Asura aren’t typically given to great displays of grief, even when we lose one of our own. We’re not entirely without emotion, of course, not as other races might choose to portray us, but frequently our sorrows end up bound with our work, the two intertwining to become what defines us.
Whilst Blaise’s death wasn’t on a scale of other losses in my past, it hit me hard, and in the days that followed, I found the lure of busyness and work growing ever stronger. It wasn’t just the ranger, either, or the fact that we’d discovered his pet’s limp body beside him – it was the fact that his death had been Spark’s doing, and however she might apologise or try to atone, that was one fact we could never forget.
But Spark was gone, and though he hadn’t immediately followed her, Weir was too. I didn’t know what the guardian was planning to do now, whether he’d go after Spark or not, but it was quite clear he too needed time alone.
“Perhaps we’ll see each other again,” he said dully, as we stood on the rise above Agnos Gorge, dawn’s pale light flooding over the landscape.
And perhaps we won’t, was the implied end of that sentence. I was sorry to see Weir go, but I wasn’t about to stop him, not when he’d lost even more than the rest of us with Spark’s betrayal.
Which left Erin, Caolinn and myself in the company of the bodies of Blaise and his jaguar, both now swathed in heavy cloth and awaiting passage back to Kryta. We’d considered burying him here, in Ascalon, perhaps his ancestral home, but it hadn’t seemed right. Blaise was a citizen of Divinity’s Reach, once a member of the Seraph, and any other resting place wouldn’t have been appropriate.
We had Spark’s equipment, too, everything she’d used to create a new Searing now left in my care. That was a far more dangerous cargo, but I felt too numb to pay much mind to it. Within an hour of arriving back in the Black Citadel, I’d had it packed up and shipped away by courier, back to my lab – Flikk’s lab – in Rata Sum. It would be safe there, I hoped, and if not… Well, right then, I couldn’t bring myself to care.
We had only the briefest of sojourns in Lion’s Arch, just a few minutes for Erin and Caolinn to buy supplies. I sat in the plaza beyond the gates, Blaise’s body wrapped in canvas at my feet, and tried to picture where everything had gone so wrong. What could I have said to persuade Spark not to go so far? What could I have done to stop her? In the end, the worst of it was that my answer quickly became ‘nothing’. I’d gone above and beyond to end Spark’s rampage, chasing her halfway across Tyria, and not one bit of it had done any good.
I had the feeling Erin saw that as a comfort. She’d played her part – that Spark hadn’t been assuaged was down to the charr’s own temperament, not a failing on our part. Nothing we could ever have done would have fixed things, and for Erin, that was vindication that’d we’d acted as we should. For me… I was left feeling helpless, and that was a feeling I hated most in all the world.
It wasn’t long before my companions returned, complete with a handcart to transport Blaise’s body, and then we were onward to Divinity’s Reach. Kryta, as a region, felt stuffy and overcrowded to me, and the human city was worse, but for once I felt a little more at home there. This was where Blaise was from, after all, and returning him to his birthplace was the one thing that did comfort me.
We stopped, first, at the Seraph’s headquarters in the city, but spoke only to a sour-faced woman in armour who clearly wasn’t pleased to hear Blaise’s name brought up.
“What’s that little hoodlum done now?” she snapped. “Don’t tell: he’s looking for a hand-out.”
Erin visibly bristled, and I thought for a moment she was going to strike the Seraph woman, but both Caolinn and I tugged her away. The Seraph might be where Blaise had started his career, but clearly they weren’t interested in him now.
We’d reached the doorway without incident when Erin turned back. “He’s dead,” she ground out, apparently unable to stop herself. “Blaise is dead, and he died protecting Tyria from a threat you can’t even imagine. He was a good man – shame his own people couldn’t recognise that.”
With those parting words, she strode away. I risked a glance back at the shocked face of the Seraph before following.
There was, if we were honest, only a partial truth to Erin’s words. Blaise had been a good man, and he’d saved us – but it had taken betrayal and death amongst the Seraph for him to reach a point where that was the case.
In the end, we left Divinity’s Reach alone, without human or Seraph companions. If Blaise had living relatives in the city, we had no means of finding them, and after our last meeting, I suspected no-one would want to know.
It was dusk by the time we crossed the landscape of fields and farmsteads, circling a small lake to the east. Caolinn led the way, as the only one of us who’d spent much time in Kryta – not that she was willing to say why that had been. Perhaps she’d been working for Darr, or perhaps she’d been here simply out of sylvari curiosity, but at least she seemed to know where we were going.
“What’s wrong with the cemetery?” Erin asked, as we left the city behind.
Caolinn didn’t reply, but I shook my head. “Blaise was cast out by his people. Do you really think he’d want to be buried with them?”
“He was still human,” Erin argued. “Maybe in death both Blaise and those he betrayed will find peace.”
I couldn’t argue with that and I was about to suggest we turn back, when Caolinn held up a hand for silence. “No,” she said softly. “That place is too ancient, too steeped in death. Blaise deserves somewhere peaceful.”
Erin and I exchanged a glance, and I found myself wondering what ghosts and unquiet spirits Caolinn could see around Divinity’s Reach and its graveyard, hidden to less sensitive eyes.
“Where are we going, then?” Erin asked.
“A quiet place,” Caolinn replied, glancing over her shoulder. “Somewhere he won’t be disturbed.”
So it was that she led us down a rocky hillside, across a tiny stream, and up into steep ground that I thought must lie somewhere south-east of Divinity’s Reach. The city itself was out of sight, but I caught an occasional strain of a horn being blown or a snatch of music that said it wasn’t far away. The ridge on which we stood was grassily verdant and dotted with saplings; with the water glittering below us and the distant sounds of the city, I thought Caolinn was right. This really was a place of peace, and yet somewhere Blaise would – in life – have felt right at home.
Erin had been pulling the handcart carrying the wrapped bodies of the ranger and his pet, and she brought it to a juddering halt at the foot of the ridge. This time, there was no digging of graves: instead, we collected stones from the bank and the riverside, ready to make a cairn. When Erin finally carried the bodies up the slope, it was with a look of blind sorrow on her face, and it took Caolinn’s steady hands to arrange both Blaise and Whisper in their resting place amongst the tall grasses.
Erin and I made the cairn, then, the stones rough in our hands, sweat mingling with tears. I couldn’t pretend to have known Blaise as well as I should, but his unwavering loyalty, and his sacrifice in the end, deserved our care in return. Caolinn knelt at our feet, murmuring words of prayer over the dead, and by the time the mound was completed, I felt a measure of peace. We’d done everything we could for Blaise, given him the peace he’d so sorely craved in life – in the end, perhaps it hadn’t been such a bad death, after all.
Afterwards, Erin said a prayer of her own, and I found a piece of fallen wood to inscribe their names on. ‘Blaise’, ‘Whisper’, and then, after a moment’s thought, ‘Deathwish’. I knew, in the end, that the ranger hadn’t wanted to die, but he’d given up his life to save us – and to save Spark most of all.
It was fully dark by the time we were finished. There was the bright glow of firelight in the sky both to the east and over the hills to the north, and the landscape around us was dotted with the tiny sparks of homes and campfires. We lit a fire of our own and sat round it, eating a meal, though without much relish. It occurred to me that, for the first time, I was without purpose. My leads chasing the Inquest had all dried up, and I didn’t think Spark would be causing trouble for a long time to come. I looked vainly for some small glimmer of vengeance still in my heart, but now when I thought about Zurra, it was only with a desire to stop her hurting anyone else.
“We’re not the same people we used to be, are we?” Erin said into the night, almost as if she’d read my thoughts.
I gave a small laugh. “Probably a good thing.”
And that was when I saw the figure, little more than a shadow, down by the water’s edge. They were advancing at speed, making no move to hide themselves; I was on my feet and armed before I’d even realised what I was doing.
The stranger was only a few paces away when they stopped and held up a hand. “I have a message for you.”
I couldn’t see their face, and though the voice was an asura’s, I might have skewered them there and then if it wasn’t for Caolinn.
“Wait,” she said, also rising to her feet. “He’s one of Darr’s.”
The shadowed figure inclined its head in agreement. “I’m here for all of you, Amber especially. I was asked to tell you that you’re needed in Mount Maelstrom.”
“Mount Maelstrom?” I echoed, confused. I’d never been there in my life, not even as a thief – it wasn’t an area with a great deal worth stealing. “What for?”
“The Syndicate’s on the move,” the messenger replied, then shrugged. “He said you’d understand.”
And I did. The Syndicate – the Tyrian Development Syndicate.
“What is it?” Erin asked, hand hovering over the hilt of her greatsword.
“It’s Zurra,” I said, and in the same instant, my mind was already made up. “I’m going south.”