Chapter 1: The Axe's Reach
After assembling, Joshua brought Jax, Fryn, Oz, Naya, Aliss, Ras and Shar to Nophica's Wells in Western Thanalan to take care of some business: some "unsavory fellows," as he described them, were dealing with Imperials on obviously shady business. Joshua led the charge down the canyon and immediately set up the men in black with his fellow Embers. With frightening swiftness (especially from Jax's flaming fists and Aliss's true-seeking halberd) they dispatched the lesser of their number before finally confronting their leader, a big Highlander with a menacing lance named Dietrich. After confronting the man, and learning a bit about Joshua's past from his taunting, the party engaged him and his Imperial lackeys. After a hard fight, where one Imperial was torched alive and the other died almost entirely thanks to his own gunblade, they brought down the raging Dietrich, who lashed out at Naya in a rage, and managed to subdue the Highlander, after sustaining many wounds. Josh informed the party of his past, and of the Ebon Axes, a shady mercenary company he used to be a part of that are now out for his head.
Chapter 2: Turning Traitor
Near the Ixali Logging Grounds, the Ebon Axes were once more negotiating some sort of deal with the Garlean Empire. Both sides were ending heated negotiations as the Embers fell upon them, Joshua leading Shar, Naya, Aya, Aliss, Aroris, Brave and Eri against their surprised few. However, after a very fierce battle where it didn't entirely seem sure that the Embers were going to succeed, it was Joshua who ended up being surprised, as it turned out the information he'd been given about the meeting was wrong: leading the Axes' negotiations was not the bloodthirsty Valter, but instead a woman named Selena, another of of the Ebon Axes' commanders and Joshua's woman on the inside. Despite being around the company longer than it's new leader, Caellach, she fell in rank due to his ruthless ambition, and as the company took a turn for the worse, she remained in his service for a reason she would not, or could not, put to words, but she pleaded with the gambler that she wanted no part of the Axes any longer. As Joshua made to bind her to take the general captive, however, he fell to his knees when she held her hand to his head. Going limp, the gambler didn't stir as the Embers surrounded him and Selena, and as Shar pelted her with fists of steel, the general hung her head in sorrow, lamenting that she accepted her fate. After that, the woman went silent, and refused to speak anymore as Brave took the surviving enemies prisoner.
Chapter 3: Distant Blades
A lead, at last! The Embers, consisting of Shar, Fafala, Kakimo, Ciri, Niruh, Jax and Eri (led by Joshua, of course), descended upon a force of the Axes who were lying in wait to ambush passing caravans, but much to their chagrin, were met with steel instead. Quickly dispatching the first party and struggling with the reinforcements of the second, they encountered this party's leader: a taciturn knight named Aias. Impressed with news that had circulated through the Axes' ranks, he challenged Jax to a duel, to test the arm that bested Deitrich, and while the two exchanged impressive first blows, the general fell to a swift flaming fist from Fafala as she sped by, leaving the rest of the Embers to deal with his retinue. After a brief yet bloody battle between two other knights, involving thrown spears, thrown-out shoulders, and thrown Lalafel, the Embers stood triumphant. As the din of combat fell and the Embers departed, Joshua took a linkpearl from the still alive, but definitely unconscious, Aias. Bells later, when everyone had returned to their dwellings, Joshua listened in to a conversation that came in over the linkpearl between the defeated Aias and Caellach, the ruthless leader of the Axes. He heard Caellach chastise Aias for his profound victory before executing the man, claiming, " I will not be chained to my past. I will not be chained to you."
Chapter 4: Untitled
In search of the Embers' missing gambler, Shar, Fala, Eri and Foxa followed a tip to head north to the abandoned town of Hemlock, in the Coerthan Western Highlands. Upon arriving in the ruins of the frozen-over town, abandoned during the freeze, they found signs of recent habitation, albeit in tatters. Blood spattered the snow and froze over the ice, tents were ravaged and torn, crates were smashed, barrels were upheaved, and at the center of the chaos stood three men cloaked in black standing inside a circle of runes, protected by a barrier of some sort. Gleeful to see the arrival of "guests," the man in the center of the circle summoned a cadre of voidsent to slow their approach and shed blood, a bomb and a pair of imps. Felling the fiends swiftly, the Embers soon met with a new adversary: a man clad in all black, speaking in a voice that sounded like Joshua's, but was most certainly not. With preternatural speed, this assailant was brought low, though not without a fight, and as he exchanged blows with Shar and Fala, the men in the circle set to finishing their ritual: the barrier around them fell, and the two men flanking the man in the center threw themselves upon his blade, their bodies scattering into a cloud of dark aether. From the black-clad assailant, who was revealed indeed to be Joshua in the flesh, a malevolent aura left his body and joined the cloud of aether that started to coalesce into a tall, humanoid shape. But before whatever it was could fully form, the man in the center of the circle was slain, and as he collapsed and sputtered with his final breath, the concentration of aether scattered to the four winds, and naught remained of the evil presence but a lingering curse. The gambler came to soon after the Embers brought him back to the mansion, unaware of all that had transpired but thankful for having been rescued.
Chapter 5: Queen of White Dunes
"Joshua... My...dear, sweet child..."
The Ebon Axes had cornered Joshua's mother, Ismaire, and her guard, leaving only Carlyle, the young lord's mentor in swordplay, alive. The two sought the aid of the Embers, Shar, Oz, Eri, Fafala and Weiss, to help rescue her while the Axes were distracted by a batallion of Immortal Flames. Their battle with the rearguard was fierce, and while the Axes fought hard, they proved no match for the Embers, their opponents falling from the crystal bridge spanning the Burning Wall. Pushing forward, the Embers then encountered Valter, the last of Caellach's generals and a sadistic lance-wielding maniac. The fight against him and his cohort proved tough enough, but when Carlyle came to his defense, wielding his blade against Eri, the tide nearly turned. Though the battle was hard-won, they emerged alive nonetheless, and pressed on to the Final Prayer, where Ismaire was being held. Upon their arrival, however, she had already been struck down. With her final words, she bestowed upon him Audhulma, the sword of ice she wielded, and bade him to avenge her