Having been lost in thought, I didn’t hear Dee come into the main hall chamber where I had been waiting for her the next morning. I lit a match in the fire, and then held the small flame up to each of the new candles that now dotted the mantle. Their flames gently illuminated the relics left behind after their owners’ deaths, and after tossing the match into the fire, I stepped back to regard them all. Our friends’ deaths weighed heavily on my shoulders. Although I wanted to buckle under that heft, I forced myself to find the resolve hiding deep within to not just go on, but to make sure their deaths were not in vain. I had to destroy this blade so no more lives would be lost. I had to do whatever it took.
“Mornin’,” Dee greeted me cheerfully. I snapped out of my thoughts and turned to find the norn pulling her greatsword’s leather holster over her shoulders. She was dressed in travelling leathers and her long, dark hair had been pulled into two loose braids that hung down onto her broad shoulders.
I yawned and rubbed my eyes. I barely slept, not from fear of nightmares, but rather from a renewed energy and focus since I had a new plan regarding the blade. It was a nice change. But even though lack of sleep had taken its toll, it had yielded results. When I had ordered the Defenders to disband, Clarkus had decided to return to his position with the Vigil, and not wanting to be separated from her friend, Alena followed, enlisting as a soldier in his company. Since I couldn’t sleep, I decided to go for an early stroll over to the Vigil Centerhouse to see if I could track down their whereabouts.
“Good morning,” I replied as I turned from the fireplace and smiled. “I have some good news,” I said as I handed her a rolled-up piece of parchment.
“Oh?” Dee took the missive and as she read it over, I saw the color drain from her face and her body tense up.
“And I have some bad news.”
“You could have told me that before I started reading this,” the norn grumbled as she crumpled up the parchment and tossed it into the fire. “I- I can’t go with you, I’m sorry.”
I nodded. “Considering we would be venturing into certain areas of the Shiverpeaks you’re not quite fond of, I had already anticipated your answer.”
The soft thudding of boots on the hardwood floor grew louder and Quint emerged from the north hall with Michi following close at his heels. He wore a gold and black brocade vest over a long sleeve white tunic, dark leggings, and knee-high boots. Draped over his arm was a dark, wool cloak.
“Which is why this morning I asked Quint to come with me,” I said, gesturing to our adviser as he greeted us both a polite nod. “While we go find Clarkus and Alena, can you please send word to Tuborg and Salara while you stay and watch the hall?”
Now the trip to the Shiverpeaks was taken off of the table, Dee relaxed. “Not a problem. What about Seren?”
“It’s being taken care of,” I replied with a reassuring smile.
After a quick word of instruction to Ariella to help Dee guard the hall, Quint and I made our way to the gate hub and queued up for the gate to Hoelbrak. I pulled my black, fur-lined cloak tightly around me as I anticipated the wall of cold waiting for us on the other side. A winged shadow gliding along the ground caught my eye, and I looked up to find Athena flying by overhead.
“Go home,” I called out sternly to the bird. With a sharp gesture, I pointed in the general direction of the hall, but ignoring me completely, the owl instead landed on top of the gate and folded her white wings at her side. Her bright, golden eyes watched us stoically and I shook my head. “Stubborn.”
“What’s that about,” Quint asked as he gently stroked the scales on top of Michi’s head, trying to calm the great drake while she flicked her tail sharply. Despite the affection from her master, she repeatedly shifted her weight from one side to the other. It was pretty obvious she wasn’t a fan of gate travel.
“She won’t leave me alone,” I explained. “Liliana is gone, but her companion refuses to leave.”
“Perhaps there’s a reason unbeknownst to you why she stays,” he replied.
“I already know the reason,” I grumbled, “to remind me of what was lost.”
Once the way was clear, the asura gate attendant gave us a polite nod and gestured to us to go through the gate meant for the the norn city of Hoelbrak. Quint motioned for me to go first and I stepped into the portal. My body was immediately whisked away, and in an instant, I was standing at the top of a set of enormous wooden stairs leading down to a frost-covered pathway. My breath clouded as I exhaled into the chilly air and the cold bit at my nose. Above me, the sky was clear and blue, with the exception of a few puffy clouds. Pure white snow covered most surfaces around me, except for the walkways which had been shoveled, and frost consumed everything it could touch. Everything sparkled with a crisp newness. It was beautiful.
There was a rush of air and Quint appeared at my side. He pulled his dark wool cloak tight around him. Although he tried to hide it, I could tell by the slight shiver in his shoulders that the quick introduction to the cold got to him. With a sharp hiss, Michi circled around Quint’s legs and stayed there for a moment, until he nudged her with his leg to get her to move.
“I’m glad you agreed to come with me,” I confessed as we strolled along the main path leading to the Great Lodge. “There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
“Oh?” Quint said as he stopped and looked down at me, giving me his undivided attention. “What is it?”
I motioned for him to follow me off the main path to a secluded spot under the second level landing where we could talk quietly. Hadn’t been time to fill him in on the whole story back at the hall. Time was against me, and we needed to find the others before someone else came for the blade, or the Reaper came for me. Making sure no one around us, I told him about the blade. It wasn’t the entire story, I left out most of the details of my ancestor’s journey in the Underworld, but I gave him the important details. He worked better with just the details anyway.
And I certainly didn’t tell him about the Reaper.
“You don’t seem very surprised,” I noted as I searched his stoic face for any hints of a reaction.
Quint blinked and then shook his head. “I am, it’s just –a lot to take in,” he replied as he rubbed at his stubble-covered chin. “Who else knows?”
“I told Dee yesterday, and I was going to tell you, but I couldn’t find you all day,” I said.
“I’m sorry,” he apologized, “I was out on an errand to Divinity’s Reach to further our trade deals with some of the merchants there. I didn’t get back until late.”
I nodded. “Well, now aside from Dee, you know now, but that’s it for the moment,” I replied. “I plan to tell the others when we find them and bring them in.”
“You’re confident they’ll want to come back,” Quint asked.
Even though he was just being truthful, his questions stung. I knew there was a chance the others would not want to come back, but I hoped that the bonds we had formed during our time together before tragedy struck would not be broken that easily.
I shook my head and shrugged, trying to hide my insecurities on the matter. “I know I’m taking a gamble here,” I said as my voice started to tremble, “but I bet on them once before and they didn’t disappoint me. I’m willing to give it another shot. I shattered our guild, Quint, and I need to try to put it all back together somehow.”
“This is quite a secret you’ve sat on all these years. Forgive me, but how can you be so sure to trust us with this information?” Quint asked, his pale eyes set in a mix of confusion and curiosity.
“I can’t be completely sure,” I admitted, “but I have to try. You’re all good people. I need to at least try to trust you all with this secret.”
“It’s that simple for you?”
“Simple?” I scoffed, my eyebrows heavily knitted together. “It’s miles in the opposite direction.”
It wasn’t until I felt Quint’s hand gently squeezing my upper arm, that I realized I was shaking. Underneath the calm and collected front I was so desperately trying to keep up, I was a dizzying mess of nerves and guilt that was starting to spiral out of control, but with one touch, I felt myself start to ground once again.
“Then you should try,” Quint said as he offered me an encouraging smile, but there was a sadness there too that I couldn’t quite place. I imagined it was due to the difficulty of the situation. After all, what I was proposing was risky.
I returned his smile with my own. “Thanks.”
“But are you sure you can trust us?”
I sighed heavily and relaxed my shoulders. “None of you so much as twitched when you were around it. I take that as a good sign.”
Quint’s eyes narrowed at me as his hand fell from my arm, and any signs of curiosity faded. “We’ve been around it?”
I placed my hands on my hips, my cloak fanning out and letting the cold in through the parting, but I didn’t mind. The cold didn’t seem to be as piercing as I thought it would be. “At one time or another. Did you think I’d stash it on the other side of Tyria for safe keeping?”
“Fair enough,” he replied. “It is your duty and far be it from me to question your decisions as the supreme lady commander.”
I couldn’t help but roll my eyes at hearing the nickname. “Grenth’s horns, now you’re just teasing,” I replied.
“I wouldn’t dare,” he said, his tone growing light.
I uttered an exasperated noise and shook my head. “Alright, we should get going. We need to get to Twinspur before dark,” I said, casually motioning to the path.
He smiled and extended his hand out before him. “After you.”