resistanceThe game opens with the extravagant wedding ceremony of Ashe and Prince Rasler, until the scene switches to war, the death of Rasler, the fall of Dalmasca, and the announcement of the Princess' suicide. Pleasant introduction. The focus then shifts ahead two years to the current timeline. It's the night of a lavish ceremony celebrating the appointment of Rabanastre's new Lord Consul: Vayne Carudas Solidor, son of Emperor Gramis of Archadia and the real driving force behind the Empire's hostile actions. But while the rulers of the city are celebrating, other forces are at work underneath the streets. Vaan sees this as a perfect opportunity to sneak into the palace and swipe some treasure, but it turns out that the sky pirates Balthier and Fran have the same idea. Vaan only manages to snatch a mysterious stone from the palace's treasure room before the sky pirates make their grand entrance and demand he turn it over to them. But the three are soon attacked by an Imperial airship and end up fleeing into Rabanastre's sewers. While making their way through the waterway, they run into some dead soldiers: poorly equipped members of an insurgent group. Soon after they meet a woman being attacked by Archadian soldiers, who tells them her name is "Amalia." Of course we've all read the game booklet by now and know that it's actually Princess Ashe, but Vaan remains unaware of this fact (though Balthier seems to pick up on it). Amalia, introduced here as a very bossy and aloof member of the resistance, grudgingly accepts help from the "thieves," but only until she finds her companions.
After fighting a random horse made of fire (what), the group of four find themselves surrounded by Imperial soldiers, led by Vayne Solidor. Amalia shows some obvious disdain for the Consul and the fact that the soldiers assume she's a thief like the others, but Balthier warns her not to do anything rash. Amalia is apprehended and led away, while Balthier, Fran, and Vaan are captured and thrown into a dungeon underneath Nalbina fortress. They escape with the aid of another prisoner: the supposed kingslayer, Basch, and go on their separate ways. But their paths meet again after the escape and take them to the skycity of Bhujerba. After some running away from overleveled bounty hunters, an awesome minigame involving shouting at NPCs, and pissing off the Marquis, the party is apprehended by Judge Magister Ghis and taken prisoner aboard the Dreadnought Leviathan.
There, they meet Amalia again, and it's revealed that she is actually Princess Ashe. Also revealed is the fact that the stone that Vaan stole from Rabanastre's palace is actually a piece of "Nethicite," a type of Magicite that has the ability to absorb magick energy, or Mist, and store that energy within it. The Empire is after Nethicite as a source of power, and has managed to create its own manufacted Nethicite. The particular piece of Nethicite that Vaan has is also the "Dusk Shard," a relic of the Dynast-King Raithwall and proof of Ashe's lineage. So naturally, the Shard is taken and everyone's imprisoned again. That is until Vossler, another leader of the resistance and former Dalmascan Captain, comes to their rescue. During their escape, and Ashe meets Vayne's younger brother, Larsa Ferrinas Solidor, who pledges his support for Dalmasca, despite being a member of the ruling House of the Empire. After defeating Ghis, the party touches down in Bhujerba, Vossler leaves to pursue his own goals, and Ashe goes to have a word with Marquis Ondore.
Ondore, despite revealing to Ashe that he does not support the Empire, refuses to aid Ashe's movement and insists that she stay hidden with him until the time is right. With the Dusk Shard stolen, Ashe has no proof of her birthright. The only other piece of evidence, the Dawn Shard, lay sealed in the Tomb of King Raithwall. But Ashe proves that she isn't one who will be told what to do, and tries to flee in Balthier's airship. Her attempt is thwarted, and she boldly asks Balthier to kidnap her. He obliges as Ashe promises him treasure, and Basch offers to come along to protect the Princess in Vossler's place. Vaan and his friend Penelo just kind of... tag along. After meeting up with Vossler again, the group treks across a Sandsea to Raithwall's Tomb. Fighting their way through the various traps of the temple, Ashe and co. eventually reach the Dawn Shard. And immediately after, Ashe sees an apparition of her deceased husband, Rasler, and things start to get a bit more complicated...
These opening stages of the game reveal a lot about Ashe's character and the odds she's going to face. We get a glimpse of the unwavering determination she has and just how much it conflicts with the more laid-back natures of her unlikely sky pirate and sky pirate-wannabe companions. We also see the strength of the Empire, their willingness to use very underhanded tactics, and the influence and power they have over Ivalice. The sad and fragmented state of the resistance also becomes apparent. It's obvious that Ashe really does face a world that is out to get her.