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FFXIV's Dragons Show How MSQ Runs Deeper Through Side Stories

Midgardsormr's legacy lives on through the last of his children teased in books from years ago — and once again with Vrtra and Azdaja in the spotlight.

With the release of Dragonsong’s Reprise, the new Ultimate raid that reimagines my favorite trials, images of Nidhogg and Hraesvelgr remind me of how brilliant Final Fantasy XIV‘s draconic storylines are. Though we can connect the dots between the MMO’s biggest beats with relative ease, some of FFXIV‘s most rewarding moments hit even harder after indulging in a bit of curiosity and exploration. Most story arcs are brilliant at face value, but there are gems to discover between main scenario lines with books, optional quests, and side stories. Of course, we can make all kinds of connections across different narrative threads throughout the realm. But my adoration for FFXIV‘s dragonkind makes their journey a personal favorite, and a perfect example of why inquisitive players should dig a little more.

While Heavensward centered on a cruel conflict between dragon and man spanning thousands of years, it was the subsequent expansions and side stories that unraveled Midgardsormr’s First Brood in greater depth. Perhaps, more than any other story thread, it’s the Father of Dragons and his children that represents FFXIV‘s most tragic plea for hope. It’s an arc that’s kept me enchanted since my early days of roaming Coerthas, and, after Patch 6.1’s revelations, I’m hopeful that at least one of Midgardsormr’s ill-fated hatchlings will find some semblance of peace. After spending ages searching the realm for more, I’m eager to explain how even the tiny pieces of lore contribute to its storytelling in big ways as we head into FFXIV‘s future.

If you’re an FFXIV newcomer, or perhaps someone not quite caught up with Patch 6.1, you may want to bookmark this piece for later to avoid spoilers regarding the past, present, and future of the realm’s most notable dragons.

The remnants of Midgardsormr, the keeper of the lake, as shown in the FFXIV 1.0 intro cinematic.

In Eorzea’s earliest days, FFXIV introduced us to a few key understandings regarding dragonkind. We knew of figures like Midgardsormr in version 1.0 and even grew familiar with some of his seven children, like the tragically weaponized version of Bahamut that ushered in the original game’s calamity and the launch of version 2.0, A Realm Reborn. When we begin our journey as the Warrior of Light, FFXIV‘s timeline places us in the Seventh Umbral and Astral eras, but the story of Midgardsormr dates back to the early days of when our realm was just a new star. It’s a tale we have more context for in the advent of Endwalker, and it begs new questions as we look toward the future.

While we’ve known the loose pieces for ages, the dragon’s more empathetic, humanizing characteristics trickled in slowly. Endwalker‘s Ultima Thule helps us tell that tale in reverse, taking us to the home of dragonkind. It’s a chaotic vestige of several tragic stars, mashed together as a long-dead world haunted by shades from the past. The significance of otherworldly recreations is heavy and can be a challenge to fully comprehend, easily lost with so much to remember. So, let’s start with this: Ultima Thule’s shades aren’t exactly the same beings that once lived in these places, but copies reliving tragedy created by Meteion and her sisters.

Ultima Thule is filled with pieces of lore that tell us more about dragonkind in FFXIV.

Regardless, those hollow reconstructions still have memories to share, and upon reflection, there are plenty of little details to connect that feel like logical progressions between story beats. Heavensward introduces deeper implications about the actual Dragonstar. Ishgard’s Athenaeum Astrologicum uses concepts formed through Ishgardian Astrology to track the movements of Dravanian Hordes provoked by the star during the Dragonsong War, and studious NPCs are eager to explain those points should you travel to the Astrologian’s headquarters. And we know from optional Stormblood raids that there is some connection between Omega and Midgardsormr; the dragon reveals as much early on during the Omega Raids.

FFXIV‘s world peppered these details through its extra content for years, weaving them into a grander tale as we reach Ultima Thule. Endwalker lead story designer Natsuko Ishikawa may not have known any original intent for some earlier pieces, but the climax we reach on Ultima Thule could easily convince me otherwise.

When I finally realized this final area held the remnants of the Dragonstar, it felt like Endwalker knocked the air out of me. Visiting Ultima Thule’s Reah Tahra brings a flood of lore snippets, providing context to Midgardsormr’s plight. For nearly a decade, The Father of Dragons slowly transitioned from enemy to endeared. In an area that serves as a tiny window into his past, shades describe the visions of hell he endured. They speak of crushed eggs, hatchlings “twisted beyond recognition,” and metal demons destroying their home. One optional conversation with an NPC, Sehth Toskh, reveals they sense the power of “a great wyrm long departed” from the star.

“Long ago he left us, fleeing our home with his children. From thy presence, I surmise that his decision was the right one…”

In those moments I realized what despair Midgardsormr faced. This larger-than-life, almost omnipotent force saw cataclysm and tragedy so overwhelming that he was forced to flee. Midgardsormr travels to our star, Etheirys, in its infancy to raise the seven hatchlings we now know as the First Brood. Exploring Ultima Thule paints that picture in greater detail, and as we meet the Omicron, who we understand to be those “metal demons” — the shades of whom deployed their ultimate weapon, Omega, to destroy dragonkind. FFXIV divulges these details in Ultima Thule even for those who haven’t completed the Omega raids, and while it remains powerful on its own, it’s hard to imagine experiencing that plot without having seen Omega and Midgardsormr in those optional scenes.

Midgardsormr’s appearance in the Omega raid series has taken on a deeper meaning.

It comes full circle, and suddenly pieces of Stormblood make sense. That’s how Midgardsormr knows Omega and how Omega is able to recreate visions of the wyrm in Alphascape. Then, as history begins on Etheirys, we see the weapon terrorize dragonkind in new ways. Bahamut, Midgardsormr’s child in Meracydia, winds up defeated by the Allagan Empire before Tiamat resurrects the primal version we see in Dalamud. Cue the opening cinematic for A Realm Reborn; that Garlean weapon was a bastardized version of one of Midgardsormr’s hatchlings.

Again and again, understanding the First Brood through optional content, in-game or otherwise, lets me examine new pieces of their story with a sharper eye. Estinien’s gradual transition from rage-fueled Azure Dragoon into compassionate Scion, no longer compelled by vengeance, ties into these moments with FFXIV‘s draconic characters. In the Stormblood side story From Azure Ashes, another one of Midgardsormr’s brood, Hraesvelgr, shares stories with Estinien of Ratatoskr, his sister. She once fought alongside mankind, letting dragoons ride upon her back while sharing her power.

Ratatoskr is killed by those same men — King Thordan I and his knights. Hraesevelgr describes their betrayal in one passage, “And so they butchered her… Devoured her eyes like feral beasts.” When I look at Hraesevelgr now, I hurt for him in ways I couldn’t have without that context.

Up until this point, FFXIV‘s main scenario featured moments with Midgardsormr front and center, along with his children Bahamut, Nidhogg, Hraesvelgr, and Tiamat. While the dragons obviously share names with iconic mythological beasts, following the central thread without exploring the world or diving into side content would keep the rest of the brood hidden or only mentioned in passing. But years before we even meet Endwalker‘s Vrtra, the Heavensward-era Encyclopaedia Eorzea mentioned him, by name along with his sister, Azdaja.

Vrtra presents himself as the true leader of Radz-at-Han, having been a force for good for generations.

When the Heavensward motif began, and Vrtra made his cinematic debut, I turned into a ball of sobs and relief. I spent the final Shadowbringers patches believing Tiamat would appear again, but it is her brother Vrtra who leads the new dragon arc. It’s a moment somehow made evermore poignant by knowing for years that Vrtra was the name for one of the siblings, and he was somewhere out there. Years of wondering, waiting, and hoping culminated with Endwalker and carries on with the Newfound Adventure storyline in Patch 6.1.

With Nidhogg, Bahamut, and Ratatoskr gone while Tiamat and Hraesvelgr take a step back, Vrtra’s reveal sent me into a frantic search for the only dragon I knew remained, Azdaja. For years, we only knew her name thanks to lore book, but with Vrtra’s arrival, I convinced myself she’d come up somewhere. I combed side conversations in Thavnair and Ultima Thule for ages, hoping to find some small piece of her story, but had no luck. It wasn’t until Patch 6.1 I found my answer; Midgardsormr’s missing daughter sacrificed herself to close a gate to the void.

Through Varshahn, Vrtra is able to show and tell us about his family’s tragic history.

Once again, after years of waiting, FFXIV turned me into an emotional mess by taking a tiny portrait from a lore book and turning it into a critical main story beat. Vrtra has spent lifetimes wondering if Azdaja survived beyond the gate, and now I’ll help him look for his sister who I’ve had on my mind since thumbing through the Encyclopaedia Eorzea ages ago.

The world is far bigger than my Warrior of Light’s limited scope, and with each new expansion, I find that my insatiable curiosity about the world only grows. I’ll always maintain that the MSQ holds up just fine on its own, and obsessively indulging in the minutiae isn’t a fair ask of its audience. But, if you do find yourself curious, eager for just a little more, you should talk to that NPC you’ve never bothered to interact with. Skim through one or two of the Lodestone side stories, and don’t just hastily click through a dragon’s sidequest lamentings on Ultima Thule.

There are little details hidden everywhere, and if I’ve learned anything in a decade of this game, it’s that all those tiny snippets will somehow, someway, find their way back in.

About the Author

Andrea Shearon

Andrea Shearon is Fanbyte's weekend news editor. She's got a soft spot for most RPGs, but FFXIV occupies a majority of her free time.