May 25 2015

Chapter 5: Part 12 – Grave Digging

Chapter 5: Part 11 - Collateral Damage
Chapter 5: Part 13 - Into the Citadel

AmberHeader5-12It was midnight by the time we finished burying the bodies. The worst effects of Souleater proved to be temporary: rather than linger on, mindless, those soldiers who’d been hit by the blast soon breathed their last. Death, I couldn’t help thinking, was a relief after the state Souleater had left them in. A full dozen of them had been killed by Spark’s attack, and though I was well aware that had never been her intention, the fact she hadn’t stayed to face what she’d done was like a thorn in my chest.

If I was angry, though, Erin was absolutely livid; she told me several times, in murderous tones, that she’d throttle the charr with her bare hands. I’d always thought Erin rather mild-mannered, but now she stamped up and down the beach below Fort Cadence, red in the face and huffing as she shouted orders at the few guards who remained. Whilst they were Vigil and she Priory, their commander was amongst the dead, and I thought the dazed soldiers were secretly quite glad to have someone tell them what to do.

Which left the rest of us with nothing else to do save dig graves. It was a silent, sombre task. We gathered tools from the fort, and then Darr, Blaise and myself set to work, slicing through the soft earth, making hole after gaping hole.

Afterwards, Caolinn performed the burials. She used necromantic magic to carry the bodies up to the site one by one, and then blessed them once the graves were filled. She had Blaise carve their names into slices of wood to mark the graves; maybe she could see their ghosts, because the sylvari seemed to know every name as though she’d served in Fort Cadence herself.

We finally gathered again when dawn was breaking, creeping over the swamps and hills with a sickly, pallid light. “I need to return to my base,” Darr said. “Caolinn, you are discharged from your duty of gathering intelligence on Spark – you may stay here or come with me, as you see fit.”

Blaise was the only one left who hadn’t known Caolinn’s true mission, but as he’d never been particularly close to the prickly sylvari, he only raised his eyebrows in surprise. Caolinn chose to stay, which didn’t surprise me as much as Blaise’s continued presence.

I’d asked him, as we worked, why he hadn’t left with Spark. The ranger had shrugged. “I know she saved my life, but… She knew what she was doing was wrong. I understand revenge better than anyone, but how could I follow her after that?”

How indeed? Clearly Weir hadn’t had the same compunctions. I wondered, though, if Spark really had known what was going to happen. She was a skilled engineer, but I thought perhaps she’d been fooling herself, forcing herself to be blind to the damage Souleater was going to cause rather than let her vengeance come to an end.

“Thank you for your assistance, all of you,” Darr said, with a nod to each of us in turn. “I’m sorry things didn’t turn out better.”

With that, he was gone, slipping away into the humid forest, leaving the rest of us to stare at one another in the growing morning light.

I half expected Erin to do what she’d done before, and stay to help another flailing contingent of Pact soldiers, but this time her fury was too great. “We need to find Spark,” she said, her hand tightening on an axe at her belt as she spoke. “She’s still got Souleater. She might–”

She didn’t finish, for which I was glad. I didn’t much want to think about what Spark might do next.

There wasn’t much else to think about, though, as we travelled north again. Nothing sought to trouble us, not even forest beasts: apparently, a thief, a necromancer, a warrior and a ranger, complete with occasionally visible jaguar, were enough to deter trouble. Erin, I thought, was actually disappointed. She was spoiling for a fight, and a run-in with pirates or skale or even more Risen would have suited her perfectly.

But that wasn’t to be, and we reached the entrance to Lion’s Arch two days later, weary but unscathed.

“How are we going to find her?” It was Blaise who asked the question; of all of us, he seemed least affected by Spark’s betrayal, but I could tell there were hidden depths of hurt beneath his silence. Blaise really had trusted the charr, been almost as loyal to her as Weir, and most of the Vigil killed by Souleater had been human besides.

“Someone must have seen her,” Erin replied, our impromptu leader with Spark gone.

“If she even came this way,” I pointed out, but it was unlikely Spark could have fled far without the assistance of the asura gates of Lion’s Arch, and I had a feeling she’d want to get as far away as possible.

Caolinn took off ahead. “I’ll find us somewhere to stay.”

She was gone a moment later, and I found myself watching her suspiciously – which was unfair, given that her role in Spark’s party was now out in the open, but I couldn’t shake the habit. Even as a thief, I couldn’t imagine living by subterfuge for as long as she had.

Still, Caolinn was the only one of us who looked more relaxed than before we’d entered Sparkfly Fen. With no more secrets to keep, she was less tense than I’d ever seen her, and some of her old antagonism seemed to be gone.

I wished I could feel the same. Mostly, picturing the damage Souleater had done, I just wanted to hit something.

With the sylvari gone, we trudged across the city, then crossed the arched wooden bridge to the ring of asura gates offering passage out of Lion’s Arch. There were sentries on all sides, Peacemakers and Wolfborn and the like, guarding the routes to their homes; I made a beeline for the soldiers of the Iron Legion who stood nearby.

There were two of them, and they regarded me with amusement, snickering as I got closer. It wasn’t until Erin appeared at my back, and then Blaise, that one of them narrowed his eyes and said, “Where’s the sylvari?”

I was instantly on my guard, unable to stop one hand going to a dagger even though I knew I’d be in trouble with the Lionguard if I wasn’t careful. The second charr, though, quickly made a calming gesture with one clawed hand. “Calm yourself, cub. We’ve been expecting you, that’s all.”

With deliberate care, I took my hand off my dagger. “And why would you be expecting us?”

“Got a message for you. From a mutual friend.”

I couldn’t honestly see who I was likely to know in common with these soldiers – unless it might be another charr? “You mean Spark?”

“Gyrespin? No, haven’t seen her in years.” The soldier shrugged with a clank of armour. “I meant Lightpaw. Weir Lightpaw. He wanted you to know he was going this way.”

One jutting claw indicated the gate behind, leading to the Black Citadel. I could only assume that, whilst Spark was in hiding, Weir was heading back to Ascalon, and he wanted us to follow. It had been too much to hope for, I supposed, that Spark herself might be willing to communicate, but at least Weir wasn’t shutting us out.

I thanked the soldiers and moved away. It wasn’t until we’d left the gates behind that Erin murmured, “It could be a trap.”

I glanced up at her in surprise. “Set by who? Spark doesn’t have the resources to arrest us, even in the Black Citadel. She’s not part of a warband, remember, and I don’t think the legions would be any happier about Souleater than we are.”

Erin didn’t look very convinced by my argument, but a feeling of utter certainty had settled in my gut. Spark was still on the run, but Weir was following her – and, loyal or not, he wanted us to catch them up.

“This is our chance,” I said firmly. “I think Weir finally understands how dangerous Spark can be. If we travel to Ascalon, we’ll catch her.”

Erin shook her head. “I wish I could share your optimism.”

For once, I thought I actually had enough optimism for both of us – it helped that Blaise was hanging on my every word. He was, I realised, just as keen to catch Spark as we were.

“Let’s find Caolinn,” I said, “then get out of here. The quicker we get to Ascalon, the better.”

Chapter 5: Part 11 - Collateral Damage
Chapter 5: Part 13 - Into the Citadel
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