A Sultana's Strings
In case you're wondering, I'm not planning on staying in Ala Mhigo. Too many bad memories. And besides, I like my new life.
I know I could learn so much from Raubahn if he decided to stay. But it's his choice, and I'm not about to try and persuade him. Ul'dah needs him too.
Well, the question of how to put the mad king's treasures to good use shows no sign of answering itself. Shall we be about it, Arenvald?
I am at your beck and call!
...And I should be getting back to my own tasks. I'll organize a squad to head down into the ruins, and then start preparing for the big meeting... Oh, send Nanamo my regards, Forename!
And ours too, if you please. We shall see you on your return.
My lord! It was an honor to face you in the tournament. Since that day, I have spent my every spare moment in the practice yard, striving to attain some fraction of your skill with the blade.
Ah! Forgive me! You are here for your audience with the sultana! Please proceed.
You are expected, my lord. Please proceed.
Your audience with Her Grace is concluded, then? Safe travels, my lord.
What do you think of “Lilira, the merchant's daughter”? This is the disguise I don when I wish to leave the palace and observe my subjects unnoticed.
Perchance you remember “Lilira, the merchant's daughter”? This is the persona I assume when I venture beyond the palace walls to observe my subjects unnoticed.
Ordinarily, Papashan would accompany me, but for this particular outing I need an advisor─not a minder.
And that is why I requested your company. Over the course of your many adventures, you have met people from all walks of life, in every corner of Eorzea, and I would make use of your worldly experience.
Now, let us be on our way. Our first destination is Stonesthrow, just beyond the Gate of Nald.
Look upon this procession of tattered tents...These refugees camp in squalor, at the mercy of the elements and Thanalan's predators both.
The city's mighty walls offer safety, but the streets overflow with people as it is. And unless blessed by the hand of Nald Himself, no refugee could ever hope to afford a dwelling in Ul'dah.
Twenty years have passed since the fall of Ala Mhigo and five since the Calamity, yet the plight of the poor has grown more desperate, not less. As sultana, the blame falls upon me.
...Then my best has not been good enough.
Yes, my authority is limited. And that is an obstacle I must work to overcome...
Shall we press on? I would follow the road to the Unholy Heir.
It was here, in this wholly unremarkable place, that my mother and father met their doom.
I was but a child at the time. My parents were returning from an inspection of our interests in eastern Thanalan when an untimely rockslide crushed their carriage. To this day, it is not certain if the incident was simple misfortune or an expertly planned assassination.
Raubahn once offered to re-open the investigation and bring me the truth he assumed I must surely crave. But I refused.
Even if my parents' deaths were orchestrated by the Monetarists, we could only have brought their hirelings to justice.
The true villains─those who plotted to put me on the throne as a biddable puppet─were ever beyond our reach.
Thus did I plan to strip the merchants of their power and place our nation in the hands of its citizens...quite unaware of the consequences my actions would have for you and yours... I shudder to think how many goodly souls paid the price of my naivety...
But I am no longer a child reciting words with witless obedience, and I will not be used as a pawn in the Monetarists' damnable games!
<sigh> Forgive me my outburst. You are one of the few people to whom I feel I can speak my mind.
Come. Let us return to Ul'dah and visit the Coliseum.
From the moment I became sultana, I found myself thrust into an endless parade of document signing and ceremonies.
For years, I simply signed where I was told to sign, and sat where I was told to sit, blissfully oblivious to what any of it meant. Yet one good thing did come from that ignominious chapter in my life. For it was during an “official” visit to the Coliseum that I first met Raubahn.
The match I had been invited to attend was not at all what I expected. They had pitted the Bull of Ala Mhigo against some dozen or so rival gladiators...
Blinkered though I was, I would not stand for so obvious an injustice, and demanded to see a fair fight, one man against another. And my royal wish was duly granted.
It was not until later that I learned of the gambling ring which had arranged for Raubahn to die on the sands that day.
Regardless, my intervention meant that Raubahn had but a single opponent to dispatch─which he duly did. And when he knelt before me to receive the winner's purse, he swore that he would one day offer me his blade in service.
Surrounded as I was by liars and manipulators, I confess I dismissed it as a pleasant piece of theater.
But as you know, Raubahn is a man of his word. Though it took him another five years of fighting on the bloodsands, he amassed a fortune so great as to buy not only his freedom but a seat on the Syndicate. And then I had my blade.
Words cannot well express what that man means to me.
There are others who care deeply for my well-being, of course─Papashan's love for me is as that of a grandsire for his grandchild.
But upon matters of governance, I cannot turn to bodyguards and maidservants for counsel.
Raubahn, with the authority of his Syndicate position, was the first sword I could wield. His was the only edge which could cut the strings that bound me...