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The Dark Lilies
The Dark Lilies Saga - Volume 1
Release Date: (10/13/2006)
Released By: Square Enix
The chamber in the cathedral to which the young friar led me was not luxurious by any stretch of the imagination, but I found the neat and tidy room quite agreeable. I sat before a roaring fireplace in a chair that squeaked in protest at the slightest movement, and thought back on the events of the previous few hours as I gazed into the dancing flame...
An elderly Temple Knight of gentle manner--an agent of my client--greeted me upon my arrival.
The elderly knight lowered his gaze before continuing with his tale.
The knight lifted his gaze to meet my own and nodded.
Lady Gertrude, I beseech you to employ the far western art of exorcism to banish the spirits of these malefic beings."
The wandering souls of witches... What had caused their disappearance? What had befallen their physical bodies? Why were they haunting the towns? There had to be an explanation.
I took my cloak from a hook on the wall, and left the cathedral behind.
Daylight faded into dusk, and a solid mist rose to obscure my vision. When I strayed from the path into the gloom between the trunks, I felt as if the creatures of the forest had begun to stir all at once.
And then bats filled the air around me, rapidly beating their wings with frantic fury. I swung my wand like a club, scattering the tiny vermin in all directions. They soon returned to renew their assault, but did not seem interested in feasting on blood. I couldn't help but feel I was being herded, and when I quickened my pace I suddenly felt the air grow heavy and suffocating.
A sensed an overpowering aura from up ahead. Following the supernatural beacon, I found her waiting for me beneath the branches of a huge tree.
She wore a pointed hat just as I remembered from childhood stories. Her face retained a trace of innocence and we seemed to be of a similar age. However, her transparent form left me in no doubt as to her true identity.
I began to softly intone the words to a spell of exorcism, and walked boldly towards the apparition, both arms outstretched.
My voice echoed through the silence of the night-cloaked forest. The witch peered at me from under the brim of her hat, her emotionless eyes glowing faintly.
The spirit opened her mouth slightly and whispered. She spoke no tongue that I could understand... It was more akin to a moan, or a chant...
No matter how practiced the exorcist, if I could not hear and understand the words a spirit spoke, I could not send it to Altana's side--especially if that spirit was a powerful witch.
As I stood there debating my course, the witch suddenly charged forward in eerie silence, her eyes opened wide, and a twisted smile playing about her lips...
I braced myself. The spirit flowed into my body, and I could feel myself losing control. My arms and legs grew rigid, and cold beads of sweat ran down my neck and spine...
In the instant of that single shouted word, the force binding my limbs dissipated, and the presence of the witch melted away into the darkness.
Sighing deeply, I raised my face to the sky and saw how the bats that had tormented me were still fluttering about in agitation.
At that point, I was certain that they had been commanded to lead me to her.
Creatures of the night have an understanding. Which would mean that those bats would comprehend the unfamiliar words spoken by the witch. How, then, was a flesh-and-blood mortal to learn such a language?
I shook my head even as I uttered those words. It was forbidden. A devout student of the Goddess would not be permitted to commit such an act.
I walked back to the road, my mind racing with the events of the evening. By the time I thought to look again, the bats were gone.
I recalled a linkpearl exchange from the night before; two colleagues of mine--Brian and Roger--had been called to the capitals of the other two nations on the exact same errand as I. After I had reported the events in Ronfaure, Roger, the most senior among us, mentioned having an idea about the witch's mumblings and went out to conduct some research. I wondered if he had discovered a solution to our quandary...
As I passed the sluice gates of Northern San d'Oria, worrying for my fellow exorcists, I noticed a knot of people formed around the passage that led to the port.
As I approached the crowd and peered into the center, I could make out a man in merchant's garb sprawled on the stone-cobbled ground. All the blood had drained from his face, and his lips quivered spasmodically.
Our worst fears had been realized.
I left the confused soldier and the growing crowd of people behind, and began to devise a plan...
Illustration by Mitsuhiro Arita
The Dark Lilies Saga - Volume 2
Release Date: (11/02/2006)
Released By: Square Enix
The city of San d'Oria was draped in a gossamer mantle of morning mist; the silence contrasting against the tumultuous events of the Harvest Festival, just ended the night before.
As I walked along the dimly lit alleys, I passed citizens heading to work, bodies hunched against the morning chill. A creaking chocobo cart piled high with sacks of wheat was overtaken by energetic young adventurers as it trundled slowly down the path. It appeared as if vividly colored flowers bloomed by the sides of the alley, but on closer inspection they turned out to be nothing more than candy wrappers. Until only yesterday, one could hear the excited voices of children as they compared bags of sweets in this very street. Those same children would likely still be dreaming in their beds at this hour.
"Brian. Gertrude. With the aid of the adventurers, we have finally divined the motivations of these sinister spirits. The time of exorcism is at hand."
The steady voice of Roger, my fellow exorcist, spoke to me through the linkpearl held to my ear.
"Who would have thought such a simple idea would allow someone to comprehend the Cursed Tongue. Those adventurers must have had sharp hearing," Brian added with a stifled yawn.
The Cursed Tongue. Any who belonged to a nation involved in the Great War would recall the unsettling language uttered by the Dark Lilies. It rose into the air along with the ominous tolling of the beastman soldiers' gongs...
Just before the Harvest Festival began, it was Roger who, having spent his youth in Bastok during the war, was able to shed light on the origins of the witches' speech. According to his tale, this language was instinctively understandable by all creatures of darkness. It is thought that the Shadow Lord encouraged its use in order to bridge the racial and cultural differences among the various beastman armies.
I had been searching for a way to understand the language ever since I heard the whisperings of that witch in the woods of Ronfaure. Eventually I came to the conclusion that one must assume the form of a monster in order to find some meaning in those haunting words.
The festival began several days later, and found the three of us making the rather strange request of adventurers to "put on the guise of a monster and follow after the witches."
I wonder if this was not exactly as the Goddess had planned. The investigations progressed at a rapid pace, and many adventurers came forth to bring us the vital clues we needed to gain control over the spirits.
The truths we learned were quite unexpected: Homesickness, lost hopes, past loves... These six witches had returned to their hometowns, unable to let go of precious memories that still stirred some part of their souls. And that was the simple explanation to the mystery of their appearance.
"The Dark Lilies never completely lost their mortal selves. And that is why I believe the adventurers were able to understand them despite having no knowledge of the Cursed Tongue," I said, responding to Brian's earlier comment.
I continued on, towards the apparitions I was duty-bound to banish.
As the sun rose in the eastern sky, I found the Elvaan witch Poseaulloie on the parade ground before the gates of the Chateau d'Oraguille. I could see that she knew full well why I had come, and why she could no longer remain in this world. Her journey to Altana's side passed without incident, and I continued on to Laborman's Way in search of the last witch--Maryse.
I stepped through the gate and navigated the wooden walkways until I located the forlorn shade of Maryse at the bottom of the stairs. Even from afar I could tell immediately by her overwhelming presence--this was the spirit I had encountered in Ronfaure the day I arrived in San d'Oria.
I approached her slowly.
"Do you remember me, Maryse?"
The witch turned to face me, staring blankly as the light reflected from her seemingly unseeing eyes.
"I have heard about your brother... There is nothing to regret. He knew and forgave everything that you did. I'm sure his thoughts were with you until the day he passed from this life..."
Streaks of light suddenly ran down the witch's cheeks.
The Shadow Lord. That name was unmistakable.
"Tell me, Maryse. What happened to you and your sisters?"
And so she began her twenty-year-old tale in a language she had all but forgotten.
From the time she was a young girl, Maryse's unnatural affinity for magic marked her as a terror-inspiring "witch." Eventually, even her own parents began to fear her burgeoning powers. The only person who stood by Maryse was her older brother, who would always say, "We all have a destiny wrought for us by the Goddess. There will come a day when your magic will be sought after instead of feared."
But once Maryse learned that her brother's protective actions had also earned him the hatred of the townspeople, she fled from her home and family.
It was then that Maryse's travels brought her into contact with five other such outcasts and their destinies were bound together forever. These six individuals bade farewell to their troubled pasts and created a new coven of witches--the Dark Lilies.
After the formation of the Dark Lilies, the six witches resurrected ancient spells of destruction for their own protection. Their actions earned them even greater enmity from the common people.
The Dark Lilies found no welcome in the lands of Altana's children. Chased from the civilized world, the witches looked north for sanctuary, and eventually found themselves knocking on the gates of Castle Zvahl--the stronghold of the Shadow Lord. Perhaps this turn of events was inevitable.
"A fascinating proposal. You wish to serve the Shadow Lord? Then you must enter the darkness in which we thrive!"
It was at that moment that the form and speech of mortal beings was stripped from the Dark Lilies, and they were reborn as monstrous shades.
Not long after their transformation, the Great War descended upon Vana'diel. The Dark Lilies were placed at the forefront of the beastman armies, and used their tremendous powers to batter the allied forces of Altana. Rumors of ethereal witches wielding ancient spells spread quickly across the battlefield and struck dread into the hearts of all who heard them. But even with their awesome might, the six witches failed to prevent the eventual defeat of the beastmen. And so began the journey of a coven that had nowhere left to go.
The days of aimless wandering stretched into months, and then years...
As the six drifted, they slowly began to lose all sense of who they were and what they were searching for. After ten, then twenty years of this mindless meandering, Maryse found that she had left her companions behind, and arrived in the town of her childhood.
"I had lost everything...and had nowhere else to go. At least here, I had the memory...of my brother."
As Maryse spoke these words, eyes turned downwards, her form grew even more insubstantial and seemed ready to dissipate altogether.
Perhaps Maryse did not wish to hear the truth. But if I did not take this chance to convince her, her spirit might wander this world until the end of time--just as she had been wandering for the last twenty years.
Bolstering my resolve, I faced Maryse once again.
"Maryse... When you met with the Shadow Lord's attendant, he took more than just your mortal body and words. He took your life as well...and doomed you to this spectral existence."
Maryse quietly lifted her gaze to mine, and her voice was tinged with sadness.
"I think I knew... On that day...when I felt the warmth of your body...and knew envy... I am no longer lost. Please...send me to my brother's side..."
"Thank you...for helping me see the truth."
In that instant, the golden light of the sun spilled over the eastern wall, bathing everything before it in warmth and radiance. Thus illuminated, Maryse's smile was gentle and content.
It was as if the compassionate avatar of Altana stood before me.
I closed my eyes in reverence, and intoned a passage from the holy tome to help her soul on its final journey. I had faith that Maryse would find her way to Altana's side...
When I opened my eyes, Maryse was nowhere to be seen, but in her place floated countless motes of brilliant light. I watched for the longest time as, one by one, those ephemeral motes rose slowly to the heavens
Illustration by Mitsuhiro Arita
The Dark Lilies Saga - Volume 3
Release Date: (10/17/2007)
Released By: Square Enix
The unchanging breezes of the river port brought with them the distinctive smells of machine oil and brine, and the deep violet shade of the sky seemed to swallow the last rays of daylight as the sun dipped below the horizon. Looking up from the docks, one could see the pale flicker of the street lamps struggle feebly against the growing darkness of twilight.
Roger had lost his father in the Great War. I, on the other hand, had been fortunate enough to be born across the seas and far from the flames of war, where the details of such momentous events were nothing more than another tedious history lesson to be endured. And so it was that sleep was a long time coming on the evening he imparted the tale I shall now share with you. It was twenty years ago, the year I was born... Not long after the war had begun, a conscription notice was delivered to Roger's home. His father, who had labored in the shipyards, had been drafted to work as an engineer on a Bastokan warship. He left his son with the simple words "Take care of your mother."
After relating this tragic story, Roger had merely shrugged and said, "That's all in the past now." But the tale explained much. Roger left his hometown behind and took up the mantle of the exorcist in the hope that he might discover his father's drifting soul and finally lay him to rest. Until that day, the war would never be over for Roger.
As these musings occupied my thoughts, I was suddenly struck with an image of the Dark Lilies. Perhaps Roger had seen an echo of his father's plight in the aimless wanderings of those lost spirits.
"Trick or Treat!"
I stepped off Rye Bridge into Bastok Markets, and was greeted by the high-pitched voices of children as a group of youngsters ran out from an alley beside the Metalworks.
They must be excited for the coming Harvest Festival, I thought. The children already wore the hollowed ogre pumpkin and witch hats. A boy in the lead shouted a command, and the entire group raced off towards the fountain, laughing and giggling as their running footfalls echoed off the cobblestones.
I stopped in my tracks as silence once again claimed the streets. I would never forget this place--it was where I had sent the souls of two witches to rest at the side of the Goddess.
A familiar voice spoke through the linkpearl I kept at my left ear. It was Roger, contacting us from the distant nation of Windurst.
"This is Brian. I've just arrived in the city of Bastok." "Gertrude, here. I arrived in San d'Oria two hours ago."
Gertrude was a year younger than I, and I considered her a little sister. Although, with maturity born from her impressive talents in the field of exorcism, it probably seemed to her that it was I who was the younger sibling.
"I trust you are not too exhausted from your journeys? We shall begin the Wake of the Lilies tomorrow, as planned. Two of the townspeople will be chosen to walk the streets in the guise of witches. And I think it fitting that the adventurers who aided in our duties should also have the chance to participate. The Dark Lilies will not have forgotten them, I am certain."
With the help of adventurers, the tales of those six tragic figures had spread across Vana'diel in what seemed the blink of an eye. Youthful mages enamored with the idea of wielding such colossal magicks, as well as others who remembered that troubled time, shed tears at the songs sung of the true story behind the witches' fall into darkness. In a strange twist of fate, the Dark Lilies had found more acceptance after death than they ever had in life.
It was this outpouring of emotion that led us to visit these cities once again. Using the Harvest Festival as a turning point in events, we decided to hold a ceremony in honor of the redeemed coven--the Wake of the Lilies.
"The Dark Lilies are no longer outcast..." "Yes, and this surge of empathy from the people should not be wasted. Let us guide it to where it belongs."
It was then that Roger whispered just loud enough to be heard: "And perhaps other painful memories may also be allowed to fade..."
When at last I looked up from speaking into my linkpearl, night had well and truly fallen. The moon shone brightly in the eastern sky, its illumination sharply outlining the low-hanging clouds.
I continued on towards my lodgings, and marveled at the view afforded from the top of a bridge as points of cozy light began to appear one by one in the buildings below. Perhaps some of those lights were jack-o'-lanterns carved in preparation for the coming festivities? As the thought crossed my mind, I felt a familiar presence brush the farthest edge of my consciousness.
I lifted my face to the night sky and spoke thus: "Greetings... Tomorrow, this town will begin the Harvest Festival in earnest. May the warmth and joy of these people reach and comfort you..."
Illustration by Mitsuhiro Arita