I strolled through the grass field on the far side of my aunt and uncle’s farm like I used to do as a child when I made my way to the bridge just outside of Shaemoor. The sun was shining brightly and I could feel its warmth on my face. The sweet smell of grass and earth filled my nostrils and I happily took in a deep breath of it. I exhaled, letting my cares drift away with my breath.
A light mist had settled in during the early morning and was growing heavier which seemed unusual but my heart felt as light as a feather so I paid it no mind. My hands trailing along my sides, I felt the tall grass tickle my skin and I smiled contently. I could see the gentle flowing stream ahead and hear the bright calls of moas nearby. Skale played in the water and along the banks with their young. Water swirled around their long, finned tails as they swished them back and forth. I kept my distance. Skales could be aggressive but they were even more so when protecting their young.
Moving further along the bank on my way toward the bridge, I ventured away from the skale, past Jeb’s wheat field. I could feel the morning’s heat intensifying on my skin and the water from the stream looked so inviting. Descending the bank, I stepped my bare feet into the cool water and looked down. I could see my reflection though the gentle current. The face staring back at me was much younger, no more than twelve years old. I flashed a grin at my reflection and the young girl grinned back. Looking back up, I took in the peaceful surroundings through the thickening mist, thoroughly enjoying the calm it brought to my soul, before turning back to follow my original course. As I knew it would, the stream brought me to the bridge I went to almost every day when I was younger. He would be here soon. Would we go into the city today or would we venture to Eda’s farm to collect apples for a chance to have a slice of her famous apple pie?
I could feel the air begin to grow colder as the mist thickened even more. I could barely see the skale down the bank and their sounds started to retreat as if they were all moving further away. The sounds of movement came from the tall grass up on the bank of the stream. A tall dark haired man emerged and as he did so, a great shadow passed in front of the sun, casting my surroundings into a great dimness. Even though his face was shrouded in shadow, I knew it was him but he looked different. He wore a dark blue long coat but the edges were frayed and torn and his black boots were worn as if he had been walking for many months.
Something was wrong.
“Wait,” I whispered. I could see something in his hand and as he stepped closer, I recognized the small blade. My heart skipped a beat. “My friend, please.” I begged as I raised my hands and took a step backwards.
He said nothing as he advanced. His tall, broad frame overshadowed my smaller frame and he caught me around my shoulders with one arm, pinning me close to him. I struggled but I could not move my body. I cried out for him to stop but I knew what was coming and nothing I could say would change the outcome. As soon as I felt the tip of the blade against my chest, I braced myself for what would come next.
“No! Please, do not do this!”
“I’m sorry dear friend,” he hissed violently into my ear.
An explosion of searing pain ripped through my chest as he plunged the blade into my heart. I gasped for air as I felt my body grow limp and relax. As I fell back into the stream, I saw him standing over me, his face still shadowed. The stream swallowed me up in its cold embrace as my vision faded away.
I jerked awake in my chair, nearly falling over, as I gasped for air. I could feel my entire body shake. Reaching up to rub my eyes with trembling hands, I felt my tears brimming over and streaming down my cheeks. I had only meant to close my eyes for a moment to rest them and had unintentionally fallen asleep. The dream had come again, more vividly this time. It was no doubt due to what I had found in Malchor’s Leap. I leaned forward, bowing my head and wrapped my arms around myself. My hands were still shaking as I balled up my fists, trying to make them stop. I had to make them stop. I uttered a quiet prayer to Grenth, calling upon his strength to calm my nerves. I could not let any of them see me this way. I focused on my breathing, taking slow breaths in then out and tried to clear my mind.
It took longer than I would have liked but I was eventually able to calm myself and regain my composure. After I took a moment to freshen up, I left my room in search of Commander Tuborg. After Rhys and Sir Fendall left to attend to their personal affairs, I knew I would need two more to help run our small but growing guild. I had selected Tuborg; a Sylvari guardian and De Koninck; a Norn ranger. They were the first two whom Rhys, Sir Fendall, and I had met and taken in. They were both young, but they had shown us such dedication and commitment in growing our unit and in doing so, had also earned our trust. I knew they would be superior assets to have at my side.
I made my way back down the north hallway to the main hall. A small group of Lion’s Arch residents we had taken in walked by with tools in hand and some wooden planks balanced on their shoulders. I had no doubts they were on their way to the southern hall to help with the repairs. They saw me and each offered a polite bow as they walked by. I acknowledged their gestures with a courteous nod and began to follow them down the south hallway on my way to Tuborg’s quarters. As they were walking, I could see the plank starting to slip from the shoulder of the person in front of me. I quickened my steps and bent down just in time to catch the plank before it fell to the wooden floor. With some effort, I hoisted the hard wood plank up onto my shoulder. The workers uttered cries of surprise as they saw me lift and balance the heavy plank without assistance.
“Please, let me take that Lady Commander,” the man who had been carrying the slipping plank offered. He was an older gentleman with a square face and bright blue gentle eyes. He smiled warmly as he reached out to take the large, hardy material.
I waved him off with my free hand. “It is quite alright,” I replied. “I helped build parts of this hall with my own bare hands. I think I can handle one plank.” I smiled and as I followed them down the southern hall until we reached the work site. They unloaded the plank from my shoulder and after a few friendly exchanges of words, I left them to their work. Making my way back up the hallway, stopped at the first door I had passed previously in the hall.
“Tuborg,” I called as I knocked on his door. I could hear groaning noises coming from the other side and then an almost inaudible ‘come in’. Unsure what I was going to find, I opened the door cautiously. The large room was dimly lit, with only one partially uncovered window and I had to let my eyes adjust for a minute before I could see anything. His room smelled musty from being closed all night and I could detect a hint of something that had begun to turn sour.
“Tuborg?” I called again. I received another groaning response coming from the covered lump in his bed. “Are you ill?”
“Sort of,” he replied through another groan. His normally smooth and animated voice had been washed over with an abrasive and bitter tone. “Norn ale.” A soft rustling sound filled the room as he lifted a dark verdant barked arm from beneath his covers and pointed at his dining table. I looked where he was pointing and frowned. A small, round keg sat on the table next to a tipped over cup. There was a small puddle of liquid that had all but dried up under the cup.
“You can drink all the nectar in the Grove,” I started to say as I walked over to the table, picked up the cup and looked for a cloth to clean up what was left of the puddle. “but you cannot handle a little Norn ale?” I found a haphazardly folded cloth by his basin and started wiping up the table.
Tuborg pulled the covers from the top of his head. “Stop mocking me,” he said pitifully. He peered over the blankets with narrow sapphire blue eyes, and blinked a few times. Groaning, he scrunched his face up. The dark thorns along the sides of his face moved with the action as his facial muscles tightened and released. “They shouldn’t make it taste so good.”
“I think perhaps you should stick to nectar from now on. No more Norn ale,” I advised with a smirk. “Anything new while I was gone?”
The Sylvari pulled his arm out from his covers and pointed to his desk against the wall. I walked over and examined the surface. Unlike myself, Tuborg did not mind combining his personal space with his work space and kept everything in one large room. How he managed to function like this, I did not know, but it worked for him so who was I to judge.
Scooping up a parchment laying on its own on Tuborg’s desk, I read it over, tilting it towards the light from the partially open window. “Artis… Climber?” I asked with a raised eyebrow. “That is an odd last name.”
“Cimber,” Tuborg replied simply before collapsing dramatically back down in his bed.
“I could never read all of your handwriting.” I muttered as I examined the parchment again. “Are you thinking of bringing him in?”
Tuborg cleared his throat. “Yes,” He replied. ” Met him at Hidden Lake in Brisban a few weeks back. I’d like to invite him here for a chat.” As Tuborg struggled to sit up, a very soft rustling sound filled the quiet of the room as his bark-like epidermis stretched and strained with his movements. He managed to make it part way before he gave up and decided to rest his head against the wooden headboard. “Seems like a decent fellow. A little prickly but wants to do some good in the world. I say we give him a chance.”
“A little prickly?” I murmured while skimming through Tuborg’s notations.
He was a ranger from Kessex with no family and was a survivor of the attack on Lions Arch. The notes towards the bottom of the page were also in Tuborg’s writing stating that he could find no records of any arrests or trouble in his past. This normally would be the point where I would say that it all looked good and to move ahead on it, but I hesitated for a moment. With my recent discovery at the grave site, I wondered if bringing in anyone new at this point would be wise. However, breaking my usual character could tip Tuborg off that something was wrong. I could not risk it.
“Looks good,” I said, forcing as genuine a smile as I could. “Talk with him and we shall see.”
“Done,” Tuborg replied. He rubbed at his forehead and groaned. “But not right now.”
I smirked. “Fine.” I let the parchment fall back onto his desk and then leaned against the solid wooden piece of furniture while I folded my arms over my chest. “By the way, I need to go out on another errand again so I will need you and De Koninck to watch over things until I return.”
Tuborg pinched the bridge of his nose. “Again? Didn’t you just return from Malchor’s Leap? Been going out quite a bit lately it seems.” There was an obvious edge to his tone.
“Yes, but I am afraid Rhys needs to see me right away,” I lied through my polite smile as I tried to keep my stance relaxed. “I need to leave in the morning and will be returning tomorrow night.”
Tuborg waved dismissively. “Oh. Well, in that case, fine. Now leave me with my misery for awhile.”
Smirking I made my way out of his quarters as Tuborg sunk back under his covers, groaning all the while. I closed the doors quietly behind me and let out a small breath of relief.