The Mine – 01 (GW2 Fanfiction)

(Guild Wars is the property of ArenaNet.  I do not claim ownership over any location or character, except those that I have specifically paid for or are in agreement with me over their use.  While some NPC dialogue is taken from ingame, it has been modified and paraphrased to suit the story.  This is strictly fanfiction and is intended for entertainment purposes only, not profit.)

 

Ian felt painfully obvious as he prowled ahead of the group scouting for Dredge.  Having managed to sneak past hundreds of them already to reach the mine entrance, he was betting their luck would run out anytime now.  A narrow stream of lava ran alongside their path, giving off welcome warmth after days of trudging through the icy countryside of Dredgehaunt.  Moon Moon was noisier than normal, his every step seeming to echo and, he panted constantly.  He told himself the Alpine wolf was probably just hot in here.  Eir’s black wolf, Garm didn’t seem as affected, pacing along beside Moon like he was taking a casual stroll through Hoelbrak.  Self-consciously Ian snuck a glance behind him at the Sylvari in the middle of the group.

Gliding along like dandelion fluff on a soft breeze, Azumae looked nothing like the deadly necromancer she was.  The delicate Sylvari was a few inches shorter than Ian, her head just topping his shoulder.  Armor the color of moss, threaded throughout with gold, browns and purple, made her pale skin look like alabaster in contrast.  What passed for hair from a distance, on close inspection resembled leafy ferns curling beguilingly around her ears and neck.   Nothing about the reaper was human yet, her physical form was so intriguing he couldn’t seem to stop himself from looking at her.  Still, Ian hadn’t missed the implications of the small, sharply pointed, thorns protruding from her forehead.  She had awoke beneath the Pale Tree.

“Something on your mind again, ranger?”  Azumae stared blandly at him, shifting her axe from one hand to the other as she walked.  Twin, deldrimor steel daggers, sheathed in her belt, seemed to strain toward her  empty hand.  Over her shoulder glowered the hilt of her reaper sword, a gigantic, vicious looking weapon that made his own  sword seem like a Charr cub’s training toy.

Quickly Ian faced forward and tried to control the flush in his cheeks.  Even with his new druid skills, he knew she could drop him in an instant.  He had overheard Caithe grilling her intensely about her battle experience during their first night on the road and, more than once, in these past few days, he had watched Azumae fire off a spell before she had even turned to see what was coming.  It unnerved him that she always hit her mark.  

“You guys?  I need to rest for a minute.  Can we just stop and take a break?”

Wearing blood red armor and carrying the most obnoxiously, large, long bow she could find, Zerela Glub huffed and panted dramatically, shoving her pack and weapons back and forth like she couldn’t find a comfortable position for everything.

Pausing mid step, Ian looked back again, his mouth tightening as his eyes were drawn to the other thing he couldn’t stop staring at, Zerela’s red bonnet with its snow owl passenger.  Even Azumae had turned up a leafy eyebrow at the sight of it.  That bonnet clashed fiercely with his private nickname for the Charr, the Bloody Ranger, but he couldn’t shake the impression from his mind.

Halting just behind Azumae, Caithe’s breath cascaded down the reaper’s neck as she gave Zerela a pitying look.  “For a Charr, you are considerably out of shape.”  Wearing armor the color of sweltering, summer grass, the Sylvari thief was easy to miss among the trees and only slightly more visible in the cave.

Stiffening at the close proximity, Azumae turned her head and narrowed her eyes at her clan woman.  “I do wish you would learn to not choke me out every time we stop.”  Her smooth voice had a slight lilt that seemed native to their race.  The warning in her tone was unmistakable though.

Amused, Caithe looked sideways at Azumae.  “Excuse me, cousin.  I meant no harm.”  Taking a single step back she smiled and ran her eyes down the necromancer’s body.

“Of course you didn’t.  You never do – cousin.”  Azumae curled her lip in distaste, her opaque eyes seeming to flicker.

Zerela dropped to the floor of the chamber with a heavy exhale and shrugged off her bulky pack.  “While you two sort out which plant is deadlier, I’m going to rest.”  Her nearly white muzzle was turning mauve from the dust inside the dungeon, rusty powder coating the ends of her whiskers.  Growling softly to herself she began rubbing the pads of her back paws and digging out hard, balls of ice that had formed between her toes during the past couple days.

“Just don’t start licking things again?” Ian requested.  He could feel the spot right between his shoulder blades burning from the weight of his own pack.  “That last time was really… uncomfortable.”  His stomach tightened nervously as Zerela twitched all four ears simultaneously and glowered at him.  Her cat-like head was the size of his entire torso, the sharp tips of her horns seeming to twinkle at him in the low light.  Unnervingly, the owl followed her master’s gaze.

“I like to be clean.  You could try a little hygiene yourself, human.”  Sniffing pointedly at him, Zerela wrinkled her muzzle and sneezed soundly, sending up a small whorl of dust from the ground.  Digging in with it’s talons the owl spread its wings and held on, keeping its balance on the bonnet.

Crossing her arms, Caithe huffed rudely.  “Zoja could be dead already and you two want to quarrel about bathing and stare at your feet.”  She looked toward Garm, apparently thinking he would agree.  The wolf sat down beside Eir and began to scratch behind his ear, tongue lolling from his jaws.  “I ask for heroes and this is what I get.”  Pressing her lips into a thin line the thief stalked away from the group, pushing past Ian toward the iron bridge just visible in the distance.

Watching her go with a surprised look, he thought, you get what you pay for.  A share of any treasure found is a pretty vague incentive.  He couldn’t speak for the others but, his reason for coming was the hope of making a name for himself.  Despite his training as a healer he was still just a ranger in the eyes of his peers.  The druid’s staff riding beside his backpack was mostly untried, it’s warm, elder wood, smooth and unmarred.  Getting this group through here in one piece was his main goal.  Treasure, if there was any, was secondary.

“Caithe is just worried about Zoja,” Eir explained.  The great Norn, looking more battle hardened than any of them, towered over the party in her iron and leather armor, her bound, red hair seeming to hold a fire all its own.  Setting the point of her sword against the hard packed dirt she leaned on the pommel and looked worriedly after Caithe’s vanishing figure.  “Knowing Zoja as well as we do, her reason for storming in here must have something to do with Snaff’s inventions.  If someone has stolen one, Caithe fears that getting it back may be too much for our little genius to do on her own.  We both do,” she added, her eyes clouding with dark thoughts.  “Try to not let her get to you.  She’s really just trying to protect everyone.”

“How very motherly of her,” Azumae said, managing to sound sincere and rude at the same time.

“Factoring in the small size of our group it’s not surprising that Caithe is worried.  Five people isn’t nearly enough to be making a rescue attempt in here.”  Eir looked hard at the Necromancer, seeming to make an unspoken point.  

Azumae met her eyes for a moment before looking away, her expression unreadable but, she began feeling for her weapons, touching each one as if to reassure herself they were exactly where they should be.

“Snaff?”  Flicking a small, ice ball into the lava stream where it hissed out of existence, Zerela looked up from her grooming.  “What is a snaff?”  Her amber, feline eyes jerked suddenly toward Azumae as she spoke.

Curious, Ian followed the Charr’s gaze and coughed loudly to cover his laugh.  The necromancer’s staff was ornamented on one end with a small lantern on a short chain.  It was this lantern that had captured Zerela’s attention, her eyes twitching as she tracked it’s movement back and forth off.  A quick glance at the Sylvari’s face gave no clue to whether or not she was swaying it deliberately.

“Not what, who.  Snaff was Zoja’s mentor.  He passed on many years ago but Zoja is steadfast in her devotion to his teachings.”  Eir smiled grimly at the Charr.  “She is rabidly protective over his inventions, always hunting down those who misuse them.”

“Misuse of Asuran inventions?  That smells like Inquest activity to me.”  Grunting lightly Zerela tore her eyes from the lantern, pushed herself onto all fours and stretched deeply, arching her back and splaying her paws wide.  Her tail rose high over her back, giving Ian a clear view at what lay beneath it.  Swiveling its head, the owl watched his reaction.

Rolling his eyes, Ian backed safely away.  The word Inquest made his stomach flip over.  He had met several of the order while passing through Brisbane awhile back and had not cared for the experience.  If they were here in the mine then, Eir was right.  Five people were not enough.  Taking a knee he began to wriggle out of his pack to ease that spot between his shoulders.  Following his master’s lead, Moon Moon sat and began an intense, nibbling inspection of his own underside.

(The Mine – 02, The Mine -03)

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Monday Monologue #7

I knew I would have to do it eventually.  It’s video game fanfiction.  There will have to be fighting.  Things need to be killed.  People need to be hurt.

Writing combat scenes is a new thing for me.  I sat there, staring at my screen, knowing what I had to do but not knowing how to do it.  Finally I just told myself, somebody has to shoot somebody else, here.  Pulling that first trigger was difficult.  I’m not a pacifist, by any means.  Anyone who knows me will say, when it comes to arguments, I am one of the first ones to jump into the middle of things.  Getting myself to actually write a combat scene where people (or similar beings) were going to die was a different thing though.  As the creator, the all-knowing god of my work, embracing violence for the sake of violence with the intention of extinguishing the life of multiple characters seemed so… uncaring, even within the boundaries of a video game.

It happened though.  I did it.  I wrote the first combat scene and managed to not destroy my own soul in the process.

And yes, it did get easier to kill more things after that first one.

Saturday Snippet #7

Alone at the bus stop and swathed in scarf, parka and mittens, Chelsie stared down at her phone, scrolling slowly through the search engine results for the word mysticism.  The top result defined it as a noun and included the word Deity, union and spiritual.  Right below that was the second, alternate definition.

  1. 2.  belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought, especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or mysterious agencies.

That one made her angry.  Who got to decide these things?

The sound of fast moving footsteps hit her ears.  Alarmed, Chelsie snapped her head up, nostrils flaring.  The air cooled around her as a large shadow flowed over the bench.  Her eyes widened and her jaw loosened into a gape.

The man swept along the sidewalk at a ridiculously fast walking pace.  His jeans were open along the outside seams from the waist down to his canvas, sneakered feet, each step making the heavy fabric flap like great, misplaced wings.  

Chelsie could almost wrap her mind around the pants if it wasn’t for the hair.  His shadow was overly wide and misshapen due to a collection of wigs molded together and draping down his back and shoulders.  Blond hair pressed against red which laid over blacks and browns.  The entire mass expanded outward, giving the appearance of comical size to the man’s head.

In the time it had taken her to look up and see this man, he had passed her by, shrinking into the distance like a bird into the horizon.  Pulling herself together she looked back down at her phone.  The browser app had closed.

Blackout

Holding the phone lightly against his ear, Carl felt a small jolt of anticipation run through him.  Kayla was pissed off.

“Yeah, I had to have a repairman come out to look at the garage door.”

“Uh huh?”  He knew exactly where this conversation was going.  Thank goodness she hadn’t video called him.  Reaching for the remote he muted the television so he could hear her better.  Star Trek could survive without his attention for a few minutes.

“Remember that last power outage?”

A guilty grin fluttered at the corners of his mouth.  “Sure,” he said.  “You were stuck at home for that one, right?”

“Yes.”  She spat the acknowledgement through the phone like lemon juice looking for an eye to land in.  “And I asked you to come over and see if you could find a manual release?”

Carl nodded his agreement, knowing she couldn’t see him.  It was official, he was a terrible person.  “I remember.  I tried to get you to go and look and, you said you couldn’t see anything.”  Stretching his legs out along the worn cushions of his couch he reached for his cigarettes and shook one out of the pack.  The ashtray was on the floor beside him.  He reached for it, setting it on his stomach while he fired up.  “It was probably just a button or something on the main box.”  It was probably because the power was out and his sister couldn’t hold a flashlight still.  She constantly moved the beam around, never giving herself, or anyone a chance to actually see anything.

Kayla was silent on her end of the conversation for a just a few seconds.  Carl could visualize exactly what his she was doing, filling her lungs slowly with flame, preparing to spew lava all over her cell phone in the hope that some of it would reach him.

“As it turned out, it was just a lever.”  Her voice was cold and dangerous.

“Really?”  Carl exhaled smoke through his nostrils and gave in to the smile he had been trying to hold back.

“Yeah, really.”  Kayla inhaled harshly.  “Carl, you knew that lever was there!  You left me and my kids stranded here in the middle of a blackout without a car when you could have just come over and opened the damn door!”

Carl took another drag and tapped the ashes into the ashtray, careful to not spill them onto his stomach.  The shirt wasn’t his favorite but he didn’t like to ruin things unnecessarily.  “It was a blackout, Kayla, not a snow storm.  You were fine.”

“What the hell is wrong with you?  How can you think so little of your family that you just ignore them during times of crisis?”

“Crisis?”  Carl laughed at that.  Everything with his sister was a crisis.  The dictionary definition for drama queen had her picture next to it.  “Get over yourself, Kayla.  It was just a blackout.  If you had really needed to leave I would have come over and opened the door for you.”

“I JUST PAID SIXTY-FIVE DOLLARS TO FIND OUT I COULD HAVE FIXED IT MYSELF!”

Holding the phone away from his head Carl sat up and ground out the rest of his cigarette.  He was laughing too hard to finish it.

Monday Monologue #6 – Never Ending Editing

I’m having a blast writing this small piece of fan fiction I’m working on but, I seem to have fallen victim to non-stop editing.  I can’t say it’s been bad for the story but, every time I read over a part that I have already declared finished, I make small edits.  It’s been little things like, switching a couple words in a sentence or deleting a single phrase.  I can’t stop!  My internal editor has gone on auto-pilot and won’t stop working.

I can remember having a conversation with my dad, years ago and discussing this problem.  He had written a few books himself.  Back in those days (pre-home computers) editing took the form of physical sheets of paper piling up on the desk.  There had been an implication that I didn’t understand the horrors of editing until I had re-written an entire chapter nineteen times.  My twenty-something self had sat there with my jaw sagging.  The idea that a person could even want to do that many re-writes on a single part was idiotic to me.  Now, a few years later (okay, it’s a bit more than a few) I think I’m getting the idea.

Saturday Snippet #6

Waving his arms back and forth over his head, causing his unbuttoned, olive green trench coat to flap like great wings, Walter tried to make eye contact with the girl. Everyone else on the street was looking at him.  At his age he must look quite a spectacle, dancing around on the curb.  The girl, the focus of all his antics, wouldn’t even turn her head. He felt that familiar frustration in his chest.  Young girls ignored old men on principle, it seemed.  Everything was about sex appeal, not common sense.

He tried one final wave, sweeping broadly with both hands, his forearm brushing the brim of his old, gray Fedora, and pushing it back from his brow.  The cold, wintery air on his scalp cooled his skin along with his intention.  The girl was a dot on the street, too far away now to make a difference.  Settling his hat firmly back onto his head he turned for home.

Dust

Kerry paced the room, her muscles taut and ready to go.  She circled past each window, glowering at the sunlight, green grass and gently swaying tree branches.  The sound of casual conversation between people outside ground against her nerves like burrs against her skin.  Sheep, she thought.  They are all sheep, standing there, drinking their soda’s and eating their chips, talking about whatever topic is at the top of the Hot List.  Every so often she would see one of them turn their head just a smidgen and glance at her as she stalked past the window closest to them.  Those moments filled her with rage.

The room itself was so amazingly unremarkable that it was laughable.  A simple, square space with windows on each wall, the kind that had to be pushed up and braced with a stick or a book.  The wood trim was a sickly color of green, just enough blue in it to make it look like corpse vomit.  Kerry wanted to brush the paint with her hand, make the old chips and splinters powder the floor beneath it.  They only thing stopping her was the lack of a broom and dustpan to sweep it up.  The windows would stay closed.

Aside from the windows with their gross paint, the only other thing the room owned was a chair.  Conveniently located in the very center of the space, Kerry knew she would be able to see out every window if she sat in it.  As she paced the peripheral, not quite touching the windows, Kerry contemplated her seating options.  Each corner was visible by at least two windows.  There was no single spot that would completely remove her from the glances of the sheep outside.  She knew that her anger would fade, it always did, and when that happened she would be tired and need to sit down.  The only question was where.

“My room was circular.”

Kerry’s foot paused in the air, the heel of her black, cowboy boot hovering just above the wood floor.  Slowly she lowered it, noting the slight click of wood against wood then continued along her path.

“Mine was octagonal.”

This time Kerry didn’t slow her steps.  Her ears were practically swiveling on her head to catch more bits of conversation.  The words sounded so close, like whoever was talking was right inside the room with her.  Obviously she was alone so it had to be some weird sound echo.

“Not even enough corner to give me even the illusion that I could hide.”

The corners of the room came into sharp awareness for Kerry, each one feeling darker and more secluded as she passed.  The faded blue of her jeans seemed to flash as she clomped through sunbeams.  How was there a beam for each window?

Thigh muscles sent grouchy complaints out through her skin.  They were getting tired of working without a destination in sight.  Kerry sniffed and huffed, pausing to breathe and relax her legs for a minute.  Dust motes, captive and exposed, danced in the light, taunting her with the thought of how many she was inhaling.  Millions.  Flaring her nostrils outward she stared at the chair, her eyes widening just a bit.

She heard the door close behind her as she walked away.  Too bad it wouldn’t lock.