Hail, adventurers! May winter's vicious chill soon give way to the warming glow of spring and may prosperity greet you in the coming months!
Many wondrous events have taken place in Vana'diel over the years, thanks in no small part to the indefatigable efforts of adventurers like you. We are eternally grateful for all your efforts in restoring exuberance to the realm.
From all of us on the development and operations teams, we wish you a very happy New Year!
|Illustration: Mitsuhiro Arita|
Dawn of the Dragons
Swirls of powdery snow served to soften the pitch-black night skies over South Gustaberg and Bastok. The hour was late, and most of the city's residents were either asleep or huddled before their fireplaces, but the chill night air around the Steaming Sheep was filled with raucous banter and a palpable sense of anticipation. It was in this very establishment that we met her—an Elvaan woman of such divine beauty that even the scar stretching from the middle of her forehead to below her left eye did little, if anything, to detract from it. Even Iron Hammer, who never thinks twice about "such base things" as a woman's appearance, was struck silent in awe at the sight of her.
I had no choice but to give him a sharp elbow to the ribs. It may sound cruel, but if only you knew how thick his head was, you'd have done the same.
"Ow! What was that for, Liz?"
You should be thanking me. I just saved your dimwitted hide.
As we learned from the Sheep's proprietress Hilda, this mysterious Elvaan beauty was apparently a scholar of all things history.
"'Tis a pleasure to meet you. You may call me Valienne."
"The pleasure's all mine. I'm Liz, and this Galkan dunce here is Iron Hammer. So, to set the record straight, you need our assistance in a search for some wyrms?"
I felt a tad guilty about broaching the subject in such an uncouth manner, but I simply couldn't hide my interest any longer.
"Precisely. My pardons if you were already aware of this fact, but according to the Far Eastern calendar, this year's guardian spirit is the wyrm."
"Guardian spirit? You mean those deities that bestow bountiful crops upon the land and fortune to households each year? Now that you mention it, I do recall hearing something about them being part of Far Eastern tradition..." I could sense Valienne's surprise. It must have been quite comforting for her to find someone else who knew of such rituals, for her wide-eyed expression of bewilderment broadened into a smile as wide as the Bhefhel Gulf as she nodded in agreement.
At the same time, these days it's rarer to meet someone who hasn't heard of that custom. Mystic beasts of the New Year have descended upon Gustaberg for some ten years now, and while some may have simply been replicas born of Windurstian magic, most have indeed been actual rare specimens of nature.
"If the findings from my many years of research bear even a shred of credibility, I can unequivocally state that wyrms still do exist," Valienne declared, her eyes coated with the glaze of fancy. I'd heard reports from other adventurers of a cult based around wyrm worship, and though it may have fallen into obscurity long ago, Valienne seemed to be one of its few remaining devotees.
"While it may sound preposterous, I believe that a majestic wyrm has been watching over the realm since time immemorial from the depths of a monstrous cavern in the desolate Grauberg region."
"The wyrms have not forgotten our past devotion to them. If my theory holds true, they will ascend to the surface of Vana'diel and appear before us to usher in the New Year."
Iron Hammer, his epithet an apt descriptor for the contents of his head, could do nothing but cock his head to one side in the same quizzical manner as a dog who'd failed to understand his master's command.
"What's she on about, Liz?"
"Ugh, if only we could set up a quarry inside your skull...then at least you could provide us with a valuable resource instead of just stupid questions. If you took the time to listen carefully, you'd realize she was saying that wyrms are going to act as the guardian spirit for the New Year's celebration, according to the custom for her religion. To sum it up, they're mimicking deities."
It was precisely that moment at which I gave up trying to communicate anything to Iron Hammer ever again.
"Please excuse the intrusion, but they will not simply be mimicking deities. They are actual deities."
"And I am more than certain that my research would progress by leaps and bounds were I able to meet them."
An escort mission, huh? I could've sworn I'd heard of similar outings before, but a job's a job, so I hardly thought twice before accepting Valienne's offer.
There we were, positioned less-than-firmly on the limen between old and new, end and beginning. Just how long had we been fighting? Death lurked in every shadow around us, and I wasn't even sure if I was alive or dead, let alone how my companions fared.
"Liz, it's dawn."
Iron Hammer's words wrenched me from that grim trance and brought me to my senses. My eyes traced the path that his thick, ungainly hands drew to the east, and met with the pale blue and blazing orange sliver that heralds the coming of the morning sun. My thoughts immediately turned to our Elvaan employer; this was the moment she had been waiting for, and I'd lost sight of her in the maelstrom of battle. It would be sacrilege to call myself an adventurer whilst letting her perish on the battlefield. I spun around with as much haste as my battered frame could handle, the desperate hope that she survived unscathed driving the words from my mouth.
"Valienne! Are you all right!? Please tell me you're all right!"
"I'm perfectly fine, thanks to your valiant efforts. You two are by far and away the strongest pair of pugilists I have ever associated with," she smiled above the horde of fallen Quadav that lay bleeding and bleating in pain at our feet.
With the welcoming rays of dawn beginning to warm our backs and wash our hearts clean of the blood we'd just shed, we continued our trek across the wasteland of Gustaberg. Before the sun had risen and we were able to gaze upon its glorious visage, though, we spied a queer spherical entity floating no more than a hundred paces away. The ball glinted and gleamed in the dawn light, its color constantly shifting as it drifted toward us.
"That's a dragatama! It's a wyrm's own volition made manifest!"
I hadn't the slightest clue at the time as to how she knew the name of that mystical orb, but it wasn't until much later that I was composed enough to even ask myself that question. There was no time to entertain such thoughts after we realized it wasn't just a single dragatama headed our way, but an entire procession of wyrms in all their glory.
They may not have been as massive as the world guardian that Valienne believed in, but they were wyrms all the same, their scales frighteningly resplendent in the light of dawn as they marched across the plains in tightly formed lines.
Iron Hammer wasn't the only one stopped cold by the sight?although one could argue it doesn't take much to make his brain stop working. Paralyzed by fear, I felt like a cadaver?the retinue may have possessed some eldritch beauty, but it was still a horde of wyrms! Should even one of them be provoked in the slightest, it could easily have fried us to an unrecognizable crisp or poisoned our blood with its noxious breath.
I remember hearing that one can escape the sight of wyrms by standing immaculately still, but I doubt that's true. It certainly didn't stop them from advancing on our corpselike bodies?that enigmatically glowing orb leading the charge. Eventually enough life returned to me that I felt a cold chill run up my spine, causing me to lose all control yet again. It was time for either fight or flight, but at that moment I couldn't even recognize the former as an option. "Run!" I managed to stammer hoarsely as I turned back to Valienne.
But she was gone.
"Liz, look!" my partner called, fear being an emotion he was clearly too dense to experience. Quivering as I slowly turned to face the direction of his voice, I observed the army of wyrms drifting away from us in dutiful procession behind their spherical general. We were spared...
My legs went out from under me and I collapsed in a heap upon the bed of wasteland snow. I didn't care about how the wet, filthy slush seemed to work its way inside my armor; all that mattered was that we weren't going to end up as some blackened hunks of meat on skewers for those scaly serpents.
Then a soft voice echoed inside my head, sweeping away all those macabre thoughts.
It is because of you that my first journey to Gustaberg ended in success.
The overlapping echoes made it difficult to discern, but the voice had a familiar ring to it.
With my last glance back at the procession I noticed a new wyrm bringing up the rear. As if it knew I was watching, the creature reared its head back at us, revealing a scar that ran from its forehead down below its left eye.
Thank you...for allowing me to return home.
Despite the distance between us, I was sure the wyrm was smiling.
|Story: Miyabi Hasegawa|
The 2012 New Year event will come swooping in to the three nations at 7:00 a.m. on December 31, 2011 (PST) and take off at 12:00 a.m. on January 16, 2012 (PST).