“I’ve only read about the Maguuma, and the literature is fairly spotty. Have you been Ulfridda?” Alepe asked Ulfridda, walking beside her as they made their way slowly around the reliquary. Bits of pottery, chunks of long-lost buildings and woven baskets in bright colours dominated the collection. Here and there a saurian tooth, with its jagged edges, or vampire beast bone, with its characteristic spaces for blood vessels criss-crossing through it caused the crowds to stop and discuss their strangeness.
“I have not.” Ulfridda answered. “The jungle is dense, and I never had the time to prepare for the trek.”
Alepe had not adjusted to his newfound height, as the glamour had turned him into an overweight charr. Ulfridda, conversely, had much of her height removed, but had adapted to her new sylvari form. She had even gone so far as to rebuke a group of children calling out racist remarks. She would never lose her powerful presence, Koda’s Breath guessed, no matter what form she took.
Koda’s Breath walked as a human, his white fur changed for dark ebony skin. The hair on his head was snow white, however, and fell down his back elegantly. Serene Wrath and Korr had been turned into asura, the latter now perspiring as he tried to keep up.
“It takes so long to go places!” He had exclaimed as they waited in line for the next exhibit. “I don’t like being short.” Animals were disallowed in the reliquary, and he had left Ounce at the safehouse.
“Now you know how I feel” Alepe answered over his shoulder.
“We are coming up on the main attraction.” Ulfridda said. “Hush”
The room had been gaudily painted in gold, with faux diamonds and rubies made of glass glued to the walls. In the centre of the room, well lit from above, was a golden mask. When they got near to it, Alepe read the card below:
‘Golden Mask. Unknown origin. Discovered in expedition to the jungles of Maguuma. Recovered from White Mantle Cultists. Donated to the Divinity’s Reach Reliquary by Kyle Baker, Durmand Priory.’
“I wonder what it was used for?” Alepe pondered. “Maybe a ritual, or similar?” Ulfridda nodded.
“It was probably used to contain magical energy. It is faint, but I can feel the power through the glass. Here, touch the glass, it’s warm.” Ulfridda motioned, and Serene Wrath and Koda’s Breath reached out.
Serene Wrath’s hand touched the glass and a voice tore through his mind.
‘GET ME OUT OF THIS BOX!”
Startled, he stumbled back. Ulfridda and Koda’s Breath looked worried.
“What is it?” Koda’s Breath asked.
“I-I am not sure. When I touched the glass, I heard a voice.” He rubbed his hand, his fingertips still tingling from the invasion.
“Touch it again.” Ulfridda urged. Serene Wrath walked over to the box, and closed his eyes. He placed his hand on the glass again, and the voice returned.
‘You can hear me?‘ The voice was strong, and deep.
‘I can.’ He answered.
‘You are the first. I sense you are—not like all others.’
‘I am not.’ He confirmed. ‘Why are you in this box?’
‘I awoke only recently. I am called to protect the Lost City, and the Legacy. Do these things mean anything to you?’
‘No’ Serene Wrath’s mind swam with questions. ‘Why?’
‘You have discovered magics I thought to only belong to the Forgotten.’ The voice answered. ‘I sense you have not perfected the transference.’ It was not a question. ‘You are a danger to yourself and those around you. My name is Tyve, and if you release me from this box, I will assist you in any way I can.‘
‘How do I know I can trust you?’
‘You don’t. But I know you’ve hurt people. You—your form has allowed something to slip from beyond this world. This is the danger of not completing the rituals’ Tyve’s words rang true, and Serene Wrath turned to Ulfridda and Koda’s Breath.
“It speaks. It calls itself Tyve, and it says if we free it, it will help me with a ‘transference’”
Alepe spoke up. “That is probably the process of embedding your psychological imprint onto the crystalline structure. If it knows how to do this, then we should speak to it.”
Ulfridda scanned the room. “We can’t simply open the box though, it will draw too much attention. We need a distraction.” The air around her shoulders shimmered, and heat radiated from her hands. The curtains on the other side of the room burst into flame.
“Fire!” She cried. “Everyone get out!”
The crowd erupted into shouts and screams, and Korr grabbed the box. In the chaos, they exited the room while the guard attempted to douse the flames. Ulfridda rushed over to assist the guards, calling on water and dousing the ever-growing flames. She feigned losing control several times, until they beat the fire back successfully. By then, Prophecy’s hand had made their way back to the safehouse. The bright sun of mid-day had been obscured by cloud, and the weather had begun to turn sour, as it so easily could in the flatlands of Kryta. Ulfridda entered the safehouse through the back door, appreciating the shucking of her unnatural form, until she took one step, the usual pain shooting through her lower back.
‘Blast!’ she thought. Ulfridda had overcome many enemies, even in the most dire of circumstances. But before her own body, she was powerless. She reached over by the door, grasping her cane, and focussed on earth. Her legs strengthened, the pain diminishing to a dull ache. She turned to shut the door, realising it had blown open behind her. A wind passed then, ruffling the coats next to her on the rack. She shut the door, and turned into the main room.
Everyone was crowded around the box, which Alepe was using a small blow-torch to open. She sat down, heavily, and Koda’s Breath looked at her.
“You didn’t give us much time there, elder.” His tone carried with it a hint of chastisement.
“You could handle it, apprentice” Ulfridda stressed the last word, reminding him of their relationship. “Besides, we haven’t much time before we meet Anise. If this—thing—can assist, maybe we can skip meeting the Countess altogether.”
Ulfridda’s words hung in the air, and a long pause stretched between them, silent only but for the hissing of the blow-torch. Then, Serene Wrath spoke.
“You think this is a good thing.” It was not a question.
“I do not trust humans. They are never working alone, nor do they regularly share their real motives. Most are kindly, and good folk, but I would not be so foolish as to allow them to know more than they should.” Ulfridda said, stretching her legs. “There are always loyalties within loyalties. Anise is trustworthy, I believe, but she should not be told more than is absolutely necessary”
Koda’s Breath stared at the ground, processing this. “I think we should meet with Anise. Any insight she may have to help Wrath to strengthen himself against the darkness would be useful.”
Serene Wrath put his arm around Koda’s Breath. “Anise is our best option, still, until we speak with Tyve further. Until then, I believe she is our plan A.”
The group nodded in agreement. Suddenly, Ounce howled, hissing at the corner. Korr stood and went over to her, stroking the fur on her back.
“Whats wrong Ounce?” he said. “There is nothing there.”
Alepe laughed. “Cats do that sometimes. Best ignore it, or she will become afraid of every empty corner!”
They laughed, and Alepe went back to opening the box. After an hour, he ran out of gas, and left the safehouse to purchase another canister. Ounce never left her spot, staring at the corner with her haunches raised.
Staring straight into the venom-green eyes of Zuhaira.