Peering through a gap between the curtains, I saw the sky slowly light up, leaving the oppressive darkness of night behind. I sat on the bed, cross legged, petting Thornfang who was half curled up against my lap. About an hour ago I had awoken from a nightmare. Or, perhaps more accurately, a memory. Once again, I saw the final moments I spent with my warband, and once again I felt the pain of losing them. I do remember many injuries, but each of them pale against this kind of pain.
Sighing deeply, I glanced at Garron, who was still asleep. Although he did toss and turn quite a bit in his wooden bed, that creaked under his shifting weight. Perhaps he, too, was tormented by his past in his sleep.
For lack of a better thing to do, I looked around the room. Last night the combination of being exhausted and being… tipsy, made me unappreciative of the room we had. Not that there was much to appreciate, mind you. The walls were bare masonry, the floors and roof no more than wooden boards, the two beds were worn down and the linen was worn out. Still, it was safe, dry and warm, which I took time to appreciate. Sighing, I turned my attention to Thornfang.
“Good morning,” Garron said with a great big yawn.
“Morning. Good to finally see you awake.”
“Is it that late?” Garron said, sitting up.
Glancing outside, I said, “Not really. The sun is just rising, though it won’t be visible in these mountains anytime soon.”
“Ah, yes, yes… Then, did you rise early?”
“Yea. Blasted nightmares.”
Garron nodded thoughtfully.
“So, what are you reading?”
I arched an eyebrow and lowered the small book I was leafing through.
“It’s a small tome full of knowledge on plants. I knew most of the plants in the jungle, but hadn’t looked into the ones here in the Shiverpeaks yet.”
“I see, so are you a herbalist, then?”
“I suppose so,” I said with a shrug, putting the book I got from Graymane back into my satchel. “Regardless, we should get downstairs and eat something.”
“Ah, I see. Eager to set out?”
“The sooner we set out, the sooner we’ll be in Hoelbrak.”
“Yes, yes, but why are you see eager to get to Hoelbrak? Want to ditch the norn that quick?”
“Well… there is that too, I suppose…”
“Want to see Amethyst again?” he interjected, with a mean little smile.
“Cut it out Garron,” I said with an annoyed growl. “No, I hope to visit a friend of mine who lives near Hoelbrak.”
“A friend?” Garron asked, arching both eyebrows. “A norn?”
“Yea. Kára is her name. She really helped me out on my first trip to the Shiverpeaks, and I’d like to know how she is nowadays.”
“Yes, yes, I see. But, you keep mentioning a trip to the Shiverpeaks and Hoelbrak. What brought you here?”
“When I… left, Ascalon, I entered the Shiverpeaks woefully unprepared and nearly froze to death. Kára and her brother Vadi saved me.”
“Oh, I see! No wonder you want to see how they are doing. And, they took you to Hoelbrak?”
As Garron dressed himself and we headed down after that, I told him the tale of the grawl and the monster they came to worship, and told him both Kára’s and my role in dealing with them. During the tale, Garron was mostly silent, expressing himself in grunts, frowns and the raising of eyebrows. It was not until we sat down at the table to wait for our food that he finally spoke up.
“I see… that is quite the story. I’d say you’re quite the hero in that tale.”
“Bah,” I said, waving my claw dismissively. “I just repaid some kindness, that’s all.”
“Yes, yes, be that it as it may, but it was still rather heroic.”
“Ugh,” I said, rolling my eyes. “Are you trying to make me feel better about myself or something?”
“Not really, just stating the obvious.”
I huffed as a tired looking—yet friendly—norn server brought us two steaming wooden bowls. The bowls were filled with a brown broth of unknown description, with bits of carrot, leek, mushroom and the fat of some meat bobbing about. After taking a spoonful, I could rightfully say that it tasted better than it looked. Besides, it was hot and healthy, albeit far from what charr like to eat, although I have not had anything like that in Pyre knows how long.
We were almost done with our meal when Svart came bumbling in, causing Thornfang to perk up. He looked around for a bit before he spotted us and headed our way, seating himself down heavily. After blinking a few times, he spoke up.
“Mornings, they don’t agree with me.”
“Yes, yes, mornings I wonder, or ale?”
Svart shot Garron a foul glare, but his beard could not hide a slight smile.
“So, mister magnificent, what were your travelling plans?” I asked, taking a swig from the watery ale.
“Ah! My plan was to keep following the road north, up to Bitterfrost Peaks and stop at Winter Haven.”
“Then we are in agreement,” I said with a nod.
“Winter Haven?” Garron asked, tilting his head.
“Yea, it was on Amethyst’s map. It’s a Lionguard outpost. We’ll rest there before we cross the mountains into Snowden Drifts.”
“Yes… yes… So many names…” Garron muttered, frowning deeply.
I could not help but feel slightly amused. As a scout, I was used to reading maps and remembering the names of locations and places, no matter how great or small, so I could easily forget that others would have more trouble with names.
“Have you travelled this road before, Svart?” I asked.
“I have, yes. I often sell ale to the havens on the road from Lion’s arch to Hoelbrak, depleting half my stock before I even arrive!” He said with a guffaw.
“Then, do you know of any dangers we might face during today’s travels?”
“Well,” he said, crossing his eyebrows, “there are the dredge.”
“Dredge?” both me and Garron asked, almost simultaneously.
“Yep. Mole people. Blind and annoying, they have a base just north of here. Most of the time, they behave just fine thanks to the Lionguard. But… every now and then a few of them get feisty and decide to plunder travelers.”
“I see, so be on guard for feisty mole-people,” Garron quipped.
“Ha! Indeed, furry friend.”
Noting the exchange, I just raised an eyebrow and took another sip of my ale.
A quarter of an hour later we finally were on our way. We had spent longer in the haven than I had anticipated, and part of me feared that we would not reach Bitterfrost Peaks before nightfall and I would rather not spend a night out in this cold.
We walked by road, two charr, two dolyak and a norn—possibly in that order of intelligence—but it must have snowed recently as the road was little more than a darker part of the world compared to the rest. Everywhere I looked, I saw a world covered in a layer of snow, so white that the small amount of sunlight that peered over the mountains reflected in all directions, making the valley look much brighter than it was, so that it seemed unnatural. No doubt the mice would call it ‘like a fairytale,’ whatever they mean by that. There were few trees in this part, but those that did manage to gain a foothold in this rocky passage were tall and proud, although almost all the green was covered in snow. I had to admit; it was a pretty sight to see.
This view was violated when we passed a ridge on our left, only to see the cliff wall opened up with huge tunnels, covered in metal. Several metal objects stood outside the tunnels, and from this distance we could see small figures moving about.
Even before Svart grunted and said, “Dredge,” I had drawn my bow and nocked an arrow. We managed to walk on for about a minute, keeping to the road which was at a safe distance from the dredge, when we felt a slight tremor in the earth. As Svart was grasping for his war hammer, two strange creatures shot up from the ground in front of us, and I could hear one coming up at our rear, where Garron was at the moment.
I was surprised to see just how much these things resembled giant moles. These moles, however, came carrying objects that looked an awful lot like guns.
“Halt!” one of the two shouted as we came to a standstill. “We are here to seize all of your goods for the greater good of the collect—“
An arrow protruding from the throat of the dredge put an end to his monologue, the string of my bow singing it a requiem. His talk did not stop for lack of trying, though, as the blasted thing gurgled blood while trying to speak before collapsing to the group in a lifeless heap of flesh, his red blood flowing from the wound and staining the trodden snow on the road.
The second dredge looked at his fellow in utter horror, but his attention was snapped back onto us when a horrid scream pierced the tranquil air. It lifted its rifle at us, but far too late as Svart’s hammer rammed into the side of its head with a sickening crunch, throwing it to the ground.
Both Svart and I turned around to see how Garron faired, only to find him leaning over a badly charred object.
“Well,” I said casually, “that was a short lived problem.”
“Short lived,” Svart repeated with a chuckle.
“Yes, yes, not as tough as I thought.”
“I knew it was smart teaming up with you guys,” Svart said, crossing his arms in front of him and giving a solid nod. “Never stomped dredge as fast as this, or with no injuries.”
“You let these things injure you?” I teased.
“Hey now!” Svart said affronted. “When they gang up on you, they are a real pain!”
Deciding to pester him so more, I shrugged. “Well, good thing you’re magnificent at selling ale, because you make for a bland warrior.”
Svart started to huff and puff, but Garron could not contain his laughter any longer, balking it out and forcing Svart to see that he was being played.
“Oh, ha ha!” he said, frustrated. However, after sulking for a few seconds—which gave Garron time to catch his breath— he said, “Well, to be honest, you really had me good there.” He concluded with giving me a firm clap on my shoulder.
“Well, we should really get going,” I said staring at the bright blue sky, “we don’t want to get caught out here in the night.”
“Indeed!” Svart said.
We stowed our weapons once again and moved on, guiding the dolyaks around the corpses—which were sniffed shortly by Thornfang—and blood while chatting casually to one another.
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.
Graymane: An old charr scolar that taught Kumara all about herbs and plants.
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.
Vadi: Kára’s “good for nothing” brother. Prefers drinking and storytelling over fighting.
Svart: The norn travelling ales merchant that accompanies the group on their way to Hoalbrak.