In His Garden
|«Reassuring the Masses|
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...Forename, are you alright?
I think a return to your sickbed might be in order. Ah, or you might consider resting a while atop the watchtower next to the rookery.
This damnable sky doesn't make for the most soothing scenery, but the Exarch often liked to stand there and feel the wind upon his face.
Whatever you decide to do, I suggest you do it slowly. You are not yet well...
The people of this city have spirit, I'll give them that. They've not lost the will to fight.
I can imagine how torn you must feel, looking at that sky. Knowing what it means to everyone...and that you're responsible.
|The secrecy is worse. I'd rather people knew.||I still can't believe it's coming from me.||It's all such a mess.|
You're in a corner, and there doesn't seem to be any obvious way out.
...But that doesn't mean it's over. However hopeless it seems, you haven't lost yet.
I remember looking up at the sky like this before─being caught up in a strange kind of calm.
It was after we realized we were responsible for the Flood. When we resolved to journey to the Source by taking our own lives.
One last sacrifice, one last fight...one last failure. And then the Oracle appeared and...well. You know the rest.
There were times in the years and decades that followed when I wondered if we might not've been better off just letting the Rejoining happen.
That we'd made one last mistake...
But seeing that giant Talos stir to life cured me of any doubts I still had.
Always. Always we took the burden of fighting upon ourselves. That's what heroes do, isn't it?
So we never had the chance to see anything like that─our people, coming together as one.
To think that their hope still burned so bright...
...That they were still so eager to live, they would lift up their fellows, one on top of the other, till they reached the sky.
No, we made the right decision. And I can finally feel proud of the part we played in helping this world survive.
Well? Come on, then!
As I thought. What happened between us was no coincidence.
My story may be finished, but the fates have gifted me a minor role in yours.
I suspected as much the moment I realized you could hear me.
But it's hard not to doubt yourself when you're the man who caused the Flood...
I was afraid to do anything more than watch for fear of making things even worse...
...But no longer. After all, the path I once walked is now yours to finish.
For what it's worth, I cast my lot with yours.
If you need a push, I'll be right there behind you; if you lose control, I'll do my best to stop you.
So─let us be about it, hero.
I was worried you were up here all alone, brooding and fretting and wallowing in your woes. But look at you─grinning at nothing like a pollen-drunk pixie!
Hmph! Look at what you've done to your aether! It's a mess! And you have cracks running all through that pretty soul of yours!
My poor little sapling. Whatever am I to do with you?
Shall I yield up my throne? You could claim it─cut ties with the mortal world, hide away in the castle...
It won't fix the problem...but would it really matter? If any pesky heroes come calling with steel and magic, all of Il Mheg will rise up in your defense.
My crown and scepter are yours...if you want them.
What? Don't give me that look! Of course I knew before I asked that you'd never ever heed such a wicked suggestion!
And besides, what would become of my precious and ephemeral flower?
My dear, beloved sapling. You are lost─confused─and have precious little time to gather your wits.
Your kind is always so preoccupied with what lies ahead, and so we muddle your vision with fog and glamour. But such trickery is easy to see through.
Stand very, very still. Think not of where you need to go, but where you are right now at this moment. At this time, in this place...
Our [friend] of crystal. From shadowed hood he watched you go, his ruby eyes with warmth aglow.
See yourself as he saw you, and that shall be the clearest clue.
You stand in his garden, dear sapling. Ask his flowers what they know, and you will surely find an answer.
But what will you do with it, I wonder...? I'll be watching and waiting, waiting and watching!
Oho, I did not expect to see you on your feet so soon. Surely you have not come in search of an amaro...?
...What do I know of the Crystal Exarch? I am happy to share, but I fear there will be no surprising revelations. As any in this city could tell you, he is a man of wisdom and compassion and many untold secrets.
But none can doubt his generosity. When the Crystarium was being constructed, he even allowed folk to plunder the tower for resources.
He has imposed no restrictions upon us but one: no one except the Exarch is permitted to dwell within the spire.
Many seasons past, a comrade of mine was bold enough to ask the reason why.
The Exarch merely smiled and said, “Because one day, the Crystal Tower may vanish as suddenly as it arrived.”
To this very day, the tower remains as it always has, solid and imposing. Yet I do not think our steward's warning was a falsehood.
And even if it were, none would dream of breaking that one rule and risk shattering the community we have worked so hard to build.
Forename! It is good to see you awake and alert, my friend!
...What's this about? You're not writing the Exarch's memoirs, are you? I'm not sure how much I can tell you, considering we avoid asking too many questions. Unspoken rule, and all that.
Hmmm... If anyone has fresh insights to share, then it'd be Captain Lyna, I'd say.
She lost her parents to an eater attack not long after she was born, and the Exarch saw to her upbringing. Outward appearances aside, those two are like grandfather and granddaughter.
I imagine the news of his predicament hit her doubly hard...not that our proud captain would ever let it show. If you do decide to talk to Lyna, she'll be at her usual post at the Accensor Gate.
While we're on the subject, I'm concerned for that Alisaie of yours. I'd thought her face stormy on that ride back from Amh Araeng, but now...it's closer to a raging tempest.
Oh, was there something else you needed? If you've come for the results of my research into this persistent Light, I'm afraid there's little to tell as of yet...
...Records pertaining to the Exarch? Well, I need no documentation to relay what little I know of his history, if that is what interests you.
Ahem. Less than a decade had passed since the coming of the Flood when the Crystal Tower first flashed into existence. Its summoner─the Exarch himself─became known to the refugees in Lakeland soon thereafter.
He welcomed all who sought out the spire, be they locals who had lost their homes or Voeburtites fleeing their ruined kingdom, and together did they found the city which would become the Crystarium.
Some thought to call him “king,” for he refused to share his name, but the summoner did not deem himself worthy of royal address.
Thus did the people consider his scintillating skin, so alike to the tower he had summoned, and bestowed upon him the title of “Crystal Exarch.” As for his true name, well...'twould seem that is a mystery that remains unsolved to this day.
Aye, the Exarch has ever been one to conceal his full appearance. Although I have, on occasion, spotted what could only have been a tail...
Forename, I was not told you had awoken!
A welcome surprise. Now, if only the Exarch was returned to us...
He was taken by this rival of yours, was he not? Your companions mentioned they had an idea of where to find him...
And so I bristled when they asked for patience. I did not understand their hesitation...until I saw that you had fallen. Only then did I realize that I had no business rushing ahead.
Even so, the delay has been no less agonizing...
In the moments before he left to join you in Kholusia, the Exarch entrusted me with a key.
It opens a door in the Ocular, to a chamber known as the “Umbilicus.” This room is the heart of the tower, into which only the Exarch himself is permitted to enter.
He bid me allow none into the tower once he had departed. Only in the event that an army of eaters descended upon the city was I to access the Umbilicus and awaken the defensive barrier.
Never before had he left me with such instructions, but the battle with Vauthry loomed near, and at the time I accepted the key without much thought.
Since then, however, that moment is all that occupies my mind.
When I recall the look upon his face... He knew that some terrible fate awaited him.
Tell me, Forename! I need to know what he feared─what battle you and your companions are truly fighting!
...Forgive me. I trust in the Exarch, and I should not be voicing these doubts when he is not here to respond to them personally.
But you have come to me with a question of your own, have you not?
Ah...I see I am not the only one who burns for answers.
The time has come to open the tower's heart. Though we do not face an invasion of eaters, I suspect the city will be in far more danger if you do not gain the knowledge you seek.