Looks like we will finally get to play Guild Wars 2 soon, beta weekends yay! And good to see fan fiction old timers returning (hope they haven't disappeared again ), though this place is still too quiet.
On topic now. This will be set a few decades before Guild Wars 2, I like to keep some ambiguity and room in lore settings. Hopefully I can keep on writing this even after GW2 comes out.
I've more or less planned out most of the story in advance... just need to get down to braving that long journey and put things into words.
You may wish to skip the first part and go directly to Sword, the first bit is thematic tie-in whose relevance won't come into play till abit later...
Finally, hope you will find some enjoyment reading this, and feedbacks are welcomed.
There’s something in this world we’re all searching for.
We’re none too certain what it is, but confident it exists.
Hidden away to be plainly seen and hard to grasp.
It is sweet and warm.
It is beautiful and tingling.
The one will find it, the only one it belongs to.
The one will find it, even if one avoids it.
Maybe some have found it.
Maybe some think they have found it.
But surely, one day, some day, somehow, somewhere.
Idiosyncratic doll loves coffee
The oaken door groans under the weight.
The carved relief on the door face tempts to draw you into its depthless maze. You still have not made any sense of the giant art piece, only that looking at it stirs that which dwells in your bowel.
An eye blink of timeless seconds passes. A narrow opening unveils and you forces through into the coliseum like space.
Beneath the glass sky ranks of shelves towers, upon sits a million million binds of history. Heartbeats, like the flickering stars beyond together with the licking candles, gently rocks to the concerto caressing the air.
Wonder reduces you to childlike trance as it has done so on every previous occasion.
“You are late,” the soft voice fills the ears and into the minds.
The blind folded doll in the red velvet armchair gestures at you. She is tiny, tinier still at this distance.
“Was not aware I even have an appointment.”
You walk to the depress circle at the center, cast a look at the encircling book-made-handrails as you passes, and settle into the seat across the table.
“I have to re-make your coffee. In the meantime have some cake rolls.”
“No thank you, I do not think I can stomach anything sweet.”
Your hands find their way to a plate and fork then a slice of chocolate roll. The voice is like magic. Perhaps it is magic.
Dolls do not talk or consume an endless stream of desserts, you remind yourself.
A gold engraved canister let out a few clatters. The grinds are scooped out by a spoon, small, dainty, matching the butterfly like white hands holding them.
Frown. The cake is much bitter, a concentrate of cocoa and little sugar.
“You are late,” the doll reiterates. She brushes aside those long graphite hair teasing against the cheeks, leans forward for the glass kettle.
You nod, disinclined to object.
“Have you found what you seek?”
“No,” you reply. “Not sure I ever will find the answers,” you add.
“Only that is not what you seek. Here.”
You accept the cup. A strong brew topped with milk and no sugar. Scented, overwhelming, not even bittersweet.
The doll raises her cup and drinks in kitten like sips.
“Coffee, do you suppose I like them?”
“To death.” An understatement for the aficionado doll. Together with the sound of music, it and the scent of coffee are two things omnipresent in this place.
“That is more a praise than you intend. Without them what will I indulge on my journey through the realms of human creativity, they are my oxygen on dives into the darkest recesses of human thoughts. Still I do not claim to make the best coffee, or try to.”
“...you made mine out to be worthless when I tried making them.”
“Coffee comes in all blends, strength, flavors. From the mix of milk and sugar to the means of brewing to the styling of coffee set, the smallest variation brings its wholly different experience. None are the reason I drink them. Can be simple as the occasion, or mood due to having to wait for a tardy someone. When I brew the exotic drink I am not looking for some perfect taste, merely creating.”
The doll pauses to savor the aroma. Under the dark of her hair the sweet smile sends waves of nausea over you. Semi-consciously a hand moves to the stomach where it is.
“You can spend a hundred years pouring through all my books, and never will you find the answer. What you seek has no meaning by itself, neither written in the pages nor sung in poems. What you seek, you have to give it yourself. And, I am aware you lack appreciation of riddles.”
A pointing finger hushes you before the complaint is made.
An impatient sigh, the doll lowers herself out the armchair. Only fourteen or fifteen winters, in appearance any case, she is diminutive as she is doll-like. She floats to one of the shelves and pouts vehemently at the second highest level.
Simple mindedness in face of certain failure is without doubt our greatest strength and fault.
Small hands flail and fall short. You hold back the laughs, you do not need to be warned to know your fate should you do anything less. The doll mutters with frustration, beneath the black skirt and chrysanthemum like inner white folds, tiny boots can be seen tip toeing. How she manages to get around in the ludicrous dress is beyond logic.
Finally, you get out of the seat and walk up next to her.
“This one?” You haul the book out from its place.
“Wha-what I, I don't need…T-thank… you,” the doll flusters and snatches the book. She quickly retreats back to her chair and hides behind a chocolate donut.
It is not until the donut has been nibbled into an envious fate and the doll is licking her fingers does she speak again.
“I have only recently come by this. However, perhaps even a monkey brain like yours can glimpse an insight or two.”
The book is almost half as large as her. She rests it on her laps and opens its thick cover. A donut free hand skates over the blank page and the words begins to emerge from her small mouth.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~
The novice mesmer took the shaft in the back. Went down like a sack of corn without as much as a whimper.
Arrows filled the sky, thick as locusts, and louder, like the most terrible ceaseless shriek of fiendbats.
Along a fifty meter stretch of brown dirt road, disoriented men and women ran in all directions. Seeking cover, weaving spells, meeting steel with steel, being trampled beneath iron hooves. Screaming, crying, cursing. Dying.
Amidst the chaos and over all the clamor boomed a voice. Composed, dauntless - enchanted with a power that spoke courage to the heart of all whom it reaches and delivered calm to their mind. “— form by squad. Grenmon, Tulio, set up turrets by that boulder at north west, don't let them get around the flank! Yeli, take your squad and make sure the retreat is clear. Sagittas, show them some suppression fire!” Firdelaf shouted while waving for those still exposed at the front to fall back. Ragged razor shards peppered the nearby grounds; the spouts of disturbed earth snaked closer as enemy mages brought attention to bear upon the tall man in glistening silver armor. He dove behind the trunk of a fallen spruce. “Keppler! Get that kid –”
The mesmer had barely been with the company for a month and the name almost escaped him. Naden, that was the lad's name.
“-Naden, get him out of the open!”
A score of steps to the left, answering the onslaught with his own firestorms, Firdelaf's second in command called back, “The party's pretty wild Firffy, reminds me of my twentieth, family and friends till the invitation got plastered out on Langmar Square and the whole district showed up. The whole district except one person who had to stay home to take care of a little sister.”
Firffy. Of the whole company only Keppler called him that. It was his nickname in his first company fresh out of camp. His second in command was the only other person left from it.
Despite the assessment, the chiseled featured man still motioned his readiness.
“On three,” Firdelaf threw himself over the other side. “Three!”
A spotted blade flung at him with the force of a falling tree. Rusted, which meant instead of dying on the spot, one dies an agonizing two weeks later from septicemia.
He met the assault in kind, striking the flat of his own sword against the cruel blade, down and at angle. The fluidity of the movement spoke of mastery that could only have resulted from years of practice and experience, like a ballad dancer in a choreographed death dance, careful timing that walked the millimeters between triumph and damnation.
The sword continued in its wielder's spin, having turned aside the enemy's edge, circled up high; flashes of blue gold glints constricted like ribbons extending from up held hands. Then so quick it seemed like trickery to the untrained eyes, it blinked down. The crunch was sickening, at the narrow weak point between helm and plate did the steel reap through and found spine and flesh and arteries. The centaur was run through back to front, its dark blood spilled like ruptured wineskin.
As quick as the dance had tangled, the man parted to the left, a cold dancer abandoning a broken partner. A duet turned solo sonata. The dazzling bladework broke off arrows and bolts of magic alike, a whirlwind that only the most foolish dared to rise and challenge.
To the left was a flash of dust and green – Keppler, skidding to stop beside the downed mesmer. One arm wrapped beneath the lad's shoulders his second in command hauled the kid onto his back. Keppler was well trained for a scholarly type and the kid was small. The elementalist from Shaemoor performed a few simple gestures and a sudden strong breeze came up and hastened the retreat.
But even the wind does not outrun arrows.
Without the slightest pause, Firdelaf struck out his left hand in their direction. A shimmering barrier faded into place a split second before the torrent could rain down on their marks. The translucent watery wall had a strange, almost mercurial consistency; it quavered and rippled as missiles impacted its surface.
The protection lasted for several seconds, until a trio of centaurs brought down the barrier by charging through it, showers of glow dusts from the collapsed magic covering their hideous and fearsome forms.
Centaurs. Half equine half humanoid savages. Their ancestral homelands laid to the far north and west of Kryta, in undesirable territories occupied by few human presences in olden days. For the longest time they posed little more than nuisances; at times there would come news of far flung settlements being pestered, other times they traded precious stones for metals to fuel petty tribal strife. Neither hostile nor benevolent, just a strange race that barely registered in people's concerns, much like childhood tales of the strange creatures that occupied the mysterious Crystal Deserts.
That was then. Nowadays not one person in Kryta would think of centaurs without thoughts of hatred or fear. The recent decades had been marred with ever greater escalation of conflict. At first the might of Kryta reign triumphant, the rebelling tribes crushed and their chieftans driven through the streets in demonstration of power. Then seemingly overnight the Seraph ceased its expedition beyond the borders, instead they stood fast, holding the outlands in ever vigilant watch. Gradually as the light faded from the towers of Divinity's Reach, the braziers of beacons were toppled and abandoned. The beasts were allowed to menace the fair countryside of Kryta, making further inroads with every raid.
Fast, powerful and by no means without intelligence or organization. Scorned as beasts and savages but in reality neither, the centaurs proved themselves to be difficult foes for even elite units of the Seraph.
In manner befitting his namesake, the “The Sage Panthera”, he fell upon the three centaurs with ferocity of a leopard riding an avalanche. The long fang in his hands brought with it smokes of searing white flames, it smashed the lead centaur's buckler to splinters and burned into the monster's side.
Despite the initial shock, the flanking centaurs quickly came to their friend’s aid. A waterfall of steel crashed upon the immovable boulder, scimitar and axe met his sword in ever pressing tempo.
After the first exchanges Firdelaf judged his chances of an easy victory over these two foes were poor. The two centaurs moved and fought with uncanny coordination. Without doubt they had trained and fought together before, perhaps even wrestled together from days as foals. The difficult angles of attack chiseled away his momentum like an invisible net cast around his hands, strike after strike slowly but surely worked toward breaking the defense.
Immediately he slipped back into a roll.
The centaurs stumbled and neighed, their thick hides bloomed with crimson blots, then came the pop of muskets from behind. The beasts were not slain; at this distance the bullets did not possess the power to penetrate armor and still retain lethal power. The centaurs did break off and fell back at a limper.
Firdelaf took the moment and made his own retreat. He jumped behind the cover of the fall spruce and joined his second in command. There were four other men, armed with rifles inscribed with the emblem of Divinity's Reach. They worked like synchronized clockwork, taking turns spotting while the others reloaded, then in unison broke cover and made the enemy on the other end of the barrels taste their fury.
After the initial shock of engagement, men and women quickly fell back to their training and held together a desperate defense position.
“How's the kid?”
“Breathing,” Keppler stated plainly. Over his packs laid the lad, face down and unconscious.
“Praise Dwayna, the way he went down I had feared the worst.”
He fished out a boot knife and with care cut out the arrow. “No poison, the kid's in luck.” He took one glance at the tip before tossing it aside.
Centaurs were known to lace their weapons with a deadly poison brewed from the Vencrib moss that grew in swamps in the far north. It caused severe paralysis and if left untreated, would stop the victim's heart in minutes once the poison reached it. Several years ago, before he was made captain and before there was an anti-toxin, the Vencrib poison posed such a threat engaging raids on open grounds was explicit forbidden by the handbook.
With one hand placed over the lad's wound, he muttered a few chants. Warm azure light enveloped his hand and slowly the bleeding was stemmed and the wound no longer looked dreadful as it did. “Bandage up and find a volunteer to carry him.”
The Seraph does not leave any behind, or it should not. I, will not.
“We can't make the outpost Firffy, if they've penetrated this far then we must assume the garrison is already lost.”
“I know,” he responded by cursing inside. When news of the centaur incursion reached Divinity's Reach his company was sent to reinforce an outpost in the anticipated path. Instead they came under attack still kilometers from their destination, waylaid in the woodland hillside by a hundred strong, three times their number, force of centaur scouting party.
By Balthazar, the report briefs assured the centaurs were still half a week out, this was meant to be an early, precautionary response while the main army in field maneuvers to deal with the threat. Not to mention he had already pushed his men harder than normally required, marching out before light from Ravgs where they made camp the night before.
No. Firdelaf's hands tightened around the stingray-skin bound hilt. He should have known the reliability of command intelligence, a mishmash of pen-pushers who had not the slightest inkling of situations in the fields, constantly misjudging and making up wishful projections. Had he made the decision to march overnight as he had originally contemplated, they might have saved the outpost, or if he had not left half the company back at Ravgs to wait for supply wagons that failed to show up in time, there would be enough swords to beat back this ambush. Now, because of his oversight, not only was the outpost lost and those who looked up and relied on him in danger, so was the town of Ravgs.
Ravgs, a beautiful and historic town straddling the edge of the plains and foothills, birthplace of renowned poets and playwrights throughout the centuries. The place was no stranger to most Krytans, Firdelaf included, in fact he spent a number of childhood years living here with a relative who had since passed away. He even visited the bar last night where he had used to sneak in with schoolmates. Because of a weathered outlook he was always the one to approach the counter and get pints for the whole underaged group. There were even a few times when he was approached by the ladies.
Once a backwater, it had become a border town in the ever diminishing domain of the kingdom. It had been spared the ruins of war and songs of minstrels continued to enrich its fine heritage, a remarkable escape that looked to soon end.
Centaurs had no appreciation for beauty. Or mercy, or anything resembling humanity. Firdelaf had seen firsthand the destruction they wrought. He had seen it a thousand times, and a thousand times too many...
The skies snowed black.
Ashen flakes fell thick and heavy. The insufferable pungent air brought tears out one's eyes — if one had any left. There were no sounds of market barter, nor idle chatter from tavern verandas, nor patter of children kicking feathered-cork. No rumble of turnip loaded wagons, even the noise of territorial cats were absent. No speech, no yells, no murmurs. No cries, no screams, no whimpers, not even the wailing of winds. There was only gravely silence.
The young man looked with vacant eyes at the lifeless and no means empty street.
Even shielded by the fallen trunk the tremor almost threw him to the ground. Keppler's timely hand helped him regain his composure. A boulder had been summoned and hurled with great force, its weight sure to crush any witless enough to be there when it lands. Despite a lack of refinement the centaurs possessed powerful shamanistic magic that the Seraph had few answers to, not even the advent of engineering technologies with explosives and gearworks prove to be the turnkey many had hoped.
Another day, another defeat. Nothing seemed able to hold back the beasts, he was not even sure they could be. Kryta was on her knees, locked in never ending struggle against unflinching foes, till the day in final death throes she exerts the last breath of strength.
All this futility, this ceaseless waste. The heart grew ever weary from the overhanging weight.
“What did you say?”
“Nothing,” he said. “Sound the retreat, Nettles formation.”
Men and women rallied around the warhorn blasts, pulling back in rehearsed waves that protected each other's vulnerable flanks. Those wounded went first, and the stretchers, thankfully not numerous but still too many.
Traps and explosives were set as people fell back. The centaurs attempted to press their advantage, and each time their charge were sent back by walls of fires laid down by magic channeled through crystal headed staves and geysers of flames jettisoned from hand held devices. The positioning and execution were flawless, at no time were there openings in the defense, and the centaurs were kept to giving chase from a distance.
Group formations and tactics were the only means of survival against enemies that were stronger physically in every aspect, Firdelaf had long learned. He had spent considerable training time drilling that into his people, especially in organized withdraws; it was the thin line separating defeats from massacres.
“Keppler, take the company and withdraw back to Ravgs, the moment you get there start evacuating every person in town.”
“And you? I presume this is the point where you go off to do something heroically stupid, again. Did I mention stupid?”
“There are too many injured. The centaurs already have us on mobility under the best circumstances; you'll not make even a kilometer with them on your tail. I'll hold them off for a few minutes and lead them away.”
His second in command stared for several seconds. Then, “I'm not going to stop you, not because of a lack of concern, nor you to be foolhardy. I know you too well for that. Just keep in mind Kryta has enough heroes entombed and an extreme shortage of saviors.”
“Thanks Keppler, we shall drink at the Ornithor after all this.”
“And you'll be buying. Valor and grace.”
“People and honor.”
Firdelaf held out his right hand level, returning the salute.
With that, Keppler left with the last group of illusionists covering the retreat.
He was not yet alone. Firdelaf gave a long look at the ranks of men and women who stood at either side, ready to meet any foes. They weren't real people, but phantasms conjured to conceal the path of retreat and confuse any pursuers. Standard withdraw tactics. While almost indiscernible to unaided eyes, they were easy to overcome once foes realized the assaults caused little material harm. Once discovered the centaurs would simply ignore them and trample through.
It was why it paid to have some authenticity mixed in.
The triggered traps and mines by now had produced a thick curtain of smokes, from within emerged shadows of menace. Firdelaf almost smiled at thoughts of the odds.
He held up one hand and crushed it into fist, a giant hammer of azure translucency answered the summons and appeared next to the nearest silhouette. The centaur had barely reared with surprise when it was pummeled like a rag sack, tossed into the air and spread against a nearby trunk with sickening squish of burst internals.
The shapes came still, hesitance now apparent in their steps.
The fuller of his sword shimmered against the flames and ash. Firdelaf's smile hardened.
This was Kryta. Poems sing of her glistening streams, where canvas paint of golden fields and lush forests and lips of frozen falls in winter, a hundred songs channels the energy and jolly of Festival Square on a lazy weekend, her soaring halls echoes with hymn of enlightenment.
And he, Firdelaf Guilian Commenun...
Before the thought could finish, tongues of cold steel slithered amidst the ember lit woods and he was locked in blades with the enemies.