Yes, big things awaited us, but not like I had expected.
A loud explosion woke us. Everyone in the house rushed to the windows and doors in a loud commotion to see what had happened.
“It came from Klatt and Klarra’s workshop,” Ragnvaldr, who had been first to the door, poked his head through the door and informed us.
“Should’ve known. Those stupid asura are going to get us all blown up one of these days,” one of our roommates swore and pushed between the group and ran out of the door. I took this chance to file out as well, using the path he cut to reach Ragnvaldr.
“We better go check up on them,” Ragnvaldr suggested and I nodded in approval. Wrapping my blanket around my shoulders, we went to the smoking building. The door had been blown from its hinges and some of the glass in the windows shattered.
“Klatt? Klarra?” I called out to them both, trying to clear the smoke with my hand. One of the priory members, a mage, cleared the room out for us with his air magic as he called out for the two asura with us.
Klarra stepped out. “That could have gone better,” She coughed and threw a large chunk of what looked like charcoal to the floor. Klatt stepped into view as well, dusting his robes off and writing something down in a notebook he had pulled from his pocket. It was laughable, the looks of them. The ends of their hairs were singed and every bit of them was covered in soot. The room around them was in even more disarray. Ash covered the tables, chairs and everything else. Splintered wood decorated the floor and other surfaces in both chunks and fragments.
“I told you not to channel the frequency before we added the molten shard. This is what I get for walking out for some fresh air!” Klatt belittled his assistant.
“You told me it was… a destroyer shard… which I would have had to add in… before.” Klarra argued in between coughs.
“It looks nothing like a destroyer shard! Seriously, do I have to do everything myself? What do I even need and assistant for then?”
“Stop, you two. This is the third explosion this week. If I see one more, I’m sending you back to the monastery.” The air mage scolded the two in a way that I could assume he was in a higher position than the two of them.
“Yes, Explorer,” The two asura replied in unison.
“Now I want to see this place cleaned up.” His voice was firm, fit for a leader. His golden eyes squinted into a glare before he turned around.
The ‘Explorer air mage’ stepped out of what remained of the door with a nod to us. I gave him a slight bow and watched him return to the house Angel and Tobih were staying in. I hadn’t seen either of them, but since the explosion wasn’t in their building, I wasn’t worried.
“That was our last shard,” Klarra told us, “and it would take a few weeks to get another shipment from my assistant Otto.”
“Wait, you are an assistant with an assistant?” I asked before really thinking about it. I ran a finger across the soot covered table beside me.
“He’s looking for an assistant, too, but I told him he couldn’t have one.” She responded and began cleaning the dust and debris from the tables, starting with the one next to me. I moved from her path and instead stood by Ragnvaldr.
“Unless you want to wait, there is a single summoning stone left, one I got off a, er, reputable dealer in Lions Arch. I’ve been studying it in order to make more like it, except, you know, better.” Klatt briefed us and watched as Klarra cleaned the tables with a smug look on his face. He obviously had no plans to help his assistant and seemed content in taking advantage of her lower title. “You could use that, but you would have to go alone. I can’t promise that there isn’t something waiting on the other side to kill you either.”
I looked to Ragnvaldr for advice, maybe even support. He hesitated before responding and took my hand, “This is your story. You have to decide which path you will take.” His eyes studied my face and I could tell he was feeling the same way I was.
Taking a moment to think before deciding, I asked myself how important this was to me. Could I wait for it? No. I was finally here, my goal was tangible, a stone’s throw away. This wasn’t something I could pass up the chance for. Even if I waited a few weeks here, with the threat of a dragon attack at any moment of any day I knew I had to live for the day. I had to continue to take chances.
“I’ll take it,” I replied confidently with a nod.
“We’ll wait until morning,” Ragnvaldr added, staring down at me from his crouched position. I respected his decision and smiled. “You have to rest up first and I’m sure Angel wouldn’t want you to leave without telling her.”
“That’s one dragon I wouldn’t want to anger,” Klatt butted in, “That ruthless she-bear sends shivers up my spine.”
Exactly what did she do to earn this kind of reputation with this lot? I pondered as we returned to our housing. We stepped over sleeping bodies, Charr to Sylvari, in order to reach our cot again. Everyone had already fallen back to sleep after the commotion, but I imagined that it happened quite often based on the Explorer’s words.
Ragnvaldr and I lay together, side by side in our pair of cots. He had brought his close before we first closed our eyes earlier that night. The heat from his body kept me warm and his arm served as my pillow. It was like this often. His company helped me to sleep, despite my thoughts filling and overflowing in my head at night. I never imagined I would fall in love with another species, and though it felt wrong, I couldn’t remember feeling this happy. His light breathing lulled me into sleep every night.
“Do you think we’ll always be together?” I whispered as I felt my eyelids dropping.
“Always,” he replied without a moment lost. His smile warmed me more than any blanket ever could. I returned the smile and let myself become lost in the warm daze and fell asleep to the thought of us going on adventures when this one ended.
Morning came without any more jarring explosions. I woke up before Ragnvaldr for the first time. Perhaps it was my excitement that woke me up. Instead of getting up, I continued to lay there, watching Ragnvaldr sleep and enjoying to comfort of my blanket.
Of course this couldn’t last too long.
“What?!” The word rung through the air. It was unmistakably the voice of our female norn companion. Certainly, she had just found out about the failed experiment. If listened closely enough, one could hear the avalanche miles away. At least that is what I would like to have imagined.
Everyone in the house woke up with a groan and angry and tired mutters traveled the room.
I sighed and stood myself up and put my boots on before marching outside. It was a perfect morning until she had to ruin it. The sun had risen just above wispy clouds and the crystal blue sky peaked out from behind them. There was a certain warmth from the sun this morning.
“It’s fine,” I called to her as I approached. “We’ve already decided that I’ll go alone.” I swallowed and hoped that she wouldn’t throw too much of a tantrum.
“Who is this we? I don’t remember agreeing to this.” Her contempt was obvious. “We were all going to go together.” She wasn’t about to let this go easily.
“I’m not waiting a few weeks to get there,” I argued and crossed my arms.
“You would have been waiting a lot longer if it weren’t for me!” Her voice raised again and I knew the priory members were swearing in their houses.
“My mind is made up and I’m going.” I made certain that my voice was stern. I had to hold my ground or she would never understand.
“But-” she started before I cut her off.
“It has to be today. There isn’t anything you can do to stop me.”
She drew her sword, taking my words as a challenge. I had already expected it and lit up my wand with energy.
“So we’re doing this the hard way!” She laughed and rushed forward. I dodged out of the way.
A booming voice, stronger than any I had heard, warned the female norn from behind, “Leave her alone!” Ragnvaldr had strung his bow against her, “Why is this so important to you?”
“Don’t you know? I always have to be the center of attention,” she smirked after stopping in her tracks. “You don’t scare me.”
“It’s okay,” I assured Ragnvaldr. “…Thanks.” I gripped my wand and flames burst into life at the tip of it, warming my cold fingers. This was the only way to get her to trust that I was okay alone. I knew that she was worried about me, that this was her way of showing that she cared. I still thought it was absolutely ridiculous. My hands acted on their own as my mind focused on the opponent in front of me.
She thrust forward with her blade and I ducked to avoid it, throwing up a wall of flames between her and me. The fire sprung up higher than Angel was tall and cackled in place. In this time I had already surrounded myself in a ball of fire in an attempt to shield myself from her attacks as I set up my next spell. Her glimmering weapon found it’s way through the shield. The sunlight bounced off of it, blinding me momentarily and I blinked in an attempt to adjust my vision. Her attack knicked my wand arm enough to bleed me. The wound stung as air rushed into it. She only noticed the chunk of burning material above her at the last second and dodged away. She was still taking me lightly. In the last few days I had learned how to conserve my energy; walking through the blizzards and long distances had raised my stamina levels enough to help me through a battle with this warrior.
Creating a glyph in mid-air with my free hand, I summoned a haze of fire that crashed to the ground around her. With each dodge, I could tell she was becoming drained. If I could only keep this up. I focused on letting her chase me around with her weapon, dodging her and using everything I knew to keep her moving. If she caught me I was at the risk of losing a leg in order to keep me under control. She wouldn’t kill me and I knew that Ragnvaldr was there to back me up. Eventually Angel had slowed down enough for me to properly attack her.
Or so I had thought. Nothing was ever simple with her and in this last second of battle, she smirked and suddenly sped up and attacked without any signs of exhaustion. Angel had bested me again. As her sword came closer to my throat than ever, a large shield formed around me, throwing Angel backwards.
“This is what I wake up to?” Tobih scolded with a yawn while he walked from behind me and towards Angel. He sheathed his sword and offered a hand to the female norn. She refused to take it.
“She was going to go without us,” Angel said as she stood again, dusting the snow from her maille.
“That’s her choice, as much as I disagree with it,” he looked back to me and released his spell. “What happened to us all going?”
“Did you guys really sleep through that entire ordeal?” I gasped for breath and waited for an answer.
“What do you mean?” Tobih responded with a quizzical look. He fiddled with the sleeves on his armor as if he had just gotten dressed and was adjusting the fit again. It looked well polished today and the sunshine lit it up.
“The two midgets in there apparently blew up the last bit of supplies,” Angel growled.
“Oh,” he replied rather quickly for himself. “So they gave you a choice?”
“I can wait a few weeks or go alone,” I answered quietly but confidently. “It’s obvious that I’d much rather go now.”
Tobih smiled at me and put his arm around my shoulder. “I love that stubborn spirit you get when it comes to finishing your quest. I won’t stop you, but know that the lot of us will be worried. I know she has a terrible way of showing it, but Angel’s worried too.” I saw the frown form on her face as she crossed her arms in defeat and glared at her friend.
“I’m glad to hear that. I think it’s time that I probably go,” I told them and we took a moment to simmer down and adjust our weapons before we all walked to the asuras’ place. Klarra answered the door and retrieved Klatt from behind a bookcase. They were looking less burnt this time around.
“You’re ready?” He asked and handed me a stone, not very different from a piece of granite, “You just need to close your hand around it and and let yourself get absorbed by it’s presence… er… You’ll feel it.”
I looked to my party and smiled.
“This is it.” My hands shook ever so slightly, a sign of how nervous I actually was. My heart raced.
Tobih held his arms out for a hug and I obliged him. I could feel his excitement for me through his embrace and charming smile. I looked to Angel, who turned away and crossed her arms. It was hopeless but I held out my hand for at least a handshake, but she refused. I gave her a nod instead, not thanking her as I wanted to. Then I moved to Ragnvaldr, whose grief showed on his face.
“I’ll be okay. I promise!” I assured him of this and embraced him. He picked me up and squeezed me. His cheek brushed against mine in a way that made me miss him already.
“You had better,” He demanded before setting me down and planting a kiss on my lips. I returned the favor and as I broke away I closed my hand around the stone. It began to glow blue and I knew at once the feeling that Klatt had been telling me about. A sense of the world moving engulfed me and I let it do so, right down to my toes. It was as if I was slowly being moved through cool water, until I was standing in a grand hall. I was here.