Ever since I finished Shadowbringers, I’ve had the idea of Alahra endlessly pacing through the streets of Amaurot stuck in my head. I had to get it out of there, and so I wrote it. This is unusual for me—I’ve never been so moved by a game that I felt the need to write within that game’s universe in this way. But Shadowbringers was extremely special and had an impact on me that’s not likely to fade anytime soon. Some spoilers for the MSQ are included below, so be aware! I’m not sure if I’ll write more like this or not, but if I do, I’ll be sure to post them here as well. Enjoy!
The tone rang out—once strange but now all too familiar—and the lift began to move, gliding steadily toward the ground floor. An oppressive silence smothered the enclosed space: Alahra had again come alone to the heights of Achora. Once, she had come here among devoted and true friends. They had descended this impossible structure together with the singular purpose of averting a fate most terrible. With that battle fought and won, she and her dear friends had dispersed, taking whatever respite they could find before the next great disaster threatened the Source or one of its reflections. But having returned home, Alahra could find no rest. The ancient stone streets of Amaurot haunted her dreams, ever beckoning her back across the Rift, and she had once again heeded their call.
Alahra leaned pensively against the lift’s wall, torn between gratefulness for the silence and dread of the space it gave her thoughts to roam. As ever, her mind returned to her memories of those last few days: the pain wracking through her body; the horror of seeing the ground coated with her own blood, stained white with corrupted aether; the now silent shade of Ardbert who had given her the strength to take that final necessary step. Alahra gazed down at one of her gloved hands, a hand that had felled gods, and for a moment, she trembled.
With another tone, the lift came to a stop, gently but just suddenly enough to distract the miqo’te from her shivering remembrances. Shaking her head, Alahra stepped toward its tall doors, which opened in welcome to the lovingly conjured city that lay beyond them. Her booted feet crossed the threshold, and the doors closed softly behind her. Once more she gazed upon those silent streets, begging for the sharp pang of the Echo to give her even the briefest glimpse of the life she must have once known here. But Alahra knew the voice of Hydaelyn would have no answers for her, and her trust in the Mothercrystal had begun to wane.
Instead, another voice echoed clearly in her mind, as it always did when she stepped out into the dreamlike city once more.
“Gods be damned, I’m trying!” Alahra hissed through clenched teeth, one fist tightening at her side. No matter how often she saw the place in her dreams, all she could remember was the city of Amaurot as Emet-Selch had re-imagined it with magic draped over the bones of the metropolis that once was. Shaking her head, Alahra took a deep breath and let the tension slowly leave her arm and jaw. Someday, she believed, the magic would fade, and the city would be gone, along with any answers that might still be hidden within—her frustrations would only keep the truth at bay.
With her composure regained, Alahra made her way into the city proper, stopping, as she always did, to speak with each of the Amaurotine shades that called the reborn capital home. Even now, after so many visits, most of their responses were the same:
“Are you lost, little one?”
“You…I know… No, never mind.”
A small number of them would remember that she had come before, but most seemed doomed to repeat—without memory—those final days as they had however many centuries ago before the once great city fell, unmade by fears and emotions its stoic citizens had not known how to properly process.
Alahra’s normal route brought her inevitably to the Bureau of the Architect, which she imagined must have once housed an office or study where Emet-Selch would have spent his days before the Sundering. All manner of ideas must have once been collected here, and once, she might have been able to conjure them through will alone, instead of with her hands and beaten tools. As she made her rounds, and the clerk of concepts lamented her “limited creative potential,” Alahra could not keep a sad smile from cresting her lips. For all her limits, she had somehow unmade the clerk’s maker.
But she kept that to herself. “I have been…practicing,” she said instead, thinking of the memories of primals that she had given new form with the aid of mysterious Eden.
The shade responded amicably, “Our library of concepts will always be open to you, little one,” and Alahra could not help but entertain the thought of somehow surprising them someday—if the magic maintaining the city lasted long enough. At the very least, she thought she might fashion a facsimile of Amaurotine robes for herself with needle and thread, but just the thought of such weight on her shoulders seemed wholly alien to the hunter she had once been among her people in the Twelveswood.
In the present her hunt was of a different sort, however, and her honed instincts served poorly in her search for the truth inside the doomed city’s mirage. All she could do was retrace her steps, again and again. Bidding the clerk farewell, she left the Bureau and continued her patrol of Amaurot. Her path inevitably brought her once more to the Bureau of the Secretariat. With almost ritual habit, Alahra approached the desk, looking up to the towering clerk behind it.
“If there is another matter with which I may assist you, please do not hesitate to ask…” Like all the city’s citizens, this one addressed Alahra as if she were one of their own, small and strangely clothed as she must have seemed to them.
As always, she had the same question: “Have you seen Hythlodaeus? I would much like to speak with him.”
The ghostly Secretariat clerk gave a familiar shake of the head in answer.
“Please, if you see him—” A nod followed before Alahra could even complete her request, and she let out a quiet sigh of defeat.
“Do not worry, child. Should I speak with Hythlodaeus, I will inform him of your request.”
The ritual now complete, Alahra nodded in thanks and turned to leave. Her grey eyes lingered on the massive bench where Hythlodaeus had once asked for her company. She knew that if Amaurot had any answers for her, they would come from him, the shade who had seen both the truth in the mirage and the truth of her soul, but she had been unable to find any further sign of him. Perhaps the encounter had itself been an illusion, some sort of fever dream brought on by the madness of the corrupted aether that had once swirled inside her, but Alahra had not yet given up hope.
That hope compelled her onward, and so Alahra made her way to the Capitol building, the final stop on her periodic patrol of Amaurot. Pristine and magnificent, the towering building scraped at a sky that no longer was, and Alahra gazed upwards, trying to envision in her mind’s eye that forgotten dome of clouds and stars. But that picture eluded her like so many of the memories she had convinced herself lay somehow dormant within the recesses of her mind. Her gaze slowly returned to street level, and she looked at the towering Capitol doors with a pained expression. No—the only memories within would be of fire and brimstone, and those horrors stalked her waking hours just as spectral Amaurot accompanied her dreaming ones.
On this day, at least, Alahra decided to spare herself that pain. Refusing to let her mind linger, she turned away from the Capitol and toward the shimmering Amaurotine aetheryte down the way. Her footsteps echoed solemnly against the stone, and she counted each one, making use of a practiced trick meant to keep the most painful of her memories at bay. The ruse worked up until she stood before the aetheryte with one hand outstretched, feeling for its currents.
The voice from before—Emet-Selch’s—echoed somberly in her mind once more.
Remember that we once lived…
“…I will.” Alahra felt the swelling of the crystal’s aether, ready to carry her away from Amaurot, but for just a moment, she resisted its pull. “And once I do…I promise not to forget this time.” In a swirl of aether, Alahra vanished, leaving the stone streets of Amaurot once more to the care of its ghostly citizens.