You can’t impress Norn with towering walls of iron, looming structures, or even metal weapons of destruction, but if you swing a sword really hard and chop something’s head of, they’ll sing a song in your praise. If you take down a giant icebrood, however, they’ll keep singing all night long. That was what happened, and they kept shoving drinks into my paws. It would have been rude not to accept them, but I now felt the throbbing pain of my courtesy.
The whole night had felt completely wrong. They sang of my willingness to ‘brave the unknown,’ to scout, of my devious trick that set the grawl alight, of my strength in battle and even of my sharp mind and ability to lead. I listened, and by Singefur’s burned whiskers, I even threw in a smile every now and then. However, it was all a façade, hiding my true feelings.
No matter how much they sang and danced and spoke well of me, they couldn’t take away the feeling that I wasn’t worthy of such praise. Had they known my past, they would certainly not have done such things. Then again, who was I to bust their party?
“You’re ponderous again?”
I slowly turned around to face Kára. She stood a few strides away with her arms crossed, a hint of a comical smile splayed across her lips.
“No, just intoxicated. And enjoying the fresh air.”
“If I didn’t know you,” she laughed, “I would have believed you.”
She walked up to me and came to a halt at my side. For a while, we both stared into the distance, held captive by our own thoughts.
“Are you joining the Wolfborn again?” I asked.
“Not a chance.”
“Ha, their loss.”
“What about you?”
“I’m not joining!”
Bumping my shoulder, she said, “You know that isn’t what I meant.”
“Yea,” I sighed.
“So, you are sure about this?”
“Yes,” she answered a bit sad.
“You could stay with us, you know?”
“I know, Kára. I do, but you should know by now that I can’t.”
“I do,” she sighed, “but I could still hope. If only you could stop running from your past.”
“I cannot let go of my past,” I said, giving her a wan smile, “but I will carve out my own future,” I continued, clenching the hilt of the sword that was a gift from Skarti. “You helped me realize that I could, and for that, I am grateful.”
A red blush crept over her cheeks.
“You’re welcome,” she stammered. “Just remember…”
“If you ever need my help, I’ll be there for you.”
For a second I gave her a long, thoughtful stare.
“Thank you,” I mused. “I will remember that.”
Stepping through an asura gate was like getting slapped with a raw slice of dolyak steak: wet and numbing. The feeling of walking through the gate itself was fine. Weird, but fine. However, coming from the cold, crisp air of Hoelbrak and stepping into the blazing, humid climate of Lion’s Arch was horrid. Immediately, I felt my fur drenching itself in sweat. I had to remove my coat, tying it around my waist for transport, and my feet wrappers, which I stuffed into a small back pack I had taken with me, before I could even take in the area around me.
Looking around, I found myself on a platform with six wooden bridges: four of which led to the asura gates leading to the major cities, one led to Divinity’s Reach and one led deeper into Lion’s Arch. Guards of every race, a lot of asura and many merchants were walking around here. Also, much to my surprise, there was a lot of water.
So it is true. Lion’s Arch is a naval city.
Somehow, the sun’s reflection glistening off the surface of the calm sea beckoned to me. In the distance, down the coast, I saw the masts of great ships and small ships alike, like a forest on the water. For a moment, I thought about sailing on a boat. However, I had set my sights on another part of the world first.
Stepping up to the gate where a pair of those shrubs stood, I could hear them trying to calm down one of the asura who was fidgeting with the crystals next to the gate, an angry asura at that. The moment one of the two guards saw me coming, it came towards me.
“Greeting, traveller,” it said in a smooth voice.
“Hey, is this the gate to the sylvari forest?”
“Normally, yes, it would be.”
“Normally?” I asked, raising one eyebrow.
“Yes, you see, the gate is out of order, and the technician is hard at work trying to fix it.”
“You mean that asura who is scolding the other asura?” I said, looking past him.
The shrub glanced backwards, before it said, “Yes, indeed,” in an apologetic manner.
“When will the gate be up again?”
“We hope it will function once again tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow!” I exclaimed, slightly taken aback.
“Yes, we are truly sorry. Might I suggest you stay in Lion’s Arch and look for some clothing?”
“Why? What’s wrong with my clothes?” I retorted.
“Well, they are far too warm for our climate.”
“So it’s hot over there as well?”
“You haven’t been there yet?”
“I have not,” I answered.
“The climate here and there are similar, although it’s more humid here.”
“I see,” I sighed deeply. “I’ll look into it then.”
It was one of the worst decisions I had made in a long time. Being someone who tried to avoid a crowd, and going shopping in Lion’s Arch was like tickling a giant devourer: you just don’t do that. Yet, here I was, walking down a blue sail-covered street, practically having to plough my way through the mass of beings. I found all kinds of creatures before me: asuran, norn, charr, and sylvari of course, but the lesser races as well: hylek, skritt, quaggan and humans.
The crowd gave me some anonymity, but not nearly as much as I would’ve liked, because as a charr, I was taller than most and I stuck out like a sore paw. Still, it seemed that they only notice you if you came to their stall or walked in their way.
“Watch where you’re going,” another charr growled at me as she and I bumped into each other.
“Do so yourself!” I sneered back at her.
For a handful of heartbeats, she stood in front of me in a wide, combat stance. Slowly, one of her eyebrows arched up as her eyes traced me up and down.
“What about your pants?” she said as she relaxed her pose.
“You took the rest off, so why not the pants,” she said with a beguiled smile. “You seem to be a well-muscled charr, I would have liked to see the rest, if you know what I mean.”
I wasn’t sure I knew what she meant, but if she was hinting in the direction I feared, the suddenness of it was unexpected.
“Do you know where I can buy some lighter clothing?” I asked, faking to be unfazed.
“How cute, pretending not to listen to what I just said, are you?”
“Sorry,” I grinned, “but did you say something?”
She laughed heartily and punched my shoulder, a lot harder than Kára would.
“I like you,” she said.
“Great,” I replied stolidly, “so, do you know where I can find clothes?”
“I sell them!”
“So, what is your name? Where are you going?”
“That’s a lot of questions…”
“True,” she mused. “You’d better tell me while we walk!”
There was obviously no way that she’d let me go nor let me stay quiet.
“I’m Kumara and I’m headed to… the… eh… sylvari city.”
“The Grove? Oh, so you’re having the problems with the gate then? And why would you want to go there?”
“Yea,” I sighed. “I helped one of those shrubs once, and it had insisted on me coming to their forest.”
“I see, that’s interesting. My name is Amethyst, just in case you were wondering. So, are you a gladium or were you raised here in Lion’s Arch like me?”
“It’s my first time in Lion’s Arch…” I said tersely.
“Ah,” she replied. “How do you like it?”
“Too many mice, if you ask me.”
“Ah! Yes, the humans. You get used to tolerating them.”
Without a doubt, Amethyst was very skilled at placing her will on others. When she said that she sold clothes, I didn’t consider the option that she ran a store with personnel. She offered me a discount on the prices, if I changed clothes in front of her. Since my coin purse was abominably light and thin, I had no other option than to comply. After that, she even went so far as to make me stay at the store for the night. Since I had come in so early, I decided to help around the store, mostly helping with carrying boxes and sorting goods.
Now that it was the next day, we stood in front of the gate. It was obviously functioning again as people walked in and out of it. The asura technician still seemed agitated though.
“So you’re going in there now?” Amethyst asked.
“Yea, I will.”
“Well, good luck!”
“Thanks, you too. Enjoy your store.”
“Ha!” she laughed. “I’ll set sail tomorrow.”
“Yes, I run a store, sure, but I love to set my paws on the wooden deck of a ship and set sail.”
“… A merchant run?”
“Most often, yes, although I join pirate ships every now and then as well.”
“That sounds really… strange…” I said confused.
“Well,” she shrugged, “I guess I’m not easily defined.”
End of Part 7
End of Chapter 1