Coming Together 11- Employer

By the time Ajir made his way back to Dragonhead, Mocho was already safely in the hands of the best healers the outpost could offer. That’s one thing the Samurai learned about the Eorzeans, even the strange, somewhat stuck-up Long-ears. Years of battle and hardship had shaped a people who were mostly open to helping others.

That foolish… foolish Lalafell!

The Au Ra only suffered a few minor wounds himself. It was nothing compared to the damage that Mocho took, having so recklessly charged into the way of harm.

Mocho was tucked under a pile of heavy blankets when Ajir walked into the healing quarters. The others – Amon and Zuri – were also cared for with blankets and warming drinks.

Zuri was the first to act, springing up, “Aji! We were so worried! Are you okay?”

Amon didn’t speak. The Samurai heavily doubted the Long-ears held the same sentiments of concern.

“Tired. Cold,” he admitted. “But victorious.”

The girl was already putting a blanket around his shoulders. “You need to have those cuts checked.”

“What of Mocho?” Ajir asked, moving her attention off his well being.

“He took a serious blow,” Amon finally spoke. “But the healers seem to believe he’ll recover with some rest.”

As concerned as the Samurai was for his friend’s health, he knew what they all knew. There was not enough gil to pay for these services… or even basic room and food for any short amount of rest time.

This is why we needed a healer and not another blasted Bard.

Ajir couldn’t help narrow his eyes at Amon with the thought.

“Sir,” One of the healers approached him.

“If this is about payment…”

“No, sir,” She tilted her head upward, but it was mostly concealed by a hood. “I wish to talk with you privately about the state of the patient.”

Ajir pursed his lips. Surely the healer had noted his leadership position in the group, and came to inform him of any complications that Mocho might experience.

He tried not to show his worry as he nodded. “Yes, of course.”

The Samurai followed the healer out of the healing quarters. Then out of the main room. Then… outside? And to a small recess, which was darkening as the evening fell over the snow-lands.

For the first time, Ajir began to feel unease. “What’s the meaning of all this? Certainly, news of health couldn’t need for this sort of confidentiality.”

“You’re a bright one, aren’t you?” The healer gave a soft chuckle, then drew back her hood.

She was of one of the cat-clans, with long dark hair and bright orange eyes. Something about the intensity of her gaze made him feel as if she could see all the secrets of his spirit. Though her garb was rather plain, she held the air of someone incredibly important.

He felt his teeth clench. “Who are you?”

“Your employer.” She didn’t explain further. Instead, she just extended a pouch, heavy with coin.

Many conflicting emotions ran through him all at once. This gil could be what they needed to see Mocho recovered. But at the same time, if this truly was the one who hired them to escort the cart into what they now knew was a trap…

What’s her game? Why is she doing this?

Ajir didn’t make a move to take it. “Do you think I’ll be bought off?”

“Certainly not, Mr. Samurai,” she gave a light laugh. “This is payment for a completed job.”

“For leading my company into danger?” He felt the heat in his scales rise. It was all that he could do not to lose his temper right there. “You would have seen them killed!”

“That’s not what I hired the beastmen to do.” She told him flippantly. “They were simply to capture one of your party. But I suppose when one of you killed one of them, all bets were off. Do you blame them?”

“Capture? Capture who?” He pressed for more information.

“Now, that’s not something I can confide… unless I know that you’re on board.”

Ajir was tired of this game of cat and mouse. “Speak plainly.”

She tilted her head thoughtfully. “You are a man who would do anything to protect your friends, are you not?”

“That is my creed.”

Her eyes flicked up to him knowingly. “What if one of your friends… is something more than they appear. Something that poses this world great danger… should they find a way to regain… things… they lost long ago.”

There was only one “friend” she could be talking about. The name touched his lips, “Amon?”

She smiled in confirmation. It was the expression one would use when praising a pet that had performed well.

“I knew he was trouble,” Ajir grumbled under his breath.

Yet… should I take the word of this stranger at face value? She who would put us all in danger to capture a single other? Amon did protect Zuri and carry Mocho to safety.

Still, when she placed the gil pouch in his hand, this time, the Samurai took it.

“My name is Koh Rabntah,” she told him. “I am a Scholar of the Sons of Saint Coinach. We are the foremost historians and researchers overseeing the unearthing of the Allagan knowledge and artifacts in Mor Dhona. Perhaps you’ve heard of us?”

Ajir wrinkled his brow.

I wish I’d paid more mind to the on goings in that place. There was just so much to take in.

“Or not. It’s of no consequence,” Koh shrugged.

“Your… organization… seeks to capture Amon,” the Samurai pieced it all together smoothly.

“We do.”

“Why?”

“Again, information I’m not free to share.”

Ajir leaned back, not liking the parts of this he didn’t know. “I might be more obliging should you be a little more free.”

Koh laughed at that. “Is that how it is?”

He just grunted, standing his ground with crossed arms.

“Well, should I enlighten you to your companion’s past identity, you may come to agree with our assessment of him.” She tapped the end of a long, slender pipe against the heel of her boot. “I’ll just say that the Sons of Saint Coinach will pay extremely well for assistance in fully capturing Amon and returning him to Mor Dhona.”

Still conflicted, but also concerned, Ajir bowed his head. Then, he took the plunge. “I’m listening.”

That’s when Koh’s smile turned a little predatory.

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Coming Together 10- Ixali Attack

The first inkling that things might not be going as expected didn’t come until the group passed north through the settlement of Dragonhead and left it behind. Ajir frowned at the map, which indicated nothing but wilderness lay ahead.

“This isn’t adding up,” Mocho noted.

“Maybe we’re not delivering to a town,” Ajir suggested.

“Guys,” Zuri’s voice held a hint of warning. “Why did the cart stop?”

Amon jerked up to see that, yes indeed, the cart they were escorting was no longer moving. Leaving Ajir to frown at the map some more, he and Zuri walked forward to investigate. What they found was… unexpected… at best.

The Roegadyn driver had lost no time in unhitching the chocobo from the cart and mounting up. He gave them a rather frightened, wild-eyed glace as he rounded the bird. “Look, I don’t know who wants your head, but this was as far as I was paid to go. Sorry!”

Before either of them could find words, the driver-turned-rider was already clucking to his mount, heading back towards civilization as quickly as he could.

Amon’s eyes narrowed, and he knew.

This was all a trap.

He thought back to all the times he felt he’d been watched while in Mor Dhona. He’d tried to shrug it off back then, despite what his instincts told him. Now it was coming back to bite him.

“Zuri, stay alert,” he told her.

The danger hadn’t fully registered on the girl yet. She stared at him, mouth slightly open, “What’s going on?”

A shout from the other side of the cart was her answer.

Amon rushed back, moving as fast as the snow would afford him. He saw Ajir drawing his blade while Mocho, also armed, stood ready for battle. A pack of bird-like beastmen – they now called themselves the Ixali – leapt down the snow-mounds towards them.

Someone’s going to a lot of trouble to get this job done.

The Bard grit his teeth, loosening his bow and gathering his quiver. This was the first serious combat that his new body would experience. He could only hope it would respond the way he needed it to.

He knew Beastmen of any kind were nothing to trifle with in this world. Though having animalistic features, they were intelligent enough to form communities, language, and battle tactics. These rushed at them wielding spears and one even seemed to have command of wind magics.

It’s amazing how they’ve evolved so much left on their own like this…

Though Amon wanted to muse more on the things he saw before him – creatures that he knew originated back in Allagan laboratories – that would do nothing to help the very real threat that bore down on them now.

Zuri gave a shout of dismay as Mocho took the forefront. It was a move of pure desperation, the Lalafell throwing himself in front of the enemy to defend the others. Zuri saw what the rest of them did – Mocho was far outclassed in this battle. His actions, thought admirable, did nothing to even slow the avalanche down.

The leader of the Ixali pack swung down into the Gladiator’s defenses, the spear piercing right through the small shield, ripping it out of Mocho’s hand. Ajir rushed forward to intercept, but wasn’t near enough to prevent the second blow, which sent the Lalafell spinning backwards into a snowbank.

Where he landed, white began to bleed red.

Zuri ran for Mocho.

Ajir roared – literally roared – his blade sparking off the lead Ixali’s spear-haft, the sound of ringing metal a warning to their attackers. The Samurai’s pure bulk and fury knocked the beast backwards, almost beast-like himself, causing the other Ixali a moment of concerned hesitation.

You didn’t expect a fight, did you?

Zuri finally reached Mocho, choking sobs as she pulled his body out of the snow.

From the corner of Amon’s eye, he saw the Ixali mage turn full focus on where the girl cradled the Lalafell. The beast began to summon the winds, aether-magic rising to his call, casting the snow around him in wicked winter gales.

Zuri’s attention was fully on Mocho. She didn’t see the danger.

Amon felt his arms move of their own accord. Arrow knocked. Bow drawn. Aim fully on the casting Ixali in the distance.

He let the arrow fly.

It sang through the air, a thing of beauty and death.

Striking true, the point plunged into the Ixali’s throat. The call of magic stopped as the beast staggered, screeching out a bubbling, inhuman cry. Then it fell, also leaving a red stain growing over the white ground.

Amon looked at his own hands in surprise. But there was no time to celebrate… striking down one of the pack had only served to enrage the rest of them. If there was any hesitation to their charge before, there wasn’t now.

With the caster out of the way, Ajir began to cleave through the others, his blade shattering their rude weapons and slamming them back time and again. The Samurai needed no defense – he was a war machine all by himself.

“GET THEM OUT OF HERE!” The Au Ra flicked his fierce gaze on Amon.

For a moment, the Bard thought to argue. But seeing what a poor state Mocho was in – he was losing a lot of blood fast – and the shock this caused Zuri, Amon knew getting them back to safety was the only course he could take.

Besides, Ajir didn’t appear to need much in the way of help. If anything, his silent rage reveled in this battle and the fall of his enemy.

“We have to go,” Amon told Zuri in a low voice, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“We can’t… we…” She was inconsolable, the shimmer of near-frozen tears on her cheeks.

The Elezen just gathered up Mocho in his arms, ignoring the crimson that began to stain his own coat. His tone was urgent. “Mocho needs you to help me help him.”

She couldn’t really argue against that.

As the sound of battle and beast-death rang over the snowy hill behind them, Amon and Zuri fled, carrying their unmoving companion back to the halls of Dragonhead.

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Coming Together 9- Escort Quest

Despite Zuri’s previous-night confidence in the group’s ability to take on the job, she was just quick to respond to the bleak, ice-stripped lands of Coerthas with concern that morning. They all knew it would be cold there. They had no idea just how bone-breaking the chill would be, however.

None of them, Amon included, were fully dressed for this kind of expedition. Not only had none of them foreseen going into the frigid land, but they didn’t have enough spare gil to properly equip themselves. This job may be well-paying as Ajir stated, but they wouldn’t see any of it until after it was done.

If we survive this.

It was still early morning when their group met up with the object of their escort. Amon was a little disappointed. It was a lone Roegadyn driving a solo-chocobo cart. A small cart, on top of it. Whatever was being transported, it couldn’t have been very large at all.

The driver and the cart were all bundled up for the drive, and the chocobo was ready to go. So after a quick exchange of words with Ajir, the cart and the four shivering adventurers began the trek into the white wilderness.

Everything about the area felt suppressed and desolate. This wasn’t the lovely kind of snow that graced winter paintings and dappled the window with soft patterns of ice. This was the kind of snow that was not just unwanted, but never went away, no matter the time of year.

Amon had read up on the phenomenon during some down-time the previous evening. Most signs point to the dawn of the Seventh Umbral Era as the cause of the dramatic shift in weather. All this because some brilliant person decided it was a good idea to break the Primal Bahamut out of Dalamud.

What did they expect would happen? Play with fire, going to get…

Amon glanced around.

…Snow?

His breath billowed out as he half laughed to himself.

No point in debating the intelligence of the current-day populace. I’m the smart one trudging out in this frigid weather.

At least, with all that was going on, Amon hadn’t had much time to dwell on his own troubles. In fact, his sleep had been unmarred by memories of the past since he’d come to stay in Mor Dhona. Maybe it was because his performances tired him out to sleep too deeply for dreams. Maybe it was because he had to watch himself more closely with so many others around.

Or maybe… there’s actually a chance that my aether-flow will adjust to this new body. Maybe… I don’t have to end up like Xande.

It was still too early to tell. He had no tools to take measurements and no subjects to observe. The only example he knew of was the one that failed. So far, he’d fared better than the mad Emperor had…

But, granted, he didn’t start showing true signs of madness until much, much later than this.

“Amon?” Zuri’s voice brought him out of his dark thoughts.

“Wh-what?” He turned to her.

“Are you that cold? You’re shivering all over.”

“I…” He shrugged it off quickly. “I’ll be fine. Just getting accustomed to this climate.”

Zuri accepted that without questioning. She was a good kid. “Yeah, I had no idea it’d be so cold here.”

“Me neither.”

They didn’t talk much after that. It took far too much energy. They needed to save their breath, just in case anything went wrong.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened.

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Coming Together 8- Odd Job

That night, as they sat around a table in the Seventh Heaven, Ajir detailed the job they were starting the next morning. The more they learned about it, the more Amon thought that it didn’t sound like fun. However, because Ajir went through so much to make sure to include him, for Zuri’s sake, Amon didn’t have it in him to back out.

“So let me get this straight,” Mocho clarified after Ajir was through. “We’re hired to protect a small, unknown shipment – a lone chocobo and driver – through Coerthas?”

“Yes,” the Au Ra nodded.

“To where in Coerthas?” The Lalafell was asking the important questions.

“Well, I’m not completely certain. I don’t know much about that area.” Ajir frowned a bit. Then he lifted a weathered piece of parchment and waved it for them to see, “However, the employer has furnished us with a map.”

“Does any of us know much about Coerthas?” Mocho countered, frowning, too.

Zuri looked down at the table, indicating her lack of knowledge.

Ajir glanced at Amon and demanded, “He should know, right?”

It was the Elezen’s turn to frown, “Excuse me?”

“You’re a Long-ears. Isn’t that where your kind come from?”

“I’ve only set foot in Coerthas once that I’m aware of. That was coming here to Mor Dhona,” Amon retorted, which for all purposes, was as true as he could tell it. There’d never been a wasteland of snow so near to his homeland during his time. And it certainly wasn’t called “Coerthas” back under Allagan rule.

Ajir grimaced, “And here I thought you’d be good for something.”

Amon opened his mouth to respond with something he would have probably regretted, but thankfully, Mocho intervened.

“I’m not getting a good feeling about this one, Ajir,” the Lalafell told him, not beating around the bush.

“I know, but there’s not much to choose from without a full, functional party,” the Au Ra’s tone heaped more scorn upon their lack of a healer yet again. “Not to mention, the pay is good. Very good.”

“Yes, well, this may be a dangerous job,” Mocho noted. Then he put it in their hands. “Do we think we’re up to this?”

There was silence at the table.

Finally, Zuri spoke up, “I think we should try it. We could be just fine.”

Mocho gave her a soft look, “Your optimism is always welcome, Zuri. But ‘could be’ and ‘will be’ are very different things.”

This made the girl press her lips together, and reword her approach, “We can do it.”

Amon leaned back in his chair and murmured, “I will go.”

Mocho looked at Ajir. The Samurai spread his hands, “I got us the job. I feel we’re fit for it.”

“Alright. If everyone agrees,” the Lalafell sighed a bit, dismissing himself from the table. “I’m going to catch some shut-eye. I assume we leave early in the morning.”

Amon watched him walk away, only speaking after he was long out of sight, “Is Mocho all right?”

“He’ll be fine,” Zuri answered. “He does this every time.”

“Oh?”

“He appears to have paternal instincts over our group,” Ajir stated.

Amon laughed at this, picturing such a little fellow being fatherly over everyone else. But, his laughter faded as Ajir’s expression indicated he was being very serious.

“Mocho worries he won’t be strong enough,” Zuri added. “We’re trying to help him get acclimated, but it’s a big shift for him to make.”

“’Tis a big shift for anyone,” Amon agreed.

There wasn’t much conversation after that. They all said their good-nights and left to get rest for the next day.

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Coming Together 7- Intermission

The group stayed in the Seventh Heaven for a few more days. During the evening, Amon would play old Allagan tunes to delight the folks who passed through. He never filled the house or anything, but there was a curiosity for new songs from these people that made it worth his while (not to mention meals and board).

During the day, Ajir would head off to look at other job prospects, since they knew they couldn’t stay there indefinitely. The warlike Au Ra was getting antsy from being in one place too long, anyway. Mocho would look into recruiting a healer, an ongoing situation that never panned out. Sometimes he’d spend his time training.

Amon felt a little sorry for him. The Lalafell really did try so very hard.

And then, there was Zuri.

After Amon’s first performance, she approached him all starry-eyed, absolutely convinced he was some sort of master Bard. He didn’t have the heart to tell her the songs he played were basic Allagan folk melodies, sometimes nothing more than children’s songs and nursery rhymes.

His hands weren’t cooperative and coordinated enough to play his people’s more masterful works… not that he really knew them off the top of his head. He was a passing dabbler in the ways of music – enough to impress the unwashed masses, but hardly incredible to the trained and professional ear.

Still, Zuri’s inspiration was a bit catchy, so he found himself offering her advice where he could. How to better tune the rough harp she had. How to tighten the strings without breaking them. In fact, how to change the strings – they’d seen more than their fair share of travel grime and practice.

In return, the Au Ra gifted Amon with the songs of her people – a place called Yanxia. These were completely unknown to him, with tunes that almost seemed to come from a different world.

Her performance was rudimentary in his eyes, though her voice was pleasant enough – with some training it could improve. Yet, just the stark contrast of cultures was something to spark an interest within Amon. To make him wonder what else was out there.

By accident, he let that remark slip, and Zuri laughed, “I’ll take you there sometime. I think you’d like it.”

“Oh?” Amon tilted his head at her.

“I mean, compared to places like Ul’dah or Kugane, I suppose our mountains are fairly boring.” She mused. Then, she glanced back up at him. “But I think you’re someone who would appreciate my homeland.”

“And why’s that?”

Zuri squinted at him. “You see things in a way other people don’t. I think you’re from somewhere else far away, too… aren’t you?”

The words made Amon shiver. She was hitting so close to home, though he’d never told her anything about himself.

He tried to laugh it off. “You’ll make a good Bard yet, Zuri.”

“Huh? Why?” It was her turn to ask the questions.

“You’ve got a nose for story,” Amon grinned a little. “To get your story, sometimes you have to sense it, deep within you. And then follow it until you see it through.”

Zuri shot him a coy smile in return. Her tone turned teasing, “Oh, I plan to, Mister Storyteller.”

He threw up his hands playfully, exclaiming, “Not me! I’m not story material!”

“My nose tells me differently.” The Au Ra turned from him, plucking her harp idly.

That’s the moment Amon started to worry… just a little. Though, he had to admit, the worry was edged out a bit by flattery.

He wondered if his past life was one of old stories in this new world. He wondered what they said about him. Nothing good, for certain. His people, Xande in particular, were often looked upon with a mixture of wonder and disgust, it seemed.

Sitting there, talking Bardic Things with Zuri, he wondered if there was a chance to write a new story. About himself.

She seemed to think so. And there was something about Zuri’s unwavering trust in him that made him… not want to disappoint her.

I’m getting too deep in this.

Before Amon could change his mind, Ajir strode into the room. His sharp green eyes took in the sight of the Elezen and the Au Ra, sitting closely together in a bond of music and story.

Those eyes slitted in warning, telling Amon without words all the terrible things that Ajir planned to do to him should anything happen to Zuri. Subconsciously, Amon leaned away from the girl, straightening to frown at the Samurai.

“I believe I’ve found us a job,” Ajir told them, his tone slightly accusing, indicating that at least one of them had done something worthwhile that day.

“Really?” Zuri was oblivious in her excitement.

“One that didn’t mind having two bards.” The Samurai gave Amon that usual eat-choco-dung look.

That being said, Amon was surprised he was part of the job offer at all. He thought that once Zuri’s group had found their next gig,  they’d probably all part ways.

“Oh… well… I…”

“That’s wonderful!” Zuri hopped off the stool and rushed up to Ajir. “Thank you!”

Just for that passing moment, the Samurai’s face softened. Then, Amon knew exactly why he was included in this job. For all of Ajir’s outward disgruntlement, the Samurai truly wanted Zuri to be happy.

Deep down, Amon had to respect that.

“I’ll go tell Mocho,” Zuri beamed. “When do we start?”

“Tomorrow,” Ajir told her. “But I’d like to brief us all tonight before we leave.”

“Great!” The girl rushed off, looking for their wayward companion.

Left alone, the two exchanged knowing glances. Neither of them said a thing. But, the Samurai was the first to turn away.

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Coming Together 6- Bard Song

There was already a Bard in Roost at the Seventh Heaven when Amon walked through the doors. This was a strange looking fellow with an admirable mask, who idly strummed a few chords from time to time on his harp in the corner. The instrument sounded good and the man was dressed like the real deal.

Amon didn’t know if things had changed during the time he’d been away, but where he came from, there was a code of honor among Bards. One did not infiltrated another’s Roost… without permission, at least.

So, he approached the other minstrel with the politest airs he had. “Good evening.”

The other nodded his acknowledgement.

“I came to provide some local entertainment,” Amon explained. “But I see this Roost is well-tended already. Would it be that I have permission to play in your establishment?”

The minstrel merely smiled, like someone who knew the secrets of the world, and stopped plucking his harp. No words were exchanged, but Amon took that to mean that permission was granted.

He bowed his head in a motion of thanks and scoped out the room. A few travelers were there, and what seemed like a few locals. Not a large crowd. But seeing Amon hadn’t performed in this new body yet, and he wasn’t certain how much muscle memory would get him through, it was probably a good thing.

Must be confident… I did this for years. I can do this again.

Amon found an out-of-the-way spot next to the fireplace where he first took a moment to tune Zuri’s little harp. It was in bad need of alignment and some of the strings were far too loose. She really needed something better to learn with.

Why… am I even concerning myself with that?

Zuri and the others had followed Amon inside, and now sat around the table nearest to the fireplace. She watched him with a hopeful look, while Ajir just glowered and Mocho seemed to be drifting off to sleep.

The Bard steeled himself and played a few shaky notes.

Come on hands. Work for me.

He tried to strum the start of a simple tune that he’d known since childhood, but the sounds came out all wrong. He paused, glared down at his uncooperative fingers and Hmmmed at himself.

Ajir gave a snide comment, leaning back. “A great Storyteller is he? One that can’t pluck a note.”

Zuri hadn’t given up hope. She placed both hands on the table and spoke quietly, “You can do it Amon. Don’t be nervous!”

Did he look nervous? Was he nervous? When had he ever been nervous in front of a crowd?

Music. Performing was… what brought him joy… even in the darkest moments of his past life.

They never understood it. They thought he was strange and eccentric. They were right. He was.

This is who I am.

With a flurry of memories, old emotions rushed through him. Amon’s hands began to play. Remembering the notes. Drawing out a song of his people, a music long lost to this strange new world.

The Allagans were best known for their technology, but they had just as much culture as any people. They had songs and stories and things to celebrate and dream of. They may have failed to capture the stars, but deep down, people are still people.

Amon wove the words of song into the little harp’s offerings. From the look on the faces that watched, he was right to think that they’d never heard this tune before. He knew many, many songs, and most of the songs held ancient stories. Though, he was very careful to choose only those that would not give away his origin.

By the time he segmented into a second song, other people in Seventh Heaven had begun to take notice. Amon didn’t know if the melody was as exotic to them as they were to him. He didn’t know if it stirred within them the same emotion… some universal truth that all people share in the vibration of light and sound.

But they did come. They did listen.

As the final notes of the song sounded through the room, Amon let out a long breath. It had been a while since he felt… truly felt… anything like that. But his reveling was short-lived.

The tavern keeper walked to the edge of the counter closest to Amon and remarked, “Sir Bard, I’ve had a lot of songs performed here, but n’aint none I’ve heard like that.”

“Thank you.” He wasn’t sure how to reply, so he chose the humble route.

She looked at the counter, then at the small audience that had stopped to watch Amon’s performance. Finally, the tavern keep asked, “What would it take to get you to stay a bit longer and play a full set tonight?”

This was exactly what Amon was hoping to hear.

“Well,” the Elezen tilted his head as if taking time to think it through. He already knew exactly what he was going to ask for. “I’d be willing to share a few more songs for supper and a room for myself and my companions there.”

The tavern keep followed the motion of Amon’s hand as the Bard indicated Zuri and her two friends, who were still seated at the nearby table. Now, it was the tavern keep’s turn to consider things.

“Well, as long as your friends don’t treat this as an all-you-can-eat, you’ve got yourself a deal.” She reached a hand out to shake on it, requesting a name, “Mister….?”

“Amon.” The Elezen offered and shook her hand in return.

“A pleasure to do business with you, Mister Amon. You can call me Alys.” She nodded with a smile. “You just keep strumming those songs. I’ll have a supper out to yall soon enough.”

Amon glanced over at the table to where Zuri beamed at him, absolutely delighted. Mocho was now fully awake, anticipating the meal. Even Ajir seemed fairly pleased by the turn of events.

“Very well,” the Samurai muttered. “He can stay. For now.”

The Bard smiled to himself and gave the Au Ra a mocking bow.

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June 6 – FFXIV RP Directory Update

The FFXIV RP Directory wants to add you!

Do you have a LFRP post? A character page? A RP event or location? A carrd? Do you want to share that with other folks? The FFXIV RP Directory wants to help!

Just fill out this really short Submission Form and I’ll get you listed as soon as possible!

New Directory Submissions

We are so excited to have our first European submission this time around! I’ve created a new directory page for the Eurpoean data centers, and the first server to represent: Cerberus!

Please let me welcome the newest friends of the Directory:

  • The Advocate – Cerberus
  • Ayo’a Ibori – Coeurl

Thank you for your submissions!

Coming Together 5- Not a Healer

Amon’s concern continued to mount until they got to Revenant’s Toll, where it was fully confirmed and realized. Zuri appeared to be an idealistic youth, with a passion for bardic lore and a hopeful outlook. But that didn’t mean that the ones she called her “friends” shared the same sentiments.

The young Au Ra – Amon had learned more about her kind during their walk there – spread her hands to majestically announce two parties at once. Her smile was wide as she motioned first to Amon, then to the two strange individuals who watched their approach.

“Guys, this is Amon,” Zuri told them. “Amon, this is Ajir and Mocho.”

Oh… Oh… I have been gravely mistaken.

Where Amon had originally thought Zuri was the most gruesome creature he ever saw – an opinion that was changing – this creature most certainly overtook that spot in his mind. He grit his teeth as he studied one of the individuals that she just called “guys.”

Another Au Ra – Amon assumed was Ajir – who was similar in some ways to Zuri… but much, much larger. Even taller than himself. The creature was all dark spikes and sharp points with wicked horns and slitted green eyes that did nothing to welcome a stranger. The downturned mouth was so opposite to Zuri’s disposition that Amon had to wonder how she could count such a dour beast as a friend.

Ajir didn’t speak. His angry eyes just sized Amon up. Then, he promptly turned to Zuri with a grumble. “You were supposed to recruit us a healer. Is he a healer?”

“Well, no…” Zuri responded, trying to sound optimistic. “But he’s a great Storyteller!”

“Another Bard?” The dark Au Ra snorted disdainfully through his nose. “If he’s not a healer, we don’t need him.”

“Aji!” She protested, looking put out. “You’re being rude.”

“I’m being realistic,” he argued. “Funds are running low, we haven’t had a solid job in weeks, and we’re not about to start getting one until we get a functioning party.”

Hate to tell you, friend, this is not the way to get one of those.

Amon wasn’t particularly bothered by the creature’s tirade. After all, he could walk away any time he pleased.

Thankfully, the situation was salvaged by the other “friend.” A small fellow – they call them Lalafell now – who held himself with an air that spoke of experience and age beyond what his round little face could confirm. His manner was calm and deliberate, his words carefully measured.

“I apologize, Master Amon,” the one Zuri called Mocho told him. “You haven’t caught our group at the best of times.”

“I can see that,” Amon finally spoke, since Mocho seemed to have the social graces to speak to.

“We’ve been searching without luck for a healer.” Then he gave a sigh. “I’m afraid it may be my fault.”

“Don’t be silly, Mocho,” Zuri quickly interrupted him. “You’re doing fine.”

Amon noted that the Lalafell was garbed in the most cliché of adventuring outfits… like someone dressed as what they thought an adventurer was supposed to look like. A short blade hung at one hip and a small shield was strapped on his back. This tiny fellow was the protector of this team.

“A Weaver turned up-start Gladiator doesn’t inspire confidence, I’m afraid,” Mocho explained. “Especially at my age.”

“Everyone has to start somewhere,” Ajir’s gruff voice cut in, surprisingly supportive.

So he’s not just all prickles and burrs…

“Have you tried to find smaller jobs in the meantime?” Amon didn’t know why he bothered to offer a logical suggestion.

“We have,” Ajir growled, fingers tracing the shape of the sword hilt at his hip. Amon was unfamiliar with its make. “There’s no glory found in grunt work. How’s a proper Samurai to make a name for himself in this land?”

Zuri crossed her arms, “There’s also no glory found in starving to death.”

He snuffed at her but didn’t retort.

It seems his friends can keep him in check, at least. That’s a promising thing.

“Well,” Amon said, taking a step away from them to test the waters. “I see that you are quite busy. I’ll not take up any more of your time. ‘Twas a pleasure to meet you.”

Zuri’s eyes widened in response. Then she, and surprisingly Mocho, both began to protest politely that he wasn’t a bother and he didn’t need to go anywhere.

“You haven’t told me any stories yet,” Zuri exclaimed. Without hesitation, she grabbed his arm in a familiar way, as if to keep him put. “You promised me a story!”

Amon let himself be kept put. For some reason, he heard himself laugh, “I never promised…”

But she looked so disappointed – and so eager – to hear a story from him that the showman within him couldn’t resist. It wasn’t every day that one had a rapt audience, after all.

Even if it is just an audience of one.

“I admit, I could use a good tale, too,” Mocho agreed.

Audience of two!

Even harder to turn down.

Ajir could see quite plainly that he was outvoted on the matter. He crossed his arms and grunted, “Shall we see what your land offers in the way of stories, then?”

Three! Audience of three!

And a tough audience at that.

Amon let out a long, pained sigh to accent the drama of the situation. “I suppose you’ve twisted my arm.”

He glanced down at where Zuri still, quite literally, was holding his arm. She beamed right back up at him, clearly relieved that he’d chosen to stay.

“Where’s the nearest establishment?” he asked.

“You mean the tavern?” Mocho clarified. Then he motioned to a building that looked similar to all the others there, “That’d be the Seventh Heaven.”

“’Twill do,” Amon reclaimed his arm, while leaning down to murmur to Zuri. “Perhaps I can show your friends another way to earn their coin.”

She furrowed her brows at him for a moment, a puzzled expression that turned to surprise as she realized he’d just “borrowed” her rustic hand harp. Snatched it straight off her back.

Yep. I still have it in me.

Then, with a fetching grin, Amon turned and led the way towards the waiting tavern.

It was only then that he became aware of it… the prickling feeling of eyes on his back. This wasn’t the kind of gaze of someone curiously looking – he knew that all too well. No, it was the heated sense of someone watching him with strong intention.

Only, when Amon turned to glance over his shoulder, it all vanished. He saw nothing. No one out of the ordinary. Just the adventurers and scholars who typically roamed around the place.

Hm.

“Cold feet, Mr. Storyteller?” Ajir taunted.

“No. Of course not.” Amon covered his momentary unease with a quick smile.

He could see the calculation in Ajir’s eyes, and knew the Samurai wasn’t fooled. The Samurai had noticed Amon looking over his shoulder.

And the Samurai remained watching his every move.

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Coming Together 4- The Most Gruesome Creature

“Hello? Are you all right?”

An unfamiliar voice woke Amon with a start.

Did I fall asleep? In the middle of Mor Dhona wilderness?

When he peered around, it sure seemed that way.

And I’m still alive? Drat my poor fortune!  

“Sir?” The voice prompted him again.

This time Amon looked up… straight into the face of the most gruesome creature he’d ever seen. He wasn’t a timid soul, and had seen his share of lab-jacket rejects, but this sight caused him to jerk back.

“Did I startle you? I’m so sorry!”

The voice – decidedly a female voice – was coming from the creature’s mouth. Some conglomeration of girl and dragon-void smooshed all together, she could have been something that came straight out of the Labyrinth.

Everything about her was alabaster. Ivory skin. Colorless hair. Horns? Snow-white… scales? Are those scales? And a tail? Really? Hair, scales, and tail?

What manner of creature is she?

If she noticed his scrutiny, which she probably didn’t due to the inability to see his upper face, she didn’t respond. Instead, she gave what appeared to be a genuine smile of relief.

“I thought maybe you were dead when I first saw you propped up like that.” At this point, she was talking for her own sake, since Amon hadn’t replied yet. “What are you doing out here?”

Getting over his initial response of distaste, Amon finally answered with a surprisingly truthful statement, “I came to see the Tower.”

“Oh?” Her eyes lit up. Well, brighter than they were a moment before. Here eyes were the only part of her that wasn’t devoid of color and shown a bright pink-orange. Even in the coming daylight, they held a strange internal glow. “You came out here to seek the stories, too?”

Too?

Amon should have known there was danger in the word. But he still said, “Something of that sort.”

She leaned in closer, almost causing him to recoil again. That’s when he saw the pure excitement and wonder in her expression. “Did you find anything? About the Tower, I mean! I want to go there and see it, but I can never get very close.”

For the first time, he noted that she was dressed in plain leather armor, much like he saw the Wood Wailers wear in Gridania. A bow was slung across her back, and next to that hung a tiny, misshapen hand-harp. Nothing a true bard would be dare to be seen carrying.

It told him everything he needed to know.

“You fancy old stories, then,” Amon motioned to the harp.

“Oh… this… well…” She seemed a little shy to admit. “The people of Eorzea seem to think archery and the bardic ways have an overlap. I’m a fairly good shot. Not so good at song or story. But I’m trying to learn.”

He could hear the unyielding passion in her voice. There was a rather refreshing naivety to it.

That’s a lot to tell a stranger you just met in the middle of Mor-Dhona-nowhere.

“The world could use more Storytellers,” Amon admitted.

That may be the only way our struggles are not forgotten.

“Are you a Storyteller?” She asked, words coming with more perception than he’d given her credit for.

“Sometimes.” Amon wasn’t sure how to answer that. “Maybe. Long ago.”

That was all that she needed to hear. She extended one small hand down to him, as if her tiny frame would be able to hoist his much taller form up.

“My name is Zuri,” she told him.

“Amon,” he introduced without flair. He wasn’t sure why, but he took her hand, though he made no motion of getting up.

“Why not come back with me to Revenant’s Toll? I have friends waiting for me there… they’re probably wondering if I was eaten by a nix,” Zuri’s eyes laughed at the prospect, though he’d consider that a pretty loathsome way to die.

Amon attempted to excuse himself from the situation, “I appreciate your concern, but I–”

She quickly interrupted, as if she sensed something under his motives. “Do you have somewhere else to be?”

He opened his mouth, but didn’t have an answer.

No… No I don’t.

Now that he’d established that there was nothing for him at the Tower, Amon really wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. He could always just stay there and mope in the desolate land that had once been his childhood home. Or he could…

His gaze flicked back to Zuri.

“You don’t, do you?” She pressed with an upraised eyebrow.

She has eyebrows, too… tail, horns, scales and eyebrows..?

He sighed and admitted, “No. I don’t.”

“Then…” Zuri’s mouth twitched with a smile as her little hand closed tighter on his. Then she pulled upwards, as if to lift him out of the pit he’d dug for himself.

For some reason unknown to himself, he got back on his feet. Standing like this, next to the much smaller creature, he felt like a tower himself.

This didn’t bother Zuri in the least. She beamed up at him like someone who had just made a new friend.

What did I just sign on for?

Amon tried not to let a preemptive sigh of exasperation sound. Instead, as they walked back to the outpost, he asked, “So… from what you say…  I gather that you’re not from Eorzea?”

“What? Me? An AuRa? Of course not,” she laughed at him gently as they strode down the path towards the settlement. “Where have you been? Sleeping in the Crystal Tower?”

“Well…”

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Coming Together 3- When One Door Closes…

Amon didn’t waste time gathering up all his little belongings and gil – the currency that passed for money now days. He checked out of the inn – he didn’t plan on returning to Gridania – and found a shop where he could pick up a traveling map.

Looking at the map, he realized that so much about the world had changed from what he remembered. At first, he didn’t have a clue how to get to Syrcus Tower from where he currently was. But after a little chat and an exchange of gil, he had a better idea of the path that lay ahead.

“Aye, that Crystal Tower. I’ve heard of it,” the shopkeeper told him. “Get yourself to Mor Dhona and you won’t be able to miss it. A right bright monolith in the sky.”

This eased something in Amon’s mind just a little.

These people may not remember their history, but at least they respect Allagan majesty when they see it.

The shopkeeper was right. And so was the map.

Amon wasn’t very practiced with riding the giant, smelly birds that were commonly used as mounts in Eorzea. Still, chocobos were the fastest means of travel at his price point, so he hired a chocobo porter for as far as he could afford. This carried him past the Gridania forest, and through an area that slumbered under deep, unnatural snows. Not a place he wanted to linger longer than he needed to.

Finally, he arrived in a blighted, aether-soaked land – the area they now called Mor Dhona.

This had once been Amon’s home. He remembered this land covered in lush beauty, untame forests, and rushing waterfalls. There had once been vast, majestic gardens that lined the walks at the base of the Tower, and a settlement that sheltered snuggly in the Tower’s light. That was where where his family had lived in the ages forgotten so long ago.

All of that was gone now, the earth itself twisted and broken by time. He didn’t know if that was due to the fall of the Tower or something that had happened more recently. Still, it sparked a sharp pang of sadness within him as he realized there was truly little left that he remembered of his own time.

He didn’t idle long in the sole, roughly-hewn settlement that struggled to survive under the pressure of wildly fluctuating aetheric weather. Nothing in Revenant’s Toll held any interest for him.

Nothing… because in the distance, he saw it. Just as promised. A beacon from the ancient past rose. The Crystal Tower. It stood, still brilliant, still a light in the darkness, with the stars shimmering all around it.

Amon felt a powerful yearning within, something calling him home. He was unable to take his eyes from the Tower for a very long time. Then, he chided himself.

Not a time to get sentimental. I must get inside. If I can just get to my tools… my research… my lab…

He steeled himself, stabled the rental chocobo, then took to the path on foot that lead towards his destination.

Things continued to not work out the way Amon had hoped. At this point, he wondered if he truly was cursed.

Not only was the path to the Tower winding and deceptive with all of its broken crystals and dead ends, but filthy creatures roamed the lands. His people would have purged such beasts back in his time… and maybe captured a few for observation. But that was neither here nor there.

These roads had once been safe. Now, what he traveled upon could hardly even be called a trail.

In his previous life, Amon would have feared nothing that lurked in the aether. Now, while his archery skills were meager enough to hunt small game in the Shroud, he knew this wouldn’t keep him safe from the monstrosities that fouled the area.

He spent many hours sneaking and hiding among the crystal outcroppings, no easy feat seeing that he got turned around time and again. Everywhere seemed to lead to a dead end.

Finally, after several close calls, he found what he was looking for – a tilted door, mostly concealed in stone. Even after so many thousands of years, the ornate etchings and runes still shimmered electric blue. The mark of Allagan handiwork sparked his nostalgic excitement.

Amon gently pressed his hands against the structure and found the door was already open. No doubt, the Eorzeans who broke into the Labyrinth many moons earlier left it that way. He could see the tracks of countless people that passed along the path that overlooked the sheer side of a cliff.

Amon sucked in his breath as he gazed out over the fractured earth near the base of the Tower. Then he began to carefully pick his way over the stone, following the faded tracks.

The Eorzeans were clever enough to break our outer defenses. Strong enough to clear out the Labyrinth. Powerful enough to kill Xande.

He furrowed his brow as the path led him through the shattered remains of several pairs of Guardian statues that stood watch over the gates. These were once the initial line of defense for the Tower, but now lay in ruin, the first signs of destruction left in the invaders’ wake.

So, where are the Eorzeans now? Why aren’t they still here? Surely there’s still much for them to excavate.

Amon knew his way through the depths of the Labyrinth that served as the lower catacombs of the Tower. The architects originally built it to serve as several chambers of ever-growing defenses meant to protect from invasion. In his time, the Allagans had filled with horrors and science-project-rejects that the Technologists of the Tower developed.

Now, the halls were silent and empty save for the quiet bubbling of lava around the base of the huge stone platforms. The invaders had succeeded in slaying the Allagan creatures and disabling the traps. They’d even taken down the once great Guardian, Phlegethon, who stood as the final defense before the Tower doors.

It was a marvel to believe that the Eorzeans were people so ignorant of their past, yet so proficient at overcoming it.

Amon froze once he finally made his way out of the Labyrinth, peering at what loomed tall above him.

“No.” His voice cracked in a hoarse whisper. All of his hopeful anticipation drained, as did the color in his cheeks.

The Tower doors stood shut.

Hissing, Amon rushed up to them. He knew what this meant, but he still had to try.

Pressing both hands against the ornate etched surface, he pushed.

And pushed.

And pushed.

And cursed.

And pushed.

And… nothing happened.

“No!” He miserably demanded of the unmoving doors. “How could they have sealed it?”

It was well established among his people that once closed, the doors to the Tower would only open for someone of the royal Allagan bloodline. Despite all his pride and presumptions, Amon was not Allagan nobility.

An embarrassingly broken sound passed his lips as he crumpled slightly, both palms still pressed against the cold metal. Amon would not be seeing his research… his lab… his tools… none of it. He would not have the means to prevent his downfall to madness. Nor could he restore strength into this this weak cloned body to kindle the magic he once commanded.

After staring miserably at the face of his doom, Amon finally reasoned it would serve him nothing to sit there and mourn. Instead, he dejectedly journeyed back out the way he came.

Feeling disillusionment and loss weigh down his limbs, Amon knew it would be suicide to try to maneuver all the way back to the safety of the outpost at night. Instead, he huddled down under a rocky outcropping in the middle of rustic-Mor-Dhona-nowhere. There, he tried to push back emotion and rationally work through what to do next.

That didn’t work very well, either.

It might be easier for me to just let a wandering beast have a meal tonight.

The taunting merciless light of Syrcus Tower silently shown down on him… as if to agree.

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