(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.)
Having found his staff near a railed support beam by one of the the large motors, Ian quietly rejoined the group and began digging through his pack, looking for food. Sitting beside him, Moon Moon thumped his tail fiercely against the mesh, his front paws drumming excitedly.
“Hungry, huh?” Chuckling a little he held out a thick strip of spicy smelling meat. At least the wolf wasn’t being judgemental.
Very politely, the Alpine closed his teeth on the food and slid it out of Ian’s hand. An instant later he was hunched over, snarling and glowering at every other member of the group as he chewed frantically.
Sorting through the entire contents of her pack, with the unhelpful assistance of the snow owl, Zerela paused to stare at Moon’s antics. Grinning mischievously she made a fast grab for the food, missing by a wide margin.
Amusement rippled through the group as Moon yelped in outrage and whirled around, putting his back to the big feline and tucking his tail beneath him. His snarls became louder and his blue eyes slid deeply to one side, watching for another attack. The owl walked closer, clearly intent on inspecting him he chewed faster.
“I feel the same way, buddy.” Laughing, Ian pulled out a thick strip for himself and stowed the rest back in his bag. Taking a seat on top of it, he took a huge bite and focused on the Charr’s growing collection.
“I wonder if the Dredge are a distant relation to Skritt?” Zerela pawed through the keys, small bottles containing questionable looking liquids and leather scraps, looking perplexed by the enormity of the assortment. Her worn, dark leather pack didn’t look nearly large enough to hold it all.
“Uh huh. And which side are you related to?” Azumae raised her eyebrows at the ranger as she tipped a handful of, what looked like, trail mix into her mouth. Her leafy hair seemed to brighten as she chewed.
“What’s that?” Holding the meat with his teeth, Ian used his staff to prod at a large, squarish, iron key lying beside a carefully arranged pile of leather. It looked heavy enough to use as a weapon. “Did you bring that with you?”
“I found it on one of the Dredge.” Zerela picked it up, weighing it in her hand. “I think it’s Dwarven. See the markings?”
“There are rumors of a couple of Dwarven strongholds here in Dredgehaunt.” Eir finished off her small loaf of bread and licked at her fingers, the smell of tarragon hanging in the humid air around her. She tried to look at the key but couldn’t seem to stop glancing toward the bridge.
Caithe came trotting up the far ramp holding a pistol in each hand. “Snik is down below with seven Dredge and a golem. He doesn’t seem to know we’re here yet.” She sniffed the air. “Who’s got tarragon bread?”
Reaching back into her bag, Eir ripped a loaf in half and handed one piece to Caithe.
“Give me a few minutes.” Zerela began stacking her collection. “I need to get this stored.”
Four heads turned to stare at the amount of things spread around the Charr. Between the new items and old, packing it all looked like a major job.
“Um… can I help?” Thinking he could at least stack a few items, Ian reached awkwardly toward the pile. Fast as a striking viper the Charr gave him a hard swat with the back of her paw. “OUCH!” Snatching his hand back he held it against his chest, grimacing at her.
Azumae frowned and tapped Zerela on her nose.
Her expression widened as the Charr rose to her full height, ears flattened to her head, holding tightly to the sword she had knocked Ian’s hand away from.
“Touch me again weed and I’ll sever your stem!”
The necromancer took a half step back, keeping her eyes fastened on the Charr’s.
“I was just trying to help.” Ian glared at the ranger. The skin wasn’t broken but the small bone on the outside was throbbing. “You could have just said no instead of breaking my hand.”
“It’s not broken.” Zerela pointed at the glyph on his belt. “Even if it was, you are a druid. Heal yourself.”
“That doesn’t mean you can just bust me up when you feel like it!” Angrily he turned away from her.
“You need to work on using your words instead of your actions.” Standing well back, with her axe in hand, Azumae gave Zerela a stern look. “Humans aren’t like us. They are frail.”
“Don’t lecture me!”
“I’m not frail!”
Ian and Zerela shouted simultaneously, their voices drowning each other out.
Quickly Eir stepped between them, her body blocking their view of each other.
“Enough!” Her voice was low and harsh. “Snik is too close to risk alerting him of our presence. You two need to suck it up.”
“Yes. We lost our element of surprise once already.” Caithe looked directly at the Charr. “Let’s not lose it again over petty arguments.”
Zerela stood still for a moment, glaring at everyone. Finally she took a deep breath and let it out slowly, looking very much like deflating circus toy.
“Fine. Here are some words for you.” Stepping carefully around the Norn, she held up the sword for Ian to see. “It’s soulbound to me. I’m not sure you could even pick it up if you wanted to.” She looked at his wounded hand with sincere regret. “I didn’t mean to actually hurt you, I was just trying to protect you.”
His anger abated a bit at this. Still, he would have been happier if she had just told him not to touch it. Ignoring the pain in his hand he looked closer at the sword.
“What does it do when someone other than yourself tries to hold it?”
“I don’t know. Nobody has tried before now.” She turned a bit, displaying the weapon as the others leaned in to peek.
“What is its talent?” Caithe ran her eyes slowly up and down the weapon.
“What do you mean?”
“Soulbound items usually have a specific strength they enhance. What does this one do?”
“This is soulbound too. The sigil helps boost my healing.” Feeling a little knowledgeable, Ian pushed the staff toward the Charr. “Go on, take it.”
Looking uncertain, Zerela reached for it. As her hand closed around it her ears flattened again and her eyes stretched wide, her muzzle wrinkling into a growl that didn’t quite make it out. For a few heartbeats she stood there, holding the staff, looking ready to be knocked off her feet. Then she relaxed and looked a little sheepish.
“I thought I would get zapped or something.” Ian smiled at her.
“For you it is just a staff without power. Nothing better than a club.” It felt good to be able to say something that didn’t make him sound dumb. Ever since they had walked into this place he had felt like the odd man out.
“Do you want to try the sword?”
Quite abruptly, the Charr thrust it toward him and on reflex he reached for it.
Three voices rose in unison. Eir, being the closest, pushed Zerela’s sword arm down.
“Let’s not let weapon bonding get the better of us, shall we?” Caithe pressed forward and steered the Charr back toward her packing. “Zerela, you need to get your treasures together so we can move on. Druid, give her a hand but try to not touch anything vital.”
“I can help.” Azumae stepped toward the pack, stopping abruptly as Zerela looked sharply at her. “If you like?” she added.
The Charr opened her mouth to speak but Caithe cut her off.
“Azumae, I could use your assistance over here.”
“Garm and I will monitor the bridge while you guys pack.” Eir sounded worried. “I don’t want to be surprised by more Dredge sneaking up on us.” The Norn and wolf set off toward the first ramp.
Kneeling beside Zerela’s collection, Ian watched the two Sylvari as they stepped carefully around the dead, moving to the far ramp. He was positive the necromancer didn’t like Caithe very much.
“Do you think they would be friends outside of this mine?” Zerela spoke quietly, with her head down while she stacked items.
“You see it too?” He pushed a small tower of leather squares toward the ranger.
“The necro always looks like she smells something bad when Caithe is near her.”
“Yeah, and see how her hair kind of bristles? Reminds me of how Moon’s back hair stands up when he is threatened.” His observation was met by a low chuckle from the ranger.
“I guess not all Sylvari are automatically friends with all the other Sylvari.”
Surprisingly, they finished packing quickly, all the items going into the bag. Ian stared at it in wonder.
“How did you get all of that inside there?” The bag didn’t even look like it was bulging.
“There’s a human I met in Lion’s Arch awhile back. He sells runes that expand the inside of a bag. You can put more stuff in and it doesn’t feel heavier or stretched.” Zerela gave him a toothy grin.
“Sheesh, I need to meet this guy.” His own pack, while not filled to capacity, was still very limited. Treasure was not his ultimate goal but, if he actually found any, he had to save room to carry it. A simple rune that could make the bag bigger on the inside but not increase the weight would be well worth the long trip to acquire.
“Heads up, here come the plants.” She wriggled a bit, getting her pack positioned then, pushed at her muzzle with her hands. She lowered them to reveal a comic look of anticipation.
“You’re a terrible person,” Ian said with a laugh and knelt to slip his arms through his own bag.
“All set?” Caithe stared suspiciously at Zerela for a moment, her eyes narrowing before continuing. “We will be splitting up for this one. Azumae and I will be taking the ramp down by the bridge while you three go down this one.” She pointed to the narrow walkway she and the necromancer had just returned from.
The ranger glanced between the two stated locations, her expression darkening a little.
“We could have gone down the first ramp and skipped this battle entirely?”
“So it appears.” Caithe met Zerela’s look without any sign of argument. “Had we scouted better we might have known.”
It wasn’t a lie. Ian knew they had all missed the implication of the first ramp and simply focused on the Dredge they had seen. He tactfully refrained from pointing out the thief had been the scout. They all knew it.
“Well, scorch my stones!” Grabbing her sword, the Charr seemed to move in multiple directions at once, jerking to a halt with each step like she was hitting a wall and looking like she wanted to hurl her weapon at something. Finally she just stopped moving and stared down at the platform, ears jutting at half mast, huffing the warm air.
“Okay then.” Caithe drew her pistols. “Rangers, lay traps when you get close, all of you.” She looked pointedly at Ian. “The more traps the better. Our necromancer will lay down poison and cold from our side. Nobody shoot until after Azumae and I have engaged them. Then all of you rain arrows on them. Druid, you will drop back after that and tend to us where you’re needed.” Now she looked at Zerela. “After the initial barrage we will need you to work some magic with your sword. Are you up to it?”
Everyone jumped as the Bloody Ranger whistled her blade through the air fast enough to alarm all three animals.
“I am ready to slaughter something!”
“Good.” The thief managed a wry smile. “Hopefully you guys will be a surprise for them. They will have their eyes full of us.” She gestured to herself and Azumae.
Adjusting her quiver, Eir waved Garm to her side and told him to heel. Obediently the black wolf sat at her feet, looking up at her expectantly.
Looking at Moon Moon, Ian wondered if he should have brought a tether? He had never thought to try and train the wolf. He didn’t know where to begin. If Moon exposed them early though, it could be a disaster. He looked to see what Zerela was going to do about her bird.
Cradling the owl in the crook of her arm like it was baby, she began to rumble softly, deep in her throat. The owl closed its eyes and appeared to go to sleep. Zerela looked up smiling, obviously pleased with herself.
“She will be no trouble until the fighting starts.”
“Let’s get moving.” Caithe set off toward the bridge with Azumae following behind.
Watching them leave, Ian wondered if splitting them up was the right thing to do? What if the Sylvari became wounded? He couldn’t heal what he didn’t know about. Don’t be stupid! Everyone has the ability to heal themselves at least a little.
Just before the pair dropped out of sight, the necromancer glanced back, her opaque eyes brushing against his. Stubbornly he looked away. He wouldn’t forget that shove so easily.
(Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four)