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Rise of the Stormguard


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[align=center]Part I: Mark of the Forgotten[/align]


The sun had long since waned from the sky, stars left in its absence to leave a dazzling display over the city of Ul'dah. The streets were still busy, though not nearly as much as they were during the day. Several shops were finishing with last minute customers and preparing to close up for the night.


Kylin walked casually past the Adventurer's Guild, watching quietly as everyone finished up their last minute business for the day. It had become a nightly ritual for him lately, to simply walk around the city and take in the night chill while clearing his head. The thoughts that came to him were the same every night though, and then he'd go home and lie in his bed...alone.


The midlander stopped near the fountain outside the Adventurer's Guild and glanced up to the sky. He wore simple white kecks and a reddish brown open cotton shirt, casual attire by his standards. He gently ran his hand through his light blond hair as the same old nightly thoughts started entering his head.


He was alone. Always alone. He spent so many moons attempting to win Gerik back through deceit and manipulations, only to end up alone. And what a waste of energy it was. He wasn't even sure what he ever really saw in Gerik, aside from his boyish innocence and good looks. The highlander certainly wasn't the brightest crayon in the box, that was for sure. So many people suffered just for those attempts. Aysun. Fenix. K'aworu. Burgenheim. Gerik. Rhio. Tyriont. Seohyun. The Poet. Even his own sister, Elza, suffered by taking his side and losing the Poet over it, which led to her hate-filled revenge and ultimately, to her exile after she made double the amount of Felstar enemies suffer first. The list of casualties by his family that snowballed over a simple infatuation was nothing short of extraordinary. Some forgave him, some didn't, and some he had yet to even find to attempt an apology.


He was alone though. His sins had cost him any potential friends or allies. His sister was gone. Gerik was forever lost to him. All he had left was his work for his father. His father. That's all that remained. Sad, that. A grown man still living in the shadow of his wealthy and powerful father. It was almost--


Kylin's depressed train of thoughts were instantly interrupted over the shrill scream coming from down the road. He watched with uncertainty as several others began to gather near the Aetheryte Plaza, hesitantly moving in that direction to see what the fuss was about. As he joined the crowd of onlookers, he quickly saw what caused the distress. A miqo'te woman, perhaps in her thirties or so, laid upon the city's stone ground covered in blood. A trail of the crimson fluid could easily be traced back to the aetheryte crystal, where the woman no doubt entered in this present condition.


Several of the onlookers quietly whispered while a medic leaned down to inspect the woman. Three Brass Blades soon joined the crowd, one of them quickly joining the medic while the other two looked toward the onlookers to figure out what had happened. Kylin could hear the medic state that the woman was still alive, though barely hanging on. Two more medics soon joined the fray, likely alerted via pearl. They carried with them a long flat board where they gently moved the injured woman onto before lifting it back up and leaving toward the closest city clinic. The Brass Blades stayed behind and questioned the crowd.


As the medics left with the miqo'te, her hand gently fell to the side and Kylin's eyes instantly widened in shock. The mark on her hand was an all too familiar one. It was the very same mark he himself had branded on his back for more than five years now. There was no denying it. The woman was a member of the secretive society known as the Order of the Stormguard, a group that had long since been believed dead and gone since the Calamity.


The midlander quietly excused himself from the crowd, staying out of sight of the Brass Blades as to not be deterred from his new investigation. He followed the medics down the road as covertly as possible, seeking answers to the sudden appearance of a forgotten society...

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[align=center]Part II: Something Worth Dying For[/align]



"We've done all we can to stop the bleeding," a female lalafell medic stated with a sigh. "But I don't suspect she'll survive. I'll go notify the Thaumaturge's Guild."


The medic left the room, not noticing the hidden hyur in the dark corner of the next chamber as she did so. Kylin waited another moment as the other medic, a roegadyn man, left as well. With nobody else remaining in the immediate area, the midlander quietly slipped into the neighboring room where the miqo'te patient was located. She appeared older up close than originally thought, though perhaps it was just due to her deteriorating condition. She was pale, likely from the blood loss since she was clearly a Seeker and no doubt well tanned from the desert sun. Her clothes, a tribal looking outfit one may see out in Sagoli, were partly ripped from whatever mysterious confrontation she had. Her hair was a soft brown and reminded him of the pictures of his own mother.


Kylin's gaze shifted to the miqo'te's hand, where he had seen the tattoo. Carefully, he reached out to gingerly take the hand for a closer look, only to be startled by its sudden pull back from him. The woman let out a panicked gasp as she regained consciousness, though she was in no condition to actually move from her bed. She continued to gasp for breath, the panic in her demeanor not fading an inkling. Kylin, unsure what to do as he watched the frantic woman, slowly put his hands up in the air to signal he meant no harm, careful to not say anything for fear someone would hear him and come to investigate. It didn't help, so he did the only other thing he could think of. He turned partly around and pulled part of his shirt down where his right shoulder was, so that the woman could see the tattoo there...the tattoo that matched the one on her hand. It worked, and the panic faded almost instantly as relief seemed to set into the woman's eyes.


Before the hyur could get out a quiet word, the woman used her hand to undo a satchel at her hip, letting it drop off her bed and to the floor with a loud thud. She then looked at Kylin with a hint of serenity and peace before slowly closing her eyes. The hyur stared in slight shock. He didn't need to be a medic to know that she had just passed to the realm of Thal. Though he didn't know the woman, nor exchange a single word with her, he couldn't help but feel sorrow for her passing. The mark connected them, after all.


The midlander shifted his saddened gaze to the floor where the bag was. He reached down and picked it up, pulling out the item within. It was a small book, small enough to rest on the palm of one's hand, with a tiny lock on it to keep the contents from prying eyes. Kylin turned the small book over. Engraved in the back of the book was small text that simply read: 'If found, please return to the below address.' Directly below that was a Silver Bazaar address.


Kylin bit his lower lip, staring at the book for a long moment before returning his gaze to the deceased miqo'te. She clearly had given this book to him for a reason. And he wouldn't be able to open it without a key, at least not without the risk of damaging the book itself. Voices sounded from the other side of the wall. The summoned thaumaturge had no doubt arrived. Kylin took one final glance to the miqo'te woman before pocketing the small book and casting a teleport spell to travel the aether just before the thaumaturge entered the room.

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[align=center]Part III: Memories and Reality[/align]


The sun had risen over the Silver Bazaar, though it was still early enough in the morning where the dry desert heat hadn't taken full form yet. Kylin had waited until morning to come to the address on the book, though he hadn't slept much prior. Before leaving Ul'dah, he had covertly donated enough gil to the Thaumaturge's Guild to ensure the woman was buried properly, rather than left to the vultures in the desert.


The midlander gazed at the small book, then up to the little house before him. The address matched. He had dressed himself up to something more formal this time, a red and white coatee with matching breeches. He took in a soft sigh before knocking on the door gently. A moment passed that seemed like an eternity. When no response came, Kylin turned around and began to leave. That was when the door creaked open, revealing the weathered old face of a midlander woman. Her white hair was tied up neatly in a bun and her attire was that of a somewhat typical Ul'dahn 'commoner,' a weathered white tunic and matching slops. "May I help you, young man?"


Her voice was raspy, though gentle. Her soft gaze helped alleviate some of Kylin's hesitation, though he secretly wondered if he was even at the right place. He had half expected another miqo'te to answer. The hyur stuttered at first, before finally clearing his throat to respond. "I uh, I found something that perhaps belongs to you?"


Kylin slowly held out the book. The woman's gaze followed his hand, her eyes resting gently on the item before her. She sighed quietly and closed her eyes. "Young man, where did you find this?"


Kylin swallowed for a moment. He wasn't sure if this woman was perhaps an enemy of the miqo'te, or a friend. He figured he'd have to make a risky move to find out, such as showing this woman the tattoo and determining the reaction. "A miqo'te woman entrusted it to me. I figured she wanted me to bring it here. She only trusted me with it after I showed her this though..."


The midlander turned partly to the woman and pulled his shirt down just enough to reveal half of the tattoo, keeping his eyes fixated on the woman's expression. The old woman's eyes widened, and then she simply went quiet. After a moment of awkward silence, she reached a hand out. Kylin instantly assumed it was for the book and went to hand it to her. However, her hand quite suddenly shifted course and smacked the younger hyur upside the head, much to his surprise and momentary sharp pain. "What the bloody hell are you thinking? You don't just go around showing that to anyone. Now get in here. I'll make us some tea."




The woman, who had introduced herself as Cordelia, sat a tray with the two cups of tea on the little table and gently slid one toward her guest after sitting on the cushy chair opposite of him. Sorrow filled her eyes as Kylin recounted his story to her, and the death of the miqo'te woman.


"Iyana," Cordelia said matter-of-factly as she gently wiped a tear from her eye. "Her name was Iyana. A bright and fiercely loyal woman full of talent like the which I've never seen before. She and her beloved of many years were like my own children, even if not by blood. That little book you brought is her beloved's journal."


Kylin looked oddly at Cordelia and then to the book on the table. "A journal? Is that all that is?"


The old woman laughed softly as she wrapped a cloth scarf around her neck. "Is that all, you say? What more need it be? Our memories are one of the most defining aspects of our lives. Almost all will deny that their past is of any relevance. But that is complete hogwash. Our pasts, more specifically our memories, forge us into the people we are today. Memories have tremendous power over us all. Why do you think that people smile upon remembering something pleasant? Or frown when recalling something terrible? They are the very soul of our being, and determine the paths we walk. Memories and reality create a powerful duality. Our memories are forged in reality, and reality is determined by our memories. Byregot's masterpieces are symbolic of memory, creating pieces of work that are meant to be immortalized. Halone, in contrast, teaches us the harshness of an ever-changing and dangerous reality, a reality that determines whether memory survives or perishes. Is it any wonder the two are siblings? They create a celestial balance in all things. So yes, that is simply a journal. But it contains power within its pages. Memories worth fighting for. It is thus no wonder Iyana died protecting it."


Kylin bit his lower lip as he listened to the older woman carefully. "She died...for that? That's a bit tragic, don't you think? And who in their right mind would even kill someone for a journal anyway?"


Cordelia's face went stern at the question as she took a sip of her tea. "Who else do you think? Our still elusive enemies behind the Sundering of course. That horrible fateful day so many years ago that wiped out the Stormguard in its near entirety, leaving them unable to recover as the Calamity came and unintentionally finished the job. You see, Mister Felstar, that is no simple journal. It contains the memories of a very important person. Iyana's lover, you see, was not any ordinary Stormguard member. He was a Highguard, last one of Legio Fortis, and she his mystic...Had our enemies got their hands on that journal, I wouldn't be here right now, as they'd be at my door instead of you. Furthermore, they'd have access to the memoires and secrets of one of the former highest ranking members of the Guard. So yes, tragic as it is, it was as worth dying for as it was killing for. Surely you know what the Stormguard lives to protect?"


Kylin frowned slightly, taking a moment to sip from his tea in order to think of his response. "I...found out a lot of things on my own prior to Keir recruiting me. And after I joined, I--"


"Keir Lowell?!" The woman shot up in her seat, her old feeble bones seeming suddenly invigorated. "Halone be praised! He survived the Sundering? And you've seen him?"


"Y-yes," Kylin stated with surprise over the woman's reaction. "But that was before the Calamity. I haven't seen or heard from him since. I assume he..."


Cordelia slowly returned to her seat, her hopeful face shifting back to one of sorrow. "I see. How terrible. Mister Felstar, I think we have much more to discuss before this day is over. Let me make us something to eat. It's going to be a long day, one that perhaps will change both of our fates, and so many others'..."

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[align=center]Part IV: End of the Beginning[/align]



Kylin walked confidently down the narrow tunnel, the lantern in his hand the only source of light since he entered the cavern nearly ten ticks ago. He wore his summoner attire, an outfit he had not donned since his battle with Aysun, Fenix, and Rhio on the Thanalan bridge. It was two suns ago since his talk with Cordelia, or Cora as she preferred to be called. The tunnel was exactly where she said it was, though the entrance hadn't been easy to find. The hyur continued the long walk down the winding maze of sand and stone, turning at each point he was previously instructed to do so. As he navigated his way toward the end, he recalled part of his conversation with Cora, her words echoing in his head.




"The Stormguard seems ill fated for an end, despite existing for hundreds of years. Since the Sundering, and the subsequent Calamity, we've lacked leadership. The few surviving members out there live in fear, hiding away from any and all who they think would do them harm. Meanwhile, our relics remain scattered like leaves across Eorzea. Our guarded artifacts. Our strongholds and havens. Our memories. Ready to be picked by vultures who would use them for their own gain, even at the detriment of all others. We are dying, and not one dares to stand up to give us hope, for there is no hope from where they stand. But this need not be the end. It can still become the beginning of something else. A new chapter. And you, Kylin Felstar, are in position to help write that chapter."


"Me?" Kylin seemed completely caught off guard by the suggestion. "I'm hardly the right one to do this. I already told you what I've done..."


A chuckle slipped out from the old woman. "You had the chance to betray Keir and the Stormguard, and you didn't. That speaks volumes. Besides, you're one of the only ones left who may have even made contact with the last Highguard. And if he himself recruited you as you say, he must have done so for good reason. Add to that the fact that you hail from the Felstar family, and you're a perfect candidate. You have access to wealth and resources beyond any current known living members. You even knew of the Stormguard before you joined it. I believe this is destiny. Iyana's death cannot be in vain. How many more must die, or live in fear forever, before someone stands up to protect what is rightfully ours?


"Are you sure this isn't just your way of justifying and coming to terms with Iyana's death?" The younger hyur's question was as pointed as they came.


"Mayhaps some small part of my mind is in that train of thought," Cora stated somberly. "But everything I've said is true. We lack leadership. And nobody seems willing to step up to the cause. Should this continue much longer, I fear the Stormguard will perish once and for all. I am far too old to raise the flag or gain support. And Iyana was too disheartened to try following her beloved's demise. You, however..."


"I just...I don't know if I'm right for this..."


"Nobody ever is, Kylin. Nobody ever is."




There was still time to turn back. To go back to the Felstar Manor and act like these past couple days didn't even happen. And then what? Brood over his past mistakes? Live in the shadow of the mighty Cartius Felstar? Was his reasoning for taking on this burden a selfish one, just like he had accused Cora's reasoning of being? Was it simply out of his own guilt from nearly betraying the Stormguard years ago? Was it out of guilt of his more recent sins? Was this 'good deed' just a means to clear his own conscious? Or to step out of his father's shadow?


The hyur's thoughts were cut short as he reached the end of the path. A stone wall stood before him, various engravings etched onto it. An ordinary person wouldn't make heads or tails from the engravings. But Kylin recognized them. His managing of the Avalon Heritage Museum for the family certainly paid off. It was the language of an old Sil'dihn tribe. As instructed by Cora, the hyur held out his hand and began to channel aether toward the door. The aether manifested in a soft blue glow and the midlander promptly began to read the inscription on the wall aloud.


"Lord Byregot, I grant you this blessing in thanks for your gift of a Haven through your skill and knowledge. Lady Halone, I grant you this blessing in thanks for your gift of a Sword to protect our flock through your might and strength. For your protection, we will stand eternally with the Blessed Siblings."


The stone door began to shake, causing dirt and debris to crumble gently around the hyur. Slowly, the sealed gate slid inward until it stopped. Kylin bit his lower lip as he tried to peer inside the chamber from where he stood, to no avail. There was no going back now. He let out a soft sigh and walked forward, entering the chamber with some trepidation. The walls inside were filled with murals of all sorts, though even Kylin didn't recognize any of them. The room was otherwise completely bare, save for the pedestal in the middle of the chamber. Upon the pedestal, as promised by Cora, was a large ornate book that any historian would marvel at. The front cover and binding were seemingly made out of a thin gold and silver metal and on the front was etched the familiar symbol of the Stormguard, the lightning bolt atop a knotted circle.


Kylin touched the book gently with his free hand, still holding the lantern with his other. The book was massive, likely nigh a thousand pages long. In it were all of the secrets of Legio Fortis, one of the four Stormguard legions. Only the Highguards of old have ever gazed upon its contents, let alone touched the book.  It would have made for a marvelous museum exhibition, and if it had been found by him six moons earlier, it possibly would have ended up there. Yet it is was merely the first of many lost relics to the Guard. The midlander further recalled more of Cora's words.




"The Stormguard is shattered. The members of old that are left remain hidden in fear. They will not come to you right away, and some not at all. As Byregot would, you must first build something to come back to. Build it, and they will come. But so too will our enemies. As Halone would, you must make ready for battle at all times. For to protect the memories you build and reclaim, you will need to be also firmly grounded in reality. That is the duality by which we live. So it has been for hundreds of years."




"Build it, and they will come," Kylin repeated to himself softly. He tapped the book with his index finger softly as he thought quietly to himself. He would have to search for new loyal members of the Guard. Members who could build it back up to its former glory. And so the search for talent would begin, though the hyur knew right away it wouldn't be easy. His own reputation would likely make it hard enough. Add to that the necessity for secrecy, and the challenge was amplified greatly. The Order of the Stormguard wasn't ending though, regardless. The disastrous effects of the Sundering and the Calamity were merely the end of the beginning, not the end itself.

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