Worse than Dragons
Coerthas Western Highlands
I daresay you're wonderin' what could possibly be worse than dragons, eh? Well, I'll tell you: the bloody Gnath. They're what you might get if you crossed an antling with a megalocrab an' taught the thing how to walk on two legs. They never used to stray far from their hives out of fear of the dragons, but they've gotten a lot more aggressive of late, sendin' out war parties for malms in all directions. They've even taken to harassin' the Dravanians in their own lairs, if you can believe it. An' when they venture into the forest─which is more an' more, by the way─they certainly ain't afraid to come after my lot. I can only imagine how much worse it'd be closer to the Gnath's home territory...
Now listen here, son: if you're set on headin' west, you'd best keep your ears peeled for the angry clicks of Gnath mandibles, or you'll find yourself staring into a set.
I have read widely of the world and its wonders, yet after taking but a few steps into the unknown, I am reminded how much I have still to discover.
These hunters scrabble in the shadow of dragons for naught but the love of coin. Greed inspires courage and madness in equal measure, it seems.
I am glad to see Marcechamp is doing well. 'Twould seem that much has changed in Dravania. The Gnath were not wont to cause such strife when I lived here.
You lived here? In Dravania?
Aye, 'twas in the time following the Calamity. My family was dead, my home was gone, and I had fled from the bitter cold into these lands. I knew not the paths of the forest then, and wandered out from under the protection of its boughs. That was when I chanced upon Hraesvelgr. He had descended from his mountain lair to hunt for food. My exhausted mind could not contend with the sight of the majestic wyrm─nor the vision of the past his presence visited upon me. Thankfully, Marcechamp found my unconscious form at the edge of the trees, and nursed me back to health. And in Tailfeather I remained for some time.
...Hence your familiarity with the locals. But I interrupted you─you were saying these Gnath were once a peaceful people?
“Peaceful” would not be the most fitting description. They are a fiercely territorial tribe, and any who intrude upon their domain are attacked without hesitation or quarter. Outside the borders of their homeland, however, they were rarely hostile. Indeed, we were even able to trade with them on occasion.
They have changed, then. What of it? We have not the time to creep through the underbrush on some roundabout route. I say we make straight for Sohm Al and crush any unruly insect we meet underfoot.
A more direct path, then. Very well. Let us first follow the trail west out of the forest, and make for the statue of the Stained One. From there, we should have a fair view of the road that leads to Sohm Al. Shall we...?
The Smoldering Wastes
The Stained One
Should we chance to meet Marcechamp again, remind me to thank him. Had he not warned us to expect the Gnath, I doubt I would be standing here.
...Amid ruins that I would tentatively describe as Ishgardian...? The style, if not quite identical, betrays a definite resemblance...
You have a scholar's eye, Master Alphinaud. This structure is, in fact, over a thousand years old. It is a remnant of the age when our ancestors and dragonkind lived together in peace.
Hmph. You claim this as evidence of our harmonious past? I was taught that these buildings were constructed by heretics, in honor of your Dravanian masters. This rubble inspires no such awe in me...
Stubborn fool. How desperately you cling to the false teachings of your beloved Holy See!
Enough! Both of you! You threaten the success of our mission with this incessant squabbling Forename, pray reason with these two.
"Our goals are the same."
"Set aside your differences for now."
"The truth of the past will be revealed."
Quite! Lest you forget, our goal is to prevent a war which will claim the lives of Dravanians and Ishgardians alike. If we are to accomplish this, you must learn to tolerate each other's presence.
...Gods above, even Forename has lost patience with you. We have a common goal, lest you forget: to prevent a war which will claim countless lives on both sides. If we are to accomplish this, you must learn to tolerate each other's presence.
Trust in Forename's gift─in time, the secrets of history will be brought to light. Let that be enough, Estinien.
You would have me keep my counsel until Forename's visions confirm the truth? Very well. But bait me not.
Our meeting with Hraesvelgr will likely provide the catalyst Forename's gift requires─as it did mine. Let us press on.