Writing Prompt- 3rd March

What is true fear for your character?

Fear is relative. For Suiriane, pure terror was never a stranger. However, from Warden Captain to Whispers Agent- there was one thing she feared above all else. The memory of it plagued her.

“You’re, you’re c- court?” The word almost burned her throat as she said it. The Sister with the dark bark stood in the street, the sun poured between the buildings, painting the cobbles gold and warming the hard stone to an umber hue. The Sister did not look any different and at that distance Sui could detect no aura.

It mattered not. What did nightmare look like? All thorns and fangs? No, she knew that was not the case, that was why Sui was so afraid. The asuran turret on the roof had a good range, but she wanted to make sure and backed up against the door of the townhouse she called home.

The dark Sister taunted her, standing just out of shot. Called her a replacement. Stated that her friend and mentor did not really like her. Sylvana was lost and seeking a distraction. Suiriane was not valued by her, she was pitied.

Sui’s hands shook. She said nothing. Fear raked cold fingers up her spine and made her gut clench. A pain spasmed through her chest.

Sylvana’s former lover. Justicia. Taken, tortured, fallen. The guilt still ate at Sui’s mentor.  Yet, all Suriane could see that day, was a reflection of what she could have so easily become, and it terrified her.

Suddenly the street was gone and she was once more under her Mentor’s desk. Another memory. Days old and too afraid to even speak. A dream corrupted, pieces of a hunt remained that she could not understand. Faces she had known and held dear were now lost to her. She ached with the absence. The waking world was loud, bright and confusing. Most of all she was frightened of herself. Her twisted dream had given her a vision of what she could be.

Her Grove mentor had told her in gentle tones to see it as a warning. It may not be pleasant but she could make choices to avoid turning into what she dreaded. Easier said than done. Later Sui would learn, combat was not difficult for her. She would never be a true blade specialist, but she could hold her own. No, what came very easily was power. A gift for manipulating and directing chaos, inflicting pain, confusing thoughts and ensnaring the senses.

It was too much in the end. She left the Grove. Conflicted, jaded and alone. Unable to identify with her siblings, forever an outsider behind the smile. She left, seeking the familiar. Lion’s Arch had showed her how naïve her choice was. Suiriane had hated that city after, once cursing it to Sprout, wishing it would burn. Prophetic words as it turned out…

Not half a year later she would face Justicia again. There would be no convenient turret to save Sui from fighting. Using all her mother given talents Suiriane would best the Courtier and kill her. That was the day Sui broke her vow to Sylvana, and her Mentor’s ‘heart’ in the same blade thrust.

Even if she had known before that day how deeply wounded Sylvana would be- Sui knew she would still have driven the blade home. The whisper of darkness in her demanded an answer to the Courtiers challenge. It was not pride or honour, she simply wanted to spill sap.

Part of her liked it, and that, most of all, was more frightening than any Courtier threatening her on the streets of Divinity. That darkness had led her to make her great mistake. Had meant she had hurt those around her. All a symptom of the deep fear of what she could be.

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February 17th- Writing Prompt

‘Design a scene where tranquillity is unnerving. What makes it eerie? Can you impart the feeling without using the words unnerving eerie or their synonyms?’

OK, gonna use GW2 RP character to try this. 

The silence was complete.

The forest was never quiet. There was always something making noise. Maguuma was alive in a very real sense. Even the chasms in the ground contained vines that were shifting and slithering.

Birds called out in the day, a myriad of rainbow colours. Wild boar and other rooting animals shuffled through the undergrowth. The peoples of the forest were a reflection of the environment. Despite the nightly assaults they found time to sing, dance, play.

The remaining Pact forces in the jungle worked tirelessly during lulls in the fighting to repair weapons and defences. Varicose swarms of pocket raptors brought down screaming prey. Tigers growled and roared to affirm territory and ward off any that might stray near them.

At night, the minions came. Gaining strength in the darkness. The jungle rang with battle cries and fleeing animals caught in the crossfire.

The dragon whispered…

It was all gone… silence, total and utter.

It was wrong.

The tall blue sylvari, hidden in the foliage, edged out of cover. It was night and she was swathed in black and green, hiding her glow from those that may target her. Her footfalls sounded over loud in the night. Her ears twitched and she froze, waiting for the inevitable attack that must come, yet it did not. Her eyes swept over the tree line then scanned the ground.

Nothing stirred, nothing moved. Senses strained. Nothing, oppressive and thick nothing. There should have been relief, but she felt only tension and stain. The jungle was holding it’s breath. Every creature waiting for a monumental- something to happen.

Her nerves began to fray. Pulled taut, they unravelled. The silence in her mind was the most disturbing. What was keeping the dragon so occupied?  The lack of sound pressed round her ears. She could hear her own sap pulsing through her body.

She bolted. Instinct born from hard lessons in Orr pushed her on. Her magic came in a rush, she jumped, blinked and even vanished utterly at times. Anything to get her back to camp as swiftly as possible.

Something was coming and she did not want to be in the open when it-

The roar that echoed through her mind made her fall to her knees. Momentum carried her on, skidding across moss and slamming into a tree.

She screamed, so did everything else around her. The noise thrummed through her, then it came. Wave after wave of wild, raw magic.

Barriers, so carefully constructed round the needy and gaping maw within her, shattered. She remained still, mouth open, now not even able to scream as the reservoir within her was filled and overflowed. She was found insensible and burbling nonsense just outside base camp.

It took a long time for her to come back to herself. Weeks. When she was told the dragon was dead she began to weep. The world was changed for her. The threat was gone but had been replaced by something far more personal, even vindictive. When would she stop having to pay for a mistake made four years past?

A gnarled hand, strong and twisted with age took hers and she looked up at the rugged bark of her dearheart. He had a patch over his eye. When had that happened? She would later learn that the patch was her fault also. More consequences from the death of the dragon.

“Do not cry,” he told her in his gruff tone. “While you live there is hope.” He sounded unsure, was he panicking at seeing her cry?  

Perhaps, but his words, as usual, held wisdom. She was too stubborn to give in. Though it was clear she could no longer serve the order as she once had. Was she useless now? What of her half remembered hunt? Her pride stung.

As if sensing her thoughts, she was abruptly pulled into a lingering hug.
He had never needed words to get his point across. She would endure, for his sake if for no other reason.    

Lodge and Lenewe

She sighed as she cleaned the bar, the sharp smell of beeswax thick in her nostrils

She had been so happy these last few weeks. So… content. She should have known it would not last.

He had been so angry. She did not understand why. All she had wanted to do was protect him. He was important to her. Would he do any less for her?

She was growing used to the chill in his aura, it was part of him. Nothing to fear. She had felt accepted… he was affectionate… wanted nothing from her. He was part guide, part friend. He also needed her, craved contact with her just as she had with him.

So unlike the other in her life. He was… afraid… did not understand, or perhaps want to understand.

She was being patient with him. Had been patient, her heart ripped to shreds over him and gathered back together by a sheer act of will. It was not his fault. She had never blamed him. Still, she craved closeness and Len had filled that gap nicely while she waited for her love to comprehend his own feelings.

Now Len was angry and had possibly compromised himself.

Omni had been in the bar. She remembered what she had felt from him in the Silverwastes. The same chill.

Then the other she met in the Flagon. They all spoke to her, seemed so reasonable. Wanted to befriend her. It was if the universe was laughing at her. She would have put a blade through them without a second thought a year ago.

Her dream, was it becoming a reality? Would she become what she feared without having any say in the matter?

Another thought haunted her. The ones she had killed in the mother’s name. What if they had not needed to die?

She finished polishing the bar and went down into the “Safe room” in the cellar. The real reason she worked in this bar. Her former wardens and associates had scoffed to find her working here. Oh how the Valiant had fallen. She cared little. She did what she had to. Those that criticised did not understand. Those she now worked for had resources. Resources she needed to access. She was still learning but she did have a natural feel for the work. Even enjoyed it.

She availed herself of pen and paper and wrote her request down. She needed help, help to see what should have been hers from the beginning. Her employers must know someone who could help. She sealed it in a steel tube and fixed it to the leg of dove from the cage in the corner. Cooing to the little bird and stroking it’s head she moved out of the cellar and back into the now very clean bar. She released the dove from behind the Lodge, watching it flap away.

So, her future in the hands of strangers. She hoped they valued her enough to help. She shook off her bleak mood and headed down the path after locking the door. She could wallow in self-pity or do something productive.

She did not go home that night, or the next. She had someone to find and the Reach was a big city.

Awakenings

Waking takes a long time. The menders are concerned. Physically the Sister found in the forest was mending well. Mentally they were not so sure.

Even asleep, the Sisters aura swings from dizzying highs to dismal lows. Whatever she is dreaming it is as if she lives it. The warden patrol that found her had no idea who she was. They did report seeing other footprints. There was some sort of altercation. The Scout noted that there were a large set of prints near to where she lay.

Attacker or defender? Either way the large footprints followed those of the others, lending weight to the theory that the Sister had been attacked by a group. There were shell-casings from bullets that had been fired. A little sap spilt on the ground, but not so much to be concerned.

The menders knew who she was. Anwesu, was well respected for periodically sharing her medical supplies. She did so for some debt the menders could not fathom. The time she had burnt her hands in an experiment as a sapling was long forgotten. Forgotten by all except Anwesu. The kindness shown to her that day remained with her and she saw fit to redress the balance now she was in a position to do so.

She had been placed in a small hut, on a hammock, clothing removed. She appeared so much smaller and fragile with the robes gone.

She whimpered and her chest heaved as she fought her way back to consciousness. Her left eye occasionally fluttering open, showing a much dulled orange orb underneath.

Her arm was bruised from shoulder to elbow. Result of the robes deflecting a bullet. Her bark had been saved from piercing, but the impact had injured her regardless. There was also a deep gash over her forehead and extensive swelling and bruising all round the left hand side of her face. Her left eye was swollen shut.

Blunt trauma to the face had knocked her out cold.

It was just as the sun was setting when her good eye finally opened and remained open.

‘Llafn,” the name eases out of her lips, her eye still dull, not really awake. “W…why?”

Suddenly she sits up, a snarl on her full lips. Her head swims and a wave of nausea turns her stomach. She ignores it, struggling to get out of the hammock. The mender on duty, a pretty little sister with dark eyes and light leaves fluttered over to her. Words, half understood are spoken in a high tone. She needs to rest, this is unwise she has not even recovered.

The growl that leaves Anwesu’s lips is feral, like a cornered animal

“Get… out… of my… way” she demands, her tone dripping with venom.

The little mender gives a whimper as the toxic aura, swirling with hate and rage threatens to swamp her own. She backs away immediately. Her fear only goes to feed Anwesu’s fury. She would not be like this if he had not hit her in the head.

The barriers were gone, she was open, raw, vulnerable and oh so very angry.

How dare he? This was her duty and he denied her the opportunity to do as she should. Do what she had promised. When she gave her word it was never empty.

Where was he? Her orange eye turned on the terrified mender. Possibly a trainee.

“Where was I found? Was I alone?” the words lash out, answers are expected and quickly. Anwesu finally manages to get to her feet, clinging to the hammock for support. Her head screams at her, if she pushes herself it’s not a case of if she blacks out but when.

It did not matter. She needed to do something. Anything. She could not lie in the Grove oblivious and safe without knowing the truth.

“Y… you were alone,” squeaks the mender. “There were other tracks moving away but… please, you must rest! You have been unconscious for half a day there is no telling what…”

The bitter laughter from the tiny sylvari fills the hut. It is not a pleasant sound.

“If he is not dead I am going to kill him,” she says coldly. “I will hunt his blue hide down, tear strips of bark from his corpse and wear it as a dress!”

“Please!” the mender begs. “You are not yourself Sister. A blow to the head can…”

“Change personality and even alter memory,” Anwesu snaps. “Do you take me for a fool? Now step back from me before your aura makes me hug you or some other such nonsense.” The words are spat but there is less emotion behind them.

“I need to speak to Cedach, now,” she orders. “I either go myself, or you go and get her.”

“But…” the mender protested, she was swiftly cut off.

“NOW!” Anwesu’s one eye blazed with annoyance and not a small about of panic. “I am on borrowed time, there is a Brother missing!”

The little mender flees the hut.

An slumps back against the hammock, glad for a moments respite. Even having one sibling so close when she was so open made her heightened senses feel overloaded. She did not have long. Everything would soon shut down to save her from going half insane. It was her last line of defence. It was why she was such a weak seeming example of her race. Every day was a fight to keep the mental barriers in place to shield her from the world. Here, in the Gove… it was at its worst. So many bright, intrusive emotions. She could sense them, even at a distance.

Arren had once asked her why she lived like this. Why she did not go soundless and gain her strength back. She had answered that it would be like ‘them’ wining. The ones who made her this way had taken so much from her. She refused to let them take this too. Her ability to feel, her ability to connect to another without words. So she directed almost all her skill with barriers into her own mind. Dampening down her own empathy and over-active senses. It was gradually getting better. She could touch others again without screaming… but now…

She was afraid.

Frightened what she was capable of with nothing between her and the world. To feel fully what had happened…It was overwhelming. The acrimonious pang of resentment for being denied her duty, the distress that she may have been deceived, as she had been before… the hurt she felt for failing and… concern. She was worried and not about herself.

She did not matter, she never had, or someone would have found her, someone would have questioned…

They had not, she was gone over a year and no one missed her enough to seek her out. She had always faded into the background. No one of consequence. She had accepted this.

“When you wake… you will be changed. I cannot wait to see how.”

She screwed her good eye shut and shuddered. She did not want to remember. Not when she was like this… not when she would feel it all.

“Please…” she begged no-one in particular, an echo of the sapling she once was threading through her voice. “Please, not now.” Her throbbing head would not cooperate, it was only by a sheer act of will that she did not collapse into a sobbing and screaming heap on the ground.

She was needed… at least for the next few moments.

Cedach came swiftly, she took one look at An and folded her arms. The tall, imposing warden was pretty in her own way, but the bulky leaf armour covered a powerful body that was more than adequate to the task of swinging the huge blade on her back.

“What do you think are you doing?” Cedach demanded. “You should not be up yet!”

An could feel what she did not say. The warden was worried and her normally harsh gaze was full of sympathy as she took in An’s injuries.

It was too much, An’s chin wobbled slightly and her good eye misted with tears.

“They shot him,” she says in a rush. “They shot me, the Knight of Song and the gutter rats that follow in her wake.” There is was, the darkness in the back of her mind. She kept her attention on the freckled face of the warden and forced out the next few words, though they were slow and slurred.

“He knocked me out… please… please tell me he did it to save me…” she wanted to believe that. Wanted it so badly it hurt. She was not sure what she would do if she was betrayed again. She gave a strangled sob and a tear spilled from her eye.

She was pathetic.

That was the last thought, the darkness rushed over her and she slipped to the floor.

Cedach caught her before her before her injured head struck the ground.

Surrender in the Reach- Opening Chapter

Theo panted hard.

With all his might he lifted his golden shield, grunting with the strain it put on his forearm. His muscles screamed at him to stop, but how could he? The Corporal ordered defence training. If he did not raise this shield again he was going to get a blow to the head.

He really wished he had not been caught staring. Corporal Jin had been out early. He was a renowned and skilled archer and carried an elegant, non-regulation white, double recurve bow with him. An honour granted only to him in the squad. It was whispered he had hobbled four centaurs attacking a Captain with a single arrow.

True or not, Jin was impressive. Theo had watched him in the early dawn breaking over the target range. Armour and padding removed, Jin slimed down considerably, but his tight stomach and chiselled chest were not in the least disappointing. Unruly blond hair moved softly in the chilly breeze. It looked so soft, almost like corn silk and contrasted sharply with the rest of the Corporals hard physique.

Theos mouth had been dry as he watched the piercing blue eyes, normally shaded by a helm, narrow and take aim. Jin’s whole torso tightened as he drew the bow and Theo was mesmerised. The only thing that kept him half aware he was in reality and not some perfect dream, was Jin’s skin.

It was covered in scars. Bullet wounds, blade marks, even what looked like the half-moon cut of an axe to his flank. Theo had the burning urge to touch every one of them. To feel the knotted tissue against the perfect alabaster skin. To hear the Corporal tell of the story behind each mark in his deep, bass voice. Warm and rich…

Theo would then put his lips to every imperfection and tell Jin how beautiful he was…

It was at that moment that Field Medic Erin had turned up and Theo’s dreams were crushed under the gaze of a grinning medic and a very angry Corporal. Jin had snarled at him for ‘wool-gathering’ there was no place in the Seraph for time wasters and even a raw recruit should know that.

So here he was. Getting attacked by his Corporal. They had been at this since early afternoon and now the sun was setting on another hot summer’s day. Theo thought he may dissolve inside his armour. Still he managed to get his shield in place just as Jin’s blade came crashing down on his shield. Theo staggered back. The blow had numbed his entire arm and the shield clattered to the ground from his nerveless fingers.

Panting he held his hands up in a gesture of surrender. He was done. His eyes fixed on the ground, defeated. His whole body went ridged and his eyes flew to the Corporal’s sweaty and smirking countenance when he felt the tip of a very sharp blade at his throat.

“You are dead,” Jin purred.

Theo swallowed but could not even bring himself to speak.

“Not bad, for fresh meat,” the Corporal chuckled and returned the blade to his side. Suddenly he was all business again.

“Get cleaned up,” he demanded. “You are on night patrol. It’s been a long hot day so half the city will be seeking ale to slake their thirst. There will be trouble, boy so get out there and help your squad-mates.”

Theo saluted, stiffly. Wincing as he did so.

Jin barked a laugh and tossed a small glass vial at him before marching off.

“Get some whore in Ossan to rub that into your arms, works a treat.”

Theo’s brown eyes looked from the vial of oil in his dark skinned hands; then to the commanders back. He felt his stomach flip over and he bit his lip.

An Ossan pretty boy was not what he wanted.

He wanted what he could not have and burned with the temptation to reach for it anyway.

First Steps

45th Colossus 1327AE

So yes, ‘lost’ my other journal, so starting afresh. New journal for a new life. Nope I don’t believe that either.

Well… There I was, brooding away in my camp, (Yes it was brooding, I admit it. Monumentally unhelpful self-pity,) when who should happen by but Ellros.

He asked after me. Mother, I wanted to hug that little body, he looked like a strong breeze would blow him over.

In his own… rather colloquial way, he cut through the ‘crap’ as he put it and said he had a proposition for me. Really? To open negotiations so abruptly? Had I been still trading I would have been smelling a desperation. Ellros however has very tight control of his aura. Must be exhausting to repress that much without being soundless. I can never manage it for long myself. Or rather I have not needed to in Orr and I am out of practice.

The Risen do not mind if I am sad or angry. They just make me pay if I let the emotions overcome my judgment. Fighting them has done me more than good. I am now more skilled with weaponry than I have ever been. Physically I don’t think I have ever been in such peak condition.

All that time behind the desk as Prime. I got soft. Hunt changed that.

So, I was asked to join the order of Whispers. Better than the Priory at least.

I was not sure… part of me leapt at the chance. I would have something else to distract me, take me from the forest and all that I left behind. Ease my guilt as I was being of use again, not selfishly chasing after the urgings of the hunt.

Yes I know. Valliant and all that, it’s an honour… (Still can’t see it that way no matter how hard I try.)

Part of me backed away. Arren’s trial, I had been asked to be there. Sprout was getting herself into no end of trouble back in the forest. Rhass, Thekrin, Pepper, Clu, Dex, Aggy, Liu, Argyle, Ver… the list of names continued to reel on through my mind. I avoided thinking of the name that sprang first to mind. Thekrin has told me to let him go, to stop hurting myself.

Could I really commit to something that would cause me to let Arren down again by not being there for him? Could I say yes and not be available to any of my former people until I was on leave? My hunt however, the burden would be shared. I would not fight the risen alone when we returned from deployment.

I would have an excuse to stay away from the forest. He did not want me there.

He did not want me.

Ellros did.

That was it, before I knew it I was being told to get into Vigil gear and we would depart at first light.

I was puzzled as I was given the armour by the quartermaster… then I realised.

Ellros was trying to make me stand out less, blend into the crowd a little. My face is well known.

“Good luck with that,” I muttered as I put the armour on. “I’m a giant blue female sylvari with a white glow. Not many around like me.”

I shoved the helm on my head and grumbled. It crushed my bark. I pulled it back off, hoping I could get away without wearing it. Yes…part of me is still a little vain even now.

It was then when I was nearly hit by a dove flopping out the sky. The poor thing was exhausted and the little message canister it carried had been redirected several times. I’m not that hard to find, am I?

“I need to speak with you urgently. Can’t move much.”

It was from Sprout.

My sap stilled. I had only just filled out the paperwork. I was a member of the pact. I could not just dash off without permission. This was the choice I feared I may have to face and it had happened with the ink still wet on my documentation.

Karma is a bitch.

Still, I had made my decision and was willing to accept what that entailed. I went to Ellros who was talking to Explorer Larxas. (The two are on good terms it seems. Yes Lar is Priory but not a stuck up icicle like most of them.) I named no names but asked to go back to Caledon. Ellros was evidently not pleased, but I was granted permission.

Alright that rubbed a little. Granted permission… stupid ego. I am bottom of the ranks again. Suck it up!

I digress.

I rushed back to the forest, fearing the worst. Cathal was in chaos.

One warden in open revolt, another admitting nightmare connections. I almost wanted to start snapping out orders but I bit my tongue. It’s not my job anymore and to do so would be to disrespect and undermine Pepper. She has enough to deal with.

I found Sprout, she was injured but standing. I was not exactly in a good mood having run from the gate in the Grove. Not even Rhass’ aura brushing over mine lifted my glare. The sapling must have run off, I could not find him after.

It was not as I suspected. Sprout had information for me.

She had been attacked by a wolf and under Verruh’s order.

I thought I may fall apart right there. She continued that he was wearing a scrap of silk that came from my clothing… blue… the silk I had bought in DR with Sprout. I dug for details despite my legs having turned to mush. How was she still alive? She was no match for him.

He had spared her. Not followed through on the order.

Mother help me, I felt hope. Delicious and fragile hope. I had to leave, or risk weeping. I could not let them all know the extent of my involvement… how far I had let myself slip in his case.

I wrote many a letter that night, including one I left in the forest for him to find.

It’s not in me to give up… and that is more curse than blessing.

I have hope… where I did not before.

I returned to fort trinity tired. I will not be back in the forest again for quite some time. I thought that would be the end for a while.

Of course it was not. New day, new problems.

Ellros… It’s not his real name. So the boss is a liar. Good to know. I’ll keep an eye on him, see what else he gives away. I get the impression though that he is, struggling with something. Having talked to the others, they just recently lost their leader and she will be a tough act to follow.

That is so close to my own experience it is not even funny. When Niu died I battled both grief, the fact I was in charge and people were dependent on me.

It was frightening but I rose to the challenge, never thought I would, but I did.

Len looks like he is at that turning point. He needs support but I am not sure he is going to get it. His team is fragmented and some almost hostile to him. If they don’t have each other’s backs then internal conflict can bleed over into the field. I have seen it happen. Trust is key or how do you know the orders you follow will keep you alive?

I don’t want to overstep the mark, I am just starting out, but I tried to at least show Len that I did not hold a grudge for his little lie and I was willing to learn and be a dependable member of the team. I kept the conversation light, he does not need any more on his back right now.

Abigail is intriguing. A mage that uses her power to see the world around her. Blind since birth she feels the air. She seems one of the coldest to Len but seemed friendly enough speaking to me. We got onto the topic of betrayal. (I guess I joined the right order)… she asked me if I ever got used to it.

“No, it still stings and burns. That does not stop me trusting. I have seen those who close themselves off, even tried it myself. It does not work. You only end up hurting yourself and driving those who do care from you.”

That hurt me to say, but I’m not about to lie to those around me… not unless I am forced to. I slept poorly that night, had much to think of. Got up early to help out at the kitchens. That Charr is appreciative of the help, I can tell by the way he has not hit me with a meat cleaver.

Liu came to see me. I did not expect he would and it was nice to see him. As usual with a case such as his, he already knew what he needed to do, he just needed to see things from a distance to come to the decision himself. By the time we spoke alone he already had an answer, I simply made sure he had thought it through.

This is the third time I had aided him in a crisis. He was genuinely grateful, although I did nothing really. Still, he asked if he could ever repay me. The words were out my mouth before I could hold them back.

“There is a large wolf in the forest. Some call him Verruh’s wolf but that is not true. If you see him, treat him gently. He struggles as you do.”

Mother… I truly am a pathetic creature. When will this end? When will I stop thinking about him and worrying? I have no pride… Liu took my request back to the forest with him. There is nothing more I can do. The wolf has to decide. I can only hope he chooses wisely.

Mother, I never asked for anything before… but I ask this. Get him out of that forest and away from those who seek to corrupt and confuse him. If I had stayed then…

No I can’t think like that. Not anymore. What has happened has happened. I have a new path now. The old may cross it at times but my steps are my own.

If only freedom were not such a heavy burden to carry alone.

I have seen Thekrin and his group. Rhass is also with them. I may have let slip that I was in the wastes to Rhass. He would come out here anyway. Better he does so while I am here to keep an eye on him.

Thekrin was… odd.

Stuttering like a sapling, trying to hide his face. I did not know what was wrong at first. I’ve been away from the forest too long I guess. Time was that many a sapling looked at me that way. Later on he whispered in my ear…

“Sorry to be weird, but that armour… wow.”

I spoke with him and Tea, she is not sleeping well either… eventually it was just myself and the sap… Thekrin (really must stop calling him sapling.)

I put my arm round him as we spoke of our hunts. Again his words gave me pause.

“There might be those who make you question the choices you have made, make you feel ugly inside but not me, You’ll always be beautiful to me, Suiri”

Am I reading too much into this? I know he had a sapling crush on me before but that was months ago and he moved on.

Sooner I get out this armour the better.

The Tower

Sui bent over the edge of the cliff and vomited again. Risen below got a face full of sylvari stomach contents.

She wheezed a laugh and wiped a trembling hand over her lips.

A few more breaths and the spinning in her belly settled. She rolled over to look up at the bruised Orrian sky.

She hated heights and yet had scrambled all the way up this spire to chase a rumour. A risen creature of immense power inhabited this place.

It was all true. She had made one final leap from a branch of petrified coral and bare feet landed on a mosaic floor that must have been beautiful before the land sunk.

She had seen evidence of much of that. Orr could have rivalled Kryta before it sunk, judging from the quality of the ruins and the bits of artwork that had survived with them.

The concentration of farmers, chickens, cows… the land must have been fertile indeed.

Seeing the farmers faithfully till soil that would never yield a crop, bulls hunt for blades of grass in the dust that they could not eat… it was all so sad… intolerably sad. They should all be at rest. She had thought that her dream had given her that charge… now she was not so sure.

She had cut down a giant yesterday… alone. An achievement that should have had her bragging in a bar with norn buying her drinks.

She had snuck up on the creature… when it’s back was turned and it was staring listlessly out over the corrupted landscape. She had jumped from cover and leapt.

She used her magic to boost her reflexes and got her arms round it’s neck and drew a chaos blade over it’s throat with grim efficiency.

She did not cut deep enough before she was grabbed. The giant threw her over it’s rotting head. Worn and damaged armour parted and she left half of the scales in the giant’s hand.

She landed on her feet with the grace her training with Argyle had given her. Mind cool and focused she switched weapons calling for dual chaos blades.

Falling into a more defensive form of combat… almost the same as when she would use magic offensively and keep her distance… she darted in and attacked the giants feet, avoiding deftly a fist to the skull.

Tendons snapped, the brute fell with a cry of anger and confusion.

She ignored the stab of pity she felt and acted as she knew she should. Blades crossed over one another, she sundered head from shoulders.

The wash of relief almost had her staggering. She had acted as a valiant should. She had not lost herself to instinct and while her hunt still prodded the back of her mind, it lessened in intensity. She was in control again.

Well, almost. She looked down at herself. Armour in shreds and a cut to her inner thigh where the giant’s dirt encrusted nails had sliced through her bark.

She ripped the rest of the useless bits off her and wasted a little magic to put rubbery leaves over her feet.

The pact who saw her around the cursed shore would no doubt talk about the almost naked sylvari running around the landscape. She did not care. A few risen nobles later and she had enough material to stitch together a garment to cover some of her modesty.

She had uncovered a chest inside of the ruin she spent the night. Despite the rather nasty spiked trap that sent a needle of steel right through her forearm, the chest was well worth opening.

Within, was an armoured skirt. It was made of pure damask with stitches so small and even they were certainly not put there by mortal hand. The garment practically spat power and it was all hers… she strapped it on and had smiled. The smile got wider when she moved to sprint back to Devastation and found her feet moving more swiftly than they ever had.

She headed for the drunken spire of rock in the distance. She had a risen mage to confront.

It had been a battle that had exhausted her. That necrotic magic packed quite a punch. All that time with Rhass had paid off. She anticipated the fear the evil thing had tried to conjure in her. Sui had stood her ground instead of running off the tower to her death.

Still, the pestilence had got to her and once her foe was vanquished she had run to empty her stomach over the land far below. She should have puked on the mage, but that pesky respect for the undead refused to let her do so. Thus… she lay on her back watching the purple clouds roll and boil above.

She could hear gunfire below and the roar of a flamethrower. A pact patrol no doubt. She pulled a face with distaste. Projectiles were efficient but not quick. She closed her eyes.

“Care for the risen,” she muttered, “because no one else does.”

Something clicked in the back of her mind. It was such a tiny change and she was so tired she did not even notice. She drifted to sleep, right there… with the mural of some ancient god glaring down at her.

Her dreams were the same as always… bright blue eyes… hands pushing her away… away into the arms of something greater she could not escape.

She awoke with a jolt, face wet.

More tears, the same dream, same nagging loss.

She wiped her face and growled to herself.

“Why can nothing ever be simple?” she spat to the icy eyes on the mural. Nothing like the ones in her dream, though the colour was almost identical.

She glanced to the side and noticed the note book sitting on a shelf, old but not as old as the other artefacts.

She stepped over the broken floor and brushed the dust from the cover. The spine cracked as she opened the book.

Most of the writing was unreadable, either due to the age of the tome or the fact language had moved on since the characters had been inscribed… still she could make out some of it.

 

“I’ve arrived at the Vizier’s Tower, through great peril. My health declines, and my mental state has been compromised by the horrors I’ve witnessed. I have begun to accept that I will not survive a return journey.”

 

“I see only these awful statues, and I’m not sure what I had hoped to find—some shred of information on the terrible Mursaat, perhaps, or maybe a glimpse into the life of the vizier who wrought such destruction upon Orr.”

 

“All I’ve learned is that Orr is lost to us forever. I don’t believe this land will ever heal. I will leave my notes here for someone else to find. I do not expect the Risen will allow me to leave.”

 

Suiriane realised her face was wet once more. She closed the book. So much death, so much pain. The dragon was only part of the problem. Orr was doomed long before it rose from the sea.

Mental state compromised… risen would not let him leave.

Would that be her legacy? Another lost to this place full of memory and misery?

She reverently closed the book and rested a hand on it for a moment. A little denial magic to aid in preserving it. Perhaps some priory scholar could decipher more of it in the future.

She turned back to the mural, stepping over the corpse of the mage… power still hummed round the place, she got the feeling this particular risen would not stay at rest. She should leave quickly… but not without satisfying her curiosity first.

On a closer look at the weathered mural she noticed writing at the bottom. She was very surprised when the ancient text seemed to morph and change into something she could read.

“Act with magic, act within reason, act without mercy”

Featured image

The words chilled her sap. She spent quite some time going back over the phrase.

Reason but no mercy.

This land had no mercy

She… was the antithesis of that.

She was merciful… that was why she was here…

Suiriane put her hands on the mural, it felt cold even through her hand wraps but there was also power pulsing there. Old… ancient… malevolent.

“You are wrong,” she said softly, looking defiantly into the eyes of the mural.

Later… once she found a safe camp for the night, she felt her hands hurting. She unwrapped the rags over them to see her palms were burnt.

“Evil bastard,” she muttered with a laugh. “Now that is just being a sore loser.”

It was then she realised the mural had been more crafty then she had given it credit for.

How would she hold a blade?

She would have to go back to her camp find her way very carefully.

She was now almost defenceless.

Onwards into the Dark

“I’m sorry Ma’am,” said the very polite Charr female. Vigil, judging by the uniform. “The phoenix team is on leave. They won’t be back for at least two weeks.”

Suiriane fixed on her best smile and slung her pack back over her shoulder. She thanked the Charr and clamped down on her disappointment.

A month in Orr and she had grown rather attached to the tightknit band of oddities that made up team Phoenix.

Even Zach, that annoying and judgmental charr. At least he was someone to talk to. The Charr, in-between berating her for hunting had made a few well observed comments.

“Correct me if I am wrong, but you don’t seem the type to be alone. Where are the others?”

Where indeed?

She should have written, but was terrified they would come for her if she did. Sylvana had found her of course. Her old mentor had been the tonic she needed as her faith in herself had dwindled.

“If you feel you are in the right place then you are in the right place. The answers will come in the end.”

She cursed her corrupted dream for the millionth time. If nightmare had not tried to infect her before she even opened her eyes, then she would not be left with such a fragmented image of her hunt.

“Take care of the risen,” she grumbled as she scrambled up towards her camp. “What does that even mean?”

Ellros, the enigmatic but plain speaking whispers agent agreed with her that ‘Take care’ meant kill. Though she had explained her frustration to him, just as she had to Sylvana. He had a different perspective.

“Perhaps it’s a certain type of risen you are here for?”

That had given her pause. Could it be that her dream wanted her to focus on some of the truly monstrous things out there? The idea had refused to go away.

“Just my luck,” she snarled and dumped her pack on the hill that had become her home. “Killing the risen is not enough, oh no. I get to battle the special ones.” She looked to the sky, it was a good a thing as any to yell at as the dream of dreams was not exactly a real place.

“A little fucking help down here would be nice!” she bellowed, startling a boar below the hill she stood on, the creature ran off squealing. Animals had never liked her.

Suiriane, in being around humans once more had started speaking like one again, she had even gained back the slight accent she had once had in Divinity.

“I’m here, what more do you want from me? You won! Do I have to solve a bloody puzzle too?”

But she knew there would be no answer, there never was. She rubbed a hand over her face.

“Get a grip Sui, this is not helping,” she muttered. “You are shouting at the sky.”

The dawn born sighed and sat heavily, armour clanking.

This was not how it should be. Was this punishment for delaying acting on her hunt so long?

“Bollocks,” she muttered, borrowing another human curse. “I’m tired and frustrated.”

Yes…She was tired… had been even before Orr but now it was worse. The former Prime did not sleep well. It was not just the regular nightmares she had always suffered but grief added on top.

It had taken time but she had identified the emotion now. She would wake in the middle of the night sobbing and begging, words on her lips that made no sense.

“Please… don’t do this… don’t let me go… I still need you… don’t push me away!”

She had not felt so wretched since Niu died, it was if she had suffered another bereavement but knew she had not.

Was this something from her dream, desperately trying to surface through the corruption? Or… was it something more sinister like repressed memory? Sui hesitated to dig into her psyche however. She had only just beaten her chaos addiction and her reserves were needed for fighting the risen. She could not be weak here, ever, or she would die.

It started to rain and Suiriane did not even notice for a few moments. That was happening more often also. She would lose herself in her thoughts and sometimes lose awareness altogether. Most disturbing of all, was she could not always account for her actions. Her hunt took over at times.

An image of the last incident flashed across her mind and she shuddered.

She had come back to herself and she was standing on the edge of a small cliff, looking at a pile of risen bodies below. They were missing limbs, mostly one leg. Sui had glanced at the tracks in the parched dirt and sand behind her.

The valiant had been toying with them. Removing a leg and letting them give chase until finally leading them off a cliff. Just like a well fed cat would toy with mice. That was not how she knew it should be done. They should be ended quickly and efficiently.

“Nothing like enjoying your work,” she muttered in an acidic tone, then burst out laughing.

The bitter laughter did not stop… and soon dissolved into heart felt, confused, grizzly sobs.

Suriane covered her face and rocked back and forward. Just as she would do when she was holding an upset sapling. All those she had comforted, put back together. Now she was the one that needed arms to stop her shattering to bits and there was no one to provide that.

The sobs and emotion passed as the rain intensified, hammering down on her head. It was not cold, it was never cold here. A small blessing.

Sui turned her tear streaked face up to the sky and let the warm rain wash away the evidence of her turmoil.

With the passing of the emotional storm came clarity.

She could carry on as she was and go slowly mad, or go to meet her fate.

It was time to choose.

The mindset of her time in command took hold and she gathered her things. The essentials she had managed to beg and borrow over the last few weeks. Too proud to ask for residence in the fort, but not so proud to refuse food and equipment.

She stood and saluted Fort Trinity. Her way of saying thank you.

Suiriane headed out into Orr, far from the safety of the Pact fortress.

A week later the guards who patrolled past her camp regularly took note of the fact she had still not returned. She had told the majority of the residents of the fort so little that they had no idea whom to alert that she was missing.

Just another statistic. Another that would never be found.

Sui knew well herself…

Orr did not forgive.

gw544

A change

‘Don’t focus on any one thing. Let the sounds wash over you. Listen to it all, accept it all.’

The sapling under her hands seemed completely immersed, lost in the sounds of the forest. He knelt trustingly at her feet as she rested her hands over his red leaves. Hands that were  glowing with denial magic. He hardly knew her, yet had accepted her harsh assessment of him and seemed so lost after.

Even she could be altruistic at times it seemed. Perhaps her own sapling self was not as crushed as she liked to admit.  She dipped her voice to a low, lilting tone. Almost a whisper.

‘Now… I will guide you. Follow if that is your desire, if it is not… simply open your eyes and the trance will break.’

Thekrins eye’s remained shut “…Lead me….”

Stupid… she could have shoved any nightmare into his mind. He really trusted her… she felt the burden of responsibility settle onto her shoulders and repressed a sigh. She knew better than this. Being relied upon would chain her down. That was not something she could allow. Still, Anwesu was as good as her word. He wanted direction. She would point the way.

The dusk bloom gave a small nod, though Thekrin could not see her do so with his eyes closed.

‘Everything is darkness. Listen to the earth… it pulses beneath your hands, vibrant and alive. Your sap rises in time with this rhythm. You are part of it. Not a separate creature but part of the whole. Accept this.’

Thekrin seemed to take some time before answering.

“I accept this..”

A good start or this would not work at all. The mind was open but if he was not willing then she could do nothing.

‘Take a moment to feel it. Being told this is not enough. Reach out. Feel the life around you reaching back.’

Thekrin’s arms reached outward, fingers running along the dirt, digging his hands into the saturated soil before putting them back to his knees. Typical noon born response. She had meant mentally not physically. Still the action seemed to have deepened the trance he was in, so she refrained from a biting comment.

‘You are sylvari. The earth cherishes our kind. Feel secure in that when all around you fail or betray you. The mother will always love you; the earth will always accept you. Plant your roots deep. Visualise yourself drawing strength from the ground below.’

He moved deeper as he listened to her, now aware of very little but her quiet voice. Her tones whispering in the comforting blackness in his mind that smothered his other senses like a fur blanket.

“…I am Sylvari…I am not alone…” he whispered.

That was the sense of abandonment taken care of. He needed to rely on himself, not others. Now, to tackle something a little more entrenched and stubborn in his psyche.

‘Knowing yourself. This worries you deeply. You dislike some of what you have discovered and have acted in a way you find to be lacking. This means you wish to improve whom you are… but you need to do so for yourself. Other’s opinions do not matter. Confidence in you and your abilities will sweep all that away. Knowing whom you are overrides any misunderstandings or misconceptions. You will prove them all wrong and you will do so with quiet dignity and positive actions. You will feel better about yourself and ignore what others may think or feel. You will know your own quality.’

Thekrin’s hands dug into the ground again, he was having problems with this concept.

“I….must cast aside my fears and doubts…ignore those who doubt me…embrace who I am become…something better”

His struggles concerned her. That face was never meant to hold such a frown; new strategy.  She quickly took a different approach, less direct.

‘Try reflecting upon your values. What is the most important to you in life? What do you value? Where does your sense of right and wrong come from?’

He seemed to contemplate this. The mind under her hands glancing back over months and bringing up the ideals he had awoken with.

“Truth, honesty and loyalty…I loathe evil, the cruel and any who exploit others…my right and wrong come from no one but myself.”

Progress! She was thrilled. She found herself smoothing her hands over the leaves on his head. Anwesu spoke with warmth now, rather than cool detachment.

‘The values you have been thinking of are part of the core of who you are. If you are being true to your values, these core beliefs will drive your behaviour.

It feels good to behave in ways that are consistent with your values. Think about how your values can be a part of your day-to-day life. If you can embody everything you hold to be good and true, you will be just that.’

He smiled, still within the trance. Yes this one was always meant to smile.

“I will try with all my being to make sure of this.”

Anwesu nodded and stilled herself again. She had carried him so far but now he had to take a leap. The next exercise may be hard on him but his smile encouraged her to push the boundaries. Noon’s appreciated bold action did they not?

‘Now consider what else makes you who you are. Finding your authentic self involves learning who you truly are. The real you, the person you are meant to be. Your genuine self is the person you are at the core, the person you can be if nothing holds you back.’

She paused for a moment, trying to phrase carefully what she needed him to do. Best to visualise in the end perhaps. Give him a solid goal.

‘Imagine the person you believe yourself to be right now. Just picture yourself going about the things you usually do. Imagine that you are watching yourself…observing, going about your usual activities. What do you see?’

“I am walking along…the beach there is…a seagull attacking a crab. I run in trying to pry it away, but then I realise…if I  don’t let the seagull eat it will starve, it’s just trying to survive. I just want to solve the problem, make it so no one has to suffer”

His voice had a chill in it now. This was something that troubled him and she would need to deal with it before moving on that goal she wanted to build for him. She would be honest; he needed to face the harsh reality not be sheltered.

‘There is no solving this problem. Sometimes the world is cruel. Very often there is no ‘good’ side. There is simply survival. You need to accept that you can only do so much. That you cannot solve all the world’s difficulties. You can simply do your best and that is all. If you are true to yourself and your values then this will be something you will be able to understand. You are a good person, take comfort in that. Do what you can, when you can.’

“I understand but…must it be so harsh?”

She almost slapped him. How could he be so ridiculously naive? Was his dream all nectar and rainbows? Anwesu forced calm upon herself, lest her emotion be felt by him and the trance break. Time to form that goal and be done. She pulled nervously at a bloom on her head and winced as a petal came out. She really needed to stop that habit. The dusk bloom placed her hand back upon his head to join the other. No magic needed now. Thekrin was going to do this all on his own.

‘Life is harsh, but that does not mean you have to be. Whom you are is still very much in formation. Picture yourself again. Imagine watching…observe…now imagine you could strip away all the things that hold you back from your full potential. Imagine self-doubt dissolving…being replaced with confidence and quiet self-assurance. Picture this person before you, and imagine all the things that get in the way of success…such as circumstances, lack of understanding, lack of forgiveness, issues from the past…anything that is holding you back in any way at all.

See these problems dissolving…disappearing…going away…Now see yourself again. What is left? Who is this person when all those barriers are stripped away?’

This should be difficult but to her surprise he answered almost immediately. The noonborn knew who he wanted to be, he had known all along. He simply needed to be prompted to remember.

“I see…a brave, strong dependable person, someone who will bend but not break…he has fought hundreds of battles but he still remains light hearted and caring, loving to his allies but deadly to his enemies. He will fight for his beliefs and convictions and will ponder the consequences…that is who I see.”

She almost laughed. It was such a noonish response it could not be quantified. The mother was really enforcing the stereotype when she made this one. Still, he wished to be strong and happy. She could understand that much at least. Anwesu gave a smile she rarely showed anyone and closed her own eyes. Speaking without moving her lips, directly to the young, bright mind under her hands.

‘This person is you. The pure character that is left when there is nothing to get in the way of complete self-expression. Work towards him. Be him. Focus. This is where you want to be. The only one holding you back… is you.’

The mesmer blinked… and was gone. She did not go far. A small bush a few paces away hid her and she clamped down on her aura.

“I am such a dick…to myself…” he let out a rather weak chuckle as he said this. When there was no response he frowned then the bright blue eyes opened. Thekrin spent a moment looking at where she had stood. He reached forward and picked up the petal that had fallen from her head.

“Thanks Anwesu…” he said to himself as he stood.

From her hiding place Anwesu smiled and her orange eyes glowed.

‘Thank me later,’ she whispered to the leaves. ‘I just repaired your self-image.’

She watched him walk away.

‘You owe me… more than anyone. One day, you shall repay me.’

Now alone the dusk bloom steped out of the slimy leaves, giving the plant that sheltered her an affectionate pat.

‘Perhaps I will ask for his soul,’ she laughed to herself, not all that serious.

Souls were overrated and heavy things anyway.