"Come, my friend, walk with me in Thanalan and let us talk." Minfilia smiled at me and beckoned for me to follow her out of the Waking Sands. "You are but new come to the Scions of the Seventh Dawn and I am sure you have many questions to ask of me."
She was right. I had come to Ul'dah only recently, on the urging of Y'shtola, and I knew little of the Scions, the Primals, or the time before the Calamity. This company of Archons I now found myself in was something still new and alien to me, as was their mission. It certainly seemed that I had this 'Echo' thing that Minfilia had spoken of, but truth be known I had never given much thought to the Mother Crystal or what sort of a hand she might play in the world around me. The memories of my life before coming to these shores are a bit hazy, giving me only the vague impression that I was a fighter in some battle that meant everything to me, though I can recall little of what that might have been. My body responds readily enough to danger and the weight of a weapon in my hands, so I am sure I am no stranger to battles despite my inability to recall what they may have been.
"Worry not of our safety, friend, for Urianger has arranged a discreet guard to assure we are unmolested while we are out." Minfilia looked at me, searching my eyes to be sure I understood that we could relax in at least some measure. I nodded my understanding and matched my pace to hers.
"Are you one who is given to prayers? To the Twelve or even to Hydaelyn herself?" Minfilia did not glance my way as we walked, simply posed her question quietly. "I was not, once."
I made a small noise of inquiry, my hands clasped behind my back as I paced beside her. She seemed more introspective than she was interested in an answer from me to her question. After a moment, she continued.
"In the time before the Calamity, I was part of a different group of people, fighting for a different kind of freedom, and it left little time or energy for praising the gods or even for beseeching their aid. Sometimes I wonder, had I and others perchance made that time, had we been inclined to look heavensward, if the outcome of the events at the Carteneau Flats would have been different." Minfilia's voice was quiet for a few long moments before she continued. "I was bitter and angry once, after the death of my father, before Louisoix reached out to me. F'lhaminn gave me the warmth and love of a mother in those days, but I was young and had lost both home and family in a short span of days. The seeds of anger and grief, when held close and nurtured, turn fast into the fruits of bitterness and despair. After Master Louisoix learned of me and sent me a missive beseeching me to join others with my gifts, I found a thing to cling to besides my own lamented fate."
I wasn't sure what to say to her; Minfilia was opening her heart to me and I had scarce met her but a few days before. I thought perhaps I could hear the slight quaver of tears in Minfilia's voice as she talked.
Suddenly, the world around me dipped and twisted, causing my steps to stumble on the flat, hard packed ground of the Thanalan desert. There was a buzzing in my mind, as if a score of gnats had flitted through, and then I could see a crowded room that I dimly recognized as the Quicksand, the tavern in Ul'dah. The room was hazy, as if seen through smoke, but I recognized Minfilia. She was younger, with a smoother face and fewer cares obvious upon her posture, though her brow was furrowed as she looked at someone I knew to be Thancred. They were not speaking, but Minfilia was taking a parcel from his hand with evident curiosity and trepidation. She opened it to reveal a dagger -- wait, was that not the same dagger that Minfilia had recently entrusted to me for augmentation with materia by that goblin fellow in Thanalan? -- and a letter. Minfilia's expression changed as she began to read the letter and she all but hissed at Thancred, "What did you tell him?"
For his part, Thancred did not appear perturbed by her reaction, instead quietly saying, "Read on; all the way to the end. I ask only that."
It seemed to me then that I could hear Minfilia's voice, though whatever vision this was of her did not seem to be speaking. After a moment, I realized that what I was hearing were the words she was reading from the page.
It is foretold that on the cusp of an Umbral Calamity, individuals blessed with the power of the Echo will appear. During the Sixth Umbral Era, when the waters rose to swallow the land, the twelve Archons who stood against the darkness each bore this blessing.
There was a pause as Minfilia looked up at Thancred, who turned his face away without saying a word. When she lowered her eyes to the page once more, her disembodied voice continued.
The histories paint a fanciful picture of these gifted souls. Through countless retellings, the Archons’ deeds are become myth, their powers more akin to gods than men. However, there are two things of which I am now certain. First, their gift, the Echo, granted them the power to walk within the memories of others. Second─ You have been blessed with the selfsame power. How you choose to use your gift is your decision. You’ve no obligation to us, nor to the realm, come to that. But for better or worse, this is your legacy. You can no more run from it than you can from yourself.
The scene before me shimmered and undulated, the buzzing sound returning before the world slipped away from my grasp. When conscious awareness returned, I was sitting on the ground beneath one of the sparse scrub trees that clung tenaciously to life in the desert. Minfilia was crouching near me while some distance off a young woman I vaguely recalled seeing in the Waking Sands was standing in a posture of alert watchfulness, marking her one of the discreet guards Urianger had sent along with us. I shook my head to clear the lingering mist from my thoughts and turned a questioning expression on Minfilia.
"Are you well, my friend? Pray take what time you need to steady yourself before rising; I know full well how disorienting it can be to have such a complete immersion in another's memories thanks to the Echo." When I moved to climb to my feet, Minfilia rose smoothly and backed a pace away. "Did you see the scene I intended for you? The moment when I became aware of Master Louisoix Leveilleur and the Circle of Knowing. When I learned that I was not alone in hearing the voices and memories of other people around me."
I nodded slowly, thinking through the moments I glimpsed in that memory. So, it truly did show me the memories of others, then, this Echo that I have.
"Then you know that I was once as bewildered by this power as you are now. I knew then that I could hear the voice of Hydaelyn, the Mother Crystal, as well as see into the minds and memories of those around me, but I was frightened. Frightened and unsure of myself and of those I might trust. With that first gesture from Master Louisoix I became aware of a world beyond my knowing, and it gave me the confidence and will to find others like myself; like you. In the time before the Calamity, I trained others in how to use the Echo." She smiled at me, a light entering her eyes as she spoke. "But you have far outstripped anyone I have known before on a first lesson in using the Echo. Indeed, I do not think you shall require much teaching in this gift, as I feel certain that Mother Hydaelyn has laid her hand upon you as well, has she not?"
I blinked in surprise and then nodded. How could Minfilia have known that?
"You are destined to great deeds, my friend, I am sure of it. Come, let us return to the Waking Sands and discuss any questions you now have for me."
I had a hundred questions and I had none -- every question that rose in my mind seemed to have the same answer; the Echo will guide you, worry not.