Night night, Nabriales

Light take all Ascians!
Light take all Ascians!

Last week left us with two plotlines vying for our time; the aftermath of Iceheart’s transformation into the primal Saint Shiva, and the continued incursions of the mysterious Ascians into mortal affairs.

Iceheart’s transformation was sparked by the war cry of an elder dragon. She hoped to deflect the coming war by renewing the original Saint Shiva’s pact with dragonkind — a pact that the Ishagardians, prompted by the Ascians, has been shredding. We defeated Iceheart/Shiva and ruined her plans… but at a high cost. The cries of the Dravanian Horde had awoken a powerful entity thought dead since the Calamity had rained down upon the land. And no Saint Shiva could lull it back to slumber.

Midgardsormr is back!
Midgardsormr is back!

As explained in a cutscene of which I had absolutely no memory but Kasul found for me, Midgardsormr was a legendary, nigh-immortal dragon, tasked with guarding Silvertear, a lake-dotted land of much power near Mor Dhona. It was also a prime target of the previous Garlean invasion, fifteen years back. The Garlean flagship, the Agrius, was met by Midgardsormr and his draconic subjects. They destroyed each other at the height of a terrible battle, causing the devastation that turned Silvertear into the wasteland it is today.

But, at least Midgardsormr would be a threat no longer…

The ancient dragon war cry had done more than alerted the Ishgardians. Midgardsormr, who had not actually died, but had been slowly regenerating, answered the call. The Garleans who had been secretly harvesting the wreck of the Agrius stepped up their efforts to rescue their old Magitek before the dragon could come fully back to life. Someone would need to meet this new Garlean threat and also find out what was up with Midgardsormr.

This, of course, would be our job, while the Crystal Braves busied themselves researching the Ascian threat.

We clambered through the Agrius wreck, defeating any Garleans we came across (and some drakes who had an unhealthy fascination with some stray explosive tech). We soon came face-to-dead face with the dragon himself. He showed us he was still very much able to defend himself.

Seeing that we were mystically defended by the last remnants of Hydaelyn’s blessing, he decided to test how well we would survive if we didn’t have it — if we weren’t Warriors of Light. So he casually canceled it. Hydaelyn had been silent since she helped us defeat the Ultima Weapon and Lahabrea with the last of her strength. Our last connection to the mother crystal was gone. Adding insult to injury, Midgardsormr resolved to continue to watch our progress via a tiny dragonling version of himself that would pop up from time to time (and also in minion form!)

So, Midgardsormr joined Ramuh as powerful entities who probably would eventually have our backs, but nonetheless needed to try and kill us.

We won the battle but lost the war. Midgardsormr would soon be regenerated enough to answer the ancient dragon cry. Hydaelyn was beyond our reach, and we no longer had her blessing. But, there was more bad news waiting us at our base in Mos Eisley.

Wishing super hard!
Wishing super hard!

When we got back to Rising Stones, we found the Ascian Nabriales casually toying with Minfilia. He was after the staff that Louisoix Leveilleur used to defeat Bahamut in the opening cinematic. Turned out the only thing stopping him from just taking it was… Hydaelyn’s blessing of light. The power that had defeated Lahabrea would stop him just as easily. The very power that Midgardsormr had robbed from us. Midgardsormr’s dragonling avatar popped in for a moment to remind us that we were on our own from here on.

Seeing that we no longer had Hydaelyn’s blessing, he realized he could just take the staff and be off. The Sharlayan wizard Moenbryda (who, we learned, was, like creepy elf Urianger, a student of Leveilleur) used her white aetheryte to ward him away. Thwarted, Nabriales decided to just take Minfilia AND the staff to the in-between realm where the Ascians dwell, and there take it from her without interference.

But, the wispy portal Ascians use to teleport didn’t vanish, as it normally does, immediately after the Ascian passed through it. Instead, it hung there, kept open by some power. We leaped through it. Nabriales was not happy to see us, but with eight of the heroes of Eorzea against him, we fended him off and rescued Minfilia.

He was far from defeated, and he met us again in Rising Stones, vowing to attack again and again until he finally possessed the staff. Maximum stalker mode. Moenbryda attacked then with the white aetheryte, imprisoning the Ascian, for a short while, in the aetheryte, enraging him. The only thing that can kill an Ascian permanently is the Blade of Light we used (to little eventual effect) to defeat Lahabrea, and the secret of the Blade of Light is lots and lots of aether. Leveilleur’s staff had the ability to gather large amounts of aether, so it seemed like a great time to put it to the test.

We focused and brought the staff to life, flinging its power into the white aetheryte that held the Ascian prisoner. That wasn’t quite enough, though. Moenbryda had been researching means to gather power from the copious corrupted crystals up to a couple yalms away. She used this new ability to grab crystal power from the corrupted crystals in the vicinity of the outpost and joined the stream of power flowing between staff and Ascian (who had by this time been forced into his real form of a sphere of light). This was the final key, and the Ascian — and Moenbryda — met their final end.

Well, Nabriales did. I expect Moenbryda will pop up again somewhere. Dying heroically in a powerful stream of magic power tends to get you an epilogue of some sort.

The next couple of quests seem to deal with the aftermath.

End of a chapter
End of a chapter

That brought us to the end of Patch 2.5. We have a couple more patches to go, and I expect them to wrap up Moenbryda’s sacrifice and deal with the Ascian response to the death of one of their own. I think we have come to the end of new pre-Heavensward dungeons, as the Keeper of the Lake dungeon wrapped up the last missing dungeon on the list of hard mode dungeons we need to unlock. Similarly, the Chrysalis, Nabriales’ trial, seems to be the last trial we’ll see. Not 100% sure of that. But, I always enjoy seeing a new dungeon or trial when we do our story night. It will be a little disappointing if we have to wait until Heavensward to get the next one.

While looking up the correct spelling for all these names, it seems as if our difficulty in getting a raid group for the Coil of Bahamut and the Crystal Labyrinth are keeping us from more plot. So that’s something we need to work on at some point.

Sifting Shiva

Shiva Awakens
Shiva Awakens

We knew we were going to meet Saint Shiva tonight, but we weren’t sure how. And it turned out to be a little different from what we expected. But naturally, we couldn’t get right there. First, we had to deal with that most enticing of all MMO situations — politics.

The leaders of the three allied Eorzean nations met in Ul’dah to discuss the uncomfortable revelations about the traitors in their midst. The Garlean Empire had been content to just fortify their existing strongholds in Eorzea until recently. Even after the destruction of their Ultima weapon, they seem eager to take on the combined Eorzean forces, and even the new Crystal Braves grand company is not slowing them down.

But, the mysterious traitor known only as “Ivy” has been leaking battle plans. The Garleans know exactly where and when to strike. Before anything can be done about the Harriers and the threat of their new primal, we must first unmask and deal with the traitor.

We are appropriately thankful that we can rely upon the Crystal Braves to have our back.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Crystal Braves!
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Crystal Braves!

… or maybe not. Gotta love how even the FFXIV writers are acknowledging that the various NPCs not only aren’t planning on helping, they never had any intention of helping. Kasul and I love cataloging the silly excuses the NPCs give for never helping out on anything important. Instead, just asking us to dig up some allies to take care of the insidious existential threats that face all of Eorzea.

Even given all that, we enjoyed seeing Urianger (AKA Creepy Elf) get a girlfriend! The Sharlayan Moenbryda, a tall Roegadyn woman, seems to have had some sort of history with our favorite Extreme Primal unlocker.

She’s not ALL fun and games, though. Summoned because of her knowledge of aetheryte magic (the sort of magic Y’shtola was supposed to have, Kasul remembered), she came with the latest research from the Sharlayan island. Iceheart had escaped us after Snowcloak by performing an untraceable teleportation which implied she had destroyed her destination aetheryte after arriving. Moenbryda had discovered a technique to allow a brave adventurer (and seven of her closest friends) to perhaps follow the lingering aetheric field. Or perhaps be destroyed forever.

The initial attunement worked well, with the aethyric energy being sucked into the rare white aetheryte she’d brought. White aetheryte can only store such energies for a short time (making it unsuitable to reform an aetheric “Blade of Light” with which to destroy Ascian souls), but it should do for this purpose — if we were ready to leave (or be destroyed) instantly.

Thankfully, the duty finder didn’t take long to make us a full party…

Slicing Shiva
Slicing Shiva

The white aetheryte pulse succeeded! We kinda expected it would, though I have to admit getting a notice that our characters had not made the transition successfully and were now deleted would have made us sit up straight in our chairs for a moment as we recoiled in shock and appreciation and unsubbed from the game.

Iceheart seemed a little surprised to see us, and tried to enlist us to her side. It’s attractive, to be sure. Feeling trod upon? Gather a lot of crystals together and summon a primal to your side, send it out to do your will against those that assail you. Instant retribution. All Iceheart really wants to do is to ensure the peace by destroying all that would chafe against it.

We couldn’t allow for that. And so she… summoned Saint Shiva… by BECOMING Saint Shiva! She went through a heck of a transformation and like some sort of Eorzean Sailor Senshi became… Saint Shiva!

Artist conception: Iceheart transforms into Saint Shiva
Artist conception: Iceheart transforms into Saint Shiva

The above picture was made using Sailor Senshi Maker 3, btw.

Well, all we could do then was to kill her. So we did. Though it appears lower in the list than any other hard mode trial we’ve done or attempted, her fight was fairly easy, not anywhere near the level of an Urth’s Fount/Odin. Though, again, maybe this time we just had enough dps.

With the Shiva Senshi taken care of, and Iceheart once again back to normal mode and vanished (leaving behind only some cryptic words of warning or hope), it was back to Mos Eisley where the unmasking of the traitorous Ivy had been accomplished, and turned out to be the second in command of the Immortal Flames, Ul’dah’s grand company (and home to both Kasul and I). We pursued her through Gridania and into South Shroud. She’d brought a company of Garlean military, and all we had were Crystal Braves. We were doomed, right?

This being a solo instance, Kasul and I had to split up and take them on separately. It took me three times before I both figured out the strat (kill healers and Magitek Death Claws and keep taunting with Flash and Circle of Scorn all the time) and executed it well. Kasul did it in two tries by killing some key mobs and chain healing our key NPC, Ilbrand (I think that’s his name).

With Ivy’s defeat, and the completion of a subplot involving an Ishgard prince finally extending an olive branch and clearing the way to bringing Ishgard back into the Eorzean alliance, we were done with patch 2.4.

We’re almost done with the pre-expansion plot. This final chapter undoubtedly deals with the fight against the Ascians and the full might of the Ishgard nation brought to bear on the primal infestation.

Still have lots to do pre-expansion, though. But the end is in sight.

Snowcloak, Fenris-style

Fenris
Fenris

Last time we met up, Kasul and I failed spectacularly on Odin. That wasn’t our fault — probably. I was second tank, and Kasul was the off healer. Our problem was the DPS in the group. Not a lot we could do about that. But I have to admit that the whole Odin encounter is a rush. Camera pulled back as far as possible so I could see the entire arena, just like for Leviathan Extreme. The patterns are clear from that angle. As a tank, I get priority heals, and as a paladin, I have Hallowed Ground and three other defensive cooldowns to keep me up. Sure, we failed, but I had fun. I think Kasul did as well.

But it’s nice to have at least one victory. We’ve had the Tam-Tara Deepcroft (Hard) on our “to do” list for awhile. That’s the one where the cruddy healer you meet during the early story quests — the one who let her tank die, then proceeded to carry his head around in a sack, driving away the other members of her group — decides she’s going to marry that dead head. And she’s invited all her ex-friends to play key roles in the ceremony. This was a super fun — and super funny — dungeon.

I should probably have written about those then… maybe I will, when we kill Odin for reals. I had this idea that it would be an easy fight… maybe if the DPS had been there.

About to meet the wolf. Kasul is on the left.
About to meet the wolf. Kasul is on the left.

Story night, though! Last time we met for Story Night, we ended with the death/defeat/diplomatic solutioning of Ramuh, the lightning primal of the Sylphs. We couldn’t rest on our victory for long, though. Wonder Twin (W.T.) had a bright idea that required our immediate presence in Mos Eisley.

See, there’s been a problem all along. The Scions have had to look to the three nations to supply incompetent minions for us to save. Why couldn’t the Scions grow their own crop of incompetent minions so that we could rescue people closer to home, without paying so many teleport fees? Brilliant! After W.T. got the leaders of the three grand companies to pay to make us go away, the Crystal Braves were born, and almost immediately started courting disaster that only we could avert.

W.T. graciously, almost bashfully, accepted the rank and title of Commander of this new, independent grand company. Kasul and I got no rank nor titles, but at least we were given to understand that no job was too trivial, nor too dangerous, for the Crystal Braves to completely foul up, requiring our immediate support.

Since we are now on Patch 2.4 and close to the end of the pre-Heavensward storyline, it became necessary to start preparations for the expansion. The fourth nation of Ishgard, long isolated from the rest of the Eorzean nations, had begun to open diplomatic negotiations with the Coerthan families. While unable to see their way clear to offer an alliance until Kasul and I pay $50 for the expansion, they offered at least to join forces against a new threat, the Harriers.

Iceheart. I have a wind-up doll that looks like her.
Iceheart. I have a wind-up doll that looks like her.

The Harriers absolutely loved the idea of the Crystal Braves. The Ishgardians and the Coerthans share some draconic affinities with the Harriers. Harriers will kill them if they have to, but with new Crystal Brave meat available… well, they stood no chance, and so we were called in, as we always are, to save the day.

The Harriers are led by a mysterious woman known only as Iceheart, and are suspected of hiding within a gigantic ice wall that was one result of the sudden, permanent freeze that descended on the land some time ago. Turns out Iceheart and her allies really like dragons. REALLY like dragons. REALLY REALLY like dragons. Their long-dead predecessor, Saint Shiva, had herself martyred by her ice dragon lover so that her soul and his could mingle in their descendants. That bond has weakened, and Iceheart aims to rekindle the bond by repeating the ceremony — or so I understand the plot.

I’m not an idiot. I recognized the name Shiva right away. We’re gonna have to kill her again. Seems Iceheart has stolen a bunch of ice crystals, and this is why they are so gosh-darned rare. Clearly she plans to raise Shiva once again. Shiva isn’t really a primal — she was a real person, and Iceheart’s plan is to resurrect her by using a modified primal summoning. What could possibly go wrong?

But first, we would have to find the secret way in to the ice wall — Snowcloak — and hunt her down.

Such Heroism.
Such Heroism.

We followed the trail of Crystal Brave bodies (how did we become so numerous so quickly?) to a cave where Harriers had been seen; heretofore unknown-to-be-in-the-area Yda leaped out of the shadows to show us the hidden entrance. The rest of the Scions and what remained of the Crystal Braves quickly made themselves scarce and left it to Kasul and I to gather up some random deeps and head into Snowcloak. There, we might find Iceheart…

Snowcloak is a hard-level dungeon with a few cool tricks. The first fight followed King Mog (Extreme) and to some extent Wanderer’s Palace in that we had to keep an eye on the number of debuffs we received while fighting the boss. Nothing too terrible.

Second boss was a Yeti. He was surprisingly weak to snowballs. Problem: no snowballs. Thankfully there were a bunch of rabbits bouncing around, who could become snowballs without much urging. Just get the Yeti to breathe on them. The Yeti MAKES snowballs… and yet is weak to them… When the snowballs get big enough, a quick shove is all it takes to send it into the Yeti, causing him a world of hurt.

Last fight was the legendary wolf, Fenrir. He summons icicles from the roof. Explosive icicles. Three drop at once. Two of them target players with rays as in Qarn, Odin and any number of other fights. The third shields the group from Fenrir’s howl, Garuda-like. We all messed up at least once, but Kasul managed to keep us alive, or at least rez the dead. And that was that.

Iceheart popped up afterward to explain her forbidden attraction to scaly, winged lizards. She then sent us on our way to explain things to the Coerthans and Ishgardians. We ended story night there.

We didn’t know anything about this chapter going in, but we’re pretty sure we’re going to be meeting Shiva next Monday. After that… well, we must be nearing the end of the pre-Heavensward story. I’m still quite far from getting all the Disciple of War jobs to 50. Ninja is in the early 30s; Pugilist is, I think, 26? or 21? Ninja, as a newer class, is extra, not associated with any achievements. I really should be focusing on getting Pugilist to 30, and from there, Monk to 50. I just have not yet connected with the class.

Did you forget me so soon?
Did you forget me so soon?

Who moo? Ramuh.

Moo?
Moo?

What I don’t get is why the sylph primal, Ramuh, is some old human. All the others we’ve seen so far, save King Mog, are the embodiment of primal forces. This guy looks like the Winter Wizard.

Anyway. The first chapter of this new patch jumps right in with the aftermath of the Scions giving refuge to the Domans in Mos Eisley. Seems the Ala Mhigan refugees camped outside Ul’dah feel they should get a homeland as well. The plan, it turns out, is to ship them all to the Carteneau Flats, home to the Frontline PvP arena. Carteneau Flats was ground zero for the Calamity, where the Red Moon touched down on Eorzea and exploded, freeing Bahamut. I enjoy the occasional PvP match in Carteneau, but Kasul vehemently detests PvP. We both wondered (and still do) if we’re going to have to do PvP to finish this module — it IS the one where the Frontline PvP was first introduced.

I’m more hoping that we get to see the zone outside of its PvP context. There’s a lot of ruins in there that never really get used during PvP.

That plot continued on just long enough to expose the Lalafel traitor within Ul’dah’s ruling Syndicate. We were called away then to deal with the rising of a new threat. Renegade sylphs had summoned their primal, Ramuh, in order to keep the Ala Mhigan refugees who’d wandered into the Black Shroud from taking their lands. We Scions had managed to keep the sylphs from summoning Ramuh previously, but clearly this new refugee threat had pushed things past the tipping point.

Since the sylphs aren’t inherently evil, there was still a chance diplomacy could solve this problem. Maybe we could… negotiate with Ramuh!

After some quests which let us hit Thancred a few times (always fun), we reached Ramuh’s summoning point and came face to face with the Lord of Levin. Though angry at first, when he learned of the trust we’d been given by the good sylphs, he relented. He understood, at last, that not every human came to him looking to fight him or to kill his people.

Kasul and I were shocked. NOT having to fight a primal? Diplomacy… working?

Yup. Diplomacy worked. But to seal the deal, continued Ramuh, we would have to fight and kill him.

(insert record scratch sound here).

I really need to go carefully watch this cutscene again, I think. I am not 100% sure how we got from us showing Ramuh the crystal entrusted to us by the good sylph, to having to kill him in order to establish our bona fides. So we joined a duty to kill him. Wiped once because “kill the adds” was an unfamiliar concept to some people apparently. Kasul went in as dps instead of healing because I queued us up just a little too quickly; I was a paladin, as usual, but was pretty useless as offtank. Not really a lot for the offtank to do, aside from suggesting people kill the adds on our second foray.

Ramuh thanked us afterward, as he dissipated, for showing him that we had the strength not to kill… or something… I was still a little confused. I thought we WEREN’T going to fight? The after-fight gave us a glimpse of the Ascian council becoming concerned that we mortals were getting entirely too comfortable killing primals. Creepy elf Urianger confirmed that our primal kills had given the Scions enough information to give some hope that the Ascians could be trapped, bodiless, forever, in the timeless realm between life and death.

We stopped the story there. Kasul went on to reach level 50 leather worker, and I went on to reach level 50 bard. I immediately queued up for a “Main Scenario” run. I usually do this as dragoon, but bard worked out well. The running song was a big help on the huge Castrum Meridianum map, the magic resist debuff song a decent boost on some of the larger fights (and the rain of arrows AE no slouch either). I was able to keep the missile loaders pretty safe from my perch at the last fight, and… pretty darn easy mode, all things said. I still appreciate the sheer physicality of the dragoon, though. And, right up there fighting with the tanks, people remember you and give you commendations. I was arguably more help to the raid as a bard, but nobody noticed.

The storyline quests had been pretty free with high level jewelry and weapons; combined with the ilevel 90 gear from the bard quest, and the ilevel 120 bp I had previously bought because I was capped on tomes, I didn’t need to immediately buy any new gear to make the bard pre-Heavensward endgame ready.

Kasul figures we have about a patch and a half of content before we start on Heavensward. I’m still hoping to get Ninja and Monk to 50 to get that achievement before we go. Kasul will have gotten the corresponding one for the Disciples of Magic, and probably the one for gathering professions as well.

Still loving the story. I am really going to have to unlock the Bahamut’s Coils, though — there’s weapon stuff I need there.