I fell asleep on Ragnvaldr’s shoulder as we talked. I remember him carrying me back to the lodge and into bed; he held me so close. That night I dreamt of my home in Divinity’s Reach and when I woke that morning I felt a longing to see that home once again. When I saw Ragnvaldr’s arms tucked around me that feeling melted completely into one of contentment. With the four of us, I was home wherever we went.
Angel sat on the rail cleaning her sword. I wondered if she had slept any. Her eyes were tired and I didn’t understand how she could keep going like this. True to Tobih’s words, she never seemed to sleep. I threw my pillow at her; She caught it and immediately faced me.
“Get some sleep already,” I groaned, “You make me tired just looking at you.”
“Good, then you can sleep enough for the both of us.” She set her sword down before planting her feet on the floor. The rings and buckles on her armor clanked against each other as she hit the ground.
“Are you two at it already,” I heard Ragnvaldr grumbled as he sat himself up. Blonde hair fell over and around his face. I realized that this was the first time I had even seen it let down. He brushed his hand through it, tearing through the tangles with careful movement of his fingers.
“Just a lover’s quarrel,” Angel teased as she began braiding her hair. “Go have breakfast, we’ll be leaving soon.”
“This early?” Tobih added to our griping chorus of the morning as he roused. He, however, didn’t bother getting up and sought comfort underneath his blanket.
“It’s light outside so we’re behind schedule, actually. Thanks for reminding me; you have less time to eat now.” She retorted as she tied off the end of her hair.
I sat up and caught my pillow as she tossed it back at me. Of course I wasn’t going to listen to her. I would take all the time I wanted for breakfast because the party wasn’t going to leave without me. Ragnvaldr seemed to think the same. Tobih, however, was on his feet and down the stairs half dressed at that very moment.
“He’s a bit of a doormat isn’t he?” I watched after him.
“Only stubborn about the things he really cares about,” Angel remarked with a smirk. She found her way after him while Ragnvaldr and I got up and packed. With that done we joined Tobih and Angel for breakfast before setting off. Angel was prone to drink every time she could and took this as her last chance to have good norn mead for a while. It turned out that she was more tolerable when she had the poison running through her system; I wasn’t about to question it either.
Tobih had ran downstairs with only his pants on; The rest of him was either undressed or a mess. He was too rushed to put on his armor, even. Black disheveled hair floated around his face and bare shoulders. I held back my urge to laugh at his unkempt and rather gullible character. Instead I found myself stuffing my mouth with the food that had arrived.
“How long are we planned to be in Lions Arch?” Ragnvaldr questioned, eating his food a little more generously than me.
“A day or two, max. The sooner we leave, the better.” Her answer was quick.
“Did you do something to upset the lionguard, too?” I babbled and thought about the many things she could have done. Knowing Angel, she could have broken an attraction or hassled a Black Lion merchant to a breaking point. I snickered at the very ideas.
“Actually, no,” She shot a menacing scowl right at me. I looked up and smiled at her through my food. “I just want to get this over with as soon as possible.”
“Awww, I was hoping to hear a good story.” I nudged her arm, hoping to hear more of her antics.
She leaned over and whispered into my hear, “If you want a story, I’ll tell you about the time I rode a mine cart through the entirety of the Iron Horse Mines.” Angel then spoke up really loudly, “or even the time I defended the Granite Citadel from a vicious group of twenty dredge! Who cares if they were blind!”
The table had a chuckle.
“Maybe you want to hear about my raid through the Flame Temple Tombs or my victory in the Dragonbrand against the biggest branded devourer the Vigil has ever seen!” She stood up and threw her arms into the air in a cheer. Then she plopped back down quietly as if she hadn’t been up and shouting before. Her arms crossed, she stared at me with a certain grin. Angel, being the typical norn, loved to boast about her achievements. If I egged her on I could see her in a way that I rarely did: happy and excited.
With breakfast finished and Tobih fully dressed, we left the lodge and headed towards the asuran gate I had come through just weeks before. One last look at the snowy landscape struck me in awe. The times I most appreciate the snow the first time I look upon it and the last. No matter how much I walked through it, no matter how many times I felt a bit tired of it, I always welcomed it. I watched as the winter scenery turn into that of a tropical paradise as I stepped through the asuran gate. Norn lodges gave way to fragments of ships turned into livable buildings. Crowds of every race flocked through the city. The sea greeted us on every side of the platform we made it onto. Five asuran gates surrounded the rounded platform and I knew that each lead to the five capitals.
I held Ragnvaldr’s hand as we made our way through the bustling crowds. On each side of us was always some sort of vendor, usually selling food. Heralds shouted news throughout the city, standing on boxes to put themselves over even the tallest norn. I had never actually seen Lion’s Arch save for the brief moment I had while changing gates. The new sights and smells were overwhelming. Angel made her way through with ease. We passed a large fountain with a lion statue centered on it. I wished I could have seen more of it at the time but Angel was walking rather quickly and I had to keep up with her. There was no way I could find myself around this city.
We arrived before a place that looked half ship, half building. It was a decent size with a tall door. The facade was rather rustic, made from browns and greens with wrought windows. As we stepped inside we were greeted by a rather lonely setting. The place was mostly empty save for a few chairs here and there, a small table, and a soot filled fireplace where a single pot hung. Angel made her way up the staircase that was situated at the back of the room. The planks were wide and creaked with each step. We passed an empty room as we ascended another set of stairs. We reached the top of the house, which was just as empty as the rest of it save for a bed and a desk with a chair. Across from the desk was a large window that filled the room with light.
I walked to the window and saw that the view was breathtaking. It overlooked the bay where fire pits were set up and people scattered around the beach. The afternoon sun sparkled on the blue waters that rippled from the beachgoers swimming in it.
“This… this is beautiful,” I murmured all while watching the waves crash into the shore.
“Best place to keep an eye on unwanted guests,” Angel cleared as she dropped her bag in an empty corner.
“Right,” I replied and waved for Ragnvaldr to join me.
Tobih let himself fall on the bed and with a moan he informed, “It’s soooo plush.” He rolled over and grabbed a pillow before balling up on it. “I call the bed!”
“That’s fine with me. I don’t really like your human beds. Feels like I’m going to sink into it and have to dig myself out. Nope, I’d rather sleep on the floor.” She muttered.
I jumped onto the bed as well, minding Tobih. My body felt as if it melted onto it. With a sigh I repeated exactly as Tobih did, “It’s soooo plush.” I hadn’t realized how awful the beds I had been sleeping on were until I was back into a soft, pillowy bed.
“This is your house then?” I asked through the comforter and sheets that I had made my way into alongside Tobih.
“The newest one,” Angel replied without looking. She was busy looking through the desk drawer and began to toss out envelopes as if they were new.
“You have a human bed despite not liking them?” I continued to question her.
“I bought the house from a human,” She crumpled the mail back into the drawer, “Anymore questions?”
“Just one,” I admitted, “How many houses do you have? You said this was the newest one.”
“Can’t stay in one place for too long. People become suspicious and come knocking at my door. Someone always wants something of me. If I move often, I don’t have to deal with these strangers.”
“I see,” I replied. She was certainly careful of her words but even smarter when it came to dealing with her immortality. I had only been lucky so far.
“I have one,” Tobih exclaimed, “Why is it so empty?”
Angel smiled, “Well that’s because I have no reason to be here. I’ve spent the past year traveling with your guild.”
“Our guild,” he corrected rather quickly as he pointed a finger towards her.
“I don’t keep a lot of possessions. Material things don’t really matter to me if there isn’t some great use for them. All I need is the sword on my back.” She patted the large sword still hooked and clasped onto the back of her armor. Angel then strolled to the staircase. “Make yourselves comfortable; I will be making lunch,” was what we were told as she walked downstairs.
“Does she seem a little off?” Ragnvaldr asked. I shrugged. “She isn’t as feisty as usual.” Thinking about his words, she did seem to respond a lot less violently at our jabs.
“She was a bit like this when I met her,” Tobih sighed. He brushed his hair back with his hand and sat up, “I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into because of it. Seems as if she goes through these stages every once in a while.”
“Stop talking about me like I’m not here or I’m really going to show you feisty!” Came a booming voice from the bottom floor. I jumped and stared at the other two. Ragnvaldr smiled and crossed his arms.
“Then I was imagining it?” He yelled back.
“I’d say yes but I’m not sure you had an imagination to begin with ,”Sir Serious”.” Came a rather delayed retort.
“Couldn’t think of anything better?” He poked. We all heard the crash of a fallen chair and the cast iron pot hitting the floor. She was coming up after us. My heart raced but I giggled much at the same time. Ragnvaldr’s eyes widened as he looked around the room.
“I”m going to break you!” She roared. Creaking stairs denoted that Angel was rapidly climbing them. Ragnvaldr pulled around a chair and sat down in it, composing himself while waiting for her. She didn’t come, though. A ladle flew through the room, just missing Ragnvaldr as he ducked away. “That better have hit you!”
Ragnvaldr smiled and walked to the ladle. He picked it up and headed downstairs, “At least you aren’t an archer.”
I took this chance to turn to Tobih and ask him, “Are you feeling okay?”
“Absolutely. Don’t worry so much,” He waved his hand with a grin. Sitting up, he certainly did seem a lot healthier.
“You made it sound as if you didn’t expect to be around long,” I mentioned, my voice quiet so not to be overheard.
He confided with a slightly more serious face, “I was afraid of being left behind.”
“I understand,” I shifted from beneath the blankets and into the open air, “but it seems as if Angel wasn’t about to leave you. You have nothing to worry about.”
An eruption of sound downstairs startled me for a moment before I realized that Ragnvaldr and Angel were probably at it again. Tobih didn’t seemed bothered by it. It was easy to forget that he and Angel had traveled together previous to our adventure; he was probably used to these kinds of moods swings of hers. A few weeks of traveling together meant nothing compared to how long they must have been traveling.
“What about your guild? How did you meet them?” I asked, my voice filled with nothing but curiosity. I crossed my legs and awaited an answer.
“I helped them. It’s all I could offer.” His response was soft but genuine. “When someone is in need I can’t control myself. I have to help them.”
“Is that why you came for me?”
He shook his head, “I wasn’t lying when I said it was all Angel’s idea. Beyond the night that I healed you, everything was by her hand. There were supposed to be three of us coming to meet up but Kiffi came down with a cold and Tullia stayed behind to care for her.”
“You sound like you miss them,” I noticed, leaning forward a bit as I stared into him. Each time he spoke of his guild there was a certain air about him and I hadn’t quite figured it out until just then. He genuinely loved and cared for these people.
“Outcasts like us don’t often have friends. When we do have friends, there’s a special bond between us. I hold them close, no, dear to my heart.” A thin smile formed across his lips as he looked towards his hands in his lap. His umber eyes moved to meet mine, “You and Angel are probably the dearest.” My cheeks pinkened, convincing me to avoid eye contact.
“I…I don’t know what to say,” the words faltered. It was comforting, hearing those words expressed from him. I twisted my finger around a pale silver curl and stared towards the window.
Tobih laughed and looked away as he saw my embarrassment. I grinned; the mood of the room had taken a sudden change. “I don’t need you to say anything. Just keep being you… Keep being my friend.” He was so incredibly sweet. I curled my finger around my hair even more energetically. Tobih’s smile widened when he saw my blushing face.
In a burst of energy, I turned to him, “I’m glad we could be friends!”
His teeth showed through his smile as he laid back, “It’s these times, people like you, that I live for.”
“You and Angel and Ragnvaldr are the best things to have ever happened to me. Without a single one of you I know I couldn’t have made it through this journey.” I squeezed the pillow in between my arms and myself, resting my chin on it once it was plumped. “If this is what it means to be an outcast then I can’t say I want to live a ‘normal’ life.”
Thunder boomed outside. My attention fell back to the window where I saw dark clouds coming in from above the water. The sea flooded the shore rhythmically, rising and falling with intensity. Beach goers picked up their things and began to migrate back into the city.
Tobih stirred through the sudden soundlessness, “There’s one more thing I’ve been meaning to say.” I gave my attention back to him. “Thank you for keeping my secret.”
“I wanted to tell them,” I sighed, “But I didn’t want to betray you.”
“I’m sorry for putting you into that position. I just want things to be normal.”
“Claire!” I heard Angel bellow from the bottom floor, “You have magic; light the candles around the place!”
I respired and got out of the bed, rolling my eyes. Of course she’d single me out because of my fire magic; at least I could contribute to the group this way. Perhaps I could be the group renown candle lighter. I chuckled at myself as I walked towards each candle in the house and brought life to the wicks. Though the smell of food filled the house, the sounds of the storm drew nearer.