With the others gone, the cavern was near silent aside from the pounding above. I stood cradling my bleeding hand against my chest as I enjoyed what little peace I had. One thing I knew for certain, Alec wanted this last piece and he wouldn’t stop until he had it and any consequences were trivial to him. He would eventually find a way in and it didn’t matter how many people he killed along the way. Gods, once he got all the pieces, he’d kill us all anyway and who knows how many after.
I looked around at the cavern walls, re-familiarizing myself with the marks as I watched the painted sigils release their soft glow. There was a comfort in the sigils’ light. Each stroke of red had once been a part of me and still were in a way. A proud smile tugged at my lips and I wondered if this was how a parent felt looking upon their child. It had been years, but I could remember the week I had spent here creating this place as if it were just yesterday. I had almost passed out on more than one occasion from exhaustion and blood loss and but it had been worth it in the end. The old scent from the marks mixed with the scent of my fresh blood had formed a strange metallic unity in my nostrils. I wrinkled my nose, not used to the unusual pairing. I was still puzzled why I had been able to pick up the scent so easily lately.
Strange smells aside, I knew there was an accessible option to end all this mess. I had created this cavern years ago to charge and store energy. My energy. It was originally designed as a trap, but since I had opened the way, the cavern had shifted into stand-by mode. However, if I overcharged the sigils, the entire cavern would be consumed by a strong force of magic. Each sigil would connect, pooling their energy together. Without activating the sigils in the correct order, the power wouldn’t have a direct outlet for any of it to go. The entire cavern would flood with energy and engulf anyone inside. I couldn’t imagine anyone would be able to survive being bombarded with all that power, at least that’s what I was counting on. However, I needed to be inside the cavern in order to make this plan work which meant that I would probably die as well.
Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
Letting out a heavy sigh, I clutched my hand closer. Many left in my wake had died. My two closest friends Rhys and Sir Fendall were dead. I had to kill a man whom I had cared about because he surrendered to the call of the blade. Liliana was murdered because I had made the wrong call. The others were in danger and would probably continue to be in danger until all of this was over. If it hadn’t been for me and my mission, everyone would probably still be alive. If it hadn’t been for this cursed blade, maybe my family would still be alive. At some point, it all needed to end. If it didn’t, people were going to keep dying or getting hurt and I wasn’t sure if I could live with that anymore.
And I was so tired.
When I was ready, I could open the door above if Alec and his men didn’t manage to break through but I was certain I would be greeted with some sort of violence right away. Alec wouldn’t be happy with what I had done, but he’d have to learn to live with disappointment. Despite his anger, I knew that ultimately he was no fool. He wouldn’t outright kill me when he got down here, at least that’s what I was counting on. He still needed that precious third piece and only I could reveal it for him.
A sudden loud crack from above told me that I didn’t have any more time to ponder on it. The door above started to give and immediately stone and snow started to fall. Rocks and pebbles toppled down the steps carved into the wall and down to the floor. My heart immediately broke into a sprint, but I stood my ground and waited for them to come through. There was a flash of violet light from above that suddenly shattered into a thousand pieces right in front of me. Alec’s form filled my view and before I could move, a single shot rang out, striking me hard in the shoulder. Between the force of the shot and the pain, I fell upon the ground on my side with a sharp cry. Trying to set my dizzying vision straight, I looked up to find a pair of dark boots and blue longcoat growing dangerously close.
“This is ridiculous!” Alena cried out. They had barely made their way along the first section of the pathway when the Asura stopped short. She furrowed her pale brow as she planted her small feet firmly on the ground and crossed her short arms over her chest. Baring her two rows of tiny sharp teeth, Alena let out a growl. “We can’t just leave her back there.”
“She knows what she’s doing,” Dee tried to assure her but her tone faltered. The Norn crouched down to Alena’s height and tried to hide the concern weighing heavily on her brow. “At least that’s what I’m counting on.”
“Nienna told us to go so we’re going,” Seren said simply.
Alena scoffed. “Oh now you want to listen to her?”
Placing her hands on her hips, Seren narrowed her hazel eyes at Alena. “If it means getting away from all of this, then yes.”
“I don’t believe this,” Alena cried out as she threw her small hands up in the air. With small quick steps, she approached Clarkus. “Don’t tell me you feel the same, do ya big guy?”
The Charr huffed as he looked down at her. His long ears twitched slightly and then lowered as they usually did right before he was going to say something he knew Alena wouldn’t like. “I think it would be best to do as the Commander says,” he grumbled quietly. “She gave us orders.”
Dee straightened herself from her crouch and shot a long glance across the group towards Tuborg that suggested she was having second thoughts. The Sylvari raised a thorned eyebrow in reply.
“What,” Artis asked, nervously cracking his knuckles at his sides. “What’s going on? Why aren’t we moving? I don’t like leaving Yunkle out there on his own for too long.”
“For once I’m in agreement with him,” Seren admitted as she stuck her thumb out at the hunter.
Dee let out a heavy sigh that ended in a frustrated growl as she planted her hands firmly on her hips and shifted her weight to one leg. “Bear’s Back, this doesn’t feel right.”
“That’s what I’m saying!” Alena said.
Dee looked up at Quint who had remained quiet this whole time. He had been busying himself with examining the passageway and was now crouched down, looking at something near the ground. “What does our Adviser think?”
Quint stood and ran his fingers through his salt and pepper hair. His steely eyes looked off in the distance for a moment and then regained their focus on Dee. “It’s not an easy answer with a group divided,” he replied clenching his jaw. “But I made a promise to see you all home safely.”
“All of us,” Alena pointed out. “Doesn’t all include Nienna too? I mean I know she told us to go but should we really? She’s still a person. A person who didn’t have to, but gave us all a place to call home and made us a family.”
“Don’t call this a family!” Seren barked sharply. Her eye grew glassy. “This isn’t a family. Something based on lies can’t be a family!”
An uneasiness grew in the air around the group.
“But she lied to protect us!” Alena argued. The autumn colored feathers on her collar fluttered sharply as she gestured all around them.
“And how well has that been working out?” Seren challenged.
Letting out a heavy sigh, Alena’s shoulders slumped and her lips fell into a frown. “I don’t think Nienna can do this on her own, Seren. I mean, maybe she thinks she can but Alec has a lot of people with him. My mental calculations are not adding up in her favor.” she said, gesturing behind them. “Do you really want to have her blood on your hands?”
Seren remained silent and her presence immediately grew stiff.
“We’ve all been through a lot in such a short time,” Dee said. “But Alena makes a good point. I know we all have questions and disagreements with her and what she has done. But if we leave her now, what kind of people are we?”
A contemplative rumble erupted from Clarkus. “But she gave us orders.”
“And Nienna isn’t here,” Dee pointed out as the corner of her full lips pulled into the start of a smile. “And when she isn’t here, Tuborg and I pull rank. Don’t we?”
Tuborg smiled. “This is true.”
“If we’re all in agreement,” Dee began as she eyed Seren and then Clarkus. “We’ll give new orders.”
“Please Seren,” Alena urged as she hesitantly approached the guardian. “Please, put your anger aside for just a few moments.”
Silence fell on the group and all eyes turned to Seren who stood with her arms crossed over her scratched and dented breastplate. She looked up from under a heavily furrowed brow. “I won’t have her blood on my hands, despite my anger.”
Alena’s ears pricked up and she flashed the guardian a large, toothy grin. “Excellent!” She looked back and forth between Dee and Tuborg. “So, we go get her?”
Dee’s grin grew as she and Tuborg exchanged knowing glances. “Yes, we go get her. We’ll deal with the questions and anger later.” Suddenly, her smile faded and her gaze drifted away from the group. “And we’ll mourn when all is said and done.”
“Do we have a plan?” Clarkus asked. “None of us are armed except for our Norn leader.”
“Actually,” Quint spoke up as he wiped at the passageway’s jagged wall with two fingers and then held them up. They were covered in an opaque slime with a bluish hue. “I might have an idea.”