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Terebinth

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It had been easy to nod along. “Of course,” you said, making the Miqo’te man smile weakly back. You still couldn’t quite remember his name, most of your attention consumed by the trip into the World of Darkness and all the murderous voidsent therein. The sheer relief at breathing fresh air had been more than enough to wash concerns of ancient meddling away.

 

You didn’t even have time to collapse into your tent before the Seeker decided to cut the expedition short, locking the Tower up with himself inside. Again, having nothing in your stomach but adrenaline and fistfuls of dried plums made you only blearily able to watch those gates slam shut.

 

By the time you stumbled back into the Toll for a well-deserved drink, adventuring with a researcher was the furthest thing from your mind.

 


 

You had more important things to do than deal with the problems of another Shard. The First had graced you with naught but an unrelenting headache, and only the knowledge that the Archons were incapacitated seemed present in your mind. You could tell Tataru about your falling for the obvious trap later, you decided, confronted as you were with the selfish, diminutive mage who claimed to have called you here.

 

Growling “You need to send me back, now,” didn’t make him twitch. He described the amount of effort taken to kidnap you here, even the more permanent summons that tethered the Archons; all of it could be summed up with the word incompetence. Refusing to spend any longer in his presence than you had to, you turned and walked right out of his gaudy Ocular.

 

"Just point me at the enemy. The Empire won’t wait for you to play hero.” You marched down to the markets whose name was too long to bother with, not once looking back and seeing the man leaning on his staff, shoulders heaving.

 

It isn’t too long before you’ve measured the south-eastern length of Norvrandt, reuniting the twins along the way. The white-haired Captain was just this side of tolerable, more so when you could rely on her to down the white monsters swarming the Switch.

 

Her astonishment with the night sky was probably fake, you concluded, still disbelieving the whole mess. It was probably that mage’s fault, the Lord of Crystals or whatever. This whole thing felt contrived, a waste of precious time while your real allies, not these slightly aged copies, slept on under Tataru’s watch.

 


 

The trip to Rak’tika confirmed that these versions of your trusted allies weren’t real. Your Y’shtola would never take on her Master’s mantle, or worse, spin out her knowledge to lead a tribe of zealots. The Exarch, for his part, had grown much colder after your first meeting, which was … unsurprising, except that it stung a bit more than it rightly should have. The man was just a summoner, and a bad one at that. You’d never met him. Why should you care what strange denizens of other worlds thought of you? They didn’t care about Doma or Ishgard, so why should you care about their Eulmore?

 

For some reason, the Urianger of this world seemed most like his real self, completely unreadable. The look he gave you when you asked about the Exarch’s nefarious plot made you swear off asking the others anything. Wizards…

 


 

When his hood flew back atop Mt. Gulg, you hadn’t a flicker of recognition in your face. You kept quiet, praying to the gods for the rat bastard to get it over with.

 

That you’d disappointed the Ascian was hardly an issue. Why then did the Exarch’s kidnapping bother you ever so slightly?

 

The Light, you decided. You couldn’t go back to the real world like this. You needed your would-be hero to finished his botched job. Then, maybe, the Warrior of Darkness could go back to being the Champion of Eorzea, Real adventures called.

 


 

After the Starfall, the Ascian behind it put to the sword, you were again faced with the embodiment of dead weight. The mage had somehow hauled his broken body all the way up to a familiar throne room, an impressive feat to be sure.

 

His usefulness, however, stopped there. You remembered that it was leaving his blood around that spawned this particular mess. Your residual anger made you yank him to his feet, though he couldn't stay standing.

 

“You’re crueller than the Azem I knew,” said Elidibus’ construct, the jab being taken as a compliment. He wasn’t wrong either, expression not moving when the Miqo’te lost his grip on the staff, sending it skidding away. In fact, you didn’t bother to finish watching him crystallize in a fallen position, frozen trying to prop himself up, while you collected your spoils. The shiny trinket seemed more than deserved after that. Maybe an ale, too, you thought, marching down the steps of the Tower without ever looking back.

 


 

The trinket, as it turned out, could house the souls of these fake Archons. You didn’t like the idea of it, but Master Matoya insisted that she had tried every other avenue. Fake or not, they were capable fighters. The Alliance had more need of that than the specific Scions you had come to trust.

 

You told no one of your trophy: one dull stake of blooded white auracite. Garleans were adapting more and more Allagan horrors every passing moon. The bit of Royal blood on the stake let you override their defences, and for all the trouble that foolish Seeker caused, you intended to milk that advantage for as long at it lasted. It found a place in your pack just beside the aether compass.

 

An essential item, truly.