“I’m sorry dear friend.”
Jerking awake from the nightmare, I nearly shot straight up from where I lay under a strange heavy fur skin on a simple cot and immediately regretted it. Grunting through clenched teeth, I doubled over from the sharp pain radiating throughout my shoulders and the dull ache from my worn out body. As I moved, I felt something cinched around my chest and shoulders. My attire was gone and I had been dressed in a rather large cream-colored tunic that hung off of me like a potato sack. Very carefully I reached under the tunic and found soft bandages that had been firmly wrapped around my wounds.
“You lost a lot of blood,” a voice said simply. I looked up to find Seren sitting casually on an empty crate across the way. Her earthen hair still hung messily around her face and her visage was set in a deep scowl that made me wish I was still unconscious. She wore a tunic very much like mine but better fit and a pair of brown leather trousers tucked into her plated boots. “Quint called for us and Clarkus carried you down the hill. The Priory team here nearly had a heart attack when they saw how much blood you lost.”
“The bandages were their doing?” I asked as I tried pushing myself up with my weak arms but my body just hurt too much. Groaning, I stopped and allowed my sore and stiff body to rest.
“Please give them my thanks,” I said.
“Give it yourself,” Seren replied coldly.
I froze, taken back by the terse response. “Seren,” I started to say but I stopped as the guardian rose from her seat abruptly.
“I don’t want to hear it,” she said firmly as she clenched her fists tightly. Her entire body tremored. “What you have done has cost innocent lives. It was selfish and careless and I can’t be a part of it anymore. I’m heading back to Lion’s Arch now to get my stuff. You won’t find me when you return.”
“Seren, please don’t do this,” I pleaded. “I know I made some terrible choices and I can’t tell you how sorry I am.”
Crossing her arms over her chest, Seren stiffened. “Yes, they were terrible,” she scolded. “And no amount of apologies will change what happened. Because of you, there are people dead. Your lies and half-truths killed them. Liliana didn’t deserve to die like that and neither did Molson. Artis’ body is just going to rot away in that cavern.” Her eyes glistened over her voice rose. “You didn’t even try to bring him back!”
“I couldn’t, Seren. He was gone!” Letting out a heavily frustrated sigh, I let my gaze fall to my lap. Once the last ribbons of life had left a body, there was nothing left to tether them to this world. The only being strong enough to bring someone back was the Lord of Death himself and even then those events happened very rarely and only if they suited Grenth’s purpose. “I never meant for anyone to get hurt. Please, just don’t leave.”
Seren stared at me incredulously. “Give me a reason why I should stay and it better be a good one.”
Immediately, I found myself engaged in an internal struggle of truth and lies. Lying as long as I have made it a hard habit to break. I had never told Seren what I saw during the siege when I found her huddled with the children, guarding them with her weapons drawn as Scarlet’s Aetherblades descended upon them. A part of me wasn’t even sure of what I saw but despite any disbelief, I knew it had to mean something.
“During the siege of Lion’s Arch, I was helping a merchant get out from under her collapsed food stall,” I started to explain as I tried to straighten my aching back to get in a more comfortable position. I winced as my tight muscles screamed at me and stopped about half way through the stretch. “I heard the children crying out and when I looked over, I saw a flutter of shadow. Suddenly, there He was. My patron god who had been silent for so long, leaving me to my mission with almost no guidance. At that exact moment, Grenth chose to appear over a small but brave warrior of light. Over you. I left that woman there under the stall to help you and the children and I heard her scream when I killed the Aetherblades attacking you. I left her to die there under that stall,” I confessed quietly, looking down at my hands in my lap, trying to hold back shameful tears. “There had to be a reason why he appeared above you like that, but I just don’t know why yet.”
Seren’s eyes grew wide but her body remained stiff while a heavy silence grew between us. I waited patiently for the young guardian to process what I had told her, knowing how odd it must have sounded. Slowly, Seren shifted her weight and uncrossed her arms to rest her palms on the edge of the crate. She let out a sharp sigh as looked me square in the eye as she narrowed her brow.
“I know you think I must be important somehow, but I’m not just a puzzle for you to figure out,” Seren said sternly. “And I’m certainly not fodder for your mission and neither are they.” She gestured sharply to the tent’s opening.
I shook my head in shame. “I know. I can’t begin to explain how sorry I am.”
“And we still don’t know everything,” Seren continued. “I doubt we ever will.” Pushing herself away from the crate, she flashed me a glare that cut through to my heart. “Good-bye Nienna.” Turning on her heels, Seren walked out of the Priory tent, leaving me in a stunned silence and without any answers to the puzzle surrounding her.
I sat there on the cot looking down at my hands resting on my lap. My cut hand had been bandaged up but still throbbed with a dull ache, like the rest of my body. I ran my other thumb gently over the bandages as my thoughts spiraled down into a deep pit of regret. I closed my eyes and let myself sink.
“How are you feeling?” A gentle voice asked, pulling me from my thoughts some time later.
I looked up to find Quint pulling the Priory tent’s flap closed behind him. With long strides, he walked over to the crate Seren had used earlier, picked it up, and put it down next to the cot.
“You lost a lot of blood,” he said as he settled himself on the crate. The cut near his temple had been cleaned and he had combed back his silvery hair, but his coat and tunic were torn and had been smeared with blood.
“So I hear,” I replied quietly, distracted by the blood. “Are you hurt?” I asked, pointing to his attire.
He shook his head. “No, that’s yours actually,” the Adviser said. I flashed him a confused look and he elaborated. “When I heard the shot, I ran back and found you unconscious in the snow near Alec’s body. He won’t be getting up again any time soon,” he added. “I called for the others but you were pale and freezing so I picked you up and tried to keep you warm until they came. The Priory team patched you up and wanted to hover but Tuborg managed to entertain them with stories of the Sylvari culture that seemed to satisfy a deep curiosity they had. We felt it would be best to give you some space to rest.”
“Oh,” I uttered, surprised but grateful. “Thank you.”
The Adviser nodded and then added, “Seren is leaving.”
“I know. She told me,” I replied with a heavy sigh.
“Dee, as you’re calling her now,” he said, gently rubbing at the stubble along his jawline. “Is trying to rectify the situation but I doubt it will help any. Seren is young and stubborn.”
I nodded with a smirk. “Honestly, that’s kinda why I like her. Just not when that stubbornness is directed at me.”
Quint chuckled quietly. “It isn’t pleasant to be on the receiving end, that’s for sure. But neither is it to be on your receiving end. She isn’t the only one hurting. Dee may seem to be okay on the outside, but underneath I fear she’s a fountain of pain.”
Clenching my jaw, I nodded. “I know. I can only begin to imagine that it would be like to lose a companion like Molson.”
The corners of Quint’s mouth turned downwards as he let his gaze fall. “It’s far from pleasant.” We both remained silent for a moment until he spoke again. “She isn’t the only one affected by what’s happened. The others have as well. No one goes untouched from something like this. From what they saw you do.” His gaze intensified.
I knew what he meant and I had seen it in Alena’s eyes. Clenching my jaw, I let my gaze wander. “Friction breeds fire,” I muttered to myself and then lifted my gaze to the Adviser. “I never meant for them to see me like that,” I said quietly and then weakly threw my hands out before me with a frustrated huff. “I never meant for any of this and now it’s all a mess.”
Quint raised his eyebrows. “True,” he confirmed. “But messes can be cleaned up. How do you plan to handle this?”
I swallowed hard as Quint sat there waiting patiently for my answer. “I have to let them go,” I said roughly, the words catching in my throat. “I can’t let them stay. Look at the damage I’ve already caused.”
The Adviser nodded silently.
“It’s the right move,” I said out loud, trying to convince myself despite the knot forming in the pit of my stomach.