“Anavari?” I felt Daniel’s hand on my back. “What’s wrong big guy?” I opened my eyes, shallow breaths escaped me as I tried to piece together what exactly I was doing before my relapse. I saw food being placed onto tables, bottles of wine, Daniel dressed in a rather elegant suit that brought out the color of his eyes. We were setting up the party, it was today, a few hours from now.
“I…” the words struggled to come out, I was still experiencing the shock of the images that had flashed in my mind just moments ago. “I’m fine, just a particularly… unsettling memory appeared to me.” Daniel’s eyes expressed concern.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked.
“… No,” I said, straightening up, brushing off my shock. “We can hold it off until later, we have work to do.” I forced a smile. Daniel was obviously unconvinced, but he understood the urgency of the situation. He took in a deep breath and nodded.
“Okay,” he said. “But next time we’re alone, you’ll share with me what you remembered.” He said.
“I promise,” I said. We returned to our preparations.
I’d like to say that I was able to ignore my memories until after the party, but I couldn’t. Despite being able to keep it hidden, they weighed heavily on me. Despite the urgency, the amount of actual danger that I was in at the very moment, I couldn’t bring myself out of the danger my warband was in. I knew Garfas had survived the ordeal, he obviously did to be able to have our clandestine meetings. My thoughts were more on Thoc, the warband as well. Who survived? How did the flame legion infiltrate us? How was Itan involved?
I found my hands squeezing into fists. It was true, I was married to Garfas. I had loved him enough to exchange vows with him, and I was certain that the event that I had just partially remembered was the reason why we weren’t together anymore. Was it because I couldn’t cope? That seemed unlikely, as devastating as it seemed, even if Thoc did die there, I think it would only draw me closer to Garfas. Was it Garfas who was unable to cope? There were so many questions that I needed answered. They formed a weight in my… well where my heart should be.
“You look absolutely a mess,” my gaze rose to find Slim. The asura holding a glass of white wine and presenting it to me. “Drink, it’ll do you some good.” I silently took the glass, swirling the liquid in its container. After a heavy sigh I took a sip, then I downed the rest of it. Slim knew me enough to get something that barely tasted like alcohol, and the ever so slightly bitter liquid travelled down my throat and left a warmth in my stomach.
“Thank you,” I said as I placed the glass aside.
“Memories are a burden we all carry,” said Slim as he hopped onto the couch and sat by my side. “and that look you have, I know too well.” There was a pause between us, nothing but the subtle hum of the party music below to occupy the silence. I was fortunate enough that Daniel was busy scouting the lower floor looking for suspicious characters. Slim and I had the upper floor, along with two ravens hidden on the rooftop of the warehouse we were using to host the party.
“Who did you lose?” I asked, finally wishing for something to end the maddening quiet.
“A pain in the arse minstrel,” Slim took a swig from his own glass. “I loved him deeply. You?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “I’m not sure if it was everyone, or just one person. Also turns out I was married.” Even Slim gave pause at that.
“I suppose coping is difficult right now,” said the Asura, he scratched the tip of one of his ears as he leaned back on the couch. “Just remember, though. The life you used to have. It doesn’t have to define you, the Secros are for people who are starting over.”
“And yet my past has come looking for me,” I said. “I fear that by the end of this, I won’t be the same person. Once this is over I’m afraid that the person I am now, and the person I was will collide, and only one will come out of the wreckage.” I felt Slim’s small hand rest on my elbow, since it was the highest he could reach.
“The mind is complex, Anavari,” said the asura. “But we do have a significant amount of control over it. You know your past is full of strife, and you did this to yourself so that you could cope. Just know that once this is over, once everything returns. You will be the person you were meant to be, for better or worse.” I glanced down at the asura, a resolute stare in his eyes.
“That doesn’t exactly make me feel better, Slim.” I said as my brow furrowed.
“Well lying wouldn’t do you any good,” shrugged Slim. “Given the circumstances the last thing I want to give you is a false sense of hope, because you are in a seriously bad situation.” Slim grinned as my eyes narrowed. “But… however you end up, it’ll very likely be better than how you used to be, and from there, you can start healing. Have faith in that outcome.” With that the mesmer raised his glass at me and jumped off the couch. He returned to his patrolling. Strangely enough I was able to return my thoughts to the task at hand, settling with that whatever state my mind would be left in, would be the intended result from the tinkering I had Mara do to me. I could at least return to the task. It was time to catch another one of the fringe.
Strangely enough the party became uneventful. I even tried to bait them by mingling with the party guests, no matter how many glares I received. Had they discovered that it was a trap? Even if they did I doubt they would have let an opportunity like this pass. Even Salus seemed like one to trigger the traps, let his lower ranking assassins distract us while he went in for me.
“They’re planning something,” I said to Daniel as we watched the last of the party guests leave.
“But what?” Mused Daniel. Just then, Serenity appeared, moving gracefully with the blue dress she had picked out for the occasion.
“At least all our brethren have gotten some well deserved rest from the chaos,” she said with a shrug. “You two should head home, we can think of another plan in the morning.” I felt Daniel take a hold of my hand.
“Yeah, big guy,” he said. “No use sitting around here waiting for nothing to—” We heard a loud thud by the entrance of the warehouse. We ran, to the large mass that had fallen from the rooftop. It was a raven, several knives were stabbed into his back. Serenity reacted quickly. She drew her sword which she had hidden under her dress and then tore off said dress to reveal the leather armor underneath.
“Let’s go!” She shouted, and began to call out to the other ravens and Slim. Everyone rushing in to our aid, and guiding me to the back of the warehouse as planned. I was given my sword and Daniel a blade of his own along with an assortment of throwing knives. Suddenly we heard fighting, Serenity sprinted to the courtyard outside while Daniel practically dragged me to the secret escape route we had organized for me. I hated being out of the fight, but Slim wasn’t about to risk me being caught. We had a segment of wall in the back pop off so I could slip out and enter the sewers from the manhole a short distance away. Daniel entered before me, to make sure everything was safe. On his signal I followed and entered the darkness.
It was just the two of us, him guiding me through the dark with a torch, me keeping a vigilant gaze towards our rear using a ball of necrotic energies to light up my end of the darkness. The murky underground was bathed in an ominous combination of light that made the shadows twist abnormally.
“Everything’s gonna be alright, big guy.” Said Daniel breathing slowly hastening. “Slim and Serenity will be fine.” I did not respond, I simply held onto the human’s hand and squeezed it for comfort. My nerves died down when I felt him squeeze it back. We were reaching a light at the end of the maze of tunnels. For some reason I felt my sense of dread rising, something wasn’t right.
“Daniel,” I said. “I love you.” I said, noticing my hands shake. Daniel did not waver, he did not shake. He was determined, an unmatched resolve shone in his eyes.
“I love you too, Anavari,” said Daniel, turning to smile at me. “And I’ll say that to you again once we get back home.” He rounded back to gate of the sewer exit. Not caring that he was stepping in pungent muck in order so he could force the door open. Once the gate was pried open we both rushed out, to the clear night sky. The cold winter air struck us, a sense of partial relief entering me. We were outside of town, just next to Shaemoor. From here it was straightforward.
“Alright!” Said Daniel. “Just need to head back into town and then we can…” He trailed off, as a series of dark hooded figures were standing in the fields, waiting for us.
“Right on time,” said Salus as he removed his hood, I noticed that he kept one of his arms hidden. My arm began to clack at the sudden surge of necrotic energies travelling through it. “Brought him right to us. Well done, brother!” I was taken aback.
“Brother?” I asked. “What brother?” I hissed holding out my sword, Daniel drew out several knives, but kept his sword sheathed for now. The fringe began to surround us. Daniel and I stood back to back, preparing for the first strike.
“The fellow fringe spy infiltrating your ranks, of course.” said Salus, his smile widening. “He made sure you ended up before me right now. So that I could capture you and so you could tell me where your filthy kin are hiding.” There were only four who knew of the escape. Slim, Serenity, Daniel, and Myself. I was having trouble from focusing on the traitor because of the sheer amount of fringe assassins that kept appearing. Too many for me to count in a single glance. Salus knew that we would be able to put up a good fight with even twenty of his men, he had learned from past fights. Escape was looking less and less likely. Daniel and I kept shooting out glances at the group surrounding us, feinting to attack to force them to back off, but slowly they crept closer.
“How did you know we would be here?” Asked Daniel, eyes narrowing.
“Well it wasn’t obvious at first,” said Salus. “But after a bit of thought I figured you’d want to separate Anavari from Slim so that I could have a chance to subdue him. Did a bit of digging and discovered the sewer entrance close to your little party, after that the rest was fairly logical. I must say, Brother, you left us with a lot of information that we had to find out on our own. It would have been easier if you’d just told us. Though I suppose you didn’t want to blow your cover. My gaze shot to Daniel, his eyes wide, they flickered to me, but tried to avoid eye contact. He focused specifically on Salus.
“What is he talking about Daniel?” I asked, trying to deny the obvious conclusion.
“I…” He began, but didn’t continue. He simply kept his eyes shifting on all of the assassins swarming around us. There was something entering his gaze, it looked like dread. It was instantly replaced however, resolve returned, but now it was targeted at me. The weight in my stomach returned.
“You don’t have to keep acting, Brother Iresh.” Daniel shot his gaze back at Salus. His breathing stabilized, no emotions were on him now. “You think I wouldn’t recognize you? Your hair is dyed, skin is lighter, and your eyes are a different color, but I can still recognize your face. Granted it’s been what? Ten years since I’ve seen you, you’ve grown so much. Should have known that you would have found a heartless, you were always the one that showed so much promise.”
“Daniel…” I said in disbelief. “Tell me he’s lying.” There was a pause, it probably only lasted a few seconds, but it felt so agonizingly slow. I knew the truth as soon as he looked at me, gazing at me with eyes that pierced. I rounded to him, stepping back, allowing the tip of my blade to drag onto the floor.
“It’s true, Anavari,” he said, voice changing into something more paced, much more solemn. He reached into his pocket, taking out a stone. “I guess I won’t need this anymore.” He dropped it to the floor, his features began to change. Eyes became darker, a shade of brown that looked black in the night sky. His skin became a shade darker as well, it was the skin of someone that was definitely not tyrian. Finally his hair, it became pale silver, the black color in it fading away. Who was this man before me? This wasn’t Daniel, this wasn’t who I had fallen in love with.
“That’s the brother I recognize!” Said Salus with excitement. “Now my brethren, let’s subdue—”
“You’d rob me of this chance, Salus?” Said Daniel, piercing eyes glancing over to the fringe leader. “After all these years of planning, you won’t let me test my prowess against a heartless?”
“I…” Salus was uncertain on how to respond.
“Let me handle it,” said Daniel…no, said Iresh. He stored the throwing knives into his coat, and drew out his sword. “And if no one wants to get hurt you’ll have sense enough to not interfere.” His eyes met with mine, I couldn’t read anything from them. “Are you ready, big guy?” My muscles sprang to action, years of training building up for this moment. Rage boiling within me, rage directed at his deceit, his betrayal. I pointed my blade at him. “Don’t disappoint,” he said with a smile. “I’ve always wanted to fight a heartless.”