(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.)
All heads snapped up and turned toward the bridge to see Caithe streaking back toward them with five angry looking Dredge in heavy armor right behind her.
“Soldiers!” Eir snarled. Grabbing her bow she notched multiple arrows at once and took a knee, sending a barrage toward the attackers with impressive force. Two Dredge yowled in pain as they were struck, one crashing to his knees with an arrowhead sticking out of the backside of his thigh.
The second one, breaking away the arrow that landed in his bicep, raised his assault rifle and fired, the metallic, double-prongs on the end emitting a tight, beam of light at Caithe’s back. A split second before it struck her the Sylvari cartwheeled to her right and the beam passed harmlessly by. Gnashing its massive teeth, the soldier prepared to fire again, this time aiming for the Norn.
“Watch those zaps!” she called out.
While Eir dodged the next shot, Garm launched himself toward the Dredge at full speed, throwing himself at the soldier’s arm as he tried to get off another shot. The giant mole fell back, his weapon blasting harmlessly toward the ceiling. Planting his feet, Garm released a dark, terrifying howl. Three of the soldiers stumbled back, covering their eyes and, incoherent babbles of panic could be heard. Targeting the slowest one, the snow owl dove into his face with a piercing shriek, tearing with its talons at the mole-like features.
Feeling his spine ripple, Ian kicked his pack aside and reached for his shortbow, nearly getting his arm snapped as Zerela sprang past him on all fours, galloping after the Garm. The hair on the back of his neck rose in alarm as the soldiers began firing and a bullet whizzed past his cheek. Feeling like a helpless observer, he swore at himself. Everything was happening so fast! The next shot would kill him if he couldn’t pull himself together and start fighting.
Staff in hand, Azumae dodged left and right with the grace of a willow, firing off multiple spells in quick succession, chaining together puddles of poison, fear and cold between Caithe the trailing Dredge. Recovering from Garm’s howl they were pressing forward again, this time with nets in their hands. The soldier closest to them fired the netting toward the black wolf who dodged and showed his teeth in a lupine grin.
Skidding to a halt just before reaching the group, Caithe spun around, drew two pistols from her belt and began firing back upon her attackers. The fallen Dredge with Eir’s arrow in his leg ceased struggling and lay still, his pale corpse leaking blood from multiple holes.
Garm’s snarls were heard as he made another brutal charge at the soldier that had fired on Eir. High pitched screams echoed through the chamber. Reaching his side, Zerela swung her sword with both hands, cleaving through the Dredge with a look of feral determination.
Glancing down, Ian noted Moon Moon still at his feet, casually watching the fight.
“Go help him!” he growled and notched a trio of arrows, trying to control his nerves and focus the spell that would send them unerringly to their targets. At this rate the fight would be over before he got off a single shot. Startled by his masters tone, Moon Moon lowered his head worriedly. Ian stomped his foot and yelled. “ATTACK!” The Alpine wolf shot off toward Garm, sliding to a halt just behind him and giving voice to his best weapon, a chilling howl that froze the three remaining soldiers in their tracks. Ian loosed his arrows.
The first struck the heart of the closest, frozen soldier. He didn’t have time to scream as his life faded away. His second arrow found it’s way into the arm of another soldier, still sluggish from Moon’s howl but already struggling to free himself. The force of the hit spun him backwards, leaving him facing the way he had come. Not a critical strike by any means but at least it would slow him down for a moment. The third arrow found no target at all, trailing away to the far left and disappearing into the lava flow under the bridge. Dropping the short bow Ian reached for his staff.
More shots rang out as Caithe took full advantage of the wounded Dredge.
“That’s four!” Eir shouted. Garm came limping back just ahead of Zerela, blood oozing from an ugly gash on his right shoulder.
“Make that five,” Azumae stated, flinging her axe and shredding the last Dredge where he stood.
Calming his mind as best he could, Ian triggered the glyph on his belt. It was an easy spell that took little effort to cast, the energy being already gathered inside the glyph itself. While he was not injured, he sighed with relief as cool, healing flowed over them. At least his glyph worked even if his aim with his bow was poor.
“You did that on purpose!” Azumae stalked up to Caithe glowering.
“What if I did?” The thief pointed at the five bodies. “They were going to be there regardless. I just hurried things along.” Caithe smiled sweetly at the necromancer.
“We are untried as a group. A stunt like that could have gotten any one of us killed.” Azumae made a sidelong glance at the human ranger as she spoke. It was a fast movement, like she hadn’t meant to actually look at him but couldn’t stop herself.
Seeing it, Ian lowered his head. Even though he had gotten a kill it wasn’t like he had planned it that way. It was luck, plain and simple and everyone knew it.
“You are no longer untried,” Eir stated while giving Caithe a stare that only the thief seemed able to read. Sighing, Caithe snapped her mouth shut. “It may have been unfair,” the Norn continued. “But, putting you on the spot is the best way to see what your first reactions will be.”
“I’d say we did pretty well!” Wiping her sword clean with a square of leather from her pack, Zerela flashed her fangs at the thief. “You got any more tricks up your grassy sleeves?” Without waiting for an answer she padded to the closest body and began rummaging through its pockets and armor.
“What are you doing?” Surprised at the Charr’s boldness, Ian gaped at her. He tried to hold back a shudder as the corpse, nearly as big as the Charr, was rolled over and the small, empty eyes stared vacantly past him.
“Spoils,” the big cat stated, dropping a small pile of trinkets and leather on the ground. She moved to the next corpse. This one made a low, whining, noise as she heaved it over. Eyes widening, Zerela dropped the heavy, limp arm as if it were scalding hot. Snapping her ears to half mast, she wrinkled her muzzle and clubbed the dead mole in the face, twice with her fist. When it didn’t react she poked the tip of its long nose with the point of her dagger. This seemed to satisfy her concern and she resumed her search.
Watching this performance Ian was reminded of the cats that ran through Queensdale, hunting vermin and, becoming terrorized by blowing leaves. Could the Charr really be some distant evolution of those same creatures?
“You’re going to pick over the dead and carry it all with you?” He was skeptical.
“Yes.” Pausing, Zerela peered at a small object she had found, sniffed it then, shrugging, passed it up to the owl who was once again riding her bonnet. Without hesitation the owl snapped up the object and swallowed.
“But, your pack will weigh a ton by the time we’re finished!” She couldn’t possibly mean to loot every single kill, could she?
“I am a Charr,” Zerela stated, as if that was explanation enough. Plucking a small bag of coins from the belt of the Dredge’s body she weighed it thoughtfully in her hand. With a satisfied grunt she emptied the bag into the leather pouch around her waist and moved on to the next.
“A share of any treasure found.” Azumae spoke from just behind Ian, her voice still a little harsh from her anger at Caithe. “If the dead are the only treasure to be found then looting them is the only way to get it. Besides,” she said. “If Zerela waits until we return, the bodies will be too far gone. The air in this mine will decay them quickly. Not to mention, they will very likely be found long before we’re finished here.”
Nudging at a fallen pistol with his boot, Ian thought it over. There was sense in the necromancer’s words but still, the idea of carrying everything as they went was incomprehensible. He suspected the Charr might come to regret her decision. Especially since the return trip was not guaranteed. They might all die in here, leaving Zerela’s collected booty for someone else to claim.
Leaving the pistol where it lay, Ian gathered his weapons, hefted his pack onto his shoulders and followed Eir, Caithe and Garm toward the bridge. Moon Moon fell in behind him. Let them have their treasure, he thought. He still had a chance to make something of himself. For the time being, he was alive.