“Why don’t you relax a bit, Kumara?” said Silias.
The ale flowed round and round in my stein as I kept turning the mug on the table. For some reason, staring into the maelstrom eased my tension and drowned out all that was around me. However, Silias’ words butted me out of this trance-like state. I glared at him, but he just smiled back at me, as he always did. Anything I did couldn’t faze him the least, and that annoyed me. However, it did help me keep this job; my attitude should get me fired, but thankfully, Silias managed to put up with me.
“I am relaxed,” I said in a low voice.
I felt a gentle movement at my feet. It seemed that even Thornfang did not believe me. That guy never left my side, although in the beginning, I thought he did; he was just so stealthy that it was easy for him to go unnoticed. A perfect companion for a scout. Over the past month, he had grown quite a bit, more than I expected, which must be a sylvan hound thing.
“No, you are not,” Silias said, stating the obvious as so many sylvari did. “You are all tensed up and grumpy.”
“Fine, I’m not relaxed. So what? But I am not grumpy!”
Silias just smiled as he set off to the bar again. He often tried to entice me into interacting with the customers, for whatever reason, but thankfully, he never forced me. There was no harm done by my seclusion, as I hardly looked like his employee. A charr working for a sylvari in Caledon Forest? Not the first thing visitors think of. However, I felt no need or desire to mingle with the others. I enjoyed the calm of this place when there were no customers, but for Silias’ sake, I was happy that recently, there have been many patrons.
Looking around, there was really no one I wanted to talk to. Most of them were sylvari, although today, there was a human couple as well; I would rather gnaw my own paw off than talk to the likes of them.
Sure, I could leave. Thirty days of work have earned me enough copper to last for a little while, long enough to get away from these maddening stalks—but where to? I had no clear destination, no place to go. Several times, I asked a visiting twig if they knew one of the sylvari I met back in the snow, but their names were unknown around here.
Yes, I could go on some petty quest, travelling through the forest in search of twig and twag, but I knew that I would not survive such a journey. I didn’t fear the wild beasts nor the undead roaming the area, but the sylvari themselves were a different story. Silias was bearable, but all the others I did speak to so far, were not.
I could hear the hounds bark before the door creaked. Despite my general lack of interest towards our visitors, I could not help but glance towards the entrance. The heavy thud of paws on wood took me off guard as an old charr entered in. Even from a distance, his age was apparent. His tail swooped low, his lips curled inwards due to a missing teeth and the color of his fur had faded. He was clothed in large, blue and white robes and accompanied by another wide-eyed sylvari who wore the same robes as he did.
So far, I had done well at avoiding other charr, but this one saw me straight away and lumbered towards me. I had nowhere to run. When he reached me, he pulled back a chair and, with a lot of effort, seated himself.
“Hey there, young one!” he said with a broad grin.
I did my best to smile as I saw the sylvari who entered with him come over as well. However, when the shrub placed his hand on a chair, the old charr raised a paw at him.
“Cain, why don’t you order me some ale and find some nice sylvari to talk to?”
The twig looked sad, but nodded and moved towards the bar. As soon as Cain was far enough away, the old charr laid his eyes back onto me.
“Sylvari,” he sighed, “you learn to love them.”
“Maybe,” I said, “but when I look at them, all I see is fire kindling.”
The char guffawed at that, wiping away a tear that had form in the corner of his eye.
“Yea, I had that phase too.”
“When, fifty years ago?”
“Now, now, cub, I don’t look that old.”
“Yea, you do.”
“You’re honest, cub. I like that. I’m Gravious Flaymane, or Graymane, as most call me now. What is your name, cub?”
“Kumara,” I said in a curt tone.
Graymane nodded. He knew what it meant, there was no need to explain. It actually was sort of a relief and he did not seem to recognize me. Not many would, but I’d like to avoid it all together.
“So,” I asked, “what brings you out here?”
“Don’t my robes give a hint?”
For a second, I stared at his clothes intently, but they had no meaning for me.
“Possibly, if I knew what they stood for.”
“Ah, the cub doesn’t know about the Priory, then?”
To be honest, the name did ring a bell, but no more than that.
“Not really, no.”
Graymane shook his head, chuckling silently.
“Let’s just say that the Priory is an organization that is hell bent on destroying the Dragons by uncovering the secret knowledge of this world.”
“So, they’re a bunch of overzealous scholars?”
“And that twig you brought in,” I continued, “is your… apprentice?”
“Yes and no,” he sighed.
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” he started, obviously downhearted about the subject, “officially he is my apprentice, and he learns quickly when it comes to being a member of the Priory, but he doesn’t want to learn that which I want to teach.”
“So, he’s as stubborn as a dolyak?”
“No, just uninterested,” Graymane sighed.
Somehow, this old charr put me at ease. I did not feel the anxiety I usually felt when talking to others, but I still could not trust him wholeheartedly. How could I, when I could not trust myself?
“So,” I decided to say, “what did you want to teach him?”
I raised an eyebrow.
“You’re part of an organization aimed at taking down Dragons, and you study… plants?”
Graymane laughed out loud.
“Yes, you see cub, one must understand the world they are in, not only to use it to fight the Dragons, but also…?”
Apparently he wanted me to finish his thought. As a scout, I too, had learned to use the land to my advantage. My trainers made sure that I understood how to use the land for cover, ambushes, and they even taught us to use some plants as food, medicine and poison. The land, in turn, taught us to respect it, as it gave birth to dangerous animals, plants, rivers that flowed faster than one could expect and sudden drops that could kill a careless traveller.
“Well,” I pondered, “also to understand what we are protecting?”
For a while, he just stared at me. Like a devourer staring down his pray, or a reveler staring at a fire pit during Meatoberfest. There was a glimmer of satisfaction behind his eyes, or it could be cropped up excitement. Judging emotions had never been my strongest point. Karto was the best at that within our warband.
Silently, I banned that memory from my head.
“Yes,” Graymane said softly. “You do understand.”
“I was a scout once.”
“That helps, for sure, but still. You’re one of the few to think beyond yourself or your direct community.”
“Maybe. Too bad I’m not a member of the Priory, huh?” I replied jokingly.
“Not at all,” he said with a disarming smile, “it allows your mind to stay free, not being bogged down by dogmas assumed to be true or fixed to a certain line of though, just so you can get the results you want.”
I could not help but arch an eyebrow at the old charr.
“Are you bashing your own organization?”
“Yes,” he replied, “and what can they do about it? I’m too old to care much for it. I no longer have to ambition to achieve anything. All I want now is to pass on my knowledge.”
I caught myself smiling. When was the last time I smiled and meant it, just because I found a person interesting? My brain couldn’t recall a previous event like this.
“Will you learn from me?” I heard him say.
I heard him, yes, but it took a while for his words to burrow into my mind and turn from hearing into understanding. Like a tank’s shell, digging into its target and staying here, delaying its explosion. That blast did come, though.
“What? Learn about plants?”
“Yes, I’m sure that as a scout— “
“Former scout,” I interrupted.
“—it could prove useful to you,” he continued, undeterred. “Many things can be learned from the plant life around here.”
“I have a job here.”
“Ah, yes,” he replied, as if he was expecting that answer. “You see, cub, I have no desire to leave this area anytime soon. I came here to study, and that’s exactly what I’ll do. And, I bet your job can allow you to take a few hours out of your busy day to study with me.”
What annoyed me most, was that the idea appealed to me. More than anything, I desired to be outside, away from all these prying customers. Away from their laughter, their happiness. I used to roam the plains of Ascalon, not sit tight in an overgrown plant, surrounded by beings I could not make myself care about. If I could learn something in the progress? All the better.
“Very well,” I sighed, “you win. Your proposal has grown on me.”