(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.)
“Ranger, wait up!”
Pausing just before the bridge Ian turned to face Azumae.
“I wish to know about your runes.” The Sylvari necromancer peered intently at his thick, leather armor. “They have a look of superior craftsmanship.”
Flattered that she had noticed, Ian flushed a little. “They are druid runes.” He gestured self consciously at the purplish, round stone fixed tightly to his coat. “I made them myself after completing my training. Originally they were ranger runes, intended to help me with my precision as an archer but, once I became a healer I thought I would be better off with runes specifically designed for that.”
Looking all down his armor, Azumae chuckled. “Where one is good, six is better?”
“Yeah.” Ian smiled. “Having six of them really enhances my power. My healing and overall vitality is much stronger.” He wondered if the Sylvari would think him weak without his runes? Perhaps he shouldn’t have answered quite so honestly. The look she had given him while arguing with Caite was still fresh in his memory. He was the weakest member of the group, currently a liability.
“I too have runes,” she said and swept aside a leaf to expose a similar, purple stone fastened to her armor. “More power is better.”
“How many do you have?” Ian stopped himself from sweeping his eyes down her body to look for the others. He was suspicious of her sudden friendliness.
“Three. They are expensive to craft.” Azumae touched the rune’s symbol, a scythe etched deeply into the stone. “But I would have six also, like you, if this adventure rewards me enough coin to afford it.”
Why had she allowed Zerela to loot the bodies alone? If gold was her motivation, shouldn’t she have been filling her pack alongside the Charr.
Together they began walking to the bridge, their feet moving in sync. Caithe and Eir were well ahead of them, talking softly as they eased up to the bottom edge of a wooden ramp leading up to what appeared to be a wire-meshed catwalk. Ian’s boots clomped against the iron and he stopped, surveying the area the where the Dredge had been working. The ground was littered with metal fragments and tools. It looked like a weapon but, unsure of its function he didn’t want to touch anything. Dredge were not known for superior design skills so it was likely the instrument was of Asuran origin. The Asura were phenomenally advanced in their weaponry. He had seen a few of their golems and thought it wise to avoid them as much as possible.
“Inquest design,” Azumae said, confirming his thinking.
The bridge vibrated beneath their feet as Zerela joined them, her pack riding high on her back.
“I can smell the Dredge,” she said, turning her head to watch Caithe and Eir still crouched near the ramp. Her bonnet was tightly bound to her head, it’s owl accessory securely in place. “There are more just over there.”
From where they stood, they could hear the sounds of metal striking metal and large, circular motors could be seen, their backsides accessible by a short set of steps just beyond the top of the ramp. While they watched, Caithe shimmered and vanished from Eir’s side, seeming to dissolve into thin air. Garm sat down to wait.
Putting her hand on Ian’s forearm, Azumae stopped him reaching for his longbow. “Not your weapon,” she said. “You are the healer. Stay back and heal. Don’t fight unless you have to.”
Zerela nodded her agreement and plucked Ian’s elder staff from it’s holder on his back, handing it to him with great formality. “The weed is correct. You must stay out of the battle as much as possible if we are to remain alive.” Reaching out with a meaty paw she patted Moon Moon on the head. “Your wolf can fight in your place. He is a strong animal.” Moon ducked his head a bit and rolled his blue eyes up at the Charr. He looked uncomfortable with the contact.
“I suppose.” Not liking the idea of not fighting, Ian fingered the warhorn hanging from his belt. He looked up to see Zerela’s eyes still on him. Curling her lip into a slight grin, the Charr winked at him.
“Heal first, fight second.”
“Hey,” Ian fixed his eyes on her bonnet. “Out of curiosity, does your bird have a name?”
“Not yet.” Zerela shrugged. “We are new to each other.”
Looking a bit awkward, the Bloody Ranger dug into her pouch and came out with four, small vials filled with a thick, yellowish liquid. She held them out to Ian and Azumae. “For the dredge. These will help you.”
“Potions?” Ian took one and held it up, letting the hot, shifting light of the lava shine through it.
“Good thinking, Zerela.” Azumae smiled at the Charr and pulled out the stopper. “How long will it last?”
“About an hour.” She grinned. “It’s not much but, every extra ounce of power we can get is a good thing, right?” Holding up her sword she pointed at the sigil on the pommel. “Force,” she growled.
Ian facepalmed. He hadn’t even thought about adding sigils to any of his weapons.
“I didn’t think of it either.”’ Azumae patted him consolingly on the shoulder.
“We’re all going to die,” Zerela joked.
“I see you are all bonding nicely.” Caithe shimmered into view directly in their midst, causing a moment of panic among the trio. The Charr actually raised her sword to block before realizing the intruder was their thief. “Good, maybe we can actually get something accomplished here. There are numerous Dredge up ahead.”
“Told you I smelled them,” Zerela grunted and tipped one of the potions down her throat.
“We’re going to try and draw them close in small groups and take them out as quietly as we can. If we alert the whole bunch the fight could become more than we can manage so, everyone stay on your toes and be as quiet as you can. Stealth is our friend.” Caithe looked each of them in the eye. “Are you ready?”
Fear and excitement rippled over Ian and his palms became sweaty. Shifting his grip on his staff he downed the potion he was holding. The taste was harshly metallic, like sucking on orichulum ore. Making a face he forced himself to swallow. This was it.
Taking up her own staff, a ghoulish looking, length of blackened wood, Azumae nodded and swallowed her potion.
Seeing the slight wrinkling of her nose at its flavor, Ian grinned. “For power,” he chuckled. Warmth spread through his stomach as she returned the smile. It was probably the potion.
Hefting her sword in readiness, Zerela bared her teeth at the Sylvari thief. “To battle,” she growled.