Hoping to form peaceful relations with the Sylphs, the Scions send the adventurer to Little Solace in The Black Shroud, a haven for the untempered Sylphs exiled by those in thrall to the primal Ramuh. Provided with gifts of dancing and milkroot, the sylphs of Little Solace gradually warm to their presence, but only in sincerely helping to make their refuge a better place is any trust earned. Their woes are many – their tempered kin and the Empire’s 3rd Cohort control the Sylphlands, what little privacy their shelter has is oft violated by intrusive Gridanians, and now their elder has gone missing. When word arrives from Buscarron's Druthers that the elder was seen fleeing into the Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak to escape Imperial pursuers, the adventurer gains entrance to the abandoned Gridanian gaol in hopes of their rescue.
The gaol is dense with malicious fauna, but the adventurer clears a path into its depths, only to find a masked mage within. “Darkness…” Hydaelyn’s voice echoes in their mind, Her sudden intrusion making them wince in pain. The mage introduces himself as Lahabrea of the Ascians, servant to the one true god. He confesses that the adventurer’s power, born from an anomaly in the aether known as the Echo, is an inspiring tale, but one that must end. With Hydaelyn still whispering Her warnings, the Ascian reveals his true intention – the crystal’s demise – and uses the power of Darkness to warp a nearby diremite into a massive fiend before vanishing. After the beast is felled, there is a brief silence before the sylph elder, Frixio, emerges from a hiding place amongst the mites’ webs. Through the Echo, the adventurer sees Frixio witness an exchange in the forest between Nero and a 3rd Cohort Centurion, whose unit has been attempting to extract information on the primal Ramuh from captured sylphs, resulting in their deaths.
Frixio, grateful for his rescue, shares the information that the Scions seek. The Sylphs of Little Solace have no intention of summoning Ramuh, but all those who took part in the Lord of Levin’s previous summoning have become tempered and no longer heed the Elder’s words. Frixio is confident, however, that as long as the tempered Sylphs remain undisturbed, they likely won’t resort to summoning Ramuh anew. Yda and Papalymo take leave to relay the information to Minfilia, but the elder Sylph beckons the adventurer, confiding something unexpected. When Ramuh was first summoned, he gifted to the Sylphs a brilliant lightning crystal, which Frixio claims responded to the adventurer’s presence. As a symbol of his trust and desire for peace, the elder bestows the crystal upon them with a warning – the path the adventurer walks will be a cruel one. The Sylph Noraxia returns with the Scions to the Waking Sands, offering her aid on behalf of Little Solace, where Minfilia believes that they should use this brief respite from primal threats to investigate the Ascian known as Lahabrea. Thancred is already on his trail, but begins to withdraw from the others as the pressure he puts on himself mounts.
In Thanalan, a merchant at Highbridge reports having seen a masked mage speaking to members of different groups, from the Amalj’aa to the Qiqirn to bandits and even the Ala Mhigan refugees. Though it takes a good deal of networking to get the refugees to lend their ear to an outsider, the leaders among Little Ala Mhigo confirm that the masked man has been seen speaking with several of their youths. As the various factions of Southern Thanalan come into conflict, the young Ala Mhigans hatch a plan to raid the Amalj’aa crystal stores and summon Rhalgr to wipe out their enemies and reclaim their home. It soon becomes clear that all of this is the masked mage’s doing – the Bringers of Chaos ever living up to their nickname – and that this same entity was not only behind the return of Ifrit, but also the theft of the Sultana's crown and the sudden rise of the Alacran. Unfortunately, what the information fails to reveal is anything about the Ascian known as Lahabrea.
Broadening the search to the Black Shroud, rumors circulate about a recent string of murders – all maidens – involving a masked man and an ahriman. It takes some time to separate fact from fiction, but the stories eventually lead back to the Haukke Manor, home of Lady Amandine of House Dartancour. Upon questioning, her former servant confesses a horrible truth – disfigured in the Calamity, Lady Amandine could no longer bear her own appearance and became a recluse. One day, she began to receive visits from strange guests, masked men in black robes, to hold “rites of rejuvenation.” Fearful that the murders restoring her visage continue, the servant begs that his lady be put out of her misery. Allowed into the Manor by the Wood Wailers, the adventurer finds that Darkness has taken root and a horde of voidsent roam the halls. Lady Amandine herself is no longer human, but host to a succubus. Purging Haukke Manor of its fiends draws the attention of the two Ascians that drew Amandine to the darkness, sent by Lahabrea to gauge the adventurer’s strength, but they vanish shortly after, revealing little.
This concludes the story for level 20-30, read on here.