That evening I found myself sitting on that bridge again, staring up at the sky as clouds passed overhead. It was as if they echoed my mood. Had this entire journey been for nothing? Had I just wasted everyone’s time?
I heard footsteps coming up the hill. The thud and clanking of armor announced Angel’s presence. I ignored her for the time being and continued to watch the gray blanket above the mountains. I wanted to be alone; I wanted some time to think to myself about the events that had just happened. She sat down next to me anyway, resting her arm on her right leg and laying her head on that. Snow languidly drifted towards the ground, floating lightly over our bodies as we rested.
“I haven’t been honest with you,” she told me, her voice just as calm as before. She smelled of whiskey and sweat. The odor fouled my nostrils but I couldn’t have cared any less about that now.
“I know…” I kept myself from snapping at her and sighed. I set my attention on her but was not hopeful for her to tell me that everything was okay, that I would find myself even through these failures.
“Look, this journey wasn’t a complete bust.” She saw the glare on my face and added, “Even if you think it is. You found yourself… Just not in the way you wanted to.” Angel sighed. She pushed her hair back with her free hand and avoided my gaze. I could tell that what she was about to say was difficult, “People like you and I… Well, we aren’t heroes. There isn’t a chance that we can redeem ourselves anymore.”
“So, you’re like me then?” I raised a brow and scooted closer to her despite my heart sinking.
“Yes and no. I retained my memories, all of us did, except for you. It’s counter-productive to their plan…”
“Whose plan?” I butted into her conversation knowing she kept forgetting that I knew nothing. I knew that my eyes had become wide; she had kept her memories and with that she held knowledge. She may have even had the answers to the questions that were bolting through my mind..
She paused for a minute, took a breath, and looked to the sky. “Your gods.” My heart leapt for a moment. Our human gods had abandoned us, but I knew they wouldn’t be so uncaring. I found it hard to believe her; perhaps it had all been a clever joke from the beginning. A cruel trick played by a harsh prankster. “Hear me out. I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you if it wasn’t important.” She rested her hand against her forehead now. Her look told me that it couldn’t have been some sort of trick. She was too worried, too serious, and too sad. “I once helped defend my land against everything nature threw at it. I won every brawl and I even destroyed a titan or two in olden days. I thought I was hot stuff.” She gave it a second thought, “I’m still hot stuff.” She then continued, “Anyway, I thought I was strong enough to take on a god. It was to be my greatest battle and victory yet. In order to try and draw one out I tried to appeal to the human gods’ compassion. I murdered entire settlements scattered through Kryta. If they really cared for their people, they would answer my call. No one could stop me. It took a while before one of them appeared… I was… I had just slaughtered the last child in the small camp just off the Giant’s Basin.” She fell completely silent. This all became suddenly real to me and I found myself holding her hand between my own. This was the first time I had felt her shake. Those blue eyes of hers showed the remorse that she held as she told me her story.
“I revealed myself the moment he came. He was quite a fan of my work and had come to congratulate me, unlike the compassionate gods I had heard about. I wasn’t expecting someone like him. We exchanged a few brief words before I charged at him, sword in hand, actually expecting to kill him. I was blinded by my own excitement and in one swift swing of his scythe, I had been cast onto a plane of everlasting battle. A god of death decided to deny my right to die. It was a game to him and I was just his plaything.
“In that existence I fought against many of those I had killed. Their souls were trapped, just as mine. Killing them a second time wasn’t so easy as they now knew who I was and sought revenge. We all spent a long time in that realm, enough time for me to learn the errors of my ways. Something changed inside of me as I killed every man, woman, and child again. I made it out after demolishing our opponents; my team and I thought we may finally be able to rest, but we were cast back into this world. Many of them took to killing others again, but I didn’t. I couldn’t- not the innocent. After a lifetime, I watched as my friends and family died, then I spent another lifetime doing the same. It continues on. When the god was overthrown, we were forgotten. Many of us took our own lives at that point.”
“I never knew,” I replied and looked to my feet, “What must I have done to deserve this? I know I should have lived after his reign ended, how did I get this way?”
“He rose again many more times, possibly condemning you and others for his own whimsy; I wouldn’t put it past him,” she replied, still staring into the sky the same way I had been earlier. “You and I have to watch as everyone we ever know and love die around us. It’s worse than death; I think he knew that. Maybe it was a test or maybe it was a game for him. All I know is that it changes you forever.”
“Maybe there is a way to repent. What if we ask the gods for forgiveness,” I suggested in hope.
“I only seek forgiveness from those I murdered in cold blood. The gods can’t give me that. I’m going to live with this punishment; I deserve it.” Angel never sounded more defeated and yet, somehow, it seemed so noble of her. I wasn’t scared of her after hearing what she had done; she had obviously changed enough to help others as she was. Perhaps this had been a lesson for her presented by the human gods. “There may be hope for you.”
“You don’t think I deserve this fate, too?” She looked down to me as I posed the question and smirked playfully. I couldn’t have been happier to see it, either.
“There’s no way a pipsqueak like you could have killed anyone on purpose. You’re obviously a victim.” She sounded so certain in her answer. When she stood up, she brushed herself off and held out her hand. “Do me a favor and keep this a secret as well. We can’t burden those two with this.” It was true. Even she was cracking under this burden.
It wasn’t something I wanted to hear. In fact, I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the entire thing. Her words played over and over in my head but it just wouldn’t fully sink in. I took her hand and she helped me to my feet. We ventured back into the house in town where the asura, Tobih, and Ragnvaldr were. The two men had begun to help Klatt and Klarra clean up the building. Tobih worked on dusting and cleaning up the rubble and Ragnvaldr was focused on replacing the door and boarding up the windows.
Angel and I sat down in the clean chairs and discussed our new plan.
“We’re headed to Orr,” was the first thing from her mouth as she crossed her legs and kicked back. Angel was back to normal again. I stared at her in question just as the two men did.
“Orr? Why?” Ragnvaldr quizzed as he ceased his hammering and stared towards the female norn.
“This little girl needs to beg the gods to return her memories. It’s our last option,” she lied and took a swig from her flask. Even though she was back to normal I couldn’t get past that sad look in her eyes. Now that I knew what it was, it was difficult to think of her in the same light.
“Isn’t that a bit dangerous?” Tobih chimed in as he dropped a bucket of rubble next to two others. Dust decorated his black hair, turning it lighter than its usual color. The chainmail on his figure no longer shone as brilliantly either.
“What’s a journey without a little danger?” Angel proclaimed in a rather boisterous tone.
“That’s more than just a little danger,” Ragnvaldr replied and hit a nail in with one good thrust. He wiped at his forehead with a cloth and tossed it to the side.
“This… This is important to me.” I stood up and looked around to everyone. I knew this would be dangerous, I knew it well. I also knew that it could be futile but I had to try because I didn’t want to live in a world beyond Ragnvaldr, beyond Tobih or Faren, even beyond my controlling adoptive parents. “I want to settle down as much as you do but I need to finish this journey first.”
“Always up for a challenge,” Ragnvaldr sighed, “I was up for the first; I suppose I’ll be up for another.” I knew he was worried but he still managed to let his taste for adventure win him over.
“Another night of rest and we can head north to Hoelbrak and take the asura gate to Lion’s Arch. We can supply and gear up for the journey there.” Angel rocked her chair on its back legs and went over the plan with us, thinking it up as she went. She drummed her fingers against her right leg, her other hand tucked behind her neck. “While we’re in Lion’s Arch, I’ll detail the plan of actually getting to Orr.”
We all agreed on it, already trusting of Angel’s sense of direction for our quest. As the lot of us left the asura’s house that night, Ragnvaldr stayed to the back of the party; Angel and Tobih went straight to their beds. Of course, I now knew what kept her awake every night and I knew that she wouldn’t be sleeping again this night.
Ragnvaldr stopped me as the other two closed the door behind them. “You’re hiding something.” I froze up. He put his hand on my shoulder and kneeled down until he was eye level with me. “You can tell me anything.”
“I… I, um,” I stuttered and looked to my feet to avoid his gaze, “I just don’t want to worry you. You seem so… worried lately.” Honestly, he had a right to be.
“I worry about you because I love you, Claire. I want to know if there is something more serious going on here. No, I know something more serious is going on here.” His eyes read me like a book, moving across my face as he spoke. The stern look in his eyes made me want to spill it all so I wouldn’t upset him even more.
“I’m not supposed to say.” It was uncomfortable to mention. I was torn between keeping the burden off of him and letting him know because I trusted him.
He suddenly pulled me in close, knocking me off of my feet and I fell into his chest lightly. “I don’t want your memories to come back because I risk losing who you are now.” His voice never faltered but it rang with concern. The fear in his voice cut into my heart and I felt it as far down as the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t like him to sound this distressed as he usually faced problems and the world with a kind of gusto.
I had to tell him. He was so worried and I knew how he felt. I had been worried about it as well and I was beginning to allow it to eat away at me. “I won’t be getting my memories back.” ———-It’s just like telling him that you were from the past. He trusted you then, he can help you now.———- “The reason I’m still alive is because I was cursed.” I felt his grip tighten on me, his hands compressing the fabric of my clothing. “I thought I was blessed by the gods because they wanted me to do something, but it turns out that things are really quite the opposite. I have to talk to them to even have a chance to remove it.”
“And this curse… It means you won’t die, right?” He was catching on quickly. Part of me wondered if he already knew, having put two and two together.
“I can, but it won’t be to old age. I’ll suffer through watching everyone else around me die as I never age.” I pet his head before embracing him as well. “I don’t want to live in a world without you. So I have to go. I have to do this so that we can spend our lives together.” Planting a kiss on top of his head, I wondered how he was taking this. I couldn’t see his face and had to rely on his voice alone. “I’m sorry.”
“No,” his voice cracked but remained that strong, firm voice I was used to, “Never apologize for this. It isn’t your fault.” I closed my eyes and rested my cheek by his. I didn’t want to cause him all of this stress but he had a right to know. Even hiding the truth worried him and I should have known better.
“Everything is going to be okay,” I spoke softly to reassure him. “This will all be over soon and we’re going to be settling down any place you want to. A beautiful home to wake up in every morning beside each other. Of course there will be adventures, but we’ll have our happily ever after. I promise.”