(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.)
Dropping back, Ian tried to breathe normally, shifting his grip on his staff. He noted the dark stains on the wood from his sweating palms.
Caithe crouched at the base of the ramp, peering over the top. “There are sixteen soldiers on the catwalk,” she informed them. “Zerela, use your long bow to shoot the closest one. Garm will act as a decoy. Hopefully we can pull the skirmish over this way and not draw a lot of attention. Reaper, can you place marks between the catwalk and the ramp? If things get out of hand, maybe we can bottleneck them there and leave ourselves an escape route back this way.”
Azumae rose slightly and pointed her staff at the metal floor between them and the catwalk. Feeling her magic gather and release reminded Ian of diving into Lake Delavan on a hot day, the cold water suddenly enveloping his steaming skin. He wondered if it felt the same way to her?
Nodding agreement with the plan, the Zerela slipped an arrow from her quiver and eased forward, nudging past Eir who was crouched in readiness, holding her sword across one knee and gripping a large dagger in her off hand. Pausing to remove the owl from her bonnet, the Charr passed the bird back to Ian. “Keep her close.”
Feeling honored to be entrusted with the pet of another ranger, Ian gave her a solemn nod and lifted the owl up to his shoulder. Digging for a stable purchase on the smooth leather armor, the bird squeezed his shoulder tightly, her talons gouging deep enough to leave permanent impressions.
“Garm, to me.” Inching up the ramp Zerela stayed close to the wall and crouched on one knee. Muzzle crinkling slightly in concentration, she notched her arrow and took careful aim.
Feeling the magic gathering, Ian kept his eyes fixed on the ranger. He had used this spell himself a few times so he knew what was coming but, each time he saw it he was still surprised.
Releasing her shot with a tight, twang of the bow string, Zerela vanished from sight. The nearest dredge barked in pain, the ranger’s arrow sticking in his side.
A sudden shifting of the air above his head ruffled Ian’s blond hair, causing the bird to dig even deeper into his shoulder. He was positive the Bloody Ranger had just jumped over them all.
Trotting forward to the catwalk, Garm planted his feet, yipped at the soldiers and wagged his tail.
Three dredge stopped working and gathered around the wounded one, two of them looking blankly at the arrow in his side. Garm yipped again and danced in place, pounding his feet excitedly. All four stared at the lupine.
“Where did the wolf come from?”
“Stupid moles!” Hissing in disgust, Zerela rematerialized between Ian and Eir. She reached for another arrow. “How many times do I have to shoot?”
Azumae covered a snort of laughter with her hand. Seeing Caithe’s sharp look of caution, the necromancer shrugged. “So, I have a droll sense of humor,” she whispered. “Throw me to the warg.”
Ducking his head to hide his smile, Ian couldn’t help being impressed at how the necromancer didn’t seem affected by the legendary status of their prickly thief.
“I’m going to stick this one right in his nose. Maybe they will take better notice?” Rising to her full height, Zerela took aim and launched a quick, powerful shot at the same Dredge then ducked down again. Whistling through the air, this arrow thunked into an eye socket, knocking the life right out of the soldier. His body dropped limply to the mesh. The three standing soldiers looked from their fallen comrade to Garm, surprise on their faces.
Huffing irritably, Zerela rose and stomped up the ramp, waving her bow above her head. “Hey! He didn’t shoot you, I did!”
“Intruders!” The three Dredge grabbed for their weapons as they yelled to their comrades and began firing.
Grinning nastily, Zerela fired back rapidly, each arrow finding a target.
With a deep sigh, Caithe reached for her guns. “So much for stealth.” The Sylvari rose and headed up the ramp. “Plan B, everyone.”
Feeling his flesh erupt in goosebumps, Ian rose beside Eir and Azumae and lowered the business end of his staff. Melandru be with me. The prayer was automatic, a desperate plea in the face of a storm. His next thought was there is no plan B! Then Garm howled and all thoughts stopped. The fight had begun.
The white wolf bolted up the ramp and flew onto the catwalk, charging the nearest soldier. Panicking at Moon’s sudden action, the owl launched into the air, clearly aiming for the Charr’s bonnet. Having no time to react, Ian watched in horror as she sailed toward the Charr. Surprised, Zerela paused in reflex to catch the bird. That moment cost her as one of the Dredge hurled a net, landing it securely over Charr and owl.
Ian felt sick as Zerela froze with her pet in her claw, both of them stunned into immobility. Lowering his staff to focus on the spot directly beside her, he released the magic and felt himself jerk forward at blurring speed. As he jarred to a halt the excess energy of the spell flowed outward, melting the netting like it was made of sugar and, soothing its former captives. Ian groped blindly for the wall, trying to brace himself as his head spun for a second. That spell was definitely not his favorite.
The Dredge who had thrown the net ran forward, sword in hand, eyes fixed on the Charr. As he stepped off the catwalk the metal beneath his feet exploded in a mushroom cloud of poison fumes. Unable to prevent it, the soldier inhaled. Instantly his pale, moleskin became tinged with putrid green and he bent over, retching uncontrollably. Eir leaped forward, the metal floor shaking with her weight, and drove her blade down through the back of his neck. Before he was fully down, she yanked the sword free and thrust it into the next soldier. More Dredge poured toward her from the left side of the catwalk, all firing guns and stun beams. The Norn dodged and blocked with amazing speed, her sword and dagger moving so fast they could barely be seen.
Pulling herself together Zerela launched a barrage of arrows over the bulk of the soldiers. Her face was carved in stone while her eyes sparked with hatred. The snowy owl dove past Eir, tearing frantically into the face of the nearest Dredge.
Getting control of his balance, Ian shot a wisp into the fray where it found a target, a Dredge with a net in both hands, and began to circle him, draining his strength and throwing off his aim. Taking advantage of the wisp, Caithe shadow stepped to the weakened soldier and put a bullet into his face. There was no time to call a victory though as two more soldiers charged her. Switching spells, Ian sent a surge of energy toward them, molding it into a mass of rolling vines that tangled their feet, drained their strength and locked them in place. Switching quickly to her sword, the thief sliced their throats.
All light on the catwalk seemed to become sucked away as Azumae took the form of a Reaper. Her features were indistinguishable as she slid through the soldiers. Black, smoke-like magic curled around her in tendrils. Three Dredge fell dead almost instantly.
Ian froze for a second. Reaper magic was new to him. It felt like a vacuum, reminding him of stepping through an Asura gate only, nastier. Trying to hold his staff steady, he wondered if the Reaper would even be affected by his heals? She looked like a different being altogether. Maybe she didn’t even need to be healed?
Garm howled again, his fearful noise being echoed immediately by Moon’s icy one. Better suited to the lower vision, the owl swooped through the air with her talons bared, ripping any dredge she could reach.
Abruptly the light returned and Azumae staggered as the dark mists faded away. Bracing himself, Ian aimed for a spot beside her and triggered the astral spell again. The dizziness hit him on the stop. He staggered against her as the overflow gushed around them. At least the spell fixes what it breaks, he thought as his head cleared.
The necromancer straightened abruptly. “Get back!” she growled and shoved him away from her, back the way he had come. “I don’t need your help.” Spinning away she immediately blasted out a powerful spell, drawing on the living force of five Dredge at a time, the magic so strong that red lines seemed to flow out from the soldiers in streams, directly to her. The Dredge stumbled, their knees folding as their strength drained away.
The force of the shove turned Ian partway around, tangling his feet and twisting his ankle. Sprawling face down on the catwalk his breath rushed from his lungs. The elder wood staff slipped from his grasp and skittered away as a net landed heavily over him, pinning him down, the edges of his warhorn digging into his hip. He lay still, gasping for air, trying to move. His limbs felt like they had fallen asleep, every attempt to use the muscles sending that fuzzy, nerve clenching feeling rushing through him. His chest refused to expand. He was suffocating!
The catwalk fell away as Ian felt his pack gouge into his shoulders like something was trying to tear it from his body. For a heartbeat he hung in the air, bewildered at what was happening, then he was lowered onto his feet. Air rushed into his chest.
Sword flashing in the dim light, Eir sliced down the next net sailing toward them. Giving the Dredge that had thrown it a pissed look, she whipped her off hand forward, hurling her dagger into his grinning mouth.
“GET DOWN!” Zerela shouted.
Ian dropped back onto the mesh, Eir right beside him, and the Bloody Ranger fired across them, hard enough to knock back another rushing Dredge. The armored mole flew a solid eight feet through the air, crashing against the far side of the catwalk. In a flash, Eir was on her feet and charging.
Scrambling upright again, Ian hobbled behind the Charr, favoring his ankle, and snatched the warhorn from his belt. The chance to sound it was past though.
“How many left?” Caithe shadow stepped toward Ian, her face showing deep lines of exhaustion. Immediately he triggered his glyph, letting the magic flow around them.
“Just two!” Azumae yelled and hurled her daggers, dropping the count to one.
The remaining soldier, seeing his odds, turned to run. Garm, Moon Moon and the owl landed on him in a bloody fury.
The five would-be-rescuers stood gasping on the catwalk amid the bodies of their enemies. Every face was drawn and shadowed.
Limping to the center of the group, Ian counted to five and triggered the glyph again, sighing slightly as his ankle finished mended. He stared directly at Azumae. The lines of her facial marking, the skull of her profession, stood out in her exhaustion. He hadn’t noticed them before. She didn’t meet his eyes.
Taking a deep breath, Caithe waved Ian toward the far side of the catwalk where he had fallen. “Druid, find your staff.” Turning away from him she directed her next words to the others. “Rest a bit, you’ve earned it. I’m going to scout ahead a bit while… Zerela loots the fallen.” The thief’s face twisted into a tired smile. “You fought well ranger.”
Zerela grunted softly in acknowledgment and stroked the feathers of her owl, now cradled in her arms. She also did not meet Ian’s eyes.
Shoulders sagging, he turned away from the group, his boots making heavy sounds on the wire mesh of the catwalk as he searched for his weapon.