Litany of Peace
My own friendship with Estinien began some ten years past, shortly after we joined the Temple Knights...
I learned his name soon enough, but Estinien barely registered my existence. I was less a fellow recruit, and more a shadow which occasionally darkened his path.
And so I might have remained, had fate not seen fit to intervene. While out on patrol, our company was set upon by a dragon, and we were the only two to survive. The experience forged a bond between us, as such life-threatening situations are wont to do.
Despite our friendship, he remained an intense and solitary youth, wholly obsessed with claiming vengeance against Nidhogg. Revenge was ever at the forefront of his mind─revenge for the death of his parents, and revenge for his younger brother.
I would venture that in Alphinaud he sees something of his lost sibling.
And in the ungentle chidings of Estinien, Alphinaud has found the elder brother he never had.
Truth be told, Estinien's tactless observations have saved me from disaster more than once, and I can well understand Alphinaud's affection for him. He is a friend for whom I would gladly─
Lord Commander! Your presence is required in the infirmary!
Is he─ Tell them I am on my way!
<sigh> So it is over, then...
Captain Whitecape ordered me to fetch Ser Aymeric with all haste. I know no more than that.
I did not take the Azure Dragoon for a man to pass in his bed...
Quickly, Forename! We must go to him!
Cease your mewling, boy. It grates my ears.
Forgive me. When I saw you awaken, I could not─ It was such a relief! We feared you might never wake up!
Now, now, Estinien. If Master Alphinaud thought any less of you, you would still be Nidhogg's plaything─or dead.
Aye, aye. 'Twas but a jest.
I thank you, Alphinaud...and you too, Warrior of Light. Quite how you managed to persuade Hraesvelgr to aid in his brood-brother's downfall, I cannot imagine─but full glad am I that you did. 'Tis an honor to share the mantle of Azure Dragoon with one such as you.
I thank you, Alphinaud...and you too, Warrior of Light. Quite how you managed to persuade Hraesvelgr to aid in his brood-brother's downfall, I cannot imagine─but full glad am I that you did. Yet again, you have achieved the impossible.
I for my part owe you an apology. When last we met, I did willingly loose an arrow at your heart. Can you forgive me?
There is naught to forgive, Aymeric. You but acted in defense of Ishgard, as is your duty.
Were you any less single-minded about it, I would not follow you into battle─nor trust you at my back.
Besides, I had come to the selfsame conclusion─that I would have to perish for Nidhogg to be stopped. So let us dispense with the hand-wringing. I have heard enough mewling for one day.
The tendrils of Nidhogg's foul presence bound up every fiber of my being, usurping my senses, but I yet retained some trace of awareness.
The wyrm's mind was as a vast and tumultuous sea. Endlessly its black waters churned, his grief and despair at Ratatoskr's murder never calming, never receding. And driven by this surging current came wave upon wave of unrelenting rancor.
It was the very image of my own heart. There I saw the dark reflection of the hatred I felt after Nidhogg slew my family, when no path remained save vengeance against dragonkind.
Neither one of us had a choice. But I was blessed with something Nidhogg was not─comrades and teachers to console and admonish me.
Had I not had them to gainsay my obsession, it would surely have consumed me, as Nidhogg's did him, and we would have been in all respects alike.
Though his shade is banished, his spirit scattered upon the Sea of Clouds, I feel no joy at his passing. Where once I craved vengeance, I now crave rest.
Lord Commander, my hunt is at an end. I would lay down the mantle of Azure Dragoon.
He has tired himself with too many words.
I doubt not that he will make a full recovery, but he must be allowed some few days of quiet.
I too must see my path to its end. Sleep well, my friend.
Following the battle with Nidhogg on the Steps of Faith,
Ser Aymeric called an assembly that he might make his final proclamation as acting head of state.
'Twas there, with one decree, that the thousand-year rule of the archbishops was ended, paving the way for a new republic.
The governance of Ishgard would now be placed in the hands of high- and lowborn alike,
Church was separated from state. The foundation for change had been carefully laid,
His duty done, Aymeric de Borel gladly stepped down from the archbishop's dais...
Though he strove at first to refuse this honor,
And so it was that the winds of gentle revolution came to stir.
Prominent among the many honored guests at Ser Aymeric's investiture were the ambassadors of dragonkind,
The people looked on in awe as he soared through the heavens on dragonback,
— From the memoirs of Count Edmont de Fortemps
I was gazing out at the Sea of Clouds, in an all too rare moment of idleness, when I chanced to behold a certain hero wending his way towards the city on dragonback. Welcome home, Forename.
Nay, 'twas no grave matter that moved me to greet you in person. Between you and me, I merely sought respite from the pressures of office... No sooner do I surrender my role as temporary head of state than I am burdened with a position of more permanent responsibility!
I fancy that it echoes in some small measure the way you must feel when your improbable feats of heroism are rewarded with still more impossible challenges...
The myth which guided our society for generations lies in tatters─am I then to be scorned for building upon the system of nobility that I once sought to tear down? And what strange jest is this that places me at its pinnacle? An archbishop's bastard at the head of the House of Lords...
...Ah, but these questions are for me to answer.
It is not in man's nature to change overnight. This I learned through painful experience. And it was this hard lesson which convinced me to take the path which we now follow. Even as we rebuild the bridge between man and dragon, so must we reimagine Ishgard─one carefully placed stone at a time.
We must remember that it is not for us that we lay this groundwork, but for the men and women that our children will become. May their towers rise proudly from the fundament of our legacy.
...I hear word from Captain Whitecape that Estinien has vanished from his sickroom. His willfulness survives undiminished.
Should you ever happen upon our unmannerly friend on your travels, pray assure him that I shall keep Ishgard safe until he deigns to come home.
Thank you, Forename. And please, convey my warmest regards to Master Alphinaud.
You've saved the day again, Forename!
...Not that I ever doubted you would!
You spoke with Ser Aymeric? I do not envy him his new position.
Ishgard has chosen a new road, but one littered with the detritus of a thousand years of broken faith.
Yet though her people may stumble from time to time, I know of none better than Ser Aymeric to lead the march of progress.
As for us, there remains the small matter of ushering in a new dawn in the shadow of inscrutable Ascian machinations and a seemingly endless procession of primals... But we too must walk our chosen path─no matter how treacherous the footing!
Thank you, Blanhaerz. Nay, you need not remain there. We shall rendezvous at the usual place.
All is proceeding as expected, then?
Aye, there is naught to concern us. Aside from one overly curious mouse...
It is of no moment. They will play their part, and we will play ours...