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#ffxiv write

Maybe you’ll wanna give me kisses sweet,
But only on one night with no repeat…”

Maddie watched Darien sashay–there was really no other word for it–around the limited kitchen space. He was humming.

“Do that a lot, do you?”

“Yes,” he said, without looking up from the cutting board, head still bobbing slightly. He didn’t sound the least bit embarrassed. “It’s good music, it’s supposed to make you want to move.”

She rolled her eyes.

“I heard that,” he said–still not looking up.

Maddie pushed herself up off the couch and made her way into the kitchen, squeezing in behind him and wrapping her arms loosely around his waist.

“Kind of a sappy song, isn’t it?”

He wiped his hands with a nearby dishcloth, tossed it aside, and turned–all without breaking her embrace–and wrapped his arms around her waist in turn.

“So this isn’t your incredibly roundabout way of asking me to dance?”

Her hips bumped side to side and she grinned. “Maybe.”

They dragged each other out of the kitchen. She bit her lip–he’d swayed his way out and was clearly trying to get her to laugh, judging by the way he kept peeking at her, half-smile on his face.

So, if you feel like givin’ me a lifetime of devotion…”

He mouthed the words as he slowly spun her out and reeled her back in, then raised a brow.

“I might,” she said. “You’re a bit of a dork, though.”

“Charming one though.”

She rolled her eyes again and allowed him to pull her closer. “Put my song on.”

He went over to the shelf and reached up, switching out the orchestrion roll. It was already out.

Drums.

The night we met I knew I, needed you so…”

It was her turn to sing along, striking a pouty-lipped pose, and he grinned. She decided she liked that.

So won’t you say you love me, I’ll make you sooo proud of me–”

She broke off as he grabbed her and pulled her in, his lips over hers. It was a long minute before they broke off.

“…yes,” he said quietly, when they finally came up for air, noses just an ilm apart.

Be my, be my baby…

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A big thanks for the warm welcome to this fandom, and to Moen Moen for organizing all this to encourage the FFXIV writing community in such an amazing way! 

I changed careers not long ago in the hopes of finding more time to write, but the pandemic changed all that, and now my work is in such high demand that I’m still impressed that I managed to get as much writing done as I did this month…in the past, I would never have been able to be anywhere near as consistent - especially this time of year. So all in all, not too shabby for my first go at this.

Here’s a master list of everything below the cut, and a quick link to everything on AO3. My personal faves are italicized. :)  

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Prompt 11:  Ultracrepidarian - FFXIV Write 2020
Characters: Viper @thedarknesssings​ ; Silvaire @roses-and-grimoires​ ; Bukeke @rinrin-rinalys

image

“Secariot.  How many times have I told you the right way to do this?”

Viper stared at the irritating man pushing at the crates and bags they’d just unloaded from the airship.  He and Silvaire spent a good hour under Keke’s barking to get the damn things unloaded in the most sensible way they knew.  Big stuff on the bottom and in the back, smaller stuff up front.  Nothing was damaged.  They made sure of that much.

“Big boxes up front.  Don’t want to have to go moving this shit around just to look at the heavier cargo.”  

That rose an eyebrow or six.  Silvaire and Keke joined him on the landing, after securing the ship’s hold, just in time to hear that bit of dumbassery.  Viper folded his arms over his chest and cocked his head to one side. Blue-black hair obscured his narrowing eyes.  

“I’m pretty sure, -sir-, that if y’did that, you’d crush the smaller stuff behind it all. You’d be moving…”

“I didn’t ask your opinion, duskwight.”  The man turned on him with a clear growl in his tone.  “Just do as you’re told.  Shaders aren’t paid for their brains.  Deliver my cargo wrong again, and we’re done doing business.”

Viper lowered a hand to catch Keke by the arm.  He saw that jerk forward of hers and knew perfectly well shooting a Wildwood in Gridania was not something that’d go over well in the least, even for a lalafel.  

Unfortunately, that meant he didn’t have hands to stop Silvaire from stepping forward with the last crate in his grip.  He extended his arms and blatantly dropped the crate on the man’s foot. His grin matched Viper and Keke’s in size on hearing the man’s strangled yelp of pain alongside the tinkling crunch of whatever was in the box. The amount of expletives the man knew were impressive, even to the former sky pirates.

“Oops, crate slipped.”  Silvaire stuffed his hands in his pockets and sauntered back aboard the airship.  

Keke snagged the bag of coins now dangling loosely from the distracted man’s hand, before he got any more bright ideas.  That was their payment for the delivery.  “Dumbass,” she muttered and headed after Silvaire.

“Looks like we’re done business.”  Viper clapped the man on the back on his way toward the airship.  None of them paid the man any mind when another round of cursing drifted up over the noise of wood breaking and staggering thumps.

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The sands of the Coliseum in Ul’dah were stained with the blood of competitors who had faced each other in battle. Overhead, the raucous crowd of Ul’dahn nobles watched and called out for more violence as they awaited the next match. The callers and promoters of the event had promised them a spectacle for the ages, a gladiatorial tournament to end all tournaments with the winner taking home a king’s ransom in gil and a contract from the Syndicate for an unannounced offer. Glory seekers and the power hungry looking to make a name for themselves had flocked to the tournament looking to earn the favor of the Syndicate; and by extension, the Sultana herself.

    As the contest wore on, a pair of mercenaries made their way through the crowd to the Gladiator’s Guild. One was a female Hyur with violet hair tinged with fuschia highlights that stuck out in striking contrast in the long plait she wore on this day; an appropriate style to go with the traditional armor of the Ishgardian Temple Knights that she wore. The other woman, a Xaela with pink hair styled in a distinct fashion that offered a bold look in comparison to her black scales, was dressed in a custom silver suit of armor that had been polished to perfection and detailed in intricate trim made to look golden in appearance. Both women carried a sword and shield on them, careful to keep their hands on the hilt of their blades as they made their way through the crowd as the city was notorious for their pickpockets. Though keenly aware of their surroundings, the pair seemed engrossed in casual conversation.

“You know we could have done this at the company estate or even at your estate in Ishgard, Lady Rosalind,” the Xaela said with a smile in a slightly chiding tone.

“Oh please, Sin, don’t call me that,” the Hyur replied with a laugh. “I reserve my title and full name being used for people I dislike. Tis why my ex and half the nobles in Ishgard I’ve met of late are required at my insistence to address me that way; my compatriots in the company and my friends can simply call me Rose.”

Sin chuckled as she put an armored hand forward to get past a cheering Ul’dahn socialite with a polite tone. “Excuse me.” 

She brushed past the woman with Rose behind her giving the socialite a nod before they came to a stop in front of the railing for a moment to see the spectacle below them. As the pair looked down, they were surprised to see a Hyur man with a medium build and dressed in leather armor with a pair of blades pitted against a much larger Roegadyn in full armor with an axe. Rose gave Sin a look of disapproval at the match as she folded her arms over her chest. The Xaela shook her head and looked at her companion with a smile.

“It looks unfair, but the Hyur isn’t weighed down by his armor. If he’s a member of the guild in Limsa, he’ll know to use his speed and agility to his advantage. Besides, that Roe’s armor weighs almost as much as he does from the looks of it; I wonder where he got it forged.” She put her armored hand up to her chin and gave Rose a pensive look. “The Temple Knights don’t have rogues in their ranks as scouts? I would think it would make sense to have a couple at least.”

Rose looked at Sin and shrugged in response. “I suppose we did; but I rarely saw them when I worked in the hospital in Ishgard. Most of the scouts I knew of were archers; well, at least the ones I patrolled Coerthas with were. Tis been a couple of years though, so I nae know if rogues are allowed in the ranks now.”

Sin nodded in response and continued to watch the match. As the fighters squared off, Sin seemed to be taking measure of the Roegadyn’s footing and watching the way he swung his greataxe. A smirk passed her lips as she watched the Hyur dodge the swing effortlessly and take to his opponent’s left flank. Without looking up, she casually waved her hand and spoke to Rose in a pleased tone. “See, told you. Say, you didn’t drag us all the way out here just to train so you could also meet your future spouse did you?”

Rose blinked and gave Sin a look of shock in return the sideways glance and smirk that now graced the Xaela’s face. “W-what?! Sin! I have nae intention of trying to find..”

Sin laughed and looked at her a moment before placing her hand on Rose’s shoulder and giving her a soft shake. “Relax Rose, it’s a joke; you need to lighten up a bit and not be so serious all the time. However, if the goal is to train, we should get to it; I have a client I’m supposed to meet this afternoon for the company.”

Rose gave her companion a look of relief and nodded. “Let’s train, and then I can go see Master Redolent Rose about some more training. I want to make sure I can pass that trial for the new guild you and Decima are putting together.”

“Rose, you’ll do fine; just do your best. Now come on, let’s get into the sparring area in the Gladiator’s Guild and…”

The sound of a woman’s scream pierced the din of the crowd. Sin and Rose looked at each other as the crowd began to murmur before looking down into the Coliseum. The Hyur laid on the ground with a large gash in his chest while two other men, clearly employees of the venue, had emerged to try and separate a now enraged Roegadyn and block him from delivering a killing blow. They blocked his path to the Hyur as they tried to calm him down while the Roe stood with his greataxe ready to cleave the men if they tried to stop him.

“I’m going ta kill tha’ godsdamned whoreson for wha’ ‘e said abou’ ma sister!”

The Coliseum employees looked at each other and put their hands out to assuage the man. One of them turned back to see that the Hyur was still alive, but bleeding badly while the other employee spoke to the combatant Roe in a somewhat terrified tone.

“L-look now, t-this is s-supposed to be a tournament, n-not a killing spree! The rules are to submit the opponent, n-not kill them!”

“I dun care wha’ the rules say! Tha’ shite is gonn’ pay fer wha’ ‘e said!”

Rose looked at the man on the ground and then looked at Sin, who was watching the Roegadyn with a furrowed brow. In a concerned tone, she spoke as her silver eyes trained on the dying Hyur. “That man needs help Sin, I can’t stand to see him left lying there like that.”

    Sin nodded in agreement. “That Roe’s temper is going to get those men killed. Come on, I’ll try to talk him down while you tend to the Hyur.”

The pair pushed their way through the crowd quickly and made their way into and through the Gladiator’s Guild to get to the Coliseum floor, taking the same path that the employees had used. Sin looked at Rose as they reached the floor and furrowed her brow. 

“You don’t have your staff or gear with you.”

Rose smirked and snapped her fingers to produce a small crystal that she pressed to her chest. In an instant she was dressed in her healer’s robes and had her staff in hand. She looked at Sin and pointed to the Roe who was now swinging his axe at the two employees with reckless abandon. 

“Now I do; you tend to the Roe, I’ve got the Hyur.”

Sin nodded as she and Rose veered paths taking their targets. As Sin approached the men, she drew her shield that was imbued with ice magic and kept her hand on the hilt of her sword. The two men had managed to draw the massive Roe away from the Hyur, but now they were the targets and Sin was on the other side of the Roe. Sin glanced at Rose, who was now kneeling by the man and had cast a healing dome around them so that she could work quickly to save him and protect them from harm, before she turned her attention back to the Roe. With a commanding voice, the normally irenic Xaela stood resolutely behind the man.

“Hey! I get that you’re upset, but let’s all take a moment and calm down. You’re not going to do yourself any favors with the Syndicate if you show them that you can’t control your temper.”

The Roegadyn turned around to face Sin and caught a glimpse of Rose tending to the wounded man. He ran towards the pair with his axe raised to strike in anger. “I’ll cu’ ye both down!”

As he charged, the sound of Sin’s enchanted shield hitting his right arm rang throughout the Coliseum. She quickly charged at him, putting herself between the Roe and Rose as she picked up her shield. 

“Those who make a peaceful solution impossible make a violent solution inevitable,” Sin said sternly as she positioned herself to defend his attack.

“I’ll cu’ ye down too, ye interferin’ wench.”

The Roe shook off Sin’s blow and raised his greataxe to try and split her in half. Sin quickly raised her shield to take the blow, covering her face. Rather than the sickening thud of metal on metal from the axe hitting the shield, she heard the Roe scream in pain as a bright flash of light surrounded them; though her shield blocked the majority of the flash. Behind her, Rose’s stern voice added to the noise of the crowd as they cheered from above.

“You can’t fight what you can’t see. Take him down Sin, I’ve got your back!”

Sin looked back and nodded to Rose before she took advantage of the man’s blindness and strafed to his left to bash his knee from the side to buckle it. The two employees blinked for a moment at the scene and ran to the conjurer as she finished stabilizing her patient enough to move. Rose looked at the pair and pointed to the wounded Hyur. 

“Get him and yourselves out of here, now! We’ll deal with the big guy.” 

The pair took the man and nodded, carrying him out. As they did, one of them called out to the crowd, taking advantage of the spectacle in typical Ul’dahn fashion.

“What a show folks! Rather than a pair of damsels in distress, we have a pair of warriors in our midst! Will they be able to overcome the massive Mountain of La Noscea?!”

The crowd cheered as Rose and Sin looked at the man kneeled on bended knee from Sin’s blow with her shield, still reeling from the pain of the temporary blindness. Sin shook her head and clicked her tongue in annoyance and looked at Rose, clearly displeased that the situation was being taken advantage of by the establishment. Rose shrugged and tilted her head as she gave a resigned sigh.    

“If we put him down, at least he can’t harm anyone. Tis free publicity for the company either way, Sin.”

“You’re right, let’s finish this fight; the first round is on you later though.” Sin said with a grin.

“I have half a case of rum that says you can’t finish him off in three moves.” Rose answered with a smirk.

“Half a case? You’re on.”

As the Roe started to regain his sense of sight, Sin and Rose took position to defend against him. As Sin raised her sword, the sound of metal hitting the ground rang throughout the Coliseum as the Brass Blades rushed in and surrounded the three. Sin looked at Rose and relaxed her posture in the presence of the soldiers. Rose nodded and lowered her staff, holding it in front of her in a relaxed position. The so-called Mountain of La Noscea looked around and dropped his axe on the Coliseum sands.

“Now ‘his is jus’ perfect. Godsdamnit.”

Two of the Brass Blades’ largest men seized the Roe and shackled him before escorting him out. As they walked out a masked Lalafell man came walking in and approached the pair. Sin sheathed her sword and strapped her shield to her back as Rose walked over and stood next to her. The pair smiled at the man as he waved off the rest of the Blades and addressed them.

“That was a much better spectacle than what that brute was putting on. On behalf of the citizens of Ul’dah and Her Grace, I thank you for relieving us of that boredom. Miss Faye, Lady Rosalind, you both certainly lived up to the reputation that your company has earned itself.”

Rose and Sin looked at each other and smiled before Sin turned to the man and smiled politely, speaking to him in her customary cordial tone as the face of the free company. “Thank you, Lord Lolorito; that is kind of you to say. We really were just trying to preserve the peace in the face of that competitor being wounded.”

    “Naturally, Miss Faye; peace through strength is something I can appreciate greatly,” the shrewd Lalafel replied. “Perhaps you will be kind enough to sit down with me this evening and discuss a potential contract I’d like to make with your company. You can tell Godwin that I would also like him to attend.” He then turned to Rose and waved politely. “I hope that Your Ladyship won’t be offended if the invitation isn’t extended to you; I’m given to understand that Master Redolent Rose is going to need you for a fitting this evening.”

Rose pursed her lips and smiled gently at Lord Lolorito. “I am nae offended, Milord. You are quite correct and it would be rude of me to presume any slight on the part of my late father’s closest friend here in Ul’dah.”

Lord Lolorito smirked at the Ishgardian’s polite response. “You are your father’s daughter indeed.” He then turned to walk away, only to stop and look at Sin. “I will see you and Mr. Fletcher promptly when the bells strike at seven.” 

Rose and Sin were left standing in the Coliseum as the crowd above began to disperse. Rose nodded to Sin and let out a relieved sigh. “Nice work, Sin.” 

Sin nodded. “You too; but you owe me a half case of rum.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Rose chuckled as she waved her hand and started walking toward the gate while Sin followed, smirking. “I’ll make sure you get it just as soon as we get back to the estate.”

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The group ran through the streets and halls of Eulmore. Everyone had been turned into mindless husks out to kill them or die trying, but they were little more than a hindrance when faced with real, seasoned warriors. Backed by the Exarch’s soldiers, the Scions had successfully knocked every one of their adversaries out cold and restrained them.

When Vauthry and the Lightwarden were overthrown, they would be freed of their curse. Or so Alphinaud hoped. He knew many of these people, and flawed though they were, they weren’t bad folk; he could not bear the thought that they were beyond saving.

*

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~~Here, have a handy gap for those not wanting to accidentally spoil this~~


Astraeus, Coeus and Anahit waited impatiently outside of the Bureau of the Architect. As always, Azem had gone ahead, summoning the three to meet outside once the Words of Lahabrea had had a chance to be spoken to. Not that they were complaining. None of them liked dealing with too many questions. 

“I wonder what troubles the world now?” Coeus was anxious as ever, adjusting his mask.

“Something big. I hope.” Anahit hopped from foot to foot, warming up. 

“Spoiling for a fight already? We only just got here!” Astraeus shook his head and gently stroked the head of the great cat that lounged at his side. Arroul purred loudly.

“Always.” She flexed her arms. “Never get much chance to in this peaceful life eh.” 

“Maybe we should be happy about that.”

“Maybe you should just go back and nap.”

“Hey now!” 

“What, do you resemble that comment?” 

Before Astraeus could retort he caught sight of Azem returning, eagerly brandishing a glowing red crystal held firmly within a latticed iron construct. “…Azem! We came as soon as we heard. What can we do? What do you need us for?”

“Good to see you!” Beneath the mask, Azem beamed brightly. “Need your help. Remember that island I told you about?” 

“The one with the volcano?” 

“Yes.” 

The three looked at each other. “…I thought that was all settled?” Anahit ventured. “You know…with…everyone evacuating..” 

“That’s the one! We’re going. Got my little friend Ifrita here who I think will help us out just fine.” Gleefully Azem lifted the crystal. 

“Erm-” Coeus rubbed the back of his head. “…Azem, weren’t we just…letting that blow up?” 

“Well, yes, that was the plan!” Waiting for no one Azem kept going, calling them over. “But then I forgot!” 

“…Forgot what?”

“The grapes, Astraeus! That’s my favourite wine, remember? I’m not losing it for a few centuries. Unthinkable!” 

The three gawped. 

“…Do you have a plan?” Astraeus dared to venture.

“Yes. Sort of!” Azem was already on the move, not waiting for them to catch up. “It’s fine. We’ll wing it on the way!” 

The three watched him go, for a moment speechless.

“….Grapes?” Anahit said, flatly. 

“Grapes.” Astraeus took off his mask to rub his forehead.

“Azem dragged us all out here…for grapes?!”

“You cannot be serious.” Coeus facepalmed.

“When is Azem not serious.” With a groan Astraeus patted Arroul’s side, encouraging the big cat to get up. “Come on boy. We need a better hobby…” 

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Ryne was getting exhausted. It had been hours since Ryosen had joined them—and E'nisse had also returned a short while back, while Olivier had left them to celebrate with his lover. Although she had managed to exchange a few words with him, he and the other adults had spent all of that time discussing the current state of the war in their home. It was intense stuff, but not being a native of the Source she was feeling out of place here. 

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The field of stars and memories that Ryosen passed through while making the journey to Norvrandt allowed him to reflect upon his life. All the hours of training, all the sword pilgrimages, all the hundreds of opponents he had beaten in ritual, bloodless duels. He had become one of the greatest swordsmen of his age. And ‘Saint’ they had hailed him for it. 

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Prompt #27: Interview - FFXIV Write 2020

Post-Calamity Jane: Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. I know you’re a very busy man, so I promise I’ll try to keep this brief.

X'rhun Tia: Not at all. ‘Tis my pleasure. By the by, has anyone ever told you that you bear a rather striking and uncanny resemblance to my apprentice, Sabaki?

PCJ: No, but if so, that would be a funny coincidence, wouldn’t it?

XT: Indeed.

PCJ: Tell me, what do you think so far of the story I’m writing?

XT: It certainly does takes some liberties with the truth, [laughs] I’d have to admit. But…'tis charming. Aye, quite charming, to be sure. However, I do wonder…

PCJ: Yes?

XT: Well, it would depend upon how it all ends.

PCJ: Fair enough. But if you could have your way, how would you prefer it to end?

XT: [grins] Happily, if at all possible.

PCJ: I think that can be arranged. I just have one last - more challenging question - to ask.

XT: Be my guest.

PCJ: What are your opinions on the somewhat lackluster response to these stories so far?

XT: Whatever do you mean, milady?

PCJ: Well, it’s 2020, so when it comes to the current state of FFXIV NPC popularity I seem to have missed the boat on hype. Maybe my timing’s a bit poor, with the favor of fandom imagination leaning heavily right now towards a certain younger Miqo'te ‘Seeker of the Sun’ Tia currently in the spotlight…

XT: Ah, that never made much of a difference, really.

PCJ: Oh?

XT: You do realize, milady, that statistically-speaking, 'tis largely your devotion that is carrying approximately one-fifth of my fanfiction on AO3 at the moment.

PCJ: [nervous laugh] I…hadn’t realized you’d noticed.

XT: And also, statistically-speaking, as a whole, a mere four score of tales of my adventures is but a slender fraction of that which compares to many others. I suppose if I were feeling particularly peevish or sensitive about it, mayhap I might attribute it to ageism.

PCJ: I doubt that’s it, given that the demographics show that the average gamer is in their mid-thirties.

XT: [shrugs] No matter. I do have some empathy, however, for your struggles. I imagine it must feel rather like you are attempting to single-handedly revive a dying order after many years.

PCJ: [silence] Care to finish this over some ale?

XT: I couldn’t agree more.

-
@spotofmummery
@ffxiv-writers
@ffxivwritings

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Rose stood quietly on the platform overlooking the destroyed remnants of the Puppet’s Bunker. Anogg and Konogg stood behind her, looking out over the wreckage as twisted metal fragments of the former android base stuck out in the impact crater that had been made by its fall. As the sun glinted off the fragments, Rose wondered how the pair of androids would take to losing their comrades; especially the unconscious 9S that had laid in Anogg’s lair before the android 2B took him and left. As she tucked her violet hair behind her ear and slowly walked toward the awaiting Pod, the sound of a flight unit flying overhead gave her pause. She quickly pulled her weapon of choice, a long white staff with a head that looked much like an opened orb with a crystal foci glowing with the colors yellow and amber as she drew from the wind aether around them to charge it. She looked back at the pair of dwarves and waved her hand back at them in warning.

“Anogg, Konogg, get back!” 

The dwarf twins, clad in their customary ebony and ivory robes, waved about in panic for a moment before ducking behind a large machine used as an access point. The sound of the black flight unit as it flew over for another pass and cut across the skies as it loomed over the silhouette of Mt. Gulg made the half-breed hyur/elezen grip her staff and train her eyes on the machine as she made ready to unleash a torrent of aether at it to bring it out of the sky. Her silvery eyes flashed with a mix of defiance and anger as some of her comrades had been wounded at the hands of the android known as 2P. She had determined that she would go back to the wreckage to look for other survivors; be they android or not. To their credit, the dwarves had refused to let her return alone and insisted on coming with her; even if their aim was to salvage more material for their use. 

She watched as the unit came to a halt in front of her and assumed a form used to attack the group she had been with earlier. The powerful breeze that came off the unit’s exhaust blew the dark red fabric of her robe around, exposing her black thigh high stockings and matching boots. Rose put a hand up to begin casting her spell, only to stop at the sight of the familiar blonde android. The flight unit came to a landing in front of her and blocked the path between the conjurer and the Pod. As it opened, the android 2B stepped out and walked up to the violet haired woman. She looked over at the access point where Anogg and Konogg were hiding, save for their faces as they peeked around the corner of the machine in curiosity. As the pair realized that they were being stared at, they ducked back behind the machine. The android turned her attention back to Rose, who had at this point relaxed her posture and casually held her staff in her hands, and shook her head.

“What are you doing here? 2P has been eliminated; there is no reason for you to return here,” 2B said in her customary cold tone.

Rose looked at the android and canted her head slightly. “I came to look for more survivors; both yours and ours. However, since you have my path effectively blocked for the moment, perhaps you will be kind enough to explain why you have returned here, 2B.”

The android stood motionless as the wind around them both blew her blonde hair and black dress about, revealing both the black visor over her eyes and the stockings and undergarments that looked similar to the ones that the conjurer wore. She cast her gaze back at the access point where the dwarf twins had emerged and stood looking at her curiously. 2B spoke as she turned her attention back to the hyur/elezen and took notice of the robe that Rose wore.

“I came to look for a part. Why are you wearing a YoRHa uniform? You are not a part of YoRHa or an android. It’s also the wrong color.”

Rose blushed and looked away a moment as she awkwardly shifted. “Um, well, I found it earlier and really liked it; but tis also a better piece of gear than what I had. I hope I don’t offend by wearing it.”

The android tilted her head slightly and seemed to think over Rose’s words. “No, but you do risk the machines targeting you with it on. I can’t protect you from that if you come across them and I’m not around. You should be cautious and aware.”

Rose nodded and looked at the flight unit a moment before she turned her gaze to the dwarf twins. She lofted her brow at them in quiet curiosity and turned her attention back to 2B. “You said you came to search for a part; I assume that is for 9S. Is he…is he awake? Is he alright?”

2B shook her head. “He is the same as when we left.”

“Ah. Forgive me, but wouldn’t it be easier to find the part you need in the Copied Factory like we did when we…well…fixed 2P?”

The android pursed her lips and shook her head. “9S is a scanner model; the part he needs to be repaired…,” she paused a moment and looked at Rose as she removed her visor from her eyes and revealed a set of beautiful blue eyes, one of which was hidden under her pale blonde locks. “I will find that part; this is my fight. I shouldn’t have let it get this far to involve anyone else.” She turned away from Rose and put her covering back over her eyes. “You should leave; there isn’t anyone in the Bunker that needs to be saved.”

Rose sensed the android’s distress over the situation and reached her hand out to gently touch her shoulder. “You really care for him, don’t you? 9S, I mean; he means a lot to you. It’s ok to admit that you care for him, 2B; but you shouldn’t blame yourself for what has happened. You couldn’t have known that the machines would…,” she said with a soft sigh. “I’m just saying you don’t have to hide your emotions.” 

2B stared at the flight unit a moment before she looked down at the conjurer’s hand on her shoulder. She carefully removed Rose’s hand as she knew that humans were more delicate than androids and she could easily crush the woman’s hand. She looked over her shoulder at Rose and shook her head. “Emotions are prohibited. 9S is an ally and vital to succeeding in this fight. Stay out of the way and let me finish this fight.” She walked toward the flight unit, climbing into it before looking at the trio. “Glory to mankind.” Without another word, the flight unit activated and 2B took off toward the remnants of the bunker.

Rose sighed and looked back at Anogg and Konogg. “She really cares for him and can’t express it; I can relate. Come on, let’s go see if there are any survivors; maybe we’ll get lucky and find something to help her in the process.” She walked back towards the Pod and took it to get to the next platform to travel down to the Bunker. The dwarves looked at each other and shrugged, following Rose to the Pod. 

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I’ve mentioned it before, but I love making up Miqo’te lore. And if there is one thing that all Miqo’te have as a single defining piece of their history - Seeker and Keeper alike - it is the Fifth Umbral Calamity of Ice.

When Mis’to - who comes from an old clan that has a strong oral tradition of stories -  speaks of the Fifth Calamity he refers to it as the Long Cold. Essentially a long Ice Age, those who survived the Calamity of Ice and the following mass migration along the aetherical leylines to Eorzea would have surely have created a rich tapestry of tales and mythology from what would have been an incredibly difficult and cruel time.  

Myths are wonderful things, because often a myth has in it a grain of truth that helps impart wisdom to another generation. Here I’m going to share one set of those myths I’ve come up with when looking at this period of time; specifically, around stories that would have helped a Miqo’te survive the cold. A modern Eorzean scholar could hear these tales and recognize them as an attempt to explain and recognize the onset and progression of hypothermia, and rationalize bizarre behaviors like paradoxical undressing and terminal burrowing.

This sort of stuff is very fun to research and think up.

But without further ado - learn of the shar’thok, these soul-devouring spirits that hounded the ancestors of the Miqo’te throughout the Long Cold.

Shar’thok - Spirits of the Long Cold

The shar’thok are deadly, invisible, untouchable spirits that followed the migrating Miqo’te, hoping to pick off the unwary and vulnerable to feast on their minds, their warmth, and even their soul. They thrived in cold, but could easily be warded off by keeping warm and properly dressed, and staying together in a clan. 

The fichsi’sa (f-hiss-si’sa) were mischievous but harmless spirits that would make a Miqo’te’s muscles dance; fichsi being the word for shiver. The appearance of fichi’si is an early warning that a Miqo’te should seek warmth and shelter, before the more malicious spirits arrive.

Dis’nenta prowled for a Miqo’te not wise enough to heed the fichsi’sa and would settle in a Miqo’te’s mind as their body cooled. There they would begin to devour their consciousness, making them confused, disorientated and irritable.

Left to dance undisturbed, fichsi’sa would continue to  feed on the Miqo’te’s heat and grow into fichkor’sa. Far stronger in this form, these spirits make muscles dance uncontrollably and in spasms, sometimes so much so that muscles lock and become unresponsive or even cause a Miqo’te to collapse. A Miqo’te overcome by fichkor’sa also risked the dis’nenta growing even stronger, reducing their state of consciousness.

Zyae’chau feed upon heat and as such seek out areas exposed or vulnerable to the cold, particularly the fingers, toes, tail and ears. An attacking zyae’chau would first turn the flesh red and tingly, then swollen and painful, until finally the attacked area was left black, and blistered. It is much easier to dislodge a zyae’chau if caught early and the exposed flesh heated back to warmth. The clamor caused by fichkor’sa and dis’nenta encourage zyae’chau to feed, but these indiscriminate spirits will attack anyone foolish enough to not dress properly in the cold.

Miqo’te not properly exorcised of these spirits could fall prey to the dreaded kayown. Kayown are especially cruel spirits that wait for a freezing Miqo’te to become drowsy and semiconscious. Then they would breathe fire into their veins, making them feel desperately hot and sweltering. They would then strip off their clothes in a desperate need to cool down, whereupon the kayown would possess them and take them to a small place to hide away and die, ensuring that they would never be found in time by their loved ones. 

The more feared spirits of all, the hala’mur were the strongest of all the shar’thok. They desired to eat Miqo’te souls but could not do so before the kayown had successfully entombed a victim. Instead they directed their lesser spirits to attack and isolate the vulnerable and foolish. Then, the hala’mur would claim it and devour the Miqo’te’s soul. 

A soul so devoured by a hala’mur became an inar’mur; a feeble shade doomed to eternally follow it’s kin, trying vainly to find its way home. On a cold windy night the inar’mur would call after their loved ones, unable to see them and desperately wanting to be among them. Young Miqo’te were taught never to stray from their fellows, for the tragic inar’mur was an unwitting accomplice to other shar’thok

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In the Eastern Shroud, a tribal Keeper walked along the worn path from the Bramble Patch to the Sanctum of the Twelve to offer her daily prayers to Menphina. Her white hair was pulled into a low ponytail, revealing her emerald green eyes that were a striking contrast to her fair complexion and the customary deep purple she wore on her lips. On her shoulder was a small bag of various items that she had brought with her to offer along with her prayers at the sanctum’s shrines for the gods. As the autumn breeze blew the boughs of the trees into a gentle sway, leaves in shades of gold and amber began to fall and drift down toward her. The Keeper looked up and smiled at the sight as the sunlight peeked through the veil of leaves in the canopy above her.

“Oschon is in a pleasant mood today and offers his blessing to my offering already,” she said to herself as she looked back to the path ahead of her. 

As she approached the gates of the sanctum, she could see in the stone alcove that the attendants of the sanctum were taking care of an excited couple looking to undertake the ritual journey in preparation of the Eternal Bonding ceremony that many Eorzeans who wished to be married engaged in. She smiled at one of the acolytes and waved to them as she attempted to quietly slip by the pair of women who were speaking to the main attendant, Claribel.

“As you both know, the rings must be taken to the shrines of the Twelve throughout Eorzea as you journey together and both of you must be present at each of the shrines when you pray. May the Twelve watch over you as you journey forth,” the young brunette said with a polite bow.

The couple looked at Claribel and then at each other and nodded. One of the pair, a bubbly and very excited Seeker with blue hair that was akin to the blue violas that the Keeper had seen many times before, looked at her Viera partner and beamed. “This is going to be amazing! I’m so excited; after we do this we can book the sanctum and make the arrangements! After that, we can go to the spa in Costa del Sol and pamper ourselves; I can’t wait!”

The Viera smiled and shook her head at her partner as she smoothed her auburn hair. “I get it, you’re excited; so am I. Let’s get going, we have a long journey ahead of us before we can do all of that.”

The Keeper looked at Claribel as the pair left the alcove and headed on their way. The attendant saw her and smiled, offering her a pleasant wave of greetings. “Ah, good afternoon, Miraan. Are you here to offer your prayers to Menphina? I usually see you in the evenings, so I’m a bit surprised you are here so early.”

Miraan smiled and waved back as she gave Claribel a nod of confirmation. “I am; I got up a bit earlier than I wanted to today, so I’m getting an early start. That couple looked very excited; it’s clear Menphina will bless that union.” 

“They do seem very excited, don’t they? Hopefully that excitement will grow into something deeper on their journey,” Claribel said with a casual wave of her hand as she walked over to Miraan and picked a stray leaf that had fallen from Miraan’s white locks. 

Miraan’s emerald eyes followed the attendant’s hand and she laughed as she saw Claribel produce the golden foliage from her hair. “I think they will; but time will tell.” She looked at the attendant and slightly canted her head to the side for a moment. “Claribel, when did the Sanctum start offering services in Costa del Sol? I didn’t know that was even a thing.”

Claribel blinked at the Keeper in confusion. “What? We don’t..oh! No, the young Seeker was referring to a spa that Master Gegeruju has recently opened up in Costa del Sol. It has become quite popular with the couples looking to relax after their journey while we prepare the sanctum for their ceremony. I’m told that Master Gegeruju is very pleased with its success.”

“Huh, it must be pretty nice then; I’ve never been to a spa,” Miraan admitted as she shifted the bag from one shoulder to the other. “What do they have at this spa?”

“I couldn’t tell you, Miraan. I’ve never been personally, but I can say that when the couples return from the spa, a lot of them have looked very refreshed and rested. Some of them even look like they have spent time in the sun or have new hairstyles. I assume Master Gegeruju must have Jandelaine working over there on a freelance basis.”

Miraan shrugged and gave Claribel a bright smile. “I wish I had the time to go to a spa; I would like to spend a day pampering myself. Menphina delights in all forms of love, and a day at a spa sounds like a lot of self-love.”

Claribel nodded in agreement before turning her attention to the sound of the gates opening and another couple coming in to see her. She looked at Miraan and smiled, waving to her as she walked over to welcome the couple. Miraan waved in return and made her way down the stone path toward the shrines. As the sun began to sink over the canopy, the soft glow of the lights from inside the sanctum could be seen. Miraan walked along the path as she thought to herself aloud.

“I think part of my prayers today will be for Menphina to get Nymeia to afford me some time to fulfill a wish. A day at the spa around others practicing self love sounds like a good day indeed.”

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Ezra stood quietly albeit nervously, within the dank cave which was lit by all but the smallest trio of candles which sat upon a table crowded with dusty tomes and tarot cards. He looked to the small figure before him, hunched with age yet so very imposing. Clutched tightly in her right hand was her staff which to the untrained eye, would appear to be nothing more then a gnarled tree limb. Crowning her head was a large pointed purple hat which brim did little to conceal the silver hair beneath but hid her eyes quite easily.

Ezra knew better though to let her appearance fool him. She was very powerful.

“The cards tell me you speak the truth…” She finally said and Ezra released a breath he did not know he was holding. “You are who you appear to be.”

Ezra couldn’t help but narrow his eyes slightly at the choosing of her words. It seemed to strike out to him but before he could pursue it, the old woman clad in purple shuffled ever so slightly and the young red mage was reminded of his visit.

“Master Matoya… My apologies for simply arriving unannounced… You see I traveled with great haste to get here and doubt even a moggle could have arrived any faster then I.” he prattled. “I was reading my grand fathers journal… And rather curiously discovered he had hidden with in it’s bindings a small note detailing items left in your care….”

“Aye.. That he did… The nerve of that fool, believing me to be his personal safe as if I have room to spare.” Master Matoya replied with a clicking of her tongue and a shake of her head.

The cavern she resided in looked very spacious however.

“Then I would very much so like to reclaim those items… They may be useful in my quest to-” Ezra was caught off.

“To hunt down the Ascians or further your families studies?” The sharp tongue elder said.

“Both…” Ezra said dryly, unsure of how she knew.

“You are startled…? Though in a cave, I still hear of the outside world from time to time… Besides… Your father once stood where you do right now wishing for my aid in his studies… This was before the stench of the Ascians consumed him but one could still see what was to come… Like flies hovering over a wound, the rot was beginning to set in then… Why should I help you now?” Motoya fired back.

“Because I am not my father…. I realized the threat those dark fiends represent…” Ezra spoke with conviction and anger.

“No… You are more like you’re grand father… He was noble… As well as a fool… He had ideas of grandeur that were ill fitting for him. He was a dreamer…” Motoya spoke with a odd softness which betrayed her character, her words not at all meant to disarm Ezra or anger him, but instead sounding as if she was stating a fond fact. “You are not your father… Nor are you the Warrior of Light… Going down this path will lead to much pain.. And much discovery which will change who you are… The cards revealed as much..”

Motoya then rose her staff high and brought it down with a thundering boom which echoed off the cavern walls causing Ezra to flinch. The room was bathe in a bright flash for all but a moment and in that instance, the old woman spied what she wished to see. Behind Ezra stood a dark shadow, transparent in nature with near all details faded save for a pair of crimson eyes.

“Ah… I see.” She said with a slow nod of her head as if confirming something she already knew. “Your grand father left several journals… Those pertaining to the study of the red as he loved to call it and more… Enamored as he was with the art of those mages, his original studies were that of aetheric currents…. Though not as informed as myself, he was rather talented in grasping the flow of energy through out this world… You may visit me to continue your own studies in between your travels… But let me make myself clear, you do as I say when in my home… He also entrusted a uniform to me as well… Heaven’s know how gaudy those things are… Lastly you will need a way of traveling these realms quickly… I think it will be rather fitting for you, I just hope you haven’t a fear of heights.” Master Motoya said as one of her magical brooms wandered by and started pushing Ezra towards one of the toads that inhabited the cave. The toad was dragging a chest behind it, seemingly filled with the items he was to claim.

“Youngling… Be careful of the name you wear and the dark fiends you seek.” She warned once more as she lifted her head just high enough so their eyes met in the cold darkness of the cave. “If this be the path you wish to tread I pray for your safety… Just be careful of what you wish for.”


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Ryosen tried to find a comfortable position to sleep in, but it was proving difficult. He felt the ghosts of the many wounds he had dealt to others today return to haunt his own body. All across his chest, his face, his back, and his limbs, he felt them like a white-hot brand. When today’s foes healed, so would their ghost twins. If they died, especially of the injuries he had caused, then they would become dull aches that haunted him the rest of his life. During the early days, on Doma, he had managed to fight almost defensively, keeping his enemies’ wounds—and therefore the reflections on his own body—to a minimum. Back then, victory lay in screening the retreat of his people, not in vanquishing his foes.

Keep reading

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“That’s him?” 

The Roegadyn nodded. “That’s him.” 

X’ruhn Tia adjusted his hat as he squinted out across the foggy Mor Dhona morn, the haze tinging everything with a soft lilac hue. He could just about pick out the figure in the distance, staring over the still lake. The elder Seeker furrowed his brow, stroking his chin thoughtfully. 

He and Loetwyb had been speaking early that morn, a rare moment to catch up with an old friend. Their paths had crossed several times in the course of their lives, and she had an uncanny knack for picking out those with interesting stories to tell. Naturally, when her eye had followed an older Miqo’te as he headed out into the dawn, he had to inquire. “Who is that?”

“Hasn’t told me his name.”

“Really.”

“Really.” X’Ruhn frowned. “So how do you know him?” 

“Pulled him half-dead off the battlefield of Ghimlyt.” 

The Miqo’te nearly spat his drink over the table. “…Come again?” 

Loetwyb chuckled. “Well let’s just say that when I first saw him striding across the battlefield alone sword in hand, I was either going to see a massacre or magic.”

“Let me guess. You got-” 

“Both.”

“…Both?” 

“Are you just going to echo me all night, old cat?” She smirked as X’ruhn snorted and shook his head, though her gaze soon turned pensive. “…Had a feeling when I saw him that it was someone looking to die. You don’t walk out like that intending to come out the other side. You don’t fight like that if you intended to live. No. He went out there to die, and he made sure that a man was going down with him. And let me tell you, it was magic to watch that massacre.” 

X’ruhn frowned, looking towards the door, still open from where the other had slipped through. “…But he didn’t die.”

“Made a hell of a try let me tell you. Made straight for a Centurio, cut down any fool Garlean that came close, then ran the leader through and held him down in the flames that burned them both. Wasn’t a soul alive by the time I reached him, save him. Barely.” Her gaze followed his to the door. “Not even sure what possessed me to go over. Needed to see the end of the story with my own two eyes, you know?” 

The old Miqo’te closed his eyes. ”…Except the story didn’t end…”

And so they had followed.

The Seeker frowned, one hand running over the elegant focus of Murgleis. “Will he even listen?”

“Who knows. But I suspect you, of all people, might know something of where to start.” Loetwyb turned to eye him. “I think he’s a good man. Honest. One that just needs to find a purpose again. And surely of all people, the one-time last remaining Crimson Duelist would understand what it means to start over from what seemed certain finality?”

X’ruhn chuckled and shook his head. “All right, all right already, I’m going over. Wish me luck.”

“Not wishing you shite, old cat. You make plenty luck of your own.” 

Shaking his head wryly he adjusted his hat before striding forward. Loetwyb was, as ever, incorrigible.

“Good day, friend!” he called out as he reached the other, adjusting his coat slightly. The man didn’t move, though he saw an ear turn in his direction. “A fine foggy morning, is it not, my fellow Miqo’te?” That got a slight huff, which he chose to take as an encouraging sign. “Might I have the pleasure of your name?” No response again , and that he’d expected. Stepping to the other’s side he crouched down on his haunches, wanting a better look at the man he was trying to win over. A Keeper then, dark-skinned and grey hair - well, what hair hadn’t been burned away. Poor sod. Wounds looked painful. Though not as painful as that empty stare in one silvery eye.

X’ruhn simply sat for a while, content to enjoy watching the sun rise slowly in the eastern sky. “I understand they found you out on the Ghimlyt.” Again nothing, save the slight flex of one hand. “Singlehandedly slaying three dozen Garlean troops and their Centurio with them.” He glanced over again. Still no reaction. Time to make his point. “…That’s the tale I heard from one who saw, friend. The finale, at least. Tell me thought - you meant to die out there on the battlefield that day. Didn’t you?” That made him turn, the Keeper flicking one silver eye to him, the other still hidden under bandages. “I thought so. And yet here you are. What do you do now, hmm?” 

“I don’t know.” The other’s voice was raspy, one hand gently running over the red neckerchief over his throat. 

“Maybe you would hear a man’s offer out?” X’ruhn got a faint grunt in response, and that would have to do. “I hear that you are quite the swordsman - and I can sense you’ve some ability with magic also. T’is rare to find someone with a knack for both. You could do well, trained in the ways I know. Might help you find a reason to start anew.”

“No. I won’t fight again.”

“Never again?” 

“I won’t.” 

“I don’t think that’s entirely true. A man willing to do as you did is not one to put down the blade so quickly.” X’ruhn tilted his head. “…I tell you what. Why don’t you give me a week. If you truly don’t wish to fight, you’ll know by then. And my curiosity will at least have been sated, eh?”

The Keeper hesitated, and for a moment, X’ruhn saw something flash across his face. “A….week?”

“A week. No more, No less. I’ll show you a little of the ways of the Crimson Duelists…and then you decide if you want more. Or nothing at all.”

Of all the responses he had expected, the answer was not a sudden laugh. But a laugh it was, and like magic that blank expression suddenly cracked, the other blinking rapidly at some unbidden but clearly fond memory. “…And I can walk any time?” he murmured, resting a hand on his brow. 

“Any time.” 

“…Why would you even teach me?” 

X’ruhn tipped his hat. “I hate seeing good potential wasted. And besides,” He smiled again, more gently. “…I enjoy bringing hope to those who need it.” 

The other shook and for a moment X’ruhn feared he had upset the man; but no, he was laughing once more even as he blinked away tears. “…Ah Menphina, why do you not give up on this stupid old fool,” he murmured, shaking his head. 

“The Twelve hate giving up on old fools, let me tell you.” X’ruhn smiled wryly. “Deal, then?”

“…Deal.” The other looked at him fully, the faintest hint of a smile on his face. “…So what do I call you, then?” 

“You may call me X’ruhn.” He got up and took that hat off with a flourish, before offering a hand to help the other to his feet. “And you?”

Gladly he took it. “…Mis’to.” 

“Well Mis’to my good sir, a pleasure to meet you. T’is my fervent wish that the ways of red magic suit you.” The old Seeker grinned again. “Your choice to make, of course.”

“…Red magic huh.” That one silver eye glanced upwards. “…Comes with a heck of a fancy red hat.”

Chuckling, X’ruhn brandished it once more. “Oh, absolutely.” 

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Standing in her company’s workshop, Decima stared thoughtfully at the hull of the airship and shook her head. The damage from the last venture where it had been shot down and crashed had taken its toll on the metal plating used as armor to protect the hull. A hole the size of an auroch’s hoof existed in the plating that had already been removed and laid out on the floor for inspection. While it had taken most of the damage, some minor repairs were needed to the wood underneath. 

    “What a mess; there is no major structural damage, so that is a plus. I’ll have to replace this armored plating and weld the seam of the new pieces to the existing plating to reinforce it. Good thing we have a supply of plating on hand,” she said to herself as her golden eyes turned from the hull of the airship to the supply racks in the back of the workshop where she kept spare parts. 

As she walked towards the racks, she slipped the top of her gray coveralls over her black tank top and zipped it up. She picked up her gloves and a pair of welder’s goggles from the workbench as she passed by; tucking the gloves into a pocket for a moment as she slipped the goggles over her head and around her neck. She shook her blue ponytail free as she did, causing her bangs to move and reveal the third eye on her forehead for a moment. Once she reached the racks, she pulled out four large pieces of metal plating and placed them on a nearby cart to wheel down to the airship. She pulled the gloves out of her pocket and slipped them on before pushing the cart down to the airship; bringing the cart to a stop as she grabbed her welding tools from the workbench.

“Hopefully there wasn’t any damage to the…” 

A heavy creaking sound rang out through the workshop as she brought the cart to a stop at the airship. She placed her hands on her hips and looked at the airship before walking the gangplank to board it. She slowly went down into the hold of the ship with a lantern to look and see if she could find the creaking sound. Upon reaching the bottom of the steps, the creaking sound turned into a snapping noise that rang out. 

“Godsdamnit.”

She approached the plume of wood dust that appeared from the area where the sound was loudest; raising the lantern to see that the deck beam on the airship had snapped. While this would normally upset someone, Decima stoically looked at the beam and let out a breath calmly as she turned to go back above deck. She cautiously walked off the airship and over to her workbench where she picked up her linkpearl and put it in her ear to contact the company’s overseer of coin. She spoke with an emotionless candor into the pearl. 

“Godwin, we are going to need to order a deck beam for the airship so I can replace it. We will have to use the ship the adventurers confiscated a couple of weeks ago until then.”

Without another word, she ended the conversation as she took the linkpearl from her ear and set it back down on the workbench. She removed her gloves and goggles and dropped them on the bench as she made her way to the door of the workshop.

“Time to go get a new beam; this time I’m getting the one I want and not a cheap version of it like I was forced to last time.”   

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Mis’to shuffled around the markets, trying to throw surreptitious glances at the flowers. 

Silly, really. He should just go up, buy some flowers, and be done. 

But were they the right flowers? Did Morgana like flowers? Did she like *those* flowers? Did he, a Keeper, look silly buying flowers? 

No, no one in Limsa was paying him attention. But he still felt like a fool, picking out flowers like some lovesick ninny.

Well, he was a lovesick ninny, but not the point. 

In the end, he chose a simple small bunch, a cluster of tiny blue and pink flowers that practically cascaded out of the bouquet.

Perfect.

Now to go and shuffle outside her door.

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The sun shone brightly through the leaves of the trees in the Black Shroud as the branches seemed to softly sway here and there under the cool breeze that had begun to take hold as the seasons began to change. Throughout the city-state of Gridania, the boughs of the trees were draped in shades of amber, orange, and red as the harvesting season began. At Mih Khetto’s Amphitheatre, a pair of figures stood on the stage practicing a performance. One was a young male Seeker with mint green hair and purple orbs and the other was a Midlander female with violet hair and silver eyes. The pair casually stood on the stage as the woman watched her companion.

    “Ok, now you want to step like this when you move, Rose,” the young Seeker said as he moved across the stage in a swaying motion as his feet stepped from side to side before turning on his heel into a full spin. The long coat he wore on his slender frame flared out slightly as he spun. He gave the woman a cocky smile and held his hand out to her as he came to a stop right next to her. “Go ahead, give it a try. You’ve come a long way since we first started our lessons, so I know you can do this. Just be confident in yourself.”

Rose gave the Seeker a soft chuckle to go along with a warm smile. She nodded as she imitated his movements; the sound of the heels of her black boots against the wood of the stage resounded softly as she gently swayed from side to side before she performed the heel turn that she was so accustomed to doing thanks to a lot of practice and the fact that she used the move in her spellcasting for an extra flourish. As she spun, the dark red dress that perfectly matched the highlights in her violet tresses flared out. Before she finished the spin, the young Seeker took her hand and held it over her head and spun her again before intentionally throwing her off balance to catch her in his arm. A soft laugh came from her as he caught her and held her in position a moment, giving her a cocky grin before he stood her upright.

“Vincent, you know your flirting doesn’t work on me; but thank you for nae letting me fall.”

“Yeah I know, I’m pretty great. Your moves have improved much from the last time we practiced. You’ve been working on the routine I showed you, yeah?”

“I have indeed. Do you think I will be ready for that gala in Ishgard next week?”

Vincent nodded and waved his hand nonchalantly before flipping his mint-colored hair. “Easily; you have been getting lessons from Eorzea’s next great star and idol after all.”

Rose rolled her eyes and laughed as she straightened her dress. “You know, if it weren’t for the fact that I know you can back up your talk, anyone who heard you talking would think you’re just a cocky kitty who is full of himself. Seriously though, thank you for the lessons; I have enjoyed them and learned much since we began them.”

 Vincent smiled and scoffed, “Let them think what they want, I don’t care; they will understand whenever I dance, I’m sure. The only opinion that I really care about and really matters is mine and my ladies’. Others will either love me and be fans or they won’t; their choice. But I didn’t ask you here to go over dances you know already or to talk about the opinions of others; this dance was just a warm up. Are you ready to learn something new?”

She looked at Vincent and raised a brow in curiosity. “Oh? What did you have in mind? Is it something for the gala?” She walked over to the other side of the stage and picked up a canteen of water; taking a sip of it as some children came running into the amphitheatre playing before they noticed the pair on the stage. They whispered amongst themselves a moment as they sat down on the benches to watch.

Vincent shook his head and took off his coat, revealing his toned arms and the black tank top he was wearing under the coat. He walked over and laid the coat on the stage next to Rose’s belongings. He took the canteen from her and put the top on it before he set it down and took her hand to bring her back to the middle of the stage. “A new dance I created, I call it the Gridania Shuffle; watch.”

Rose looked at him confused and smirked. “You created a new dance? Are you planning on debuting it when you do your next performance?” She stood and folded her arms over her chest as she watched him silently.

“Maybe,” he scoffed. “Take a look and let’s see if you can follow me on it.”

 “Alright, let’s see it then.”

Vincent created a wind orb and let it float just above the pair before he snapped his fingers and produced an orchestrion scroll that floated on a breeze of green aetheric sparkles from his coat to his hand. He gave the Midlander a smirk and put the scroll into the wind orb, using his magic to play the scroll. Rose immediately recognized the upbeat tempo and laughed, knowing it was the first song he ever taught her how to dance to. He wiggled his ears at her with a playful look before he began to move as if he were running in place; stepping in time to the music. Occasionally, he added in a double step back as he moved. He then looked up at his companion and scoffed.

“Watch carefully now, this is where it gets good.”

Rose tilted her head as she watched his legs and his feet move. Suddenly, Vincent transitioned into the side step motion that he had just practiced with her. As he did, he looked at her smugly and motioned his head. “Come on, let’s see you do it.”

She looked at him like he had just asked her to summon a primal. “Keep going, let me see it to the end first.”

He shook his head and took her hand as he brought her alongside him. “You can do this; stop doubting yourself so much.”

She sighed and nodded as she imitated his movements as he started from the beginning. As the pair stood side by side running in place, the children stopped talking to each other and started paying attention. Vincent looked at her feet as she kept up with the beat and nodded. Without warning, he transitioned into the side step and looked at Rose. She kept running in place a moment before looking over to see he changed. She looked at him with a deadpan, rolling her eyes and stopping. He stopped and tapped her arm with the back of his hand.

“Listen to the beat and count it out in your head. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. Do it like that three times then transition into the side step. Do it the same way one or two more times, then spin. Like this.” He demonstrated for her and stopped. “Again, together. Ready?” He started the scroll over again with a snap of his fingers. 

“Ok, I think I got it.” Rose listened to the beat and watched Vincent for the count. As he nodded to count the beat, she nodded in time with him before moving together as they started over. The pair moved in time with each other as though they had been partners for a long time, as their steps hit the wood of the stage in perfect synch with each other. As they danced, the children got up and started imitating the pair. Rose smiled at the sight and nudged Vincent. He looked up and saw the sight as he gave her a cocky grin and wiggled his eyebrows.

“Now, next step.”

The pair moved to the transition flawlessly, the music and spectacle drawing the attention of curious passersby who looked at the stage as they passed by. Rose looked at Vincent for the cue to turn watching his face. He caught her gaze, nodding confirmation as the pair turned together. Coming out of the turn and going back into the first position, Rose smiled. “This is really fun, and a great way to workout besides.”

He scoffed and flipped his hair as he continued to dance. “Of course it is; you picked it up pretty quick, that is good. It means others will be able to pick it up and dance; like those kids over there.” He pointed as he smiled and watched the kids dancing a moment before he felt his linkpearl buzz in his ear. He stopped dancing and snapped his fingers, killing the music. 

“What is it?” 

Before the Seeker could answer, Rose’s linkpearl began buzzing too. She looked at him and nodded, sighing. “Looks like tis time to get back to work. Let’s grab our stuff and go.”

The pair moved quickly to retrieve their belongings as Vincent answered the call. “Hey, what’s up?” He listened a moment and nodded to Rose. “Yeah, Rose is with me; we’ll teleport there now and get started on healing the wounded. See you soon.” He looked at his companion as he threw on his coat. “Looks like they need us back at the estate to heal a couple of guys from a venture. Let’s teleport there.”

Rose nodded as she waved to the kids. “Right, I’ve got this.” She drew the aether around them to her and grabbed Vincent’s arm, teleporting them back to their free company’s estate in a cloud of cyan and lavender aether sparkles.

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One lazy afternoon at the Hellfire Bar in the Goblet….

    The bar was empty as the place was not set to open for a few more hours, but the noise coming from the downstairs where the bar was located was loud enough to be heard from the upstairs entrance where the storage lockers for the weapons check was located. It was high pitched, and definitely off key; so much so that a coeurl would have howled in pain. Rose stood behind the counter with her violet hair pulled back into a low ponytail as she crouched down in her dark blue dress styled in the latest Ishgardian fashion. It was a usual outfit for her on nights when she worked there since the bar had a feel similar to the Skysteel Manufactory with its steam pipes and distressed metal fencing on the walls. As she checked over the lockers to make sure they were all empty save for the weapons usually carried by the staff, she heard the noise grow louder and the sound of the bar’s proprietor, Drekki Kha, the self-proclaimed Demon Queen of Song and Darkness, yell over the sound; the annoyance in her tone blatantly obvious.

“STOP! Nhamma’s llamas, that was terrible. Look, you need to go practice some more and come back when you know what you’re doing. Ced, show this guy out.”

“Sure thing,” a male voice replied casually. “You heard the boss, time to go.”

The sounds of footsteps echoed up the stairwell as Rose stood up and walked over to the large storage locker, pulling out a gunblade and setting it on the counter. She looked up to see two men, one a tall Hyur Highlander dressed in a rather feminine manner with a flowing white top and a pair of black slacks and high heeled boots and the other a white-haired Miqo’te with golden eyes and perfectly bronzed skin, walk up to the counter. The Hyur was holding a guitar in his hand as he looked at Rose and gave her a smile full of pearly white teeth while handing her a yellow claim ticket.

“I’ll take my weapon, honey.” While the physical features of the Highlander were masculine, the sound of his voice was distinctly effeminate.

Rose smiled politely as she handed over the weapon, watching the man set down the guitar as he strapped the gunblade to his back. He picked up the guitar and looked at Ced, giving him a wink. “Your boss is having a bad day; I’ll come back in a couple of weeks and try again. Hopefully you will be there to see it.”

The Miqo’te looked at Rose with an awkward glance and then casually put his hand up to wave farewell to the man. “Yeah, I might be busy; it depends. Thanks for coming.” 

Rose bit her bottom lip, stifling a chuckle as she watched the man walk out and saw a platinum-haired Midlander woman rush in. She quickly stopped short to keep from bowling Ced over before straightening her rimless glasses and fixing her pearls on her dark red cheongsam. She glanced over at Rose and gave her a small wave and a smile. Ced would fold his arms over his chest and shake his head at the woman; slightly irritated with her, but thankful that she didn’t run him over.

“You’re late, Robin. Why do you always show up late?” 

“Sorry! I know, it’s jus’ tha’ I was on me way here and saw this hot guy in th’ pool over by th’ Brimming Hear’ and..,” she would stop and look at Ced’s face, seeing his irritation. She would shrink back at him and look at Rose before disappearing downstairs.

“She’s so thirsty,” Ced remarked as he shook his head and looked at Rose. “I won’t be here when that guy comes back though. You good up here, Rose?”

Rose smiled and nodded softly in response, chiding him lightly. “I am, Cedrick; thank you. I take it that you are nae inclined to see your admirer coming by to visit you again? He seemed quite enamored with you.”

The Keeper looked at Rose, his golden eyes giving her a stern stare as he deadpanned at her. “No, and if he ever shows up again, you can turn him out, or let Robin flirt with him. Maybe he’ll get turned off and leave after that.”

Rose laughed as she closed the storage locker the gunblade had been in and came from around the counter. She walked past Ced and proceeded to head downstairs, motioning for him to follow her down to continue their conversation. The Keeper nodded and followed her downstairs; where the pair found Drekki sitting at the bar talking to another Xaela, Ashiko. The blue mage stood behind the bar, washing some glasses and giving Drekki a smile full of shark teeth; a side effect of one of the spells she had learned from her days studying the wildlife of Eorzea. The pair were engrossed in a discussion.

“I’m telling you, Drekki, you can’t explain everything that happens in life. Some things are beyond explanation, like the supernatural.” The raven haired Xaela rinsed glass and set it on a bar towel.

“Everything can be explained, no matter how insane it sounds. Just because you can’t draw it in your book and use it doesn’t mean it’s supernatural and can’t be explained.” She turned to look at Ced and Rose as they came downstairs. “That guy is gone? He was horrible; my brother Ragna plays better than he does.”

Ced nodded as he leaned against the bar looking at the blond Xaela dressed in a pair of black leggings with boots and a matching short sleeve jacket. Rose began pulling the chairs down off the tables to give Robin a hand while Drekki got up and went behind the bar to check the alcohol. She looked at Cedrick and motioned her head to the storeroom as she pulled out a few bottles of vodka and started consolidating bottles.

“Go get some more vodka and cinnamon schnapps for the Voidsent Blood. We’re also going to some more Armor Polish.”

The white haired Miqo’te looked at Drekki and frowned as he stood up from the bar and made his way to the storeroom. “I just restocked that the other night. Who drank it all?”

Clearly annoyed by the question, Drekki turned her head and glared at him. “Does it matter Fancy Feast? Go get the damn alcohol!”

“Hey! I’m the stage manager, not your errand boy!” He went to the storeroom and retrieved the alcohol and returned to the bar, setting the bottles down. “Did you drink all the Armor Polish?”

Drekki looked at him and clicked her tongue. “I have better uses for my time than to drink. It was a customer trying to win the Demon Tower challenge.”

“Wait,” Ced began skeptically. “A single customer drank us out of the two bottles of Armor Polish that I put back here the other night? You didn’t drink with them?”

“No.”

“Drekki, why the hells would you let someone drink that much, much less drink the Demon Tower challenge more than once in a night?! You had to cut them off at some point; they’ll kill themselves on that shit along with all the other alcohol you consume for that challenge!”

“I’m not responsible for someone else’s stupidity. I’m only liable if they die in the bar; which is why I throw them out before that happens. Until they get to the point where they lose all color, I’ll let them slam their face against the Demon Tower.”

    Cedrick looked at the Xaela angrily. “Are you fucking crazy? Wait, don’t answer that. You know that serving someone that much alcohol is morally wrong, Drekki.”

“Who are you, the Heavensward? We already have a token Ishgardian here who spouts morality. If you want to cut patrons off to make yourself feel better, then get your ass behind the bar. Better yet, get your own bar; I won’t tell you how to run it. Until then, I’ll let someone drink themselves into a stupor and laugh at them as they stumble out of here broke from losing the Demon Tower Challenge.”  

Ced shook his head as Robin returned back behind the bar and picked up a glass filled with Lominsan Red. She looked at Ced and tilted her head slightly as she took a sip. “Ye know, i’ only takes less than .08 ml of ethanol introduced into the bloodstream t’ get someone drunk. So ye ‘ave t’ figure th’ amount of alcohol consumed for th’ challenge would easily put someone down, never mind wha’ ‘ey ‘ad t’ drink before tha’. Also, ye ‘ave t’ take into account wha’ ‘ey weigh and what no’.”

Drekki turned and looked at Robin. “I’m not paying you to analyze the amount of booze the customers drink, only to serve them the drinks. As long as they’re paying, I’m pouring; and if they are dumb enough to take on the challenge, that’s on them.”

Ced sighed and shook his head, knowing he wasn’t going to win the argument because there was no arguing with Drekki. “Fine, just don’t let anyone die doing the challenge alright?”

“No promises, but if they do die, it won’t be here.”

Ced shook his head and looked at Rose. “Can you go see if Verse is here yet? We’ll be opening soon.”

Rose nodded and patted the Keeper on the back, giving him a soft smile. “Sure thing, Cedrick; and don’t worry, I won’t let anyone die from the challenge while I’m here.”

Cedrick smiled and headed over to the stage to do a sound check while the rest of the bar finished prepping for the opening.

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