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.

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”

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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.