It was odd entering someone’s house who everyone still believed to be alive, of course word would spread once people would notice that Krale hasn’t been seen for a few days, they will become suspicious from not seeing his servants for that matter. I expected the ravens to dispose of the bodies and gather all the evidence, at least gathered enough to make sure the Secros, Fringe, and Krale were not linked in any way. Their evidence however, wasn’t much to look at. A spare set of fringe armor, some maps of cantha and elona with notes with several locations crossed out, I assumed it was where they had been searching for the Heartless one. Finally there was Krale’s journal, this was an interesting piece, mainly because the ravens had received orders that whatever the journal could contain, it was meant for my eyes and my eyes only.
I appreciated the faith Slim had in me, however I would not ignore the fact that it was a bit unprecedented. I was never good with unprecedented, Garfas was, and that was why I relied on him to react accordingly. Garfas could not follow me to Krale’s mansion however, he was not a Secro, and he was still reluctant to show himself in front of anyone I knew closely. It made sense to me, him introducing himself would lead to questions, and suddenly him keeping facts about me hidden would become much more difficult. It was mostly for my own good I suppose. At the very least we agreed to meet back up once I returned home. Maybe I could talk to him about Fumus, I had begun to remember him lately. I was remember a lot more things lately, at an accelerated rate in fact. It was a concern for another time however, right now I was tasked with extracting whatever information was useful in Krale’s journal, and then take it to an observer immediately after.
The book was worn, but very well maintained. Bound in thick and durable leather and thick parchment that had all sorts of diagrams and musings written on it. I decided to start from the beginning. I opened the book and found that the first entry was written well over three years ago.
I often find myself questioning my ability to perform this task with the rationale it requires. I often find myself questioning if I can please my mistress and act on her wishes with the utmost subtlety. It is no question to the other houses that my methods are more rash than is required, but they are methods that have proven fruitful, and have yet to fail me.
For centuries this war has ravaged our way of life, while every other race fights their own battles, while charr attack humans while norn have their foolish desire to become “legend”, while asura chose to advance themselves, we remain in the shadows, fighting our own battles. Our own battles with a singular threat, and as much as the mistress wishes to undermine it, it is possibly the only threat that can wipe us out completely. Aside from the elder dragons of course.
That is why uncertainty fills my heart. Never have we been able to find a weakness, never a vulnerability. We outnumber them by the thousands but they are better at remaining hidden than us. They can evade our detection, our power. All their secrets completely unknown to us, until now. It was only a matter of time until our captive would decide to speak, until he spoke of the one Heartless that had ever defected from their order. We were able to get a bit more information, they were a part of one of the high families so they would be a charr, but where they were hiding was a mystery to us. After it became apparent that our captive would no longer reveal any more information, we had him returned to his cell. It was enough to work with however.
We knew that there was one other source of information out there, one directly linked to the very head of the order. One that would show us where the Heartless base was located. We just needed to find them however. So this is where my true trial begins, to search for the target, to find the Heartless one. Yet, I am faced with my own imperfection. My own desires and obsessions could…jeopardize the mission.
The entries continued on about his worries of being unable to control his desire for violence, they were getting repetitive so I skipped ahead to more recent entries. I stopped at one that was written several months ago.
Mingling with these nobles is tiresome, going to parties every other night, obtaining what information that is rarely ever useful. Simply a dance and exchange of information, blackmail and secrets. I was not meant for this kind of game, and every play irks me to no end. Yet I find myself being one of the better players. As good as I may be it does not change the fact that I have yet to find any information that is relevant on the Heartless One. Perhaps I should prod at a different source.
The next entry was a few days later, is was written in a slightly more frantic letter, much messier but still legible.
The order of whispers agent I captured two days ago led me to a fantastic find. Extracting the information was surprisingly easy, it had been so long since I had spilt any blood, and the release was blissful. I digress, I was able to obtain useful information of several other organizations that control tyria’s underground. As knowledgeable and “secretive” the order of whispers was, they knew very little of the Heartless and the Fringe. It seemed that other organizations did a better job than them at staying covert. There were rumors that the agent had heard, of several groups that focused on gathering the rejects of society. The term “messengers” was thrown around quite a bit. Now I need to find whatever I can about charr members of this group, and if they know if one of them does not posses a certain vital organ.
I arched an eyebrow at the last part of that entry. Originally I had thought that Heartless was just a title, was Krale implying that it was literal?
“Impossible,” I murmured under my breath.
“What’s impossible?” I raised my gaze to find Daniel standing by the door. A curious look in his eyes.
“Come look at this,” I said as I motioned Daniel to sit besides me. The human walked over and sat down, leaning on my arm to see the journal entries. I gave him a brief explanation of everything I had read, then pointed out the entry that stood out to me. Daniel began to read and his eyes narrowed once he finished.
“The Heartless One literally doesn’t have a heart?” Asked Daniel in disbelief. “How is something like that possible?”
“I’m not sure,” I admitted thoughtfully. “He could be a form of undead, in which case it could be necromancy that’s keeping him alive. But then he body would decay, in which case he would stand out and would have probably been found by now.” there was a silence between us.
“What about a combination of magics?” asked Daniel. “There’s also the old ones that haven’t been used in centuries. Maybe that’s what’s keeping him alive without technically being undead.”
“It’s…possible,” I mused. “This sounds like advanced magic however, no doubt the Heartless have some powerful magic users with them. What’s more, it at least gives us an idea of how to find the Heartless One.”
“It’s simple but I doubt it’ll be easy,” said Daniel shaking his head. “Are we just gonna put out hands on every Secro’s chest and see if they have a heartbeat or not? Even if the Heartless One is within our group he would see it coming and probably run.”
“True,” I said considering what other options we had. “Regardless, this information will be useful to Slim and Salus. We should take it to them at once.” Daniel nodded as I stored the journal within my coat. We began to make our way out of the mansion, avoiding any guards that walked by, still unaware that the owner of the mansion was dead for a while now. We were able to find a raven to point us to where Slim was, turns out he was organizing a new safehouse for the Secros in Divinity’s Reach. I suppose Slim wanted to have a sort of base ready for where we would conduct our investigation. It was in the less population shadier areas of town. It was better that way I suppose, less guards traveled here infact there were less people in general. The streets seemed relatively empty for the time being. We walked towards the large building Slim had obtained and re-purposed as a safe house. I appeared to be a large warehouse, several floors high, from the outside it looked large enough to house probably a hundred Secros.
We knocked on the door and an old withered voice answered us.
“What do you want?” said an old voice from beyond the door.
“Something to relieve the burden of past mistakes,” Answered Daniel, giving the correct password. The door swung open for us to reveal a young sylvari Raven watching over the door. We strode in and she closed the door.
“Is Slim here?” I asked the sylvari.
“Slim just left actually,” said the sylvari. “Went to get a few supplies from the market, if you hurry you might catch up to him.”
“You should go get him,” I said turning to Daniel. “You’re faster after all. I’ll go relay the information to Salus.”
“Salus should be in his study,” answered the sylvari, smiling calmly.
“Alright,” said Daniel with uncertainty. “I’ll catch up to Slim and come back with him as soon as I can.” With that Daniel left the safe house, I could tell he wanted to remain, especially after all that has happened. There would be time for relaxing once all plans were set in motion however. A little bit of respite before searching for the Heartless One. I began to walk through the warehouse, rooms had been fitted, most utilities that a house would need in fact. I was told that the study was at the top floor, so I made my way over with a brisk jog. I found the door ajar and knocked as I slowly drew in.
“Salus?” I called out taking a few steps in, my body was immediately met with a wave of cold upon entering. I was met with a vast and mostly empty room. Salus sat in a desk at the center of the empty room, he looked up at me and smiled.
“Ah, Anavari!” he rose from his seat and welcomed me with open arms. “Bring good news I hope?”
“I bring information from Krale’s mansion,” I said as I approached. “The Journal Slim informed me of had something that could help us find the Heartless One.” Salus’ smile suddenly vanished.
“Journal?” He asked. “I was not informed of journal.”
“You were not?” I asked. “It was in the message the ravens sent me. The human’s eyes narrowed slightly.
“What did you find?” He asked, his voice was still a bit lighthearted.
“Krale gave a few details about the fringe but nothing specific,” I said. “What he did go on about was the Heartless. It seems that they are a secret organization much like the Fringe and the Secros.” Salus’ eyes widened in surprise. “The most interesting thing is that he mentioned that one member of the Heartless seems to have defected and they are trying to search for the Heartless base through him.”
“What else did the journal say?” asked Salus, his tone slowly became stern.
“Well this was the most interesting,” I said not taking much notice in the change of atmosphere. “It seems that the Heartless literally don’t have hearts. No doubts its some form of intricate magic perhaps…” I trailed off as I noticed that Salus wasn’t paying much attention. He slouched back to his desk and swept a hand past his long dark hair. “Is everything alright, Observer?” There was an agonizing silence between us, the room was growing colder I could begin to see my breath. It was getting only slightly harder to breathe.
“You know,” Said Salus as he stood back up, his expression numb. “Krale always had his quirks.” He took a step towards me as his voice began to darken, I took a step back. “His bloodlust was manageable, just send over an unlucky sot to sate him every now and then. What was a real issue was his constant. need. for. validation.” Small fragments of ice began to form around Salus, dancing around his frame.
“I always had to keep an eye on him to make sure he wouldn’t screw up, even after his death he fails me however.” Then it all made sense to me, and I drew my sword.
“You’re the Fringe agent that infiltrated the Secros,” I said as I charged my necrotic energies through my sword.” Spikes of ice began to form around Salus’ arms as he released a distorted chuckle.
“You already know too much Anavari,” said Salus as shards of Ice formed around his body. “I was hoping I could use you to completely find the Heartless, but it looks like I have to improvise. I’m so sorry.” The shards of ice formed and with a flick of his wrist they flew towards me at unsettling speeds. I was able to dive out of the way in time, but not without one of the shards grazing my right arm. My mind had no time to mull over the fact that Salus had been a betrayer all along, I had to focus on surviving the fight. It all seemed unlikely however, Salus was already proving to be an impossibly adept elementalist, his control over water and ice was like nothing I had ever seen before. A chilling wind was spinning all over the room, small fragments of ice were forming, making small nicks and prods at my skin and robes.
“You won’t survive this, Anavari,” said Salus as the ice forming around him began to envelop his body. Suddenly I heard the door burst open, and saw Daniel nocking an arrow into a bow, a small wick lighting up from it as it flew across the air. It landed on Salus’s ice covered arm and exploded, sending fragments of ice across the room and temporarily disturbing the blizzard within the massive room. Salus released an irritated wheeze.
“Should have expected you to join the fray, Daniel,” said Salus as he recomposed himself, the ice that had fallen off him already began to reform. “Always there to make sure no harm come to him. What makes this charr so special to you?” Daniel’s eyes simply narrowed as he delivered another arrow. This time Salus was ready however and he formed a wall of ice in front of him to block the attack.
Daniel began to move, storing away his bow and moving to his holstered pistol, delivering a barrage of bullets as he sprinted over towards me. Salus was too distracted blocking the attacks to pay attention to me. I moved towards the desk Salus had formerly sat on and used it as cover. Daniel joined me seconds later.
“Salus is a fringe agent,” I said
“That explains why he’s trying to kill you,” said Daniel. “I ran back as soon as I felt the air around the safehouse get colder. I knew something was up with him.”
“Doesn’t look like escaping will be easy,” I said peering over the desk only to have a volley of ice shards launched at me, the desk was barely able to withstand it without collapsing.
“We can run,” said Daniel. “Or we can take out a major Fringe agent. Up to you, big guy.”
“You don’t think running is the better call here?” I asked.
“I’m done running,” said Daniel with a fire in his eyes. Salus seemed quite intent on killing me, and escaping didn’t seem very likely.
“Alright,” I said as I collected my magic into my hands. “You go left and I’ll go right.”
“Grind down his defenses until one of us can land a killing blow?” asked Daniel.
“Exactly,” I said.
“Sounds good to me,” said Daneil. “Ready?”
We leaped out of the desk, engaging the Fringe once again.