What's this? 2nd Chapter so soon? Well... yes and no.
As I was writing chapter 2 and finished I realized something... I was still on the same day! The problem with starting at the beginning is going through all the stations of canon that would be interesting to tell. Even with my plan to skip non-essential side quests and dialogue, I don't want to have too many chapters between me and the current Main Story of FFXIV (3.4 as of this writing). I really want to get to some of the good stuff, which I have planned out, and not take 20 of chapters. Thus I am thinking of merging my planned chapter 1 and 2 together for the first published chapter.
Pro's: Each chapter will have more meat and progress through the timeline faster.
Con's: Chapters will take longer to write and read.
If I do go through then I will most likely follow what other authors on the site are doing: post chapters by parts as I write them. Opinions?
While you decide here is (tentatively) Chap 1 part 2: Crystals, Challenges and Clarity
Still in the Quicksand
Momodi was patient enough to explain where Noctis could take care of the basics. Where he could eat (the Guild was clearly a diner as well), where to sleep (there were inn rooms at the back), and where to get money (something about leves but selling monsters parts was possible). Surviving wouldn’t be impossible when you literally only had the clothes on your back.
“Before you go chargin' off to find your fortune, I've a few basic tasks I'd like you to perform so as to help you get to know the place.”
Always a good idea to have important place marked.
“First of all, I want you to visit the Aetheryte Plaza. To get there, head west from here till you reach Emerald Avenue, then look to the north. You should see a giant, floatin' crystal called an aetheryte. If it weren't for aetherytes, travelin' around Eorzea would be a damn sight more troublesome than it is. 'Course, you still need to attune with 'em before you can use 'em, so be sure to do that with the one in the plaza. You ever attuned with an aetheryte before, Noctis? If not, just lay your hand on the thing and you'll see what I mean.”
He didn’t know what an aetheryte was but he had experience with a crystal before… it wasn’t an experience he hoped to relieve anytime soon. Unaware of Noctis’s worry, Momodi continued with her instructions.
“When you’ve done that, I want you to pay a visit to- I don’t see a weapon on you. What kind do you use?”
“Sorry, didn’t think it needed to be out.”
Calling on his arms, silhouettes of his weapons floated in front of him like a portable armory. Noctis smoothly snatched the short sword and held it for Momodi to see. It was only when he had left the guild did he think that maybe it wasn’t a good idea to show off his Arminger like that.
“Didn’t expect you to know how to hide your weapon already. But since you have a sword now, you might want to consider trainin’ at the Gladiator’s Guild. It’s over at the Coliseum.”
Sword no longer need, Noctis let go of the weapon and let it disperse back into his arsenal.
“And finally, I want you to visit the Sapphire Avenue Exchange, over on the Steps of Thal. Goods from all across Eorzea and beyond turn up there every day. You'll have no trouble findin' armor, weapons, or anythin' else a fledglin' adventurer like yourself might need. You might say that everythin's for sale here in Ul'dah─as long as you've got the gil.”
“Just make sure as you don't pay more than you ought, Noctis.” She warned him.
“There's plenty as won't scruple to swindle unsuspectin' foreigners like yourself, 'specially if they think no one's lookin' out for their best interests. Which is why I'm givin' you this letter. When you visit the exchange, find a gentleman named Seseroga and give it to him. He'll be happy to tell you about the markets once he's read it.”
He took the letter from her and stashed it in the pouch he just realized he wore. The clothes may have felt great but hadn’t the person who gave them ever heard of pockets?
“In short, then: visit the Aetheryte Plaza, the Gladiators' Guild, and the Sapphire Avenue Exchange. Simple.”
Ignis couldn’t have recapped it better if he tried. Noctis had almost turned away from the bar when Momodi called out again.
“Oh, but before you go, a word of advice: while there're more than a few unsavory characters out there who'll try to take advantage of you, there are also some with honest-to-goodness problems who you should consider offerin' a helpin' hand to. A lot of folk are lured to this city by the promise of wealth and power. What many of 'em fail to realize is that instead of chasin' after gil the moment they get here, they ought to be makin' friends.”
Wise words and one that Noctis could relate to. When he had left home they had done many things for different people. In turn, some of those people would help him when he needed. Truly good advice.
“Let it be known that you're willin' to give as much as you get, and opportunities will come your way. And that's all from me. It's past time you got goin'. Oh, and let me know when you've finished, will you? That way, I won't spend my days worryin' that you're down to your smallclothes without a gil to your name.”
“No problem. See you later Momodi and thanks for the help.” Momodi answered back with a smile and a wave goodbye.
Noctis left the Quicksand the same way he had entered and walked down the steps. The Aetheryte Plaza was west of here, along with Gladiators Guild, but it would be the first thing he saw. Luckily there was a small sign pointing to the plaza. Many people were going through and fro between three sets of pillars, giving it a high chance of the plaza located there. The area narrowed to a corridor but was still wide to let the traffic of people through.
Even from afar, Noctis could see the crystal Momodi was talking about. Walking up to it, he could see it was vastly different from Insomnia’s Crystal… or compared to the one in his dream. Nevertheless, it still looked and felt very mystical as it floated in the middle of the room. The blue light shone on Noctis as he approached the towering structure.
“Hail, adventurer!” It was another lalafell again. “Might you have come at the behest of Miss Momodi of the Quicksand?”
“Sure do.” Noctis answered nonchalantly.
“Excellent. Which brings us to the matter of the attunement fee─that will be one hundred thousand gil, if you please, sir.”
Noctis cool facade broke down at the mention of the amount. It was like the Regalia breaking down all over again. The silence from the shock was soon replaced by laughter.
“...AHAHAHAHAHA! Apologies, but I do so relish the opportunity to make that jest. The look on your face was absolutely priceless! Ah, but the fact that you were so easily deceived suggests to me that you are unfamiliar with the use of aetherytes.”
A sharp tsk escaped Noctis at his frustration at being easily tricked. He had only himself to blame this time. He could see now the purpose of all those warnings.
“Allow me to explain.” The lalafell gestured to the crystal. “These crystalline agglomerations tap into aetherial energies, and are primarily used as a means to travel swiftly from one place to another. Perchance you have heard of Return and Teleport?”
Nope, but he wasn’t going to admit that now.
“Well, these transportation spells make direct use of the aetherytes and their connection to the flow of aether. Given that there is an aetheryte in almost every corner of Eorzea, any adventurer with a mind to explore the realm will wish to seek out and attune herself to each and every one! But even if you have no intention of wandering beyond the sultanate's borders, it would be prudent for you to attune yourself to any aetherytes you encounter from now on.”
Man what Noctis wouldn’t give to have that system back home. Granted, they wouldn’t have been able to drive the Regalia anymore, but it would have allowed bypassing those daemon infested areas. Of course it meant there had to be more than one Crystal of Lucis scattered everywhere.
“I pray you found that informative. Should you wish to learn more about aetherytes or transportation magic, I should be happy to answer your questions.”
“Has anyone ever been absorbed by this crystal?” Noctis fired right away.
Despite the mask, Noctis could tell the lalafell’s eyes bulged in shock at his question.
“Twelve, no! It would be a disaster if such a thing happened! Why would that happen and why would someone ask that-” The guard paused as if something dawned on him. “AHAHAHA. You mean to pay me back from the joke a while ago!
… well, Noctis was being one hundred percent serious and is a valid concern for him… but it would be best to let the lalafell assume it was a joke.
“Ah, got me?”
“An excellent jest! But if you are wary there is no need to be. Attuning is as simple as holding out your hand and concentrating on the aetheric energies of the crystal. One must let the aether of the body resonate with the aether in the crystal.”
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a hard task for Noctis to do. He did spend ten years doing the exact same thing, albeit inside a crystal. Still wished he didn’t have to. Noctis felt his energies resonate with the crystal and was washed in a strange feeling. It felt as if, no matter where he would go, he would always find his way back here. It almost felt like… home.
The implications of being in this world finally caught up to him. He would never be able to return home. Never again see his friends, his brothers-in-arms…. his family. He didn’t know how he got here or who sent him here. Others might say there was still a possibility to find a way back, but deep down, he knew such a thing doesn’t exist.
Yet, there was also a part of him that was saying this is where he was supposed to be. That all was not lost in this world. Words that escaped him before suddenly came to mind.
"We shall see each other again."
Luna! She had said those words. This was where they would see each other again. Just like that, despair was replaced with hope. He would familiarize himself with this land and, once finished, set out to find her. He still had important words to say to her.
It seemed that he had been lost in his thoughts for a while. The lalafell guard had gone, probably to prank the next unsuspecting green adventurer. His task at the Aetheryte Plaza finished, it was time to proceed to the next area on his quest.
Finally at the Coliseum
The sound of clashing metals meant that Noctis was at the right place. A lot of people were huddled around a balcony looking down at the arena below. People were cheering, booing and betting all around. Maybe he could risk betting there when he had more money. He remembered doing well at the Totomostro Arena before everything went to hell. For now, his goal was the Gladiator’s Guild. The place was clearly marked by the dual-sword emblem hanging above.
The Guild was just as noisy, if not more than, outside. Noctis could spot people sparring, either with dummies or each other. Others were practicing swings not unlike Noctis when he started. Forms were different from his, but his style incorporated his... unique powers. Realistically, trying to learn a new style wouldn’t be beneficial for him. He was probably sent here as a formality for new adventurers. Probably more registration for easier tracking.
Unfortunately, Noctis didn’t really know what he was supposed to do now. For the first time it was Noctis’s turn to approach someone for information. Behind the reception counter was yet another lalafell.
“This the Gladiator’s Guild?”
“Yes!” She answered like a model receptionist. “Welcome to the Gladiators' Guild, friend! Tell me, are you new to the thrills of mortal combat? Well, whether you are or not, you are new to us!
If you would take your place in these hallowed halls, you must be willing and ready to undergo the most rigorous training. You must endure cuts and bruises beyond counting, and like as not far worse.”
Noctis nodded in agreement recalling his own training.
“A daunting prospect, I concede─but there is no other way if you mean to take to the bloodsands one day. And why wouldn't you? The Coliseum is only the most celebrated place of public entertainment in all of Ul'dah!”
Right on cue came cheers from the coliseum outside.
“Where else could a poor man amass a fortune so vast as to one day allow him to claim a seat on the Syndicate? Ahhh...there's not an Ul'dahn alive who isn't inspired by the rise of the self-made man. And there is no truer embodiment of this than the gladiator who wins riches and fame with his sword.”
She extended her right arm, gesturing to the wall of trophies and certificates.
“Throughout its long and storied history, this guild has nurtured countless champions. Our training methods are second to none, and our members ever strive to develop new techniques. If you desire true glory─to fight and triumph, 'midst the roar of ten thousand voices─then this is where you belong, adventurer...Think of it. Think of your legacy. And if your soul stirs...join us.”
A dramatic pause hung in the air as Noctis absorbed all that information.
“That was a good speech.” Her smile widened at Noctis’s praise. “How hard was it to memorize?”
The receptionist bashfully scratched her cheek.
“Eheh… You’re the first I managed to finish without messing up.” She cleared her throat as she restored her professional image. “What will it be? Will you rise above the masses and inscribe your name in legend, or will you resign yourself to mediocrity and die in obscurity?” Another ledger with names was brought out for effect.
Honestly, somewhere in the middle of the two choices would be fine for Noctis. No unwanted fame, no fated death; a good place to be. Unfortunately, backing out now would feel like kicking a puppy after her enthusiastic speech. Plus Momodi was expecting this and would probably find out somehow if he didn’t. Thus Noctis wrote his name for the second time today.
“A decision you shan't regret. One moment─make way for Noctis Lucis…” She gave the ledger another look. “...Caelum! Fresh meat coming through!” She shouted like one of the royal announcers. Turning back to Noctis, she spoke again but with a normal volume. “Now then, before your enrollment can be considered complete, you must present yourself to First Sword Mylla. Seek her out and obtain her approval.”
“Aye, I heard Lulutsu.” A blonde-haired human (hyur, Noctis corrected) female decked in armor came to over to the reception area. Built like the women of Lestallum, she had an aura of authority and deadly skill. “So you're Noctis Lucis... Caelum.”
She gave a him a once over as if analyzing every inch of him, including the new ones. It must have gone longer than expected since the receptionist spoke up.
“Is something the matter, First Sword?”
This seemed to bring back Mylla from her thoughts.
“‘Tis nothing wrong Lulutsu. Just something I have noticed. Apologies Noctis. I am Mylla, guildmaster here.” She turned around and gestured for Noctis to follow her. “Normally, I would orient newcomers about the sword and our arts.” She continued speaking as she led Noctis towards the practice areas. “But I can tell that you are not a novice of the blade. Halt!”
At Mylla’s command, activity within the guild stopped. Mylla ordered the arena vacated and called over one of the trainees resting at the sidelines. Murmurs started to become audible in the guild as the sounds of swords clashing no longer drowned them out.
“Instead of the customary wild hunt for beginners, a spar will show what skill you truly have.” Sharp observation skills as expected of a First Sword. “Despite his exhausted appearance, Albert is experienced in the sword and quite skilled.” Said Albert beamed at the praise given to him. “There’s no need to go easy on him.” That wiped the smile off his face.
Seeing as there weren’t any reasons for Noctis to refuse, he quickly complied and got into the ring. It was basically a raised platform with four pillars at the corners. Albert, fully decked in armor, stood at one corner, trying to psyche himself up. Noctis stood at the opposite corner, dressed in simpler clothes. Albert drew the sword from his hip with his right and readied the shield on his left. Noctis… crouched to a lower stance.
A curious expression graced everyone's including Mylla but said nothing regarding Noctis’s lack of visible weaponry. “First to two points with sword or shield wins the match.” The First Sword clarified just to make sure Noctis would be fighting barehanded. This was a test of his sword skills.
No signs of acknowledgement were needed as both were internally waiting for the fight to start.
At the signal, Albert let out a war cry and swiftly charged at Noctis. A fast blade slashed through the air and looked to be an easy point against the unarmed opponent. As the sword was about to strike flesh and cloth, Noctis phased away from his spot, completely dodging the attack, and reappeared beside Albert. A sword suddenly appeared from thin air which Noctis quickly grabbed and performed a one-handed upward slash at his opponent’s vulnerable back. The loud impact of sword and armor echoed throughout the guild as Albert was sent careening towards the corner post.
Noise filled the guild as everyone vocalized their astonishment or disbelief. For everyone, it looked like Noctis seemingly teleported from his spot (technically it was), materialized a sword from nowhere (more like summoned from his arsenal), and sent Albert flying (Noctis just gave an extra ‘push’. His feet barely left the floor). Mylla was calm compared to everyone else, seemingly unphased by the skill and abilities Noctis showed.
“Albert! Remember not to overcommit your strikes!” The First Sword advised while Albert got back to position facing Noctis. The gladiator looked more alert this time. Sword held in his right hand, Noctis prepared for the next round.
“First point to Noctis! Ready, begin!”
Noctis was first to strike this time as he charged forward. His sword slash was stopped by a shield this time. Albert quickly followed up his block with slash with his sword that Noctis phased out of the way again. People held their breath as they expected another finishing blow when Noctis attacked with another upward slash. The sound of sword and shield echoed again as Albert was able to block the follow-up attack this time.
His opponent was quickly adapting to Noctis’s dodging. Albert would attack then block then counter-attack without pausing. The armored gladiator was surprisingly fast on his feat and quick to strike everytime. Albert soon realized that he could start chaining multiple slashes which forced Noctis to phase repeatedly to dodge. Such an attack prevented Noctis from countering with his own. Fast and savage combos rained down on Noctis as they forced Noctis to phase further and further away. He need to appear out of sword range for a chance to attack as well. Noctis followed up with his own combos as Albert blocked them with his shield or countered with his own sword. The sounds of clashing metals filled the guild as both fighter fought.
Another combo of fast and savage blades forced Noctis to phase to a safe distance. When he materialized again, Noctis’s eyes widened as he saw a shield immediately fly towards him. Not expecting an attack beyond sword reach, Noctis was sent stumbling backwards as the shield hit his chest. Having the wind knocked out of him caused Noctis to lose his grip on the sword, causing it to dematerialize. Even in this state, Noctis was able to see Albert’s shield somehow perfectly fly back to its owner.
“Point to Albert!” Mylla quickly called.
Fellow gladiators cheered and shouted encouragement to Albert who actually looked surprised to score. Noctis caught his breath before getting back into position. Both made eye contact and saw respect the other had as worthy opponents. They gave each other a nod of understanding and readied their battle stances. Albert brought his shield forward and higher, while Noctis resummoned his sword in his right hand.
“Match Point! Ready, begin!”
No one made sudden moves this time as they studied each other for an opening. Noctis had one more trick up his sleeve which he was a bit reluctant to use. Mylla did say ‘no holding back’, and so far no one had reacted negatively to his arsenal ability. Noctis decided he could risk showing it.
Noctis flipped his sword in his hand, to hold it in a reverse grip, and brought his seemingly empty left arm in front. The audience then saw him charge towards Albert which, from their perspective, would mean Noctis’s left arm would impact very painfully against the shield. Centimeters before impact, Noctis surprised everyone by materializing his own shield on his left arm. Shield impacted shield causing Albert to stumble back, as he did not expect a new weapon to materialize. He was too focused on the sword only.
The stumble caused an opening to appear in Albert’s guard which Noctis exploited with a well placed thrust kick to the chest. No point yet. Albert stumbled further back but Noctis followed up with a warp just above the gladiator. Noctis brought his shield down Albert’s undefended head (but wearing a helmet) and caused head to meet floor.
“Final Point to Noctis!” Mylla immediately called the match.
Cheers and groans came from the audience at the outcome of the match. A few coins of gil discretely passed between people. Inside the ring, Noctis felt a bit guilty at the his last attack. It may have hurt more than he intended. As Albert managed to pick himself up into a sitting position, Noctis offered a hand as a gesture of goodwill. Thankfully, Albert sportingly took the hand and Noctis heaved him up. He even gave Noctis a friendly pat of the arm and thanked him for the match.
“Albert! Noctis!” Noctis unconsciously stood in attention which Albert copied. Mylla’s tone was a dead ringer Gladio’s drill sargeant voice, without the bass. The First Sword entered the ring to approach the two fighters. “‘Twas a good display of skill from both of you. Albert, we’ll discuss your application later.” Mylla turned to Noctis. “Noctis, a fine display of skills and abilities. Quick and nimble as expected of your kind. ‘Tis obvious the way your sword and abilities support each other, you are no mere novice. At least, not of the blade, correct?”
“Yeah… a bit new to Ul’dah?” Truthfully, new to this whole world.
“Then, I welcome you, fellow swordsman, to the Gladiator’s Guild. Let this be your new home. Few gladiators are able to develop their own unique styles with the blade. It is always a sight to behold how one’s character is reflected in their technique. Even if you have little to learn from here, consider joining. Many would welcome you after that display.”
Looking around, people were indeed trying to discreetly listen in on the conversation. No one looked hostile and did look excited at the opportunity to talk to him. Didn’t feel like a bad crowd.
“Sounds great. Still planning on adventuring out of here sometime.”
Mylla nodded in understanding. “We are no strangers to adventurers who come and learn, then leave, come back to learn something new, and then leave again. Come back tomorrow for your next challenge… paperwork.”
Everything nextwas a blur as people congratulated him for his victory and his membership ti the guild. A few pats on the back and even a challenge to fight came from the other gladiators. Noctis was only able to excuse himself when he mentioned Momodi;s instructions. Everyone suddenly understood and told him to send her the guild’s greetings.
As Noctis exited through the doors, the First Sword approached the reception area of the guild.
“‘Twas an exciting match, even from this distance.” Lulutsu spoke up.
“Truly was. I could barely contain myself from cheering as well. Both fought well.” Mylla replied.
“I will have the usual checks done by tomorrow, First Sword.”
“I believe it won’t be necessary.” Mylla spoke as confusion crossed Lulutsu’s face. “No spy would show off or attract as much attention as he did. Despite his skill, ‘twas obvious he was not accustomed to his surroundings. No plan to blend in and go unnoticed.”
Skilled fighters were known to be able to read body language to predict and exploit opponent’s weaknesses. Mylla was one such fighter. One does not become and stay First Sword in the Gladiator’s Guild through charisma alone.
“Even so… I think I will still do the checks.”
A small smile graced Mylla’s features. Even if she wasn’t a gladiator, Lulutsu embodied the protective spirit of one.
Back at the Quicksand
The marketplace tour was eventless compared to the Gladiator’s Guild. He had approached, surprise surprise, a lalafell named Seseroga as Momodi instructed. It took some cajoling and a letter from Momodi before he relented. Noctis knew where to buy his supplies now… once he had gil to spend. His tasks accomplished, Noctis figured he could tour some other parts of the city before returning back to the Quicksand. It would allow him to know more about the city which was probably the intention of the previous tasks.
As the sun was setting, Noctis returned to the Quicksand via the entrance from the marketplace after his detours. He had tried to commit to memory the important parts of the day, which cause him to muse he had managed to do a lot in less than a day of arriving in this world. He was starting to get hungry though and was starting to realize he would have to ask for a free meal or a loan. It was a familiar situation he found himself in.
“How was your tour of the city, Noctis?” Momodi greeted. “Get lost, did you?”
“No problem getting around. Found everything easy enough. Did take a while at the Gladiator’s Guild”
“Oh? They ask you to start huntin’ in the wilderness? Hear a lot of green adventurers complain ‘bout doin’ it. But they change their tunes when they realize how deadly desert vilekins can be.”
“Well…” Noctis explained about the match he fought and the reception he got afterwards.
“Nothin’ like diving straight into the flames? Already making a name on your first day in Ul’dah. I knew I saw somethin’ in you. You’ll be gettin’ fame and fortune in no time.” she praised Noctis.
“About that…” Noctis began but was quickly interrupted when Momodi held up her hand in a stopping motion.
“Say no more, I know what you need. First meal in the Quicksand’s on the house to celebrate your first day. I’ll even let you stay at the Inn tonight but you’ll have to pay that one back.”
“Really ‘preciate it.” He thanked her.
“Come back to me tomorrow and we'll talk 'bout payment.”
Inn room in… where else?
The room was modestly decorated but Noctis couldn’t help but feel he was sleeping in old ruins. It was the first time he had slept in stone (concrete doesn't count) walls. It was like sleeping in an older time, if it wasn’t for the different world part already. Glowing crystals and flame candles replaced light bulbs giving the place a fantasy feel. Noctis felt like he was in one of the video games they used to play in high school. The bed looked comfy at least though he was no stranger to worse sleeping arrangements. He did spend majority of traveling Lucis in tents.
Noctis started removing non-essential clothing to prepare for bed. As he was removing his pants, Noctis felt them catch on something. Turning around, he searched what his pants had caught on.
“Oh…” Realization dawned on him. “Tailless...”
And thus ends Day 1. Will move Gridania scene here if the merge goes as planned. As well as a glossary for Eorzean language for those non-lore addicts.
As you can see somethings change a bit, Noctis does somethings that don't happen and skip over unnecessary exposition. Really don't think you needed a Marketplace tour. You could say 'butterfly effect' as the cause for these things... but it's really the author wanting to skip some stuff (poor excuse).
Anyway, comments? Suggestions? Violent Reactions? Thanks again for those that motivated me to write this. Next chapter won't be as fast as this unfortunately...
Please look forward to it anyway.