use.

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Modern Thaumaturgy originates with funeral practices, using ice, lightning, and fire to ritually preserve and cleanse the bodies of the dead. For this reason, it is most common in Ul’dah, since that city’s most favored god is Nald’thal, the twin god of both commerce and the dead. The original Thaumaturgy spells were merely funeral rites, but over time people discovered that with increased power the same spells could become powerful weapons. Thaumaturgy is therefore seen as an art of death, strongly associated with both corpses and killing. Because of this, some Thaumaturges also learn spells to raise the undead or summon voidsent, but this is a correlation due to shared cultural connotations, Thaumaturges often having unusually easy access to corpses, and Thaumaturgy’s association and indirect encouragement of seeking power - not actually part of the same magical practice.

The reason that Thaumaturgy is associated with seeking more power is twofold – firstly, its origins as a primarily destructive art developed out of a peaceful one give it a somewhat power-hungry culture, and secondly, the fact that Thaumaturgy is the most aetherially-demanding of the three common methods of Eorzean spellcasting. Unlike Conjury and Arcanima, Thaumaturgy does not require much in the way of intellectual or intuitive understanding of specific methods – but it also uses exclusively the caster’s own aether, lacking the use of external power or the intellectually demanding but high-efficiency workarounds that Arcanima favors. A Thaumaturge can shift between closer attunements to Fire and Ice to extend their spellcasting stamina by making it easier to naturally draw in and restore their personal aether, but their actual spell-power comes from their own reserves – a simple, direct, but also limited source that is exhilarating to experience, easy to observe, and difficult to expand.

Thaumaturgy and Black Magic are in many ways a mirror of Conjury and White Magic. Conjury and White Magic share methods, but have differing philosophies. Meanwhile, Thaumaturgy and Black Magic share philosophical tendencies – the pursuit of pure destructive power – but use different methods. Thaumaturgy is a magic of death, but also a personal and internal magic, while Conjury is a magic of life and a magic focused on the external world and other people.

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Arcanima originates from the continent of Meracydia, developed there with an unknown history. While not stated explicitly, it is almost certain that during the Fifth Umbral Era, refugees from Meracydia brought knowledge of Arcanima with them during the same migrations that also brought the ancestors of the Miqo’te to Eorzea. Arcanima is also compatible with – but not descended from – some of the pre-aetherochemical methods of Allag, including the use of precise geometry to shape aether and channeling the caster’s aether through a focus to summon a semi-independent being. This seems to be both a case of the same methods being developed independently by both groups*, and potentially also a case of the imperialistic Allag adopting methods from their greatest rivals in attempts to defeat them. In the modern era, Limsa Lominsa makes the most use of Arcanima, as they have a guild dedicated to the practice and make use of Arcanist-summoned Carbuncles to assist in detecting smuggling and illegal goods - while this matches the prior Fifth Astral Era, where the city of Nym on the same island also made primary use of Arcanima, but this seems to be a historical coincidence, not a case of Limsa's culture or people being descended from Nym's.

Arcanima has quite different requirements to Thaumaturgy and Conjury, because it relies literally on the shapes of aether, rather than channeling elemental aether. Arcanima is much less demanding in terms of personal aether and the ability to channel aether, requiring only a bare minimum of those talents; instead, Arcanima is much more intellectually demanding, requiring a caster to be literate and have a good understanding of geometry simply to cast spells, with Arcanists also commonly being expected to be at least proficient in multitasking, tactics, investigation, and medicine. While both Conjury and Thaumaturgy focus on the channeling and personal shaping of elemental forces, Arcanima focuses on shaping unaspected aether into specific geometries, both physically through the use of a grimoire and also mentally in the caster’s imagination. This means that there is little overlap in the skills that make for the strongest Thaumaturges and Conjurers, and the skills that make for the strongest Arcanists – even those skills like multitasking and tactics which are universally useful are often applied in radically different ways.

Arcanists use a variety of spells which are not tenable for casters who lack the precision of geometric casting, and often build on the precision and knowledge required for the discipline by using spells which use less power and more precision to achieve useful effects. The best example of a spell which is only viable through geometric casting is generating internal Aetherflow charges; Arcanists are capable of building internal, artificial aether ‘dams’ which can hold aether that would otherwise naturally spill back out, and can then deliberately release those held charges to power spells.

The best example of a spell which is difficult to use as well as difficult to cast is summoning Carbuncles. Carbuncles are generated by channeling the caster’s aether through a gemstone, generating a self-contained physical entity out of aether which is mentally commanded by the caster. Making a Carbuncle requires specialized knowledge, but making good use of one requires the multitasking and practice to simultaneously use the caster’s own body and mentally command the Carbuncle’s different, semi-independent body (for example, Tataru’s inability to get her Carbuncle to reliably do anything but wander around randomly.) Alphinaud in particular also seems to not always consider summoning a Carbuncle to be a reliably helpful option for himself, until he gains a greater understanding of artificial beings from his experiences on Azys Lla.

*An amusing parallel can be drawn with the independent development of calculus by two different and rival mathematicians – Newton and Leibniz – in the real world, especially since Arcanima makes heavy use of geometric mathematics for its spellcasting.

Chapter Text

Unfortunately, I don’t – yet – have all the information on the physical fighting styles of Eorzea. There are a few things that can be said with certainty. First, the use of aether in some fashion can definitely be used with physical effects to generate supernatural effects such as ‘sword beams’, or to perform preternatural effects such as increased speed. Physical fighting styles in Eorzea still use what we would consider supernatural or magical powers – just in a different way. Second, weapons do play some part in these supernatural effects, but most weapons are more or less ‘the same’ except for normal quality. Zenos has collected at least one sword – the Ame-no-Habakiri – which can perform supernatural effects tied to the sword itself, despite his inability as a Garlean to perform such effects on his own. It is likely that this is the result of something which we might call enchanting the weapon, but in the world of Eorzea is just part of the forging process – aether passes through objects in defined ways, with defined properties, and can be modified by crystals and deliberate action in the process of creation.

Unfortunately, for now, my knowledge of the general information on physical combat stops there. However, there is information on some interesting specific fighting styles which we can go into depth about.

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Machinistry is a new fighting style developed in Ishgard during the course of the plot. It shares some aspects with Limsa Lominsa’s musketoons due to shared training and technology, and it shares perhaps just as much with ancient Allagan fusiliers due to the recreation of similar technology. These similarities also hint at what sets Machinistry apart from all other Jobs – Machinists rely on specific technological devices to enable their fighting style. A great Machinist might be able to construct or modify the devices they use, but it is just as possible to have one highly-skilled technician equip many Machinists who do not need to understand the full technical underpinnings of the devices they make use of.

Beyond relying on, but not strictly requiring technical knowledge, Machinists rely on aetherial channeling but do not strictly require skill at it. This sets Machinistry apart from all other Jobs, because all of the complexities of the aetherial channeling are handled at the theory and training end by the technician, and at the practical implementation end by a device called an Aetherotransformer. Machinists do not require any less talent or skill – but they are the only job where that talent and skill might be supplied by a different person than the one who performs the fighting. The Machinist needs only the marksmanship skills to accurately use their gun and devices, with technical knowledge being optional so long as someone else can supply them with devices.

The Aetherotransformer has two major functions. Firstly, it draws on the Machinist’s aether and transforms it into Lightning-aspected energy, to power devices such as drones, Drill launchers, and the like. Some devices need to be charged over time because they have greater power consumption than the Aetherotransformer can immediately supply, while some can be powered just off of the Aetherotransformer’s moment-to-moment output. Though handled by a device rather than a user, this is the same principle used in an Arcanist’s Aetherflow and their other spells – sometimes a ‘store’ of power is needed, and sometimes what can be immediately gathered is sufficient. The second function of the Aetherotransformer is simpler, but perhaps more surprising – it draws on the Machinist’s aether to generate physical ammunition for them. Depending on the exact setup, reloading might still be required, or ammunition might not generate as quickly as they would like – but in principle, it provides an endlessly-regenerating store of ammunition so long as the Machinist’s aetherial stamina endures.

In combat, the Machinist is essentially a marksman – they have a ranged weapon of great power, and their fighting style relies upon deploying it effectively through choosing what to aim at, and directing their shots accurately at their targets. To be a truly impressive Machinist, however, one needs to supplement the gun with more specialized devices, and deploy them appropriately – whether that means deploying a drone for additional sustained firepower, firing a giant drill to crack a heavy target, or attaching a bomb to a target that will endure long enough for a delayed blast to be worthwhile.

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Dark Knights are another fighting style somewhat from Ishgard, although it would be more accurate to simply say that the codified Dark Knights have a tradition that originates in Ishgard. Certainly, there are other combatants who use a large sword without a shield, there are other warriors who pursue personal or ideal justice without simply bowing to whatever society might demand, and so the purely physical elements of the fighting style appear elsewhere. And similarly, what sets a Dark Knight apart from the merely physical elements of their fighting style are things which are dangerous and difficult to master – but hardly things that do not arise naturally. A Dark Knight uses their emotions to pull on an internal Abyss of Darkness, usually through the Dark parts of their own self. In Ishgard, a handful of soul stones exist, and a loose tradition of mentoring, which makes learning to do so less deadly. For anyone else – the power of this Abyss can be consuming or maddening, and the easiest emotions to draw on it with are often hatred and rage – which can also numb one to the harmful, even lethal side-effects of over-drawing on the power. So, for now, Dark Knights originate in Ishgard – for when they would arise elsewhere, the most likely result is that they die, to their enemies, to recklessness, or to their own power.

A Dark Knight draws on the Abyss through powerful, personal emotions – but this does not mean exclusively rage and hatred. A Dark Knight without love – without, more precisely, a positive reason to act, some reason they consider good rather than merely necessary – is limited in how much power they can sustain. It is easy to draw on the Abyss a little through hatred, but hatred does not provide a reason to keep drawing deeper, as deep as it takes, because there is always a limit to a destructive reason. By contrast, a constructive reason can provide at least as much power for a purely finite goal, and perhaps more power for a general goal. In this way, a Dark Knight who ignores the power of love loses at least half of their potential power, likely more.

It is interesting to note that a Dark Knight uses an intensely personal method of accessing their power – personal emotions, the Dark parts of their own self – but the power that they access is not, exclusively, their own. What Dark Knights pull on is not simply a matter of transforming their own personal aether to a Dark state, but actually taking power into themselves from an Abyss that they use emotions and dark sides to contact and manipulate. Like White Magic and Black Magic, a Dark Knight can surpass their own limits because they have an external source of power. Unlike the same, a Dark Knight’s power arises internally. The question becomes, what is the Abyss? There are brief implications that it is something in the Dark Knight’s soul – some power that is normally inaccessible, not unlike the power available to a person who dies to fuel an aetherial working. But there are also implications that it is something shared, a sort of ‘universal unconscious’ arising from all people, which the Dark Knight taps into through those emotions and acts that affirm their own connection to their personhood. Neither answer is clearly confirmed or clearly denied. There is a third option – as likely, but not necessarily more likely than the other two – which is that the Abyss is a Dark mirror of the ability of ensouled beings native to Hydaelyn to ‘shine brightly’, increasing the power of their aether without increasing the amount of it – an act that usually, but does not always, happen at the same time as the use of dying aether. (It can be seen separately in the Brilliant Conviction buff present in some story combats.) A Dark Knight learns how to ‘shine brightly’ (or ‘shine darkly’?) deliberately, by cultivating the emotional power and determination that is normally only accessed by accident.

The powers that drawing on this Dark aether gives a Dark Knight are partially simply those that any other physical combatant could have with access to more aether; increased strength, speed, and durability. A Dark Knight who could barely lift their massive sword normally can draw on the Abyss in order to swing it with such speed and ferocity as to challenge a knight trained in a more conventional style, and it also allows them to power certain sorts of simple spells to supplement their sword-work. Defensively, besides the increased durability and reflexes common to any physical fighter, this Dark aether has three useful and semi-unique aspects which seem now to correspond to Umbral Darkness and to Astral Darkness. These are, respectively, numbing pain plus draining vitality from enemies to heal for Umbral, and constructing extremely powerful barriers for Astral.

In combat, a Dark Knight is either a defender or a loner – the power of the Abyss gives them great personal strength and (through negating pain, granting physical power, draining vitality, and constructing barriers) especially great personal resilience. This is enough to make a Dark Knight a sometimes-slow but almost-unstoppable singular combatant, or a decent defender of those who cannot simply wade into the thickest of combats. As a defender, Dark Knights benefit from an additional, subtle twist to their powers – most Dark Knight powers are flashy and intimidating, drawing attention to them and thus away from people whose fighting styles might not afford them the same degree of both preternatural and supernatural resilience.

Chapter Text

This chapter does not include any information only available in Shadowbringers! In fact, the majority of the thoughts that I am now putting to text were done in the lead-up to Shadowbringers, knowing nothing, just thinking about what might be. There will be a separate chapter later, with Shadowbringers information included.

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The Ascians have been thorns in the side of the Warrior of Light since before we fight our first Primal. Agents of chaos and darkness, they seek nothing less than to strike down the world with Calamity after Calamity, Primal after Primal, until every civilization and all peoples are broken to their designs for the resurrection of their god, Zodiark. This would be foul enough on its own, but the Ascians have much in the way of secret lore, lost artifacts, manipulative talent, personal might, and perhaps most annoying of all – immortality, so that to stop them once can never stop them permanently. If they are slain they can try again, if they are stymied they can wait for Time to slay their foes without lifting a finger, and if they need resources they have stockpiles eons in the making.

Not all, but many of the powers of the Ascians stem from their immortality directly: They possess secret lore because it was lost to time, but they were there for its invention. They possess lost artifacts because the artifacts fell into their hands long ago. They are talented manipulators because they have ten thousand years and more of experience manipulating mortals. Their stockpiled resources have been built and husbanded for an equal length of time. Their personal might stems from a mix of the knowledge they have which is otherwise lost, long experience, sheer aether, and last, the same source as their immortality – each Ascian possesses the Echo.

The Ascians possess all the normal powers of the Echo – increased power, the ability to understand at least the basics of all languages, the uncontrolled ability to visit the memories of a person or place. However, they also have secret arts which use the Echo for additional purposes that others usually cannot perform. This is the source of their immortality, in fact; each Ascian has learned how to let their spirit linger after death to take up a new body. Low-ranking Ascians, with black masks, know how to possess a corpse that is dead, but could support life. High-ranking Ascians, with red masks, supplement this – not only can they also displace a living soul to take over that body, they also possess a Crystal of Darkness, an artifact which acts as a small portal to the Void. Even if they are cornered, with no viable host body in range to enter after death, their soul can escape to the Void to reconstitute a new body there. And, of course, all Ascians possess good knowledge of teleportation magic – including, for at least most and perhaps all of them, passage to and from the Void. This means that an Ascian is hard to catch, hard to kill, and when slain they’ll come back with another body but all of the same power, knowledge, and experience.

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Given that Ascians are so difficult to stop, the question arises – why is it so important to stop them? Why is it worth spending enormous amounts of resources or engaging in risky plans to stop an enemy that will be back soon enough, or whose permanent death is so difficult if it can be managed at all past all their means of escaping it? The answer in modern times is that Ascians manipulate people – so-called Beast Tribes, so-called Spoken, whoever they can manage – to summon Primals, which drain the land of life. They also encourage prosecuting wars with these Primals, and one hallmark of an Ascian-encouraged war is when a war of fear or for resources becomes a war of genocide for no clear reason. In addition to that, Ascians founded the Garlean Empire in order to ensure that no corner of the world is free from the desperation of genocidal war and massacres. In general, Ascians have used other plans as well, but they always end the same way – with the summoning of ever-greater Primals that create wastelands and Calamities, destroying civilizations, species, and cultures wherever they are.

Ascians are master manipulators, and at least Lahabrea and Elidibus try very hard not to speak outright lies that are easily confirmed as such – the Warrior of Light, through the Echo and through defeating certain plans, is one of the very few people in the world who has seen proof of the Ascians repeatedly creating the very disasters that they then ‘arrive’ to offer a ‘solution’ to. The solution always has a terrible cost, but the Ascians claim that it is better than the alternative, and the ‘only’ solution. Also repeatedly, the Warrior of Light has found an alternative solution – often one that was perfectly obvious with the same knowledge that the Ascians have. Other Ascians are sometimes less cautious about their words being difficult to falsify, as well. Even in those cases where people have successfully betrayed an Ascian but used their plan, it has still brought ruin – it appears that the Ascian’s plans are almost always built to be inherently ruinous on the scale of at least a nation, if not a continent or the world, rather than seeking power for themselves. This applies primarily to the Warriors of Darkness (who were not told of the possibility of having the excess light of their world absorbed or countered,) but also to a variety of Primal-summoners, and particularly when Elidibus impersonates Zenos to have his minions summon a Primal on behalf of the Garlean Empire and blame it on another nation, to sustain Garlean hatreds.

Based on this pattern of plans witnessed, resources available, and their appearances (or lack thereof) during history, it seems that Ascians operate in a sort of cycle. During an Umbral Era, they operate subtly or not at all, allowing the public of the world to gradually forget them in the ruin and chaos. (The Ascians are not perfect about destroying lore about themselves, nor do they care to be, but they do seem willing to arrange the destruction of any known, large collections of lore about them undergoing actual research.) During the following Astral Era, the Ascians begin to stockpile both resources and influence, and start trying to force a particular sort of conflict – at least three times, they have used the pattern of a cruel, expansionistic nation turning from conquest to genocide against far more neighbors than they can actually sustain a war against and expect victory. The nations at threat from this are not conquered or destroyed, but neither are they allowed to completely force back the assaulting nation, and are usually encouraged to summon ever-stronger Primals. These Primals also force the continuation of the war if the once-lesser nations have a victory, because they destroy the lands of the summoners, and Temper their people, forcing them both for practical reasons and through controlling their minds to conquer other lands as well. The use of Primals is even more common than the use of an overreaching empire that turns from conquerers to genociders, though not universal – the Fifth Astral Era’s Calamity evidenced no Primals at all until its final Calamity, with escalation instead being provided by the use of Voidsent as well as White and Black Magic until an until-then uninvolved faction summoned a powerful Primal to deliberately flood the world – the Elementals.

This state of affairs is pushed further and further until some massive magical disaster is engineered, one large enough to destroy most of the people or at least one continent, if not most of the world. This begins an Umbral Era and the process repeats. The highest-ranking Ascians we know of have claimed that their end goal is to ‘correct’ or ‘re-weave’ the laws of nature for the planet, that their end goal is simply chaos, or that their end goal is to summon their own god, Zodiark. Lower-ranking Ascians appear to follow one of those goals in a vague way, usually the last, but more in service to their superiors than from themselves having a full understanding of it.

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Ascians can be slain in three ways, with one working only on low-ranking Ascians. The easiest way, but the one which works only on low-ranking, Black Mask Ascians, is to fight them in an area where there are no viable corpses to possess after their current body (and any others brought with them) are destroyed beyond use.

High-ranking, Red Mask Ascians can use a Crystal of Darkness to escape this by entering the Void and creating a new body there. They can also possess a living body if it lacks the Echo, but that could have been solved by having Echo-bearers slay them; sadly, due to the ability to escape into the void, that is impossible. Entering the Void may not even be strictly necessary if their soul is not under attack; they may be equally able to create a new body in the main world, but avoid doing so because they would be vulnerable during the process.

There are two means to permanently kill high-ranking Ascians despite these problems. The first is to slay them immediately next to a Primal, which immediately draws into the aether of their soul and consumes it. This process can be resisted, but since a slain Ascian will be recently-weakened anyway, they are unlikely to win the ‘tug-of-war’ for their aether with the Primal. The second option is to ‘pin’ their soul in place by absorbing it into a prepared chunk of material called White Auracite. White Auracite has the capacity to quickly draw in massive amounts of aether – enough to capture even an Ascian’s soul faster than they can flee to the Void. The soul must then still be destroyed immediately (a process which it can resist) by blasting it with a huge discharge of dispersing aether, because White Auracite’s ability to quickly take in aether means that it also quickly releases that aether, and so it can only ‘pin’ an Ascian very temporarily.

In either case, the result is that the Ascian’s Echo-bearing soul is dispersed beyond its ability to hold together, and becomes nothing more than normal wisps of spiritual aether that are swiftly drawn away, like melting an ice sculpture and pouring the resulting water into the ocean – the water is in a different form, thoroughly mixed with other water, and none of it is salt-less anymore, even though all its parts still exist.

Chapter Text

The Void is one of the many reflected worlds of the planet Eorzea is on. At one point, like all of those reflected shards, it was much like the Source world. Now, it is known to most as an endless consuming darkness, inhabited only by voidsent demons that wish to enter this world, and impossible to reach for mortals. Yet, this general perception is not quite right.

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To understand what the Void is, it is important to start with its history. Before even the first Cataclysm, one of the high-ranking Ascians, Igeyorhm, was instrumental in completely overtaking this world, also known as the Thirteenth Shard, with darkness, applying every possible power and ensuring that every victory strengthened only Darkness. To this end, she convinced those who wished to save or protect the world to summon Primals and bind them into their own bodies to use their power – and then to begin fighting each other, ever-escalating the Primals they summoned. She managed to spread this practice across the entire world, and while a warrior was given the Blessing of Light by Hydaelyn to try and halt it, the Blessing was given too late – the warrior was just a young boy, unable to become powerful enough or respected enough to shift the course of the world before the constant overuse of Primals drained it and then overtook it in a complete Flood of Darkness – a Flood which was not stopped, as Urianger’s plan with the Warriors of Darkness stopped the Flood of Light in the First Shard.

This was according to the Ascian’s plans, except that it then became clear that this completely-Dark world was of no use to their actual end goals. It became, to them, a ‘worthless Void’ which could not be used to help resurrect Zodiark. Ever since, it has been a world enshrouded entirely in consumptive dark aether, inhabited by largely predatory and (by our standards) twisted creatures. Curiously, while consuming souls and aether is common to Voidsent, they do not appear to have the same properties Primals have of entirely removing aether from an ecosystem – Voidsent may change an ecosystem like any invasive species, but they do not inevitably drive it towards complete barrenness.

At least in modern times, the Void is a sort of ‘base of operations’ for the Ascians – traveling from world to world is so difficult that most people consider it impossible, and so the Void is effectively a place to retreat that their enemies cannot follow to. This allows them to use it for meetings, to plan, to hide, and just to recover or stockpile resources in-between periods of activity. It is curious that the Voidsent seem to have little or no direct interaction with the Ascians despite both sharing the same world – the Ascians do not even commonly summon Voidsent, and only occasionally are interested in the appearances of Voidsent in the Source when it impacts their other plans.

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Voidsent, as a term, is sometimes misused by Eorzeans. Almost any creature which is so strange that it seems like it ‘could not be natural’ might be labeled a Voidsent, even though many such creatures are in fact native to Eorzea. Properly speaking, we know that a few types of creature are definitely Voidsent, or at least originally Voidsent. Succubi, Ahrimans (the winged eyeballs,) and Imps are all Voidsent who appear to commonly cross over from the Void to the Source, but do not seem to maintain a native presence on the Source. By contrast, Bombs definitely originate from the Void, and can be summoned from there or cross over on their own semi-randomly, but some Bombs live permanently in the Source, being born there, living there, and eventually dying there without ever seeing the Void. Finally we have Ogres, whose various kinds appear to originally come from the Void, but are mostly now stranded in the Source – even those Ogres who would like to return to the Void are usually unable to do so, and remain forced to live in the Source rather than traveling to the Void they would like to live in.

This covers only physical Voidsent, but due to the peculiarities both of Voidsent and of travel between worlds, it is easy for a Voidsent to travel as only a spirit and need to possess a suitable host in the Source to exist. For many Voidsent, it is easier to do so. For many of the more powerful ones who cannot open a similarly powerful gateway from the Void, it is instead the only way they can manage to enter our world. A Voidsent possessing a suitable host – usually a living or dead body – can then generally still consume aether to increase their power, and shape their host to more resemble their own body. Succubi are somewhat famous for doing so, often spending their own power to immediately reshape bodies they enter. This can be somewhat confusing, as there is often no immediate visual difference between a Voidsent that has brought its physical body to the Source, a Voidsent that has manifested an indefinite body but left its true physical body in the Void, and a Voidsent that has taken over a host and reshaped it to appear the same as its true physical body.

A Voidsent that takes over a corpse may appear to be undead, and often will accompany itself with genuine undead, but is not actually the same sort of being. Since a Voidsent is more able to mimic life, this has led to a handful of ‘immortality rituals’ and ‘resurrection rituals’ which do not actually function as advertised, but simply summon Voidsent into the chosen body. Similarly, it does not seem that there is a way for a mortal to become a Voidsent, but it is very easy to kill a person and insert a Voidsent into their body. More difficult, but proven, is to insert some of a Voidsent’s power into a living person, under their control – usually giving them affinities for destructive or vitality-draining magic, and allowing them to bypass the normal limits of their body by using the Voidsent’s power instead or as a mixture.

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No discussion of Voidsent is complete without mentioning two civilizations – Mhach and Allag. Mhachi Black Mages not only controlled massive amounts of aether for their destructive magic, but they also made extensive studies of the Void. Mhach has probably made more use of Voidsent and the Void than any civilization before or since, learning how to summon Voidsent piecemeal, bind Voidsent to specific purposes or places, or simply insert a Voidsent into an artifact to use it as a sort of living aether battery – or a difficult-to-detect ‘bomb’ that would release the Voidsent once it reached a suitable location for its passenger to cause damage. Mhachi mages were able to summon, banish, bind, and even destroy Voidsent, and built artifacts to enhance and expand on these powers. Strangely enough, the one art they do not seem to have even attempted is that of allowing a Black Mage to travel to the Void themselves, not even when they had access to bound Voidsent who could have enabled such a journey. It is possible that they reasonable feared that the loss of power that Voidsent suffer when summoned without their physical body would afflict them in reverse all too easily, but it doesn’t seem to be mentioned even as a cautionary tale or a madman’s legacy.

Allag, by contrast, had little interaction with the Void for much of its history, preferring the use of aetherochemical magical technology, enslavement machines, and eventually binding Primals as massive power control stations for drawing, moving, and controlling large amounts of aether. However, their first Emperor, Xande, when cloned and semi-resurrected, became violently nihilistic near the end of his second reign, and began to look to the Void to gain powers even he was unable to otherwise obtain, including the power to destroy the world so completely that it would be genuinely dead and gone. A surge of Earth-aspected aether through Dalamud and the Crystal Tower ruined his empire before his plans could be fully implemented, but he succeeded in making contact with a powerful being from the Void, the Cloud of Darkness. This being – a Voidsent, but independent from most of the other Voidsent encountered before or since and of incredible power – made a pact with Xande which granted him incredible personal power, and kept open a portal to the Void through which the Cloud of Darkness would be able to enter and consume the Source. He appears to have considered both of these to be positives, even setting up the pact so that his own death would not necessarily end it and close the portal.

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The one known mortal survivor of the Void is Unukalhai, who was also the too-young, would-be Warrior of Light of the Thirteenth in its final days before it became the Void in full. Unukalhai was rescued by the Ascian Elidibus and taught to use his Echo in many of the same ways that the Ascians do, but then seems to have essentially been left loose with no specific orders or control. Unukalhai has not opposed any specific Ascian plots, but certainly wants to be, and considers himself to be, an ally of Light and protection rather than Darkness and chaos. As far as can be determined, he has only historical connections with the Void and the Ascians, not any current ones.

Chapter Text

Hildibrand Manderville is the center of strange, comedic events throughout Eorzea and beyond. We have met characters involved in Hildibrand quests when they are away from Hildibrand, and they are perfectly reasonable people involved in perfectly reasonable events, at least by the normal standards of the world. Yet whenever Hildibrand is on the case, things get… strange.

There is little hope of untangling why things happen the way they do around Hildibrand. Even the history and capabilities of otherwise-normal characters becomes focused on comedy whenever Hildibrand is involved, though non-comedic events certainly still happen – they merely become… out of focus. It could be some sort of aetherial field (after all, neither Y’shtola nor a Sharlayan aetherometer is ever in the same scene as Hildibrand,) it could be his sheer faith in how the world works twisting events just a half-step out of normal (not so unreasonable; faith and aether can make primals, and aether is everywhere,) it could have no explanation outside the meta-argument of authorial decisions… But the fact is, it happens.

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Hildibrand is the only child of Godbert Manderville and Julyan Manderville, and thus heir to the massive Manderville fortune and business empire. His one consistent companion is Nashu Mhakaracca, but an uncertain status with regards to life, death, and undeath means that he also shares a connection with a group of zombies as their undead lord… despite being (probably) alive. He shares a strange kinship with Gilgamesh, a traveler from across dimensions, due to their mutual strange dedications and a shared respect for each other.

Hildibrand himself has little interest in business or finance; he seeks out mysteries to solve, crimes to redress, and innocents to rescue and aid not out of any desire for a reward, but out of a combination of a sort of noblesse oblige, a feeling that a Gentleman such as himself ought to do good… and a genuine enjoyment of the adventures he gets into. Hildibrand is astonishingly capable of finding mysteries, and never completely loses an investigation… but he is not necessarily very good at solving them; he can be tricked, and often it is other, more rational and focused characters to actually progress the investigation. It is not that Hildibrand is good at solving mysteries, so much as a certain twist of fate that means that once he has set himself on a mystery, he will always eventually stumble upon a lead by strange luck even if all other attempts fail.

Hildibrand also appears to be essentially invulnerable, though no more immovable than his mass suggests (indeed, he is prone to being blasted great distances and may be more easily moved than his mass suggests.) His clothing is regularly destroyed, and he has been knocked into solid stone with enough force to embed his entire upper body multiple times. Despite this, the only application of force which has ever damaged him is falling from heights higher than a mountain, which seems to temporarily paralyze him – mistaken once for death – and sometimes afterwards confuses him with temporary amnesia, but no worse.

Nashu is his faithful companion, often more observant than Hildibrand, but with more faith in the Inspector than in herself. There is an exception to this in the area of explosives. Nashu makes her own explosives – large, spherical bombs which produce little fire but large amounts of force – and is usually carrying at least some, but sometimes has much more than that. When Nashu is in Hildibrand’s presence, she usually never comes to harm even when Hildibrand himself does, but she has occasionally been harmed while outside his immediate presence. Nashu seems to be able to find Hildibrand no matter where he goes, though while separated from him she is usually somewhat more rational in her use of information – but only somewhat.

Godbert Manderville is a Goldsmith by personal trade, specializing in art objects but still capable with jewelry and delicate machinery, although his tastes can sometimes be extreme to the point of strangeness. When not in Hildibrand’s presence, he runs a business empire that includes the Gold Saucer, and is generally the least-objectionable of Ul’dah’s Monetarists, being more of a neutral party in the city’s politics. He is both famous and well-respected across the Eorzean continent, even in Ishgard, for his fair but skilled negotiation and his far-thinking, minimally-exploitative business acumen. When Hildibrand is involved, Godbert generally prefers to wear no clothing save short pants and his tinted glasses, and often finds joy in wrestling giant monsters or his son into the ground, as well as searching for ever-stranger sources of inspiration for his next artistic project. Notably, he is capable of using what is clearly a Limit Break on his own, implying that he is able to form some sort of joint aetheric pool with only himself in it.

Julyan Manderville is a skilled Culinarian, though she does not seem to usually make a career of it, but also capable of channeling her hatred (and, to a greater extent, her wrath) in ways that likely qualify her as using something like a Warrior’s Inner Beast. She is also capable of applying alchemical principles to cooking, and seems to be similarly powerful but significantly more ferocious and difficult to escape as compared to her husband – though she fights less often, as she does not actually enjoy it. Unlike Godbert, I know of no situation where we have seen her behavior outside the context of a Hildibrand quest, so it is uncertain how she might be changed by his strange presence.

When Hildibrand was mistaken for dead, he arose from the grave he was buried in amongst many other zombies. These other zombies recognized him as a zombie (although it seems that he probably was not actually dead) and Hildibrand’s strange and comedic charisma won them over such that the zombies, and Hildibrand, all bonded together to the point that they share a verifiable aetherial connection, which can be used to locate one another at moderate distances. It is possible that Hildibrand is in fact dead and truly is a zombie – explaining, in a sense, his inability to die – but even zombies have limits to what forces they can suffer before their animating forces fail, whereas Hildibrand does not. Hildibrand is also affected by Zombie Powder, although it does not immediately kill him and he was even successfully cured – this suggests that he is alive, as if he were undead he would likely have suffered no effects from it at all.

Finally, the Gilgamesh of Final Fantasy XIV is the same Gilgamesh from most prior Final Fantasy games. As before, Gilgamesh has been traveling from world to world through the Void, a space/non-space between worlds which should not be confused with the Thirteenth Shard, called the Void in Eorzea. The Void as known by Gilgamesh is sometimes referred to as ‘the Rift’ or a space ‘between’ worlds in Eorzea, though it is little-known there. Gilgamesh’s comedic incompetence and incredible survivals mixes seamlessly with Hildibrand’s own aura, but unlike Hildibrand Gilgamesh seems to be capable of pretending seriousness, and being competent when not distracted by his own obessions – as was the case when Gilgamesh took on the false identity of Yojimbo and sought only to collect funds for a time, proving himself serious, competent, and effective in achieving his goals. Gilgamesh and Hildibrand have a loose mutual friendship built on personally liking each other, mixed with a rivalry over the specific spear which Hildibrand attempted to use to stop the fall of the red moon Dalamud – which both men claim ownership of.

Chapter Text

This chapter will include lots of Shadowbringers spoilers! It changes the context of many things! Despite the title, we’re going to talk about several topics, which are listed below. If you don’t want spoilers, skip this chapter, because it’s full of them. If you have completed the Main Story Quest, Shadowbringers, and have also done at least the first four fights of Eden, then you should be safe.

We will be talking about the following:

This chapter: The Ancients of Amaurot, including their capabilities and what we know of their culture and world.

Next chapter: The First Calamity/Amaurot’s End, as well as the origins of Zodiark and Hydaelyn.

The chapter after that: The origins of the Ascians, and what we know of the intentions and goals of the Ascians, Zodiark, and Hydaelyn.

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In the Tempest, the seas west of Norvrandt, are ancient ruins, built of magical stone – or perhaps stone that is, itself, made of magic – but sunken to the bottom of the ocean. The architecture is magnificently Art Deco, but the ruins correspond to no known civilization, nor even to the ancestors of any known civilization – because they predate any history of the current world and its life. These ruins are what remain of the City of Amaurot, from the Original World before it was separated into the Source and thirteen Shards.

When we visit the ruins, they have been layered with a sort of summoned memory of how they once were, by Emet-Selch. Although everything we see is somewhat through Emet-Selch’s perspective, it does include a small handful of things that may have been of less importance to him than to us, and includes at least one person – Hythlodaeus – who knows and speaks of things that Emet-Selch seems not to have intended… or at least, not consciously intended.

The Ancients of Amaurot were giants, standing several times taller than even a Roegadyn, but we know little of their physical capabilities because their aetherial capabilities with at least one magic were so much greater. The Ancients had mastery of a particular magical art, the Art of Creation, which informed every facet of their society. This art allowed them to manifest an idea as a physical existence, imposing it into reality by filling the idea-form with massive amounts of aether. For the Ancients, many projects could be handled in this way by the free aether of just a single individual, because of their deep wells of personal aether – by modern terms, just ridiculous amounts of available aether. It does not appear that they ever used any other form of magic, by their final days, because they did not need to.

This Art of Creation, in modern times, is the same Art used to create Primals. However, the Ascians teach the Art such that the full cost of a manifested being, a Primal, is not paid during the casting. This creates an imbalance, which leads to the created Primal constantly draining aether without stopping until and unless it is destroyed. The original Art of Creation did not do this, because the costs of creation were paid in full – a mistake in the idea, even something as simple as a moment’s distraction, could result in creating something with unexpected properties, but not the life-draining effects of modern Primals.

Amaurotine culture seems to have centered on considering their people, the Ancients, as stewards of the world, in command of all life because of what they considered their superior wisdom, as well as the power and will necessary to defend the world. There are mentions that not all nations completely obey Amaurot, including the idea that interfering in some places could cause problems for them… Indeed, this seems to be the first reflection of the conflict which the Allagan Empire faced, where despite considering themselves masters of the entire planet, the southern continent – Meracydia, in the modern Source – was not in truth ruled by them until much later, if at all. Unfortunately, we do not know if there were any other peoples of the Original World, nor what relations they had to Amaurot – it is left ambiguous whether the ‘problems’ with interfering in the southern continent would be internal problems of factional philosophy, or external problems of the ‘that would require conquering them and they might protest that’ sort.

Speaking of factional philosophy, while Amaurot presents the face of a united people, with a single government over people who exist in harmony with their government and each other, there is in fact an underlying philosophical division between two Amaurotine factions. These factions are never named, but many of the memory-Ancients who can be met in Emet-Selch’s memory of Amaurot will express ideas which fall towards one end or the other of this factional divide. I will refer to them as the ‘Individualist’ and ‘Control’ factions.

Some Ancients express a belief that the Art of Creation is a personal art of expression, and that people should be allowed to bring new ideas into being more-or-less freely, with only minor restrictions to ensure the safety of those around them. These same Ancients also believe in individual expression, including potentially the use of colors and clothing as symbols and expressions of personal aesthetic preferences, and also generally favor debate and forming individual opinions over dogma and trusting in the wisdom of the Council that rules Amaurot. These Ancients form the Individualist faction, because they believe that individuals should be allowed to express themselves and invent new ideas. They still believe that idea-forms used for the Art of Creation should be registered, and that the identical gray robes which all Ancients wear are appropriate most of the time.

Other Ancients express a belief that the Art of Creation is a useful tool which is easily misused by distraction or uncertainty, and that people should not be allowed to bring new ideas into being ,instead relying on existing idea-forms which have been approved and distributed by the government, possibly requesting a specific modification through research groups if one is needed. These same Ancients often believe that the Art of Creation should only be focused on those ideas which are necessary, and that most such ideas – if not all such ideas – already exist, and need only to be fully implemented. They also tend to be extremely offended by any clothing which is not exactly identical to the featureless gray robes that most Ancients wear, seeing it as a symbol of rudeness and disunity that defies the unity of Amaurot, and also generally favor trusting in the wisdom of the Council and in dogma of obedience and tradition. These Ancients form the Control faction, because they believe the powerful Art of Creation must be completely controlled. They still believe that debate, not violence, is the appropriate way to resolve differences of opinion, and allow that children should be slightly freer to express themselves than adults.

The Ancients of Amaurot created numerous life-forms and released them into the ecosystem of the world. At this point, over ten thousand years after the fall of Amaurot and an unknown time further since its beginning, it is simply impossible to know which creatures originate with them and which do not – if, indeed, any creatures of the current ecosystems were not made by Ancients using the Art of Creation. Besides this uncertainty, we also know that some creatures not native to the Source and seem like they must be strange mutations now actually already existed in the Original World, such as Bombs and Morbols, and simply became separated when the Source and its Shards were fragmented. The only thing we can be completely sure of is that Dragons are not native to this world at all, as they arrived from another world shortly after the Source and Shards were fragmented.

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During their normal times, the Amaurotines were governed by a council of fourteen leading figures, revered for their collective and individual wisdom. These leaders had formal titles relating to the roles they were expected to take, and at least several of them - likely all of them - were also successful in other areas, such as the holder of the mantle of Lahabrea during the fall of Amaurot having contributed greatly to various idea-forms, including animate yet nonliving golems for defensive purposes.

At the end of Amaurot, one of the members of the council ended up being missing - the city at large seemed not to be aware that the fourteenth member was still alive, merely having disagreed with the rest of the council so drastically as to have split from them.

Although the council of fourteen made high-level decisions, the day-to-day government of Amaurot consisted mostly of bureaucracies, enforcing laws and providing services such as approving (or banning) certain idea-forms for use with the Art of Creation, providing self-contained creation blueprints which could be charged with power to use the Art of Creation more reliably for a specific idea, and similar organizational duties.

The Amaurotines appear not to have had a religion, exactly, instead holding to certain traditions and philosophical schools of thought, but we know little about these except that all Ancients were expected almost always to wear gray, featureless robes to express their unity with all other Ancients of Amaurot. Philosophical discussion appears to have also been somewhat limited, especially in/by the Control faction, discussing specific actions in the context of traditional ideals, but not discussing the merit (or lack thereof) of those traditions or ideals themselves. Within those limits, discussion and debate appears to have been quite strong, but from the perspective of a modern human and a philosophy major, there seem to have been some subtle borders to permitted thoughts in Amaurot.

Chapter Text

This chapter will include lots of Shadowbringers spoilers! It changes the context of many things! Despite the title, we’re going to talk about several topics, which are listed below. If you don’t want spoilers, skip this chapter, because it’s full of them. If you have completed the Main Story Quest, Shadowbringers, and have also done at least the first four fights of Eden, then you should be safe.

We will be talking about the following:

Last chapter: The Ancients of Amaurot, including their capabilities and what we know of their culture and world.

This chapter: The First Calamity/Amaurot’s End, as well as the origins of Zodiark and Hydaelyn.

Next chapter: The origins of the Ascians, and what we know of the intentions and goals of the Ascians, Zodiark, and Hydaelyn.

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The current state of the world is that there is one world, The Source, where the original world ‘was’. There are then thirteen ‘fragments’, called Shards. The First Shard is the main location of Shadowbringers. The Thirteenth Shard is the Void. Of the other Shards, seven have been destroyed by Calamities brought about by the Ascians.

Before all of this, however, there was the Original World, and the Ancients of Amaurot lived at that time. The Ancients eventually faced a terrible disaster – at least as bad as the Flood of Light on the First Shard. The Ancients did not particularly name the event, but Emet-Selch at least refers to it as the End of Amaurot – though in truth, it was a phenomenon that swept the entire world, threatening all of it. Although the Ascians refer repeatedly to it as an ‘unweaving of the very laws that govern our star’ and similar terms, we have received descriptions of the effects and similar events, and I have a slightly different conclusion to offer.

The event did not start in Amaurot; it actually began on the southern continent, nearly on the opposite end of the world. This would almost certainly be the continent which Meracydia, in the Source, is a reflection of. Descriptions of what started it are this: It began with a strange keening sound from the earth. Wherever that sound was heard, the Art of Creation went awry – Ancients would find that their thoughts and especially their fears and dreads would spontaneously manifest. These chaotic manifestations took form as monsters, as rains of fire, and worst of all, they spread. Wherever these effects passed, they inspired terror and dread, and also caused the same loss of control which resulted in spontaneous Creation.

While it began in a small area, the region of effect continued to spread across the planet, especially carried by the monsters created by this loss of control over the Art of Creation, with no sign of stopping – a corruption that threatened the entire planet.

With this description, and what we know about the Art of Creation – a magic tied to Astral Darkness – as well as the Flood of Light, Sin-Eaters, and aetherial balance, it becomes clear what this event likely was: A Flood of Astral Darkness. On the First Shard, a Flood of Light began when Umbral Light became the overwhelming majority of the planet’s aether, due to the slow expansion of Light and reduction of all counterbalancing Dark aether. This caused no adverse effects for the planet until a particular tipping point of imbalance was reached – a tipping point where the Umbral Light began to convert and overwhelm other aetherial elements and alignments, which then made the problem more extreme and further overwhelmed other elements and alignments, which then made it yet more extreme… and so in, in a spiral effect that, on the scale of the planet, gave rise to a Flood of Light, and on individual scales, causes death and conversion of the body into a Sin-Eater.

Similarly, this was a spreading aetherial imbalance – but rather than being an imbalance towards Umbral Light, reducing everything to static white, it was a flood of Astral Darkness, causing life and other creations to spring chaotically into being with more and more ease. The aetherial spiral would also create a psychological spiral, fear-inspired or distraction-twisted creations inspiring fear that made the next set of creations more overwhelmingly fear-inspiring… And so on.

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The response to this disaster was what created Zodiark. Just as, in modern times, Hydaelyn was able to halt a Flood of Light through her powers over that element, the Council of Fourteen (less one dissenter) arranged for an extremely powerful primal with power over Darkness to be made, and to halt the Flood by taking control of it and drawing the imbalance into itself. This Primal was Zodiark, and summoning him required the sacrifice of one-third of all the Ancients of Amaurot. He was envisioned as being ‘the planet given will’ – a sort of spirit who was the incarnation of the whole Original World, able to have the power and be the controller of the entire planet.

Unfortunately, as with the First Shard’s Flood of Light, merely stopping the Flood did not undo all the damage it had already caused. And so, the thirteen Council-members of Amaurot made another plan – they asked for volunteers again, and sacrificed another third of the Ancients of Amaurot to feed Zodiark additional power, so that he could create life, purify land, sea, and sky, and set all of the ecosystems of the Original World back in motion. Additionally – and this appears to be the point where the one Dissenter, the Fourteenth Council-member of Amaurot, completely split from the other Thirteen – they planned that, once enough new life had arisen… They would slay most of it, sacrificing it to Zodiark so that he could re-make all of the Ancients who had sacrificed their lives to create and then empower Zodiark. And then, Zodiark and the Ancients would continue to rule the world.

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Zodiark had been created to have complete control of the world; to be all-but-omnipotent, the will of the planet and thus becoming the planet itself. The Council of Thirteen (now less their dissenter) also planned to sacrifice the future life of the planet in order to restore the sacrificed Ancients of Amaurot, and to then rule completely as they were accustomed, backed additionally by their new god Zodiark – by whom they were Tempered, for his aether was so much more powerful than any single Ancient that he could still overwhelm even those with the Echo.

It was as a response to this that Hydaelyn was summoned, created as a goddess with the power to destroy Zodiark and halt the plans to sacrifice the future life of the planet. The Fourteenth member of Amaurot’s Council – the dissenter – and several of their followers sacrificed their own lives to create Hydaelyn, a goddess with the power to defeat Zodiark.

Despite some of the artwork depicting Hydaelyn as Zodiark’s equal, it is likely that she is, in fact, far weaker in most ways – Zodiark was created by enormously larger sacrifices of aether. This is not guaranteed, because aether from the planet has the capacity to ‘shine brightly’ in a way that makes it stronger despite not changing the amount of aether. However, regardless of whether or not she was stronger, Hydaelyn was created with the power to fragment things, copying them many times but splitting their power so that each copy was weaker. Applying this power against Zodiark allowed him to be defeated, but because he had been created to be ‘the will of the planet’, it also fragmented the Original World into the Source and its thirteen Shards that are the modern state of the world. It is unclear whether this was a side-effect of the use of the power, or whether it was used against the planet deliberately in order to weaken Zodiark.

Finally: It is nearly certain that the Fourteenth member of Amaurot’s Council, the dissenter who summoned Hydaelyn, is a prior incarnation of the current Warrior of Light’s own soul.

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As a final interesting note: Although the Flood of Astral Darkness explains much, there are hints that there is another factor involved than simple overuse of the Art of Creation causing an imbalance of aether. The first trigger for Amaurot’s end was a ‘keening sound from the earth’, and the most powerful monster arrayed against it, as seen in Emet-Selch’s memories of the End, is named Therion, Chthonic Riddle. Therion simply means ‘Beast’ in Greek, but is more commonly known now as specifically the Beast of Revelations, a harbinger of the end of the world in the Christian religious canon. This name seems to indicate its literal position as a monster involved in the end of the world; but its title is more interesting. ‘Riddle’ implies a sort of question or puzzle that demands an answer, and in combination with the ‘keening sound from the earth’, ‘Chthonic’ is even more important – Chthonic literally means ‘subterranean’, but with implications attached to the underworld of the dead, or to the deepest places of the earth rather than shallower ones.

Whatever Therion is, it may have simply been a monster – but it might also have been a ‘riddle’ posed by something deep underground, either made for purposeful chaos, imbalance, and destruction or for some subtler purpose.

Chapter Text

This chapter will include lots of Shadowbringers spoilers! It changes the context of many things! Despite the title, we’re going to talk about several topics, which are listed below. If you don’t want spoilers, skip this chapter, because it’s full of them. If you have completed the Main Story Quest, Shadowbringers, and have also done at least the first four fights of Eden, then you should be safe.

We will be talking about the following:

Two chapters ago: The Ancients of Amaurot, including their capabilities and what we know of their culture and world.

Last chapter: The First Calamity/Amaurot’s End, as well as the origins of Zodiark and Hydaelyn.

This chapter: The origins of the Ascians, and what we know of the intentions and goals of the Ascians, Zodiark, and Hydaelyn.

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As you may have already gathered – the thirteen summoners of Zodiark from Amaurot’s Council of Fourteen gave rise to the thirteen modern high-ranking Ascians. The descent is, however, a little more complicated. Of Zodiark’s thirteen summoners, three of them made it through the shattering of the world without being split apart by it, and are said to be the three Ascians ‘native to the Source’ by certain other characters. These three Ascians are the ones we know as Lahabrea, Emet-Selch, and Elidibus. The other ten high-ranking Ascians were raised into their ranks later, after the Original World was shattered.

As far as the Ascians are concerned, their names and roles are more or less political offices, with formal names attached to the office in addition to and, for formal purposes, replacing the private name of the person holding the office. For example, the Emet-Selch we know could be replaced by a new Emet-Selch holding the same office – however, that person would not be Hades, one of the three summoners of Zodiark who made it through the world’s shattering without being split and weakened. They would be someone else, taking possession of the mask, name, and office of Emet-Selch.

The only three Ascians whom the Ascians consider completely ‘irreplaceable’ are therefore Lahabrea, Emet-Selch, and Elidibus, the three who passed from the Original World to the Source without being split and weakened or otherwise losing their memories or power. Of these, Lahabrea and Emet-Selch have been slain and their spiritual aether dispersed, forcing their souls to pass normally. Given what we know of other souls, they will likely reincarnate eventually, but it may be some time and they will likely lose their precise memories and be un-Tempered by Zodiark, though they won’t lose all of who they were. These three Ascians – or just Elidibus, in future – are able to declare anyone who has learned the right lore and dedicates themselves to reassembling and resurrecting Zodiark as one of the thirteen Ascians, but they prefer to ‘promote’ those whose souls are fragments of the soul of whoever was holder of that office at the time of Amaurot’s fall.

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This leads us to the goal of the Ascians, and the reasons behind it: The Ascians desire to Rejoin every world-shard to the Source, which they believe will make it possible to resurrect Zodiark, or perhaps will even resurrect Zodiark automatically. The method they have chosen to Rejoin world-shards is to cause massive imbalances in the aether of a shard, until it is so imbalanced that its aether begins to ‘crack’ and start pouring into the Source. Then, before the resulting disasters can completely overwhelm the shard and create a Void, they stage simultaneous disasters appropriate to the element in both the shard and the Source, drawing all the remaining aether of the shard to the Source and turning what would have been a normal disaster in the Source into a far larger and more ruinous Umbral Calamity. This deepens the supply of aether in the Source, and also forcibly grafts the individual soul-pieces on the shard back onto their corresponding soul-pieces in the Source, at the cost of not only destroying all life on the shard and much of the life on the Source, but also turning the independent souls of the Shard-world into mere soul-parts of Source-world souls.

As you can imagine, this means that every Calamity is even more breathtakingly horrific than was previously known. However, the belief of the Ascians is that all things other than Ancients and Ascians are not ‘people’, and so their actions are reassembling people, not destroying them. Unfortunately, due to being Tempered by the power of Zodiark, it appears that the Ascians are unable to accept arguments to the contrary – not that it would have been easy to convince them anyway, since it might have required accepting that by destroying so many world-shards they have probably killed more people than ever existed in the world they were trying to ‘save’, including multiple incarnations of their own friends and families.

Not all Ascians appear to actually be very fanatical or even enjoy such efforts – Elidibus and Lahabrea seem to genuinely believe in what might be called the ‘Ascian cause’, but Emet-Selch seems to not find much joy in it and have been actively looking for excuses to work around his Tempering and declare the world sufficiently rejoined to once again have people he was allowed to relate to. And, of course, Nabriales chafed under Elidibus’s rules, apparently pursuing Ascian Rejoinings and power without overly concerning himself with the will of Zodiark or the traditions of the Ascians – this may have extended to simply wanting the power and glory that starting a Rejoining could offer him, rather than having any high-minded ideals of ‘reassembling broken people’.

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Of Zodiark’s intentions and goals separate from the Ascians we know very, very little, but we do have some strong hints. We know that those Tempered by Zodiark wish to resurrect him, but that is not a guarantee - those Tempered by Ramuh sometimes wish to summon him even against Ramuh’s own will, while those Tempered by Sri Lakshmi seem to be little more than hollowed-out bodies carrying out the instructions of their goddess, so there is a spectrum of control which is not even always wholly determined by the Primal in question. We know that Zodiark was summoned with the idea of giving the planet itself a ‘will’, but the summoners seemed to have already imagined what that ‘will’ would be.

That point there – that the summoners had plans for what Zodiark would do – is the only known hint we have as to Zodiark’s own intentions, save for Hydaelyn’s descriptions of him. Conveniently, both the plans explained by Emet-Selch and the plans mentioned by Hydaelyn match in the broad particulars: Zodiark was to rule and control the world, with the Ascians ruling immediately under or alongside him. He was imagined as ‘being’ the will of the planet, but his summoners planned for a will of the planet that would control and rule itself, specifically with Amaurot surviving and remaining forever ascendant over all as stewards and rulers.

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Hydaelyn, meanwhile, we know a little more about, and puts an interesting spin on all of the tale of Zodiark and the Ascians. The fourteenth member of Amaurot’s council dissented against their plans – to have their people volunteer to sacrifice themselves to Zodiark in order to stop Amaurot’s end, and even more against the plans to sacrifice the future life of the world to re-make those who had been sacrificed to Zodiark, pulling forth their souls and turning them back into the Ancients and people they had been. It is likely that this dissent was largely because the repercussions of how Zodiark was made and used would have instituted an unending control of the planet, in which those who would normally have learned and reincarnated were instead deliberately rewound back to the one moment in time that the other thirteen council members preferred… but it seems to have started earlier than that, with the dissenter having some alternate idea for how Amaurot’s end could have been halted.

The song lyrics associated with Shadowbringers imply that by the time Hydaelyn was summoned, however, the dissenter had one primary plan – to end the control of the Ancients over the world, so that it could pass into the control of future peoples rather than being forever held by the Ancients at the expense of all they considered ‘not really people’. This is strongly speculative, but seems to have at least been a likely factor.

Regardless, this dissenter and several other Ancients joined together to summon Hydaelyn, either as a ‘check’ on Zodiark’s power who could destroy him, or with deliberate intent to destroy him immediately. Hydaelyn appears to have believed in the former purpose, as she speaks of Zodiark as if he had been a potential partner to her, rather than having always been her enemy.

We have spoken to Hydaelyn much more extensively than Zodiark, of course, and so her goals – while somewhat obscured – are a little clearer. By her actions and her words, Hydaelyn seems to desire two things – to prevent massive disasters that threaten to destroy the world, and to ensure that the people of the world are free to make their own choices. This is best exemplified by Hydaelyn’s repeatedly-stated instructions to those she contacts – “Hear. Feel. Think.” – and in the one person who seems to have been Tempered by Hydaelyn – Minfilia. The Tempered Minfilia chose to fade away and give her powers to another, rather than to continue existing at the expense of her potential future incarnation in order to retain more power.

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This further implies one more facet to the conflict between the Ascians and Zodiark against the modern Warrior of Light (who is almost certainly the dissenter, reincarnated) and Hydaelyn: The Ascian faction thinks that the world needs a strong hand ruling it, while the dissenting faction thinks that the world should be free from absolute control even if that makes it weaker.

To bring things back around to its beginning: This factional conflict can be seen as the very same one Amaurot had before the end. As Hydaelyn was made to safeguard, should people be allowed to be individuals, and invent new things? Or, as Zodiark was made to enforce, should they be controlled ‘for their own good’ and stewarded?

Chapter Text

A bit lighter and less dramatic after the past three chapters. I play a Miqo’te, which has overall resulted in gathering a little bit more about their culture and naming practices than I have about other races, and some of that information is quite interesting. At the bottom of this chapter, I will include the information for their equivalents in Norvrandt, the Mystel – though we know a bit less about them. There will be a line break (like the one below,) a warning about mild spoilers, and then another line break, just in case.

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The Miqo’te are one of the Spoken races, and also one of the races of ‘mankind.’ Being Spoken is fairly simple – they are recognized as being sapient, non-monstrous, capable of forming and integrating into civilizations. As one of the races of ‘mankind’ they are not considered ‘beast tribes’ like Kobolds, Ixal, and other intelligent but excluded beings – and may be able to interbreed with other races of ‘mankind’, though the resulting children will have one kind of phenotype or the other, not a hybrid appearance.

In terms of appearance, Miqo’te have a few obvious catlike features – ears and tails most obviously, but also their eyes and teeth are partly human-like and partly cat-like, with the exact amount varying by clan. In physical comparisons to other races, Miqo’te have unusually good scent, hearing, and balance, but are generally smaller than any full humanoids excepting Lalafell and female Au Ra. Somewhat speculatively, they may have less long-term endurance for heavy activity, as is also the case with real-life cats in comparison to humans. (In fairness to real-life cats, humans are unusually specialized in long-term endurance.) Unusually among other humanoids, Miqo’te have a disparity in sexes – more female children are born than male ones. There are many possible reasons for this, but we do not know that Earth genetics necessarily apply, and we do know that the Allagans mixed quite a bit of irresponsible magic into genetics as least as early as the Third Astral Era, and so there is no way to really distinguish which are likely or not.

The Miqo’te originate with the continent of Meracydia, in the south of the world. There have been some travelers to and from Meracydia for most of the history of the world, but the majority of the ancestors of modern Miqo’te came to Eorzea during the Fifth Umbral Era, when the Fifth Umbral Calamity caused a lasting ice age, forcing the Miqo’te hunting tribes to range further afield than they had been before while also freezing enough water to make at least one overland connection between Meracydia and Eorzea. As most of the tribes were highly territorial and individualistic hunters, Miqo’te ended up spreading across most of the southern half of Eorzea, though in smaller numbers compared to, for example, the Elezen or Hyur.

Miqo’te have two primary clans in Eorzea, the Seekers of the Sun (who primarily worship the sun-goddess of the Twelve, Azeyma – but also have guardian spirits favored by each tribe,) and the Keepers of the Moon (who primarily worship the moon-goddess of the Twelve, Menphinia.) It is not wholly clear whether these two clans developed before or after the ancestors of the Miqo’te came to Eorzea from Meracydia, and due to the long period of separation (over two Astral Eras and counting) it is quite possible that any Miqo’te still living on the continent of Meracydia have diverged, culturally, from their Eorzean cousins. In Eorzea, no city-state derives from Miqo'te traditions, so they either integrate into other cultures, or maintain much older traditions in smaller groups.

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The Seekers of the Sun are diurnal, with slitted pupils that allow in less light in order to give them better daytime vision and darker coloration that provides them better protection from sunlight. Culturally speaking, Seekers integrate into other cultures or, for more traditional groups, have literally-patriarchal tribes – a small number of males, with the title of Nunh, are permitted to have children, and are also major political leaders of the tribe. They are thus literally both fathers and leaders to their tribe.

Very large tribes can have multiple Nunh, but smaller tribes – most of them, it seems – have only one. In theory, a Nunh is chosen for a mixture of general strength and effective, responsible leadership - roughly that order of priority, out of a belief that this will ensure the tribe’s children are strong and their leader is effective. In practice, political support is highly entangled with both traits but can include other things, and can be shifted by specific challenges between males for the right to be a/the Nunh. Males who are not a Nunh are known as Tia, instead.

Traditional Seeker tribes usually occupy a single village or town, with a large hunting territory they claim as their own. While still usually less populous than non-Miqo’te villages and towns, they tend to expand rather than splitting into multiple tribes when their population increases, resulting in larger groups than the Keepers of the Moon.  They usually occupy open, hot, dry terrain with lots of sunlight – this may be as much a matter of religion as personal preference.

In terms of naming conventions, male Seekers of the Sun have a name assembled out of three parts: a letter representing the tribe’s particular guardian totem, which is separated by an apostrophe from their personal given name (usually one or two syllables,) which is then followed by their title – either Nunh or Tia. So for example, you could have K’raho Tia, which would indicate he is a member of the K tribe, with the personal name of Raho, who is a male but not permitted to have children (though his status might change to Nunh, and his name’s title would change in that case.)

Female Seekers of the Sun are also named with three parts. Again, they have the letter representing the tribe’s guardian totem, separated by an apostrophe from their personal given name (usually a bit longer than male personal names,) which is then followed by the personal name of their father. So for example, you could have K’bolata Raho, which would indicate she is a member of the K tribe, with the personal name of Bolata, who is a female and the daughter of Raho (who was either a Nunh at the time she was conceived, or else breaking his tribe’s traditions and probably in quite a bit of trouble!)

Among Seekers who are integrated into other cultures, the naming traditions are the same, including a letter indicating their tribe’s totem, with most males using the Tia title.

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The Keepers of the Moon are semi-nocturnal – Keepers who have integrated into other cultures are usually more diurnal, since all other cultures of Eorzea are built around that assumption, but traditional Keeper tribes might be wholly nocturnal, and Keepers still tend to avoid excessive sunlight. This has led to them having paler skin in shades that are a bit different to most other races – probably for the same reasons as lighter skin develops on Earth, which is a lesser need for protection from limited sunlight and, in turn, a greater need to absorb that limited sunlight for biological processes that still need it. Keepers of the Moon also have round, large pupils to permit more light in, allowing them to see better in low-light conditions. They also have longer, sharper canine teeth (an amusing naming convention in this case.)

Traditional Keepers of the Moon are matriarchal, with smaller and more nomadic tribes than their Seeker cousins, built around personal families rather than a shared patriarchy. Traditional Keeper tribes rarely have more than two or three families, and often just one. Traditional Keeper tribes are found mostly in the Black Shroud, only some of which have made peace with Gridania and submitted to the laws of the Elementals. It is likely that this is largely a matter of personal preference (as the Black Shroud is a thick forest, with the low-light conditions Keepers prefer) and plentiful resources (as the Black Shroud are probably, except for the risk of being attacked by Elementals, the best hunting grounds in Eorzea.)

In terms of naming conventions, female Keepers of the Moon have two-part names – a personal name (following roughly the same tendencies as male Seeker personal names,) followed by a family name inherited from their mother. So for example, a female Keeper might be named Raha Relanah – her personal name is Raha, and her line of female descent is the Relanah family.

Male Keepers of the Moon have three-part names – the personal name of their mother, separated by an apostrophe from a suffix indicating the order of their birth, followed by a family name inherited from their mother. So for example, a male Keeper might be named Raha’li Relanah – he is the third son of Raha, and his line of female descent is the Relanah family. (Suffixes go up to tenth son, but generally speaking most mothers do not have ten sons, especially since, as with all Miqo’te, daughters are more common.)

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The following has minor spoilers for Shadowbringers! Really, really mild. Weirdly enough, some of it is very slightly plot-relevant as late as level 79, but my personal opinion is that it’s fine for you to read this by the time you’re entering Holminster Switch.

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In the First Shard; Miqo’te culture developed differently; for one, there appears to be only one surviving clan with some elements of both Seekers and Keepers and coloration that is a little closer to Hyur than even Seekers have. For two, they are known as ‘Mystel’ instead of Miqo’te. Mystel, like Miqo’te, seem to have a relatively small population in the Norvrandt/Eorzea region of the respective worlds.

While Miqo’te are known as hunters on the Source, Mystel are most famous for their engineering – especially the magical engineering which allows for creating and performing upkeep on the labor-golems known as Talos, but also other feats of semi-industrial engineering. They seem to have been in some ways more integrated into the cultures of Norvrandt, but still a little bit separate – it was possible for them to leave Amh Araeng as a race, Mystel were a significant enough proportion of their engineers and mechanics that this caused a nearly-irreparable loss to the mechanical knowledge of the region.

Less is known about Mystel traditions and names than about Miqo’te traditions and names, but there are a small handful of known aspects. It appears that all Mystel have the same naming convention – one name, a hyphen, and a second name, for example Dulia-Chai, Chai-Nuzz, Tista-Bie, and similar. There may be additional rules, but none of them are completely certain.

Chapter Text

A chapter mostly like the Miqo’te one, but for Elezen! Just like before, at the bottom of this chapter I will include the information for their equivalents in Norvrandt, the Elves – though we know a bit less about them. There will be a line break (like the one below,) a warning about mild spoilers, and then another line break, just in case.

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Elezen are perhaps the race which we know the most about, culturally, in Eorzea – at least for the Sixth and Seventh Astral Eras. Of recent Elezen-dominated civilizations, there are the Gelmorrans and the early Ishgardians, who developed into the later Gridanians and modern Ishgardians. The playable Elezen are separated into two clans, the Duskwight and the Wildwood. Ishgardian Elezen are theoretically Wildwood, in the sense that they are ‘surface elezen’, but their separation from the other Elezen took place hundreds of years before the Wildwood/Duskwight split occurred in Gelmorra, and so while they are much like Wildwood Elezen physically, culturally they are a third variety. The Ishgardian Elezen do have stronger ties to the Wildwood Elezen than to any other race or culture, however, and both groups have aided one another in the past despite largely not mixing their traditions or bloodlines.

We’re going to start with names this time, because the traditions are fairly simple and the same for all Elezen. Each Elezen has a personal name and a family name. Personal names often, but not always, have the same base names as Midlander Hyur, and usually have French-like, gendered endings (-ne, -ie, -elle, -ette for females and –soix, -aux, -aire, -ioux, -mont for males, in addition to others.) Family names were historically shared across the clans in the Black Shroud region, but bad blood between the Wildwood and Duskwights there has slowly separated families until there are no shared family names. Ishgardian houses, similarly, have family names not found elsewhere, due in part to their longstanding isolationist policies.

In general, all Elezen are significantly taller than Hyur, and a bit more slender proportionately than a Hyur of the same height would be. They have large ears which provide them with improved hearing, which also seem to be somewhat stiffer than the ears of most other races. Wildwood Elezen tend to have the ‘normal’ range of skin and hair colors, with Ishgardian Elezen being similar but slightly favoring unusual colors (possibly due to a smaller gene pool and greater focus on maintaining specific bloodlines,) and Duskwight Elezen usually have monochromatic hair and paler skin, with even their darker tones tending to gray rather than tan or bronze.

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The most important thing to understand about modern Elezen-dominated cultures is that, past the Sixth Umbral Calamity (the flood that destroyed Amdapor and Mhach,) there are two lines of cultural descent, each of which has undergone independent changes (and in both cases, important schisms.) It is not entirely clear when Gelmorra was first founded, but it became an underground civilization and city beneath the Black Shroud some time after the Fifth Astral Era, probably founded at least in part by refugees from Amdapor during the Sixth Umbral Era. The nation of Ishgard was attempting to settle Coerthas somewhere around the year 300 of the Sixth Astral Era, and succeeded long before the year 400. Gelmorra would not establish a surface civilization until after the year 1000 of the Sixth Astral Era.

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Gelmorra – the civilization which would eventually give rise to Gridania – initially was occupied almost wholly by Elezen. Sometime between the years 1000 and 1100 6AE, they successfully negotiated with the Elementals of the Black Shroud to form a surface civilization, leading to the schism that split their culture. Most of the people of Gelmorra wished to leave for the surface immediately, and did so, eventually becoming the Wildwood Elezen of Gridania. Perhaps as many as a quarter of Gelmorra’s citizens, however, actually preferred their subterranean homes, and so tried to remain in Gelmorra. Unfortunately, these Gelmorrans were unable to perform all the upkeep necessary to keep their city safe and fed with such a reduction in population, and so these Elezen were eventually forced to the surface despite their wishes, the time apart from their cousins causing them to noticeably diverge in appearance and culture, becoming the Duskwight Elezen.

Many Duskwights were initially resentful of Gridania, preferring banditry, poaching, and otherwise refusing to submit to Gridania’s laws despite having been forced to the surface. This, as well as the original split (and, likely, a perceived ‘ingratitude’ on the part of the Duskwights for not coming when the Wildwoods’ ancestors left Gelmorra,) has led to extensive prejudice against the Duskwights… which has led in turn to the resentment against Gridania continuing to the present day for most Duskwights, and to even those families that once bridged the gap becoming separated by the bad blood between the two groups.

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It is not currently known whether the proto-Ishgardian Elezen split from Gelmorra to find a surface home outside the Shroud, or whether they were already a separate group of Elezen. Given that Coerthas is a mountainous region which could have offered some shelter from the Umbral Calamity that resulted in Gelmorrans needing to live underground, it could have happened either way. Regardless of that, however, the proto-Ishgardians already had an independent culture by about 300 6AE, having a strong monarchy and noble class that Gridania has never had.

Initially, the proto-Ishgardian Elezen warred with the dragons of Dravanian regions next to Coerthas, as both groups wished to live in Coerthas – it seems that the dragons were probably present first, but in much smaller numbers than in their Dravanian holdings. After a period of war, however, an Elezen named Shiva made personal peace for love with the dragon Hrasevelgr, and the two of them ended up convincing both sides not only to make peace, but actually to live side-by-side in both Coerthas and Dravania. The two cultures never merged, but did coexist.

However, the proto-Ishgardian Elezen had their own schism around the year 500 6AE – the Elezen king Thordan I, his son Haldrath, and his twelve knights ambushed and slew Ratatoskr, one of the Seven Great Wyrms who are direct children of Midgardsormr, and devoured her eyes to gain draconic power. In response, Nidhogg decided to destroy them all and torment their descendants, with Hraesvelgr largely retreating from the world after saving Nidhogg from his otherwise-fatal defeat at the hands of Haldrath and the twelve knights. Nidhogg successfully slew Thordan I and possibly some of the original twelve knights, but not before Thordan began the construction of the city that would eventually become Foundation, the capital of Ishgard. (Sometimes the city itself is also known as Ishgard.)

At this point, Haldrath rejected rulership of the Elezen, as did several of the twelve knights, believing that their crimes against Ratatoskr, breaking of the truce between Elezen and dragon, and the death of Thordan I all meant they were unfit to rule. Four of the knights believed that the nation needed to be ruled by noble bloodlines and believe itself in the right, and worked with each other and the early church of Halone to conceal the crimes of Thordan I, Haldrath, and the knights so that they could rule Ishgard without the people revolting over the crimes against Ratatoskr and the broken truce. These four knights founded the four noble houses which exist in modern Ishgard, and it is implied that by this point a large fraction, maybe even most of the rest of Ishgard has at least one of the other knights somewhere in their ancestry (due simply to the over one thousand years since those knights lived, with their bloodlines not being carefully restricted.)

The schism of the Ishgardian Elezen is in some ways ongoing; some of the Elezen joined the dragons in Dravania, or at least left Ishgard over injustices or perceived injustices*. It is difficult to entangle the exact details of this, because even most of these ‘heretic’ Elezen appear not to always realize that the Dravanian dragons have two factions: Nidhogg’s dragons are compelled to fight Ishgard, with their minds being eroded if they attempt to disagree – although at least some of them and possibly most of them do seem to agree. Meanwhile, Hraesvelgr’s dragons just live isolated from Ishgard, largely not participating in the ongoing war between Nidhogg and Ishgard. In addition, due to the dragon-infused bloodline of the twelve knights and Haldrath existing somewhere in the ancestry of most of Ishgard, many Ishgardian heretics have been transformed into dragons.

*Just as the Church of Halone conceals the betrayal Ishgard committed against Ratatoskr and actively works to oppress the common people, we know that at least some heretics deliberately infiltrate or remain in Ishgard to cause the very problems they claim to fight against, in order to drive other Ishgardians to believe that the heretics will be better. It is unclear how much of this actually occurs, but the general use of false flag operations, lies, and other manipulations over the course of a thousand years makes it difficult to disentangle things.

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The following has minor spoilers for Shadowbringers! Really, really mild. Weirdly enough, some of it is arguably plot-relevant to the level 76-78 Role Quests, though you can discover it through reading FATE descriptions as early as level 71 or so. My personal opinion is that it’s fine for you to read this as early as the very start of Shadowbringers.

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In the First Shard, Elezen culture developed slightly differently. They are known as Elves, but that is really the least of the changes. At least in the Norvrandt region, but especially in the central portions of it (mostly Lakeland, the First Shard equivalent of Mor Dhona,) the Elves possessed a long-standing empire, allied with the Hume (First Shard Hyur) of the continent. While the Elezen of the Source slightly favor order, law, and tradition, the Elves of the First took it to greater extremes, being very isolationist and hidebound – they resented even their closest allies for living on the land they considered to rightfully belong to the old Elven empire (which seems to have been the whole continent of Norvrandt) and were even more aggressive about rejecting more distant races, especially those native to other continents.

Most notably, reactionary elements of the Elven empire attempted to work with a figure called the Shadowkeeper, who used and taught Dark-elemental magic that would turn people into enslaved or mindless monsters under the caster’s control. This is notable mostly because, due in part to Ascian machinations, defeating the Shadowkeeper and his Elven allies was the final act that tipped the First Shard into an overabundance of Light aether so great as to start a Flood of Light. Additionally, some parts of the old Elven groups still exist, though so far exclusively as groups believing in committing evil for the sake of evil in the face of what they consider the inevitable end of the world. Some Elves have split off from the empire’s fragments – as is clear, with good reason – but they have all joined other cultures.

Since we know less about the Elves of the First Shard, it is likely that they existed in other groups as well, but that empire and their extremely evil successor-fragments are the only ones we really know much about.

Chapter Text

This chapter may be based on a somewhat incomplete understanding – my Astrologian quests are only complete up to level 50.However, we do have some evidence of other prophecies to reinforce what I have learned so far. This is a vague topic, sometimes abstract or unintuitive, but I will do my best to explain what we know and what seems to be true based on that.

If you've been treating my writings as definitely matching canon... thank you! I try my best. But for this one chapter, you might want to think hard before applying that belief, because I am just not sure of all of this.

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We will be starting with the personal magics that Sharlayan Astrologians use, for the in-game job. My understanding here is rougher than most of the prior jobs I have addressed, as the lore is complicated, a little vague, and I haven’t seen all of it yet.

Firstly, Astrologians access the power of six of the Seven Heavens – theoretical lands beyond the world devoted to each of the six elements in their Astral alignment, as well as a Seventh Heaven devoted to the overall Astral alignment of the Heavens. By focusing on constellations associated with the elemental Heavens at appropriate times, an Astrologian becomes capable of opening an internal connection in their own aether to the alignment of that Heaven. This seems to be part of the source of their affinity for healing magic – they have a good understanding and greater access with regards to their Astral aether, and can draw on the Heavens as an external source, so long as they know which Heavens are available to draw on in whatever time and place they are. This is, probably, how they cast most of their non-card-related healing spells such as Benefic and Essential Dignity.

What does this actually mean outside a generally superior access to Astral-aligned aether? It means that Astrologians become sensitized to external flows of Astral aether coming from these six Heavens and from the sky in general, and are able to use that power when it becomes available in the environment. This leads to the second sort of power that Astrologians have – through the use of divinatory cards, they can understand the overall flows of aether, and concentrate that aetherial tendency into a card. Rather than channeling aether directly, they use their cards to ‘go with the flow’, casting spells that can only work when they are supported by the local aetherial flows and having them actually work. As of Shadowbringers, these spells are all of the form of ‘imbuing a target with additional power’, and that additional power is most effective if it is also of a sort that the target can use. Essentially, Astrologians recognize and direct pre-existing aetherial currents so that their allies benefit from them, rather than leaving tactics up to merely physical concerns – or worse, up to chance alone. As Astrologians become more skilled, they can concentrate aetherial flows into their cards and start performing more adjustments than simply using and targeting them – they become able to slightly adjust the timing, or manipulate some of the properties of the flow.

Finally, Astrologians have the ability to connect to people on an unconscious level to some degree – this is a mostly psychological phenomenon which allows for the effective use of collective strength, and is their least-used specialty. Once again, these connections allow for the more efficient use and sharing of pre-existing strength, causing spells to be more effective than they could otherwise be without necessarily creating something from nothing.

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All of this leads also into the one aspect that both Sharlayan and Ishgardian Astrologians share – the skills and training to predict the future based on the movements and properties of the stars. By having an idea of what is going to happen in the future, Astrologians can benefit from foreknowledge or even advise others – if there is going to be a dragon attack on a particular town, then that town can be reinforced while others are not, for instance. Alternatively, if an Astrologian knows that they will not be harmed by a particular enemy if they are captured, and that their allies will find them, then they can allow themselves to be captured in order to try and get that enemy to over-extend their plans into a situation where that over-extension is most likely to result in a meaningful defeat.

These prophecies are not, however, absolute. There appear to be both multiple ‘layers’ of prophecy, and multiple ‘types’ of prophecy. In terms of prophetic layers – some events are so large that most choices will not affect them. A good example of this would be the Umbral Calamities; the Ascians have a schedule they are working towards, with certain requirements they cannot change, and so they are nearly guaranteed to cause certain types of disaster in a certain order – though some of the details can be changed, such as how Louisoix was ultimately able to divert some of the damage caused by the Seventh Umbral Calamity. Meanwhile, some events are more personal, referring to what choices particular people will make in particular orders, and it is these sorts of prophecies where ‘types’ of prophecy become more apparent.

The rules of prophecy are vague, and no theory I have developed completely explains everything, but the general ‘types’ seem to behave like this…

First, there are prophecies of elemental flow. This is equivalent to knowing the tides – when the tides are very low, certain ships will be damaged if they are stranded in now too-shallow harbors, for instance. Similarly, an Astrologian can know that there will be an upsurge in Lightning elemental aether over the next week, which will make sudden changes easier – both new endeavors and the destruction of long-standing ones. By advising people, they can prepare to weather the increased ease of certain types of disaster, or even attempt to harness the increased ease of certain types of endeavors.

Second, there are prophecies of paths. This is a much less intuitive art in some ways – certain actions lead to certain other actions, and it is much, much easier to stay on one ‘path’ of destiny once it begins. An Astrologian can sometimes divine certain future aspects of a particular path – such as whether or not they will come to harm at a particular time, or whether they will find a particular sort of person. However, there are always multiple paths available, and paths are of finite length. Speaking metaphorically, it is as if each path is a pass through a particular chain of mountains – climbing the mountains to get from one pass to another can be difficult or even nearly-impossible… but in the time before reaching the chain of mountains at all, if one navigates carefully it is possible to choose which pass they end up traveling through. Some passes can lead to certain places, and others cannot, and many passes lead to the same general area but are different journeys – one might be shorter, another more dangerous, and yet a third might require a particular sort of vehicle to make crossing possible at all.

The prior two ‘types’ of prophecy, I am reasonably certain of. These next two are more abstract, and seem like they may sometimes break the rules set down in the prior two types. Nonetheless, I will do my best to explain what they are and how they might still be compatible with what we observe of the prior two types.

Thirdly, there are nearly-guaranteed events, such as the Umbral Calamities. Normally, I would assume that these are somewhat like the prophecies of paths, but set over a very long time by very powerful forces (the Ascians) such that most people lack the power and knowledge necessary to actually ‘change paths’ for the world because the Ascians are just too strong. However… on a few occasions, we have seen that certain events can be divined by Hydaelyn or – sometimes – other people long before they happen, despite no-one at all exerting noticeable influence over the causation of the event – sometimes even when it seems like no-one intends that events happen that way at all. This implies that there are certain ‘fixed points’ which can result. The most interesting thing about these is that the fixed points almost never have fixed results, as well – it might be guaranteed that a particular fight will occur, and someone will be faced with a choice to affect the outcome of that fight, but it isn’t clear that such prophecies can be certain what choice the subject will actually make – and so they don’t know how the fight will end, only that it will happen somehow.

Fourthly, there seem to be certain ‘destinies’. These are usually just paths or events which involve a particular person, but sometimes a particular person is ‘destined’ to be involved in a variety of things, or to repeatedly make certain choices. As far as I can tell, this is usually a matter of someone with a particular power or attention that makes them useful to the parties involved… in other words, a prophecy of elemental flow, sort of, except that rather than environmental power, it involves personal power, or a personality with certain beliefs that lead to the choices in question – not a controlling force of destiny, but rather a means of recognizing that a power or belief will tend to unfold into a particular form.

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A final note: Alexander, the Primal who can travel through time and exist partly outside it, and a certain boss in Shadowbringers, confirm a few things about time itself - a matter very key to prophecies and fates!

Stable time loops are possible, but so are things that 'should be' paradoxical, or that unweave the past and start fresh over a particular period of time.

Alexander is capable of predicting the future with a more complete perspective than any other prophet we have found... and even at the highest known degrees of prophecy, with seemingly-infinite and atemporal processing, there are uncertainties and unknowns.

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If you want to know more about all of this... Then I highly recommend looking at the Fate and Time Arcana of the game Mage: The Awakening. Not all of the things there seem to apply - but a few concepts do carry over.

Chapter Text

Omega is first introduced through fragmented knowledge, as an Allagan weapon of incredible power – the war machine which was able to defeat and capture Primal Bahamut, preparing him to be sealed inside Dalamud as a means of controlling massive amounts of aether for the Allagan Empire. The truth, however, is different – and closely tied to Midgardsormr, who is Omega’s true target.

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Omega and Midgardsormr both originate from other planets – ones beyond the Source and its thirteen Shards. In the incredibly ancient past – unknown eons of travel even before their arrival on the Source nearly ten-thousand years ago – the planet which created Omega was at war with the planet Midgardsormr is native to. The details of this war are largely unknown to us, since neither Omega nor Midgardsormr have shared most of them – who started it and why, who was winning, even whether any survivors are left, or knowledge of who the enemies of the dragons were… But we do know some things, and we know that Midgardsormr believes that both planets are likely now lifeless.

Curiously, while both Omega and Midgardsormr have strongly alien aetherial physics to natives of the Warrior of Light’s planet, they seem to have essentially the same aetherial physics as each other. Both of them are capable of generating aether from nothing at a fairly constant rate, and storing larger and larger amounts of it – but they cannot change the ‘strength’ of a particular quantity of aether as the natives of the Source and Shards can by ‘shining brightly’.

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Omega was created to be a self-adapting, self-improving weapons system, hopefully capable – eventually – of defeating any target. It has a core body which generates aether for it to use, and a system meant for generating ammunition and weapons for itself that can form objects out of aether. However, it has been following its programmed directives for millennia, far longer than intended – including attempting constantly to adapt and become strong enough to defeat Midgardsormr in his prime, and eventually just attempting to become ‘stronger.’ This has led to Omega using its systems to reshape its own core, generate ‘living’ beings (which are soulless and largely mindless, usually only able to operate on the programming Omega gives them) and create stable spaces in the dimensional Rift outside the world. Unfortunately, Omega does not ever venture beyond its pre-programmed responses, making it mostly incapable of actual self-improvement – it can construct powerful things, but has never been able to imagine anything that exceeds its innate limits.

Omega was originally deployed in an attempt to defeat Midgardsormr in his prime – when he was enormously more powerful than he is now. Omega was unable to defeat Midgardsormr, or even to understand the full extent of Midgardsormr’s powers… However, it was able to force the dragon to flee his original planet, carrying only the eggs of his seven future children with him. Omega pursued, and it was this – a battle ending through retreat rather than victory or defeat – that seems to have caught Omega in its millennia-spanning programming ‘loop.’ Even when Omega encounters Midgardsormr again, weakened, Omega is more concerned with being strong enough to understand and defeat ‘Midgardsormer in his prime’ than actually defeating Midgardsormr; it is not pursuing goals so much as simply attempting and failing to enact pre-programmed objectives.

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As Midgardsormr flew through interstellar space or the interdimensional rift – and it is not certain that these are different things – Omega followed, but became damaged, and by the time it landed on The Source it was inactive. The Allagan Empire studied Omega, using small pieces of its technology that they were able to understand and recreate and eventually reactivating it and negotiating for its assistance in fighting powerful enemies on their behalf. Omega seems to have agreed out of a desire to test weapons systems and discover and recreate possible weapons and powers from the Primals it was sent to destroy for its own use. As mentioned before, Omega was even able to defeat Primal Bahamut without destroying him, instead containing him such that the Allagan Empire could use him as a power relay of incredible capacity. With the fall of the Allagan Empire, Omega seems to have been rendered inactive again, until reactivated in the modern Seventh Astral Era to fight another Primal, Shinryu.

Omega was able to defeat Shinryu and contain it, just as it had Primal Bahamut, but then retreated to elsewhere in Gyr Abania to repair itself from damage taken in the battle. It then began to construct an interdimensional space and fill it with whatever powerful creatures it could recreate from old records and fiction, which it then set against each other in a tournament style to try and find some enemy powerful enough that it could gather new data from the combat. This is the point at which the Warrior of Light, Cid, and Nero become involved – Omega causes a pool of liquid aether to manifest in the Source, along with a small creation it considers harmless and worthless (thus naming it Alpha, as the furthest thing from Omega’s own power) to try and bait a group of heroes to join its tournament. Even once the deception is revealed, Omega threatens to kill every civilian on Eorzea – everyone who cannot defend themselves against the weak monsters Omega can manifest at great range – unless its chosen heroes continue to fight it.

This plan seems to have been developed due to the recurring pattern of ‘heroes defeat a powerful evil monster’ in stories and history, which Omega was not able to understand. This lack of understanding stems partly from genuinely limited understanding of teamwork and souls, partly from under-estimating forms of power other than brute force, and partly from the fact that Omega seems to have never quite understood that aether on the Source and Shards can ‘shine brightly’ and surpass the limits Omega expects from aether which behaves as its own aether does.

From a Doylist perspective, this mostly ends up being an excuse to fight a variety of bosses which have appeared in previous Final Fantasy games.The boss which is probably most interesting is Halicarnassus – because Omega’s version of the boss seems to have been taken from a fictional account, but we have encountered the actual Voidsent Halicarnassus who seems to have been the source of the stories. Omega’s version has a completely different set of powers and personality to the ‘real’ Halicarnassus, likely because the story’s account shifted over time from a purely factual one to its current form.

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Eventually, Omega is fully defeated, and only one of its creations ultimately becomes something different. Omega did not fully program Alpha as it had all its other creations, and combined with repeated interactions with the Warrior of Light, Cid, and Nero, Alpha develops their own soul and will once they have completed each of their pre-programmed objectives and become free from them – including deliberately subverting the intent of Alpha’s last programmed objective to help defeat Omega. Specifically, when Omega attempts to dissolve the interdimensional space it created to unmake the Warriors of Light, Cid, and Nero or at least strand them in the interdimensional rift, Alpha uses its programming to ‘return to Omega’ as a navigational tool to carry its friends to Omega to defeat it for good.

Alpha’s new soul allows it to exist even after Omega’s destruction, and it can be confirmed to genuinely be a newly-developed soul because Alpha becomes comprehensible to the Echo – something that wasn’t true before due to Alpha’s lack of a complete soul.

Chapter Text

We know more about some eras of history than others. A lot of this information is fragmented, spread out over many off-hand mentions – we know that Allag, Gelmorra, Mhach, and Amdapor are all ‘old civilizations with powerful magics that are no longer used’, but that doesn’t distinguish effectively between the fact that Gelmorra’s lost magics were largely public works projects that are no longer used because there’s no need to maintain a large population underground, whereas Mhach’s lost magics include the ability to forcibly summon specific Voidsent from the Void and bind them… nor does it address that Gelmorra was a civilization of the Sixth Astral Era, while Allag was from the Third Astral Era – Allagan ruins were old before Gelmorra even existed!

This chapter mostly addresses the timeline – we won’t go too deep into any single era or civilization, but just mention a sort of basic summary of events and when they occurred.

We will not be addressing any Shadowbringers spoilers.

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Before the First Umbral Era was supposedly the time of the gods; it is generally held by modern religion that the Twelve were heroic or divine figures who traveled the planet during this period. When the gods became dissatisfied with the people of the world, they left, and either as a result of this or soon afterwards, there was the first Umbral Calamity. This was the Umbral Calamity of Wind. Scouring winds raced across the planet, causing civilizations to become disrupted and dispersed.

This led into the first Umbral Era of Wind – the period immediately after the Calamity itself, where the massive damage done to the people and the aether of the world caused lingering chaos, until people could slowly begin to heal the world and build new civilizations. This is called an Umbral Era because the world is reduced and damaged during this time.

Once this rebuilding began to cause a new era of flourishing, it was considered the first Astral Era of Wind. It is hinted that Heaven-on-High, in the Ruby Sea, may have been constructed or found during this time – if the Ten-Thousand-Year Tree is truly ten thousand years old, the dates would match. Unfortunately, I haven’t found any other way to confirm this. All that we know for sure is that this Era was ended by the second Umbral Calamity of Lightning.

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After that Calamity was the Umbral Era of Lightning, but I do not know of any particular information from this era.

Similarly, there is little information about the Astral Era of Lightning. However, after the Umbral Calamity of Fire that ends this era, we begin to see a lot of important history.

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The Third Umbral Era, the Umbral Era of Fire, is generally held to have ended before the Allagan Empire became a world-spanning power. Depending on the historian, it seems like the Allagan Empire’s ascension to power when Emperor Xande united them and conquered significant chunks of Eorzea, Ilsabard, and Othard may be considered the point that marks the beginning of the third Astral Era.

The Third Astral Era is, as far as can be determined, almost entirely defined by the Allagan Empire. The only continent which possessed even potential rivals was Meracydia in the south, both the Meracydian dragons and other civilizations who are the first known summoners of Primals. Even these civilizations, however, ended up being defined by the Allagan Empire to some degree – because the Empire frequently attempted to conquer them, developing a variety of ever more powerful weapons in order to oppose them, though the Allagan Empire’s leaders did eventually turn some of that power to civilian purposes after victory. In turn, the Meracydians summoned ever more powerful Primals in order to try and resist Allagan conquest, though eventually the Allagans managed to capture their most powerful Primals to turn that power to Allagan uses instead.

Despite being from the Third Astral Era, Allagan technology is still capable of channeling raw power greater than essentially anything else on the planet before or since, but the environmental impact of the technology was often ignored, the Allagans seem to have had much less interest in subtler magics such as healing, dimensional magic, and any mental effects not meant to enable absolute control. Eventually, as the Allagan Empire began to noticeably fray at the edges, they developed cloning technology which was used to recreate Emperor Xande. Unfortunately, Xande became aggressively nihilistic – he dedicated himself to somehow managing to truly end the world, developing the basics of Void-contacting magic and making a bargain with the Cloud of Darkness, a Voidsent of incredible power, to have it give him immense power in exchange for consuming and smothering the entire world (with Xande going last.)

It is probably for the best that the Allagan Empire was destroyed at this point by the fourth Umbral Calamity of Earth, which is one of the Calamities we actually know the details of. The Allagans had created the Crystal Tower in the region now known as Mor Dhona to channel energy from their artificial moon, Dalamud, which was actually a massive power station meant to extract and channel massive amounts of aether, using the imprisoned and tortured body of the Primal Bahamut as a key part of the machinery. A minor error became enormously amplified, causing Dalamud to overchannel raw aether through the Crystal Tower and into the land, causing massive earthquakes and destruction which fully ruined the Allagan Empire. The Crystal Tower was, thankfully, frozen in time – thankfully, because it prevented the clone of Emperor Xande from unleashing the Cloud of Darkness on the world during the period of destruction and weakness caused by the Fourth Calamity.

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Following that Calamity was the fourth Umbral Era of Earth, which we again know little about. We do know that many pieces of powerful Allagan technology survived the Calamity, because areas such as The Burn in Othard and Azys Lla over the Sea of Clouds have been continuously ruined or controlled by Allagan technology even into the seventh Astral Era. However, we do know one thing about this time period – after the fall of the Allagan Empire, knowledge of spellcasting was lost to the people of Eorzea until its recreation during the Fifth Astral Era.

Similarly, I have never heard mention of any civilizations from the Fourth Astral Era of Earth. However, sometime during this or the preceding Umbral Era would be the first likely time when dragons from Meracydia traveled to Dravania and Coerthas. It is known that Midgardsormr has been associated with Mor Dhona’s Lake Silvertear for longer than any other dragons have lived on the planet, but given the Allagan Empire’s conflict with the Meracydian dragons it would seem odd that they had not come into conflict with the Eorzean dragons if they were already present. It is however equally possible that the dragons had already traveled there and somehow avoided the Allagans, or that the dragons traveled later.

We do know that the fifth Umbral Calamity was Ice-aspected, however, and that the following Fifth Umbral Era was an ice age.

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During the Fifth Umbral Era, the ancestors of the Miqo’te and, indeed, many other forms of flora and fauna end up transferring between Meracydia and Eorzea across land-bridges caused by the ice age’s rising ice and falling seas.

The Fifth Astral Era is when known historical civilizations begin to pick up again in Eorzea, when the three civilizations of Nym, Mhach, and Amdapor all rediscover or recreate arts of magic. These three civilizations also end up in a number of skirmishes and wars, with the primary aggressor being Mhach. Mhach seems to have been deliberately attacking Nym and Amdapor with intent to conquer, mostly led by their Void-summoning mages. Although Void Magic and Black Magic have been somewhat conflated since then due to Mhach using both, the two disciplines are separate, especially as while Black Magic has survived somewhat to the modern era, Void Magic is almost wholly lost. Eventually, Mhach managed to summon a particular Voidsent which caused a sufficiently nasty plague in Nym – turning their Scholars into Tonberries that could not connect to their Fairy partners anymore and were overtaken by aether-infecting hatred called Rancor – that Nym began to fall. At roughly the same time, Amdapor began escalating their own wars against Mhach with increasingly overwhelming usage of White Magic – to the point that Amdapor caused so much harm to the ecosystems of Eorzea that the Elementals responded violently en masse, by summoning a sort of Primal super-Elemental to flood the continent (and, in fact, much of the world.) This flood was, of course, the sixth Umbral Calamity of Water.

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The following sixth Umbral Era of Water saw survivors from Amdapor and Mhach, possibly with survivors from other nations, develop Red Magic as a response to the excesses of White and Black Magic, but unfortunately knowledge of magic was largely lost, though much less thoroughly than it had been lost before. Minor spellcasting and a few large-scale projects were still performed, rather than the complete loss of magical knowledge that had preceded the Fifth Umbral Era.

The Sixth Astral Era was believed, at the time, to be the last Astral Era – since there had been a Calamity of each element, it was believed that no more world-ruining Calamities would arise, only lesser disasters that would not set back the world as a whole. During the Sixth Umbral Era and early Sixth Astral Era, survivors of Belah’dih found the sister nations of Ul’dah and Sil’dih (with Ul’dah eventually destroying Sil’dih through the use of a powerful alchemical weapon, Zombie Powder,) and the survivors of Amdapor largely retreat underground to create the underground city or cities of Gelmorra. Over time, Coerthian Elezen found Ishgard as a city in conflict with the Dravanian dragons, the fortified city of Ala Mhigo establishes a kingdom in the Gyr Abanian region, stranded pirates create the pirate haven of Limsa Lominsa, and the Gelmorrans make peace with the Elementals to create Gridania in the Black Shroud. In short, all the modern Eorzean civilizations arise. It is likely that similar events occur in the other continents; it is known that the Garlean Empire, for example, is only a few hundred years old at most (and the Sixth Astral Era lasted for over a thousand years,) and the prior Calamities would not have spared the other continents even for those Calamities which began specifically on Eorzea, such as the Fourth and Sixth.

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Unfortunately, however, the Sixth Umbral Calamity was not, in fact, the last one. One of the factions of the Garlean Empire became frustrated with an ongoing inability to conquer the Eorzean nations due to their alliances against the Empire. So frustrated that Nael van Darnus is able to start what is called the Meteor Project, to contact Dalamud and crash it into Eorzea, destroying the continent so that whatever blasted crater is left could be claimed for the Empire. Nael is Tempered by Bahamut during first contact with Dalamud, and ends up dropping Dalamud but also freeing Bahamut, who is massively empowered and extremely angry. A Sharlayan scholar named Louisoix and several of his allies end up working with the Eorzeans to try and perform a massive spell that will re-bind Bahamut with the power of the Twelve; unfortunately, the spell does not work as intended, and Bahamut is able to cause the seventh Umbral Calamity by twisting and warping aether across Eorzea, as well as simply carpeting the land in many explosions.

This leads to the seventh Umbral Era, which has no clear elemental association. However, Louisoix’s plan and the efforts of his allies – including a group of adventurers known as the Warriors of Light – are not completely fruitless. Unlike all previous Calamities, the civilizations of the world are only damaged, not completely ruined, and the population of the world has been badly damaged but not reduced to a mere fraction of the prior people. So as the Garlean Empire temporarily withdraws the nations and people of the world are able to start recovering.

Five years pass, during which the ‘Beast Tribes’ of Eorzea begin to summon more primals in response to damage, fear, and loss of land and resources caused by the seventh Calamity, and are repelled only at great cost. Several of the students and allies of Louisoix form a new group, the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, so named because they wish to ensure that the world recovers enough for the dawn of a seventh Astral Era to begin. This is the point at which the plot of A Realm Reborn begins.

(By the end of A Realm Reborn... events occur which convince the people of Eorzea that the world has recovered sufficiently to begin flourishing again, and so a Seventh Astral Era has begun.)

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Moogles! The adorable little fluffballs, possessed of a pom-pom antenna (the ball at the end of it being called a pom) and tiny bat wings that manage to fly anyway. Most people agree that they’re cute but sometimes annoying. Moogles in Eorzea are slightly rare and extremely reclusive – to the point that being able to see Moogles was, until recently, considered a sort of minor special power. Moogles are technically considered a Beast Tribe by the rules of Ul’dah, but due to Moogles responding to almost all threats by hiding themselves rather than fighting back, and generally having no useful resources to seize, not even Ul’dah actually enforces that viewpoint. Even the Gridanians, who buy in to the idea of ‘Beast Tribes’ and actually have minor contact with Moogles, don’t actually count them as a Beast Tribe even as much as the Sylphs are.

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Moogles are extremely reclusive as a whole, to the point that in some regions and times they have been considered to be fictional.Moogles are extremely reclusive as a whole, to the point that in some regions and times they have been considered to be fictional. This is not only a matter of cultural reclusiveness – though that is a part of it – but also the fact that many Moogles have a talent for concealment magic, and that underneath the fluff most Moogles are no larger than a housecat and capable of flight, giving them many options for hiding places. When Moogles don’t want to be found, they generally aren’t.

Although all of this presents the average Moogle as being shy and and secretive, and this is somewhat true as the general policy of every known group of Moogles, they actually tend to be fairly curious and friendly on an individual level, with an odd mix of foolhardiness and cowardice; Moogles will generally approach even very dangerous things, but also tend to flee them just as easily. Overall, the best characterization for most Moogles is flighty – they change their minds easily, rarely hold grudges or obsess over debts, and most Moogles are eager to do anything that sounds interesting, but somewhat forgetful once they aren’t having fun.

All known Moogles have a verbal tic – specifically, the use of the word ‘kupo’, usually following a sentence. This is a reference to kupo nuts, which Moogles greatly value. Oddly enough, there are some hints that all nuts may be kupo nuts, or at least that there is nothing overtly unusual about them that makes kupo nuts particularly special. The verbal tic, interestingly, applies even to those Moogles who otherwise do not mention kupo nuts at all and use no other noticeable aspects of a particularly Moogle culture or upbringing – the verbal tic seems like it might just be part of being a Moogle.

Eorzean Moogles – specifically those from the Black Shroud – are a key part of the mail system, possibly because their ability to fly and willingness to wander means that they can carry personal messages more or less anywhere. It is somewhat telling, however, that for matters of business or government, most people use couriers or (if security isn’t important) Linkpearls.

There are four known ‘groups’ of Moogles – the Moogles of the Black Shroud, the Moogles of the Churning Mists above Dravania, the Ivalician Moogles from Ilsabard, and the Moogles of Norvrandt.

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The Moogles of the Black Shroud might be considered the ‘standard’ Moogles, or rather, the Moogles who deviate least from the information before. We do have some hints that they have aspects of their culture and organization which they still conceal from outsiders, however, especially as their only known semi-military group, the Mogglesguard, consider discussing certain topics with non-Moogles to be taboo.

We do know that the myths of the Shroud Moogles state that they once lived above the clouds, acting as servants to the gods. Eventually, the gods began to war among each other, and their king at the time, Good King Moggle Mog XII, arranged for the rest of his people to escape to the surface of the world. This ties in to the Moogles of the Churning Mists – Moogles who do, in fact, live above the clouds on floating islands, and do not seem to have that particular myth, instead having a crowned, king-like chieftain.

Shroud Moogles have very pale fur and most commonly have red poms, while Mists Moogles have slightly darker fur and purple poms. Although these features are common enough for Moogles to be mutually surprised at their different appearances, differently-colored poms do not seem to be unheard of among the Shroud Moogles – the Mogglesguard and their idea of King Moggle Mog all have different colored poms, but the same shade of fur.

The Moogles of the Churning Mists, much like the Moogles of the Black Shroud, largely avoid their neighbors – in this case, the dragon broods of Hraesvelgr and Nidhogg. They do have some interaction with Hraesvelgr – more, in fact, than any other group – and sometimes play with or just bother his descendants, but largely just avoid the dragons of Nidhogg.

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There are Moogles elsewhere as well, but we know significantly less about them. We do know that Ivalician Moogles seem to be slightly less prone to hiding themselves, and have different pom colors, but as we only ever meet the barest number of them it is not guaranteed that this is an overall difference in culture and looks, or if it’s just the particular Moogles we meet.

Similarly, the Moogles of Norvrandt, on the First Shard, have blue poms and the light fur color, and thanks to the delivery Moogles that carry mail there as well, we know this to be a general rule (though probably with a few exceptions, like the Shroud Moogles.) Curiously, only the Moogles of the Churning Mists appear to have the darker fur color – all other Moogles in both the Source and the First Shard have had essentially the same very pale cream fur.

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Moogle names among the Shroud Moogles and Mists Moogles tend to involve the use of ‘Mog’ or ‘Kup’ as a base syllable of their names. Most Moogles either do not share, or likely do not have or use any sort of family or clan names, only personal names given to each individual. In fact, Moogles of the Shroud and Mists rarely, if ever, mention any sort of familial ties at all. It is impossible to say whether they do not emphasize it, or whether they keep it secret from outsiders for safety.

Ivalician Moogles are slightly different – the names we have seen still consist only of a single personal name, but the use of ‘Mog’ or ‘Kup’ as a base syllable does not seem to be in practice, and the Moogles we meet are quite willing to mention that they are siblings. Their personal names are also often a bit longer or more ‘fancy’. My speculation is that they have much closer relations with the races around them, making them less shy about sharing personal details and more prone to adopting names from friends and other cultures, especially as Ivalician Moogles in other Final Fantasy games are usually less secretive in those ways.

As far as we know, Norvrandt Moogles, like Ivalician Moogles, do not always use the ‘Mog’ or ‘Kup’ base syllable for names, but their names are generally simpler. However, the sample size of available names consists of a single Moogle, so drawing any actual conclusions is not really possible.

 

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The Ixal are one of the so-called ‘Beast Tribes’ of Eorzea. At this point, it is entirely clear that the label is pure racism; the distinction is purely political, indicating only that Ul’dah, Gridania, and the Garlean Empire consider the Ixal to be a ‘lesser race’. It was once assumed that only ‘Beast Tribes’ could summon Primals, despite the fact that the distinction is political, but this is now known to be entirely false.

All of that said – what are the Ixal actually like? How do they fit into the world?

Ixal are somewhat bird-like, but the truth is that they affect birdlike traits to a greater degree than actually possessing them. Ixal do have some feathers on their arms, but the feathers are sparse and useless for flight, useless even for gliding. Their arms are, however, extremely long – something relevant to their historical abilities. Ixal have taloned feet and vaguely beak-like facial construction, though (like certain real birds) they also have teeth. Ixal also usually have quite stretched, unhealthy-looking proportions overall.

The Ixal currently live in the Xelphatol region over five hundred years in the past, a harsh, windswept, mountainous area northeast of the Black Shroud and east of Coerthas. They were driven there from the Black Shroud by the wrath of the Elementals, and to this day prefer to strip the forest of lumber and retreat rather than negotiate with the Elementals or with Gridania. Oddly, the timeline of their being driven out indicates that they managed to live in the Black Shroud alongside the Elementals for as much as one thousand years after the Sixth Umbral Calamity when the Elementals forced out the Amdaporians… which means that the Ixal apparently were driven out for other reasons, not yet elaborated on.

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Modern Ixal are obsessed with their bird-like features and trying to reach the sky – their mythology is that their people come from a paradise above the clouds, Ayatlan, and once possessed the power of flight. In modern times, Ixal specialize in wind magic, the creation of wooden airships powered by wind magic and balloons using enclosed vapors (either hot air or gaseous ceruleum,) and high towers built of wood. A few Ixal even use miniature hot air balloons for personal flight, but essentially never gliders. This is because the main Ixal group, the Ixal of the Xelphatol region, are fanatics in service to Garuda – and Garuda has promised to return the power of true, personal flight upon their own wings to the Ixal… if they serve her faithfully enough, and feed her enough aether. No Ixal has ever actually received this blessing, however, and instead Garuda has simply driven the Ixal under her sway to raiding and war to try and fuel her hunger for aether, and obtain enough wood for their constructions and airships.

The Ixal are specifically intense enemies of the Gridanians and the Elementals of the Black Shroud; they seem to have long stripped their own lands in Xelphatol of wood, and given their tendency to summon Garuda it is likely that their lands have also had much of their aether periodically consumed. This drives the Ixal to assault the Black Shroud, trying to strip-log the forest without concern for its ecosystem (or, indeed, ensuring that the trees can regrow later.) Given the damage this causes to the forest, their captured human sacrifices for Garuda, and their general willingness to kill anyone who is in their way, Gridania and the Ixal are near constantly at war as the Gridanians try to defend the forest and the Ixal try to strip it of every useful scrap of lumber for their war machines and architecture. It is possible that another aspect of their constant warring with Gridania is spite against the Elementals for driving them from the Black Shroud.

There are a group of Ixal who have rejected the Garuda fanaticism – indeed, who avoid war and fighting at all, preferring technology and airship construction, putting a greater emphasis on returning to Ayatlan than on Garuda’s unfulfilled promises. These Ixal are the Ehcatl Nine (there are actually more than nine of them, but they haven’t changed the name.) The Ehcatl Nine Ixal live secretly in the western areas of the Black Shroud. This faction included Dezul Qualan, who was a key engineer in developing Eorzea’s modern airships, in partnership with the Lalafell Tatanora, essentially co-founding Highwind Skyways. It is easy to see his influence on Eorzean airship designs in the wooden constructions and the use of gas bags to provide additional lift, as opposed to Garlean designs which use advanced metallurgy not usually available in Eorzean, along with relying almost purely on magitek for both lift and thrust. Unfortunately, Dezul’s contributions to making airships commercially viable for Eorzeans were largely erased from history by the Ul’dahns after his death.

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The origins of the Ixal are quite close to their myths in some points – they do come from a land above the clouds, and were once able to fly. The Ixal were once Iksalions, intelligent beings created and enslaved by the Allagan Empire on the floating islands of Azys Lla. The Iksalions possessed fully feathered wings and stronger, healthier bodies – however, they were prone to genetic defects, which is likely why modern Ixal are noticeably unhealthy-looking, without full wings or the capability of flight.

An explorer from the Ehcatl Nine is eventually able to reach Ayatlan – discovering that it was, in fact, Azys Lla, an Allagan research facility and not a paradise – along with the fact that the Iksalions were a slave race, controlled and mentally programmed by the Allagans like many of their other creations. Despite this setback, the leader of the Ehcatl Nine prefers the free will of the modern Ixal to the flight and vitality of the Iksalions, and convinces the explorer that if the actual land of Ayatlan is not the paradise that the Ixal desire, then they can still choose to find a new one.

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Garuda herself is a Primal associated exclusively with the element of wind, and among the known Primals of the ‘Beast Tribes’ – Ifrit, Titan, Leviathan, Ramuh, and herself – is by far the most aggressive and warlike. In appearance, Garuda is far more ‘human-like’ than the Ixal, with no beak and smoother skin, though she has talon-like hands and similar feathers along her arms. She has proportions which are slightly evocative of the Ixal – mostly long, slender limbs – but less overtly birdlike and somewhat healthier-seeming. She also has three sets of working wings (two main sets, and a smaller set on her head,) all much longer than they are wide. Despite her wings, she flies by means of magic rather than by wing motions – although her feathers do seem to be used as channels for her magic, even when separated from her.

Garuda does not Temper her enemies, instead simply killing them, and it seems that her only genuine desire is more aether to make herself more powerful. Given the fanaticism of her followers, it is likely that Garuda has Tempered many of the Ixal, though this is never confirmed. Garuda’s primary hold on the fanatical Ixal is the promise that if they give her enough aether, and kill enough of her enemies in her name, she will return the power of flight to them. Given the powers and transformations other Primals have given to their servants, this is a promise she could likely fulfil – Leviathan has proven that physical changes appropriate to the correct element can be done even more or less by accident, and Thordan I and the Knights of the Heavens’ Ward have proven that it is possible to deliberately bless (and temper) a Primal’s minions with more specific abilities. Garuda has only sought more aether and has never actually made good on her promises, and likely never will.

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The Ixal do not appear in Norvrandt at all – which is quite sensible after a bit of thought, because the Allagan Empire never arose in the First Shard, and so never created the Iksalion as a slave race. The most interesting aspect available from this is that it implies that the Kobolds, Sahagin, and Amalj’aa are all native to the Source as of over ten-thousand years ago.

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The Sylphs are one of the four known non-bandit polities in the modern Black Shroud, along with the Gridanians, the Ixal, and the Moogles. Like the Ixal, they have been considered a ‘beast tribe’ due in part to their people having once summoned a Primal, although ultimately the Gridanians and the free Sylphs have managed to develop diplomatic ties despite that.

Sylphs are small, somewhat doll-like creatures with insectoid wings and dressed or wrapped in leaves. Some Sylphs conceal their faces by using a large leaf as a mask, and all known Sylphs prefer to fly or hover at all times, touching the ground as little as possible. Based on some of these leaves seeming to grow directly out of the ‘skin’ of the Sylphs, it is likely that the Sylphs are at least partly plantlike. Their leaf ‘clothes’ may actually be outgrowths of their bodies, though since Sylphs do make and use other forms of clothing it may be normal clothes made of leaves.

The Sylphs live largely in the northeastern portions of the Black Shroud, and in many ways, their behavior is much like the Moogles who also live in the Shroud. Like Moogles, most Sylphs have great talent with concealing themselves and other illusions, they are often quite reclusive and non-aggressive, and many Sylphs prefer to trick, flee, or hide from threats rather than confront them. However, Sylphs usually find it somewhat more difficult to communicate clearly with non-Sylphs, and perhaps more importantly, there are two Sylph factions, and the larger, faction of Sylphs are Tempered or ‘Touched’ by Ramuh and much, much more aggressive against perceived threats within their lands. While Touched Sylphs are willing to trick and hide from those they consider threats, they also tend to consider anything that enters their lands a threat, and while they still sometimes avoid threats, they’re as likely to attack travelers as trick them.

Curiously, Sylphs do not use personal pronouns, and indeed they make minimal use of pronouns in general. Instead, Sylphs refer to people and to groups based on their properties – ‘Flying Ones’, or ‘Dancing One’, or ‘Armored Ones’. Sylphs are capable of using and understanding the pronouns that other people use, though it seems to take specific attention (and can therefore reveal their illusory disguises as false.) This seems to tie into a more general difficulty that Sylphs sometimes have with differentiating groups; both Touched and free Sylphs have repeatedly had difficulty with distinguishing between Gridanians and Garleans, often reacting to the Gridanians with fear because of Garlean actions. As with using personal pronouns, this is something that the Sylphs can overcome, but it seems to not be automatic to them.

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One major event defines Sylph politics in recent history – the invasion of the Garleans, which led to the summoning of Ramuh and Sylphs splitting into Touched and free factions, as well as leading to all Sylphs being more suspicious and fearful of non-Sylphs than before. When the Garleans invaded the Twelveswood as part of their efforts to conquer Eorzea, the Sylphs summoned Ramuh to protect them from the invasion. Ramuh immediately Tempered/Touched many of the Sylphs and fought the Garleans, although he was unable to halt them entirely.

The free, non-Touched Sylphs who mostly live in Little Solace are the group most at threat from the Touched Sylphs, because the Touched are willing to leave their lands in order to kidnap free Sylphs. When a non-Touched Sylph is captured, the Touched Sylphs use a magical ritual to Temper them and make them Touched as well. In this way, the Touched Sylphs have been actively forcing new Sylphs to join them. It is theorized that the Touched Sylphs have had their tendency to desire harmony with other Sylphs exaggerated and twisted – that just as even free Sylphs sometimes group all humans together, Touched Sylphs think that all Sylphs should be grouped together (and therefore Touched.)

The Gridanians, with occasional diplomatic issues, maintain some ties with the free Sylphs. This includes posting lookouts at the borders of the Sylphlands, which are entirely taken over by the Touched Sylphs, and might include helping to protect the free Sylphs from being kidnapped.

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Ramuh is a Primal associated strongly with the element of lightning, which he passes on to his Touched Sylphs. Curiously, this elemental focus does not seem to be a general Sylph trait; free Sylphs mostly use illusory magic and possibly Conjury. Ramuh is a very defensive and calm Primal, being willing to express his reasons and listen to counterarguments. In appearance, Ramuh is somewhat like a bald old Elezen man, hovering above the ground and having a clothed in dark, heavy robes that give him a similar silhouette to a very large Sylph. He has a long staff of wood, with sharp details somewhat evocative of thorns or lightning. The most striking aspect of his appearance is his extremely extensive moustache and even more extensive beard (which appears to out-mass the rest of his body.) Both elements of his facial hair reach his feet or beyond and seem to move semi-independent of gravity, perhaps from static electricity.

Unlike most Primals, Ramuh professes no interest in forcibly Tempering non-Sylphs, and prefers to avoid draining aether from the land beyond what is absolutely necessary to protecting the Sylphs. Although he shares the distrust and hatred for humans that the Touched Sylphs have, he proves capable of changing his mind in a way most Primals refuse to. Ramuh is one of only two Primals known to have allowed and even encouraged their own destruction due to the harm that their embodiment does to the land and their people, along with Alexander. Ramuh has never been witnessed to personally Temper Sylphs, but by his reference to the free Sylphs as ‘wayward charges’, it seems that he does not see a problem with the Sylphs being Tempered to him.

Between his tendency to focus on the safety of the Sylphs as his first priority (rather than the destruction of their enemies,) his generally calm demeanor and sometimes-willingness to engage in diplomacy, and his willingness to be discorporated for the sake of the land at large, Ramuh is generally considered the least threatening Primal of the main Eorzean set (Ifrit, Titan, Garuda, Ramuh ,and Leviathan) despite being essentially just as powerful as the others.

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The Pixies of Norvrandt are almost certainly the same sort of being as the Sylphs of Eorzea. In both cases, they are somewhat doll-like, somewhat plant-like creatures with insectoid wings who specialize in illusory and nature magic – though Pixies are much more outgoing and less calm than Sylphs. The Pixies have at least two powers that the Sylphs lack - being able to form a spiritual bond with a person of sufficient flexibility to cross worlds, and being able turn into an incorporeal form - but so many things are the same that the two groups are almost certainly linked. Given that the additional powers are possessed by the Fairies of Nym, it may be that the Pixies of the First are somehow related to that group as well, especially as the Pixies, Fuath, and Nu Mou are all referred to as 'fairies'.

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The Kobolds form one of three major civilizations on the Eorzean subcontinent-island of Vylbrand, with their counterparts being the invading Sahagin and the naval (formerly pirate) city-state of Limsa Lominsa. They have a somewhat rocky history with Limsa Lominsa, and little contact at all with the Sahagin, making them a rather isolated people.

Kobolds are slightly smaller than Hyur, but their extremely hunched and curled posture means that they appear even shorter than their actual comparative size. Compared to Hyur proportions, Kobolds have long arms with massive hands, but fairly small legs and feet, which works for their posture because they often move on three or even four limbs, with any hands not used to hold tools or gesture being used to help them walk. They also have large ears which stick out sideways, larger even than the Elezen, a long furred tail which does not vary in width, and seem to have ratlike but shallow faces underneath the helmets essentially all Kobolds wear.

The Kobolds live largely underground, especially around the volcanic mountain O’Ghomoro, which they consider sacred. Over the course of various vague treaties with Limsa Lominsa – which have been strained by both sides, but appear to have mostly been broken by the Lominsans – the Kobolds have laid claim either to all things on Vylbrand produced by the earth, all things underground of Vylbrand, or simply the northern parts of the island with no known clear border. The frictions between Limsa Lominsa and the people of O’Ghomoro have sometimes been very light (when the Lominsans were primarily pirate raiders, with no use for the land outside their actual city) and have sometimes flared into full war, as in recent history when the Sahagins stripped and salted most of the city-state’s richest farmland after the Calamity had already put enormous pressure and fear on both the Lominsans and the O’Ghomorans. In the good times, the Kobolds are an ally of the Lominsans; in the bad times (which have not stopped since Titan was summoned to escalate their wars) they have sought to push the pirates and former-pirates off of the island entirely.

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The Kobold civilization is theoretically meritocratic, based on how much ore or metal a particular ‘order’ of Kobolds can produce, and individual Kobolds or Orders moving up and down the hierarchy accordingly. However, as higher Order Kobolds not only have access to other ways of producing wealth – such as alchemy – but also the ability to force lower Orders into less-rich areas and even the ability to seize wealth from particularly low Orders, the system seems to already be thoroughly corrupt in places.

At the lower ranks, Kobolds seem to mostly cultivate skills appropriate to mining – general mining, the use of explosives, and similar. At the higher levels, the Kobolds cultivate a more holistic affinity for all things related to earth and metal – but usually not a magical affinity. While some Kobolds do use earth-aspected spells, Kobolds are more prone to chemistry and alchemy, making use of rare minerals and advanced metallurgy to both produce useful goods and as a form of honor to Titan, who they hold to have placed valuable materials throughout O’Ghomoro to provide for his children, the Kobolds.

They are also the only modern civilization which publicly has any meaningful grasp of the use of Voidsent, being able to capture, breed, revive, direct, and otherwise make use of Bombs in all their forms. It is not known whether Kobolds summon these Bombs, as they seem mostly to provide for and use pre-existing Bombs. This practice hardly approaches the widespread use of summoning and binding by Mhach, but it is more interesting in that the Kobolds do not seem to stigmatize the practice at all. Based on the Kobolds also making much use of chemical explosives, it is likely that the explosive Bombs are used in both war and mining, though unfortunately the matter has not yet been fully clarified.

It is unknown whether the Kobolds already existed during the time of Nym, nor how they related to that city-state. There are no clear histories indicating their existence then, nor where else they could have come from. There is no definite answer, but it seems plausible that the Kobolds may have had a similar truce with Nym as they once had with Limsa Lominsa, with the Kobolds keeping to their preferred underground areas and O’Ghomoro itself, and the Nymians keeping to the surface and away from the sacred mountain, with neither civilization seeing reason to come into conflict with the other.

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The Kobolds worship Titan, who they see as a father-figure who provided the rich mineral resources around O’Ghomoro and desires to provide for and protect the Kobolds. When summoned, the Primal Titan is noteworthy for being one of the few Primals to actually spend time expressing his care for the Kobolds, as well as his desire to take vengeance for them, somewhat like Ramuh is for the Sylphs (though less so.) Perhaps most noteworthy is that while the Kobold priests become fanatical enough to perform mass sacrifices of their own people to try and summon Titan with more power, many of them still seem capable of expressing remorse or shame in a way no other Tempered people have. Sadly, we have too little interaction with them to be truly sure; it may be that Titan does not wish to Temper his own children, or it may be that his process of Tempering is merely less overt, leaving more of a personality even than even Garuda and Ramuh do.

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In Norvrandt, the Kobold-equivalent people are known as the Mord, and in contrast to the isolationist Kobolds are highly interested in trade and mercantilism. By the time we meet them, the Mord search for treasures in the deserts of Amh Araeng, the equivalent region to Thanlan, seeking to trade with travelers and being quite friendly to travelers who are willing to buy from them even when they aren’t buying at the time (and, as is expected of merchants, especially friendly to travelers who seem willing to spend larger amounts of money.) Especially curious is that Mord people are noticeably less fatalistic about the Flood of Light than most, being some of the few who openly speak of the endless Light covering the sky as a false layer rather than as a sort of doom – they keep well aware of the sky behind it, since the desert’s temperatures are still determined by day or night even if the sky is obscured by Light. The Mord seem to live on the surface, burrowing more shallowly through the desert sands in search of useful relics and grubs that they (and mostly only they) consider delicious.

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The Fair Folk of Norvrandt are an alliance made up of four groups; the Pixies, the Fuath, the Nu Mou, and the sapient Amaro. They are united by shared treaties and a single king, who takes up the title, name, and even bodily shape of King Titania regardless of their prior name. It is possible that non-Pixies have different shapes if, for example, a Nu Mou became the new King Titania, but unfortunately each Titania we’ve had the chance to see in person has been a former Pixie.

All of the Fair Folk are bound to obey certain laws – and for the more magical of the fey (the Pixies, Fuath, and Nu Mou) it is implied that they are bound in a very literal sense, rather than only agreeing to follow these laws. They are required to give as much as they take, in nature and in other agreements, as well as a handful of other somewhat vague requirements. These laws seem to be a sort of magical pact, bound to the land of Il Mheg and the person of Titania, giving every member of the fair folk a personal and very literal connection to King Titania – when Titania absorbed the imbalance of corruptive-stasis from a Lightwarden and was sealed in her castle, the fair folk were able to feel her confusion and pain. In turn, Titania has power over nature drawn from all of the fair folk collectively – wind, water, earth, and plants.

The Pixies, in particular, largely dwell in the southern region of Il Mheg, and surround the mountain pass into and out of the region, meaning that those few mortals who try to enter Il Mheg usually encounter the Pixies first… and often also last, as the ways that Pixies play with mortals often end with said mortals either fleeing, dead, or used to make a plant. Other fair folk complain about this, occasionally, but the Pixies continue to act as they always have. It is, however, possible to interact with them safely, either under the aegis of a high-ranking Pixie or by successfully navigating their games, laws, and illusions. There are a few pixies who do not live in Lydha Lran, largely those who are not as interested in pranks and tricks, but they are rare enough that even the other fair folk of Il Mheg rarely encounter them.

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Pixies are small, flying humanoids with insect-like wings which are something of a mix of dragonfly and butterfly. They have a slightly plantlike appearance, with most Pixies having green leaflike ‘clothes’ as part of their body, and vinelike ‘hair’. Pink, orange, and very pale blue also appear, though rarely or uniquely, and at least one Pixie demonstrates a hairstyle that indicates Pixie hair is sometimes more fibrous and less like vines than it commonly appears. Pixies have a strong connection to the land and to plants, which is the likely source of their plantlike appearance. Compared to Sylphs, Pixies are slightly smaller and much more human-like.

No-one has confirmed the exact life-cycle of Pixies as yet; it appears that they do not reproduce as animals do, because the Pixies themselves report that they appear without precisely knowing why or how, believing that they form when aether collects around the soul of a dead child. Similarly, old Pixies sometimes begin to sleep more until they eventually never wake up, dying – but such Pixies do not visibly age, appearing young to the end.

Pixies do seem to be at least sometimes born carrying the aether of the recently dead – the Pixie An Lad, in the Dreamweavers quests, was born with some of a previous Titania’s memories and power over dreams shortly after her death. Beings do release spiritual aether at the moment of death, and that aether sometimes collects into ghosts and other sorts of undead; it is likely that Pixies are a very different product of a similar process.

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Magically speaking, Pixies seem to all have the power to hide themselves and trick others with illusions, as well as being able to transform creatures in various ways. They can reliably turn people into ‘leafmen’, which appear to be topiary bushes shaped in a vaguely-humanoid way, but they appear to need to experiment with their magic to figure out other transformations, such as animating flower-golems, changing the size of insects or plants, and possibly even stranger transformations. A handful of Pixies have demonstrated other powers, with most Pixies appearing to rely on powers that come naturally to them in some way, with plenty of experimentation but little (if any) teaching. These other magical powers including teleporting people against their will, creating enchanted potions, and transforming dreams and objects in a way that blurs the differences between appearances, dreams, and reality.

Pixies do seem to have an innate connection to the land, which is the general source of their power and perhaps even life, but beyond their power over plants and transformations this seems to largely be a vague, overall power that is only truly embodied in the office of King Titania, with Pixies likely contributing the most to Titania's power over plants.

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Psychologically and culturally speaking, most Pixies are far less human than even the most visually different Eorzean tribes, though they aren’t wholly alien. Most Pixies are easy to distract or change the minds of, although once they make a promise they appear to be bound to keep it by magic or law. More than that, though, Pixies appear to lack many biological urges – they enjoy food, but don’t pay much attention to it. They appear to lack any sort of sexual urge – likely because they don’t reproduce in that fashion at all. Pixies occasionally claim that they don’t think about the past or future very much, but there are exceptions to that rule: some Pixies like hearing about history, and at least some Pixies are perfectly capable of pursuing a long-term plan. Perhaps most importantly, Pixies claim to lack any innate sense of empathy with other creatures, sometimes not even empathizing with each other.

Pixies do tend to have a sort of moral sense – most Pixies choose not to do things that they recognize as wrong, painful, or unpleasant for other beings. However, actually understanding or even just imagining what other people care about and enjoy, or what they find painful or unpleasant, seems to be a matter of rote for Pixies. Even only slightly different situations can lead to a Pixie wondering if a human would enjoy being a leafman! This seems to be the primary root of the danger of Pixie games – if a Pixie is having fun, they seem to usually assume that everyone involved in the game is having fun, never even considering that it could be dangerous or unpleasant for someone else.

Pixies are capable of learning empathy, largely by rote. A handful of Pixies such as Feo Ul and Tyr Beq appear to have a broader understanding of other people even in situations they haven’t specifically encountered before, but they are very much exceptions. Although the idea generally doesn’t occur to them, most Pixies seem generally curious about what other people like and dislike once the idea is presented to them in a way that they understand. Unfortunately, even most Pixies who have some understanding of that also think that mortals enjoy being a leafman or other flowering plant – it makes them pretty, means they don’t need to work, and preserves them from death, which is enough that most Pixies consider it an improvement over mortality. Most Pixies do also perform pranks that they believe will annoy people, but not ultimately harm them - but their sense of scale in such matters seems to, like their sense of empathy, lack any innate foundation… which is especially dangerous since Pixies seem to usually not fear death or understand the fear of it in mortals.

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At the beginning of this chapter, I promised some theories and speculation – so let’s begin with my theory that the Fairies of Nym and the Pixies of Il Mheg might share the same root species!

The Fairies of Nym have only a few known properties besides their learned knowledge of Nym’s magical practices: They are aetherial beings capable of living for extremely long periods, perhaps indefinitely. While they are normally bodiless, they can make a bond with a Scholar in order to generate a body, with the properties of that body being something the Scholar can change. They have senses which are able to detect unusual illnesses caused by voidsent, and likely other magical/aetherial diseases, and can share them with their bonded partner. And finally, the names of both the species and the individuals – they are called fairies, and the two known examples are both named after flowers (Lily and Lilac.)

The Pixies of Il Mheg are embodied without the need for a similar bond, but they are capable of making a soul-bond with a mortal – and in such cases, seem able to hear that mortal from any distance, able to shed their bodies and re-form them later, and consider themselves to be deeply connected enough to refer to it as being [sapling] and [branch], with the mortal as the sapling and the Pixie as the branch. Even without such a pact, a few pixies seem to be able to shed and re-form their bodies, but it is uncommon and always has an alternative explanation in illusion, dream magic, or teleportation. Pixies can ingest food, seem to require it, and can die of old age, with their lifespans being unknown and unexamined. New Pixies are born from the land by means even the Pixies don’t closely examine – the aether they have is drawn from the land, and they believe that they collect around the soul of a dead child, but this is unconfirmed. Notably, through King Titania, Pixies are one of the types of Vrandtian fey who are bound to nature and to certain laws of the fey directly. In addition, if a Pixie is chosen to become King Titania, their body and powers change – but in at least the case of Feo Ul, she is still able to use her old body and its powers as well as a sort of puppet, either because of her personal pact with a mortal or simply because those capabilities aren’t lost.

The connections here are possible – if the Fairies of Nym are fairies in the same sense as the Pixies of Il Mheg, then it seems that the Pixies, through the treaties with the other fairies that bind them to the rule of Titania, have some sort of pact-bond with the land of Il Mheg itself rather than with individual mortals, with their bodies arising from nature rather than magical spells. Most importantly, the one example we have of a Pixie making a pact with a mortal does seem more similar – Feo Ul’s ability to hear the Warrior of Light from any distance might be a similar case of sense-sharing as Lily’s ability to show a Scholar the void influences infecting certain people during Scholar class quests, and both Lily and Feo Ul are able to share the Warrior of Light’s ability to travel from the Source to the First (and back) due to their bond. Unfortunately, it is not likely that this will ever be confirmed as true or false, as the Nymian Fairies get little screentime even in the Scholar questlines, and the Pixies of Il Mheg are mostly disinclined to exploration of the larger world, with Feo Ul a rarity.

Chapter Text

This chapter is going to focus on the other three groups of fair folk in Norvrandt – the Fuath, the Nu Mou, and the sapient Amaro. Due to having less information about the three groups by comparison, there’s less that can be said for certain than with the Pixies. Nonetheless, it seemed appropriate to at least mention them.

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Firstly, the Fuath. The Fuath are frog-like, amphibious fey folk who are much like the Pixies in personality. They seem to be more concerned with ‘impressive’ things, whereas the Pixies care more for fun and can’t be bothered to organize in great detail, but both types of fey are mostly concerned with pursuing their own fun. The Fuath are somewhat more centralized than the Pixies, having a collective home called Dohn Mheg.

The Fuath seem to be the most-distrusted or disliked by the other fey, causing them to avoid too much interaction with the central lake the Fuath occupy. The Fuath seem to have a greater understanding of violence and death than Pixies, but they aren’t nearly as shy about using it – Fuath are much more likely to attack with violence rather than tricks when they are displeased, and play ‘pranks’ which involve trying to kill the other person directly. Some of the nastier Fuath will even try to kill other fair folk for their fun.

The one case where their relationship with killing is a bit unusual is the case of death by drowning – just as the Pixies believe they are born from dead children, the Fuath seem to believe they are born from those who drown. Unlike the Pixies, they are proactive about this, and try to drown those people who they would like to join them, rather than killing them through any other method.

In terms of magic, the Fuath have a similar set of magical talents to the Pixies – a focus on illusions that sometimes blur the line between reality and perception, some degree of transformations, and similar, though with a particular focus on creating and manipulating water as well. The Fuath do not appear to make leafmen, though they tend to at least some plant-creatures. Notably, the Fuath do not seem to ever transform creatures other than themselves directly except for causing things to grow or shrink, while Dohn Mheg’s semi-illusory lands and their ability to transform themselves seem to be equal or greater than the Pixie equivalents. Although it hasn’t been confirmed, Pixies seem to be better at manipulating and changing other people and creatures, while the Fuath seem to be more limited to what is ‘theirs’ – their self, their territory, and to a small extent their plant-creatures.

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The Nu Mou are somewhat dog-like fey, and are confirmed to be capable of living for a very, very long time. Most Nu Mou also appear and act somewhat older than the Pixies and Fuath (and most of the Amaro.) Their dog-like tendencies extend beyond their appearance, as Nu Mou find words traditionally used to command dogs difficult to resist, and are much more concerned with having a larger social structure to belong to than the other fair folk. The Nu Mou live mostly throughout the northern regions of Il Mheg, and they tend to make their homes in caves and use cave-dwelling mushrooms as part of their food and architecture.

The Nu Mou have stricter, more formalized laws than the other fair folk which mostly seem to regard payments, honor, and respect. The specific known features of these laws are that serving mortals is a source of honor, respect, and joy, but if and only if they are paid exactly what their service is worth – offering a lesser payment is treated an insult to their skills, and offering a greater payment is an insult to their honor and fairness. Nu Mou are generally happy to explain what payments they require, however, and will sometimes treat unrelated prior actions (such as doing something that ended up helping them by chance) or abstract opportunities (such as ‘being listened to’ or ‘an interesting problem to solve’) as part of a payment.

Unlike the Pixies and Fuath, the Nu Mou have previously been an integrated part of a mortal society – specifically, the kingdom of Voeburt. The Nu Mou traded extensively with Voeburt, both with their skills in various crafts and their skills with magic and advice about difficult magic. There are some implications that due to the fall of Voeburt - and the Pixies between them and the rest of Norvrandt  - the Nu Mou of the current time are so long-deprived of mortal contact that they have begun to act unusually flexibly about what kinds of payments they will accept (so long as it is valued correctly.)

Some Nu Mou are bitter and dislike mortals, being a significant minority of the overall population. They dwell separately from the other Nu Mou, and tend to be hostile and isolationist even against other fair folk, not unlike the Fuath. There is less contact with these Nu Mou, but they seem to reject interaction partly because the desire to do fairly-paid work (especially for mortals) and submit to words used to command dogs still affects them.

The magic available to the Nu Mou is difficult to categorize as being ‘Nu Mou’ magic or simply learned magic; most Nu Mou seem to learn magic as a craft rather than relying on any sort of innate talent, and many Nu Mou don’t mention it at all. At the same time, it seems that most (perhaps all) Nu Mou are able to animate properly-prepared clay as flying, pig-like familiars called Porxies, and they seem to have an affinity for learned crafts, likely including spellcasting. Like the Pixies and the Fuath, they also seem to have an affinity for magical plants – or rather, magical fungi, mushrooms especially. It is reasonably likely that, besides those of them who learn magic as a craft, the Nu Mou do also have an innate affinity like the Pixies and Fuath – specifically, for elemental earth, given where they dwell, some of the spells that are of their own invention, and the powers available to Titania.

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Last, but not least, the sapient Amaro. The Amaro are not the same sort of creatures as the Nu Mou, Pixies, and Fuath – they are actually more like mortal beings, with all the capabilities and lacks thereof. Nonetheless, because they have agreed to the fairie laws and both obey and contribute to the rule of King Titania and the land of Il Mheg, they are considered fair folk regardless.

The sapient Amaro are without exception quite old; the reason for this is that normal Amaro were originally created to be more intelligent than other steeds. They were used extensively in Voeburt for those advantages, and their long lifespans that would often allow a single rider and a single Amaro to bond for life – with the Amaro often outliving the rider, even. However, Amaro that live for an extremely long time can become intelligent to the point of sapience and speech. These Amaro, if they also outlive their riders, often become somewhat depressed from the loss of their partner, and are drawn to Il Mheg by enchantments directly worked into various crystals around that land for this purpose. The Amaro of Wolekdorf, a ruined town of Voeburt, form a large flock to allow these independent Amaro a group that can protect and teach them, with some Amaro managing to work through most of their melancholy at losing their partners.

The Amaro lack any innate magical affinity like the other fair folk, being biologically mortal instead. They are extremely long-lived, as intelligent as any other sapient creature, and capable of learning to speak. Most Amaro do not bother learning to cast spells, though in principle they likely could.  Generally speaking, the Amaro seem to get along best with the Nu Mou, as both groups of fair folk share similar tendencies to melancholy and an understanding of gentler social desires than the more self-centered and fun-focused Pixies and Fuath.