"Thou barest a troubled visage, my valiant lord." Ranni joins you at the window, her long robes fluttering behind her on the cold stone, pale in the moonlight. Glancing up at you beneath the brim of her wide hat, she rests two hands on the windowsill, the other pair clasped before her chest. Beyond, prisms of light shift and form, windows to the world beyond your isolated palace, severed as it is from the world at large. There you see flashes of the Lands Between and the kingdoms beyond, wracked with turmoil and sorrow in the wake of the Erdtree's final destruction.

"They cry out for us to save them." To you, to Ranni. To Marika, for those that have not heard. A million cries answered with silence.

"How readily they forget, how thine own efforts delivered them from shackles of gold."

"Into this suffering."

"No greater than they hath faced before. And perhaps in time they might grow in strength, that they may choose their own sufferings accordingly." She gives you a curious smile, and rests a cool hand upon yours. "Is it thy wish that they be delivered from this plight?"

Even now your Queen is fond of teasing you. "Was that not why I set out at the onset?"

"Certainly not. Thy task was set by the Two Fingers. The call of Grace was but a tool to set thee on thy path. Whatever motive t'was granted at thy rebirth was but an illusion the same. Tarnished had but one purpose, to seek the throne. Whatever motivations ascribed to such a need were superfluous. Constructed by the process by which thy breath quickened."

"Then what of my wish to aid a certain witch?"

"Perhaps that spark of Grace carried with it an uncommon fondness for dolls? Thy predilections amaze me with unerring constancy." She huffs, but her grip on your hand tightens all the same. Moonlight glints off the ring upon her finger. So different from the cracked, hard digit that you held when you first placed it upon her. All the forms in the world could be hers, she had told you when at last you claimed the throne, and yet you chose this one, so similar to the girl that you had met at the ruins of the church at nightfall.

She bears an immeasurably straight face as she says, "Thine assistance was uncommonly useful in the end, my dear consort. And therein lies the crux of mine argument. When I was but a little thing, the warrior Hoarah Loux, named Godfrey in honor of the Greater Will, told me thus: that an ancient king of a land far off in space and time had spoken words of wisdom: 'Seek strength. The rest will follow.' Is that not what led thee to me?"

"I seem to recall it being curiosity," you reply. Yes indeed, it recalls to mind images of Liurnia in the early morning, towers wreathed in fog, scintillating in the light of the Erdtree. But the purpose was as she said. Where did you go, if not to hone yourself? What had set you against Morgott, who had called himself Margit, if not the need to prove yourself the better? Had disgust and hatred given your arm strength when you stood before Godrick? Or was it the gasp of cold air when the Grace beyond his garden birthed you anew, yearning for vengeance?

That primal desire had never subsided, even after you met the witch in her tower, and joined her coven in their ambiguous crusade. Ever forward you strove, seeking out adversity for the sake of strength. For her. For you.

"And when was it that curiosity gave way in thy mind to affection? For mere curiosity should not lead one to brave the lake of rot and the immeasurable sufferings beyond."

"Am I not allowed even a few secrets?"

"Keep them if that is thy wish, though a witch knoweth a great many means to extract them, and a Queen a number more, already known to thee. As always, thou art burdened with an obstinate flippancy in the face of grim matters. But then perhaps that is the consequence of myriad deaths. I have faced but two. And of the pair: the second, thou abruptly sever'd. But more to the point, which thou continue'st to obfuscate, it was through suffering that thy purpose became true. There is naught but suffering in the world, interspersed with sparks of joy, like cinders clasped in frigid palms. All the better that they be seen beneath the cold of night. The stars prove an apt metaphor, do they not, my love?"

"In passing, I suppose. I killed a fair number of them on my way to find you."

"A gesture that will not be forgotten, my one and only lord." At last her smile bears real warmth. "Even joy bringeth further hardship. And yet they will struggle on into a world of their own making, divested of the bonds of fate and godhood, to grasp forever at desires just out of reach. For a life without pain and sorrow is but another form of slavery, and I would not make the world below a chorus to sing my praises. And so do I curse them with the kindest blessing I might offer. That they might toil and grow, and band together in bonds of fellowship, and in the shadow of adversity and the chill of night, find their purpose beyond strength."

The silence grows and she tilts her head towards you. "Doubt my wisdom, do thee? In thy struggles, didst thou not pause to aid thy fellows, whether through feats of arms or the scrawl of letters on stone? And didst thou not accept aid in turn? I trust that in thy journey, for every hollow jest and slanderous deception, there stood in equal measure words of encouragement and praise, that with certainty kindled in thy heart the will to press on in the face of utmost despair. Come, my dear consort, I pray let us retire and watch. Eons of doubt and uncertainty stretch on before us, but time will prove me right."