We’d seen it all, our warband, our Guild, Cloudwatcher’s Aerie. Well, some of us had anyway. My sister Aldyne, Al for short, and I had traveled the world over the last few years; at first in service to the legions, then the Pact, and now Tyria itself. We were weary, Al and I, tired as old soldiers are wont to be. Then, we heard the news that several of the warbands would be returning home. We decided to talk to our third and see if she fancied a journey home. Shaymar Cloudwatch, the one we all had gravitated toward, the leader of the warband, had been with us since the fahrar. Like us, she’d grown up in the ironclad Black Citadel. Unlike us, she was a poet, not a soldier. When others scoffed, she would often reply, “Haven’t you ever heard about the pen and the sword?” She laughed quite a bit if they happened to be holding one or the other as they quizzically looked at it in their hand, trying to find meaning in her words. No, they’d never heard of the pen and the sword.
Today, I met Al just outside the Black Citadel in the town of Nolan. We knew we’d find Shaymar in the strawberry patch. The poet took comfort, I think, in knowing that there were others like her, others like the cub Anya Fairmind, who enjoyed sitting and contemplating the world instead of fighting against it. Al waited near the merchant just outside the Black Citadel, watching as he haggled with a pair of sylvari fresh from the fields. They wanted more than a few coppers for their claws and hides but the merchant stood fast, warning them that if they wanted a better price, they ought to try the Black Lion Trading Company and see if Gnashblade was feeling generous.
“Al,” I greeted, drawing her glowing green gaze around to me. At first the necromantic power had troubled me, how dangerous was it, how powerful was she, that it spilled from her eyes like that? She smiled the same warm smile I’d known all my life.
“I’ve been waiting ages for you, Dysis,” she said. Somehow I doubted that but said nothing as I started toward the strawberry patch. She fell in beside me, our greatswords swaying rhythmically as we walked through town, past the gates and the tumbled-down gears. We clambered over rocks and up into a disused water pipe. Tallow wax candles lit the way deep into the pipe, driving shadows away with a thick yellow light. We followed them until we came to a beam of sunlight and dappled green sky where the pipe ended. Beyond, we found Anya’s grove, the waterfall-fed pool, and up on a platform, Anya’s strawberry patch. Anya herself was nowhere to be found but our leader, Shaymar, lounged under an oak sapling, far above the pool..
“Sisters,” Shaymar purred when she saw us, “You’ve come back from the wars.” I smiled and waved up at the skinny thief. Al’s head bobbed for a moment before we made our way up more pipes and gears, around the pool and across more twisted wreckage until we were able to join Shaymar near the tree. “What brings you back?” she asked when we joined her at last. “It feels like years since last I saw that glare, Stormcloud.”
“Have you heard?” Al began, “About the journey back to the Homelands.”
Shaymar studied her a moment, seemingly unphased by the wild green power seeping from Al’s once-brown eyes.
“Back to the Homelands,” Shaymar said, slowly tasting each word. “It won’t be going ‘back’ for any of us. We were born here.” I tried to stop the scoff before it left my throat but I could not, and it hardened Shaymar’s lilac eyes when she glanced my way.
“True,” I said, trying to smooth her ruffled hackles, “But we were thinking we should go, as all good Charr should go.” The silence grew between us for several moments and then I sighed. “We’re tired, Shaymar. We want nothing more to do with dragons. We need some nice, normal, charr problems.”
“Charr problems in the charr homeland,” Al added with her ear to ear grin.
“Do you wish the entire guild to go?” Shaymar asked.
I knelt before her, “No, only the warband. Let the humans deal with human problems and the sylvari plant their seeds.”
“You have spoken to the others?” she asked, “And they do not come to entreat me?”
“No,” Al whispered. “We were together when Dysis and I heard the news and we decided to ask your opinion first. If you do not wish to go, there is no reason to bother the others. We will go alone.” The others, Khada, Demar, and Lorna, had scarcely been as far from the Black Citadel as Lion’s Arch. They could wield a sword or a staff if they had to, but they rarely had to. Taking them to the Homelands would require a few trips to the shops for weapons and armor and, maybe, a couple weeks out in the fields, hunting bandits or slaying moas. A flutter of excitement filled my chest at the thought of the six of us trekking north, only my sword and Al’s bone fiends to keep us safe. “The guild will be in good hands while we are gone,” Al added.
We both knew how much our band of misfits meant to Shaymar. From the fahrar, Al, Shaymar, Lorna, and I had grown up as sisters. We stood shoulder to shoulder and back to back through every sort of trouble that young charr can find themselves in. Even after Al and I joined the Pact, we’d always returned to visit with our less-battle hardened sisters. Somewhere along the line, those two had found two more: the young tough Demar and the grizzled elder Khada. Our own contacts in the Pact brought our tiny guild a handful of humans, sylvari, norn, even a couple grumpy asura. They’d look after things.
“I think you want me to go with you,” Shaymar purred after studying us for a moment more.
“It won’t be easy, but we’ll keep you all safe,” I reassured her.
“I believe you will, Dysis. Alright, let’s go. Round up the others!” She hopped to her feet and we followed her through the wreckage and out the pipe. Walking back to Nolan, I started thinking about the others and where I might find them. Demar and Lorna were likely out wandering the Diessa Plateau, it would take a few days to find them, in all likelihood. However, Khada would be home with her cats.
“I’ll go get Khada,” I told Al. “Do you think you can find the others?”
Al nodded thoughtfully. “I’ll find them. We’ll meet back here in a week.”
“Nolan in a week, I’ll see you then, sister.” I waved goodbye to her as she turned and galloped north. She’d been gone a few minutes before Shaymar turned around and noticed her missing. “She’s gone to fetch the others. I’ll get Khada and we’ll meet back here in a week,” I filled her in.
“Are you going to make us armor, Dysis Stormcloud?” Shaymar asked, staring down at her comfortable leather frock. I thought a moment before answering her.
“No, sister. I’m going to let the others do it. I’ll forge us some weapons though.” I smiled at her frown. “You need something, little sister. Even if it’s just a pistol. The guild will have you all fighting fit in no time.” I added silently, “The hard part will be staying alive to use it.”
“You look worried without Al standing beside you, Stormcloud,” Shaymar said. She noticed everything and had never learned to be circumspect in what she said aloud. I realized that my shoulders had slumped and my face had been troubled. She pulled herself up straight, suddenly blocking my path. She was small and thin for a charr, soft too. “No bravado, Dysis. Tell me the truth. You can keep us safe? I won’t endanger half the guild to go traipsing off to the Homelands on a whim.”
I smiled, not soothingly, but joyfully. I loved that she cared so much for all of us. “I will do my best. We will have the best armor we can make and the sharpest blades and truest sights our skill can create. But, Shaymar, it’s going to be hard.” She nodded at my words. “I think we can make it there. I think we can see our home.”
She studied me a moment before nodding and returning my smile. “Then let’s find Khada and start making armor!” She chortled.
To Be Continued…