Setting a brisk pace, I did a quick visual search of the area between the battle site and the Zintl Holy Grounds, but found no signs of the Norn. The pre-dawn light helped a little but there was still a lot of land to cover and time was not on my side. I had asked Quint to catch up with the others to safeguard them back to Lion’s Arch while I searched for De Koninck. He was reluctant to leave me alone at first but conceded after a stern order and an assurance that I would be fine. He took off in a quick sprint with his loyal red drake at his heels and left me to my search.
After scanning another section of the Fen with no luck, I stopped in a small clearing to rest and catch my breath. “Grenth’s horns,” I muttered impatiently.
The words had barely left my lips when a bitter cold filled the air. Darkness cast by the surrounding foliage grew larger until the whole area around me was covered in shadow. A tall presence emerged from the dark, covered in a ragged cloak and a crowned with a set of horns.
You let them go, I heard Grenth’s accusatory words hiss in my head. They were sharp, breathy, and felt like cold glass cutting through my mind. It left my head with a sharp ache.
“I see we’ve moved on to a more direct form of communication,” I mumbled as I rubbed at my left temple. “I did. No one else needs to get hurt,” I replied firmly.
Grenth remained still as stone while he stared at me hard with his hollow eyes. You will need them.
“Like I needed Rhys and Sir Fendall?” I blurted out, clutching Sir Fendall’s chest plate close to me. “Like I needed Torran? A whole lot of good that did them all in the end,” I said, my voice wavering. I took in a deep breath and tried to hold back my tears. “No one else needs to die for this.”
Death is often unavoidable. You know that. The ghostly visage of his elongated skeleton face appeared otherworldly as a blade of dawn’s light cut through the shadow to rest on the pale bone. He let out a breath that emanated a hollow sound as it escaped the elongated nasal slit in his bony face. The god then remained quiet for a moment as he studied me. Events are changing. You will need help in the days to come.
I narrowed my eyes sharply. “I don’t need help. I’ve been fine on my own. I’ve had to be since you’ve decided to disappear for so long.” One might not choose to address their patron god in such a forceful manor. However, my patience had run thin with my mostly absent deity.
Have you? With a bony finger, he pointed to the dagger on my hip, sharply reminding me of its presence. I think you forget how much bigger this is than you, the god replied, slowly gliding closer. The air surrounding us grew heavy and my legs started to feel unsteady. With each of his movements, I could hear the muted sound of bone grinding on bone. His tall form loomed over me as my legs failed and I fell to my knees. The pressure of his presence weighed heavily on my shoulders as I was enveloped in the bitter cold of his aura. You understood when you touched it, his words hissed sharply in my head and I flinched before looked away. You know the power it holds.
Swallowing hard, I briefly recalled the event. I was much younger and curious about what I had been charged with guarding. When I touched the cold metal, I was immediately submerged into an overwhelming pit of power that was hard to fully comprehend. I remember it being devoid of any light and it was cold and absolute. Surrounded by the dark, I recalled the feeling of being in the presence of something very old. It started to dig its sharp claws deep into my soul but I pulled back my hand before they could get too far.
“I remember,” I admitted quietly as I averted my gaze.
You are my emissary and have been charged with the task of guarding the blade. You will use the others as needed. You will protect it using every resource you can. What you decide to do with the others afterward is your choice.
“You’re asking me to treat them as mere tools,” I pointed out.
That did not stop you before, the god of death replied simply. You should not waste your time on the feelings of others. Remember what is at stake. He must never find it. Your ancestor knew the severity of the situation when we first secured the blade, as did your ancestors who followed. It has been watched by your family because of the level of trust and understanding established. He lowered his head and peered down at me with eyes that were not there. I could feel myself start to back away as an unsettling chill ran down my spine. Do not let it all fall with you.
“It’s too late,” I confessed, shaking my head. “I’ve pushed them all too far. They won’t follow a liar.”
Hmmm. Grenth cocked his visage of bone slightly to the side and then silently turned and began to move away.
“Wait,” I called after him. The god of the Underworld stopped and turned back toward me. “The last time I saw you before you went all silent on me was during the siege on Lion’s Arch. You led me to Seren for a purpose, didn’t you?”
Grenth remained silent for a moment and then nodded.
Another time, Grenth replied. His tall presence began to fade into shadow. Retrieve the others. He pointed off into the distance. Start with the Norn. Then suddenly, the shadows swallowed him whole before retreating and I was left alone with the morning rays of light.
Continuing my search for De Koninck, I kept my senses extended as far as they could go in hopes of sensing her heartbeat. After a short time, I managed to pick up a familiar strong rhythm that I couldn’t quite pinpoint because it kept moving around. I quickly realized that she was not going to come out of her own free will, especially considering the intensity of her grief and that I was basically the source of said grief. I needed to draw her out. I needed to push some buttons.
“Deirdre Koninckstendottir!” I yelled. My lack of patience didn’t have me very concerned with concealing my whereabouts. Besides, if Alec wanted me dead, he already had time to do the deed while on my search.
When I first met her in the Destroyer ravaged bowls of Mt. Maelstrom, Rhys had made the mistake of introducing her to me using her full name. I suppose if my father had been a traitor, taking up arms with the Sons of Svanir, I wouldn’t want to be associated with him in any way either. Really, I couldn’t blame her. The name she carried was marred and a strike against her family. If I were in her shoes, I would have changed it too. With a handful of forceful words and the presenting of her greatsword, De Koninck made sure that we remembered to never address her that way again. I had a feeling if I used her full name now, I’d be able to push that button and get her to come out of her hiding place. “Deirdre Koninckstendottir! I know you’re out here somewhere!”
There was a rustling from behind me and the sound of heavy footsteps. Instinctively, I grabbed for my axe and turned to find the tall, distraught Norn approaching me. Her dark hair hung around her face in tangled wavy tresses and her eyes were narrowed and bloodshot. “You know I don’t like that name,” she growled.
“I didn’t think you’d really respond to anything else,” I said, slowly lowering my weapon. I stared at her, mostly searching for any signs of murder in her eyes. My chest was still sore from the jar she had thrown at me. There was no look of murder, but what caught my attention was the lack of vivacity that used to be there before. It broke my heart.
“I’m really sorry about Molson,” I offered as wholeheartedly as I could. “Has he been-”
“Raven carried his ashes to the heavens and he is running with the Great Spirit now.” Her solemn gaze fell to the ground. “He was my strength.”
Slowly, I started closing the gap between us with weary steps. “You’ll find it again,” I assured her.
“I didn’t mean to throw that jar at you,” she confessed as she averted her gaze. “I was just so – you should have told us. I thought we were friends.”
Friends? “I know and I’m sorry. But we have to leave now,” I urged her on gently. ” You need to go with the others and get back to Lion’s Arch safe. They’ll fill you in on what I told them.” I didn’t care what Grenth had commanded. No one else needed to get hurt because of me.
I could see by the dim look in her eye that she was having a hard time processing what I was saying. She was stricken with loss and a mind has a hard time letting go of the pain, especially this soon after. I didn’t expect her to be sound of mind but I hoped that she was coherent enough to do what I asked. When all was said and done, I wondered if she’d understand. I needed her to understand.
“I-,” I started to say but stopped. “I need you to go back with the others, okay? They’re going to need you Dee. Especially Tuborg. He’s a sensitive soul.”
“It just kinda came out,” I shrugged.
She mulled over the new nickname for a moment before nodding. “Why?” she then asked, shaking her head. “Why is all of this happening? How come you didn’t tell us?” She looked at me, waiting for all the answers to come spilling out of my mouth.
“I, uh,” I stopped and let my gaze fall to the ground. So many things I wanted to say but couldn’t so I started rambling. “I-I’m sorry, I need to go.” I flashed her an apologetic glance and then as I turned to leave a bitter cold gust of wind swept through and my hands grew unusually cold. I lost my grip on Sir Fendall’s chest plate and it landed with a soft thud on the ground.
“What is this?” She asked, reaching down to retrieve the armor piece. Her normally strong voice was so soft I could barely hear her speak. “Is this-is this Sir Fendall’s?”
I rubbed my cold hands, trying to bring warmth back into them. “Yes,” I answered, not really wanting to admit it.
I crossed my arms over my chest and clenched my jaw. “Yes.”
Immediately, her shoulders slumped and she held Sir Fendall’s chest piece close to her chest. “How did this happen?” She asked.
And that was when it dawned on me. Once I told her that Alec was responsible for Sir Fendall’s death, no power in all of Tyria could stop her from coming with me to get her revenge. She wouldn’t have said anything if the plate hadn’t slipped from my grip and it wouldn’t have faltered if that cold breeze hadn’t swept through and froze my hands. I sighed heavily and frowned. Damn Grenth. Damn him straight to the Underworld.
I knew keeping the information from De Koninck would not serve me well. Even if I told her a lie, once she figured it out, I would feel the full force of Norn wrath for getting in the way of her justice. I decided to err on the side of caution. Besides, it was what Grenth had wanted anyway and seeing as he orchestrated this little scene, I didn’t seem to have much of a choice. “It was Alec.” I decided to keep the graphic details to myself.
De Koninck’s visage hardened and her eyes narrowed. “Where is he?” Her words came out as gruff as a bear’s growl. Her knuckles grew white as her grip on Sir Fendall’s chest plate tightened. I worried she might
“I think I know where he’s going next,” I said. “He had a head start already but he shouldn’t be able to get through the front door.” Suddenly, I froze as a thought slowly worked its way to the front of my mind. “Because its protected by blood magic. My blood.” I reached my hand and touched the healing wound on my back. “Oh gods.”
Maybe it was the look of panic in my eyes or the change in my tone, but the Norn snapped out of her rage-filled mourning stupor and immediately straightened herself. “Fill me in on the way.”