The Sun had yet to rise as Garron, Thornfang and I clustered around the shop’s door. Amethyst had let us stay for the night and now stood back watching us intently.
“Are you sure you’re ready?” she asked.
“Having difficulty letting us go?” I quipped.
She did not answer, however, so I rifled through the rather large backpack I’d be bringing along just to check.
“We have provisions and warm clothing, so I think we’re set.”
“Yes, yes, but do we really need the warm clothing?” Garron asked.
“Oh, I’m sure.”
“Yes, you’ll need the clothing,” Amethyst said.
“What’s the matter, Amethyst?” Garron asked.
“I guess…” she hesitated. “I guess I just got used to having you two around.”
“Yea, because we’re such joyous company,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“You are, actually.”
I arched an eyebrow at her, but I saw that she was dead serious. Not really being able to bear that look, I returned to rifling through the backpack.
“You could leave a little bit later, you know,” Amethyst said.
Shaking my head, I said, “There’s a Lionguard haven at the foot of the Shiverpeaks, if your maps are any good. I want to be able to reach it before nightfall.”
“And I thought you liked being outdoors?” Amethyst said.
“I do, but I don’t joke around in the Shiverpeaks. It nearly got me killed once before.”
“You have been in the mountains before?” Garron asked, eyebrows arched.
“Yea. I have.”
Heaving the backpack on my back, I set paw towards the door. With my claw on the knob, I turned around.
“We’ll be going, then.”
“Yes, good luck on your trip,” Amethyst said sadly.
Garron said his own goodbyes, but I was already outside with Thornfang close behind. The dolyak was standing close by, rigged with large sacks in which we’ll have to transport furs back here. However, we’d first have to get to Hoelbrak and find the proper fur-trader.
I let my claw slide across the fur of the dolyak, who seemed to enjoy the sensation. The beast reminded me of the first time I travelled to Hoelbrak, together with Kára. We encountered a norn trader and his dolyak on the road and travelled together a bit. Even though I knew there was only a small chance, I really wanted to see Kára again, to see how she was doing.
But, all in due time.
The sounds of the door shutting behind me made me turn around, where I saw Garron standing somewhat hesitantly.
“Are you coming?”
“Yes, yes, I am…”
We set out together with the dolyak and Thornfang following us closely just as the sky showed bands of copper and brass, heralding the rise of the sun. Walking through the streets of Lion’s Arch, we heard the city awakening. Sounds of greetings, of tables creaking and chairs being pushed, the clings and clangs of cutlery and the low growls of charr. By the time we reached the north gate, doors were starting to open, and the citizens began showing themselves on the streets.
The guards at the gate eyed us for a bit, but did not hinder us as we passed through. Once we walked over the stone bridge, we arrived in a stretch of land the local mice call Gendaren Field.
“Which way now?” Garron asked.
“We head east, following this road,” I said, pointing out the direction. “We’ll have to pass through a small mouse settlement before we can cross the bridge. After the bridge we move south a bit, before heading further east. If her maps were any good, of course.”
“Yes, yes, you see, knowing her, they were.”
“I suppose that’s true,” I said, heading down the road to the east.
Garron quickly caught up with me, but as we walked beneath the apple trees, I still had a feeling something was wrong.
“What’s the matter?”
He flinched and hesitated for a second before answering, “Was it that obvious?”
“Yea, it was,” I said with a smile.
After a sigh, he said, “You see, I still find it difficult to believe you’d travel with me without any qualm.”
I nodded ponderously.
“I wouldn’t say without any hesitation. I was startled when I heard you were once a flame shaman, but as I mention, I myself aren’t proud of my past, so judging you for yours would be wrong.”
“No, no not necessarily. Not every past is equally bad.”
“I’m a gladium. I’d say that is pretty bad.”
“I, too, am a gladium, so your point is moot. Whether or not becoming a gladium is bad, depends on the way you became one.”
“Being a gladium is always bad.”
“Well… yes, but still.”
I held up a claw, and he fell silent.
“Let’s say for now that the reason was bad enough.”
“Will you tell me?”
Turning to look him in the eyes, I checked to see if I could determine why he wanted to know, but as far as I could see, he was just curious.
“No… not yet.”
He gave me a nod and for a while we continued in silence. We passed the little hamlet, where the villagers were gawking at us as we walked by. I had expected a more severe reaction, but then again, they must be used to seeing all the different races so close to Lion’s Arch. Regardless, I did my best to pay it as little attention as I possibly could and Garron followed in that example.
After passing through the village, we crossed the bridge, headed south and followed the road eastward. We passed a fancy mansion on the way, belonging to several asura judging from what we saw at a distance. After a while on the eastward road, we passed through a tunnel that sloped sharply upwards, piercing the mountains. When we came out the other side, the air was significantly colder. However, as the sun was slowly setting and the Lionguard’s haven was within sight, we decided to call it a day.
We were let through the gate without any trouble and we quickly found a stable place for the dolyak—which Garron had started calling Humpy sometime around noon—and headed for the inn ourselves. We sat at one of the tables in the corner sipping some ale and resting our paws. Thornfang lay curled-up beside me.
“Why do you look so confused?” Garron asked.
“Well,” I said, musing, “I had expected us to be attacked at least once on the road, but so far nothing. Now I fear a nightly raid on the haven.”
“Is the area that dangerous? You see, I’d say it’s rather well defended,” Garron said, arching his eyebrows.
“Dangerous area? Not necessarily, no. However, as of late I seem to attract all kinds of danger, monsters and death.”
“Worse,” I said with a deep sigh. “Somehow it seems that wherever I go, I end up in one fight or another.”
“Yes, yes, I see… How about a lighter conversation topic?”
“Go ahead,” I said, tipping my mug at him.
“What do you think of Amethyst?”
Almost chocking on my ale, I slammed down the mug and stared at him.
“What do you mean?” I finally managed to say.
“Well…” he said, searching for words, “she seems to like you, but do you like her?”
“I guess so? She’s a good friend. Loyal and behind all that bravado, kind.”
“Is that all you see in her, a good friend?”
“Why do you ask?” I replied with annoyance.
“Well, even before you joined the Serendipity, she did mention you. Several times.”
“She did?” I said confused. “We only met once before that.”
“Yes, yes, you see, you must have made quite the impression.”
“It’s not like she’s a forgettable character either.”
“Ha! No, no she isn’t.”
“And what about you, then?”
“How do you feel about her?”
Garron tapped his chin, thinking for a bit.
“She’s a friend. Amusing, for sure, but no more than that. I could never see her as my mate, because for one, I’m not witty enough to stand her remarks on a daily basis for such a long time.”
I chuckled, but a thing he said did triggered something deep inside me. A mate. Ever since my flight from Ascalon, I had not considered finding a mate. To be honest, I guessed that Amethyst would not be a bad match for me, but I could not ask her to love me. Not with everything I was hiding still, and I had no intention of sharing that any time soon.
After the comment, our conversation fell into a comfortable silence, only interrupted by the sipping of ale. However, as per usual in my life, it was interrupted by an outsider, his arrival announced by Thornfang, who lifted his head and bared his fangs.
Looking towards the sound, I saw a norn clad in leathers and furs, and I would bet my left paw that he was a merchant.
“Let me guess,” I said with a sigh, “you are a merchant seeing us travellers and hoping that you’ll find safer passage by teaming up.”
Garron raised an eyebrow at me and the norn was staring at me with his mouth slightly agape.
“How… how did you guess?”
Giving a dismissive wave of my claw, I said, “You’re not the first norn merchant I encountered, nor is this my first journey to Hoelbrak.”
“That’s settled, then!” the norn boomed merrily as he seated himself at our table.
I looked at Garron and subtly tried to garner his opinion. With his hands he managed to convey that he was somewhat skeptical, but that he would go with it. Honestly, I wished he had objected so that I had a good reason to deny the norn, but alas.
“Tell me that you can fight,” I grunted as the norn took a good chug of his ale.
“Oh, I can, don’t worry!” He said, tapping what I now saw was the handle of a war-hammer on his back. “I’ll protect you if necessary,” he added with a wink.
He chuckled after I gave him my least-convincing grin.
“You see,” Garron finally said, seeming to have regained his voice, “my name is Garron. The sighy one is Kumara. And who might you be?”
I twitched when he called me ‘the sighy one,’ and would have rebuked him if it was not so accurate. Perhaps I should try to sigh less.
“They call me Svart the magnificent!”
“Yes, yes, sounds impressive.”
“The magnificent? Magnificent at what, exactly?”
Svart stared scrutinizing at me.
“Ah, you have dealt with norn before.”
He held that serious look for a few second before breaking out in a loud guffaw.
“Magnificent at selling my goods, of course!”
“Of course,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“I see, and what goods do you sell?”
“I sell only the finest ale!”
“Selling ale to norn?” I scoffed. “Not very hard to be magnificent at being a merchant, now is it?”
“Indeed!” Svart replied with a broad grin.
So far, I had yet to decide whether I did or did not like this norn. Which, in all fairness, was a huge improvement from my last time when I encountered a norn traveler on the road. By Pyre’s whiskers, how did I manage to behave like such a cub back then, sulking at the back of the group.
I subtly shook my head as Svart had started telling his ‘magnificent’ tales of ‘magnificent’ adventures, secretly grateful for all the lessons I had learned on my road so far. And, during Svart’s hypnotic boasting, I let my mind wander while scratching Thornfang behind the ear, let my mind wander to Amethyst.
List Of Recurring Entities:
The following is a list of characters—apart from Kumara, Thornfang and Garron—who have made an appearance before this part, sorted by order of appearance. With all the different stories on CoT, I understand it is hard to keep track of all the characters.
Amethyst: A charr clothes merchant from Lion’s Arch that loves to travel from time to time.
Kára: a norn that rescued Kumara from freezing to death after his flight from Ascalon.