“Hank?” the dark-haired woman confirmed.
“Hank,” I repeat. It is nice that she does not seem to be at all fazed by the fact that she is talking to a Golem possessed by a norn, or a norn displaced by a Golem, depending on your point of view.
She frowns. “No family name?”
We sit – well they sit, whilst I remain standing as usual – close to where we first met the two humans, William and Amber. With a head of red hair and a beard to match, William reminds me of a dancing flame with an infinite supply of energy; even seated, the man radiates impatience and a need to be doing something. His manner is warm, although he says little, but every gesture and expression is almost always followed by a smile – quite unlike his companion. Amber is precise and free with a haughty expression, no doubt the product of wealth. Questions are matter-of-fact without any pretence of friendliness, despite the pair’s bizarre interest in our welfare. Neither Genni or Treen seem to be bothered, and answer when asked without omitting any potentially sensitive information. I find this odd, given our circumstances.
“Okay,” she turns to the man, William. “Maybe Sadhira is in town; connections could help.”
William straightens. “Sure.”
“I am sorry,” I have to interrupt at this point. “Sadhira?”
“A friend,” answers Amber.
“That is all well and good – in fact this is all well and good. This is… Treen, Genni, are we really going to trust these people?”
Amber folds her arms and William shakes his head gently, warning against comment. Everyone remains silent. Treen seems elsewhere, lost to another thought, whilst Genni gazes about the group, studying each member for a few seconds before moving to the next.
I want to growl, to throw up my arms and display exasperation, to measure out my discontent, apportion the sense of frustration at their feet and see how they like it, so that they can see how utterly stupid and dangerous this is. I raise an arm and the sun plays along the metal casing, flashing in my eyes and I blink – in a sense.
“Dolyak’s arse.” I swivel and stomp away.
Leave them to it, I say. Stupid, complicated and utterly unnecessary, and all it proves is the irrelevance to my task – why are they even here? By the Spirits, I miss her; damn, I miss her so much. Ah, to sit upon a thought of the coming day whilst we take fare given to us by our toil, as the sun climbs the peaks to bring a measure of life’s own needs and I would turn to her to ask: what of the day, my love? She would laugh now, loud and bright in the quiet forest and say: go to the day and find out for yourself, you lazy bear.
“Mr Bear?” Genni has caught up with me. “Asbjorn?”
I stop and stare down at the cobbled streets, wondering briefly how long it must have taken them to pave just this avenue alone.
“Asbjorn?” Genni speaks again.
“So much stone,” I mutter, glancing across at the warrior as she walks next to me.
“What is wrong, Asbjorn?”
“I would have thought that was obvious.”
“Let’s just pretend for a moment that it’s not.”
“There are… there are so many things that I must do.”
“There is… there is everything – arrayed before me are challenges to be met.”
“Personally, I find getting out of bed a challenge at times.”
“Be specific, Asbjorn.”
“I… my legend, my legend is incomplete.”
Genni nods. “Which legend is that specifically?”
I stop. “What?”
Genni looks serious, thoughtful as she turns in a circle to take in our surrounding area. “Which legend, Asbjorn?”
“Mine.” What kind of a question is that? I thought asura are supposed to be intelligent.
“I’m not a norn, Asbjorn. Let’s take this a bit further and pretend I don’t know what a legend is, and,” she holds up her hand, “I mean specific to you, Asbjorn.”
I start walking again, although I have less of an urge to stomp. “I am fed up with questioning what is going on. I need to do something.”
“We are,” Genni counters.
“We do not know who they are.”
“Does it matter?”
I stop again. “Does it matter? I barely know you and Treen, and if it was not for the fact that we have survived a number of encounters together, things would be different.”
“You wouldn’t trust us?”
“Of course not.”
“But you do now?”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“That’s good enough for me.”
We start walking again, passing a row of colourful stalls that attract a good number of customers. Memories of an ale seller, Hrok and his cart, surface and they feel so old; a part of another time. I wonder if he survived the attack on Lion’s Arch? Maybe he got out in time along with his cart. I would certainly pass on many things right now, to be propping up his bar and swapping tales, or blows! Good old Hrok. Good old Hrok?
“You are right,” I concede.
“I am? I mean, I am!” says Genni, swapping surprise for seriousness. “What am I right about, exactly?”
“It is the deeds of others and ourselves that prove our merit.”
“It is? I mean, yes… I think.”
“Let our new friends prove their worth, before I dismiss them so readily.”
“Oh, I see. Well, I didn’t think we really had any other choice. Personally, I wouldn’t trust them any more than I would a skritt.”
“But you said…”
Genni stops walking this time and puts her hand on my arm. I wish I could feel that touch. It is an odd thought, but the lack of sensation removes some of the reassurance I see conveyed in her look. “I worry about you, Mr Bear. You seem… lost.”
“Perhaps that is not the right word. But when I asked you what is wrong, you did not really answer me.”
“I thought we were talking about the humans.”
“Well, in a manner of speaking, I suppose that is what is wrong right now.” She pats my arm. “But what is wrong with you? I realise,” she continues without waiting for a response, “that you face a great deal of uncertainty, especially given the circumstances, and I cannot pretend to make sense of that – but I think that there is something else.”
“I am norn, Genni. Asbjorn Bre, hunter and…” I trail off. My legend? Cries of nearby sellers hawking their wares add a warmth to the sun that I cannot feel. How can I allay her concern when… I do not even know what is wrong. “I do not know,” I finish lamely.
Genni smiles brightly. “That’s okay, because neither do I.”
“I would not expect you to know.”
“I don’t mean you, Mr Bear. I mean, me.”
“Yes. Do you think that I have my whole life planned out?”
“Well, it is not about having-”
“Then what is it?” she interrupts. “You seem to have some expectation of yourself.”
“A norn thing?” she interrupts again.
“Yes… I mean, no. I… You are confusing me.”
“I am confusing you?” Genni laughs. “You seem to be doing okay by yourself.”
“I do not understand.”
“Ah ha! The circle of logic is not to be refuted. Strange portals, the loss of your physical form, mysterious attacks, flights from peril, legends – what’s to understand?”
She has a point. “I miss her.” As soon as the words are spoken, it hits me.
“You miss your wife?”
“I do.” And I feel as though I can say it now, without pretending that there is something else. “I would rather be at home.”
“What about your legend?”
“She is my legend.”
Genni smiles, nods and looks away. “I wonder what they’re selling on those carts.”
I feel like a fool: a fool for not seeing what was in front of me all along. But I am a happy fool.
By the time we rejoin the group, Treen and our new companions have worked out some of the finer details of a plan to proceed.
“William and I have already established that the gates will be accessible in short order; asura ingenuity at work there no doubt.” Treen smiles at the group as if waiting for a response. “Right,” he continues, seeing that no one is willing to confirm his own belief, “Amber is meeting with her friend tonight to start looking into matters more pertinent to us at this stage. We expect that this will take some time, so the plan is to rest up in the city until the gates are active again and then we’ll travel with Asbjorn back to his home. Amber’s friend-”
“Sadhira,” interjects Amber.
“Yes, Sadhira, thank you, will follow on as best he… she?”
“She,” confirms the dark-haired woman.
“She, excellent. Any questions?”
“How long?” I ask.
“As I said: a matter of days. I cannot be more certain. We only know that efforts to re-establish gate destinations in the aftermath of the attack are top priority. Just as soon as the way is clear we will have our sights set on Hoelbrak and of course your home.”
“Anyone else?” No one else speaks up. “Very well. Then may I suggest that we meet daily – here seems as good a place as any – as that way we can stay abreast of relevant matters. Tomorrow morning good for everyone?”
William and Amber agree. “Where will you stay?” the man adds.
“I have some contacts in the city, and I have need of a workshop.” Treen looks directly at me.
“Then, rest well and farewell until tomorrow.” William bows and then both he and Amber head away from the small park.
“Do you think that we can trust them?” I ask.
“Probably not,” answers Treen. “For the moment, I don’t think we have much choice.” Treen stares at me again then rubs his ear.
“It bothers me that you did not notice I accessed the pilot chassis when we were in Lion’s Arch.”
“So, I suspect that there is something wrong with the suit’s sensory system. Given we do not know what may lie ahead, it would seem pertinent to give it some attention. If anything, the suit should warn you of contact and could prove disastrous if it does not.”
“What do you mean by giving it some attention?”
“He wants to take you apart, Mr Bear – play with your insides.” Genni wriggles her fingers and crosses her eyes.
My insides? “Not a chance!” I start to back away.
“Oh come on, Asbjorn,” sighs Treen.
“Will it hurt? What if you break something?”
“The only thing that would hurt if I break something would be my pride – now come along!” Treen turns and starts to walk away.
Edited by Amy