La Mort du Fils de la Noble

A sudden, stabbing pain...
A sudden, stabbing pain…

It was probably the most damning condemnation of religion I’ve ever come to see in a video game. Final Fantasy XIV’s pope-analogue, the Archbishop Thordan VII, acknowledges to his bastard son, Lord Commander Aymeric, that the entire Ishgardian religion is nothing more than a sham. They’ve known all along that all Ishgardians contain the power of the ancient dragons. Religion is just a convenient tool to focus all that inherent power into the body of the Archbishop and his personal guard, the Heaven’s Ward.

As Aymeric, who has come to beg the Archbishop to reveal the truth to all of Ishgard (and thereby rob the Archbishop and the church hierarchy of their power), digests all this, the Archbishop gets up and walks out, to the delight of the Ascians beside him. The Ascians have been all this time advising the Archbishop on the uses of belief and crystals together to awaken primal powers in themselves and others. The beast tribes have long kept this power to themselves, but Iceheart’s misbegotten transformation into Saint Shiva (or rather, her own conception of what Saint Shiva might have been like) opened a door for all Ishgardians to take on primal powers. Even though all Ishgardians already have had the power to transform into “Aevises”, a smaller dragon relative, all along.

This means regular non-Ishgardian players probably won’t get the chance to transform…

Saving Aymeric from the Vault exposed the corrupt underbelly of the Church. With no reason to continue the charade, the Archbishop had no reason to stay in Ishgard. Count Fortemps’ bastard son Lord Haurchefant ran after the escaping Archbishop (along with the rest of us), but noticed one of the Heaven’s Ward guards transforming into a powered-up state and summoning a lance of light to kill me. Haurchefant leaped between me and the lance with his shield held up. And rather than push me out of the way or deflect it, he held it in place until it finally bore through the shield and impaled him.

It was a stupid death. The Heaven’s Ward joined the Archbishop on the conveniently arrived airship and flew away to look for the fabled Allagan fortress of Azys Lla, and we returned, despondent, to Count Fortemps to inform him of the death of his son.

Bismark gets the munchies
Bismark gets the munchies

The reason Azys Lla, the Allagan origin of primal power, hasn’t released its power on the world is that the Allagans, before they disappeared, thoughtfully locked the place away and threw away the key. Threw the key to the safekeeping of the Vanu in the Sea of Clouds, that mysterious realm from which we could not gather all the gatherable aethyr currents because we couldn’t figure out how to jump onto the slightly higher land that came maddeningly close to being within reach. Evil, evil level designers.

Once we’d done sufficient quests to gain the trust of the Vanu, they admitted they did not actually HAVE the key. It was buried on one of the floating islands, there safe from everyone. Everyone except the recently-summoned primal Bismark, a sky whale who sates his endless hunger for crystals by eating the floating islands that owe their buoyancy to a generous helping of wind crystals.

This causes the inhabitants of these islands, the Vanu, some small alarm, but what can they do? It’s not like someone could actually KILL the primal.

That’s when Bismark flies by and eats the island with the key. The Garlean imperials who’d been after us (in a force that included their new dreadnought and the emperor himself in person) took off in pursuit. Where did the Garleans come from???

Well, there was nothing we could do about that but gather six of our closest strangers and assault the whale. We would have to lure the whale to us, somehow… but even tying together two airships full of crystals might not be enough power, even though that seemed to work for Leviathan. We’d have to drag an entire ISLAND full of crystal around, an enormous lure for an enormous fish.

It took just two tries, not too bad for a new trial where most of the people had not done it before. The key to Azys Lla hung before us. Then the Archbishop swooped down, grabbed the key which opened and shone a light to Azys Lla. The Archbishop and the Heaven’s Ward went off to follow.

The Enterprise at Azys Lla
The Enterprise at Azys Lla

Well, it’s not like we don’t all have personal airships at this point, the Mage Cutters we used to assault Nidhogg in his Aery. But I guess those wouldn’t be enough, because NOBODY EVEN MENTIONED THEM. Instead, we were told to see if Cid could take us in HIS airship.

We got to Azys Lla as soon as we could, following the Archbishop’s trail, but it was shielded. The Heaven’s Ward and their Imperial allies had clearly locked up after they passed through. Cid thought that perhaps they could use an aethyric ram on the Enterprise’s prow to push its way through the barrier. But the knowledge of how to make such a thing was lost when the mage school in Sharlayan was disbanded by the Empire, and all the Archons were scattered. Most of the ones we know were killed in the aftermath of the Ul’dah betrayal, leaving us only with creepyelf traitor Urianger. And he’s both creepy and a traitor.

Of course, I as a player know Urianger is a traitor because he’s been seen consorting with Ascians in cutscenes. My CHARACTER doesn’t know this. Yet. But she’s pretty positive he’s creepy.

News has come from Tataru that the Archon conjurer Y’shtola may not be all dead, just *mostly* dead. There are signs that she cast a forbidden instant teleportation magic just as the sewers beneath Ul’dah collapsed, killing both the Scions of the Seventh Dawn (save we and Minfilia) and their pursuers. The reason the instant teleportation spell was forbidden was because it had an even chance of disappearing the caster forever into the Lifestream, there to slowly fade away into oblivion. This is what seemed to have happened to Y’shtola (though given the alternative was death by crushing…).

The Gridanian Seedseer and Y’shtola’s summoner guildmaster sister managed to gain the help of aethyric spirits to gather Y’shtola’s essence from the Lifestream and reassemble her mortal body. Taking her back out of heaven, basically.

Following the road to Shayarlan with Alphinaud and Y'shtola
Following the road to Shayarlan with Alphinaud and Y’shtola

Kasul and I chatted for awhile about whether or not she would once again adopt a mask before remembering that it was similarly-initialed Scion Yda who wore the mask. I think she’s still dead at this point. Though you know the rule about death — nobody is dead until you see the body. And probably not even then. Someone should see if they reappeared up at the start of the Ul’dah sewer zone.

After she recovered, she took us at last to the Draconian Hinterlands, home to Shayarlan and a treasure map I have been aching to follow for AGES. Though I can’t find it now that I have finally got access to the zone… probably destroyed it out of frustration.

Y’shtola’s mentor, the one who knows how to make aethyric rams for airships, was unfortunately across a river that had been blockaded by goblins! Not to worry, old frenemy Brayflok was there to introduce us to the new inhabitants of the old home of the Circle of Knowing. All we needed to do was a series of simple quests and…..

And the way would be open! Opened with bombs! Lots of bombs!

Goblins WILL be goblins, I suppose.

Goblins. 'Nuff said.
Goblins. ‘Nuff said.

I also made level 60 a few days ago. And finally finished the Paladin Heavensward job quest. The quest involves following the trail of the sword Oathkeeper, lost during the string of betrayals that tore apart the Ul’dan Sultansworn paladins. Well, not lost so much as “stolen”. By a traitor to the guild. Anyway, there’s been a guy trying to become a paladin by tracking down the sword and picking up the pieces of gear apparently left in various spots by the thief while learning what it means to be a paladin.

It turns out that the thief — one of the founders of the Sultansworn — was leaving these clues behind in order to find someone of good character to whom to entrust the sword Oathkeeper.

I felt that person should be me.

At the end of the quest, all the stories came clear, and I battled the new recruit and the old master to see who was Top Paladin. And it turned out to be me.

Oathkeeper was given to me. In my hands it sparked to life and emitted a perfect glow of power. It sung in my hands. I couldn’t wait to see what the stats were……………………….

also: ………………………………………

…. When my character decided to regift the sword to the current, flawed, master of the Sultansworn. It sputtered again to dullness in HIS sullied hands. He vowed to refine his spirit so that, someday, it could be as pure as my own, and rekindle the sword.

I. WANTED. THAT. SWORD.

Final paladin power? A new DPS finisher to the Rage of Halone combo. Yes yes yes you have been a nice tank all this time, but it’s time for you to learn to DPS now.

Yeah, thanks, game. Reddit told me that already.

We’ll start up again when Kasul hits 59. We did a couple hard modes for experience, but he’s still got a ways to go.

I leave you with the Vault:

Witchy Woman

The General is the Pope's bastard son. Niiiice.
The General is the Pope’s bastard son. Niiiice.

When I logged in Monday, Kasul was just finishing up his level 56 in order to start on the new Ishgard plot. The one that will finally explain just what the Ascians and the Holy See were up to. We just know it’s something evil.

Turns out Ser Aymeric is the Archbishop’s kid, and everyone thinks dear old dad has been behind his stratospheric rise to the top of the Ishgard defense force. The old guy’s vow of celibacy notwithstanding. That’s really for the little guys.

Anyway, Aymeric thinks he has enough pull left with Dad that when he explains how the nasty, bad Ishgardians betrayed the dragons (by going on an eye-pulling spree with them) and destroyed the peace. Not the other way around. Sure, learning that the entire existence of all your people is a lie, that every Ishgardian is descended from the original twelve noble families and not just some of them, and that everyone can become a dragon just by drinking some dragon blood — that might be a hard pill to swallow. But people love facing hard, unpleasant truths.

But just in case they don’t….

Lucia wants to arrange a rescue party to go get Ser Aymeric (who doesn’t actually NEED it, as far as we know). But we’re never going to get in the Vault (Pope Dad’s private rooms) through the front door… but some rebel leader might know.

Time to do some fetch quests to get a bartender to lead us to some other people who need stuff done and then, only then, reluctantly, tell us about a woman with raven hair and ruby lips and IMMEDIATELY that old Eagles song started playing in my head, which was lucky because very soon afterward, they asked if she had raven hair and ruby lips, or perhaps RUBY hair and RAVEN lips?

Heck no, she’s a witchy woman. Some translator was having a bit of fun.

… and then the quest required level 57, and Kasul and I had to pause and do other things to get some levels.

Keeper of the Lake
Keeper of the Lake

… so we did some random hard modes. We did Keeper of the Lake, Brayflox (Hard), Haukke Manor (Hard), Brayflox (Normal) for xp, then we duo’d Haukke Manor (Normal) a couple times to farm some Fine Wax for crafting.

Crafter 4 Life
Crafter 4 Life

So that’s where we stand at the moment. On the lookout for a witchy woman known only as “The Mongrel”.

Botanist to 35, Weaver to 35 after a lot of linen chausse turn-ins. Smithing, Goldsmithing, Alchemy and Carpentry between 30 and 33. Miner still 51, Armorer still 53.

And I made some Manor furniture :-)

Killing Nidhogg

That moment you realize your whole life has been a lie...
That moment you realize your whole life has been a lie…

It was a night of revelations! And dragons! And cutscenes!

So, so many cutscenes…

We Scions of the Seventh Dawn had long known that primals are actually created by the thoughts and power of those that summon them. King Moogle Mog XIV, we’ve known for a long time, was just a fanciful story Moogles told themselves before he was given form by those stories (and killed repeatedly by me, a fact that hasn’t seemed to harm Nina/Moogle relationships). The entire Summoner job is based around summoning smaller versions of primals under the summoner’s command.

Hraesvelgr, the luck dragon, admitted to not knowing who the heck Iceheart was, but she sure wasn’t the reincarnation of his lost love, Shiva. He went on to relate the story of how his sister Ratatoskr was ambushed by a group of Elezen ages ago. They took from her her eyes, which they then ate, granting all the people who would become the Ishgard race some measure of power. The Ishgardians, then, are part dragon — and can awaken their dragon heritage by drinking some dragon blood, turning themselves into dragons. We saw this happening in Stone Vigil, hard mode, where there was no explanation given at the time.

Everyone was appropriately aghast that when we killed dragons, we were likely killing transformed Ishgardians. Though why that should be more terrible than just killing straight-up dragons, whom we now know to be an intelligent race, I don’t know.

Staggered by these revelations, we decided to check up on the Sultana Nanamo.

Sleeping Sultana
Sleeping Sultana

We’d also known for a long time that the Sultana had not been killed that night when the Crystal Braves and the Immortal Flames had joined forces to betray the Scions of the Seventh Dawn and their beloved Sultana and deposed her with a sip of poison. The Sultana had wanted to dissolve the ruling Syndicate, abdicate, and form a parliamentary government comprised both of the wealthy, the commoners, and the Ala Mhigan refugees they had taken in. The Syndicate had a problem with this.

The evil Lalafell (but, I repeat myself) Teledji Adeledji had masterminded this, but he himself was betrayed by the evil Lalafell (redundant!) Lolorito. Lolorito had no ill feelings toward the Sultana, but wanted Teledji and the Sultana’s right hand man, Raubahn, out of the way. He had the sultana’s handmaiden swap the poison out for a sleeping potion. Raubahn, thinking his empress dead, flew into a rage and killed Teledji, but was not in his turn killed, though he was forcibly disarmed by his ex-friend, Ilberd. Literally disarmed. What I’m trying to say is, he got his arm cut off.

Leaving Raubahn alive was not according to Lolorito’s plan. After we tracked down the Sultana’s handmaiden and gotten the true story from her, Lolorito showed and promised the antidote to the sleeping potion, and the Sultana’s current location, if Raubahn would not only not seek vengeance, but say nothing of all these plots, for the good of Ul’dah. Raubahn agreed, and was at long last reunited with his empress, who awoke, unharmed and well rested.

Expect there to be more repercussions down the line as the Sultana still intends to abdicate.

Staring down Nidhogg with his own eye!
Staring down Nidhogg with his own eye!

That pause had allowed Cid, Biggs and Wedge to finish development on single-person flying craft called Mana Cutters, the only craft capable of piercing the magical storm around Nidhogg’s lair, the Aery. Nidhogg could not be killed by mortals, unless Estinien the Azure Dragoon could contain the dragon’s power with one of the two eyes that were taken from him in ages past (another cutscene explains how he could lose two eyes yet still have one remaining).

The Aery was an enjoyable enough dungeon, lots of moving parts, massive encounters, yet not too difficult for a decent group. I’ve done it half a dozen times since doing it as part of the quest, and sometimes it’s been torture. DPS checks in dungeons shouldn’t be a surprise by now, and you would expect that people playing high level DPS jobs would know how to do damage. One run, we spent fifteen minutes on the first boss because the DPS weren’t DPSing, as near as I could tell (Bard and Black Mage). Bard had insisted she was no stranger to the instance, even though the game claimed she was, and she didn’t know not to stand in the fire. Anyway. We abandoned that instance because the Nidhogg fight is a DPS check. Even though I like staying in low DPS, high health tank stance in random groups, I have to go to my higher strength, less tanky jewelry and stance and DPS my catty heart out to get past the timer.

Estinien shows up for the Nidhogg fight. It’s going to take him some time to get the eye ready to seal Nidhogg’s power, so we have to DPS the dragon down, then finally fight off the waves of attackers sent straight for the dragoon. This is the DPS part. If we don’t kill the adds before Nidhogg does his ultimate attack, Estinien won’t be able to use the eye to shield us from it.

But, all went well for us, if not so well for the dragon. Nidhogg was defeated, and Estinien removed his remaining eye and handed it to me. I then returned it to its rightful owner.

Lahabrea returns!
Lahabrea returns!

Meanwhile, back at Ishgard, Iceheart’s heretics attacked the city, but the Ishgardian defenders, already mustered to repel Nidhogg’s Dravanian army, expect them to be no challenge. The Archbishop believed the heretic attack will allow the Ishgard rank and file to look every more for help from the Holy See, and dismissed the council. Only then did the Ascian Lahabrea, the otherworlder responsible for the Garlemand invasion that formed much of the Main Scenario, reveal himself. The Archbishop had claimed that he had been just drawing out the Ascians for more information, but it becomes clear that, like Saruman before him, he had been co-opted by the enemy.

Since Lahabrea doesn’t seem too well-loved by the other Ascians, we don’t yet know if this is something he is doing on his own, or is a first step toward some larger plot. I imagine it eventually involves a primal.

Iceheart and the rest of the surviving Scions arrived in Ishgard just in time to stop the heretic attack before anyone died, with the news that Nidhogg was dead, and the war over.

There’s worse problems on the horizon. Lolorito had earlier shared that the Garleans had just completed work on a new super-dreadnought to replace the one that died in mutual destruction with the dragon Midgardsomr. All of Eorzea will need to work together or be overrun.

EQ Next Landmark still exists apparently

Tell me can I be your honey be, be strong...
Tell me can I be your honey be, be strong…

Every few years, I wonder whatever became of EQ Next. It was going to change the face of MMO gaming. Mobs that reacted to over-hunting or being left alone to become a bigger problem. Emergent events. A fully destructible world. All the old lore tossed away for bright shiny new lore. Simple control scheme for console play, but depth for PC players.

You know, the game with everything.

Landmark was the tech demo, a construction set where the developers could try out new stuff before putting it in the game. A place where the players could use the same tools the developer used to create anything they could imagine. If it was good enough, it could be sold to other players, or even find its way into the main game.

The last Producer’s Letter from June said they were shifting focus from Landmark to EQ Next, but it’s been radio silence since then.

To find out more about how EQ Next might be coming along… I headed into Landmark. I paid over a hundred bucks for beta access back in the day. Not the best money I ever spent.

I’d heard combat had been added. Itching for a fight, I ran around the ruined world looking for monsters. Ruined in the sense that all I came across were old, lifeless structures. The last time I’d checked into Landmark, there were still people running around, actively building things. This time it was just the odd castle here and there, occasionally a sculpture. My old builds had been stored as blueprints when my plot inevitably got repossessed, but I felt no real need to haul them out again. I hadn’t ever mastered the weird stuff you have to do to get intricate detail in builds, so everything I ever made was essentially Minecraft, smoothed out a bit.

I jumped down a hill and got the message that my armor was now ruined. Darn it! Fortunately, I had a bunch of other outfits in my inventory. I would have to be more careful, going forward. A couple joyful leaps off a ridge and I could be down to my undies. Not cool.

With nothing dangerous around in the overworld, the only direction remaining was straight down. I couldn’t find the building tools so I couldn’t build UP, you see. They used to be in the inventory but they must have moved and I could not find them. However, the PICK was right where I left it. I targeted the ground at my feet and started swinging.

After about twenty minutes I broke into a little fairy garden (video above). The map said, though, that I was still in the overworld level, and would have to dig even deeper to see the mysterious lower layers of Neo-Norrath.

So, I kept digging. Eventually I did reach the second layer, an ice realm, but continued digging failed to break through the ceiling into this second world. I wondered if the teleport spires could make this transition a little easier. Abandoning my journey to the center of Norrath, I returned to the spire and chose a local teleport to the second layer, and then the third.

The third looked promising. Reminded me a little of the fairy cave. I ran around and some fungus exploded at me and dropped a little loot. I saw movement in the distance, and ran over to see what it was…

Combat, in Landmark, is a swing attack and a dash attack. I guess my armor wasn’t up to snuff (maybe it had been destroyed somehow). I didn’t use any health potions because where would I get more? So I swung and dashed and died. I doubt I’ll go looking for any more combat in Landmark.

Landmark is a very beautiful, if empty, game. The animations are great. The creative tools very much reward those who spend the time to learn to use them in the unconventional ways that have become standard.

But… it doesn’t feel like EverQuest at all. Not one bit. No moss snake has ever kicked someone to death in THIS world. And half elves are not 49.99999% elves now, they don’t even exist. You are human, or you are a LARGE human….

I’ll check in again in another few months. See if the plots that had castles on them now are still there.