Oh my, it has been months since my last recap? Time for a new one
Don't worry, I just had (and still have) a lot of work going on right now.
The price of shame
Besides feeling sorry for Asrabey, we finally have some clues where we could find out more of Kasvarina's lost memories with her old enclave Ushanti and Resal. Auryn quickly adds another place to visit with wherever it was that Asrabey and Kasvarina married, as soon as she may get him to return, so he may find a glimpse of happiness again and remember the good times he had with his wife.
As we guess that Resal and the memories that belong to this place might be tied to Dala, Launga and maybe even Pillai, we decide to not contact Asrabey before we went there as we really do not wish to hurt him even more. In addition, the vision had cost Kasvarina a good portion of her strength, so we all agree to spend one more night in Sentosa before we leave the enclave for now.
The next day, we're about to say goodbye to Desok, Faedhraven, Talios and Betronga when Kasvarina is feeling drawn to another place inside the city again. So we just let the Arc do its magic. Kasvarina walks straight towards the pyramid and ascends the steps to the seat of the three High Matriarchs. Then the scene shifts to a hot summer day and all of a sudden Kasvarina is wearing the splendorous garb of one of the High Matriarchs. She is accompanied by a group of warriors, walks up to her seat and takes her place without a flinch. Right next to her are the two other Matriarchs Latika and Athryalla, whom she addresses with a sense of urgency and dread.
Kasvarina then states the reason why she called the Triune: Her daughter Launga has been abducted by the Dragon Tyrant Rilego of Seobriga and she requires help to rescue her last remaining child. Without hesitation, Latika agrees to join her cause and promises her fellow Matriarch a squad of her best trained warriors, including her one-armed General Sor Daeron on top of that. Kasvarina seems to be thankful for that quick response and then looks to Athryalla. But when it is her time to speak, she instead gets off her seat and grabs Kasvarina by the shoulders and shakes her.
Kas utters a quick scream, gets torn away from her vision and we realize that this is the actual Athryalla who resisted the urge to play her part and didn't want the scene to continue. Before the magic of the vision dissipates violently, risking a hefty backlash on Kasvarina, Auryn manages to contain the magic and shield her ancestor's mind from the twisting memories.
“What are you doing? Stop it, you're hurting her!” she shouts at Athryalla, who still has a hold on her fellow Matriarch.
“This is my... no, I won't allow it. This must not continue. Leave at once.” the Matriarch responds.
“With all due respect, Matriarch, you gave us the permission to restore Kasvarina's memories with the Arc's powers. If you continue to torture her like this, you will endanger us all. Is keeping this moment of yours a secret really worth it? Is a Matriarch's promise worth so little?” Carlyle protests, trying to press the right buttons here.
Athryalla doesn't give in at first. She looks back at us and with one glance we see that she seems... frightened. When we ask her again what it would be that would make a person like her so afraid, she explains that it would be Kasvarina's reaction to what she did that day and that she would never ever be able to forgive her for what she had done on that day, four centuries ago.
“Don't you understand? She will inevitably remember that day once her memories are restored, no matter what. And then you won't be around to explain yourself.”, he says all while Kasvarina is still caught up in the magic.
“Wouldn't it be better to rekindle your relationship and built it on trust this time? If you continue this path, there will just be more discord between the two of you.”, Auryn adds.
Athryalla breathes in heavily and then finally agrees. She lets go of her fear and shame, releases Kasvarina and replaces the lost magic by interweaving the Arc's remaining, fragmented vision with an illusion of her own memory. There, her past self stands up and claims that she has a bad feeling about the plan of having all three High Matriarchs together in such a dangerous place. Instead, she offers the two her best troops. Both Kasvarina and Latika agree that this is a wise choice and that the two and their small army will most likely be enough to pincer the Dragon.
When we ask her why Athryalla would be so ashamed by her seemingly wise choice, she explains that it was this decision that most likely cost poor Launga her life. She did have a bad feeling back then and was actually too afraid to join the others. She didn't know what happened in Seobriga, but when Kasvarina returned back to Sentosa, she was injured and all alone and didn't speak a word about what happened. Athryalla guessed that there might have been an act of treason among the rescue squad, but wouldn't dare to inquire further.
“I- I could have saved the girl, had I just been there.”
“Or you could have fallen victim to whatever happened there. You did what was best for Sentosa. Risking all three Matriarchs would have been brave, but foolish indeed.” Auryn replies, reminding her that these are the tough choices you have to make when you're Matriarch. And after all, Athryalla offered – and obviously sacrificed – her elite guard as reinforcements for the mission.
Bit by bit, Kasvarina recovers from her memory, but she still seems very much confused and doesn't understand why this would be such a big deal for Latika. All she felt however was fear and desperation as she knew that Launga was in grave danger.
“I didn't want to cause you more pain, Kasvarina. Whatever happened between you and me shall stay in the past. Let us take this opportunity and start anew.” Athryalla says, and this time she finally sounds honest. To make amends for her mistake, she offers her own headband for Kasvarina as it may give her enough insight to better understand her visions.
(Technically a headband of wisdom to help Kas with the wisdom checks)
She also warns us to not go to Ushanti right now as there could likely be agents of “the old Kasvarina's life” on the lookout for their mistress. Also, but this seems really natural to us, Seobriga would not be the best place to start as this would be too stressful in Kasvarina's current state.
As soon as Kasvarina is able to walk again she, too, thanks Athryalla for her help and honesty. And as her mental state is now even worse than before, we agree to spend another night in Sentosa so Kasvarina may recover and maybe sort out the memories in her dreams.
Just when we're already lying in our beds, we receive a magical message from Flint stating that Vitus Sigismund has been released from custody and is now on his way back to Crisillyir. He seemed to be thankful and sends greetings to those who had so much patience with him.
(Finally! We thought he'd never come down from that high horse...)
Before we depart to Resal the next morning, we send out a magical message to Ottavia since we are worried about her and Luc as we haven't heard anything about them since the disastrous Obscon. Besides that we also want to talk to the Oracle about our worrisome vision of the future that may or may not come to be. To our surprise and joy, she answers our call almost immediately and leaves a promising reply. She says that she's very relieved to hear from us as she didn't know whether we made it “out of there” alive. She also leaves instructions to meet her in Sid Minos in two days. Her message is a bit cryptic though as she mentions a certain Ninth Pretorian who will welcome us at pier no. 4.
We're glad to see that Ottavia doesn't seem to be as manipulable as Luc, but still mentally prepare for the worst and also agree to not bring Kasvarina to this meeting. Auryn then asks Gabriel to sit with her in private for a bit longer and asks him to watch over her “inner fire” so it may not turn as dark as the old Kasvarina's. She explains that apparently the two of them share more than a face and are both tangled in the strands of destiny. Which is why she sees the danger that ill strokes of fate could have on her path.
Carlyle though turns to her, takes her hand and looks her straight in the eye.
“I will look after you, but I have no worries that you will go astray. I know you quite well. For every shadow you may feel inside you, there is an even bigger light. And while you may make hard decisions, you will never make sacrifices easily or let your heart grow cold and distant. So don't be afraid of who you are.”
Auryn thanks him for his reassurance and explains that she's simply worried by the harsh contrast between the current Kasvarina and the woman who apparently somehow was one of the figureheads of the Obscurati.
(And I'm still very much surprised that none of the Obs ever really tried to recruit Auryn or Carlyle. Both would have been perfect candidates. Well, maybe old!Kasvarina would have vetoed getting anyone of her family involved after what happened to Launga and Dala.)
After that, we finally gather Kasvarina and start our journey to Resal. To speed things up, we look up the nearest point we know and decide to teleport there. And as Sentacore tells us that Resal is now known by the name of Aione Azurro and also one of the earliest Crisillyiri colonies, we get that Vendricce would be a good starting point. So Carlyle takes everyone by their hands and teleports close to the little inn he had memorized.
To our surprise, the teleportation effect leaves a little sproutling that grows into a small tree pretty fast. We see that this growth is most likely connected to life energy from the Dreaming and are again being worried about some strange dimensional tear going on already. Carlyle is especially spooked out as he usually has perfect control over his space-time-altering abilities and muses if the reward is worth the apparent risk. Still we know that we'll have to cross larger distances in the near future, so we decide to stick to teleportation as long as the side effects are minor.
(I don't know whether these effects of the Ob ritual being prepared are actually in the adventure or just some random fluff made up by Tiz to emphasize the “burning threshold” between the Dreaming and our realm)
Once we arrive in Vendricce, we see that the city is packed with military and has increased security measures by a large margin. So we do our best to sneak out unnoticed and then buy some horses in one of the outskirt settlements. The rest of the way to Resal is very easily reachable that way and we arrive in our destination a few hours later.
In Resal we see several really old Eladrin with dull looking eyes working on the fields and we get that these men must be veterans who have given up their fight and surrendered to Crisillyir after the events of the Malice. We feel pity for them, especially as they even wear the emblems of the Clergy and don't bother to look up to us newcomers, which is clearly a sign that they have given up hope long ago.
In town, we also meet another Eladrin man who appears to be pretty uninvolved but not as absent-minded as the others. He's selling flowers and instantly catches the interest of Auryn who talks to him a bit about his wares and botany in general. They trade one of her new cultivated flowers for some local seeds, but she cannot really point her finger on that man's character. Carlyle feels a bit uneasy in the man's presence and his magic detection reveals that the guy is emanating divination magic. So nothing dangerous, but nonetheless mysterious.
Still we have no time to investigate some random flower guy and decide to put a distance between him and us before we let Kasvarina place the crown on her head again.
(As FF7 veterans, we should have known better than to let the mysterious one with the flowers just do his thing )
We let the crown unfold its magic and follow Kasvarina who walks straight to the other end of Resal. She only stops as she reaches a field where the surroundings change and a large group of Eladrin suddenly appears out of thin air. We see their distraught faces and hear their laments about everything being lost now and understand that this must have been a gathering that happened right after the Malice. Besides remnants of the Eladrin army, we also see another, slightly younger version of Sor Daeron, but also the three Matriarchs and Launga. The Eladrin men appear to be in despair and have lost all hope while the few remaining women seem to be unsure whether there could ever be a future for their nation.
After a while, they all attend to a funeral ceremony for all those who have fallen in the great war and the Malice. The poet Vekesh agrees to do the elegy for those who lost their lives, but as soon as he starts his song, everyone realizes that this is a song about Srasama as she best represented those who died in the catastrophe. He sings about both the Maiden and the Mother, but stays silent the moment his song would switch to the Crone.
Kasvarina appears to understand his message and she encourages the other Matriarchs and women to perform a ritual dance for the fallen goddess. In this moment, Auryn feels drawn towards Launga and takes her place in the dance while Carlyle merges with Sor Daeron. Like Vekesh, the women celebrate the aspects of the Maiden and Mother, but leave out the aspect of the Crone as a symbol of their rejection of grief. They then swear to leave grief behind so they may lead their people and forge a future for those who remain.
After Vekesh has finished his performance, the Eladrin men who had listened to him all have tears in their eyes as they have sung the final parts alongside the poet. Vekesh then calls to his people to not give up their lives seeking revenge for the dead women. Instead, he urges them to make sure that the remaining women make it safely back to their homeland as they have to be the backbone of their restoration. Kasvarina is the first of the women to agree to this plan and the others soon join in, with Latika and Athryalla as the other two who do the organization.
The vision ends and Kasvarina falls on her knees, being overwhelmed with all that she just experienced.
“I... how could I have been so strong in such a moment of despair? All while still feeling the pain of the loss of my... oh my dear Dala... she must have died mere moments ago”
Auryn is the first one to fully come back to her own self and leave her experience of Launga behind. She wraps her arms around Kasvarina and comforts her.
“This strength of yours is still inside you, waiting for you to be found. If you really wish to progress further, we will stay by your side till the very end.”
She then helps Kasvarina to get back on her feet and moves to Gabriel who's still caught up with Sor Daeron's feelings about Vekesh's performance. Auryn wipes away the tears from his face and kisses his cheek. Once Gabriel leaves the effect of the Arc behind, he says that he now understands why the Dirge would have been such a turning point in Eladrin history. Auryn agrees and she is really grateful for this rare chance of going back to this moment in history. She takes these memories of Vekesh and the Matriarch's dance with her as she finally understands why her own version of the Dirge wouldn't even be close to the original.
(She'd really try to improve her opera with the knowledge she gained that day, but it would be a long time till she'd get another chance)
After these powerful memories and emotions, we take a short rest on the side of the road. The Eladrin farmers and workers who happened to be nearby when the vision happened don't seem to understand what they just saw and ask us what they just witnessed. We tell them that these were ghosts of the past, remnants of the people who had been here five hundred years ago. After all, a great calamity came to those who lived here five centuries ago and the shadows of the past may never fully vanish until these wounds are healed.
(Can I just say that I loved the way we were able to experience the Dirge of Vekesh? I know that there is a lot of exposition going on in this adventure and it really did its best to do a “show” instead of simply “tell”. It might be a bit awkward if your party doesn't have any connection to Kasvarina, but with our party is was just really personal.
For Gabriel, I guess that this and the whole journey did play a pivotal role in his understanding of the Eladrin, his own place in the world and also what set him apart from Nicodemus. Also, I don't think that we have ever seen him really cry until that point (well, he did have wet eyes when he was knighted by King Aodhan, but there were tears of overwhelmed happiness and pride). Even if these tears were not exactly his own.
And for Auryn, the memory event made her realize even better who she was and what she was fighting for. It also taught her a lot about the meaning of true strength and resilience in a moment of deepest despair. Just wait and see till the “you have to leave grief behind you” will appear again.)