Thoughts from the Otherworld

I think our hunting trip aiming to take down cockatrices in Meriphataud Mountains did not go too well even after we had managed to find out their general location from other people who had hunted them before. Those particular beasts seem to be more than a little rare, and both I and Kii Kalira were more than a little frustrated about aimlessly wandering about the right area, trying to find even one. I do think, however, that for Kii Kalira it was somewhat more frustrating than it was for me. After more than half a day of futilely trying to track down one of these beasts, she at one point started shouting whatever came to her mind, saying she was trying to attract cockatrices.
...I do not know if her preposterous words worked or if it was a mere coincidence, but afterwards we did manage to find several nesting on a cliff. Several was all we needed, although taking them down proved to be a bit more arduous task than we thought beforehands. Cockatrices are known for their ability to petrify anyone who looks at them for too long, and while we were prepared for this, it did present trouble. Nevertheless, we did manage to take them down and obtained quite a few feathers to sell in Windurst. They use them to decorate hats there, and the going price was worth the little hunting I think.

Once we had reached Windurst Kii Kalira received summons to the Heavens Tower for a mission from her country. It has been a while since her last summons, and this time her mission proved to be unexpectedly important, not to mention hard to complete in practice. Kii Kalira wasn't too clear on the details, but from what I gathered it was to strengthen some seal put on Castle Zvahl. The location of the seal is close by, in the underground maze of the Horutoto Ruins, so at first we thought this to be a walk-in walk-out type of mission. However, turns out that there is a gate difficult to open on the way to the location of the seal. Before the gate there are magic glyphs on the floor, and to open it you must either have an unlocking charm, or three mages, one of every major school of magic, standing upon the glyphs and channeling their energy into it. While we naturally had both white and red magic covered, this left us in want of a black mage. Thankfully a friend of Kii Kalira's was present in Windurst and was willing to help us out, thus letting us into this deeper part of the ruins. The process of unlocking the gate was surprisingly impressive. I wonder what is behind the locked doors behind this gate? We could not access all the areas there, and neither did we have time to look around much.
The area was full of skeleton-type undead. I suppose this was to be expected, but what we weren't prepared for was the relative strength of these ones. Who knows how long they had been there, fighting against each other, gathering strength to assault the next person to enter... After some struggling, Kii Kalira did manage to follow her orders, and we warped back out to Windurst once done. She intend to now acquire the charm required to open the gate without the presence of three mages of different schools, and is rather annoyed that the person who gave her the mission didn't give it out for free to her when she received the mission.
Upon our return from Elshimo Island not too long ago, we made the decision to go hunt for cockatrices in Meriphataud Mountains. The area being only superficially familiar to us from several trips to gather various items needed and numerous passings on chocobo-back on the way to Jeuno, we decided to look around the more remote parts of the region in order to familiarize ourselves with it a bit more. Not to mention that while we had heard cockatrices were present in the area, we hadn't heard where exactly to find these creatures. So we took it upon ourselves to head north.

This proved easier said than done, for high mountain ridges were facing us in most every direction. But luck was with us, for upon reaching the very eastern parts of the area we managed to find a pass north. What was before us I could not have imagined. It was a wondrous forest full of ancient trees - some wider than a house at their base - and mysterious stone or crystal formations gently glowing purple at their tips. I wonder what stone exactly they are, they seem like they could be very valuable. Not that any decent being would have the heart to cut out these stones, they are truly magnificent.
The forest was not only home to magnificent natural phenomena, but strong monsters. Coming into the forest from Meriphataud it did not seem too bad, but upon encountering a peculiar species of blue leech and a being that I later identified as a golem, we made the decision to turn back and head to Jeuno to find more information, both about cockatrices and about this mysterious forest we ended up in. I think this was a wise decision. Looking through maps upon our return I discovered that the area we ended up in is called the Sanctuary of Zi'Tah, and it is relatively famous among scholars for housing incredibly ancient constructs and dangerous monsters the like of which cannot be found elsewhere on Mindartia. In this light, turning back was a wise decision indeed.

Having returned from our unplanned trip to Zi'Tah, we encountered a most curious hume who pushed upon us a task of advertising for his company from Aht Urhgan, the Salaheem's Sentinels. Why all this talk about Aht Urhgan recently?
He did not really give us a chance to refuse his request, so somehow we ended up walking all over Jeuno, advertising this company we knew nothing about. For our troubles, we only both obtained reference cards to the company headquarters in the - or rather, a - capital of Aht Urhgan. I suppose I should be thankful he was willing to reward us even with such an apparently useless thing.
It has been almost a full week since my last journal entry, and I think we have learned a lot here. The Yuhtunga Jungle spreading right outside Kazham is indeed a dangerous place, and was much more dangerous before I and Kii Kalira became a little used to life here. This jungle is no easy place to navigate, and wiill make you lose your bearings should your concentration slip even for a moment. A good many of the beasts here even are different from the ones on Quon and Mindartia, the majority of them being opo-opos, which can be quite dangerous when annoyed as we discovered. Of more familiar beasts there are bees and a type of crawlers, aside from the ever-present goblins. To think that they have adapted to live prosperously even in this dreadfully hot environment.
And speaking of the hot weather, I have never experienced such scorching heat as the heatwaves in this jungle. There are better days, ones with rain that nevertheless makes the air so humid that it is a chore to breathe, but the days of heatwave are the worst. The air shimmers with heat everywhere, and at times it looks as if the whole jungle burns with it.

There are some things that make wondering about the jungle worthwhile though. There are lush flowers everywhere you happen to look, and at times you can come across ones that while nothing too special during daytime, upon nightfall glow with a blue and purple light and spread their almost overwhelming scent to the winds... The first time we came across one we spent many an hour beside it, just wondering about the beauty of nature.

Kii Kalira has adapted well to life here I think. The only thing that gives her trouble are the confounding directions here in the jungles, where to get forward you must sometimes pass through several underground caves leading to entirely different directions before you reach a path that takes you where you want to go. These caves also bring other kinds of troubles. They tend to be a bit hidden, and sometimes when she isn't paying attention, or when she is merely feeling curious about where the cave below leads, she will suddenly drop down one... Thankfully she hasn't gotten hurt yet, but it gives me a scare every time it happens. There are dangerous goblins there, those beastmen like the relative coolness of the air underground.
Although I must admit, this behavior of hers led us to a wondrous place once. Near the newly constructed outpost in the southern parts of Yuhtunga Jungle, there is a high cliff that looks over a valley with several waterfalls. It is a beautiful place, but we hadn't managed to find a way down there yet. Then she dropped down one of those holes, and the tunnel she ended up in led all the way down to the valley. It was even more wondrous up close, although I must admit that at first, getting there was more of a shock than I thought it would be. It appears to be an area frequented by sahagins, the beastman race native to this island. Their skills in battle are nothing to be trifled with.

I believe we have now gotten our fill of the jungle for the time being. It is time to catch an airship back to Jeuno.
The Eldieme Necropolis, once more widely known as the Coveffe Barrows. As a once-sacred resting place of the dead, more recently haunted by restless souls of the fallen in the Great War, I was naturally hesitant to enter the place, even for the brief time required to burn the incense given by the pilgrim friar in Windurst. Nevertheless, in we went. I am still glad we were not required to go in further, there is something about knowing that the place used to be a peaceful place for my ancestors to end their journey on Vana'diel, and comparing that image to the present-day situation that makes me extremely reluctant to even approach the place.
The burning incense meant to ease the spirits of the dead looked pitiful burning in the depths of the darkness of the necropolis, and I must admit that the scent was not too pleasant. Once we reported this to the friar however, he merely stated he would continue his studies on the matter and gave us a reference letter for friar Eperdud in the Cathedral. This was most unexpected, and we had already made plans to head to Kazham and its jungles after this, going so far as to bond with the home crystal in Lower Jeuno to facilitate our swift return, our intention to take the first airship to Elshimo Island after reporting on this matter. Thankfully, it appears that the letter is not urgent and can be turned in after our journey to the jungles of Elshimo.

Thankful for this small gesture of understanding, we headed to Jeuno where we were momentarily held up by a somewhat alluring offer. It appears that there is a rather similar offer to the Kazham airship pass one, but this to earn a ferry pass authorizing passage to Aht Urhgan, the nation on the eastern continent of Aradjiah. It was most interesting, and we discussed obtaining the items required for this pass with Kii Kalira, but decided we have neither time nor interest to head to the Near East for the moment. I wonder how long this offer stands.

We are now headed towards Kazham as planned, and will reach the city by nightfall. This time, we intend to see what the jungles have to offer for us.
Being able to attune your own energy to many different strong energy sources is a blessing of kinds. For this purpose, recently I and Kii Kalira have been practicing our skills in fighting differently from our usual ways. It started with Kii Kalira's fascination with the art of summoning finally overcoming her good sense after arriving in Windurst this time. I think I will be content in the knowledge it is possible for me to summon Carbuncle to aid me should I so wish, I have no intention of making use of such a skill. Indeed, I think I might rest easier knowing I had no such skill, for it is one forbidden long ago.
Yet I cannot judge her for being curious about it. I think she has a bond of kinds with Carbuncle that I do not have. I suppose that comes naturally with fighting with him by your side for longer periods of time.

While Kii Kalira was busy experimenting with the art of summoning, I took it upon myself to practice my physical fighting skills. I have known the very basics of hand to hand fighting for some time now, and since I now had the extra time on my hands I decided to try it out further. I think I've gained many skills in this relatively short time, and once Kii Kalira realized what I had been doing we ended up teaming up to see how the combination of a physical attacker would work with a mage aided by Carbuncle. It works surprisingly well, and we were able to take down opponents we could not have taken at this level of experience on our usual battle styles. I think our knowledge of battle and our adversaries made a difference in this, too.

I think we may be talked about in the Cathedral, and much more than I thought. After completing a task for friar Eperdur in Cathedral proper and arriving in Windurst, we heard word that a pilgrim friar had been asking if we had been in Windurst lately. Not wanting to keep a friar in waiting, we made haste to his reported location, and did indeed find him. He had a rather similar request for us, to place some spirit incense in a fire in Eldieme Necropolis.
We have never been to the Necropolis, and the stories I have heard of it are not too encouraging. Thankfully by his words we do not have to venture in too deep, so we agreed to burn this incense. It is for the purpose of calming the dead after all, and as such a good deed.
Gusgen Mines...I had no idea things were so bad deep inside. When we visited the place last year we only went a little ways in, just enough to see the hordes of undead that had made residence in the mines. It turns out that undead are not the only ones that call those mines home, but there are more than enough common ghosts in there. I think these might be the actual dead miners from when the place was still in use.
It is highly unsettling. Walking around in the mines, you see strange and unexplainable lights, hear voices and laughter the person beside you might not hear, see visions of horribly disfigured people that appear out of nowhere right beside you, and disappear just as quickly. And as if that was not enough to make Gusgen a truly inhospitable place, once you enter the deepest parts of the mine it appears to be almost impossible to get out. Once we entered, no matter how we tried we could not find the way out - tunnels that seemingly lead towards the exit mysteriously led past it. We could only longingly gaze down at the exit hub far down below, when we managed to find even that. The tunnel you could see it from was entirely too high to attempt descending, however.
I do not ever wish to enter that deep in to the mines again. Once we ascertained that something in the mines was preventing us from getting out the normal way, we took it upon ourselves to cast Warp upon ourselves. It is a good thing indeed that the spell worked, if not we would likely still be stuck within the mines, lost.

While I suppose it was a good thing we Warped, I wonder why we did not do it immediately upon replacing the old seal of banishing with the new one once we found it. We would have done that soon anyway, as it is the overwhelmingly fastest way to return to San d'Oria to report on the completion of the task we were given. Friar Eperdur who gave us this task was gracious enough to reward us with a rare spell, that of Teleport-Holla. Somehow, this magic homes in on one of the crystals at the Crag of Holla in La Theine Plateau, and transports the caster and possibly several others to that exact point, no matter where in the world they were before. I have heard of teleporting before - indeed, have used a kind of teleporting they offer for some cost to every San d'Orian citizen that wishes to use it - but we did not have access to such spells before.
I do not think I can use this spell for quite some time as it requires rather advanced skills with white magic, but Kii Kalira has the required skills and more. This is truly a gift from the Goddess, and will undoubtedly ease our traveling quite a bit. I cannot help but wonder if we would be able to obtain similar spells for other crystals in the world.
I think all that researching and synthesis I did in Bastok left Kii Kalira slightly bored. Hardly had I finished my business as she insisted we go hunt for treasures. I did not know what exactly she had in mind, though, and I think I mgiht not have agreed to this had I known beforehands where we were heading to. She had heard somewhere that the tomb of King Ranperre had treasures for the taking to anyone who happened to wander by. I do admit that the tomb has a bit of a monster problem these days, but to go there in search of treasure! Unimaginable.

Nevertheless, I did not discover her intentions until we were already at the entrance of the tomb, and it was too late to protest her intentions at that point. At least we managed to exterminate quite a few monsters from the tomb. Previously I had only gone a little ways in, but this time we ventured much further. I did not know the situation had gotten quite so bad in there. Goblins, skeletons, even some ghosts, and this in addition to the expected bats and worms that are more every-place pests than anything.
We did not discover anything too valuable, thank Altana for that. Although while wondering around by herself, trying out her new dancing techniques on anything that came too close, she somehow managed to acquire a cloak with some relatively weak enchantment in it. It is slightly worrying, but I do not think the tomb would have originally included an item of that quality, and must deduce from this that it is a spoil of battle some monster had brought to its nest in the tomb. And I do have to admit, the loot we gathered from these monsters, while cheap by themselves, when sold in volume were very helpful in making a little gil to help fund traveling.

It has been a long time, but I visited the Cathedral with Kii Kalira today. One of the friars there had heard of our achievements - from where, I do not know - and had a request for us. We are to replace a seal of banishing deep in the Gusgen Mines. I remember the last time we went there, the place was full of undead of all kinds. They must have pushed off replacing it for some reason. We will head out towards Gusgen in the morrow.
I and Kii Kalira have made our way to Bastok. It has been some time since we last were here, with all this running around between this beach and that, and even the mysterious visit to the past. Nevertheless, here we are now, and I took advantage of the fact to find some more information about this Kriegstanz. I never knew it had such a long and morbid history! I had heard of dancers on the battlefield before, but they were barely more than mere mentions, details to me were left in the dark. Turns out that the popularity of the Kriegstanz - and indeed, the people who invented it - were mountain people from the region of Gustaberg, brought to the city of Bastok the curb the dangerous custom of animating the dead and dancing with them in reckless abandon. This being called the Totentanz. I can barely imagine what it would have been like, knowing that a deadly disease was making its rounds, in despair descending on the streets during the warm nights of Bastok, to dance with the living and the dead in harmony... the mere vision chills my bones.
I wonder how Kriegstanz and other styles of battle dances faded out so thoroughly after the Great War. I wasn't even aware there were that many schools of dance applicable in battle, let alone that somewhere there were still practicioners of it. I suppose the latter makes much sense - after all, it has been a mere twenty years. Not all practicioners could have died out in this brief period of time.

Since we were in Bastok already and I had the spare time for a change, I took it upon myself to try more goldsmithing synthesis. It was a good way to get a little time away from the books while I looked into the history of the various schools of dance, and I ended up making some progress in my skills. As a result, I was finally acknowledged as a recruit of the official Bastokan goldsmithing guild. It is a small step, but even a small step is progress.
I think I have verified my suspicions. The place, that familiar yet unknown world that the maws take us to..that is the world of more than 20 years past, during the time of the Great War when the Allied Forces fought against the Shadow Lord's hordes of beastmen. I do not know how it is possible, but there is no other explanation.

Kii Kalira was initially most sternly against trying to return to a maw to see if it would let us through again. However, it turns out her sudden enthusiasm for dancing was to my advantage. By her insistence we went to see miss Laila of Troupe Brilioth the following day from our return to Jeuno. Much to my shame she had indeed heard of our failure upon the stage, and was willing to set for us a next task, upon completion of which she promised to teach us the basics of dancing. I am still not very convinced this is a good idea, but if it makes Kii Kalira agree to trying a maw again... well. The task she set for us was to bring to her a stone of some fame, called stardust pebble. Stones of that kind are practically impossible to find in the present, but that were plentiful enough in Lake Mechieume even as much as twenty years ago.
With some hesitating on Kii Kalira's part, we set out to the only maw we know the location of - the Rolanberry one. It was somewhat nerve-wrecking, but the maw did swallow us again, spitting us out in the Rolanberry of the past. From there we carefully made our way to Jugner Forest where Mechieume lies. On the way we saw many differences. The stone arches standing between the areas of Rolanberry and Batallia were intact. Many strange beasts wandered about the areas - upon reaching Jugner, we even saw a few of the fabled pixies! That was the last proof I needed to confirm my theory. I do not know how or why, but these maws do indeed transport you to the past.
On the shroes of Lake Mechieume we met a little girl who turned out to be miss Laila of the past. If I needed one more proof, that would have been it. I think it to be somewhat sad that such a sweet little girl could turn out to be that strict and unfriendly leader of Troupe Brilioth, although it is easy to see that her hard work on working on her dancing has paid off, her troupe being one of the most famed dancing troupes of current times. We did in fact find some stardust pebbles in the lake, and were able to complete miss current-day Laila's somewhat unreasonable request.

..what followed, I like not to think of. At least it can be said that if I was requested to do that dancing on stage now, I might not embarrass myself so thoroughly. Although I do wonder about the applications of this dance in battle. It sounds like this dancing, the Kriegstanz, has a long history. I find myself yearning to research it some more.
I will never wonder about the mysteries of the world again. That is my most prominent feeling right at the moment. I have experienced something so wondrous, so out of the realm of normal possibilities, that my mind can barely comprehend it.
As we left San d'Oria after Kii Kalira's birthday, intent on embarrassing ourselves in front of the Troupe Brilioth leader, we took an alternate route that took us through less-trodden parts of Rolanberry Fields. With nary a malm left of the journey to Jeuno ahead of us, we came upon a monstrous apparition, jutting out of the ground like it had always been there. It almost appears to be some kind of a living being with a gaping jaw, if it would not be for the fact that it was covered in plants growing around it, and obviously did not move. I do not recall ever seeing or hearing about the like of it before, but on our eventual reaching of Jeuno I asked around and discovered that many people seem to have heard of them lately. It is strange though, none of the people I've talked to can recall when exactly they appeared, some going so far as to claim that they have always existed, while some would swear upon their lives that they are a recent phenomenon.
But I get ahead of myself. On finding such a strange apparition we were naturally curious and approached it. Imagine our surprise when this maw - as they widely call it - shook, and its gaping mouth shone ominously. It ended up drawing us in by some mysterious power.

I still cannot describe the experience well. What follows is quite possibly the strangest part of this. We ended up in this most unimaginable place with red and purple skies, with something resembling the shining maw - only infinitely bigger - pulsating in the sky. But hardly had we managed to realize where we were, there was a flash of light that ended up pushing us over the edge of the floating island.
Next thing I knew, we were back in Rolanberry. But this was not the same Rolanberry we left from. There were knights on chocobo-back, talking about 'the war', armies, and of Jeuno having restricted access only. They left soon, leaving us to wonder where this place so resembling our familiar Rolanberry was. It did not take us long to notice both of us had a mysteriously glowing feather with us. I think this last bit might have been too much for Kii Kalira. I could tell she was scared, and I have to admit I wasn't feeling too calm myself. A sudden change of scenery like that, talk of a war, a familiar yet strange Rolanberry...
When we turned our attention hesitantly back to the maw behind us, the feathers we carried reacted to it. We ended up being sucked in again, and this time when we came to, what faced us was the Rolanberry we know. The maw was still and lifeless like it had been before this ordeal. Thoroughly shaken, we headed back to Jeuno, where we are currently.
I...I must think of this. The war they referred to, the style of the armor they wore, the base of the Windurstian army they referred to, restricted access to Jeuno...could it have been..? We still have the feathers. I really must think further on this.