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Flow of the Lifestream

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The soft crunch of snow under Y’shtola’s boots were masked with the unforgiving howl of the Middle Coerthan Highlands. The feeling was quite satisfying, and she made an effort to fully lift her feet out of the snow to repeat the sensation. Though she couldn’t see the gently falling snow due to her previous swim in the lifestream, she could see the remnants of aether in each flake, and the lightshow in front of her was breathtaking. It was a cacophony of turquoise and emerald, swirling in a beautiful dance of chaos with each gust of wind. Thousands, nay, millions of tiny shards of fluorescent beads of soft light were gliding towards the ground with no purpose but to fall. Having only been in Ishgardian territory for brief intervals, she hasn’t had the time to get used to this beauty that she alone could enjoy. Well at least without the help of magitek sensors. She shivered slightly as she lifted an open palm to catch the flitting petals of light on her slim fingertips.

“I am not wearing nearly enough for this…” she muttered, sending a cold mist of breath to scatter into the air like a soul returning to the lifestream. She chuckled. “Not exactly the most pleasant of vacations I’ve had…”


She sighed, beginning to wonder what the Warrior of Light was doing out here at this hour to begin with. It was evening, and the others were getting prepared to depart for the Rising Stones. When Y’shtola inquired about her whereabouts, Alphinaud simply suggested northwest of Camp Dragonhead, but gave no further explanation as to the wherefore. However, his eyes gave away an emotion that concerned her. The aether is brightest in the eyes of almost any being, and Alphinaud’s eyes shone a deep blue. So, she trudged on, hoping to find the Warrior of Light soon so they could leave the unforgiving bite of Ishgard’s breath and she can discover what it could be that pained Alphinaud so. Her mind began to wander, however.

The Warrior of Light…Eva.


When Y’shtola first met her, she did not expect much, nor did she see much potential. At the time, Eva seemed an ordinary Miqo’te adventurer clad in shoddy leather armor. There was nothing that stood out about her other than the fact that she had an almost adorable innocence about her. It must be the tail, she thought, the fluffy ones always give off an almost childlike aura of naivety. Or maybe it was the smile. The Warrior of Light always smiled and nodded stoicly whenever she was given a task, mundane or crucial. Shtola pinched herself hard on the wrist to get her mind back on track. How Papalymo and Yda managed to see the Warrior of Light in this innocent Miqo when she could not, took not a small toll on her pride. She hated being wrong. It felt as if all the years of dedicated study and education under the most influential scholars of Sharlaya were for naught. She sighed again. However, many times she was wrong, and gods there were plenty of instances, she was never wont to admit her mistakes.
Just when she started to regret not hiring a chocobo porter, she heard a voice. Nay, it was Eva’s voice, there was no mistaking it. Is she…crying? After rushing forwards behind a worn stone structure, she shut her eyes and focused on her sense of hearing. Soft sobbing interrupted with shaky breathes emanated barely through the Coerthan winds. It was all Y’shtola could do to distinguish nature from friend. She rounded the corner past some crumbling ruins of an old Ishgardian watch tower to see her. The unmistakable shine of the Warrior’s aether made the glamour of the falling snow and the towers of Ishgard behind her dull in comparison. It was illustrious as ever but…

I’ve never seen it do that before.

The aether seemed to be pulsating out of her with each shuddering breath, a bright royal blue, deep as the sea, and she was…shaking. Y’shtola had seen people cry after she lost her sight, but she was not prepared for the pure intensity of Eva’s aether with such a strong emotion. She gasped and immediately cursed herself while covering her mouth in a futile attempt to catch the sound. One of the Warrior of Light’s ears twitched and Y’shtola watched in horror as a tuft of snow was flicked off from the movement. In one fluid motion the Warrior of Light grabbed the hilt of a sword that Shtola failed to notice, unsheathed it and spun to face her adversary only to see a friendly Scion gaping at her.

“Y-Y’shtola!” Eva sputtered, slowly sheathing her blade and dropping the scabbard with a puff into the snow. She turned away just as quickly as she came and wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeved forearm and remained looking at the towering view of Ishgard. “What are you doing here?” Her voice was coarse and Y’shtola could tell she was straining to hide it.


The straight tailed Miqo’te quickly regained her composure and took a second to analyze the situation before walking to the Warrior of Light’s side. Seeing the strongest woman, nay, strongest person she knew in a state like this was jarring. Never in an era did Y’shtola think she would discover the Warrior of Light reduced to tears.

“The others and I finished our final dealings in Ishgard and were searching for you ere we depart.” As soon as the words left her mouth, Y’shtola cursed herself for giving such a cold, practical answer. That could not be what the Warrior of Light needed to hear in this moment.

“Ah. I s-see.” Eva sat down with a puff next to her weapon.

“Forgive me my curtness, but pray tell; what are you doing out here all alone?” Y’shtola followed suit and sat next to her. Her tail curled around her leg in a futile attempt to preserve body heat.

Eva looked at an object on the ground in front of her and smiled weakly, “I’m not alone.”

Y’shtola followed her gaze and saw a weak outline of aether flowing through what must be…is that an Ishgardian shield…? It had a curious hole seemingly burned through the center as if melted with a spear of pure aether, judging by the remnants of a different source still lingering around the impact mark. Oh. Her epiphany came much too late. This was no random vista. It was a grave.

“Ser Haurchefant would have been proud of what you’ve accomplished,” she said softly. She chose her words carefully. She knew that they were close.
Eva turned to face her fully. Up close, Y’shtola could see everything. Though the Warrior of Light just wiped away her tears, not even she could hide her aether. Wide paths of sparkling blue, stark against the bright whiteness that lay beneath. Hydaelyn’s blessing was quite overwhelming at this distance, but…there was something different. She hadn’t noticed it until now since they reunited, but there was something…off…about the Warrior of Light’s aura that she couldn’t place.

“I know…I just wish he was here to see it. He’d have hot cocoa for all three of us.” She sighed before managing a small smile. “Before he passed, he told me that a ‘smile better suits a hero.’” The smile left her as quickly as it came. “But I don’t feel like a hero.”


Y’shtola was silent for a moment and she pursed her lips. “But you are a hero. You’ve saved countless lives while risking your own. You’ve felled half a dozen primals with hardly a scratch. You’ve inspired thousands of Eorzeans without them having as much of a glimpse of you. Your deeds alone carried that weight. You are the Warrior of Light

“I never asked to be the Warrior of Light!! I just want to be Eva!” She blurted out. “And what about all the people I couldn’t save!? Good, innocent men and women, taken away from their families because I wasn’t strong enough! It hurts so much when I think of them. I remember them all, you know. Their faces. Their dreams. Their goals, aspirations, desires. It isn’t fair…” Eva’s voice trailed off and her sniffling returned.

Y’shtola suddenly realized that she always thought of her as the Warrior of Light and never by her name.

Irritation flashed through Y'shtola's clouded eyes for a brief moment. Eva's rationale was flawed, and she thought her will stronger than that but...no, I'm being heartless. Survivor's Guilt was something she encountered often during the many hours spent in infirmaries as a healer. “You are not responsible for every soul in Eorzea, Eva…” she reached for her shoulder but hesitated before letting it drop weakly in her own lap. Consoling a friend was never her strong suit. Though she read several tomes about it, execution is a whole different beast.

“He was the first person in Ishgard to welcome us. To help us. Alphinaud and me,” Eva continued, resting her gaze on the broken shield. “It was…hard. So, so hard. Alphi had all but lost hope. I’ve never seen him so defeated. I can still see him sitting in that chair all slumped over…And I—” her voice cracked. “…I thought you were gone.”

Y’shtola’s empathetic look turned into that of surprise.

She gave her a thin smile. “Well, now you know how we feel every time we send you to lay low a primal.”

Eva elbowed her, “Well I always came back after a few hours!” she protested. “I was waiting for weeks and when we finally pulled you out of the godsforsaken lifestream I thought you were dead or in a coma and worst of all the Seedseer’s personal guard wouldn’t even let me close to see if you were breathing!”

Y’shtola couldn’t help but giggle. “By the twelve, you were that concerned for me? You know I am quite capable of lying unconscious myself.”

Eva all but deflated, exhaling as much air as physically possible, pouting.

“Okay! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Y’shtola smiled bashfully. Though the display was quite over the top, it was endearing, nonetheless.

“Well just don’t do it again and maybe I’ll forgi- agh—!” Eva suddenly cried out in pain and clutched her forehead.

Y’shtola’s eyes widened. It must be the Echo. She had seen this very scene before several times now but…what was that? Her eyes were drawn to something within the Warrior of Light’s aether. It was the peculiarity she noticed before, but now that Eva was not consciously suppressing it, what was once hidden is revealed. There was a simmering darkness behind the light. A stain surrounded by purity.

A tiny, festering cloud of pure emotion, trying to claw its way to the surface…

Chapter Text

The ensuing walk back to Ishgard was wordless. Y'shtola was more concerned than she was before, especially since the Warrior of Light adamantly refused to disclose her vision. It was out of character for her and Y'shtola could not help but feel a little hurt by the rejection. Nevertheless, she took it upon herself to figure out what Eva was hiding and ascertain the nature of the darkness she saw in her aether. When they finally arrived at the House Fortemps manor, Eva hurriedly rushed inside to warm herself and grab a few items she stored in her guest room. Y'shtola followed suit and met eyes with Alphinaud who wore a face of well-placed concern.


"I see our friend is...well. Did something happen?" his voice was lightly laced with genuine worry.


Y'shtola shared his solemn expression when she responded, "There is much burden on her shoulders, but I fear there is something else plaguing her. Alphinaud, how long has she been acting differently? Our time together was short compared to yours. I am wont to understand why she is hiding a vision of the past from me."
"So she saw something through the Echo..." Alphinaud held his chin, lost in thought. "Yes, she has changed since Ul'dah and the betrayal of my beloved Crystal Braves. We all did. How could we not after everything we lost? Even still, Eva was never one to let sacrifice go for naught...especially yours..."
Y'shtola's eyes widened."Mine?"


Alphinaud gave her a smug smile. "Oh, you should have seen the way she sprinted around Gridania hours before the Elder Seed-Seer plucked you from the lifestream. Furthermore, before that she worked tirelessly to end the Dragonsong War and find the rest of the Scions. Nobody, not even Ser Aymeric could get her to rest for even an hour."
Sprinting around Gridania huh?  Y'shtola felt a tingle of warmth rise to her cheeks but her thoughts were quickly interrupted.
"Kind of like you when Ser Estinien was in the infirmary!" a young singsong voice rang out from down the hall.


Alphinaud staggered where he stood in horror. "T-Tataru!"


Y'shtola glanced over to see the cheerful lalafel skip into the lounge, beaming at the pair of Scions.
"Oh, Alphinaud was rushing all over Ishgard keeping himself busy gathering information and looking for gifts for our one and only Azure Dragoon before staying faithfully by his bedside all worried like!" she giggled.


"I-I was merely concerned for our injured comrade's wellbeing, that's all!!" his face burned red like the eyes of Nidhogg.


"Pfft, ahahaha!" Y'shtola burst out in laughter as well. "Alphinaud, you are coming of age, it is only natural to fall in love, do not be ashamed of it!" she doted.


"Love!?" he cleared his throat, "A-Anyways, back on the topic of the Warrior of Light," he quickly changed the subject.


"Oh! Speaking of our hero, I heard a really funny rumor in the tavern about her! It was so absurd that I never told you about it," Tataru chimed in.

"A rumor? I would hear more of this, Tataru," Yshtola replied.


"Oh it's silly, really. People said that Eva was seen in the Brume speaking to a corpse clad in black armor. Like how ridiculous is that?"


Y'shtola tapped a fist against her chin with a frown, lost in thought. "A corpse in black armor..."


"Sorry I'm late!" Eva opened the door to the lounge with her leather backpack strapped around her shoulders and a brand-new House Fortemps shield between her back and bag. She gave the three of them a warm smile, showing little sign that she had cried just an hour ago.


"Eva!!!" Tataru jumped with glee. "Ready to go back home?"


Eva grinned and nodded. "I'm always ready."

After concluding their farewells and final business in Ishgard, the Scions of the Seventh Dawn boarded an airship en route to the Rising Stones. The ride was blessedly uneventful and their return to Mor Dhona swift. As the spires of Ishgard faded in the distance, however, Y'shtola could not help but feel that her business there was not complete. She sat uncomfortably on one of the crudely built benches on the aircraft watching Eva. She was asleep, sitting on the deck with her back against the portside of the airship, her head lulling gently to the side causing her bangs to sway. Shtola smiled. It was quite an adorable display.


Alphinaud walked over and took a seat beside her with a boyish grunt, having had his fill of the views.


"Before your return, I noticed something different about her in combat," he breathed.


The white haired Miqo'te raised her eyebrows. "In what way?"


"In every way. At first, I thought nothing of it because our talented friend has a knack for learning new martial practices. However, after Tataru told us of the corpse clad in black armor, I could not help but wonder..."


Y'shtola bit her bottom lip in irritation, waiting for Alphinaud to get to the point. He saw the look in her eyes and cleared his throat.


"Ahem, as you are well aware, Eva has always preferred martial forms that favored finesse and dexterity, having learned the methods of shadowalkers like the shinobi of Doma, and the techniques of their swordsmen as well, the samurai."


They both glanced at the sheathed katana that lay beside Eva's lap across the deck of the airship.


"However she began wielding a monstrously large sword, crafted out of blackened steel. She fought with such ferocity it brought fear out of friend and foe alike and she dove into the enemy with no fear of retaliation. Or perhaps she welcomed it.”


Y'shtola's eyebrows furrowed in frustration. This kept getting more and more confusing. Perhaps there will be more information in her tomes back in the Rising Stones about talking corpses and black greatswords.


"I see," she sighed. "Thank you, Alphinaud."


He smiled his usual rueful smile. "You know, you have something that the leaders of this world would kill to have."


Y'shtola raised her eyebrows. "And that would be...?"


"Why, the undying affection of the Warrior of Light."


Heat flushed to Y'shtola's numb cheeks as the airship made its descent into the Mor Dhona.

After a day of well-earned rest...well as restful as it could be to pore over countless texts of unique warrior histories in search for answers, Y'shtola decided to confront the Warrior of Light over what she learned from Alphinaud, but first... She was in the storage room shuffling through the supplies and gear. Her eyes scanned the dusty shelves and shook her head in mild annoyance. She hated disorganization but knew full well that she contributed to the mess that lay before her. Due to all the hours discipling under Master Matoya, no doubt. The Miqo'te sighed in reminiscence. The old sorceress helped make her into the woman she was today however, and Y'shtola was looking for something she took the liberty of appropriating from her cave. Ah, there it is. 


One would presume it to be easy to find an item imbued with aether when aether is all Y'shtola can see, but this was no ordinary storage room, and its contents were full of items that had differing amounts of aetheric energy. Regardless, Shtola found her prize and quickly grabbed the small shimmering box before vacating the room.

Finding Eva was easier than she expected. She was sitting at the bar counter talking to F'lahminn, whom she struck a striking similarity to. Not that Y'shtola could enjoy their respective attractiveness anymore, but their aether also had an uncanny simularity. Eva's shone much brighter though. Y'shtola walked to the pair or Miqo'tes and greeted them warmly.


"Good afternoon you two." She smiled and nodded at the pair. "Forgive me for interrupting but may I speak with Eva for a moment please?"


The Warrior of Light's eyes widened, but she complied, giving F'lahminn a curt wave. Y'shtola led Eva a few steps away to the table she regularly studies at and sat down, inviting her companion to do the same.
Eva raised her eyebrows with a shy smile, "To what do I owe the honor of Y'shtola Rhul's undivided attention?"


Shtola chuckled, "As if your countless deeds were not enough." She wasted no time and placed the small, softly glowing box on the table. To Eva, it appeared to be a simple black container.
"What's this?" she looked at her with innocent eyes.


"A gift, silly. Go on, open it." Y'shtola couldn't help but feel a little nervousness well up in her stomach. She scolded herself for feeling this way. We've been friends for ages now. It's just a small token of my appreciation, nothing more...


As Eva took the cap off the container and slowly revealed its contents, her jaw dropped. Inside there were two sparkling earrings. A perfectly sculpted prolate spheroid of the purest Sharlayan emerald, captured in the sharp, angular clutches of platinum shaped almost like a feather.


"No...w-wow. They're so pretty..."


Like your soul, Y'shtola thought suddenly before burning up and quieting her mind.


Suddenly, the Warrior if Light catapulted herself into Y'shtola in a tackle hug, sending their chair skittering back chaotically against the stone floor. They gartered a few glances and snickers from the other Scions.
"Eva, please!" she giggled, "What would the others think seeing their stoic hero shamelessly showing affection?"


"I don't know and I don't care!"


Y'shtola felt herself being squeezed warmly before being released. The hug did feel quite nice.


"Where did you get these?" Eva asked, now back in her seat and examining one of the earrings pinched between her fingers.


Y'shtola took a moment to regain her composure before responding, "Do you recall our visit with Master Matoya?"
Eva nodded, "How could I forget? I don't think she likes me."


"Oh, she's like that with everyone. In fact, I think she held back with you specifically, you should have heard the things she said to poor Alphinaud while you were off throwing yourself in harm's way." Y'shtola chuckled. "Regardless, while we were doing her chores, I found these earrings. I thought you would like them to remember our time in Sharlayan."
"I love them," she beamed.


Though Y'shtola could not see her smile, she noticed her aether glow a golden hue. Perhaps now would be a good time to ask about Tataru’s corpse rumor. “Eva, I have been meaning to ask…”


Suddenly, a thunderous crash cracked through the air, startling the both of them. The door to the Rising Stones flew open and Hoary Boulder rushed in, out of breath, letting the sound of metal clashing against metal and the shouting of men pour in as well.


"A patrol of Garleans-" he panted. "Right outside the walls-"

The pair quickly stood and rushed to his side.

“Garleans!? What do they want?” Eva asked incredulously.

“Dunno, a group of the bastards came real close-“ he gasped. “Fightin’ a group of ours right now!”

“I’m inclined to give them a warm welcome,” Y’shtola said, locking eyes with Eva.

She grabbed her scabbard at the ready and grinned mischievously, “Race ya!” she shouted as she sprinted out towards the fighting.

Y'shtola ran after Eorzea's beacon of hope and could not help but smile as she raced towards danger.



 

Chapter Text

By the time Y'shtola caught up to the Warrior of Light, her katana was already wet with blood. Shtola dashed around the stone arch with her staff drawn only to be showered with an unwelcome arterial spray. She staggered back in disgust.

"Gods, Eva!" she shouted, before casting a quick shield spell as her companion zipped around the battlefield cutting down imperial soldiers.

"By the Emperor, is that the Warrior of Light?" a young Garlean's voice cracked out as his comrades fell one by one.

Y'shtola scanned the battlefield looking for Mor Dhonian adventures in need of aid, but her eyes landed on a man with an insignificant looking aether. What struck her wasn't his aether itself, but the fact that he wasn't fighting. He seemed to be shouting and pointing his gunsword at the Garleans and nothing else. That must be the officer. A bad one at that. Perhaps he will join the fight if I give him...incentive. 

Y'shtola leaned back, pointed her staff and free arm upwards as if she were pushing against a weighty object and began channeling her aether into the spell. After the incantation was complete, she thrust her staff forward as if catapulting her aether across the battlefield. Suddenly the ground around the Garlean officer began to rumble and he stumbled where he stood.

"What in the-" he muttered before chunks of stone and the ground beneath his very feet began flying at him, each one making a little ting as earth struck Garlean steel, until there was no more steel to strike. Only his helmet remained exposed.

"Nngh- someone break me out, you useless-" He was cut off as a final stone flew into the center of his helmeted forehead and rendered him unconscious.

Eva, who was standing nearby to watch the final rock glanced a smirk towards Y'shtola who shrugged with a smug smile.


We'll wake him up later for questioning.

With their incompetent leader now put out of commission, the Garlean ranks began to fall into disarray and the adventurers and mercenaries began driving them back. However, the magitek armor was still a threat and it wasted no time targeting a group of battered adventurers.

"Damn it," Y'shtola hissed as she sprinted towards the group. As the magitek armor finished priming its cannon, Y’shtola managed to reach the center of the fallen adventurers, quickly throwing her arms out to the side. A bubble of blue aether like glass formed around them as the world outside turned into a fiery hell. She had to shut her eyes from the intensity of the light and she grimaced from the scolding heat that made its way through the shield. The blast glanced off Y'shtola's Protect spell, sending licks of flames cascading around the dome of magic. When the danger passed and the smoke dissipated, she blinked her eyes open only to witness the definition of inspiration.

"Look!" one of the wounded gasped. "It's the Warrior of Light!"

"Gods...look at her go," said another. It was a Midlander Hyur and he peered up at Y'shtola. "Thank you, miss. You saved our hides good there."

She nodded in response though she did not take her eyes off Eva who cut through a leg of the Garlean machinery with one stroke. As the armor fell to the base of its knee, she jumped into the cockpit, and with a shout, skewered the pilot through the control panel before backflipping off the other side. Finally, the magitek machine crashed into the ground with a screech of metal scraping against metal.

Y'shtola chuckled, "Well now she's just showing off."

With their officer and armor out of the picture, surely the Garleans will be making their retreat. Suddenly the sound of chainmail clatter from someone sprinting with the intent to kill came from behind.

"Miss, behind you!" shouted the injured Hyur.

Y'shtola spun around only to see Eva standing with her back before her with her left hand up. She was clutching the blade that was meant for Y'shtola's neck, small streams of crimson dripped down her hand and onto the dirt. In an instant, the Warrior of Light kicked the surprised Garlean in the chest sending him stumbling back, and with the blade still in her hand she jabbed it into the side of his helmet twice with a sickening squelch. The body went limp and it crumbled to the ground, death from his own weapon.

Upon seeing such a horrific display of violence, the remaining Garleans began running away in abject terror. Y'shtola herself was stunned enough to almost miss the dark cloud that lingered in Eva's aether. There it is again...

Finally, the battle was won, and the Warrior of Light opened her hand to let the weight of the blade dislodge itself from her palm and the Garlean gunblade clattered in the dirt along with Eva's blood. She turned to face the still speechless Y'shtola with nothing but concern in her eyes.

"Are you okay?"

The white haired Miqo'te blinked.

"Y-Yes. Your hand-"

"It's fine, just a small cut."

"Give me your hand."

"Okay, mother" she rolled her eyes.

Y'shtola tenderly held Eva's hand in both of her own and smirked. "Hah. None of that cheek or I'll take you across my knee."

The wound was much worse than she let on. The gash went almost all the way to the bone and blood was still pulsing out. Quickly, Y'shtola began healing it, their hands beginning to glow a soft white as Eva's skin began mending itself. Pretty soon the bleeding ceased and the wound had closed, leaving behind a large ragged scar. Y'shtola sighed.

"Why would you do something so reckless? You couldn't have just parried the blow with your own blade?"

The Warrior of Light glanced over to the magitek armor's wreckage and its pilot, still skewered like a flesh kabob.

"Yeah...that wasn't an option," she shrugged. Then, suddenly realizing that they were just standing there holding hands, she blushed and withdrew her hand, looking away, her ears flattening in embarrassment. "I-I'm just glad you're okay."

Y'shtola giggled at her flustered friend. "Come now, let us see to the wounded." But the darkness she saw still burned in her mind and she couldn't help but feel all the more worried.

The hours that followed the battle were busy, but insignificant. Y'shtola treated the injured where they lay, while Eva helped transport them to the infirmary. They both helped escort the captured officer to the Rising Stones for interrogation. Thancred was on his way back anyways so he wouldn't have to wait long. The entire time, however, Y'shtola could not take her mind off what she saw. That dark cloud…what was it? What causes it to appear? Perhaps it was connected to moments of strong emotion, since the last time she saw it Eva was in tears. She sighed. If it was harmful Eva showed no sign of it, so she decided to let it take a backseat for now and set her sights on other priorities. Right now, however, they needed to rest. The sun was beginning to take its leave beyond the mountains and night was come.

 

Y’shtola wearily pushed through the doors of the Rising Stones, eager to retire to her quarters. Eva sat there alone at the bar, gingerly nursing her scarred hand. Without thinking, she walked over and sat beside her.

“Hey,” she smiled.

The Warrior of Light looked up with surprise, her ears perking, causing her new Sharlayan earrings to sway. “Oh, you’re back!”

“How is your hand?” the conjurer reached over to take Eva’s hand for examination.

“O-Oh!” she blushed, breaking eye contact. “It’s fine, thanks to you.”

Y’shtola gently brushed a thumb along the length of ragged scar, causing Eva to shiver. That brought a smug smile to the white haired Miqo’te’s face.

“No. Thank you for saving me. Again.”

Eva’s fingers curled around Y’shtola’s and they locked eyes. The Warrior of Light’s aether shown brighter than ever. It was encapsulating.

“I just… can’t stand the thought of you getting hurt.” She looked away shyly again for a brief moment before coughing awkwardly. “So, what was it you wanted to ask me before?”

Y’shtola released her hand and laid hers in her lap. “Ah, it is not important. We should both rest. There will always be another time.” Though the questions still burned hot in her mind, she did not want to ruin this moment because of her curiosity.

“Oh okay. Good night, Y’shtola.” Eva smiled warmly.

“Goodnight, hero.”

Chapter Text

The sun did its rounds and the next day came sooner than Y’shtola would have liked. Combat does well to make one sleep soundly. She stood in the consortium with Eva, Krile, Alphinaud, and Alisaie with her arms crossed, absentmindedly drumming her fingers against her tricep. Thancred had returned overnight and Alphinaud informed him of the situation that unfolded. He was in the makeshift interrogation room questioning their guest as they waited.

“How is it that our home is attacked as soon as I’m away for two days? Gods Alphinaud, did you send the Garleans a damn invitation or what?” Alisaie joked.

Alphinaud scoffed with a smile. “Oh, come now Alisaie, it may be a blessing in disguise that they chose to do it while you were absent. If you were here, we might not even have a prisoner to ascertain intelligence from.”

As the twins bickered, Y’shtola stared off into the distance, an easy task to do since everything was blue and blended into each other. Her mind wandered to what the Garleans were doing. What was their goal? Why attack now? She shut her eyes for a moment and sighed. Every time she got an answer it came with three more questions, more confusing than the last. At last, she opened her eyes only to stagger backwards with an uncharacteristically high-pitched squeak. There was a bright light like a fiery lantern ilms away from her face and it startled her.

“Hehee, sorry!” Eva giggled. “Thancred is back.”

Y’shtola glanced around the room to see everyone staring at her. Blue wisps forming silhouettes of her friends. She cleared her throat.

“Ahem, excuse me for spacing out. Shall we return to the matter at hand? Thancred?”

Alisaie snickered. It was a rare sight: Y’shtola being flustered. Even Thancred seemed amused as he took his stage in front of the Scions in front of the Antecedent’s desk.

“Our Garleans at our friendly neighborhood Castrum were getting desperate after being cut off from Garlemald. This particular officer thought that capturing Mor Dhona would win the Empire’s favor back.”

“But why now?” Alphinaud pondered, stroking his chin.

“I was just getting to that. Word is, Garlemald is soon to send forces to reinforce Ala Mhigo to quell the resistance. Zenos yae Galvus himself is taking a more…direct leadership role in this endeavor.”

The group shared uncomfortable glances with each other. This news does not bode well.

“Alisaie, have you shared with Y’shtola and Krile what we spoke about earlier?” Thancred asked.

“What, about the crystal shipments?”

Thancred nodded.

“Haven’t had the opportunity until now. As you all know, Alphinaud, Eva, and I were investigating the sudden resurgence in Primal activity throughout Eorzea for the past few weeks and, thanks to the Warrior of Light, we stopped a few of them.” Alisaie glanced at Eva who gave her an enthusiastic thumbs up. "However, Thancred informed us that a shipment of crystals that made it through Ishgard’s security.  A shipment headed for Little Ala Mhigo.”

After a bit of planning, the group decided on their next course of action. The Warrior of Light will travel to Little Ala Mhigo with Alphinaud and Alisaie to investigate the crystal shipment and stop any primal summoning that may occur. Y’shtola, Krile and Tataru will travel to Ishgard to work with Ser Aymeric and the temple guard about securing their crystal supplies as well as pinpoint the mole inside their ranks. Thancred will do his own reconnaissance in Thanalan and Gyr Albania and thereby support the Warrior of Light’s investigation with any intelligence he gathers from the shadows. Though Y’shtola was at first disappointed to be separated from Eva once again and so soon, this was an opportunity she was waiting for. Returning to Ishgard will give her a chance to delve into her own…personal matters. No, it’s important for everyone that Eva is well. This secret of hers needs to be revealed if it risks any kind of harm to her. 

Later, as Y’shtola was finalizing her preparations, she felt a strong presence coming towards her. It was unmistakably the Warrior of Light. She turned to face Eva a little too quickly causing the primal slayer to flinch.

Y’shtola giggled, “My apologies, god killer . ‘Tis good to see you ‘ere we depart.”

Something flashed through Eva’s eyes, but it was quickly replaced with a smile. Was it...remorse? It was difficult to tell expressions so subtle with only their aetheric silhouette to go off of.

“You too,” she shifted her weight nervously. “Can I ask you to do me a big favor?”

“Well, it depends how big this favor is,” Y’shtola smiled smugly, crossing her arms.

“Heheh, well…” Eva’s hands were behind her back and she revealed them to show Shtola a single beautiful snowdrop flower. “I’d love it if you can give this to Haurchefant. So he isn’t alone for too long. I read somewhere that these flowers bloom in the snow so…” her voice trailed off.

Y’shtola’s eyes widened. “Of course. It will be no trouble at all.”

It was no secret that the Warrior of Light had a big heart but this…was sentimental on a whole new level. It was quite charming…

“We’re just about to take off too, so I’m saying bye to everyone,” Eva said, cheer returning to her voice. “I hope you figure out the crystal stuff so I can stop fighting primals every week!”

Y’shtola laughed, “Safe travels to you too, Eva.”

The Warrior of Light handed Y’shtola the snowdrop and gave her a curt wave before returning to Alphinaud and Alisaie who were waiting at the front door. She made brief eye-contact with Alisaie who quickly looked away with a strange expression.

Curious. 

 

On the airship, Y’shtola leaned against the side with her eyes closed, letting the wind batter her face, her hair ruffling against the breeze. The air was steadily getting colder as the aircraft ascended into the Coerthan highlands, but it was a refreshing feeling, at least for now. Suddenly she felt a gentle prodding in her side. She opened her eyes to see Krile looking up at her smiling.

“Enjoying the breeze?” she asked, crossing her arms. Her height made it so she could not see above the railing, but Y’shtola figured she preferred it that way.

“I might as well, ‘ere I get sick of the cold,” Y’shtola replied.

Krile’s expression turned serious creating a seriously comical contrast with the cat-eared outfit she donned. “Is there something bothering you? I’ve noticed you thinking silently to yourself much more often than the usual. You were never the brooding type.”

“Oh? No, I am quite well. Just…thinking about Yda and Papalymo, that’s all.”

That was a lie, but it was a convincing one.

Krile sighed, “We all are. We will find them, I'm sure of it. Shouldn’t be as hard as finding you and Thancred at least. It’s a wonder you two turned up first!”

The airship shuddered slightly in a fit of turbulence causing the pair to stagger before returning to smooth sailing.

“Well, that’s my cue to sit down for the rest of the flight.” Krile punched Y’shtola’s thigh playfully before returning to her seat.

By the Twelve, am I that obvious?  Y’shtola scolded herself. She supposed it made sense. It was not like she could see people observing her in the same way as before. Unfortunately, this realization made her a bit paranoid and she began wondering how often people watched her. Gods does Eva do it too?  The simple thought of it made her cheeks warm, though she quickly pinched her hand and scolded herself silently. She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that a second lalafel snuck up on her, which seemed to be a theme as of late.

“Hey there, Y’shtola!”

It was Tataru this time. Convenient timing.

“Tataru, I was just about to ask for you.” Y’shtola turned and shifted her weight to one leg, attempting to appear relaxed.

“Oh? For little ole me?” she asked innocently.

“But of course, you are the Scion’s best informant save for Thancred who is regrettably occupied in Gyr Abania.”

“Ahaha, well my services are yours to command; what will you have your informant do?” Tataru giggled.

Y’shtola’s expression turned determined, “I need you get all the information you can on a group of warriors who call themselves ‘Dark Knights.’”

 

Chapter Text

The pound of talons against dirt pattered rhythmically as Eva’s chocobo raced along the dusty road. She sighed and plopped her torso lazily onto its feathery mane who whistled happily in response. Why did they always insist on travelling separately? In the adventurer’s profession, she spent most of hours alone, and though she enjoyed the seclusion occasionally, today was not one of those times. Alphinaud asked her to make a detour to Coffer and Coffin in Central Thanalan to meet a contact of his about a lead on the whereabouts of one of the former Crystal Brave officers. Of course, she said yes, and of course it turned out to be a dead end. So, she was stuck riding through the dreadful desert until, oh? I think I’ve seen that bridge before. 

Suddenly realization like a torrent shook the Warrior of Light to her core as she remembered. Every detail from that fateful day in Ul’dah rushed back, playing through her mind like a vision. This was where Pipin found Eva and Alphinaud after the betrayal of the Crystal Braves. Where she thought she lost everything dear to her. Where she did lose everything, albeit temporary. Almost every one of her friends she thought slain or captured. Yda and Paplymo, the two who saw something special in her and brought her to the Scions. Thancred, the carefree, lighthearted rogue that always had something sly to say, but was always there when you needed him most. Minfilia, the stark cornerstone of Eorzea, the leader and believer of protecting the innocent. And…Y’shtola. Eva always knew there was something different about the way she saw Y’shtola compared to the rest of the Scions. From the first day they met in the Waking Sands, she was starstruck. Here was a person that was everything she aspired to be, standing before her, asking what her name was, shaking her hand…. A powerful warrior, well versed in magic and educated by the Archons of Sharlayan… It only took a few weeks for Eva to fall into the chasm of love before drowning in the pool of emotions at the bottom. When Eva ran in those tunnels and heard the collapse of stone and the screaming of men, she assumed the worst. Though they did not know it, Eva could hear Y’shtola’s and Thancreds final exchanges before the explosion. The words "forgive me" echoed in her mind like a broken linkpearl. The pure dread she felt that she was the last one, the only one, made her on the cusp of paralysis, but her legs kept moving. For the first time since picking up a blade, she ran…

 

Gods, why can’t I just forget… she wrapped her arms around her chocobo’s neck and nestled her cheek into the feathers.

No, I can’t forget. I gotta find Yda and Paplymo first. 

Sitting up straight, she hastily wiped her eyes to stop the tears before they could finish forming. Eva exhaled loudly, raising a hand to brush a finger lightly against emerald earrings.

 

“To Little Ala Mhigo.”

 

Upon her arrival she was greeted by a few young Ala Mhigan men who recognized her. Eva smiled and nodded as they asked if she remembered them and how she saved their best friend from certain death when he tried some shady operation involving crystals and primals and the Amaljaa. Of course, she remembered doing those things and was glad to see them hale and healthy, but her mind was focused on naught but reuniting with Alphinaud and Alisaie so they could leave this godsforsaken desert. Her time as a nameless, big-hearted adventurer was in the past. Now, Eva had friends, connections, responsibilities…and a mission. She quickly dismounted her chocobo and walked her to the stables for temporary safekeeping.

“Hey there now, Coco,” She soothed the large bird with a few pats on the neck.

“Kweh!” Coco tweeted, flapping her undersized wings.

“I’ll be back before you know it, bubby. It’s only a few days. Maybe even less!” she handed the reigns to the chocobo keep and handed him a handful of gil who thanked her promptly and took Coco into the stable, happy to tend to a more unique looking bird. Months ago, Eva had fed Coco a very specific combination of fruits. She read from a book she had “borrowed” from the Great Gubal Library that certain fruits fed in a certain order will change the pigment of a chocobo’s feathers and alas, Coco was now a turquoise bird.

Now Eva had to search for her friends. A couple of options sprang to mind. She could do what she normally does nowadays and wander aimlessly until a stranger recognizes her and they conveniently know the information she’s looking for. Or she can skip a step and go straight to Gundobald, the leader of the refugee camp. The twins are bound to have spoken to him upon their arrival.

 

Unfortunately, Eva remembered that she was awkward, and decided to combine the two strategies and walk around aimlessly in front of Gundobald. She wandered through city, though it’s more aptly described as “two caves and some tents.” She made her way to the main cavern where Gundobald usually is and looked lost. Because she was.

“Lookin’ for something lass?” a deep gruff voice boomed from across the area.

Score! Eva thought.

“Oh?” she feigned surprise, “Gundobald! Hi hi, it’s good to see you and yours are doing okay,” she trotted over to the hulking Ala Mhigan veteran.

“Aye, well we’re hangin’ in there. No little thanks to yer efforts those month- Rhalgr’s wrath, has it been a year?”

“Hahah, seems so,” she laughed nervously, “By the way, have you seen two elezen twins, kinda short, looks too smart, matching braided white hair, and smug faces?”

Gundobald raised an eyebrow and crossed his arms, “You speak of Alphinaud and Alisaie, yes?”

“Oh, you know them?” she tilted her head curiously.

“The founder of the Crystal Braves and his sister. We do pay attention to Eorzean politics, lass. Seeing as we’re refugees ‘n all.”

“O-Of course!” Eva wanted to cover her face in embarrassment but kept her cool. “They came ahead of me; can you lead me in the right direction?”

Gundobald laughed and explained the situation in Little Ala Mhigo.

 

“So there’s a radical splinter group of the Resistance called…The Masks. And they’re led by a…masked man who calls himself The Griffin.” Eva tapped a fist against her chin thoughtfully. A habit she acquired after watching Y’shtola do it on many occasions.

“Aye, and your two friends said they were going to see The Griffin’s rally right now. If you run, you’ll catch the speech ‘n everything.”

Eva stood up straight and turned to leave, “Okay!”

“Lass!”

She looked over her shoulder curiously.

Gundobold’s face turned grim. “Be careful with that lot. Men wear masks because they’ve somethn’ to hide.”

 

With that fun and obvious fact in mind, Eva travelled to the predetermined rallying point. There was a few clusters of Little Ala Mhigans travelling there as well, which boosted her morale. This must be the right way. Pretty soon, she could hear the crowd talking excitedly amongst themselves. Eva rounded the corner to the enclave, a wide-open area with scarce vegetation nor elevation in the ruins of what seems to be a temple. Ideal for a speech indeed. She dawdled in the back scanning the faces for her two friends but was interrupted with a sharp jab in the small of her back causing her to jump.

“Eck!” Eva spun around to face her assailant only to see Alisaie smiling mischievously.

“You have the most impeccable timing, as always. I dare say that it’s from spending so much time with my dear brother.”

“What can I say, I learn from the best,” Eva pouted, rubbing her back. It really hurt.

Alphinaud had his arms crossed, trying to look over the crowd. “Pleasantries can wait, I think that’s our Griffin taking the stage right now.” He tipped his chin towards the front of the crowd where a large masked man clad in ornate white robes with spots of steel plate armor raised his arms to address the crowd.

“Brothers and sisters…” he began, causing the crowds to quiet. “Twenty years ago, Ala Mhigo, our home, was claimed by the Garlean Empire.

Eva’s eyes widened in abject shock upon hearing the voice behind the words. She turned to Alphinaud who shared her expression.

“Is that Ilberd…?” he whispered.

The Warrior of Light instinctively had her hand on the hilt of her blade and had flashed an inch of steel once she heard his name.

“No!” Alphinaud hissed. His eyes darted around the crowd. “You know this won’t end well.”

“Sorry, I have habit of fighting monsters.” Eva sheathed her blade fully in frustration and her feline ears flattened.

“In due time, my friend. We’re here for information, not retribution. Not yet.”

“Gods, why does there have to be so many people here, I’d make short work of him.”

“We know you would, Eva. Just-“ he paused, “We don’t even know if it is Ilberd yet, let’s take this slow.”

Alisaie huffed. “Will you two quiet down, I’m trying to hear his masterplan to attack Baelsar Wall.”

Alphi and Eva blinked and turned to look at the Griffin raising a fist in the air before thunderous applause.

“Oh gods, what does he think that will accomplish?” Eva whispered.

“Would that I knew. Alas, we need more information. There must be more to this operation than just a simple assault. He should know how futile it is to fight the Empire in a ground war.”

“This I promise you, for we have a power within us, my friends- “ The Griffin rallied, “a power befitting our pride, our righteousness! Only join us, and we shall grant you the means to unleash it, and together we shall see the al Mhigan standard raised over the mountains of Gyr Abania once more!”

Once more, the crowd erupted in cheers and applause.

“’A power befitting their pride…’” Alphinaud muttered, “Not at all ominous, that.” Suddenly he gaped at something to his right. “Wait, is that…?”

Eva followed his gaze to a pair of hooded people, a hyur woman and a…lalafel.

The lalafel met her gaze and gasped. The Warrior of Light had to use every onze of her willpower to keep herself from squealing.

It’s THEM! We found them! 

The trio and the pair ran towards each other expectantly, but Eva did not expect Yda to tackle her.

“Papalymo! Yda! Oh my gods I tho- hrhgk!” she grunted as she plummeted towards the cobblestone.

“Evaaaaaaaaaaa!” Yda practically shouted, gartering a few glances from the back of the crowd.

Papalymo and Alisaie helped the pair to their feet before they both bombarded Yda with a harsh scolding.

“Yda, what are you thinking!? Let’s continue this in a more agreeable setting, yes?” Papalymo tugged her by the tunic and lead her towards the exit of the enclave, motioning for the rest of the Scions to follow.

“I think I landed on my tail…” Eva whimpered, following the group closely from the rear.

And so the friends were reunited under the simmering heat of Thanalan.

Chapter Text

Y’shtola’s tail curled around her leg, the fur tufted up as snow settled gently atop the gravestone. She shouldered off a leather pouch to retrieve the snowdrop flower, its white delicacy a contrast against the dark towering spires of Ishgard in the backdrop.

“You must have been quite the individual to receive this type of treatment from her…” Y’shtola sighed. “Would that have I known more than your name.” She set the stem at the base of the tombstone then stood straight to admire the somber scene. A lone flower, delicate and beautiful against the cold stone of a tomb. The aether she noticed on the Fortemps branded shield was dimmed, but still painfully present. Whatever blast caused it, must have been powerful corruption indeed if lingers after all these weeks. The crunch of footfall alerted her and Y’shtola turned around to see a lone figure approaching her. From his aetherical silhouette she could gather that he was a tall male Elezen, and the clank of his plated greaves and the swish of his chainmail indicated that he was a knight.

“He certainly was.” The young Elezen answered her idle musings and placed a flower of his own on the grave before turning to Y’shtola. “You are acquainted with the Warrior of Light then?”

Y’shtola’s eyes widened. “More than acquaintances,” she replied, however, she wondered how much more than acquaintances they were.

“Any friend of Mistress Grisak and Lord Haurchefant is a friend of mine and House Haillenarte.” He offered her a bow before turning towards Ishgard in the distance.

Y’shtola blinked. It has been a while since she heard Eva’s surname she realized.

“My name is Lord Francel,” He continued. “Though that name would mean little and I would be permanently resting at the bottom of Witchdrop had our two friends not come to my aid a moon ago. I suppose the kindhearted seek each other out in a place like this.”

The wind howled almost as if in response making Y’shtola shiver. The flowers they had just so carefully placed shifted and threatened to fly away at any moment as if the world was mocking the loss of such a soul.

“Y’shtola,” she replied, “A pleasure to meet you.”

Lord Francel almost whipped his head around to peer at her. “Y’shtola!? Y’shtola Rhul?”

He took a moment to look her up and down, “Why yes, you certainly fit the bill.”

She retreated a step, taken aback from the sudden movement and her tail twitched unconsciously in response to her name. “That is correct…”

Lord Francel laughed heartily, “I’m sorry, I did not mean to startle you so!” He recollected himself and stifled his fit of chuckles to explain himself, “By the Fury, Mistress Rhul, I have heard much about you.”

Y’shtola blinked, unsure of the response she expected. “And to whom do I owe the honor?”

“Why, Lord Haurchefant of course. He had a…” he stroked his chin trying to choose the best word, “infatuation with the Warrior of Light. It was no secret that Haurchefant was pining for her ever since her first appearance in Coerthas, but unfortunately for him, she was none the wiser. Or if she knew, she made no indication of it.”

She giggled, “Of course she wasn’t. Eva could spot an out of place spriggan from a malm away, but social cues, especially romantic ones…”

Ah, but perhaps I am the same,  she thought suddenly.

At least Alphinaud seems to believe that Eva wanted more than friendship with her. Perhaps she was the one who was blind after all.

Francel laughed, “But imagine his despair when she spoke of you in his stead! She speaks quite highly of you. And often, I might add. Haurchefant came many a times to my stronghold simply to pour his heart out over his envy of the ‘beautiful, scholarly, ashen haired Miqo’te, with whom I cannot dream to compete.’”

Y’shtola blushed. Then my suspicions are all but confirmed, and Alphinaud had the right of it…

“Eva is known among us for a bit of exaggeration, and I cannot confirm any of her accounts of myself. I am naught but a servant of Hydaelyn with no other goal than for peace for Eorzea.

“Forgive me Mistress Rhul, but if you are attempting to contradict the flowery accounts of my dear friends, you are failing miserably. Oh, how distraught he was…it is a pity he never met you, the unknowing rival.” Lord Francel’s eyes turned downcast, the realization of his passing returning like a gale. “Ah, speaking of flowers…was the snowdrop the Warrior of Light’s doing?”

Y’shtola nodded.

Francel sighed, “a native to Coerthas. One of the few buds that can brave the harsh conditions ‘ere the Calamity…she chose well.”

“My friend is naught if not thoughtful. Pray, tell me more of Ser Haurchefant. Though his soul now wanders the lifestream, he lives on through memory, and his legacy stands tall before us.” Y’shtola crossed her arms and nodded at Ishgard’s spires in the distant clouds. A free Ishgard. Free from war, tyranny, and lies. “I am wont to carry his memory as well. It is the least I can do for all he has done for my friends.”

Francel beamed at her words and began from the beginning.

 

Having bid farewell and parted ways with Lord Francel at Camp Dragonhead, Y’shtola finally had some time to think on her investigation alone. Blackened steel, strange armor, reckless fighting, talking corpses… It was a lot to process. It was akin to something she’s read as a child in one of the many fictional tomes she’s hidden from Master Matoya while under her tutelage. The Miqo’te sighed, sending a mist of hot breath into the breeze. Nothing was ever easy. Would it hurt the world to give her a free answer?

Suddenly her linkpearl rang its iconic tune, interrupting her thoughts. She answered it and opened her mouth to speak but Krile was already shouting.

“Tataru has been kidnapped! Pray return to Fortemps Manor at your soonest behest, I have more details, but we must speak in person!” Krile crackled.

“What!?” Y’shtola exclaimed, but Krile had already hung up, presumably to add urgency to the situation. “Twelve forfend her to just explain the situation now…”

With newfound zeal, the Scion rushed back to Ishgard.

“Explain everything, Krile,” she said as soon as she made eye contact with the Lalafellen scholar after bursting into the manor.

“Okay. I was returning from a short meeting with a few temple knights at the Forgotten Knight when I heard sounds of a struggle near the Brume. A voice cried out and it could not have been anyone but Tataru, so I ran to help. A small group of men clad in strangely altered knight’s armor were taking her away. I tried to stop them but there were too many!”

“Gods…” Y’shtola paced the room worriedly, “Did you alert the temple guards and the other Scions?”

“Yes, they’re investigating the Brume as we speak. As for the other Scions, I contacted Alphinaud, he assured me that they would finish whatever they are doing at utmost swiftness and send Eva to help. I suggest we do the same and ask what they’ve found thus far.”

Y’shtola nodded, comforted to know that Eorzea’s greatest detective was on her way, “Then let us away.”

The pair left the manor with haste, jogging towards the scene of the crime. Upon arrival of the lower levels of Ishgard, they saw a handful of temple guards milling about questioning locals and crouching on the ground looking for evidence. A cool, chilly mist settled a few yalms above the surface of the cracked masonry. The Brume was aptly named.

“Krile, ask the guard there if they have uncovered anything that may lead us to our quarry. I’ll question the ones talking to these peasants.”

Krile nodded and bounded off to do as she was asked. Y’shtola meanwhile approached a pair of guards who seemed to be comparing notes.

“Excuse me sers, but you are investigating a crime that has been committed against my friend. I am wont to lend my hand in this search, if you’ll allow.” Of course, she would continue with or without their permission, only asking out of formality.

“You’re a Scion, like Mistress Krile!” one of them exclaimed. We will share what information we’ve gathered. With all you and yours have done for Ishgard, it is the least we can do.”

“You have my gratitude,” Y’shtola nodded curtly.

“The witnesses claim that a group of zealots grabbed her under the firmament without warning. They describe the attackers as young men, based on their voices, wearing stolen knight’s armor with the old Ishgardian standard. What was peculiar is that witnesses say the standard was…very much not standard as it had been altered with red paint.”

“So Ishgardians who mislike the new order, kidnap a Scion in the hopes of…what? Revenge? Leverage? They cannot possibly think that Ishgard will return to its old hierarchy and war with the dragons over a single kidnapping.”

The guards looked at each other and one replied, “I do not know madam. If you would like, you may question one of the witnesses we are still engaged with.” He pointed across the way to under an overhang.

“I shall, thank you for your assistance.”

The knights nodded and returned to their conversation as Y’shtola made her way over to the interviewing guard. The witness saw her approaching and gave her a knowing nod.

“You a friend of Mistress Tataru?” the rough looking Elezen asked her, causing the questioning knight to turn as well. The witness was tall, skinny, and unkempt. His hair was matted and messy and he boasted a hearty beard, which looked strange on the slim figure of an Elezen.

“You may call me Y’shtola,” she bowed, “and yes, we are friends. Pray, tell me what you saw. Exclude no detail.”

The guard stepped to the side to let them speak face to face before nervously looking at the other knights who reassured him that she had permission.

“I’ll…help control the perimeter; let me know when you are finished with him, madam,” the guard said before performing an about face and leaving.

“Good, the authority’s gone. And I won’t bother tellin you my name. You’ll forget it in a fortnight anyhow. I’ll help you out, lass; I didn’t tell em everything. This is business that belongs in the Brume, an’ anyone who ‘as connected to the Holy See hasn’t my trust.”

Y’shtola’s ears perked with interest. Now they were getting somewhere.

“I take it you know how she got kidnapped, and seein as yer here, you know the where. I’m about to tell you the wherefore.”

She crossed her arms, waiting impatiently for him to continue.

“The lass Tataru has been here for a few days now, pokin’ around in the Brume askin’ passin’ strange questions.” He took a swig out of a tin flask and wiped his mouth messily before continuing. “Some’n about crystal shipments, and then about missing people, all very strange, very strange. However, the thing that caught my attention was when she started ask’n about Dark Knights. Dangerous subject aroun’ these parts. Even after the Holy See up and left.”

Y’shtola’s face paled.

“Dangerous how? Who are these Dark Knights?”

“Lower yer voice!” The lowborn Elezen hissed before glancing around at the guards in the area. “Yer clearly an outsider. Dark Knights are the nightmare that haunts the evildoers that are above the law. They’re somethn’ like…a band o’ vigilantes that delivers justice when the tribunal couldn’t. They wear armor and wield weapons made of blackened steel. Months ago…” his voice turned into a hushed tone, “one of them was slain and his body left in the Brume to send a message and let the vultures pick his bones for his heresy. Right o’er there…” he pointed a shaky finger to a scaffolding behind her. Now I didn’t see the fight myself, but my pal did. Claimed he slaughtered a dozen temple guards before taking a mortal wound, but he kept fighting all possessed like. Wish I coulda been there.”

Y’shtola’s ears flattened in worry. This was a lot to take in, and the guilt of having put Tataru in danger washed over her like a wave of heat in this otherwise cold place. Vigilantes that take justice in their own hands. Blackened steel in their arms and armor. Fights like a demon…

Gods, I never should have gotten her involved…How selfish can I be in search of answers?

Not to mention the Dark Knight information and how that pertained to Eva. The black cloud in her aether…She made a decision then and there to confront the Warrior of Light about this when next they met.

The sound of crunching snow betrayed Krile’s approach and Y’shtola turned to greet her.

“We got a lead, Y’shto—” she paused. “Are you quite alright? You seem pale.”

“Fine. I’m fine. ‘Tis the cold mist, nothing more.” The Miqo’te turned to the unnamed witness and bowed. “Thank you ser, you have been more than helpful.”

“I’m no ser. And thank me by finding yer friend. She seemed a good lass.”

“We will.”

Y’shtola notified the temple guard that she was done speaking with the witness, and the pair of Scions relocated to a corner of the Brume that was relative unoccupied to share their findings.

“Alright, what did you find from the witnesses?” Krile asked.

Y’shtola gave her a recount of what the temple guards told her but excluded her conversation with the witness.

“So, we are dealing with fanatical nationalists,” Krile sighed. “You see now why after all these moons I neglected to visit Ishgard?”

“Tell me of this lead, Krile,” Y’shtola ignored her question, wanting to stay focused.

The Lalafellin scholar rolled her eyes playfully before unveiling a peculiar chocobo feather. “This was found on the ground, sticking out of the snow.” She smiled, “Which is all we really need to find our brave secretary.”

Shtola’s ears flicked in realization. “Master Matoya is likely getting sick of the sight of us.”

“Are you kidding? She loves me!”

“To Idylshire, then.”

Chapter Text

Eva staggered forward after falling the several fulms to the ground, flailing her arms for something to grab before luckily finding stability in the form of an innocent goblin. She still has not gotten used to teleportation and she often fell embarrassingly on her face after each instance.

“Ohmygod I’m so sorry!” she panicked, picking herself up and helping the goblin to his feet.

The goblin dusted itself off and did his happy goblin dance, hopping from one foot to the other while waving his arms sporadically.

“You are kindly uplander Eva! You help Idyllshire and bring big jinglyshines, yes yes!”

“O-Oh, yes! That’s me!” she giggled. The goblins were always a lot of fun to talk to, they were always so excitable.

“Uplander trades jinglyshines for boomstick?” the gobbie pulled out a hefty looking musket that she did not notice until now, unintentionally flagging several bystanders and Eva who instinctively ducked out of its path.

“No thanks! I really ought to go find my friends now!” she quickly patted the gobbie on the gasmask and trotted away as it resumed dancing happily.

Eva strode along the cobblestone path and entered The Hard Place, the local café that Rowena funded to compliment her store in Idyllshire. The interior was simple in its décor, with a moderate number of wooden tables and a quaint bar. Feeling quite queasy after her aetherial transportation, she decided to purchase a drink and waited in the line patiently behind a Lallafel and a Hyur. Once it came to be her turn, Zhloe Aliapoh squealed with joy behind the counter, gartering more than a few glances from the other customers.

“Eva!! You’re back! What’ll it be this time? I learned how to froth milk better than the last time you came!” The Warrior of Light betrayed her doubt with a simpering smile. “I swear! Let me make you a latte! Or a cappuccino!” she clapped her hands together and tilted her head cutely to the side, her sandy blonde ponytail dangling.

“Hey Zhloe,” Eva chuckled. The last time Zhloe tried to froth milk, the espresso machine blew up and a lalafel was injured. But seven hells, Eva wouldn’t mind seeing that again. “Sure, I’ll have a cappuccino! With…extra foam.”

“Okay! It’ll be just a minute!” Zhloe skipped away to the espresso machine and Eva watched with sadistic interest, sitting down at a table that was a veritably safe distance away. 

As Zhloe began her ministrations upon the coffee creating device and the grinder hummed to life, Eva noticed the large oaken doors of the Hard Place swing open. She jumped to her feet in excitement and waved over the two figures that entered.

“Y’shtola! I’m over here!” she yelled, not caring about disturbing the peace even further. Y’shtola and Krile noticed her incessant waving and they made their way over. Eva met them halfway, however, and practically threw herself onto Y’shtola in a tight embrace. The white haired Miqo’te gasped in surprise, but quickly cleared her throat.

“’Tis good to see you again so soon, Eva. Were it only under more agreeable circumstances,” she carefully peeled the Warrior of Light off of her.

“It’s good to see you again too Eva,” Krile scoffed humorously. 

“Hey Krile! And I come with good news, actually!”  the excited Miqo’te triumphantly put her hands on her hips.

“Oh? Pray tell, some positive news will do us some good, in light of recent events,” Y’shtola replied, clearly embarrassed from such a public display of affection.

“We found Yda and Papalymo!!” Eva threw her hands in the air in a Y shape and jumped onto one foot in celebration.

As if on cue, the sound of hot steam jetting out violently caused the trio to spin around in shock. Eva, who understood immediately what was going on, dove over a table and slid under another unoccupied one with her hands over her heads. Y’shtola cautiously backed away from the counter as Zhloe Aliapoh squealed and fell backwards, sending a pitcher of warm whole milk cascading through the air. Krile was not so lucky, being the closest one to the counter, she had the smallest window of escape and the shortest legs. The milk splattered across the cobblestone and Krile’s outfit, staining her cream-colored coat with…cream causing a chorus of gasps and laughter from the patrons.

“Oh my gods, I am so sorry!” Zhloe exclaimed, trying to rush around the counter to assist the now drenched Krile, but slipping on the mess she herself made, “Eep!” she cried out as the keeper of the moon turned towards the stars.

Eva peeked from under the table and admired the carnage with a mischievous grin. Customers were standing up, gawking, laughing, and chattering about the mishappening that just occurred, but eventually they returned to their original gossip. Y’shtola could not help but stifle a giggle as well, watching Krile sulk stiffly as half steamed milk dripped from her hood. 

“Incredible. If you both have had your fill of fun, shall we return to the task at hand?” she muttered as the Scions gathered once more.

“Yes, let’s.” Y’shtola grabbed a towel from the other side of the counter and dabbed at the brooding Lalafell before sending a sly smile to the Warrior of Light who was having trouble controlling her laughter. 

Eva set a few coins of gil on the counter and said her farewells to Zhloe who protested that she was paying for a drink she never received. As the trio departed the Hard Place and Idyllshire altogether, they talked about their respective findings. Eva recounted the events that lead to running into Yda and Papalymo in Thanalan, and Y’shtola and Krile talked about the situation in Ishgard. However, after hearing their story, Eva could not help but wonder if Y’shtola was leaving something out. There was something about the way her gaze shifted towards the horizon after she finished speaking.

Perhaps it is nothing. Agh, it’s never nothing, she always knows something I don’t!

The Warrior of Light tried to put the thoughts in the back of her mind before frustration took over as they approached Master Matoya’s hideaway. As the Scions reached the door and Eva raised her hand to dispel the illusionary rock that hid the entrance, Y’shtola grabbed her hand, making her flinch.

“Wait. Krile, pray go on ahead, I must speak with Eva…alone.” 

“And you want me to talk to Master Matoya on my own?” the Lalafell protested.

“Know that I would not ask this of you were it not important.”

Meanwhile, Eva’s eyes darted between her clasped hand, Y’shtola, and Krile and back again.

“Uhh, what’s going on…”

Y’shtola released her firm grip and sighed.

“Come, we shan’t speak here.”

Krile sighed as well and finished what the Warrior of Light started and entered the cave as the illusion shimmered and revealed the door.

The Sharlayan Miqo’te lead the confused samurai around the corner and into Master Matoya’s garden.

“What’s going on, Y’shtola?” Eva asked nervously. She felt the fur on her tail bristle slightly, excited to be alone with her crush again. Her thoughts suddenly returned to the look Y’shtola had earlier on their way here and that excitement turned into nervousness.

“Is there aught you would like to share with me, or do you plan to continue hiding things?”

Eva was taken aback and her ears flattened. Hiding things?

“Wh-what do you mean?”

“Are you a Dark Knight?”

Her face paled and a knot twisted in her stomach. 

“I-I don’t kno “ she stuttered but was silenced when she saw anger flash through the elder Scion’s eyes.

“Why have you been lying to us?”

Eva felt her eyes begin to well up but forced them shut before tears could form. It felt like she was being accused. Rightfully so, but it hurt, doubly so coming from the object of her affection.

“I’m not lying! I don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“Don’t give me that! Don’t even try with me. I don’t have to see you to know when you are lying. I know you better than that.” The conjurer’s voice was that of a rebuking parent which pinched a nerve that had long since been dormant. Memories of a life purposely forgotten flooded back and Eva felt overwhelmed. 

She doesn’t have to see me…? So that thing I overheard last time we were here… 

“Don’t talk to me like my foster parents!” she shouted in anger. “And I’m not the only one with secrets, Y’shtola! When did you become blind, huh!? And don’t give me that bullshit that we didn’t NEED to know, or, or that it didn’t CONCERN US or whatever excuse you had come up with already! I’m sick of watching you suffer just to protect someone else! I care about you…” her voice cracked.

Y’shtola’s gaze shifted downwards and she pressed her lips together, her expression betraying melancholy. 

“…”

Her silence only fueled Eva’s hurt, but she continued, “I heard what Master Matoya said last time we were here, you know? And don’t even pretend to think I wouldn’t notice right away in Gridania.” She took a shuddering breath. “How did you even find out about Fray and the abyss…”

Y’shtola blinked in surprise upon hearing an unfamiliar name.

Oh, perhaps she doesn’t know everything quite yet. Seven hells… 

“Eva…please.” Y’shtola slowly raised a hand and tenderly placed three fingers on the Warrior of Light's chest right above her heart, the conjurer's foggy pale eyes piercing through her soul. “I saw it. It was right here, a cloud of blackness…I was concerned for you.” Eva felt the fingers brush down and depart, her heart threatening to burst out her chest from a mixture of emotions. Fear…desire…confusion… 

“I…” the Warrior of Light was stunned, and she looked away, a few tears escaping their hold.

“You can trust us. You can trust me. You need to trust me.” Y’shtola’s expression softened, perhaps out of pity. Perhaps empathy. Eva had a hard time seeing through her glassy vision, but she did not need vision to feel her hands being taken in another’s and lifted to her own chest. Y’shtola squeezed them gently, her tanned fingers wrapping tenderly around Eva’s palms. They locked eyes for a moment, and the Warrior of Light inhaled sharply. She could not take her gaze off her Y'shtola's milky eyes. Though they were blind, she could feel a sharpness behind them. Y'shtola could see her as she really was. An unadulterated view of her soul.

“I don’t need the gift of sight to see how special you are, Eva…” she leaned in forward until her forehead rested on forehead. “I will keep naught from you, if you promise to do the same for me,” she whispered.

“Okay,” Eva breathed shakily, overwhelmed by how close she was. The scent of lilies and lavender wafted over her and made it difficult for her to think clearly and she couldn't help but notice how soft her hands were.

 

“Ahhh, so this is what you two would rather do than greet an old friend.” 

Y’shtola pulled away slowly and released Eva’s hands which dropped limply to her sides.

“I knew it was foolish to speak in your garden, but I imagined we would have a little time to ourselves…Master Matoya. You know it is quite rude to eavesdrop.”

Eva followed her gaze to spot a rather unimposing tree frog sitting atop a fence. Well, it was unimposing until it spoke once more.

“Is it eavesdropping when you cry and shout on my property? Come inside, Shtola. We have located your secretary, and your short friend here seems quite cross.”

“Not even an apology…” Y’shtola sighed. “Shall we?” she lightly pat Eva’s shoulder before heading inside, leaving the Warrior of Light standing there dumbly, processing the emotions that were torrenting in her mind.

 

Chapter Text

The three Scions of the Seventh Dawn sat around the oak table in the cozy cave of Master Matoya, all silent save for the occasional swish of an animated broom or the ribbit of a curious frog. Y’shtola peered into the crystal ball that sat before her and saw Tataru, cold and afraid, huddled with a small group of other Hyurs and Elezen, tied with rope bound behind their backs. She was shocked at first that she was able to make out images with such detail but remembered the nature of the crystal. On their last visit, Master Matoya explained that it was a crystal of light, much like the crystals that Eva carried, but much older, and much, much more powerful, meaning the images she saw were concentrated masses of pure aether.

“Krile, can you show us more of the room she’s held in?” Y’shtola asked.

“Don’t you know it is rude to make demands of an elderly woman without first entertaining her with a pleasant greeting?” Matoya huffed.

“Oh? And not the eavesdropping of private conversations, is it?” she retorted with a smirk.

“I see a few weeks have done naught to temper your fiery spirit,” Matoya chuckled. “Go on then, Baldesion.”

Krile nodded and closed her eyes, channeling her focus and aether into the crystal. The scene shown in the sphere shimmered and expanded to reveal a wider perspective of the room within.

“And your tutelage served as the finest fuel.” Y’shtola remarked, warranting a huff out of a bemused Matoya. “Now let’s see…Krile, will you share with us the contents of the room revealed?”

“As you wish. The room is dark and unkempt. It appears it has been abandoned until recently, I still see cobwebs and dust and the sort. Hmm…there’s a handful of guards here—knight’s armor and lances. Nothing the Warrior of Light cannot handle I’m sure.”

The two Scions looked at Eva who was staring off into the distance, her gaze unfocused.

“Eva?” Y’shtola spoke.The Warrior of light blinked and looked at the pair with reddened eyes. “Huh? Yes?”

“By the Twelve, Shtola, what in the Seven Hells did you do to the poor girl?” Matoya chided.

“Nothing of importance to you, nor the task at hand,” the Sharlayan Miqo’te growled.

“Struck a chord, did I?” the old woman sighed. “No matter, you’ve found your quarry and have no more use of an old hag like me. Go on, then. Before you two arrived, Krile determined the location to be in the Western Highlands of Coerthas. Unless you would stay for tea?”

“Perhaps after our friend is rescued, Master Matoya,” the lalafell bowed. “Thank you for your assistance.”

Eva stood up abruptly, sending the wooden legs of her chair skittering abrasively against the cold stone floor. Y’shtola glanced at her in concern and watched as she turned to leave without as much of a word of farewell.

“Eva…” Y’shtola reached out to her and stood to follow.

“Wait, Shtola. A word, if you may.” Master Matoya’s tone made it clear that she would not be disobeyed.

Krile, seeing the sudden tension in the room made herself scarce, “I’ll return to Ishgard and continue pursuing our original objective. I won’t be much use in a fight, so I may as well put myself to work.”

Y’shtola nodded and sat back down as Krile made her way out of the cave.

Master Matoya’s eyes softened once she was confident the pair were alone. “You’ve fallen in love, child.”

The Miqo’te closed her eyes and sighed. There was no use denying it at this point.

“Rest assured, my feelings will do naught to change my priorities, nor am I wont to let them affect my relationship with the Warrior of Light. Our mission, first and foremost, is the security of Eorzea.”

“Twelve forfend, girl, who taught you this stubbornness?” Matoya chuckled, “Do not answer that. There is nothing wrong with indulging your emotions, Shtola. I may not be the young sprite I once was, but I dare say I am not without my regrets.”

“Then that is where our paths diverge.”

The older woman’s eyes turned downcast, “And what of the girl? What of her desires?”

Y’shtola fell silent. Am I being selfish? No, I cannot be. This is for the preservation of many. What is the will of two souls compared to the lives of millions?              

“I must go.”

Matoya waved her hand dismissively. “Then go. Save your friend.”

“No harm shall come to Tataru,” the archon muttered as she stood.

“I was talking about the Warrior of Light.”

 

As Y’shtola left the cave and began her trek back to Ishgard her mind raced with questions. What did Master Matoya mean by saving Eva? Perhaps she also noticed the change in her aether or did she mean something else entirely? The Miqo’te shook her head in exasperation. Would it kill the woman to speak exactly what she meant from time to time? And what of the confrontation prior to that? When Eva gave her emotional outburst, she shouted something about foster parents. Y’shtola painfully realized how little she knew of the Warrior of Light’s past. She could not deny that despite the tension between them then, what she felt, being close to Eva…

Seven Hells…

Eventually, the rolling green hills and towering Sharlayan architecture was replaced with the unforgiving Coerthan snowscape and Y’shtola trekked on towards her destination to rescue Tataru.


 

Eva stood solemnly outside the front of the farmhouse with her blade drawn, holding it threateningly to her side at a 45 degree angle letting blood drip off the point and staining the snow crimson. She sauntered to the front door, stepping lightly over the bodies of two Ishgardian zealots, laid low with a single wound to the gut. One of the Elezen men clutched at his stomach, writhing in pain, attempting to keep his entrails together in vain. He coughed, sending a mist of blood into the cold.

“Dragon fucker…” he seethed.

“They’re better company than the likes of you.”

Eva kicked open the door, breaking it off one of its hinges with a loud splintering crash. The sound of alarmed shouts and the clanking of steel came from below and reinforcements began to arrive. Before they came into view, however, the crunch of snow close behind Eva alerted her and she spun to face her adversary, raising her blade in a defensive position. She lowered it once she saw who it was.

“Hey Sid.”

“Eva. You look like shite,” the Au Ra knight towered over her.

Sidguru looked as imposing as ever, standing tall at 7 fulms at least. His armor was blackened steel with crimson cloth liner, shaped almost like scalemail to compliment his actual scaled face. His hair was a messy plume of white and his illuminous blue eyes were angled making him don a permanent scowl. He was accompanied with Rielle, a small blonde Elezen girl with soft features, but she kept an intense look of one who has seen too much tragedy.

“For once…he’s actually right,” Rielle said quietly. “What are you doing here, Eva?”

“The cult behind me would like to know too. How about we catch up later,” the Warrior of Light dismissed them and turned to face the enemy, but not before seeing Sid and Rielle share a concerned glance.

“They’ve found us! Get ‘em, lads!” the knight in front shouted, raising his lance towards the roof.

Eva sheathed her blade and stepped her right foot forward, squaring her shoulders and leaning in. She looked up, counting heads. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…11. The knights began charging at her, shouting their battle cries. Holding her scabbard at the base where the guard and the sheathe met and gripping the hilt tightly, Eva focused her aether into her blade and her legs. She felt a distinct energy, like a flow of warm water swirling in her veins, making her entire body feel like a feather. The first knight came within lance range. Now.

The Warrior of Light became a bolt of lightning, flying through the knights with such speed and aggression that there was a resounding CRACK, as her form displaced the air in front of her to the side in gusts. Eva stood at the end of the hall, with her back to everyone else, her blade held high, pointed heavensward behind her. After a moment of silence, one by one the knights fell with metallic clangs. Eva spun her blade, sending an arc of Ishgardian blood to spatter on the wooden floor.

“Well leave some for us,” Sid chuckled, walking through the carnage.

“You can take the ones in the basement,” the Miqo’te huffed curtly.

Sidurgu grunted in response, unsheathing his gargantuous blade off his back.

“You seem unwell. Stay here.”

“No, there’s no way I’m going to wait— “

Sid put a firm hand on her shoulder.

“Keep Rielle company and secure the exit.” Sid made it clear he would not suffer to argue with her, so she complied.

“Whatever, Sid,” she sighed as he made his way down the stairs without another word.

Eva wiped the blood off her katana and sheathed it before leaning against the rotting wood wall, crossing her arms.

“Is there something wrong, Eva?” Rielle asked bluntly.   

“No. Yes. Everything’s wrong. I don’t know what to think right now I’m just…ugh! I don’t know, Rielle! I don’t know!” she blurted with exasperation.

“I’ve only seen you this way once before…you know we’re friends, right? Sid might not say much but he’s also your friend. You can talk to us.”

“It’s…embarrassing.” She pouted, looking out the front door as the sound of conflict echoed from below.

“Fury…take me….” One of the fallen knights groaned.

Rielle walked over and kicked him in the head, knocking him out, turning to shrug at Eva who looked at her with surprised eyes.

“We’re having a conversation; he should mind his business. Anyways. What’s the problem? Don’t tell me you’re having boy trouble.”

“Boy trouble, ahehe... No, no—”

“Then girl trouble?”

Eva’s face turned beet red causing Rielle to giggle. “No waaaaayyy…”

“Shut up! It’s not that funny!” the Warrior of Light protested, cracking a small smile.

“Well? What does she look like?”

“She has short white hair, with messy bangs. She used to keep the sides of her hair in these little rings, but she lost them a while back but now it’s honestly so cute. She has the most pretty blue eyes…”

“Like yours?”

“No, she…lost her sight after using forbidden magic, so now it’s like a really pale cloudy blue. Her pupils seem faded but they’re…still really piercing…and her nose, it’s such a cute button nose…and her lips…”

“Gods, Eva, you’re badly in love.”

The Miqo’te pulled her scarf over her mouth, in a futile attempt to hide her embarassment.

“hhhhhhhhhhh…” she exhaled.

The sound of clomping interrupted their conversation and Sid appeared at the top of the stairs.

“It’s done. What have you two been gossiping about? Rielle is giggling, that’s a bad sign.”

Before either of the girls could respond, Sid’s eyes widened and he unsheathed his greatsword, staring at the entrance of the barn.

“State your business!” he shouted menacingly at the lone figure standing stark against the light from outside.

“You must be a Dark Knight,” a low sultry feminine voice rang out from the figure. She stepped in and the lighting revealed her identity.

“O-Oh. Hey Y’shtola,” Eva said guiltily.

Rielle, meanwhile looked between Y’shtola and Eva excitedly, realizing who she was.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The air felt strange. It wasn't tense, but it wasn't exactly welcoming either. Y'shtola concluded that it was just uncertainty that she felt, looking upon the three aetheric figures before her.

"After this, we need to speak about you running off on your own like that," Y'shtola sighed.

The smaller figure, a girl, based on her sillohuette, excitedly tugged on Eva's sleeve who was trying to hide her face behind a scarf. The largest and most peculiar aetherical body, and the one she presumed to be a Dark Knight, stepped forward.

"I take it you two are acquainted," his voice was deep and gruff. "I’m Sidurgu and this is Rielle. Rielle,” he repeated. “Rielle, quit staring."

“Well met, Sidurgu and Rielle. As the Warrior of Light mentioned, I am Y’shtola, Scion of the Seventh Dawn.”


"Eva was right, you are pretty!" she laughed giddily.

“So this is what you two were yapping about. I swear, Eva, I could hear your mewling while I slew the last of these zealots.”


Y'shtola was taken off guard with this, but her surprise turned into a smirk pointed towards Eva.

"Is that so? I take it Tataru and the other hostages are saved then."

 

“Sid just took care of the last of them, we can go make sure Tataru and the people aren’t hurt or anything now,” Eva said, breaking Y’shtola’s piercing gaze and looking away sheepishly.

 

Rielle was clearly having the time of her life, trying her best and failing to hide her buzzing excitement.

 

“Oh, Y’shtola, I’ve heard so much about you just a few minutes ago!” she grinned. “The Warrior of Light was just telling me about how flawless your eyes were.”

 

Eva whipped her head to stare at her, mouth agape and showing off her pointed fangs, prompting a stifled giggle out of Y’shtola.

 

“R-Rielle!” Eva protested.

 

“That’s not all, she was also talking about how your lips looked better than the finest Ishgardian Skybuilder’s Stew, just like the one she had at Ser Aymeric’s—”

 

“OKAY! TIME TO FREE THE HOSTAGES AND MAKE SURE THEY AREN’T HURT!” Eva shouted, grabbing Rielle firmly by the arm and pulling her down the stairs and into the basement much to her glee.

 

Y’shtola stood there in pure shock, feeling heat rise to her cheeks. All this time she thought that the Warrior of Light was angry with her; this was embarrassingly adorable…

She watched Sid shook his head and descend the stairs.

 

“It’s like I have two daughters…” he sighed.

 

The conjurer stepped over the myriad of corpses in the hallway and followed the Dark Knight to the basement. The cramped stairwell opened into a wider open room, judging by the way the air flowed. Based on her memory of the crystal ball’s illusion, and the aetherical bodies that were before her, she was able to get around without bumping into anything.

 

“Eva! Y’shtola! Oh, thank the gods!” Tataru’s scared voice rang out from the far end of the room.

 

“Tataru! Are you injured? Can you walk?” Y’shtola asked as she and Eva rushed to her side. Their other two companions began helping the other victims who had begun to chatter excitedly at their newfound freedom.

 

“I-I think so. Oh gods, I was so terrified, I didn’t know if you would find me! And when I heard that huge crash upstairs, the knights thought it was a dragon; if only they knew it’d be something much more dangerous that that!” her voice lowered, “But who’s your scary friend? He fought like…a demon and with a passion I’ve not seen ever in my life.”

 

Eva laughed, “Oh that’s Sid! Don’t worry, he’s as harmless as a kitten.”

 

Sid grunted loudly from across the room annoyedly and Rielle giggled.

 

“I see…” Y’shtola muttered.

 

“No, you don’t!”

 

The conjurer was so taken aback that she stared at Eva with her jaw dropped. Then she feigned hurt, looking at the Warrior of Light as if she had just slain a puppy.

 

“Eva!” Tataru whacked her on the shoulder.

 

“Oh, my gods, I-I didn’t mean—” Eva stammered, “I’m so sorry.”

 

Y’shtola could hardly contain her laughter any longer, and a stifled laugh burst out.

 

“Oh, enough of your fretting; I have come to terms with my blindness. You surprised me, that’s all.”

 

“Hhhhhhhh…” the Warrior of Light pouted.

 

Suddenly, the fur on Y’shtola’s tail bristled as she sensed an unknown presence by the stairs behind them. Through the chatter and shuffling of people in the room she heard a subtle, distinct sound. Wood tapping against wood, then wood sliding against wood…like an arrow being drawn against a bow…

 

Instinctively, the conjurer threw her hands out to her sides and a glassy dome of protection formed around the three Scions.

 

“On your guard!” she shouted, but the twang of released tension echoed, and the arrow let fly.

 

In an instant, the room became chaos. There was no impact against Y’shtola’s shield, and she dropped her hands to grab her staff. Tataru and the other kidnapped Ishgardians scattered for cover behind fallen wooden furniture and stone pillars.

 

“Bastard!” Sidurgu screamed.

 

Y’shtola heard the clomp and jingle of his blackened plate armor as he sprinted across the room with rage in his eyes. There was a crash as he threw himself onto the attacker and the two began to grapple.

 

“Shit!” Eva cried. Her sword was drawn, but she hesitated to act as she could easily injure Sid if she were not careful.

 

However, as it was only one adversary, Sidurgu quickly overpowered him and held him down against the ground.

 

“GRAGH! You son of a bitch! Out of all the targets in this room! You chose the child!?”

 

Child? By the twelve…

 

“Rielle!” Eva gasped, sheathing her sword and dashing to the fallen girl. “Y’shtola, please hurry!”

 

The archon was already by her side and quickly evaluated Rielle’s injury. The arrow had struck her in the side, lodged between her ribs, deep crimson oozing out and staining her clothes. The girl looked up at them with wild eyes as she writhed and cried out in pain.

 

“Eva, hold her still.”

 

The Warrior of Light complied, firmly planting her shoulders to the floor. Y’shtola held a hand over Rielle’s eyes and cast a quick Repose spell, and after a few moments, Rielle’s moans stopped and she fell into a deep slumber.

 

“The arrowhead must be removed before I can heal her. You have a smaller blade, yes?” Eva nodded worriedly and Y’shtola continued, “Pray cut away the cloth around the shaft.”

 

“Seven hells…okay, okay. Is that good?”

 

Y’shtola felt around the wound lightly with her fingers, inadvertently getting them wet with blood.

 

“It will have to do,” she stated, before getting to work.

 

Performing field surgery with nothing but the aetherical body to work with was difficult, but this was not the first time. She felt around the shaft of the arrow and slowly slid her fingers down to the arrowhead, carefully tapping her fingers to ascertain the angle of the sharp ends. Once she was confident, she reached into the wound and grabbed the arrowhead by the flat ends with two fingers. With one motion, she twisted and there was a sickening squelch as the stone was unlodged from between Rielle’s ribs. She quickly tossed aside the bloodied arrow and held a hand over the wound.

 

Eva gagged, but held herself together for the time being.

 

Now that Rielle’s body was free of invasive objects, Y’shtola could focus on mending the wound. The conjurer closed her eyes and focused her energies to her palm. After a moment of focus, she felt the tips of her fingers tingle and trusted that her aetheric energy was transferring to Rielle’s body. In her trance, she heard Eva stand and leave, presumably to check on Sid and the others.

 

After a minute of healing, Y’shtola gently felt where the arrow once jutted out and felt the bumps of a fresh scar. She had done all she could do for now. She stood and sighed.

 

“I had thought the danger had passed by the time I arrived,” she stated matter-of-factly.

 

“Returning patrol, I’d wager,” Sid spat angrily, but his voice softened into that of concern, “Is Rielle going to be okay?”

 

“The danger has passed, but I recommend she be taken to a chirugeon nonetheless.”

 

He sighed in relief, “Good.”

 

The archer that snuck up on them lay on the floor against the rotting wooden wall, sorely beaten but still breathing. His aether looked familiar…

 

“Gods. That archer was one of the guards leading the investigation.”

 

“Huh?” Eva walked over, with an injured woman’s arm around her shoulder. “What investigation?”

 

“The one that proceeded Tataru’s capture. These zealots had agents amongst the ranks of the Temple Guards…”

 

“Explains why the fucking guards haven’t found shite until we came along. He must’ve been destroying evidence from the inside. And what do they have to gain from kidnapping these people? I see no nobles, only Mystes and other lowborn,” Sid growled.

 

“Try as I might, I fail to see the logic in this plan. I am inclined to agree with you. It does seem rather counter-intuitive to kidnap those that hold little influence over the Ishgardian government. ‘Lest that was not their intention at all…”

 

“Well ain’t you a clever bitch.”

 

The group turned to see who spoke, and the injured archer sneered at them from the floor. Y’shtola looked at Eva who seemed to be trying her damndest not to throw the injured woman off her to lunge at the guard.

 

“I’ll cut your tongue off,” Eva seethed.

 

“I would expect nothin’ less from the Warrior of Dragons herself. Fuckin’ savages.”

 

“What is your goal then? Truly?” Y’shtola asked pointedly.

 

“To draw her out and kill her,” the man tipped his chin towards Eva with a conceited smile. “’Suppose it half worked, huh?”

 

“We don’t have time for this,” Sid said, hoisting his greatsword off his back and walking imposingly upon the archer.

 

“Stay your blade, Dark Knight! This man is bound to have a wealth of invaluable intelligence and will serve as a witness for…” she motioned towards room strewn with the bodies of guards and the small group of scared hostages. “…all of this. Let him play his role in Ishgardian justice.”  

 

“Ishgardian Justice?” Sid scoffed. “You’ve got to be kidding me. What of you, Eva?”

 

Y’shtola glanced at the Warrior of Light who stood there with clenched fists, shaking with anger.

 

“I know Ser Aymeric,” she finally stated through gritted teeth. “He’ll know what to do.”

 

“Ah, right, the Lord Commander. I shouldn’t be surprised, with you being the Warrior of Light and all. Very well.” Sid put away his weapon. “Let’s go, we’ve spent enough time in this hellhole.”

 

Eva found another able-bodied hostage to hand off the injured woman to and picked up Rielle gingerly, bridal style. She began ascending the stairs, but not before giving the guard a swift kick in the temple, knocking him clean out. Y’shtola sighed. Tataru and the other hostages were able enough to walk and they quickly followed suit.

 

“Guess I’m carrying the sod." The Dark Knight sighed. "You’ve got my back if he wakes, yeah?”

 

Shtola nodded, “I’ll let you know I sense a change in his aether.”

 

Sid raised an eyebrow. “Then let’s go.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

The hike back was cumbersome, and the rescued Ishgardian lowborn folk chattered quietly amongst themselves as the group trudged on through the snow. Y’shtola took this time to pick the brain of the second Dark Knight she’s had the pleasure of finally meeting.

 

“Tell me, Sid. What nature of power do Dark Knights possess? I’ve heard tales of warriors donning armor and weapons much akin to the ones you own and fighting ‘beyond the grave,’” Y’shtola mused. “Care to enlighten me?”

Sid grunted, “Aye. Those tales ring true. That ability is one of last resort, however. Using it when fighting alone is tantamount to suicide. However, it lets us take a few more bastards with us before we depart for the Seven Hells. Bastards like this poor sod.” He tilted his chin to the unconscious man he held on his shoulders.

“And the source of this power?”

“We have job stones, similar to other highly specialized warriors, so that’s how we learn the techniques. If you must know, our power stems from the abyss of emotions within ourselves. The very deepest and most repressed thoughts, feelings, and desires. It is a host of near limitless potential, but it comes at a price. I probably needn’t explain. Eva’s situation is a bit different though. Weird shite happened when she picked up Fray’s stone.”

“Hmm. She does have quite an abundance of aether…but the only pattern I’ve noticed from the job stones she acquired was simply the rate of which she absorbed the techniques and lessons of lives long past.”

“I don’t know. You’d best hear it from her, not me,” Sid replied gruffly. 

“And who is this Fray?”

“…” he stared off into the distance. “He was a brother.”

 

The rest of the walk they went on in silence. Eva was leading at a much quicker pace than the others, motivated by Rielle dozing peacefully in her arms. Eventually, they made it to Falcon’s Nest, the last bastion of Ishgardian civilization in the region. A sentry stationed near the entrance to the camp approached them with earnest.

“Halt! State your business!” he ordered.

“We rescue a dozen Ishgardian citizens and this is the welcome we get,” Sidurgu sighed.

“These people are in need of aid. We recovered them from a group of zealots, conspiring against Ishgard’s new order and plotting to kill the Warrior of Light,” Y’shtola stated bluntly.

“Gods, I didn’t realize there were this many that were kidnapped…” the young man muttered. “I’ll take them to our field chirugeon for now. Wait, did you say Warrior of Light? The same Warrior of Light that singlehandedly ended the Dragonsong War and established a new beginning of peace between man and dragon, that Warrior of Light!? You speak as if she were in our midst!”

“Um. Hello,” Eva said nervously.

“By the Fury!! My brother fought alongside you on the Steps of Faith! His tales of your valor and heroism alone were what made me enlist with the Temple Guards! This is such an honor, thank you for what you have done for Ishgard, madam.”

“Oh I-uh..,” the Warrior of Light smiled sheepishly, “No problem?”

“I don’t mean to interrupt, but we have injured and sick here. And take this fucker with you.” Sid roughly allowed the zealot on his shoulders slide off and crumble on the ground with a metallic crash. “You might want to tie him up too or the sod’ll stab you in the back again.”

“R-Right, I’ll bring him in and inform the commanding officer right away,” the guard said, recognizing the uniform that the zealot wore was the same as his own. “Just, thanks again Mistress Grisak, for all you’ve done.”

Tataru looked up at the other Scions. “I do feel a bit sore, I’ll go with them to make sure I’m all good and return to the Rising Stones as soon as I can!”

Eva nodded, “Okay Tataru, see you soon.”

The guard beckoned to the group and lead them away further into the camp, leaving the injured guard behind, presumably to get help dragging him in. The Warrior of Light still held Rielle in her arms.

“I think it’ll be better to take her to Ishgard to recover. We can get the best doctors there I think,” Eva said worriedly.

“No. I’ll take her. You two go tell the Lord Commander of this mess.”

“Oh, okay…” Eva carefully passed Rielle over to the Dark Knight who held her gingerly. “I’m sorry I let her get hurt. If I had been paying more attention…” her voice trailed off.

“Shut up, Eva. You know damn well this wasn’t your fault. Now go give your report and get some rest, it’s getting dark.”

The Warrior of Light looked away. “Whatever.”

Y’shtola cleared her throat, “He’s right, we should go. Come, let us away.”

Eva pouted, but complied, waving at Sid reluctantly. Y’shtola gave him a curt bow.

“’Till next we meet under the light of the Crystal.”

“Yeah. Take care, you two.”

And so, they left.

 

 

 

The two Miqo’te women stood within the walls of the Congrgation of Our Knights Most Heavenly, hoping for an audience with the Lord Commander himself, Ser Aymeric. Eva was nervous. It has been quite some time since they last spoke. He was the first man she had such an attraction to, and the person who made her realize that she was bisexual, though she still much preferred women…with white hair, light eyes, an affinity for conjury, and stop it, Eva. She refocused her thoughts. The fact that it *seemed* like Aymeric reciprocated these feelings even a little made it worse to focus when around him.

Gods, and now I’m meeting him with the love of my life, I’m not going to be able to function…

The Warrior of Light glanced at Y’shtola who was absentmindedly looking around the room, probably taking stock of how many people were here. Eva still did not truly understand the nature of Y’shtola’s ability to see aether and thinking about it too much hurt her head.

The Temple Guard they spoke to when they arrived returned and saluted.

“Miss, I sincerely apologize but the Lord Commander is currently hard pressed with his duties and cannot give an audience until tomorrow.”

Eva’s shoulders slumped. “Surely, he can make an exception for us, it’s really urgent!”

Y’shtola crossed her arms, “I suppose it’s fine to wait a day. You made quite the number on the zealots’ ranks, thus making it difficult for them to continue any sort of operation.”

“Yeah, but what about the mole? Or moles? We don’t know how many of them are undercover or whatever!”

At that moment, the door behind the guard opened and a tall woman in knights’ armor and blonde hair emerged.

“Ser Aymeric will see you now,” she said. “You’re dismissed, return to your post, knight,” she ordered the temple guard.

“R-Right away, ma’am.” He saluted and marched away.

“Lucia!” Eva exclaimed.

“The Lord Commander cannot rightly refuse and audience with the Savior of Ishgard herself. Forgive the knight, he is newly enlisted, and did not attach your face to the title. His bunkmates will surely reprimand him for his mistake tonight,” Lucia chuckled. “Come, he awaits.”

She began to lead them into the hallway towards Aymeric’s office.

“There is not a realm in Eorzea left where you are not a shining icon,” Y’shtola noted.

“Psh, undeserved recognition.”

This prompted a raised eyebrow, “Alright…Slayer of Nidhogg.”

Okay, perhaps some of the recognition is earned.

“Well, it doesn’t mean I have to like the attention.”

Y’shtola chuckled. “What am I going to do with you…?”

Lucia finally reached the end of the hall and opened the door to the left. She marched inside with the two Scions before saluting.

“Lord Commander, your guests.”

“Thank you, Lucia.”

Ser Aymeric’s soft-spoken but strong-willed voice was enough to throw Eva off balance. She gulped.

 “Friends! It’s good to see you hale and healthy once more.” He raised his arms in welcome. “Though, I take it you are here on official business. How may I serve you today?”

Eva glanced at Y’shtola who was looking back with an intense stare. She nodded, clearly expecting the Warrior of Light to lead the conversation.

“U-Um, it’s really good to see you too Ser Aymeric,” she managed.

The Lord Commander smiled warmly, seeming happy to have a distraction from his duties.

Eva continued, “We found the source of the Brume kidnappings. I went there with some friends, fought a bunch of guys who were wearing temple guard outfits, and rescued the victims. W-We think there’s still more in your ranks and wanted to inform you.”

“Temple Guards kidnapping Ishgardian citizens? For what purpose?” Lucia interjected.

“After brief interrogation, we surmised that it was a plot to assassinate the Warrior of Light. However, she proved too strong and it was they who met their end. An ironic end,” Y’shtola mused.

“Hm…” Ser Aymeric rested his chin on his knuckles, deep in thought. “I’ll personally oversee a full-scale investigation of our own forces. Lucia, I want you to be in charge as well. Uprooting a mole is a delicate operation; I need you to find the knights that you trust the most.”

Lucia saluted.

“As for the Scions…thank you. Had you not stepped in my office today, we would have been none the wiser and Ishgard would still be missing some of her citizens. Time and time again, you do our nation a service and prove your friendship with Ishgard.”

“This is my home as much as it is yours Ser Aymeric,” Eva said with a bow.

“Indeed. Speaking of which, I’d like to continue our dinner some time. It was so unpleasantly interrupted, and I thoroughly enjoyed your company.”

“O-Oh! O-Of course. I just, right now, I can’t, gotta..”

Y’shtola looked bemused, and Eva’s cheeks heated enough to defrost the Brume, her tail finding refuge between her legs.

“No, no, I did not mean this moment, or even tonight. We are both neck deep in our duties I’m sure. When next you are in Ishgard, give me a notice. We’ll make arrangements, if you are willing?”

“Y-yes! It was nice not saving the world…even for a moment.”

“Well, I will not take any more of your time. Scions, again, you have my deepest gratitude. May Halone guide you.”

The Scions bowed and Lucia lead them out of the office. The two Miqo’tes said their farewells and good lucks to the Garlean knight before returning to the plaza.

“So! What now?” Eva asked.

“It is getting late, perhaps we should find an inn to stay for the night. Oh, were you not a ward of House Fortemps? Perhaps—”

“N-No. I am a ward no longer…” Eva looked at her feet. She could not bring herself to impose on Count Fortemps anymore. Not when she felt responsible for the death of his son. Even now, it felt like his eyes were poring into the back of her head with blame. “I know an Inn. It’s right there, actually.” She pointed to the building across the courtyard. After a moment of silence, Eva looked up. Y’shtola was looking at her with concern. The Warrior of Light nervously wrapped her tail around her leg.

“Something wrong?”

“Very well,” Y’shtola sidestepped the question. “We can stay at the Inn. Oh, hold on, I’m receiving a linkpearl transmission.” She put a hand to her ear to focus on the message. “Yes, we are still in Ishgard… Tataru is safe. Yes… What!? We’ll return as soon as we are able.”

Eva looked worriedly at the conjurer as she concluded the call.

“Your Ala Mhigan friends are making a move. The Griffin has planned an attack on Baelsar’s Wall.”

“So, they’re actually doing it…gods, this can lead to another fullscale war…we got to go back! Let’s just teleport back!”

“No, you’re not in a state to teleport right now. I do not know what you did the last fight, but your aether looks almost depleted. And I am not wont to teleport for a while. Let us stay for the night and travel by air tomorrow when there is light.”

Eva sighed. She was right, of course. Using that technique earlier today was way more draining than she let on, but Y’shtola could see the truth. “Alright then…”

So, Eva and Y’shtola walked side by side to the tavern and Inn: The Forgotten Knight. Though this will be a night they will never want to forget…