FFXII: Revenant Wings (5) Ch. 3 Sidequests – A Study in Sky Pirate Morality

Last time, Clan Vaanity backed up their claims to be “good” sky pirates with an act of selfless heroism, taking oodles of arrows and cactus spines to protect four whole aegyls from evil sky pirates. Even Ba’Gamnan took some for the team, thanks to Tomaj’s enslavement gadget whose ethics are deeply  problema— la la la I can’t hear you I have a continent of hapless natives to save!

Llyud says we need to hurry into the Fane of Something Vaguely Egyptian-Sounding to stop more sky pirates from desecrating the auralith (bigass magical crystal) at the heart of sky island #2. However, Tomaj’s notice board has been bleeping at us about sidequests that opened up back on sky island #1.

Tomaj's notice board. Mission one says: Bug Hunt. Bugs. Lots of Bugs. They're crawling all over the Bosco Pampa on the Windward Isles. Antlions, by the look of them. Get down there and squash them, Vaan. It's the only way to be sure.

Should we hurry on to the Path of Plot Advancement? Or indulge in Sidequests Before Saving the World? Well, a little bird told me that Revenant Wings sidequests often evaporate before the next chapter. And the current chapter has the ominous name of “What Goes Up…” Look. I wasn’t born yesterday. I recognize an RPG Point of No Return when I see it.

Therefore, I’m going back to Zephyr Island one more time to perform pest control and treasure mop-up duty. I’m sure the evil sky pirates will play cribbage or something until we return.

First off, there’s a bug hunt mission prosaically called “Bug Hunt.”

(Mission title screen) Bug Hunt: The Bosco Pampa

Kytes: Get a load of that!

Yes, Kytes, believe it or not, there are lots of bugs. Sometimes I think these characters don’t bother to read title screens at all.

Luckily, I am not much bothered by spiders in RPGs, because I like spiders. I mean look.

Adult Female Phidippus audax Jumping Spider

Isn’t it adorb? Like a furry little puppy.

Sorry. I will stop disturbing you with spider photos.

It turns out there’s an in-game arachnophile as well:

Quaddo, Verminlord: What are you lookin at!?

Verminlord? That’s… quite a title you’ve got there, Mr. Minor Villain.

Vaan and Filo issue generic “same to you” taunts that aren’t worth transcribing for the vision-impaired.

(That is not an ableist joke. My screencaps have descriptions or transcriptions hidden in the alt-name, so that vision-impaired nerds like me who listen to playthroughs need not hear Siri patiently reciting “image 3546345432646564 dot j-peg.” Except there. Sorry.)

Er, where was I? Oh, right. Unlike the junior sky pirates, this bangaa has achieved almost Balthier levels of badinage:

Quaddo, Verminlord: SIlence, Rapscallion! My summoning encountered a few...kinks. Now, be good little children and feed my pets for me! Hehehe...

My fondness for spiders notwithstanding, I don’t want to know about Quaddo’s eight-legged kinks, thanks.

And we’ve got Battle Party Screen!

Objective: Defeat all enemies. At least one ally must survive.

The spiders are called “Antlions” and “Queen Antlion,” which spares me the sadness of having to kill cute fuzzy wuzzy spiders (even though they totally are). The starter dungeon wolves have been replaced with Yellow Wyrms (lightning dragons), but my car’s smartkey packs more voltage. The green flying mushroom (“Gnoam”) carrying a puffball staff is an earth spirit, and it’s highly flammable. Bottom line: my fire salamanders are getting a workout.

Fighting Spiders

How thoughtful of the spiders to group themselves in three clumps so my fliers can fight the flanks while Vaan and Kytes clobber the center.

Bug hunt Complete

Piece o’cake. (Not really, but after the “save the aegyls” battle, an ordinary fight feels easy-peasy). Victory fanfare!

Kytes learns Bio. Vaan learns Steal Speed, which I’ll never remember to use. And Ba’Gamnan learns Berserk just by sitting on his scaly ass, er, tail, back in the airship. He is stuck there with Tomaj, after all.

auracite, tempest blade, raincloud raiment

Sweet! More auracite.

Filo musters a tepid taunt in keeping with the mission theme:

Filo: Admit it! You're squashed, pest!

That would sound more impressive if Quaddo weren’t looming over her, but you go, plucky girl.

Verminord: You’ll be singing a sadder song when you encounter my next creation! But first, I must experiment! To the laboratory!

He mimics Gilgamesh and scurries away. Somehow Kytes and Filo fail to overtake him.

I think we’ve found ourselves the comically inept minor boss for this game. If defeating him wins us auracite every time, I’m all for it. Like Penny says:

Penelo: We could use some new Espers ourselves.

Vaan: Bring on the bad guys, and the auracite will follow!

As usual, Llyud waits quietly while his foreign friends plot to acquire more of the auracite the sky pirates have stolen from his people. No wonder he’s not very popular among his own kind right now.

Okay, Tomaj, that was fun. What other rumors do you have for us?

Tomaj's Notice Board: Already word of these sky pirates' wrong-doing reaches my ears. They beleaguer a group of aegyl at the Fane of Gucuma Qul on the Windward Isles. Best hurry while there's still time.

Somehow, “Come back in one piece!” is not reassuring. I’m afraid this may be another “save redshirts from certain death” mission. But we’ll give it a try.

The mission title screen pans rapidly through the outer halls of the Fane of Gucuma Qul, giving us a glimpse of several aegyl surrounded by their Yahri (Esper) vassals. As it pans outside to the forecourt, it passes an angry pink and/or purple aegyl (character portraits and sprites are having yet another creative disagreement) with a trio fierce-looking black chocobos.

She shouts to us from the front gate.

Aegyl: Come no closer.

Er… Tomaj? Were you fooling with us? It looks to me like the aegyl have defenses here well in hand.

The gatekeeper Aegyl brandishes her sword. Her chocobos toss their heads a menacing display of pixels.

aegyl woman and black chocobos at front steps of Fane

I have a bad feeling about this.

Undaunted, Filo attempts a diplomacy roll.

Filo: We're on your side! We're here to help!

Pink/purple aegyl doesn’t even deign to answer that statement.

Llyud: She won't stand down.

Er… then maybe we should stand down? Discretion? Valor? And so forth?

Filo: But why fight? It doesn’t make sense!

No. No, it really doesn’t.

Vaan: How bout we do it anyway First we take the gate, then we’ll talk some sense into her.

*facepalm* Oh, Vaan…

Oh, fine. Just the gate, then. Because I’m a cad and can’t resist totally unnecessary battle missions.

Battle Prep screen for "Once Bitten" mission

Turning my back on diplomacy, I turn my attention to the Battle Party screen. By now, we have lots of auracite burning holes in our pockets. It’s time to enlist our old friend Shiva, who turns out to be Shivan… daughter of Shiva?  She’s got that whole sullen teenager thing going on:

Shivan: Heir apparent to Shiva's chilling might.

On a more humble note, we enlist the services of the flying Funguar, calling itself “Gnoam” for tax purposes (so cute):

Gnoam: Airborne sprite of the forest.

Here’s why. Compare their “weak” to our “strong” columns.

Them: Sagittarius, Raiden, Ramih, Chocobo, Aegyl; us: Goblin, Cactoid, Shivan, Gnoam, White Hare

Trivia note: Raiden is an obscure Esper; he was some kind of Odin-upgrade in FFVI.

So! Here we go, totally undercutting all the goodwill we built up during that recent aegyl rescue mission!

Clan Vaanity deployed on field

First things first. We bunny hop our way over to the summoning gate and position our defenses around it while Penny prays.

Stationed around summon gate

The hostile aegyl glares at us from the front gate. Under her disapproving gaze, I summon a Shivan and another Cactoid to bolster my anti-flier defenses. I’m sure she’ll find this in no way suspicious.

So, we’ve taken the gate, as instructed. That was the stated Mission Objective. Where’s our victory fanfare and “Mission Complete?”

What’s the plan now, Vaan? Oh, crap, DON’T—

Battle with aegyl and some chocobos

—Too late. Another brave aegyl sallies forth from the temple with a couple more chocobos. They run into my defenders and are burned to a crisp.

The aegyl who told us to piss off hovers just offscreen at the top of those stairs, watching the carnage.

I summon a Goblin guard for Penny and her healer bunnies, and faux-reluctantly head towards the pink-purple aegyl. Are you ready to negotiate yet?

Fighting on steps of Fane

Nope. Because there’s nothing that says “we’re on your side!” like ignoring the natives’ “Keep Out” request and invading their sacred precinct with a war band 18 strong, co-opting their summoning gates, killing two of their chocobos and KOing a fellow aegyl on their temple’s doormat.

Someday, Ivalician scholars are going to use our airship logbooks as historical evidence for “hume savior syndrome.”

Sadly, I’ve got my battle routine down: deploy flying squads under Filo and Llyud to left and right flank against their ground-based front line, send Vaan and his infantry against the center with Kytes’ Ranged division behind him providing covering fire, while Penelo’s healers stand safely in the back and lob curaga sparklies.

[Battle on Fane steps]

“Aegyl Questriss” is rapidly KOed. So are the Raidens who fly out to avenge her. And the steady trickle of black chocobos issuing from an interior summoning gate. Leaving a wake of drumsticks, we march relentlessly towards the inner sanctum, crushing the Aegyl Watch’s Ramih elementals like the icky humes we are.

Second Summon Gate

We convert the next summon gate to our “noble” cause and head to the third.

Oh, sneaky. Several summoned chocobos (ground/melee) are hanging around the third gate, so I have my fliers engage them while everyone else Prays at the gate to turn it to our side.

Running into ambush

The enemy chocobos promptly use my Neener Neener Gambit, turn and dash back towards their archers, which are as dangerous against fliers as fliers are against chocobos.

Filo and Llyud obediently give chase, almost as if they’ve never been mowed down by a line of centaur archers before.

Vaan attacks Centaurs

Just in time, the magic spell of BACK! BACK YOU FOOLS! take effect, causing Filo and Llyud to retreat towards a giant shoe-shaped cursor while Vaan hurries forward to cover them. He and his goblins take on the @%$#!!! centaurs. Looks like some Raiden are swooping in. They’re flying, so now he needs to retreat and make way for my spellcasters.

The battle goes badly

It all turns into a frightful mess.

I sent Llyud (left) out of the way to fight chocobos and escape the centaurs shooting at us. But ground-based critters can do damage to fliers. He’s trapped by a mob of angry chocobos pecking his feet in revenge for his betrayal.

Meanwhile, more %@#!! centaurs are taking pot shots at the rest of us, who have gotten snagged by the bannister like logs caught behind a rock in a river. I keep telling Vaan to go deal with the centaurs, but he can’t seem to squeeze through our bunched-up forces.

30-recovery

Poor Llyud falls. So does Kytes.

I call a hasty retreat, summon a few more healers and shooters, and regroup. Now the bannister serves as an arrow backstop for our enemies. Wish that had worked earlier.

Claim last gate

With Penelo leading a horde of healer bunnies roped in during one of my “SUMMON! SUMMON! SUMMON!” button-mashing attacks, we return to the offensive and finally claim the last summoning gate, despite intermittent enemy chocobos issuing from it.

Mission complete! We defeated all the evil aegyl and their faithful Yahri retainer. Er… who’s the enemy again?

Levelups!

Afterwards, we gather outside the Fane and wait for Llyud to handle the negotiations we should’ve attempted before barging into their territory without permission.

Despite Vaan’s pre-battle promise that, “First we take the gate, then we’ll talk some sense into her,” we don’t end up talking with or apologizing to the aegyl we just beat up. Instead, Llyud serves as a go-between.

Llyud: She spoke of sky pirates who approached her with words of friendship. Once her guard was down, they wrought destruction on the shrine.

Kytes: So she thought we were playing the same trick.
Llyud: Not exactly.
Kytes: What do you mean, Llyud?
Llyud: She said it was unbecoming to consort with sky pirates of any sort.
Filo: Does that make you an outcast or something?

At this question, he turns his back to the party.

Llyud: (turns back on party Perhaps.

Vaan, bless his pointy little noggin, misses the point, as well                                                                                       as the body language.

Vaan: It doesn’t matter. Either way, you’re still one of us!

That’s really not going to help him feel better, Vaan.

Llyud: One of…you.

I’m sure that prospect delights Llyud even more now that he’s been seen fighting alongside us against his own people.

I’m mildly bemused that neither the party members nor the game designers seem to realize that we just acted like a bunch of TOTAL HYPOCRITES. And since this is a sidequest mission, I doubt it will ever be brought up again.

All we can do now is clear the inner shrine of real enemies, assuming Tomaj’s intel on this mission is any better than the last:

Maleficent Mayhem: Monsters bar the way within the shrine. Why do Yahri run amok in this sanctuary of quiet worship? Whoever is behind this must be made to pay.

Whoever is behind this? Uh, could his name be “Shuyin” by any chance? I’m thinking of Final Fantasy X-2, when all the Cloisters of Trials were infested with monsters and Dark Aeons.

Hang on, I keep forgetting to equip all the nice gear I’ve been picking up along the way. This is one of those games with unique equipment for each PC.

{Equip menu]

Oops. This is also one of those games that say, “Have this +3 Lightning Sword which totally doesn’t work against the lightning-resistant creatures in the immediate vicinity!” And then you waste t ime waffling over whether the weapon’s ordinary attack/magic attack bonus is good enough to compensate.  See also: Lluyd’s Storm Lance.

Other equipment isn’t particularly notable, except that Filo’s picked up a fire-attack weapon called a Detonator. Must be one of Balthier’s old hand bombs.

Enough noodling with inventory. We need to fumigate the inner shrine and get out of here before more angry aegyl show up to demand a rematch. Ding-dong, PEST CONTROL!

Kytes: There's Espers everywhere!

It’s swarming with Espers, or Yahri, or whatever they’re called. Just like there were bugs everywhere in the first of these sidequests. Hmmmm.

Maleficent Mayhem: Way to the Auracite

Holy cow. He ain’t kidding. As the title screen does a rapid pan across the shrine, I see a horde of Atomos (those flying pink shrimp) and other monsters covering most of the available floorspace. It’s going to be a running battle all the way through the Fane, isn’t it?

I’m relieved to hear that Llyud himself is appalled. I’d prefer not to find out our next mission is to kill off all the guard dogs after beating up the guards.

Llyud: This cannont be. Yahri unbound by a pact are forbidden to enter this place.

Vaan: Don’t worry. We’ll show them out.

No summons in the temple without summoner supervision, eh? I keep sensing themes of exploitation and slavery lurking in the subtexts, but the game hasn’t yet done anything with that.

Oops, we’ve got Battle Party Screen.  Let’s see.

Maleficent Mayhem Battle Prep

Ugh, that’s a complicated rocks-papers-scissors equation, with a more challenging enemy lineup to combat than “basically they’re all flammable.” Also, their level 2 flying jumbo shrimp, Atomos, might as well be called “Ratsbane’s Bane” the way they keep squashing Vaan.

Time to cash in some auracite and diversify our Esper Portfolio.

Djinn: Mischievous flame sprite that scorches its foes.

I enlist a Djinn to counter Green Flans… oops, the best counter would be flying. Oh well, Djinn is super cute.

Hey, that opens up a level II Esper. And she’s perfect against an Atomos, which is flying but flammable:

Lamia: Ophidian who bedevils her prey.

Oh, Firion? Lamia says hi!

Looks like level II Espers cost 2 Auracite.

So here’s how we stack up.

Battle Party Screen. Them: Green flan, Storm wolf, yellow wyrm, atomos. Us: Bomb, Gnoam, Goblin, Lamia, White Hare.

Okey-doke, that should do it. Clan Vaanity Assemble!

Starter battle formation

There’s no summoning gate here, so we can’t call for help if we stupidly run our Espers into an ambush. (Supposedly they don’t die, just return to “The World of Illusion.” At least, that’s the excuse we’re telling ourselves).

Green Flans— hiya, old friends! — squelch along in the corridor above us, reluctant to brave the stairs.

Taking out flans and wolves

I start to move my fliers into position to rain fiery death on the Green Flans, which like to toss splats of mud at us. Storm Wolves come galloping out of nowhere like the bacon dog. They are cut down on the spot. So far, so good.

[Storm Magicite]

There’s always time for a little mining.  I love the way we form a long, colorful parade when traversing narrow corridors (although this is not very strategic).

Next up, some flying Atomos are waiting for us at the far end of the corridor. Also more galloping Storm Wolves, undaunted by our lack of bacon.

Atomos & Storm Wolf

Tricky. Ranged > Flying; Melee > Ranged. Don’t want the wolves chewing up my mages.

I’m just moving my fliers forward, spreading them out as best I can at the bottom of the steps, when yet more idiot wolves charge down one by one and meet their doom at the hands of vengeful flying mushrooms.

Death of Wolves

Reread that last sentence. This game is a little trippy.

Kytes and our Lamias and take out the Atomos with a quick volley of fireballs. Vaan breathes a sigh of relief. BBQ shrimp, anyone?

FFXII: RW - Vaan Dragonslayer

Next, Vaan and his Goblin bruisers heroically engage lightning-breathing dragons at close range, while everyone else stands around cheering (and healing him). Vaan Dragonbane! He’s come up in the world.

The rest of the temple cleanup is more of same: Flans, suicidal wolves, dragons, rinse and repeat. Particularly satisfying is the moment when a couple of jumbo flying shrimp attempt to sneak up on us while we’re scavenging some old bones.

We have Kytes and Lamia waiting for them. With triple fireballs.

Firaga vs. Atomos

Kaboom. I don’t think Vaan needs to be terrified of flying shrimp any longer.

We don’t even make it to the center of the shrine before the victory fanfare and weapon-twirling alert us that we’ve cleared all the monsters.

[End of battle]

Well, that was slightly more satisfying. Mission Complete!

Loot Loot Loot

Hey waaaaitaminute. Was that all? Weren’t we coming here to stop sky pirates from desecrating the place we just left? The only sky pirate desecration so far has been… ours!

TOMAJ, YOU HAVE SOME EXPLAINING TO DO.

LLyud: Who would let Yahri roam here unbound to desecrate this hallowed place?

Interesting that free, unenslaved Espers/Yahri “desecrate” a temple.

Kytes: I’ll bet it’s those sky pirates!

OH. Actually, my brain is finally engaged, and I know exactly who did it. You should too, kiddo.

Filo: The nerve of those guys!
Penelo: It’s bad enough they’re stealing the auracite, but this is going too far!
Vaan: We’ll just have to follow Tomaj’s leads to get to the bottom of this.
Kytes: Tomaj’s “leads”? I’m sure they’ll take us to the bottom of something.

Aha, it is NOT my imagination. Even Kytes knows that Tomaj is shifty.

AHA! Here we go. A new mission screen pops up. Tomaj has indeed tracked down the ringleader.

The sky pirate behind the chaos at the shrine hides at the Dais of the Auracite. Hunt him down and restore peace to the island.

Even if no one’s been nagging us about our hypocrisy, we had better hurry up and redeem ourselves.

Mission Screen: The Scofflaw Location: Dais of the Auracite

As I suspected…

Kytes: Look, Vaan! It's that creepy bug-loving bangaa again.

Ayup. The camera pans down the room too quickly for me to scout much, but I think they’ve got Healer Rabbits all over the place. Bugger.

Vaan: So you're the one behind this!

Vaan, Vaan, you need to up your insults and witty banter skills. Observe:

Quaddo: Well, if it isn't the pirate with a heart of gold! My ears bleed with tales of your do-gooding.

And he has four ears, so that really hurts, doesn’t it? No wonder he’s surrounded himself with healer bunnies.

Vaan: Stick around here much longer, and it’ll be more than just your ears.

That’s better, Vaan. Keep practicing.

Quaddo: Spare me the well-meaning threats, child!  A true sky pirate pillages and plunders as he pleases!

We continue our hands-on lesson about the nature of “true” sky pirates.

Filo: You’ve got it all wrong! Doesn’t he, Vaan?
Quaddo: Well, then, why don’t we settle this dispute in true pirate fashion!

All right, here’s what we’re facing.

Battle Prep Screen, including: Nearsighted Archer: Archer who puts more faith in the quantity than the quality of shots.

Looking back at my “us vs. them” notes this time, I see I got a little muddled, exploiting their weaknesses but also choosing Espers weak to their strengths:

Battle Party Screen

At least I had the sense to swap Filo for Ba’Gamnan, because he’s got Drain, and they have too many Ranged fighters for my liking.

Battle at bottom of steps

First move: Vaan and his Sahagin sidekicks start up the bottom tier of stairs and say “neener neener,” then run back, dodging fireballs, drawing the enemy’s stylishly purple salamanders towards us. I need to move Ba’Gamnan out in front with his sahagin melee fighters to help Vaan.

This worked nicely. But then, the Nearsighted Archer and her salamanders on the next level up cast Camouflage and vanish!

Battle joined against archer and cleric

Their Cheer smiley face shows where some of them are. Their healers have rushed in too, making our job more difficult. Time for me to summon more!

Converting enemy gates

Once all the enemies on the lower tiers are dispatched, we convert the gates that are still spewing Espers at us. Then we work our way up, one level at a time.

Invisible archers

More invisible archers! Argh. The next Viera and her centaur firing squad uncloak and try to take out Ba’Gamnan. Luckily his Drain ability keeps him strong. Vaan runs in to help and loses an Esper or two.

Quaddo’s waiting for us at the top of the steps, patiently summoning more and more goblins.

Quodda and his Vermin

Chaos ensues when I send Llyud and Kytes over to pick off some healers and goblins hiding off to one side, waiting to catch us in a pincer movement. I’m still glad to get Llyud and Kytes out of the way of the salamander fireballs raining down on us from above. We don’t want a repeat of the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Fierce fighting all over the place

It all works out. I’d moved the camera to a summon gate trying to pull up some replacement healers, when suddenly the camera jerks back to the main battle for a victory fanfare. They won the battle while my back was turned! Phew.

Victory Dance

I didn’t see Quaddo run away, so maybe we really did take him down for good? A pity. Who knows what odd critters he might turn up with, next.

All right, gimme some auracite.

More auracite in mission complete screen

There we go. We’re the GOOD sky pirates. We’re not here to steal your auracite. Honest.

Speaking of Sky Pirates, it’s time to continue the ethics debate.

Kytes: I always thought sky pirates were people who went looking for adventure. But I guess there are plenty of thieves who call themselves sky pirates, too.

Llyud gently prods us with the truth that’s escaped our starry-eyed kids (although Balthier was another starry-eyed kid.)

Llyud: I wonder if it is not you who are exceptions to the rule.

Kytes hops forward. Nuh-uh! Tell him, Vaan!
Vaan: There aren’t any rules for being a sky pirate. It’s about being free.

No wonder he wanted to be a sky pirate so badly under Imperial occupation.

Penelo: That's why there are good sky pirates and bad ones. It's just a question of which you want to be, Kytes.

Kytes: I wanna be one of the good ones!
Vaan: Then there’s nothing to worry about.
Filo:  Just believe in yourself and the sky’s the limit!

Um, the saccharine content here is reaching He-man levels. Take it down a notch.

Vaan: Er…right, something like that.

Noble sentiments, but I’m still struck by the fact that we’re doing exactly the same things the “evil” sky pirates are doing, albeit (we hope) for less selfish ends.

All right, enough sidequests. It’s time to go save the auralith on sky island #2, and perhaps even confront the Judge of Wings who’s behind all this strife.

 

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