Hello Final Fantasy XIV fans, and welcome back to another chapter of revenge. Supernovas fans, sorry but we're still not there yet. It's gonna take a while, okay? I'm sure anyone reading this is eager to see Malcolm in the new Stormblood content though. So many glorious opportunities to be had, but first we gotta make it to – and through – the equally glorious ones that come with Heavensward. So for your entertainment, here's Nabriales. Obviously, he gets what's coming to him. He hits on Moenbryda. He kidnaps Minfilia after shooting Moenbryda with dark magic. He's practically feeling Minfilia up when you enter the Chrysalis. He only loses because he stops to boast about how Tupsimati's broken staff head – that Minfilia is holding in her hands! – contained obscene amounts of aether instead of porting in, curbstomping everyone, and porting out, so he's an arrogant shite. Oh, and his sideburns are horrible. However, this is not the same purely one-sided verbal and physical beatdown as the last two chapters. Though obviously we get soooo much more of that in the chapter after this one because Heavensward makes it just too easy.

Oh two announcements/rationalizations. First, I may have taken a few liberties in the fight. Two MSQ solo instances now, one in Heavensward and one in Stormblood respectively, have shown NPCs using a hilariously broken form of Holmgang that can bind multiple people at once without breaking a sweat. I could buy four people at once in Heavensward because it was done by a guy actually on our Primal-slaying, Person-of-Mass-Destruction level of badass. Then Stormblood gives us these two completely normal Auri Xaela khans. One of them uses Holmgang on you and the other soon tries to nuke the whole field with Meteor. A bit overpowered but nothing we haven't dealt with before, right? Barely a minute after you've kicked their asses, the first khan uses Holmgang again to bind half a damn platoon, while the second khan nukes the other half with a second Meteor. Considering they just got beaten down by you, someone who regularly smacking down gods, it's a miracle they're still breathing, let alone using skills and spells in ways we never can. Then it hit me: we never get to use them like that in gameplay because then we'd solo all endgame content like the all-powerful badasses they make us out to be in story. They have to keep it separate so the game is actually a challenge and duties actually require 4-8 people. Here on FanFiction? No such limitations.

Okay, second announcement. This was originally going to be a pure description of beating down Nabriales, but it sort of… evolved into more. With everything that happens in Before the Fall, the undiluted curbstomp in the past two chapters just didn't feel right. So it became something of a feels-train instead, with an interesting twist in how I approached it. Lots of dialogue from the actual ending of 2.55, sure, but it's mixed in with lines coming from Malcolm too. I hope you enjoy.

Sorry, I lied. One final tidbit. The final part of the chapter shows Malcolm slipping out of the "King's English" speech he's been using so far and into a more "common English" with actual contractions like "can't" and "what's" and "I'll" etc. This is intentional. I call him a "Midlander mongrel" for a reason, after all, though before anyone asks, he's not at all related to Hilda the Mongrel. It's just a coincidence because the phrase "mongrel" is what hybrids are called in Eorzea.

And now, on with the show. The feels and the build-up here for next time are real here folk. You've been warned.

Summary: The Warrior of Light is all but invincible, but there are some threats cannot be conquered with mere brute force and fury. They are the threats that do not attack him, but the ones he cares about, and there is naught he can do to stop it.

Spoilers: Up through Patch 2.55. Heavensward kicks off in full next chapter.

Disclaimer: I own a PS4 that forced me to re-download all 22 gigabytes of FFXIV because of a power surge. Other than that, I own nothing seen here.

Nabriales and a Nightmare

Seventh Astral Era
Aetherial Rift: The Chrysalis

Minfilia struggled in vain against the dark shackles that bound her arms and held her in the air, much to the amusement of her Ascian captor. Said captor, Nabriales, reached out with a single, clawed glove and made to give the Antecedent a sinister caress along the side of her jaw. Minfilia pulled her head away sharply, but this only served to make Nabriales chuckle.

"Release me!" she yelled.

"Begging for your life, Antecedent?" he taunted.

Her face briefly held the vaguest hint of a smile before Minfilia's features hardened, and she looked right at the eyes behind the Ascian's mask and glared daggers at his skull.

"Nay, Ascian. I am begging for yours."

The fire in both her eyes and her voice gave Nabriales a moment's pause. Neither Elidibus nor Lahabrea had described the Scions' leader as one possessing any real degree of spine. He was immortal and certainly superior to her in every way. What then, would afford her the confidence to threaten him?


Just like that, the grin returned to Nabriales' face. Well that would certainly explain it. The Antecedent's precious Warrior of Light had come to rescue her, and she actually believe he would succeed. It was almost cute. Almost.

Honestly, Nabriales didn't know what Elidibus saw in this whelp, this "Malcolm" as he called himself. He possessed the Echo, but lacked the most rudimentary understanding of its potential. And yes, he had excised Lahabrea from his mortal host and destroyed his corporeal form, but he needed the Blessing of Light to manage it, a gift he had since apparently lost.

No. Malcolm was no champion. He was a gnat to be swatted on the way to more important matters. And while Elidibus had made it clear that none were to harm the Antecedent, he said nothing about the Warrior of Light.

"Do you truly intend to fight me with that axe?" the Ascian cackled. "Your pretty friend already tried twice, and you saw how well that turned out." For a moment there was silence, and Nabriales was just starting to think that Malcolm understood the hopelessness of his situation when the Midlander mongrel spoke finally spoke.

"Your friend already tried to kill me," Malcolm growled, throwing the words back in Nabriales' face. "You saw how well that turned out."

Nabriales twitched at that. He would not lie, being compared to Lahabrea touched a nerve, and for the insult alone, he retaliated with overwhelming force. The Ascian sorcerer gathered energy, called upon the Darkness, and then unleashed its destructive fury upon Malcolm. "Shrivel in apocalyptic flame!"

The End of Days obliterated all in its path, his dark magicks blazing a trail of chaos and entropy where not even ashes were left behind.

"Malcolm!" he heard the Antecedent yell behind him. Nabriales grinned wickedly at her despair, floating around to face her.

"So much for your vaunted savior," he drawled, flicking a bit of imaginary dust off of his coat. "Do you at last understand the futility of your struggles? You cannot dream of challenging our true power."

The Ascian was about to reach out for her again when a length of chain, imbued with aether and anger, flew out and wrapped around him, trapping his arms at his side.

"What?!" Nabriales shouted disbelief.

Grasping the semi-prehensile chain with both hands, Malcolm roared as he cracked it like a whip, pulling back and down. This motion dragged his foe out of the air and sent him crashing into the ground. Hard.

"Your aim is shite," the Warrior snarled.

Nabriales rose slowly to his feet, his arms still bound in that damnable chain. "Alright," he admitted, "so you do have some skill." It was hardly praise. Malcolm had lost the Blessing of Light, after all, not the fundamental power of the Echo itself. While he didn't know how to use it consciously, Malcolm could still tap its powers of precognition. In short, he dodged his enemies before they even attacked. Not altogether impressive compared to what an Ascian was capable of. Attunement to the whispers of souls required no active thought after all, but the simple fact remained: Malcolm had actually hurt Nabriales. It had literally been ages since anyone had done that, much less a mortal.

It would not happen again. Nabriales glared at the mongrel, refusing to show this brute any outward sign of pain. "I shall not toy with you as Lahabrea did!" Levitating back off the ground, he teleported into the center of the Chrysalis and began calling on the true power he wielded as a master of the Dark Arts.

"Writhing powers of ruination! From the deepest pits of the-ack!"

The Warrior's chain made a return, snaking around the Ascian's neck and cutting his incantation short before the spell's effects could manifest. Rather than smash him into the floor, however, Malcolm reeled Nabriales in close, grabbed the man by the face and then smashed him into the floor. Planting a boot on the immortal man's sternum, the Warrior of Light looked down at his prey. His exotic golden eyes were filled to the brim with hatred and just a hint of twisted amusement.

"What? You cannot truly expect me to just stand there and let you recite poetry that could potentially kill me upon completion?! To cast such a complex spell, you require an equally complex invocation. You may as well have invited me to break you in half. He smiled maliciously. "Speaking of which…" Keeping his foot pressed on the Ascian's chest, Malcolm took his axe in both hands, raising it up before slamming it down and striking Nabriales with the pommel.

Right between the legs.

Ephemeral or eternal, crushing a man's bits had the same effect no matter who the victim was, and Malcolm actually took a moment to laugh as Nabriales howled in agony. After the way this bastard had been leering at Moenbryda and Minfilia, the Midlander mongrel felt it more than a fitting punishment. "That should help you to better control your 'urges' around my friends!" He hissed. "You truly are a fool, Ascian! The Blessing of Light may have shielded the Scions' home from you, but it was not what keeps you at bay!" He stepped off of the curled up sorcerer, his rage lighting up the entire Chrysalis as his gold-yellow eyes shone bright. "I am their true defense, Nabriales! I protect them from any and all threats, be it Primal, Garlean, Dravanian, or Ascian! You invaded the Rising Stones, insulted and attacked our Sharlayan ally Moenbryda, and now you have kidnapped Antecedent Minfilia!" On this last accusation, he paused to look up at the woman in question, still hanging in the air by her wrists. He would see her safely back home ere long. Turning his gaze back to the Ascian, the Midlander mongrel made his intentions perfectly clear. "When I am finished, you will be permanently dead and gone!"

"Such touching loyalty," Nabriales gasped out, still maintaining his air of superiority despite the literal blow Malcolm had dealt to his male pride. "But are you truly so naïve as to think it is that simple? Our goals are-"

"Irrelevant," Malcolm interrupted. "I do not fight for any god, nation, or ideal. My friends may fight for these things." He dropped into a ready stance. "I simply fight for my friends."

So simple a declaration, yet so incomprehensible to Nabriales. How? How was the Warrior of Light so indifferent to the fate of his own star? All the knowledge collected in his immortal mind, and yet Nabriales could not unravel the mystery glaring at him now, axe in hand. Malcolm was truly a riddle. He was Hydaelyn's chosen – or at least he used to be. How one lost the Blessing of Light was strange enough, but to have ever possessed it at all and not subscribe to any higher power was inconceivable. While false and dim in comparison to the will of their Lord Zodiark, Nabriales had still at the very least expected Hydaelyn's champion to be a righteous crusader, seeking to root out darkness wherever it may be.

This giant mongrel in front of him was as far from that image as possible. Malcolm had no personal ambition. Instead his entire being was invested in those around him. Whatever his friends desired, so too did he. Whatever they fought, he fought. And should anything threaten them, well, the Warrior had made himself painfully clear on that particular matter.

That was honestly the most insulting part. For all their power, the Ascians meant nothing to this man. He didn't care what they did or why they did it, just that it impacted his Scion companions. It wasn't until Nabriales was kicking down the door to the Rising Stones that Malcolm's indifference towards him was replaced by an inexhaustible fury. No talk of fate, destiny, Light, or Dark. A threat towards his friends had made itself apparent, and now the Warrior of Light would not stop until that threat was gone. Or he was.

It would be the latter, of course. Nabriales would not be caught in that chain a third time, and this farce had dragged on long enough. Floating off the ground, he drew on power few knew about and fewer still could even dare to wish for.

Malcolm was there, ready with his chain to interrupt the incantation, only to come up short due to the very nature of the spell he was trying to interrupt in the first place.

"By Zodiark's name I command thee!" Nabriales called out to powers beyond mortal ken, and the chain as well as the man attempting to reach him with it both immediately slowed to a crawl. "River of time, mire mine enemy in thy sluggish flow!"

"Impossible!" Minfilia gasped, unable to believe the sight even as it played out before her very eyes. "He has power over… time itself!?"

The effect was instantaneous, and terror gripped Minfilia's heart like an icy fist as Malcolm, her furious champion, tenacious hero, and unyielding protector, was brought to his knees for the first time since she'd met him. He struggled of course. He always struggled for her and the others, whatever it took to keep them safe. Just like when he rescued her from Castrum Centri, he fought on with an almost tangible wrath, and for a moment it appeared to be working. His berserker rage, wreathing him in a brilliant aura of anger, seemed to grant Malcolm the strength to stand up again, and with a guttural scream of defiance, he forced himself to keep going, to keep fighting.

It was all for naught, however, when Nabriales upped the ante again and dragged Malcolm into a vortex of black and red energies, laughing in cruel delight at his imminent victory.

"You shall wither in the merciless embrace of eternity!" the Ascian bellowed. He wasn't content with merely crushing the Warrior of Light inside a temporal gaol though. No, he planned to be thorough in his enemy's destruction. And so, with another string of incantations, Nabriales called down not just one, but a barrage of Meteors to wipe the from the imprisoned Malcolm off the face of this and every other star.

And like so many times before, Minfilia was helpless to do more than watch and wait. It seemed that was all she had ever done lately for the Scions. Watch, wait, and worry. Minfilia was no fighter. Her dear friend Thancred had always been there to keep her safe, and ever since he joined their number, Malcolm made it his personal mission to keep them all safe.

It was always the same routine, going all the way back to that first encounter with Ifrit. A threat would rise, and as Malcolm left to confront it, Minfilia would bid him farewell at the Solar door and beg him to be careful, knowing full well that each goodbye could potentially be the last. Then she would busy herself with the thousand-and-one other tasks that piled higher every day just to keep the anxiety off her mind. To keep from wondering if he was dead at the hands of a newly summoned Primal, or shot by Garleans, attacked by Ascians, or any number of fears for his safety. She knew how strong he was, and yet every time she worried all the same.

And every time, against all odds, Malcolm would come back alive and well, proving her worries had been for naught.

Again, and again, and again the pattern would repeat. She never once took it for granted, and while she always received the news of his victory with joy, it was his survival, his return that truly made her happy. Malcolm cared so much for their lives, their safety, but he placed no value on his own. Alphinaud didn't quite understand that value yet. He was a bright and gifted boy, but still just a boy, too young to realize how often he took the Warrior of Light for granted, forgetting that there was a person behind that seemingly invincible title.

And now it seemed both the person and the title had been crushed beneath the weight of Ascian sorcery. The thought that this time really was the last almost brought her to tears, and Nabriales was savoring every last onze of her suffering.

"I can scarcely wait to tell Lahabrea about this," he chuckled before turning back to Minfilia. "And as for you." Even hidden behind a mask, she could feel the Ascian's eyes rake over her, making her skin crawl. "What was that earlier about begging for my life?" He raised a hand to her once more…


Nabriales paused, frowning. Surely that sound wasn't…


No. It couldn't be…


It simply wasn't possible! Nothing could have survived that Meteor barrage!

So why in the name of Zodiark was there a hairline aetherial tear forming in the Chrysalis?! And what was causing it to grow wider by the second?!


There was no mistaking that sound. All Ascians knew it well, though it had been a long time since Nabriales himself had heard it in person. It was, quite simply, the Echo. Rather it was the vibrations caused by the Echo as its wielder rejected death itself through naught but sheer force of will.

It was a sound quickly drowned out by a furious war cry as the Warrior of Light smashed his way through the aetherial tear like a mere glass window. Blinding light poured out of the tear behind him, shining all across the Chrysalis before the dimensional fabrics eventually sewed themselves shut once more.

"Is that all you've got?!" Malcolm challenged as if he was completely unfazed by everything Nabriales had just thrown at him. Of course he wasn't completely unfazed, not after a hundred-tonze boulder had been dropped on his (admittedly thick) skull. He refuse to let his enemy see any such weakness, but Seven Hells, that one hurt! Escaping wasn't an altogether pleasant experience either. Powering through the walls of a pocket dimension with half a dozen Meteors and the weight of time itself all trying to grind his bones to dust certainly forced him to break past his body's natural limits. It was pure luck that that same distortion of time that ground Malcolm down within the temporal gaol had also prolonged his berserker fury. He was breathing hard, he was favoring his left leg, and his arms were going numb from cleaving a hole through spaces that already shouldn't exist, but he still wouldn't go down. He never went down, and whether by sheer rage or the power of the Echo or some combination thereof, he refused to die.

"Thank Hydaelyn you're alive!" Minfilia exclaimed as relief flooded her veins. For a moment, she truly believed this Ascian had killed Malcolm, but just like always, he'd come back alive. Bloodied and bruised obviously, but alive, just as angry and unbroken as when he'd first entered this realm to save her.

Nabriales was barely able to do more than float above the ground in total incredulity. As Malcolm began advancing on him, the Ascian finally spoke up, though his voice lacked much of its former arrogance. "But… you are shorn of Her blessing!" By this point he was gnashing his teeth at this pathetic mortal's refusal to die. "How do you yet resist me?!"

"Easily," Malcolm grunted, dropping the head of his axe to the ground and preparing to charge. "Let me show you…"

Mor Dhona: Revenant's Toll
Rising Stones: Solar

The fight didn't last long after that point. Nabriales was too shocked – possibly even scared – by his enemy's continued survival to offer more resistance than a few clumsy Sparks and Quakes before Malcolm separated the Ascian's head from his shoulders.

After that it was a simple matter of bringing Minfilia safely back home. Opening his eyes, Malcolm saw that both he was once again standing where he'd been before entering the dark portal. Moenbryda was the same, kneeling on the floor to his left and clutching the wound she received from Nabriales before he'd first taken the Antecedent. Speaking of Minfilia, she was not where she had been before, standing instead a few fulms to the side of a dead and hoodless Ascian. The corpse of Nabriales obviously, lying on the ground where the portal had formed when he kidnapped Minfilia and the Tupsimati she clutched tightly in her hands, even now.

"You're safe," Moenbryda gasped out. "Thank the Twelve."

The happy feeling of victory was short-lived, for the words had barely escaped her mouth before tendrils of writhing darkness began to flow over and around Nabriales' fallen form. Pitch black aether left the body and coalesced above it. To the shock and horror of everyone present, Nabriales emerged from this aether anew. His head was attached, his mask was in place, his robe was pristine. Nothing to show he'd just recently been smashed in the balls and murdered by the Warrior of Light.

"You may have bested me this day…" he taunted the Midlander Mongrel in that odd Ascian tongue that only the Echo let him understand. "But what of the next? What of all the days to come?!" With a sweep of his arms, the corpse – his corpse – beneath his live and levitating form was dispersed into nothing. "Remember: Light no longer holds sway here. I may return whensoever I wish. Again, and again, and again. Eventually, you will falter and the staff will be mine. Until next time, Scions."

"Was I not clear the first time?" Malcolm asked as he strode up to the man he'd just finished killing. His voice was quiet in its fury, like the calm before a massive storm. "This place was never protected by Light. It is protected, and will always be protected, by me!"

These last two words were given painful emphasis as Malcolm grabbed Nabriales by the neck and smashed him through the Antecedent's desk. He would apologize to her for the damage later. First he was going to see this immortal fool break!

"If you plan to come back whenever I kill you," the Midlander mongrel growled as he placed his boot on the Ascian's chest once more, "then the answer is obvious. I will just not kill you."

Whatever haughty reply he'd had on his tongue died when Nabriales heard that. "What?"

"It is unorthodox, to be sure," Malcolm continued, pressing down a bit harder. "I would have to put significant effort into restraining myself lest I accidentally murder you and thus be forced to start all over again." He shot the Ascian a malevolent grin. "But it could work. I could break your spine just right," again he pressed harder, "snap each of your limbs," harder still, "and of course remove your tongue to prevent you from reciting any more incantations, really to prevent you from speaking at all if I were honest. The only trouble then would be keeping you alive after that. Do you require sustenance when you lack a mortal host, Ascian?"

Nabriales was paler than a ghost by this point. This man – nay, this monster – was serious! He was fully intending to cripple and dismember him just enough to render him harmless without actually killing him. He even was thinking of possible ways to prevent Nabriales from reconstituting on his own, such as ripping out his tongue to silence the vast majority of his magicks.

"Y-you are insane!" the Ascian stammered. "As if such crude tactics were enough to subdue me!" Sweet Zodiark beyond, he hoped to never find out. "Even should you succeed, you must know it would be temporary at best! Eternity cannot be contained!"

"Can't it?" Malcolm asked, amusement briefly flashing through his unbridled rage ever-so-briefly as he looked back at Minfilia and Moenbryda. Then he turned to glare at the Ascian once more. "Let's put that to the test, shall we?"

Due to his large and imposing figure, standing at almost six and a half fulms, Malcolm had been mistaken for a really skinny Roegadyn on more than one occasion when he first started out. This, combined with his extremely aggressive ground state of being, naturally drew attention towards the Midlander mongrel. He made no effort to avoid it in battle. Quite the opposite, in fact, he did everything to keep that attention. His enemies could either run and never look back, or attack and die. They made the wrong choice every time.

Here with Nabriales, it had been slightly different. He hadn't the faintest idea if breaking every bone in the Ascian's body would eliminate him as a threat without killing him, but Malcolm was more than happy to try if necessary. His words though, however true the sentiment behind them, were merely to serve as a distraction while Moenbryda and Minfilia readied the white auracite crystal to trap Nabriales and hopefully destroy him.

It was karmic irony that he was dragged inside a prison that would kill him after he'd attempted to do the same to Malcolm. They couldn't celebrate yet, however. Not until Nabriales' essence within the auracite crystal was annihilated.

He had tried. Oh, how he'd tried. But even Tupsimati wasn't enough on its own. They needed but a little more aether to finish it, and it was just their rotten luck that there was no more to be had.

Until Moenbryda gave them more…

Mor Dhona: Rathefrost
Mark of the Scholar: In Memory of Moenbryda

There was no body to bury. Their Sharlayan friend had literally sacrificed her very essence to give Malcolm that last burst of aether he needed to kill Nabriales – permanently this time.

He did not laugh as he had after killing Livia sas Junius. How could he, when the "victory" felt so hollow and left a bitter taste of ash in his mouth? The Scions, loyal to the last, turned to their Antecedent for strength in this hour of mourning. And Minfilia, in turn, drew strength from Malcolm, her unwavering and unflinching Warrior of Light.

Never before had he despised the title more than he did in that particular moment.

"Life for death," a voice far too deep for such a small dragon resonated from Malcolm's left. "A fair exchange. Other bargains will be struck."

There was no thought behind what followed. No deliberation of right or wrong, smart or foolish. Were Alphinaud present, the boy would likely chastise Malcolm for jeopardizing their tentative progress with the Holy See of Ishgard. He was, after all, indelibly bound to the Father of Dragons. It was, in all likelihood, the single greatest example of heresy in the thousand-year history of the Dragonsong War.

And Malcolm didn't give a shite about any of that as his left hand whipped out and snatched Midgardsormr's tiny form out of the air. The legendary King of Kings, whose massive serpentine body had once dwarfed the flagship of the Garlean Empire, now fit entirely inside the Warrior's fist, with only his head sticking out to glare (rather impressively for his size) at Malcolm.

"Release me, mortal!"

"The Hells I will!" Malcolm snapped quietly, gripping the all-powerful wyrmling even tighter. "You and I are going to have words." As none save Malcolm could actually see or hear Midgardsormr, he gave a nod to Minfilia before taking his leave. It would not do for the Warrior of Light to rave and rant at the empty air for all the Scions to see. This gathering was about Moenbryda, after all, not him.

When Malcolm felt he'd gone a satisfactory distance away from his friends, he held the small dragon up in front of his eyes and snarled.

"Heh heh heh! Always so quick to anger."

"You're damned right I am!" Malcolm seethed. "You stripped the Blessing of Light from me! You took its protection, from me! You invoked a covenant with Hydaelyn, to test my worth! So why in all Seven bloody Hells are they suddenly in danger?!"

"Thy mistress's blessing didst serve as their shield as much as thine own," the Guardian of Silvertear Falls replied evenly.

"Of course you knew, but did you consider telling me? No! Instead, I had to learn that the Rising Stones could be attacked by Ascians… from an Ascian! The selfsame Ascian who, not seconds later, attacked the Rising Stones! If you fail to see the sick irony in this shite, then you are no King of Kings, but a winged jester!"

Midgardsormr's eyes narrowed as he thundered his rebuttal. "Art thou done laying blame for thy failure at the feet of ignorance? It shall avail thee naught! No more shall the heavens deliver thee and thine allies unto safety. If thou wouldst protect others from sharing this Sharlayan mortal's fate, do so by thine own strength!"

It was painful to hear, but Malcolm knew the Father of Dragons spoke the truth. There were no guarantees. His allies were only as safe as he could make them now. No divine intervention would save them any more than it would save him. Midgardsormr had made sure of that. And while the Wyrm Lord had blatantly neglected to mention the risk losing the Blessing would pose to his friends, that was naturally the whole point. Nothing given, everything earned. Through blood, sweat, and tears, all of which had been shed this day and would certainly be shed in the days to come, Malcolm would be weighed and measured before the Mothercrystal and the Father of the First Brood both.

In short, the undersized Dravanian overlord wanted him to fight and pay for every ilm going forward, and the price wouldn't always be one Malcolm could easily pay…

With a sigh, the Warrior of Light released the small Dravanian progenitor. "Very well. If my strength is all they have, then I will see that it is all they should ever need."

"Such bold words. Show me thy conviction."

From Thanalan to Coerthas
The Fall of the Scions

"I hereby accuse you of regicide!"

"What a pity… Who'd have thought your tale would end like this?"

"I daresay Her Grace was grateful that someone thought to cut her strings."

"You would mock her? THEN MOCK HER FROM HELL!"

"Have you lost your mind, General?!"

"I never doubted you. Not for a moment. But there is more to this than I yet understand."

"What in the-? Brass Blades and Crystal Braves?! You traitorous whoresons! I'll kill you all! I swear to the Twelve, and every other god what can hear me! I! Will! KILL YOU!"

"No Malcolm! Even you cannot wage war against all of Ul'dah! We must escape while we still have a chance!"

"The rest of you go on ahead. I'll handle this lot!"

"Hn… I suppose I shall just have to join you."

"Yda! Papalymo! No!"

"Let them have it Yda!"

"I was hoping you'd say that!"

"This can't be happening…"

"You two go on ahead. Thancred and I will deal with this."

"Fear not, Antecedent. You haven't seen the last of these fair features."

"Dammit Y'shtola, you too? Thancred, get your arse back here!"

"Forgive me, Mhitra…"

"Farewell, Minfilia…"

"No! No! NO!"

"Hydaelyn… She speaks to me. No! I must remain behind… but you cannot stay with me."

"Not a chance in the Eighth Hell, Minfilia! I'm not letting you out of my sight! Not this time!"

"Please, you must go on! You are the Warrior of Light! You are hope – for the Scions and for all the realm! As long as your flame continues to burn, the light of the dawn may ever be relit! You must escape, and save Eorzea from those who would plunge it into darkness!"

"What's the bloody point of saving Eorzea if I must lose all my friends?!"

"Pray go now, Malcolm… May you ever walk in the light of the Crystal."

"I am glad to see you safe, my friend! What of the others?"

"I failed them, Alphinaud… Gods take me, I failed everyone!"

"Cid? What are you doing here?"

"Pulling you out of the fire, as usual!"

"Coerthas. Ishgard will not suffer the intrusion of foreign forces in their territory."

"Malcolm, what of your 'covenant' with Midgardsormr? Should anyone here learn the truth, they would execute you for heresy. Is it truly wise seeking asylum here?"

"I trust Lord Haurchefant. He would never do that."

"But do not despair! You are not without allies. You are more than welcome to shelter here for as long as you wish. Pray think of it as a new headquarters of sorts – the 'Falling Snows' or some such! All frivolity aside, any who come here in search of you will receive no aid from House Fortemps. For once, the Ishgardian reputation for inhospitality shall work in our favor. Agents of Ul'dah will find their every inquiry dismissed, and their every request for entry rebuffed, until such a time as their masters have acknowledged your innocence. You once fought to preserve the honor of my dear friend – 'tis a blessing that I may now repay the debt in kind."

"I cannot thank you enough, my friend."

"Alphinaud?! Malcolm?! Is it really you?"

"Tataru! Thank the Twelve you're alive!"

"Rest assured the people of Doma yet stand with you."

"And we are honored to have you with us, Lady Yugiri."

"I believed myself the only one who truly understood Eorzea's woes. And look what that arrogance has wrought."

"Plenty of blame to go around Commander Leveilleur. Enough for every Crystal Brave what sold us out, especially Ilberd. But that can wait, for a time anyway. First I want you to listen and listen well: You are not your grandfather, Alphinaud, and nobody expects you to be. Good gods lad, what sixteen-year-old tries to establish and run his own Grand Company?!"

"I am not a naïve child, Malcolm!"

"But you are naïve. Smart, brilliant even, but naïve. Welcome to the real world, Alphinaud. It is cold and unforgiving as the snow outside this Intercessory. It will take, and take, and take until you have nothing left to give, and then it will take some more. It is selfish, petty, and filled with a special kind of darkness that would not vanish even if I killed every last Ascian and their god Zodiark here and now. There is no leaving it once you enter. After all you have seen today, if it is still a world you wish to save, then stand with me rather than behind me, and let us save it!"

Coerthas Central Highlands
Gates of Judgment

Malcolm's golden eyes snapped open to reveal the Gates of Judgment towering before him. The horrid memories of that day had snuck up on him once more, catching him off-guard. The betrayal, the escape, the aftermath. A rush of pain and helplessness, every single damn time he closed his eyes, let alone slept, he saw the nightmare all over again. It lit a burning rage in him so hot he couldn't even feel the cold that would have frozen any normal man to the bone.

Their asylum would come soon enough. Of this he had no doubt. Lord Haurchefant was a man of his word, and if he said House Fortemps would take them in, Malcolm had no doubt that is exactly what would happen. It was only a matter of time…

"Heh heh heh. Thou thinkest sanctuary lieth beyond?"

The Warrior of Light, now also known as Eorzea's Most Wanted, turned to glare at the wyrm waxing poetic at his side.

"Delusion. Despair. Death. Thou shalt find naught else here."

Malcolm's glare softened into a vicious smirk. He looked almost… excited. Angry, to be sure, but excited.

"Then I am doubtless in the right place."

And with that, his wrathful gaze turned Heavensward.

Okay, seriously, did anyone else have that kind of reaction to Midgardsormr's words at the end of Patch 2.55? The tiny god-dragon is laughing and telling you how much of a shitstorm is waiting in Ishgard, and some crazy part of you is thinking, "That sounds like a good time."

Then you get there, and that scene happens and the good time stops for a while… Yeah… I won't make it quite that far in the next chapter, but I'm definitely going to milk the Heavensward expansion for all it's worth. So many opportunities, and then Stormblood expansion gave me a few more huge ones.

I'm not gonna lie, this may be just a side project, but writing it is helping me a lot. I still honestly don't know when I'll go back to my main Supernovas work, but for now I intend to focus on this fic. Especially now that I'm getting to the really good stuff. Until next time though, I would ask that you all…

Read, Review, and Enjoy!