Aether (エーテル, Ēteru?), also known as Mist (ミスト, Misuto?), is the energy found throughout the world in Final Fantasy XIV. It is a source of both magic and life, and disruption in its flow is either the cause or indicator of catastrophic events, as evidenced by the Umbral Eras.
Aether is part of a series-wide trend to use a supernatural substance to explain the origins of magic, crystals, life, and other phenomena. Other instances of this include the Mist, Miasma, and the lifestream/mako. Of these, aether is conceptually closest to the lifestream: both occur naturally in multiple degrees of density and both are poisonous at extreme levels. Aether is implied to exist within characters from other Final Fantasy games.
Aether can be aspected into six elements—ice, water, wind, lightning, fire, and earth—and drawn towards two polarities: Astral, the active, and Umbral, the passive. It also comes in three forms: memories and souls which are interconnected, corporeal aether like the aetheryte, and forms of nourishment that are in constant flux.
Aether is released from the body upon death and it disappears from the physical realm to mingle back into the aetherical sea from which all life begins. Only so much of it can cross over at a time, and any excess remains to form a glowing mist, crystals, or even ghostly apparitions. As aether is akin to soul energy, more violent and dramatic deaths tend to yield more excess aether.
When a living entity arrives on the scene of a battle, no matter how ancient, the excess aether will enter this new host and expand its native aether. This generally augments the creature (human or otherwise) physically, and those unaccustomed to channeling the new energy may go mad.
Aether flows nigh imperceptibly throughout the planet. Places where it gathers most are typically vivid, particularly in the Black Shroud, which is so rich in aether that the sentient, elementally aspected aether-beings known as Elementals reign over the wood, alongside the cooperative Gridanians.
Aether is considered dangerous in high concentrations, and often makes the afflicted more aggressive, if not completely mad. Monsters in aether-abundant areas are more threatening. Overexposure of aspected aether causes profound mutations in living beings. Such examples are seen in the voidsent and the sin eaters who were exposed to over-aspected amounts of Umbral and Astral aether. Those overexposed to a primal's enthrallment mutate into creatures of that primal's elemental affinity, like errant Serpent Reavers whom the Sahagin and their primal Leviathan sometimes punish by exposing them to over-aspected water aether until they mutate into abominations resembling marine life. The events of the Final Days show that the stagnation and decay of aether within a person not only changes them into a Terminus, but utterly destroy their very essence until there barely anything left of them.
The aetheric properties of Mor Dhona can cause synthesis crystals to lose their aspect if left in the ground for too long, but this concept only appeared in one quest in 1.0. There were also Deaspected Crystals found through the Seventh Umbral Era quests, which could be redeemed for rare prizes.
Elements and polarities
The elemental cycle
As detailed in the book Essences & Permutations - A Treatise of the Six Elements, the elemental aspects of aether are cyclical:
- The spark of Lightning ignites when it strikes, and thus Fire is born.
- The heat of Fire renders to ash all that it touches, and thus earth is born.
- The density of Earth shuns Sun and harbors cold, and thus Ice is born.
- The armor of Ice melts away, and thus water is born.
- The moistness of Water mists and rises, and thus Wind is born.
- The gusts and sighs of Wind gather the clouds, and thus Lightning is born.
This cycle can be observed not only on the chart and in nature on the world of Hydaelyn, but also conforms to the twelve months, or "moons", of the Eorzean calendar (as well as the hours and days). Each moon is associated with a deity of the Twelve paired by their elemental aspect, beginning with Halone and Menphina, representing Ice, and ending with Nophica and Althyk, representing Earth.
The seven umbral calamities that have brought ruin to the realm of Eorzea over the millennia also follow the cycle of the elements starting with wind, then lightning, fire, earth, ice, and water. Because of this, prior to the coming of the Seventh Umbral Calamity, scholars of the Sixth Astral Era erroneously believed that the Sixth Umbral Calamity would be the last.
Religious scholars of the realm also believe in the existence of the seven heavens created by the Twelve, with the first heaven, the gateway to which is said to be the constellation "the Bole", representing Earth. The heavens are numbered in reverse order, from the Bole to the Balance, then the Spire, the Arrow, the Ewer, and the Spear, with the seventh and final heaven represented by the pole star.
Conquests and submissions
The two triangles depicted on the elemental chart (pictured above) represent the elements that have advantages over one another, although elements on opposite sides of the wheel from one another are also diametrically opposed (Fire and Water, Earth and Wind, Ice and Lightning).
The three conquests:
- Earth grounds Lightning.
- Water erodes Earth.
- Lightning boils Water.
The three submissions:
- Fire is extinguished by Wind.
- Ice is melted by Fire.
- Wind is obstructed by Ice.
These properties are used in the Deck of Sixty used in Sharlayan astromancy, where an astrologian will convert the Bole, the Ewer, and the Spire to the Lady of Crowns, conforming to the three conquests. Likewise, the Balance, the Spear, and the Arrow—the three submissions—are converted to the Lord of Crowns.
Astrologians also use three "seals": Solar, Lunar, and Celestial. The Solar Seal cards are the Balance (Fire) and the Bole (Earth), the Lunar Seal cards are the Ewer (Water) and Arrow (Wind), the Celestial Seal cards are the Spire (Lightning) and the Spear (Ice), conforming to the left, right, and center of the chart, respectively. Oddly, the sun and moon's positions on the chart are flipped from these alignments.
Astral and Umbral
The six elements are manifest in all things great and small, and their polarity deriveth from the Astral heavens above and the Umbral depths below.Essences & Permutations - A Treatise of the Six Elements
Eorzean scholars believe that the elements are drawn to two polarities, Astral and Umbral, which represent active and passive states of aether. Where fire-aspected aether in Astral alignment may manifest as a wildfire, fire-aspected aether in an Umbral alignment may manifest as a dry heat.
The elements most commonly found in an Umbral state are Water, Earth, and Ice, with Ice being most closely associated with stasis. Those most commonly found in an Astral state are Wind, Fire, and Lightning, with Lightning being the element most closely associated with activity. Despite this, it is possible to find any of the six elements in an Astral or Umbral alignment.
Unaspected aether (aether that has a balanced elemental aspect) can also be pulled to an Umbral or Astral state. For example, the Seventh Umbral Calamity, wrought by Bahamut's wrath, is said to have been a Calamity of all elements in an astral state.
On the First, the perceptions of "active" and "static" are reversed. Seeing "activity" as akin to all colors coalescing into black, active effects are identified with Darkness. Likewise, seeing "passivity" as similar to the complete absence of hue, such effects are identified with Light. This understanding is revealed to be closer to the truth, with the Source's understanding describing the observable effect, but the First coming closer to the primordial forces at their root. Light is the primordial force responsible for passivity and stasis, and Darkness is the primordial force that governs activity and growth.
Through the Ascians' actions, certain parties like the Beast Tribes learn to use the aether to "summon" embodiments of their desires called primals. The usual primals are those revered by their respective Beast Tribes as gods and are sustained by massive amounts of aether and hoarded crystals. There are also primals summoned by a single person with a strong desire, sometimes transformed into the primal itself with gradual madness as a side-effect of prolonged use.
As disproportionately high concentrations of aether, being around a primal can be dangerous as adventurers cannot stay in their lair for too long. The Warrior of Light, and others who possess the Echo, seem immune to this effect. In the long term primals will consume aether from their surroundings, and if left unchecked, would drain the land of aether.
Much like the lairs of primals, instanced dungeons, such as Thousand Maws of Toto-Rak and Dzemael Darkhold, have dangerous aetheric levels. Adventurers are forcibly teleported to safety after a set amount of time.
Aether concentrations can significantly affect weather, e.g. the Gloom in Mor Dhona that appears as a psychedelic purple miasma. In addition to limiting visibility, in version 1.0 it altered the effectiveness of certain spells and abilities caused the Notorious Monster Dodore to spawn.
Nearly all primals will drastically affect the weather in their immediate vicinity, often with effects unique to them.
Aetheric shifts occur over time. This was one of the first signs of the impending Seventh Umbral Era, and is generally a hallmark of the Umbral Calamity phenomenon and the cycles of eras. Nael van Darnus used vast amounts of aether to bring Dalamud down from the orbit, shifting the aether surrounding Silvertear Falls.
Although an aether sickness is now present, for some reason the dangers of overexposure to primal levels of aether are no longer mentioned.
The yet unexplained presence of Atomos drained the Aetheryte Crystals of their energy, corrupting them and turning them orange, enabling free teleportation without the use of Anima. Eorzea as a whole has harnessed this and now teleporting costs gil for upkeep of the Aetherytes (a fee collected by the gate guards in each camp). New Aetheryte Crystals were constructed to replace those that were lost.
Aether exists beyond the planet, and can be harnessed. The Allagan civilization used both the Crystal Tower and Dalamud to collect and store aether from sunlight. The practices of astromancy can harness aether from the constellations into their magics.
Many, if not all, forms of life possess a degree of aetherial manipulation, allowing them to affect their environment or perform rudimentary magic. The Allagan Empire's aetherochemists manipulated life itself through the process of alchemically "marrying" two or more dissimilar living beings to synthesize chimeras, creating an army built upon countless failures before being perfected in the Fourth Generation. Most of the chimeras that survived the Fourth Umbral Calamity had their origins lost to history, with some being ancestors to the Beast Tribes.
The Garlean race lacks a natural ability to manipulate aether, resulting in them developing ceruleum-based Magitek to compensate.
When an adventurer reaches an area's Aetheryte Crystal or Gate, they align themselves permanently to the aether of that area, allowing them to teleport there usually at the expense of Anima. There are nodes that teleport adventurers to various instances and battles, nodes that appear at the end of a Guildleve to return to camp, and "Aethernet" crystals for teleporting across town. After the dramatic aetheric shifts in the Calamity, the redesigned Aetherytes no longer require Anima, though the loss of Anima use may have led to the inability to use natural Aetherial Gates.
The Beast Tribes have devised their own crude Aethernet networks, and adventurers can use these to reach the lairs of primals.
Small aetherial crystals are used by Disciples of the Hand for Synthesis. Their largest forms are clusters, but single crystals and shards are used for most recipes. Each crystal has an elemental aspect, such as Fire or Wind, and can go unstable during synthesis.
There are also "Deaspected Crystals" and "Over-aspected Crystals" for specific purposes that have either no aspect or an unusually strong aspect. Deaspected are gray (no elemental color) and over-aspected are orange, a trait often attributed to corruption.
Ceruleum is an aether-based fuel refined in reactors. It is a volatile energy source used to fuel Garlean magitek. Garlond Ironworks introduced its use to Eorzea, providing them such technological advancements as airships and smaller powered devices.
aether, also spelled æther or ether, is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere. In ancient Greek mythology aether was supposed to be the breath of the gods, which formed the air which mortals breathed.According to ancient and medieval science,
- Dissidia Final Fantasy Opera Omnia Chapter 4