A Path Less Traveled – Recaps episodes 130-135

After returning to Salix’s hermitage and having Aeron assess the damage to the Swift Hummingbird the party decides to rest for the evening before making their next move. Duo wakes everyone up for breakfast and the group gathers in the kitchen to discuss what’s on the agenda for the day. Arguile pokes the bear that is Galahad, making quips about Little G and the Bahamuts, while Glad and Salix get things in order at the hermitage and with the ship. Hoshino, Zechs, and Shanks set out to retrieve a replacement crystal for the damaged one. Before heading out Salix informs the trio that Sloane is a sentient and living being, show reverence and respect as you enter, and do only what they are there to do. The three meet a manifestation of Sloane at their destination and explain their intentions. While this being seems accepting of their intentions in the short term, it also questions their long-term goals. After taking time to ponder this, they respond, and after hearing what the three have to say they are allowed to take a crystal with them. Zechs informs them that they will return their broken crystal as a way to pay thanks to them. The group comes together after returning the crystal and Shanks informs the group that he doesn’t feel he should remain with the group, given the revelation about Arioch being his patron. Everyone reassures him they will work through this together as a team and family. He isn’t the only one feeling like they’re a liability. Collectively, they ponder if they can sever the pact. It would not be impossible but it would be challenging to do. Arguile suggests that he and Shanks speak with the Archfiend and ask direct questions. Upon meeting with Arioch, they both are given details of how their paths crossed. Stemming from decisions made by their parents and promises he made to them. It’s a lot to process and as expected, the trouble with asking a heavy question is that you may not like the answers you get. The truth can be hard to swallow, especially if you can’t trust the source. Arioch offers a unique solution to the situation: the group can fight Arioch, obviously not at his full strength, and with caveats and handicaps on the party as well but with the promise of relinquishing Shanks from his contract no questions asked. After the conversation, Arguile and Shanks speak with the group about Arioch’s offer. Shanks explains that he doesn’t want to be a liability to the group anymore while Zechs assures him that he’s not the only one who feels that way. They are a team at the end of the day and he isn’t a liability. Galahad asks to see his contract with Arioch and explains that there is a difference in a deal between various entities and that his deal seems ironclad. Glad assures Shanks that he is not alone in this endeavor and if he wants out of the deal, she will help do just that. The group agrees that just before the first light they will conduct a ceremony and separate the contract with the party’s help. Before the party ventures for the ceremony, Shanks comes clean with Glad and Galahad about the war between the Elves and Goliaths back in Granzia. He explains that he was the reason the war even started. He explains in detail the events that led to the war and how he feels responsible. Glad proceeds to tell Shanks that she does not believe one person can be the sole reason for a war to which Galahad agrees. While they both appreciate the information and the admission of guilt, that is not his burden to bear. With that, they proceed to the site for the ceremony and perform the ritual. It was a group effort and everyone did what they could to aid in this process. While the ritual proved successful it was not without a message from Arioch and a reminder for Shanks about his past. Afterward, the very exhausted Shanks went to bathe and rest with the aide of Salix and Glad. Arguile, Zechs, and Galahad asked Salix if there were any places where they could go for a swim. Hoshino decides to stay behind and Salix asks Galahad to bring back some water for Shanks and the group. He also grabs his belt of returning and thinks of catching some food for the day. Arguile, Zechs, Galahad, and eventually Salix go for a dip and have a friendly competition to see who catches the most fish. Upon returning to the hermitage we see Shanks is not fully recovered but feels better and rested. Amongst some discussion the group makes plans to visit Salix’s childhood home and see a rehearsal for Little G and the Bahamuts, they address that the “other-other” Salix was heading towards Invenas, and Salix addresses the elephant in the room with Zechs, Malar, and the multiple moons of Sloane. The group has a feast and heads to bed for a well-deserved rest. Zechs has a strange dream of a large tiger stalking and watching him, which leaves him uneasy and questioning what that means. Eventually, we see the group make their way back toward Invenas as there is one more day before the ship is operational. After visiting with Iggy, they go back to see the spectacle that is Little G. The group is beside themselves, some amused and others, mainly Galahad, reasonably upset by this mockery of him and what he stands for. Shanks makes his way, at this time, to a blacksmith to get his newly acquired Gem of Seeing made into a sight for his bow. It would take some time and Shanks catches back up to the group where Zechs has stepped outside, stopping him, and assuring him that it’s best if he didn’t go inside. The group then goes to Salix’s family home and sees that someone has torn the place apart. The group begins to search the place in the hopes of finding what has been pulling Salix to return to their family home. They first find a letter written to Salix from their mother: a touching and heartbreaking goodbye for the Druid. This letter also serves as a reminder of their love of hidden places. Uttering the words from their childhood, they find their mother’s hidden library and an item meant for them: Juniper’s Bloom. It’s during this time that Salix gathers that their mother did not exit this plane at the hands of the cult, but instead on her terms. This broke Salix and the rest of the group did their best to aid and comfort them in this moment. After returning from Invenas to Salix’s hermitage the group sets off to Balazaar to see their friend Chico. It is a heartfelt and needed reunion, accompanied by two new faces at the Cascade. He catches the party up on what he’s been up to, and they catch him up in turn. Over some of his food, he comforts Salix and helps shed some light on the Malar issue and Zechs. Hoshino meets the famous Cascade chef, they bond, and Chico ensures Hoshino that he will leave him with something special for him. They leave with more food than they probably need and say their goodbyes. After the group’s short but special pit stop, they head back to the ship and set a course for Drose. The team uses their downtime effectively to train, seek advice, and rest. Shanks tests the limits and advantages his new scope provides for his bow, Mind’s Eye. All of the rest comes to an abrupt halt with the presence of an airship making a fast approach to theirs. Evasive maneuvers are taken, plans are quickly made, and a massive fight ensues. Galahad flies out to try to destroy the enemy airship and its crystal, while also trying, with the help of a summoned eagle, to remove the spears and rope binding the two ships,. The rest of the team is doing their best with the enemies. An array of were-creatures powered by the full moon and drawn to their god, Malar. Zechs is having a rough go at it with Malar trying to weaken him mentally, and the fight starts to turn as the enemy ship begins plummeting from the sky while still bound to the Hummingbird. The battle intensifies and the team tries to be free of the influences of Malar. Doing away with the harpoons in the ship, the were-creature attackers, and the taxing amount of willpower it’s taking for Zechs to fend off Malar. In the aftermath of the battle, we get a very distraught Zechs barely hanging on and continuing to fight Malar within him. As the team surrounds him and offers their aid, Malar tries to plant seeds of doubt, while Zechs reminds him that his team gives him strength. There is an assessment of damage and the regrouping to strategize spoils and planning for the next steps. Eventually too tired to do anything else Zechs retreats to his chambers and has a nightmare that wakes him in a cold sweat. He finds Hoshino on the deck of the ship and explains what he saw in his sleep. Hoshino offers aid and comfort to Zechs and Zechs drinks himself back to sleep. The next several days we find Zechs keeping to himself in his room. Shanks upon speaking to Hoshino and Galahad proceeds to speak to Zechs and offer some level of empathy which isn’t received well as Zechs is feeling Malar’s presence even more in recent days. It’s a tense time on the ship as everyone tries to make the most of the time they’ve got on the ship on the way to Drose. Spirits are low for some and there’s a concern for what’s to come for the group.

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