I usually don't believe in anything crazy like magic or curses, but after hearing the stories about what happened up there in the Northlands, I don't think there may be any other explanation.
The Multinational Expedition is a major event in the background story of Final Fantasy XI. Examination of its details and consequences is the basis for much of the game's content.
The expedition occurred thirty years before the beginning of Final Fantasy XI. The Republic of Bastok, Kingdom of San d'Oria, and Federation of Windurst sent a party of six heroes to the Beaucedine Glacier to investigate Fei'Yin, a ruined Zilart city. The mission failed, however, and only four returned from the Northlands.
- Ulrich, a Hume warrior
- Cornelia, a Hume monk
- Raogrimm, a Galka swordsman
- Francmage M Mistalle, an Elvaan knight
- Iru-Kuiru, a Tarutaru white mage
- Yow Rabntah, a Mithra ranger
Ten years before the Crystal War a man visited the Bastok Metalworks carrying a piece of magicite. He showed it to Cid, who was amazed at the power radiating from the fist-sized object. Learning that it was a fragment of a larger crystal from the Northlands, Cid advised Bastok's president to send Mythril Musketeers there to claim the material for the Republic. He believed that such energy at Bastok's disposal would easily make it the most powerful nation in Vana'diel.
Word of Bastok's intentions leaked, however, and a secret mission against the interests of Windurst and San d'Oria became impractical. The Republic therefore invited its neighbors to participate in the excursion. Together they would explore Fei'Yin and determine what forgotten powers slumbered beneath it. Bastok's three best Mythril Musketeers—Ulrich, Cornelia, and Raogrimm—would spearhead the effort.
San d'Oria believed that it was a foolish proposal but, unwilling to see Humes freely crossing its territory and suspecting hidden motives, sent Francmage as the Kingdom's representative. In Windurst, on the other hand, Rhinostery minister Iru-Kuiru was eager to embark on any adventure that allowed him to study an ancient civilization. He hired Olzhiryan wayfarer Rabntah to accompany him. The multinational expedition was underway.
The six companions traveled through Ranguemont Pass and across the Beaucedine Glacier. They found themselves overwhelmed in Fei'Yin, however. Strange devices and undead creatures appeared in great quantities to bar their path. Unable to advance far enough into the ruins to achieve their intended research, they retreated and declared their mission a failure.
In the interest of salvaging their time in the Northlands, the expedition turned west to see what might lie in Xarcabard. Faced with an uninhabited wasteland, they split up. During this time Yow Rabntah discovered a piece of magicite and, believing it would be revolutionary for the Mithra homeland, kept it to herself. Ulrich and Raogrimm, meanwhile, found themselves alone among the snowdrifts.
Disgusted by Raogrimm's relationship with Cornelia and sympathy for Beastmen, Ulrich attacked the Galka without warning. The treacherous Hume easily gained the upper hand and prepared a killing stroke. Cornelia intervened, however, and threw herself on Ulrich's sword. She died with the wounded Raogrimm at her side.
Ulrich fled in search of the other expedition members. He found them debating the nature of Xarcabard and quickly explained that the other Mythril Musketeers had fallen down a crevice. He then led them on a false search, waiting for them to feel that the cause was hopeless. Rabntah failed to detect anything with her tracking skills and Francmage concluded that they should withdraw before more of the party was lost. Iru-Kuiru wanted to continue but his other companions agreed with the San d'Orian.
The multinational expedition therefore ended and its surviving members went their separate ways. Ulrich returned to Bastok and served as captain of the Mythril Musketeers. Francmage resumed his life in San d'Oria but had difficulty sleeping. Iru-Kuiru was banished from Windurst's Rhinostery and struck out for Elshimo to continue his research. Yow Rabntah sailed for Olzhirya and used the magicite she had obtained to craft the Bow of Light.
Having suffered Ulrich's attacks and Cornelia's death, Raogrimm was consumed by rage. As he died in the snowy wastes of Xarcabard his intense emotions resonated with a crystal hidden far below the Northlands. In that moment he was granted a new body and an army of Kindred soldiers. Embracing his anger, he was reborn as the Shadow Lord.
The Shadow Lord turned first to vengeance, teleporting unseen across continents to murder the surviving members of the expedition. All four deaths would go unexplained for years. He then turned to conquest, rallying Beastmen into an army with the capacity to overrun Vana'diel. This began the Crystal War and precipitated the Alliance of Altana.
The war was not the only misfortune borne of the multinational expedition, however:
- Yow Rabntah's Bow of Light proved a cursed weapon, amplifying the worst aspects of its wielders and causing much bloodshed in the Mithra homeland.
- The Shadow Lord's birth disrupted the crystal energy flowing through Vana'diel and awakened a group of aggressive Zilart that had slumbered in Qufim for ten thousand years.
- A splinter of Raogrimm's soul took root in the dreamworld of Dynamis and began growing into a nightmare more terrible than the Shadow Lord himself.
- With four front-line fighters, a ranged attacker, and a healer, the composition of the multinational expedition is a plausible configuration for an actual party of Final Fantasy XI players.