For a while, nobody moved. The snow was falling gently around us and the tranquil silence was broken only by my own heavy breathing. It had been a while since I fought a battle like this and it was tiring. The plants before me were equally silent, until the one that lay on its back spoke up.
“Thank you,” it said, soft and melodic.
Slowly, I lowered the axe that was clenched in my fist until it hung at my side. The other shrub must have taken that as an all-clear signal, It rushed to the one on the ground to help it up.
“You have our gratitude,” it piped. “Had it not been for you, both Mathilda and I would have perished.”
I coughed a bit as the shrub called Mathilda finally found the strength to stand. They must have seen my confused stare, because Mathilda looked me straight in the eye and said, “Is something wrong?”
“Well,” I replied while clearing my throat, “just what are you things?”
The two seemed to exchange glances before returning their attention to me.
“Well,” the other plant said, “we are sylvari off course!”
That was hard to take in. Sure, I’ve heard about the sylvari. Back at the citadel there were warbands who spoke of walking and talking plants calling themselves sylvari, but only after a round, or three. Never did I imagine that they were telling the truth.
“Are you alright?” the sylvari asked.
“Yes,” I snapped back.
It seemed that I was staring at them for quite a while, lost in thoughts and memories, missing out on a longwinded monologue. I shrugged off my menial preoccupations and returned my attention to the two shrubs.
“So, what were you doing here that made the grawl attack you?”
“We were just walking along this road, when they suddenly ambushed me and Theradan!” said Mathilda with a severe hint of indignation in her voice. “They were screaming at us so loud and harsh, I could not make out a word they said.”
I glanced around, letting the environment sink in. Apart from the four dead grawl, nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary. The forests whispered of game, both big and small. The snow continued to fall around us, starting to cover the dead beasts with a blanket of white. The mountains in the distance seemed dark and cold as always. Yes, those mountains were grawl territory. I had learned that much in the past weeks, but why would those stinkers wander so far from their homes? Just looking at their gear, it was obvious they were equipped for fighting rather than for hunting. My head started to hurt as I ran through one idea after another. No matter how hard I thought about it, I could find no explanation; I just did not know enough about the grawl to be sure. I turned away when the shrub known as Theradan refocused my attention by grabbing my arm.
“I cannot thank you enough for saving us,” he said calmly.
“You could start by letting go of my arm,” I said, curling my upper lip, bearing my fangs.
He immediately complied and took a step back. A nervous smile splayed across his lips.
“You should visit us sometime!” Mathilda piped.
“Visit… travellers…” I mumbled while squinting at them.
“Well,” she replied, gesturing wildly with her hands, “we aren’t always on the road. We actually live near the Grove, in Caledon Forest.”
There were so many new names of beings and places that I was likely to forget them all. I could ask them what the Grove was, or how far that forest was from here, but to be honest, my patience left minutes ago and I desired nothing more than to go back to the homestead.
“I will try to remember that,” is what I replied with.
They took the answer well and the female sylvari beamed. With a few more nods and goodbyes, they set off again, leaving me to wander through the dead grawl. As the light of the setting sun briefly shot through the canopy of clouds, its light was caught by something metallic on the corpse of the grawl shaman. I yanked this curious object free from its previous owner and allowed my claws to run across it. It was a small yet thick wooden stick with bands of metal wrapped around it. Crude markings were scratched into the wood. I had no idea what it was supposed to be, but I decided to pocket it anyway. Still pondering over the situation, I started on my way back to the homestead. As I was headed there, I approached the woods once again and remembered the deer that I had shot earlier.
-Blast!- I thought to myself. -I’ll have to carry that thing all the way back.-
The door slammed shut a lot harder than I had wished it to. I could hear cups and mugs hitting each other in the nearby kitchen. Considering that it was something that could not be undone, I decided to move on to the kitchen area. Kára stood in the large, round doorway leading there. She looked worried.
“Kumara?” she asked softly.
“Did you have to slam the door so loud?” Vadi shouted from the living area.
“The snow is becoming mean,” I replied with a growl. “It’s turning into a storm out there, so why don’t you go outside and try to close the door gently?”
The silence that followed told me that Vadi had surrendered.
“Why are you so late, Ku?” Kára asked, her eyes drilling into my own.
With a grunt, I let the deer slide onto the floor before turning my attention to the norn.
“Did I not ask you, to not call me Ku?”
“You did. Now stop dodging my question!”
“Then by Raven’s beak, answer charr! You come in with the dying light all splattered in blood!”
I blinked at her a few times before turning my attention to my own clothes. Only now did I notice the blood that clung to it.
“Ah,” I said, nervously scraping my throat. “I ran into some grawl.”
Vadi must have been listening, because he barged in and placed a hand on my shoulder.
“Tell me all about it!” he roared with eyes gleaming. “I want to hear every detail!”
Kára just sighed, shaking her head, sending her long braids flying from side to side.
“Vadi, just keep working on the broth.”
“But, the story!” he protested.
“Broth,” she hissed, leaving him to sulk back to the fire pit.
She looked quite bothered, so I walked over to her, puzzled.
“Why did you fight the grawl? Their land is far from our hunting grounds and attacking them could incite a full-fledged assault.”
“I did not pick a fight,” I growled, really annoyed by her lack of trust. “I am charr! Yes, we love a good fight, but we do not pick a fight just for honour, glory or our legend!”
The twitch in her face told me she knew perfectly fine what I was referring to.
“I killed those four grawl, because they were attacking some twigs on the road!”
My angry glare was met only with a blank stare.
“… Twigs?” she replied, looking at me as if I had lost my mind.
“Yes. Those walking plant things, syl-something.”
It was then that my other words hit home.
“They were attacking the road?” she said in hoarse voice.
“Now you’re catching on.”
“This…” she stammered, “this is very bad news! By Bear! If they have come so close, we must warn the wolfborn!”
“Right?” I said, not really knowing what she was on about.
“Are you sure it was not just a lost hunting party?” she continued with a very serious look.
As I handed her the grawl artefact, I said, “Yes. I am absolutely sure.”
She turned it around and around in her hand, letting the light of the fire lick the metal surfaces only briefly each time. Her fingers brushed against the marking.
“It’s a shaman’s totem,” she said after a little while. “I know too little of these things. We must go see the wolfborn.”
“Why am I afraid, that by we, you don’t mean yourself and Vadi?”
She gave me a brooding smile and a shrug.
“Call it intuition, I guess.”
I shook my head and let out a deep sigh.
“I’m sorry I doubted you, Kumara,” Kára said softly.
It meant a lot, as norn do not like to admit that they were wrong almost as much as charr.
“But!” she declared, taking me aback, “but now, we shall pull out the ale and meat! You have slain four grawl and that is a great feat, worthy of celebration!”
A thundering approval boomed from the living area. It was Vadi. He would never turn down an occasion to celebrate with a feast, but it was still amusing to hear him be so excited.
End of part 2