Your TL;DR FFXIV
Lore & Backstory
[Editor's Note: There are a number of very lengthy, very awesome lore and back-story write-ups out there for what's going in the FFXIV:ARR story line. (Example) However, for anyone interested in an abridged version, Mathian of <OFC> put together his own tl:dr]
Please feel free to add/correct anything I missed, but I am trying to keep it concise. -Mat.
The world of Hydaelyn is in its 7th Umbral Era. This is essentially the 13th era as eras alternate between Astral (light) and Umbral (darkness). Many did not believe there could be a 7th era as there are 6 elements, and eras to date had been associated with each of those elements. There had been eras of flood, freezing, fire, etc. Eras transition with significant world-changing events. The most recent era change comes with the events of the end of 1.0 and our story takes place 5 years after those events. Sometime in the 3rd Astral era, the people of Hydaelyn got tired of the Elder Primal Bahamut’s shenanigans, figured out how to trap him in a giant ball they called Dalamud, and expelled him into the sky above. Dalamud’s descent and Bahamut’s release is what we see in End of an Era. More on this later.
Hydaelyn is the world. There are three known continents: Aldenard, Othard, and Ilsabard. Eorzea consists of the continent of Aldenard and its surrounding islands, which includes Limsa Lominsa. There are 12 gods worshipped by Eorzeans, each associated with an element with Umbral/Astral sides.
Primals exist in the world as essences, so to speak. They cannot be defeated any more than the element of fire can be defeated. When Primals are defeated in battle, they are banished, but they can be summoned again. In addition to occasionally being total dirtbags, Primals also feast on Aether, the life force of the universe. This is bad. Primals each have worshipping beast clans who keep summoning them.
Starting first as a small nation on the continent of Ilsabard, the Garlean Empire rapidly progressed over the past 50 years with the innovations and discoveries in Magitek. Three major Garlean characters include Cid Garlond, Nael van Darnus, and Gaius van Baelsar. Darnus is your classic power-thirsty villain who wants to take over the world. He also may be certifiably insane. With the blessing of the Emperor, may he live forever, Darnus orders research to be conducted on the glowy red thing in the sky (Dalamud), and how we can crash it into our neighbors in Aldenard. The Garlean Empire does not use much magic, having invested so much in Magitek, but Darnus is searching for an ancient secret spell called Meteor to bring it down. In conducting the research, a terrible accident kills Cid’s father along with many others and destroys the entire research facility. Officially, research is halted, but Darnus is determined to find Meteor. Seeing the dangers, Cid defects to Eorzea to help them prepare for the upcoming Garlean invasion. Baelsar is your more sane, and probably smarter villain who basically leads armies for now.
The Garleans are Coming!
The Garleans begin their invasion of Eorzea at the direction of Darnus under the guise of destroying the beast clans and their Primal deities. The city-state of Ala Mhigo in the northeast falls first, establishing a foothold for the Garleans. Baelsar is put in charge of an attack on Mor Dhona, which rests on Silvertear Falls, mythical home of an enormous cache of aetherite. Midgardsormr, guardian of Lake Silvertear, emerges from the water in its defense and a huge battle erupts. The battle concludes when Midgardsormr destroys the Imperial Flagship Agrius, sacrificing himself in the process. The instability of the previously protected aetherite creates chaos and beast clans are able to summon their Primals.
The Eorzeans… are Defending
Enter Louisoix, an Archon of the Circle of Knowing, who were seen as a somewhat reclusive order of mages and scholars, but now began to filter into Eorzea from their home island of Sharlayan in the northwest. Louisoix also advocates for eradicating the Primals, but he’s not so sure about this Darnus fellow. The invading army may have been a red flag. Soon enough, Cid uncovers Darnus’ plan to draw in Bahamut and destroy Eorzea. Baelsar, not insane, tries to talk Darnus out of it. Darnus doesn’t listen and Baelsar reluctantly plays along but allows Eorzean forces to recover intelligence on Darnus’ plan. Eorzeans rise against Darnus, destroy a facility he is using to draw in Dalamud. Darnus, getting more powerful and unstable, draws earth into the sky, creating a fortress of floating islands. With Cid’s airship at the helm, Eorzeans invade the floating islands and slay Darnus. In a last act of obsession and rage, Darnus gives up his body and soul to Bahamut whose power takes over Darnus’ body, which is sucked into Dalamud.
With the looming apocalyptic event, symbols of the gods begin appearing around Eorzea and people seek the gods’ help through prayer and pilgrimage. Louisoix leads the attack against Baelsar and the Garleans when Dalamud descends and bursts, unleashing Bahamut. Forces retreat and only Louisoix and some loyal adventurers remain. Louisoix summons the power of the gods to imprison Bahamut once again, but cannot do it alone and the spell fails. With his remaining power, Louisoix teleports his companions to safety as Bahamut’s wrath falls upon the scarred battlefield, apparently sacrificing himself in the process.
It’s been 5 years. The Garleans have not invaded lately, but they are still out there. The possessed Darnus and Louisoix are presumed dead, but I will not believe either until I see bodies. Between Primals, the Garleans, ruins, city-states, two continents, the gods, any unknown landmasses out there, and the void, I think there is a lot of room for expansion!