We ate a light breakfast and set off on our own way soon after the asura. I felt bad at first, leaving the burned houses of Cathal behind and hearing of the damage at Falias Thorp, but it did not make sense to linger, or take Caelan closer to the Nightmare Court bases hidden throughout the Wychmire Swamp.
Caelan was quiet as we hiked through the valley towards Metrica Province, the bright-eyed excitement of yesterday lost to the night’s drama. Pixie mirrored his mood for a while, padding along softly beside him, but it was not long before her excitement overtook her. Suddenly, she was off, sniffing at everything she could and barking and swatting at some of the larger bugs. At one point she caught a firefly in her mouth, her glee suddenly changing to distress as she coughed it back out. It certainly helped lighten our mood.
But still, Caelan was subdued. It occurred to me that Cathal was the first time that he had seen me fight, seen me kill. He had seen Pixie maul a sylvari up close; he had been so dazed when he had been captured from the Nightmare Court that he probably did not notice much, if any, of the battle there during his rescue.
I did not have much time to dwell on it then, as the Inquest attacked us.
Although we had not realised, the Inquest lab in Metrica Province was close to the road, which seemed like a misjudgment by the Peacekeepers given the Inquest’s tendency to attack travellers. The Wardens would never let the Nightmare Court maintain such a base, out in the open for all to see.
Anyway, five floppy-eared asura appeared around us, materialising from nowhere. Asura do not look especially threatening, but these five surrounded us and were pointing guns. One of the zapped me with a jolt of something, and then my memory gets foggy.
The first thing I remember is feeling taller, but also more wobbly on my feet. The asura were talking excitedly, but I had no comprehension of what they were saying. I looked over to where Caelan and Pixie had been and two green moas looked back at me. One of them squawked.
We stood around dumbly for a while, until suddenly shouting and gunfire sounded nearby. I don’t know who spooked first – Caelan assures me it was Pixie – but one of the other moas ran and it was all I could think to do to follow. The three of us charged off, eating up the lush green landscape with long, loping strides.
The details of the day are somewhat murky. At one point we were competing with another herd of moas for some particularly tasty grass. I remember running away from some ooze that was trying to set us on fire. Being tall and running fast and not thinking was surprisingly exhilarating. I imagine it is as close as I will get to feeling like a norn.
It did end though, fortunately, with a team or ‘krewe’ of asura rounding us up into a pen and keeping us there until they were confident enough that their device would turn us back without complications.
“Be more careful!” The krewe leader snapped unsympathetically. “You were lucky the Inquest weren’t testing any of their assorted weaponry that kill sylvari!”
We decided that we had done quite enough travelling and adventuring for the day and, after thanking our rescuers, we looked for somewhere to spend the night. Although invited to spend it in a room in the asura lab, it was loud and busy and the asura talk a lot, and being a moa had given me quite a headache. We did not go far, setting up in a clearing on a hill behind the lab.
“No,” I answered slowly. “There will always be people around to protect you, Caelan.”It is a warm evening and we sat out to watch the sun go down. I was just starting to write of the Nightmare Court attack on Cathal when Caelan said, “I need to be able to defend myself, don’t I?”
“But… OK, I want to be able to defend myself. I want to help, and not just watch. I want to go back to the Grove, and train with Pixie, and travel when I am ready.”
I did not argue. Although I had been hoping for this decision for a long time, it feels sad now that it has arrived. I think I like looking after Caelan, and soon I won’t need to any more. This did also provide me with an opportunity.
“Perhaps I will stay here, and seek out Linn’s lab,” I announced. “He is the best mesmer I have seen, and I think I can learn a lot from him.”
We talked for a while longer, but agreed that splitting up was our best option. I would write more, but I am about to run out of sunlight. Perhaps a fire would have been a good idea after all…