Traveling with a guardian and a warrior, one could never be inconspicuous. The heavy armor clanked with each step; metal brushed against metal.
Yes, we were on another detour.
Snow drifted from the grey sky and piled around our feet. Bushes and firs were covered in a glittering mix of ice and snow. Every so often, I would break off a piece of a frozen limb and play with it until I was bored again. Angel and Tobih were carrying their own conversation while Ragnvaldr and I walked behind them. No one but Angel knew where we were headed and she didn’t seem ready to spill the beans on this one.
Even though I was slightly annoyed with the turn of events, I was beginning to understand Tobih and Angel a bit better. Angel was the stereotypical Norn; she boasted, rather loudly, about anything and everything. She also drank, ate everything in sight, and enjoyed side tracking us on hunts of sorts. An hour into our journey to (presumably) somewhere, Angel had us chase down a ghost general. I almost felt sorry for the ghost in that round.
Tobih was caring, but not the brightest of fellows. In the grand scheme of things, he had an amazing plan, but when it came down to common sense, he was lacking. Somehow this didn’t affect his charm at all and instead added to it.
Ragnvaldr’s hand kept mine warm as we trudged through the cold snow. Our packs were becoming considerably emptier. Instead of feeding two, we were now feeding four different travelers. Angel was wary of Ragnvaldr’s cooking; she decided to cook her own portion of the food rather than eat a meal that ‘such a strange Norn’ had cooked. Tobih ate with us without complaint. Like I, he seemed to enjoy Ragnvaldr’s rustic cooking.
“Are we going to….” Tobih pondered for a second, “Rata Sum?”
“I can’t tell you.” Angel replied with a straight face.
“Are we going to… The Granite Citadel?” They had been at this for the last ten minutes.
“I can’t tell you.” She answered again.
“Are we going to… Ebonhawke?”
“That’s the complete opposite direction you idiot.” She spat and threw him a mean look.
“I guess it is!” He responded cheerfully despite her obvious attitude.
“Why can’t you tell us where we’re going?” Ragnvaldr asked.
“Because that would ruin the surprise,” Angel responded in a matter-of-factly tone, “Geez!”
I had already learned to ignore and suffer through her abuse. I had stayed quiet for most of the trip and tried to remain calm. This is, until she –approached– me personally. She slowed down, allowing Tobih to pass her and causing Ragnvaldr and I to have to walk around her. As his hand broke free of mine, her hip crashed into the side of me, nearly knocking me over into the snow. It was a clever ploy to get me away from Ragnvaldr long enough to talk to me.
As I regained my balance, she put her hand on my back and bent over so that her head was close to mine. “What are you thinking, falling for that Norn?” She whispered. She was actually capable of whispering.
“I love him. What’s it matter to you anyway?” I asked, whispering as well. It must have been important if she didn’t want everyone else in the world to hear it.
“Hmmm,” She pondered and straightened up. “I suppose it doesn’t.”
I sped up and returned to Ragnvaldr’s side before she could interrogate me more. “What did she want?” He asked me and I just shook my head. I hadn’t expected her to back off so quickly and I began to wonder if she had been putting up a front and I was finally seeing a real piece of her. Perhaps it was just something else that made her give up. Regardless, she was trying to keep it quiet, so I would oblige her in continuing to keep it so, so I changed the subject.
“I can’t wait for you to see Divinity’s Reach!” I exclaimed to my Norn lover, looking him square in the eyes. It would be exciting to see him into my very home- providing that the door frames were large enough.
He smiled and set his hand on my shoulder, “I’m excited, myself.” I thought about all the things we’d be able to do; go to the carnival, watch the celestial mobile in the central plaza, touring the royal palace, meeting Faren… My heart sunk. I was supposed to be writing him with the tales of my adventures, but I had forgotten completely about it. I was caught up in the present circumstances that I hadn’t even thought about him for some time. I made a mental note to write a message when I next could.
“Do you really like Divinity’s Reach then?” Ragnvaldr questioned as we passed through a rather tough patch of snow. The tallest bits reached my lower thighs, but luckily, they were few and far between. My new boots had already proven useful; they were tight enough around my calves that no snow could find its way around my toes inside.
I scratched my head and tried to answer, “I guess I do. I mean, it’s really the only place I really know as home these days. I’ve had a lot of memories there. I can’t say they were all necessarily good, but I’m fond of them none-the-less.”
“So, is there another place you would like to live then?” His hand was now finding its way to holding mine. I thought about my answer. The plants from the Maguuma jungle that my parents had growing in the sill showed how beautiful the Sylvari homes must be… And being around the latest technology? Being close to the Asuran capital would certainly prove interesting and useful. The warm fires, drifting snow, and cherry blossoms of Hoelbrak felt inviting, even as I trekked through the snows with trouble now. Of course, there was always Ascalon, my past home. It felt so different now. I don’t know if I could ever go back.
Of course, it took me a few minutes before I realized what he was actually trying to ask me. I blushed and looked to the snow, now only up to the middle of my calves. I didn’t know what to say.
“I think I’d like to settle in every city.” He chuckled and squeezed my hand, “I don’t have much of a home anyway. My dad built the hut we were staying in, but honestly, with the roof caved in and the fire pit filled with bats, I think I’ll be looking for a new piece of land, myself.”
I would be happy to follow him anywhere, to stay with him.
“You could always stay at my place…” I stuttered. “I really don’t think you should stay in a house like that.”
“It hasn’t really been a choice. The money I made at the lodge was only ever enough to put food in my stomach and putting a bit back each time to fix the roof. Of course, I spent all of that on this trip. When I left, I didn’t plan on coming back to that old house.” He confided in me confidently, “But I would be honored to board with you in Divinity’s Reach at the end of this journey.”
The sky was becoming dark. We had been walking all day and my stomach was rumbling. Apparently, Tobih was thinking the same thing I was.
“Can we stop for dinner yet?” He asked, holding his stomach with his arm to indicate that he was starving.
Angel sighed and threw her pack down, “I guess this is as good of a place as any. Do what you need to do.” I stared at the calf deep snow I was standing in and wondered if it really were ‘as good of a place as any’.
As per the usual, Ragnvaldr, accompanied by Angel this time, went out to gather fallen branches to serve as firewood. I stood in the snow beside Tobih, who seemed a little confused himself. Were we expected to sit in the snow?
“So, you and him?” He attempting to stir up conversation between us. I nodded, not sure what more I could say to keep the conversation flowing.
“That’s cool,” He smiled and looked around, “a lot like the weather around here, don’t you think?”
I couldn’t help but to snicker. It was stupid, truly, but I really couldn’t hold back. I softly hit his shoulder and he laughed as well.
“How’s you’re leg?” Tobih nodded down towards it.
“Better. I can’t thank you enough for healing it up.” I replied with a bow of gratitude, “I owe you one.”
“No. It’s my duty to heal those in need… Well, my personal duty.”
“I’m still appreciative. Do you heal people often then?”
“Hey!” I heard Angel’s voice roar through the distance, “Over here.”
“Her majesty beckons,” Tobih chuckled and turned to head towards her voice with me. I could barely make out her figure waving through the snow, but we moved towards her until she came into clear view. I looked up to her from around her waist and then my attention was caught by a small home covered in the snow.
“An abandoned Norn home! It’s a pretty nice find in this weather,” Angel boasted proudly.
Tobih allowed Angel and I to step in first before he followed, Ragnvaldr was already inside setting up wood in the soot-filled fire pit. The instant his hands pulled away, I lit it.
“I wonder what drove them out.” Tobih pondered out loud as he ran his hand across a dusty chair set up at a table, “It seems as if they left in quite a rush.”
“Probably Jormag’s minions.” Ragnvaldr retorted quickly.
“Like the Sons of Svanir?” I questioned, recalling the blue skinned Norn we had encountered before.
“Much worse. It’s what they turn into, what Jormag turns everything in its path into. Some call them icebrood. The body becomes corrupted and turns into an icy shell of what used to be flesh and blood. The only thing left to think is through the will of the dragon itself.” His voice began breaking in the end and he suddenly fell quiet. I knew what was on his mind. His father had probably turned into one of these icebrood. He stood by the fire which illuminated the strained look on his face. I looked away from his face and down to the floor. I recognized what he had been feeling and gave a moment of silence for his pain and his loss.
“Anything of value has been taken,” Tobih spoke as he walked around the one-roomed home, “No signs of forced entry; Everything is practically unscathed and untouched. I’m willing to be the family here had warning and got out in time.”
Ragnvaldr bowed his head and responded, “I’m glad to hear it.”
I raced to change the subject, “Er… I’m pretty starved. Think we could cook up a meal?”
Tobih was the first to respond, seemingly picking up on my signal, “I agree. The snow really zaps the energy right from me.” He stood up and walked to the fire pit, “Anything I can assist with?”
Ragnvaldr turned to him and cracked a smile before walking just past Tobih and to his bag. He pulled out a group of vegetables and a large, Norn sized knife. “How about you cut these and I’ll prepare the meat and stock. I think it’s time we had a stew.”
Quite suddenly the house was bustling with energy. I helped to set up the dishes while the two men prepared the food. Even this cold hut had turned into a warm sanctuary. Perhaps having company along wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.