At its heart, the story of the end of the world isn't a story about the player characters. It's a story about three Garleans and an old Elezen man. And it isn't even the story that served as the game's main scenario, all of which was just warming up for the ultimate war between Eorzea and Garlemald, a war that Bahamut won... but we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Roughly a decade before the start of the game, the Garlean Empire was marching on Eorzea. Having defeated Ala Mhigo, the empire's armada was moving to establish a base in Silvertear Falls and fighting off heavy resistance. Silvertear Falls was also the home of several Eorzean dragons, and the result was a pitched air battle that ended with the dragon lord Midgardsormr dying while crashing the Garlean flagship into the heart of the region.
This had some big effects. Namely, it cracked the aether of the region wide open, aether being the invisible force that makes magic possible. Explaining the nonexistent physics would take too long, but suffice it to say that the net result was that the beast tribes of Eorzea had enough ambient energy to summon the hell out of their primals. The Empire, realizing that there was something really big down here in Eorzea, retreated to regroup and figure out a solution that didn't involve wading knee-deep in hypermagic.
As we're playing a Final Fantasy game, the solution came from Cid, a mechanical genius working for the Empire at the time. He had figured out that the planet's second moon, Dalamud, was actually an ancient machine. Its exact purpose and function were unclear, but there were ways to try to bring the moon back down to Eorzea in hopes of crushing the peninsula and its beastmen in one fell swoop. No muss, no fuss.
Conflict emerged between Legatus Gaius van Baelsar and Legatus Nael van Darnus over the use of Dalamud. Darnus had an inkling of what the moon was all about and wanted to just straight-up drop it. Baelsar was far more practical; he wanted to conquer Eorzea's nations, not obliterate them. But Baelsar's protests didn't amount to anything; ultimately, the Empire attempted to find the proper ritual to cast the ancient magic of Meteor to bring the moon down, one of the incidents that led Cid to leave the Empire and form the Garlond Ironworks.
Meanwhile, the Archon Louisoix was made aware of the events taking place in Eorzea. The Archons, essentially mortal incarnations of the Eorzean deities, were well aware that the end of an age was drawing near, meaning that it fell to Louisoix and his followers to try to avert the catastrophe.
Spoiler warning: They didn't.
Oh, all of the people responsible tried, certainly. Cid and Louisoix worked together to try to prevent Darnus from summoning Dalamud, but during the battle that consumed Darnus, it became clear that he was no longer interested in just ruling Eorzea. He had more of an idea about what would happen than he was letting on. In the end, he was simply absorbed by the moon entirely, and that left Louisoix to try to prepare one last ritual to turn back Dalamud as it grew closer to the surface. Cid and the leaders of Eorzea's Grand Companies led adventurers and armies against the followers of van Darnus in Mor Dhona, but the battle was already turning south due to van Baelsar's arriving with his own forces just before Dalamud showed up.
That was when the moon cracked open to reveal Bahamut. You know, king of all dragons, quite possibly a Primal himself, sort of a big deal in the Final Fantasy series? As it turns out, Dalamud was the only pokeball big enough to contain him.
Louisoix's last-ditch effort to re-seal Bahamut fails. Badly. At this point, in all likelihood, everyone on the battlefield is doomed. Averting catastrophe is no longer on the table. So Louisoix casts one last spell, sending adventurers gathered in the realm's defense forward in time in the hopes that they can clean up the aftermath with the knowledge no one had when Meteor was cast.
The official line is that players were put into a timeless rift until the realm could be rebuilt. What we've heard is generally that we're being sent five years into the future, when Bahamut is no longer in the midst of his rage-inducing path of destruction and something can be done to deal with him, the still-present Empire, and the simmering resentment between city-states. That means that a lot of things will be different, the maps will be changed, and all of our hard work will have been undone in many ways.
It remains to be seen whether any of the important NPCs at the site of the battle survived. If I had to place odds, I'd say Louisoix and Baelsar are probably dead, Cid is probably alive, and Darnus will show up again as some uber-Bahamut avatar boss. The Company leaders could go either way.
So that's the story. Want to tell me that this isn't quite how it happened? (I admit I glossed several points.) Feel free to do so in the comments below or via mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week I'm going to talk about some ideas that FFXIV might do well to pinch for its relaunch, ideas that likely won't happen.
From Eorzea to Vana'diel, there is a constant: the moogles. And for analysis and opinions about the online portions of the Final Fantasy series, there is also a constant: The Mog Log. Longtime series fan Eliot Lefebvre serves up a new installment of the log every Saturday, covering almost anything related to Square-Enix's vibrant online worlds.