It was the evening before the culmination of Eorzea’s Starlight Celebration. The Sagolii Desert sands were bathed in the cold, pale light of Eorzea’s moons. Four figures sat close to a small, crackling fire. One, a moogle with one wing, wept softly. Beside him, a young chocobo shielded him from the howling desert wind that threatened to blow the fire out at any time.
“Wh…wh…what have you gotten me into, Boco,” asked Moogaloo. “I’m miles away from home, we’ve just come back from a place as in-between and weird as can be, we’ve got to find a way to stop that crazy whatever-he-is, and it’s the final night of Starlight. I should be home with my Dad, eating faerie apple spice cake with cream!”
“And I would be at home with my Mother, feasting on jellied diremites,” said Ree’Kuku’Noru the Ixal.
“We are not where we wish to be, that is certain,” stated the Amal’jaa Perull Gah, “But I am pretty sure we are where the Gods wish us to be. And while I am not a member of the Brotherhood, I would not wish to see our hot-headed Ifrit’s fire put out.”
Boco stood up, and began circling the camp. “That…Slayer plans to get our Gods to kill each other. That’s impossible, right? Gods cannot die!”
“Perhaps,” answered Reeku, “a God can only be killed by another God. Because if they can be killed, not just subdued, then it brings the possibility that they are not Gods at all!”
Moogaloo had stopped his weeping. When he heard this, his head snapped up, causing his pom-pom to jiggle in a singularly ungainly fashion. “Enough philosophy! What can we do? The Slayer seeks to pit Shiva the Ice Goddess against Ifrit. How can we stop it?”
“Oh right. We four should have no problem. Let’s call on all of our powerful friends to help us!” shouted Reeku.
“That’s it! Reeku, you’re brilliant!” said Moogaloo. “We need the help of another God!”
“Our moogle has truly gone mad!” laughed Perull.
“Hear him out!” urged Boco.
“So, what happens when ice meets fire?”
“Ice melts,” said Reeku.
“In such a fight, Shiva battles for her life by constantly refreezing herself, because Sagolii hasn’t enough water for her to freeze and fight with! So, we need the help of the Water Primal, who can provide Shiva with water long enough to subdue Ifrit. We need Leviathan.”
“Mad! Crazy – worse than crazy!” said Perull.
“No, he’s right. It can work. If the Gods have been helping us, then surely we can do this.“ Boco stood very tall, which was hard to do in the sand. “’Loo, this is how I see it. We need to somehow talk to Shiva, and also talk to Leviathan. Forgive me, Perull, but I think there is no talking to Ifrit.”
Perull laughed. “Correct.”
“I have a bad feeling that we’re running out of time. So we split up. Two of us to Ishgard, and two of us to Limsa Lominsa.”
“But not tonight.” Everyone looked at Moogaloo, who yawned. “I’m too tired to travel.”
“You must be really tired to start talking sensibly!” joked Reeku.
They had all settled down to sleep, with Perull taking first watch, when Moogaloo said “Goobue poop! I can’t sleep!”
“I can’t either,” agreed Boco. Reeku was snoring quietly. “Hey Perull,” Boco said, “tell us a story!”
“Hm. All Right. But on one condition.” And Perull Gah looked straight at Moogaloo.
“No talking, and no interruptions!” said the Amal’jaa. S/he straightened hisser back and began.
“Far back in time, when even the stars were in different places, there was a very skilled Master Craftsman named Carolus Fune. No one remembers what race of being he was. Some say he was of a race that long since passed into oblivion, all traces of which are gone forever. What is known is that he came from a great island called Astarlia, and was the only survivor of a boat that was fleeing the island’s destruction. He made a home in Thanalan, in a city that no longer stands.”
Perull paused, and looked at Boco and Moogaloo. Reeku still slept.
“There are many, many cities that lie buried beneath the sands of Thanalan. It soon became apparent that Fune might be an immortal, for we now jump ahead 700 years, the time when Carolus was earning himself the reputation of being the greatest treasure hunter the world had ever known. It was when Carolus was east of here, this spot we now camp in, that he heard the song that changed the course of history.”
“Perull, why have we never heard this tale before? It is not an Amal’jaa story.” asked Moogaloo.
“If I answer you, crazy moogle, do you promise to stay silent?” Moogaloo nodded. “It is the oldest tale of all, belonging to everyone, now forgotten by all but a few. Now let me continue!”
“As Carolus passed by a small hut, he heard someone singing. There was no fire lizard mount nearby. He approached the hut, wondering if it was haunted. Carefully he pushed aside the curtain. Inside he saw an old woman, seated on the sand, and staring at a circle of candles. There were 12 bright lights, each of a different color.”
“In the center of the circle – was everything. That is how Fune first described it, saying it was forests, and oceans, and people, the sky, cities and ships and things yet to be that had no name. And she sang, in a child-like voice, in a quiet whisper:
Shine little star, give us your light,
Bring us life, joyful and bright,
You who hear this, a choice you must make
Worlds can prosper, or worlds you can break,
Mother’s pleas or great fortune –
Choose well, O Carolus Fune!
Lost little son, O wandering one,
Great thy loss, Much you have won,
Astarlia, to greed did succumb,
Eorzea, her fate overcome,
Mother’s pleas or great fortune –
Choose well, O Carolus Fune!
With each line, she passed her hand over a candle, which went out abruptly. Each time a candle went out something vanished, to be replaced by – a vision of Carolus rich as a king, or living in a huge mansion, or sitting in a room filled with mythril and gold. But with every candle that went out, light left the room. Finally, when only one candle was left, Carolus shouted “Stop!!!” The woman stood, no longer old, but young and beautiful. She looked at him as she sang the last line, and then there was a flash of blue light.”
“Blue light?” said Reeku, now awake, “did you say blue light?”
“Yes, Reeku. Very like the blue light that seems to follow us around!”
“Or that makes us follow it, whether we want to or not,” said Moogaloo.
“Will you two be quiet and let him finish!”
Perull laughed. Boco thought, in Gridania we never talk about the Amal’jaa laughing – why is that?
“Now, where was I? Oh yes. When the light vanished, there was no hut to be seen, and no sign that there had been anything there at all. It was then that a direwolf rose up behind him and knocked him unconscious. When Carolus awoke, he found himself inside a dark cave. Around him were six wolf cubs – all but one of them was dead. The direwolf mother was asleep – or exhausted, as Carolus noticed her ribcage showing beneath her fur. Evidently he was to have been the next meal for her and her cub.”
“He looked at the cub, who returned his gaze. The poor thing had not eaten in days. He decided to try to leave, but when he began to push himself to a sitting position, he had to stifle his cry of agony. His left forearm was torn up, from wrist to elbow. The mother had probably clenched it in her teeth to drag him to the den. The pain had been numbed while his body was inactive. A sudden, slight scuffling caused him to freeze. Slowly he turned his head towards the noise, only to see the cub nudging at his pocket. His attempt to sit had caused the piece of sandworm jerky in it to be partially exposed.”
“The little cub tried to chew it, but with so little strength, it gave up.
He reached for the strip with his right arm, and raised it to his mouth. A weak whine stopped him. It was the mother, who stood shakily before him. For a fleeting moment he saw another set of eyes, then the mother direwolf collapsed, dead. Carolus bit off a piece of jerky, softened it by chewing, and fed it to the cub. He ate the next one himself, and fed the rest to the cub. And fell asleep.”
“It was morning when he awoke to the sounds of the cub, frantically whining. There was no more jerky, and his pack was out in the desert somewhere, now covered beneath the shifting sands. It was when he heard the scratching that he went in search of the cub. He found it far back in the cave, scratching at a pile of rocks too large for his small paws to move. He tried to get the cub to move, but it would not budge. He used his right hand to move about a dozen rocks, and gasped.”
“In front of him was the most beautiful gem he had ever seen. It was rough, and big as a faerie apple. And it glowed. Such a jewel was beyond price. It would make him a fortune. The cub happily bumped his hand, making him lose his grip on the gem. Without thinking, he caught it with his injured arm. For an instant he was bathed in a soft white light. And his arm was healed. Healed! The gem had magic powers. This gem was worth a palace – no, a kingdom! He put the gem in his pocket, and walked out of the cave, the direwolf cub nipping at his heels.”
“He made camp as soon as it got dark. He’d stayed close to the cliffs, so he (and the cub) had a cave to stay in. He started a fire, and sat down with the cub curling up next to him. A glimmer from his pocket startled him. He took out the gem. It truly was a thing of beauty, seeming almost alive when it glowed. Thinking about his wealthy future, he looked up at the sky. The stars were unusually bright, and the desert was silent, as if holding its breath.”
“Then he noticed something odd. In a corner of the sky, there was a winking of stars – as if…as if a hand were passing over them. He heard the woman’s voice saying, ‘Choose well.’ Carolus Fune could never quite say what triggered the memory, only that it might have been the combination of the night sky, the silence, or the Astarlian lullaby tune the old woman had used.”
“Doors of memory opened that had been shut for hundreds of years. The Astarlians believed they had come from the sky. The Dreamtime Walkers confirmed this. And so their deities were stars, Chris’tiné and Noctura. When a person died, there was a ceremony performed that honored both beginning and end.”
“Carolus knew what he was being asked to do – no, being begged to do! Knew it as surely as he had known it was time to leave Astarlia. He picked up the gem, and held it aloft, saying:
From the light of Chris’tiné
To the peace of Noctura
From the sky we came
And to the stars we return.
The direwolf cub threw back its head and howled, as Carolus hurled the gem into the sky. It blazed with a white fire so bright it was almost blue. He watched as it climbed higher and higher, and exploded in a shower of brilliance. And in that odd, dark spot, a new star appeared. For the next 11 nights, 11 more new stars were born, making it 12 in all. And that’s the real story of the Starlight Festival, for the twelve stars, in their gratitude to Carolus, became the twelve guardians of Eorzea, to guard over it and protect it from Astarlia’s fate.”
“Wait a minute,” protested Reeku, “what happened to Carolus Fune?”
“He’s still out there,” replied Perull, ”Perhaps we’ll meet him.”
“He’s joking, right? It’s just an old story!”
“I don’t think so, ‘Loo,” said Boco. “Now get some sleep.”
Somewhere in-between, a woman hummed an old Astarlian lullaby. It pierced the veil and wrapped itself around the sleeping friends in a soft, warm light, and carried them to their next, fated destination. She nodded her head, and said, “Ah, Carolus. Cheers, mate!”
(Merry Christmas, Carolus Fune, from your Secret Santa!)
Author’s note: the lullaby is sung to the tune of “Silent Night.”