When last we left off, our adventurers had saved the Sultana at the side of a Handsome Stranger, fighting demons no less! Let’s dive in to see what awaits us next!
As I wrote last time, the story in ARR takes a while to build up. Admittedly, I view ARR’s story as primarily world-building and setup to prepare for the major stories of the expansions. That isn’t a bad thing, it can just come across as daunting for many folks!
Last time, we delivered pretzels to stressed-out Sultansworn, rescued the Sultana, and Papashan sent us on our way. You’d think after fighting demons and saving royalty, we’d have much more important jobs awaiting, but…we’ve been tasked with delivering a pumpkin.
Farmer Gagari sends us to the Coffer & Coffin, one of the more popular bars in Thanalan, if you don’t count Momodi’s Quicksand itself.
Delivering the pumpkin to Roger, he thanks us by giving us a lead for more work up the road at Black Brush Station; where the railway runs near the mine. We meet Warin, who explains who the Stone Torches are:
Admittedly, when I first saw a Hellsguard named “Stone Torch,” I just assumed that was his name. For the other lore-junkies here, you probably knew this already, but it looks like Ul’dah is comprised of multiple guard factions! Neat!
Warin sends us along the tracks to beat up some pests and clear them for the mine carts, which in my years of playing this game I have yet to see. I don’t think they exist.
After clearing the tracks, we’re hired by a nearby Lalafell claiming that a small-time merchant is after an untapped ore motherlode beneath the Ruins of Sil’dih, just outside Ul’dah. Wystan is from Stonesthrow, a beggar town outside of the city proper, and he’s hoping to acquire exclusive excavation rights for these ruins, and ambitiously convince the Sacrarium to rewrite city law to help those less fortunate. It’s a bold play, especially when such laws would cause the already wealthy to lose money.
And if we know anything about wealthy people both in a game and in real life, they don’t like to lose money.
Meeting Wystan has him asking us to deliver some cookies to a few orphans from Stonesthrow, suggesting just how altruistic the up-and-coming merchant is. Who doesn’t love someone taking care of orphans?
After feeding the orphans, Wystan fills us in on the finer details of his plan to change the laws. He gives a glimpse into just how bad it is in Ul’dah, with people not being paid fair wages and the rich only growing richer. Eager to see people cared for and thriving, he tells us that he had paid Brass Blades – another guard faction from the city-state – to look into the ruins. At this point, they barge in and tell us that they’ve found the vein of ore!
Wystan invites us to come see history in the making, and so we go. What adventurer wouldn’t want to see that?
Arriving at the ruins, the Brass Blades have accosted Wystan, showing themselves to be in the employ of the Syndicate all along. Little more than hired thugs, they were sent to teach a lesson to any small merchant foolish enough to cross them. When we arrive, the Blades laugh and declare that now Wystan won’t have to die alone.
However, an unexpected visitor arrives to cause yet more trouble, saying something pretty interesting…
The earth begins to tremble, and a golem made of stone rises from the rubble. Fearing for their lives, the Brass Blades flee, leaving us to contend with the golem ourselves. In the fight, the voice of the mage who summoned it says “never has the golem been so sorely tested!” We destroy it, and the mage declares that we are no ordinary adventurer.
Wystan is saved, but now realizes how little sway he holds over the city. Just as the mage disappears, Thancred arrives a moment too late for the excitement. At this point, we have a flashback that’s not our own – we see a brief glimpse of Thancred’s most recent history.
While having not one, but two ladies’ on his arms (Thancred you dog), the rogue overhears merchants discussing Amalj’aa attacks and crystal-bearing caravans, as well as a look at the descending moon, Dalamud. Even more recently, we see Thancred rushing to the Sultantree, where he first encountered us.
Waking up from our stupor, Thancred offers to escort Wystan and his employees to the Coffer & Coffin, telling us that we’ll meet again.
Wystan declares that he’s finished in Thanalan, and gives up hope on trying to change the law and go against the sinister Lord Lolorito, one of the monetarists with a seat on the Syndicate. Wystan, in his departure, tells us to seek the wisdom of Momodi at the Quicksand. After all, she’s helped an incredible number of adventurers in her time. She gives us a room at the inn, and tells us to take heart – and not to let Lolorito’s actions color our opinion of Ul’dah.
And that’ll do it for this week’s edition of Icy Takes+! But as with last time, let’s go through a few takeaways from the perspective of someone who’s finished it all before. ENDWALKER SPOILERS AHEAD, read at your own discretion!
1. In what is news to probably only me, Stone Torch is not just a lore-appropriate Hellsguard name. (So is Mountain Dew for that matter but that’s beside the point.) While most city-states have only one or two military factions, it seems Ul’dah has plenty more. The Brass Blades tend to be the ‘guards’ or law-enforcement of the region, the Sultansworn the Royal Guard, Stone Torches are hired to oversee the railways and mines and protect the miners, and the Immortal Flames are the city’s military. For the roleplayers in our community, there are a lot of neat backstories one could create from Ul’dah’s factions.
2. Momodi tells us not to let Lolorito’s actions color our opinion of Ul’dah. The community widely sees the city-state as, to quote a different franchise, “a hive of scum and villainy.” Momodi herself says this is not the case! There are definitely those who are willing to resort to underhanded means for self-gain, but Momodi tells us, “most of us are good folk just trying to make ends meet.”
3. Perhaps the most interesting of this edition, the black-masked Ascian (a footsoldier and no one important in the grand scheme of things, but an Ascian nonetheless), summons the golem by saying, “O mournful voice of creation…” At the very end of Shadowbringers in Amaurot, we learn about the Ancients’ use of ‘creation magicks,’ managing to breathe life into the lifeless and manipulate aether to create something out of thin air.
Is it possible that even at this point in the story, Ascians are still using creation magicks? Likely so, as the Loporrits in Endwalker are doing the very same, but for benevolent reasons rather than evil! This asks the question; what are the limits of an Ascian’s creation magicks at this point in time? After all, they’re sundered like everyone else save for a very minor few.
What do you think? Did you notice anything I missed in this storyline? As always, we’d love for you to play through NG+ with us and share your own thoughts!