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Gulmont's Character stories. Comments welcome.

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Deals With Devils:
Chapter Five

Machiavelli returned to the offices of Cavalli Steel and Smithing shortly after making plans with Constance. He was a little nervous about what they’d talked about and felt that he needed something he was more comfortable with, something he could control.
When he got to the door of his office he turned straight to Emilia, asking sharply, “How’s your progress going on Mister Ryll’s dossier?”
“It’s all done and on your desk, Lord Cavalli,” Emilia nodded, giving him a little smile. “I’ve made a few notes on the sections you might find particularly interesting. I hope you find it helps,” she added, looking up at him through long eyelashes.
“Thank you, Emilia,” he said, opening the door to his office and closing it behind him. He crossed the room and took a seat at his desk, finding the dossier laying before him. Picking it up, he flicked through a few pages, reading them intently.
Arthur Ryll was a fairly avenge person, born to Taylor and Jeremy Ryll, he’d grown up in Divinity’s Reach and come out of school with fairly normal grades. Fresh out of school, he’d gotten a job as an associate at Black Incorporated, brokering trade deals between companies and negotiating the terms of contracts.
He’d gotten quite good at it in fact, so much so that he’d landed several large deals with some of the leading companies in their field. His dedication to his work and been recognised and he’d risen through the ranks of Black Incorporated, and had eventually made junior partner, all through nothing but hard work.
Emilia’s notes directed him to Arthur Ryll’s most notable success, landing the Harding’s group, a multinational retailors that designed and sold ready-to-assemble furniture, kitchen appliances and home accessories. It was that deal that had landed him the junior partner position.
The relationship between the two however, Emilia had written, had been strained of late. Miss Harding, the head of the group, and Arthur Ryll had been reported to have several disagreements on certain business decisions, and their views on one another seemed rocky at best.
Machiavelli placed the dossier down on his desk and leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers. He pressed them to his lips as he thought, the gears of his mind whirring as he formulated a plan that would rid him of Arthur Ryll.
Once he’d figured out what he was going to do he got to his feet, heading out of his office again. “Emilia, good work, your additions were very useful,” he said as he made his way out. “I’m going out of the office again for a few hours, if anyone calls for me take a message and tell them I’ll be back shortly.”
Emilia beamed as she watched Machiavelli walk swiftly out, bowing his head in appreciation. “Thank you, Lord Cavalli! Stay safe!” He didn’t look back, but Emilia had not expected him to. She wriggled in her seat happily basking in the rare moment of praise that had been given to her.

The carriage ride to Black Incorporated had taken around twenty minutes, and Machiavelli now sat waiting outside of their offices. He’d bought a newspaper from a news stand close by and was flicking through it casually, not really paying much attention to its contents.
It took about ten minutes for the security personnel on the door to tell Arthur Ryll that Machiavelli was down stairs, and a further five minutes for him to make his way down to meet him in front of the building, that same triumphant and cocky smile plastered on his face.
“Hey there, Mach!” He announced, raising a hand in greeting. “I was wondering when you’d show up. I was beginning to think that you wouldn’t come, and that would be such a pity, I was looking forward to our meeting.”
“Arthur Ryll,” Machiavelli said by way of acknowledgment, folding up his newspaper and sliding it into his back pocket. “You’ve been making yourself quite the nuisance and have become a bit of a thorn in my side, so I thought it would be best to come and meet you face to face.”
“I’m so glad you did,” Arthur chuckles. “Tell me, did you like the little surprise I had waiting for you the other day?”
“You mean how you stole the Pact airship contract from me?” Machiavelli inquires. “I can’t say I did, no. I don’t suppose you’ve any more unwelcome surprises planned for me in the near future?”
“Quite a few in fact. I did tell you before, didn’t I? I’m going to put you out of business,” Arthur smiles, the smile not reaching his eyes. He had an almost predatory air about him, a dark and primal hunger for power.
Machiavelli takes a breath through his nose. “I see,” he says solemnly. “Could I ask you why? As far as I’m aware, I’ve done nothing to deserve this kind of prosecution. It must have been only the other day that we first met. Why is it you’re so intent on putting me out of business?”
“Do I need a reason?” Arthur asks with a shrug of his shoulders. “You’re one of the big dogs, Mach, and while I hate to admit it, I’m only a little dog. All the little dogs want a piece of the big, it’s the way of the world. You’re the competition, and it’s best to snuff any competition out, isn’t it?”
“We don’t have to be competition,” Machiavelli pointed out. “There’s plenty of the metaphorical pie to go around, there’s no need to go around stealing slices from each other’s plates.”
“You see, here’s the thing, Mach,” Arthur continued. “I don’t want just a slice of the pie, I want the whole thing, and doesn’t it taste that much sweeter when you’ve taken it from someone else? You’re just a stepping stone for me on my way to the top, and once I take everything from you, I’ll be made named partner and be set for life.”
Machiavelli sighed heavily. “I’m going to be fair with you, Arthur. I’m going to give you this one chance. Back off, or you’ll come to regret it.”
Arthur let out a laugh. “I’ll come to regret it will I, Mach?” He smirked mockingly. “You can’t do anything to me. You’re at the end of your rope, old man, and I’ve already won. You might as well give up now, just lay down and let me roll on over you.”
Machiavelli shook his head in disappointment. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” And with that he turned on his heel, calmly walking away.
“You’re finished, Cavalli!” Arthur yelled back at him. “You hear me!? Finished!”

When Machiavelli had sent letters to Mister Baldus, Captain Grattus Steamcatcher, and Miss Harding, he hadn’t expected much of a response, but to his surprise they’d all agreed to meet with him, even the elusive Miss Harding who had only managed to fir Machiavelli in a small window of her schedule.
The four gathered in the meeting room of Cavalli Steel and Smithing, Machiavelli wearing his best suit, his shoes polished to a shine and his tie ironed, Mister Baldus, looking just as grey and nervous as the last time Machiavelli had seen him, his watery eyes peering anxiously out over his spectacles, and the other two.
Captain Grattus Steamcatcher was a large, fierce looking Charr with huge razor sharp teeth that might have been as long as Machiavelli’s arm, deadly gleaming claws that could rend flesh apart, and curled, angry looking horns that were similar to a ram. His fur was dark brown, his mane a vibrant red, and his eyes a deep amber. Dressed in battle hardened Vigil armour, with an axe strapped to his waist and a shield on his back he looked very out of place in the office.
Miss Harding however fit right in. She wore an expensive looking black suit, with a knee length skirt, and a pair of black stilettoes on her feet. She looked to be a little older than Machiavelli, with a sprinkle of grey in her otherwise long black hair, which was tied up into a bee hive style. Her face on the other hand showed no signs of her age, her skin was clear and she wore little make up other than a deep red lipstick. She watched Machiavelli with mystical violet eyes.
“Thank you all for coming,” Machiavelli said as they all but Captain Grattus Steamcatcher, who chose to remain standing, sat dawn. “I appreciate you all humouring me on such short notice.”
“Yeah, well this was short notice, Cavalli,” Captain Grattus growled, “So if you could hurry up and get to the point? Some of us aren’t here for pleasantries.”
“Quite right, Captain Grattus,” Machiavelli nodded. “Some of us here did not part on such good terms when we last saw one another, and I can sympathise with your reasons for stepping back from our negotiations, but I was hoping that you’d allow me to run by you a business proposition that I think you’ll be quite intrigued by.”
“And what of me, Lord Cavalli,” Miss Harding pointed out. “We’ve had no such interactions before this point, this is our first meeting in fact.”
“Indeed, Miss Harding,” Machiavelli conceded. “And I’m grateful you took the time out of your busy schedule to meet with me today. The proposition I’m about to put to you all I’m hoping will be enticing enough for you all to forget Arthur Ryll’s generous proposals and consider doing business with Cavalli Steel and Smithing instead.”
“Would you get on with it?” Captain Grattus roared impatiently. “I’ve not got all day!”
“As you with,” Machiavelli said, inclining his head to Grattus. “As you’re all no doubt aware, there has been something of a crisis in Lion’s Arch of late. Refugees have been flooding in from Elona, all looking for shelter and security.”
“Are you suggesting there’s something we can do to help?” Mister Baldus piped up, looking a little small and mousy compared to the others in the room.
“I am, Mister Baldus,” Machiavelli continued. “Cavalli Steel and Smithing has recently started to employ some of these refugees, and we are hoping to take on more as they continue to flood in, and look for stable places for them to live and work.”
“What’s that got to do with any of us?” Grattus grunted, his voice rumbling savagely.
“I’m glad you asked, Captain,” Machiavelli smiled. “You see, I believe that with the employment of these individuals, we can take advantage of the good will that is being shown and monopolise on it. You see, our customers are not in any position to help the downtrodden, yet they wish to feel like they are doing something, no matter how small, to help those less fortunate than them, so I suggest we give them that chance.”
“We’re going to be doing that how?” Miss Harding asked, her head tilted to one side curiously.
“Well, Miss Harding, what I am suggesting is putting a certification on our products to tell people that some of the profits we receive from our customers purchasing our products will be going to help Elonian refugees in whatever capacity they need. In this way I am hoping to double our profits, which mean, for you Mister Baldus, I will be matching the deal you made with Arthur Ryll to produce your cutlery for half the cost, and with double the profits. For you, Captain Grattus, with the added workforce, I can match Arthur Ryll’s estimated time of completion on your airship, with the added bonus of a boost to your reputation by giving out work to the desperate and needy.”
“And what of me and my company, Lord Cavalli,” Miss Harding smiled, leaning forward a little and intertwining her hands. “What is it you intend to do for me? Unlike the two beside me, I’ve no such history with you or your company, what is it you can promise me?”
“For you, Miss Harding, my offer is simple,” Machiavelli smiled, matching her seating position. “I can make your products at half the cost, with my share of the profits making up for it. By my estimates you and I should end up more than enough to cover both our expenses and make a profit, and I can get you out from under Arthur Ryll’s thumb.”
Machiavelli then looked up, taking in the whole room. “That is my proposition to you, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you will consider it.”
“There is no consideration needed here, Lord Cavalli,” Mister Baldus spoke up. “I for one will gladly take your offer.”
“Same here!” Captain Grattus bellowed. “After Mordramoth, the Pact needs a little boost in the public’s eyes. I’ll gladly sign your contracts.”
All eyes turned to Miss Harding.
She gave a little chuckle. “Yes, all right, I’ll agree to your proposition, Lord Machiavelli. It’ll be nice to see the look on Artie’s face when he finds out.” She then leaned into Machiavelli, whispering in a conspiratorial manner. “He hates when people call him Artie.”
Machiavelli’s brows rose. “Does he now? I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

Posted Sep 10, 17 · OP
Deals With Devils:
Chapter Six

It was dark by the time of Machiavelli’s meeting came around. The Streets of Lion’s Arch were eerie in the blackness, and the street lamps offered little illumination, instead making the shadows stretch long and thin.
The sea lapped quietly against the hulls of the ships docked in the harbour, and occasionally the cry of a gull could be heard over head, but the world was mostly silent, wrapped up in tranquil repose, unaware of what was going on outside their doors.
Iorek was waiting for him, as he knew he would be, a giant towering above the boats and buildings, his features shrouded under the brim of his hat. Yet still his smile could be seen, the coarse and crude grin of a man who thinks he’s won.
“Machiavelli!” He called out, his voice echoing in the deserted streets. “I were beginin’ te t’ink yee weren’ gonna show up! Tha’ would o’ been a great shame, tha’ it would.”
“I’m here,” Machiavelli replied, looking around at the alleyways, clocked in darkness, wondering what could be hiding within their compact passageways. “Though I’m beginning to wish that I wasn’t.”
“Yee be woundin’ me, Machiavelli,” Iorek crooned, putting a hand to his heart theatrically. “An’ ‘ere I be t’inkin’ tha’ we be ‘avin’ somet’in’ special, you an’ I.” He laughed then, a deep booming noise that reverberated off the walls and shook the tiles on the rooves. “Enough o’ tha’! Le’s be getting’ down te brass tacks. Yee be ‘avin’ me coin?”
“That I do not,” Machiavelli admits. “And nor will I be giving you anymore.”
“Naw ain’t tha’ a pitty,” Iorek sighed, clucking his tongue. “A real shame, ‘cause I no’ be able te promise wha’ the people o’ Tyria be t’inkin’ when it comes out tha’ he great ‘ouse Cavalli be no’in’ more t’an a bunch o’ crooks.”
Machiavelli smiled, letting out a little chuckle. “And who are they going to believe, Sharkbait? You, a murder and rapist, who has spread a wreath of death and destruction across the coastlines of Kryta, or me, a well-known business man who has just recently given jobs and some housing to the most destitute amongst us? I think we both know the answer to that.”
Iorek nods his shaggy head. “True, aye, bu’ tha’s no’ gonna save yer li’le golden gal, Constance, is it?” He smiles wickedly, his teeth glinting in the light of the moon above. “Yee know I be findin’ ‘er. We wouldn’t be wantin’ ‘er te be ‘avin’ any accidents, would we?”
“Constance is quite capable of looking after herself,” said a voice from the shadows.
Iorek furrowed his hefty brows, looking around as, out of the alleyways, the Lionguard emerged, their golden armour illuminated in the light of the street lamps, their shining helms so bright it almost looked as though it was day break.
Iorek blinked, drawing his cutlass and pistol from their sheath as the Lionguard surrounded him. Like a wall of metal they closed in, sealing off any means of escape. Iorek looked from left to right trying to find a way out, but it was becoming more and more obvious he was trapped.
Constance pointed her mace at Iorek, saying in a loud and clear voice, “Iorek Sharkbait, you’re under arrest for murder, manslaughter, rape, racketeering, piracy, and a whole host of other crimes that I’ve really not got the patience to read out. You’ve the right to remain silent, and I hope to Balthazar you exercise that right.”
Iorek looked from face to face, his face going from surprise to delight. “My reputation be proceedin’ me! Constance, lass, if yee be wantin’ me in chain’ so badly, I be ‘appy te oblige, bu’ yee be ‘avin’ te ask me out fer dinner first. I be a gentleman o’ the sea, af’er all, I don’ be givin’ every lass who asks a romp in the hay, bu’ fer yee, I migh’ be makin’ the exception.”
“I wouldn’t touch you if you were the last man on Tyria,” Constance snarled, edging towards him carfully.
Iorek then turns to Machiavelli, calling out triumphantly “Machiavelli, yee be ‘avin’ a set o’ bass on yee! I can be admirin’ tha’! I’ll be tellin’ yee wha’! We be callin’ ourselves even fer now! We’re quits! Now!” he continues, turning to the Lionguard that surround him. “Lads an’ lasses o’ the guard, it be a pleasure te be seein’ yee t’is fine evenin’, bu’ I be afraid I can’ be induldgin’ in yee company fer any longer. I be ‘avin’ places te be an’ people te steal from, yee be understandin’.”
And in a blink of an eye, Iorek had vanished, the shadows billowing up to envelop him. One second he was there, the next he had gone, becoming one with the shadows themselves.
“After him!” Constance yelled. “Don’t let him get away!”
The Lionguard scrambled, going off in every direction, their armour clattering around them as they moved.
Machiavelli jogged up beside Constance, looking up t her hesitantly. “You think you’ll get him?” He asked, his brows furrowed.
Constance sighed. “Honestly? I don’t think so. Iorek Sharkbait’s been chased by the Lionguard more times than we can count. We’ve come close to capturing him, but we’ve never actually done it.”
“Where does that leave me?” Machiavelli asks, a sense of real fear clenching his heart.
Constance reaches out to put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “I wouldn’t worry. He said you’re even, right? I wouldn’t count on much with that Norn, but from what I know, he’s true to his word. He’s got a messed up sense of morals like that. You’ll be fine, Machiavelli, but we’ll be keeping an eye out anyway.”
“I’ll have to take your word,” Machiavelli nods, not feeling that much better.
As the night drew on, and still no new arrive of Iorek’s capture, Machiavelli found himself being escorted home, through the Asura gate to Divinity’s Reach, and then to the offices of Cavalli Steel and Smithing.
Once he entered his office, Machiavelli felt an odd sense of relief he hadn’t been expecting. His office seemed a little more familiar to him than it had in recent days, and the shadow that Iorek had pulled over it seem to have dispersed. For the first time in quite a while, Machiavelli felt like he was back in control.

The next morning, just as Machiavelli was first sitting down at his desk for his morning cup of tea, there was a commotion at the door. He heard the sound of arguing outside, a raised voice that he was sure was Emilia and someone else, before his office door flew open.
Arthur Ryll strode through the door, his face red and his hand raised, a finger pointing at Machiavelli. “You son of a-.”
“Arthur,” Machiavelli cut him off. “What an unexpected surprise, what is it I can do for you today?”
“You stole my best client away from me!” Arthur raged, slamming his fists down on Machiavelli’s desk.
“You mean like how you stole my clients away from me?” Machiavelli asked, taking a sip of his tea as he leaned back on his chair, looking at Arthur with his head tilted to one side.
“You asshole,” Arthur growled. “Do you know what you cost me? I lost my job because of you! Archibald Black fired me because of you!”
“Artie,” Machiavelli sighs, shaking his head before pausing an adding, “Can I call you Artie?”
“No!” Arthur bellowed. “No you can’t!”
“Well, you see, Artie,” Machiavelli continued, trying not to smile as Arthur practically vibrated with anger. “You’re just a little dog, barking at the heels of a bigger dog, and what you have to learn is, the little dogs never win against the bigger.”
“I’m not going to let you get away with this,” Arthur growled, clenching his teeth.
“Artie, I already have,” Machiavelli smirked, watching as two large men came up behind Arthur and grabbed him by the arms. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve a busy day ahead of me. There’s a lot of things one has to do when they sign a new client, and I really should get started on them. Security will see you out,” he gestured to the two men. “It was nice seeing you again, Artie.”
“You bastard!” Arthur yelled as he was dragged out. “You unmitigated bastard!”
“Just remember, Artie!” Machiavelli called after him. “You shouldn’t mess with a Cavalli.”
Arthur’s screams and curses could be heard all the way down the corridor.
Emilia popped her head around the door as Arthur was escorted from the building, her eyes wide, like a deer caught in lamp light. “I’m sorry, Lord Cavalli, he just barged in.”
“It’s quite all right, Emilia,” Machiavelli assured her, waving a dismissive hand. He watched as Emilia gave him a grateful smile and went back to her desk, settling into his chair and sipping at his tea, letting out a long sigh of relief.
Machiavelli then smirked and got back to work.
Deals With Devils

Posted Sep 11, 17 · OP
The Road to the East:
Chapter One

The rays of dawn’s first light began to rise up over the horizon touching the rooftops of Divinity’s Reach like a shimmering crescendo of colour, filtering down through the clouds, its golden hues illuminated everything in sight, turning night into day.
The Emerald fields of Shaemoor came alive with the buzzing of insects, the chirping of song birds, and the groaning of farmhands getting up from a blissful night’s rest, only to prepare for a long day of work ahead.
Due drops lingers on the blades of grass, and dripped down from the leaves of the thin trees that stretched high into the air, greeting the sun as it burnt away the darkness and the clouds that had gathered over night.
Curtains began to fly open in the cottages of the villagers who were about to start their days. The whistling of kettles could be heard from kitchen windows as tea began to be brewed for those with a leisurely start, and coffee for those that could not bear to face the morning light.
Village drunks emerged from the shadows, their clothes dishevelled, their eyes bleary, and their mouths feeling like cotton as they made their way down the hill from the gates of the Reach, to the inn where they would start another day of drinking.
Seraph recruits, their armour new and gleaming, followed the steep incline down to Trainer's Terrace, where they were lined up by their commanding officers and ordered to go through rigours drills to prepare themselves for their inevitable deployment to the front lines. All were fresh faced and brimming with confidence, untarnished by the horrors of war.
The village children watched from the fences, their eyes upturned in awe at the impressive solders that were going out to fight for Queen and country, looking upon the men and woman, their impressionable minds already being imprinted upon, unaware that those men and women were in reality no more than children themselves.
Workers made their way to the fields beyond Shaemoor, farming tools strapped over their shoulders, straw hats fixed firmly on top of their heads, exchanging smiles and good morning greetings with their neighbours.
The stable boys flirted with the milk maids, giving them wide smiles and sweet words full of promise for a better life, while the milk maids giggled and moved locks of their hair behind their ears, fluttering their eyes and dreaming of a happy family of their own.
The market stalls still stood empty at this hour, it was far too early for them to open yet. The streets were only partially deserted, with only the early risers occupying the cobbled walkways down from the imposing iron gates of the capital of human civilisation.
From those gates Gulmont emerged, short of stature and dressed in worn brown leathers, he began to wander down the path, his long mane of black hair drifting after him as he hefted his traveling pack higher over his shoulders.
Keen blue eyes looked around, taking everything in, searching for something. A few leaves and twigs stuck out of his hair, making him look as though he’s been pulled through a bush backwards, or perhaps spent the night sleeping in a tree, but despite this, he looked ready to travel.
“You’re late!” said a booming voice, breaking the silence of the early morning. The voice came from Clockk, standing just outside of the gates of the Reach, dressed in glowing power armour, with a permanent scowl etched onto his forehead.
He tapped his foot impatiently, glaring at Gulmont. Clockk was either unusually tall for his kind, or Gulmont was exceedingly short, but either way, the two were almost as tall as one another, or so it seems. Clockk’s stuck up hair made him look a little taller than he really was. It resembled a palm tree, or a leek. His ears were so long they almost touch the ground, and his head was so large it looked as though his neck wouldn’t be able to take the weight.
“No I’m not,” Gulmont replied, looking up at the sky. “I’m exactly on time.”
“You’re twenty minutes, thirty one seconds late!” Clockk yelled back, his tone clipped and irritated. “Only primitives tell the time by the position of the sun, it’s an unreliable form of measurement.”
“Right,” Gulmont sighed, rolling his eyes. “Shall we get going then?”
“Forthwith!” Clockk nodded, his ears flopping as he did so. “I don’t see why you insist on walking however. It would me much faster to take a waypoint.”
“Don’t trust the things,” Gulmont said absently, not really seeming to pay attention to the Asura. He then smiled, a mischievous glint in his eye, “They’re an unreliable form of travel.”
“What are you talking about!?” Clockk bellowed. “They are THE single most reliable form of travel Tyria has ever seen! Instantaneous travel from one point to another without all the danger that a road has between, there’s nothing better!”
Gulmont looked like he’s about to reply, but before he could get a chance a nearby window opened and a man popped his head out, yelling, “Will you be quiet!? Some of us are trying to have a lie in!”
“I will not!” The Asura yelled back. “Get up and stop being such a lazy good for nothing! There are things to do, you know!”
The man went red in the face and slammed the window shut, much to Clockk’s amusement. He gave the closed window a smug look and went back to arguing with Gulmont.
Throughout all of this, Argyle was standing between the two, so still and silent that he almost went completely unnoticed. His bark was blue, his foliage purple, and his eyes so distant and devoid of life that they look like they could be colourless.
His face was a blank slate, and not just because of the lack of visible nose. He seemed utterly devoid of emotion, no more than a hollow shell rather than a bright and vibrant Sylvari that people are used to seeing, full of optimism and curiosity.
He was dressed in a suit that was rather uniquely orange, one you might find a human noble wearing, the tailoring fine and expensive, making him look quite exquisite. Yet despite all that he seemed to lack presence, and because of that he becomes so unremarkable that he’s easily forgotten, especially in the company of the loud Asura and the wild looking human.

The trio made their way through the village of Shaemoor, Gulmont and Clockk bickering all the way. The seraph garrison rose up in the distance, a hard rock fortress that kept the war with the centaurs at bay.
It was almost hard to believe that just beyond those stone walls, a battle raged. The fortifications were massive, towering over the little village just an hour’s walk from it, their ramparts glinting menacingly. Yet still it stood as a beacon of hope for the villagers, knowledge that not far away they were being protected.
Gulmont, Clockk and Argyle caught a ferry at the banks of Lake Delavan, stepping aboard the tiny boat and hunkering down for the hour long trip. Gulmont was looking green around the gills after only five minutes.
“I hate boats,” he moaned, shuffling closer to the side of the little vessel in case he needed to throw up over the side.
“We could have been taking a waypoint,” Clockk pointed out arrogantly. “Then you wouldn’t have to take the ferry.”
“Oh shut up,” Gulmont groaned back.
The water lapped against the side of the little boat, gently rocking it back and forth. They passed fishermen that sat in their own little boats, their rods cast out into the murky depths of the lake, and large tree trunks that had managed to escape the lumber mill’s holdings on the opposite shore.
River Drakes could be seen poking their eyes above the surface of the water, inspecting the ferry for something to eat, but once they had realised that it wasn’t worth the effort, they soon submerged once again.
Soon the sound of saw blades cutting through wood could be heard and the lumber mill came into view. It was not a large mill, with only three or four buildings and once large saw that used a windmill to power it, but it was productive enough, with large stacks of wood piled up, ready to be made into kindling.
Gulmont let out a sigh of relief when the ferry docked and began to get ready for the trip back. He disembarked the small boat and jumped up and down a few times on the sandy grass of the back. “I’ll never take dry land for granted,” he smirked at Clockk, who only rolled his eyes in reply.
They left the lumber mill and found themselves on the outskirts of the Queen’s Forest, where trees stretched high into the sky above, their branches reaching out to absorbed as much sun as possible. Sunlight filtered through the leaves, making the whole forest look as though it was illuminated in an emerald hue, with only small patches of god light that managed to sneak below to rest on the forest bed.
The Queen’s Forest had an almost enchanted feel to it, like at any moment they could come across something mystical and forgotten, that the world had not seem in thousands of years, hidden from Tyria and all who walked upon its earth.
Gulmont clambered up the nearest tree, balancing aptly on a branch and casually walking ahead, jumping from tree to tree whenever he ran out of branch to walk across, agilely making his way through the forest.
“Must you do that?” Clockk grumbled, craning his neck up at Gulmont as he walked below.
“Yup!” Gulmont answered with a snicker of amusement.
Argyle followed along silently, his body creaking with every movement he made. The Sylvari blended into the trees much better than Gulmont could ever have done, he was almost a tree himself after all.
The trees of the Queen’s Forest were not clumped together, they were quite spread out, far enough apart that a path had been built in between the trees, though the path had been mostly reduced to dirt now.
A few boars could occasionally be seen lurking amongst the leaves, but they mostly kept out of the traveller’s way. Sometimes they’d hear the sound of a hunting horn, and the barking of dogs off in the distance, but they never came across a hunting party.
Morning turned to midday, and mid-day to afternoon. The shadows of the trees grew longer, the light grew dimmer, and soon the forest was becoming far less inviting than it had been just that morning.
“It’s getting dark,” clock called up to the trees above. “We might want to think about finding somewhere to sleep.”
“Got it covered,” Gulmont replied, pointing ahead. “There’s a light just over there, I think it must be the hunting lodge.”
“Then at least we’ll get a fresh bed for the night,” Clockk muttered.
The trees soon began to thin out and the light Gulmont was talking about became clear. It was a warm, flickering light that reminded the small traveling group of inviting hearths, fresh meat, and cold ale.
The hunting lodge was a quaint little three story building, with plenty of rooms to rent and food to eat. It was mostly frequented by nobles who were out to hunt game or travellers like Gulmont, Clockk and Argyle, who were just passing through.
The three of them had at one point made the Hunting lodge their home, but that was a long time ago now.
Clockk booked a single room with two beds, one for himself and the other for Argyle. Gulmont had said he’d find a tree to sleep in and stepped outside, leaving the Asura and the Sylvari to go and see to their rooms and get something to fill their bellies.

Posted Oct 5, 17 · OP
The Road to the East:
Chapter Two

Night descended on the Queen’s Forest. The previously friendly looking trees began to look dark and foreboding. Eyes looked out from beyond the darkness, and the sound of the creatures of the night filled the air.
There was the hooting of an owl as it swooped down to dig its talons into its pray, and the buzzing and clicking of night time insects that crawled out of their dens to lift their antenna up to the cool night air and snoop around.
Even in darkness, where you couldn’t see five feet in front of you without a source of light, there was a calm tranquillity about the forest. The silvery light of the stars and moon kept between the leaves and coated everything in silver, making the world seem mystical.
Gulmont leaned back against the tree trunk, the branch he was laying upon firmly holding his weight. He closed one eye, settling in after a full day’s travel, not quite exhausted from the trip, but tired enough that he could sleep quite comfortably, or at least try and emulate what sleep might be like.
His one open eye looked over at the hunting lodge not far away. The warm light of the fires could still be seen, though they were dimming now as people turned in for the night, Clockk and Argyle among them.
The lights from the lanterns grew brighter the more the hunting lodge fires dimmed, and soon they were to only light to see by, not counting the moon and stars, a welcoming glow in the ever encroaching darkness.
Yet even with that glow, the darkness seemed to grow around Gulmont, flowing like a river of inky blackness, like a billowing smoke that began to wrap around him. Smooth as silk and undeniably luxurious, the smoke coalesced into a tangible form.
It stepped forth, a long seductive leg draped in shadow that lead up to hips that swayed back and forth hypnotically. Golden eyes glowed in the darkness, looking up at Gulmont, like the eyes of a cat or some other night time predator. Raven black hair framed her face, drifting around her figure and becoming one with the night around her.
But her smile was what drew Gulmont in most, that teasing, mischievous smile that spoke of promise and self-assurance, a smile that was like a lure, its hook gleaming in the night, deadly yet oh so tempting.
"I suppose asking why you're not in there with them is a moot point." drawled Erabex’s smooth voice. "You don't want me to meet your friends? The noisy little Asura could be amusing...the silent lump of firewood not so much."
“They’re going to bed and I don’t sleep in beds,” Gulmont smirked, opening both eyes and turning his head to her. “It’s really as simple as that. Why would you want to meet them anyway? Clockk is more annoying than amusing at the best of times and Argyle?...He’s…Argyle. I’ve trouble getting a read on him.”
"Just in trees, the stiff one seems like he'd be a suitable bed mate." she teased him. "You seem like a perfect match. But then again, if you slept we'd have so much less time together," she had to admit as she hauled herself up the tree trunk, her legs dissipating into a swirling cloud of black that trailed itself lazily behind her.
Gulmont’s eye twitches as the words ‘bed mate’ left her mouth. He folded his arms, his brow furrowing as he looked out across the forest. “I’d rather not think about lying down with anyone,” he murmured, even as his thoughts turn exactly that way, though none of the encounters involving him.
He seemed to pout, jealousy clouding his judgement as his jaw tightened in irritation.
She chuckled at that, stretching across the branch lie across his legs. "Not even me?" she purred, flashing a smile that was all teeth.
Gulmont shifted a little, raising a hand to scratch the side of his head. “Not going to dignify that with an answer,” he replied, reaching out almost absentmindedly to put his hand on her head, stroking her hair as he looked out over the forest, like she were a cat sitting on his lap.
Erabex crept up closer to him, lounging on top of him as she leaned into his hand, like that cat that might be plotting to eat the canary. "I'm going to take that as a yes." she purred, "Forbid you actually say out loud that you don't despise me."
“Why would I despise you?” He asked, perking a brow and looking down at her. He absently rans his hands through her shadowy hair, watching as the strands extended into smoke, then disappeared altogether, evaporating into the darkness around them. “You know, other than all the reasons you keep on giving me,” He smirked mischievously, already regretting the words as soon as he said them.
"Oh?" she hummed darkly, rolling over to stare up at him with eyes that pierced through the blackness. "Like the murder and theft and general lack of regard for human life?" she asked, sounding entirely too proud of herself.
“Actually the theft doesn’t bother me too much,” He admitted with a shrug, casting his mind back to all the times he’d stolen food, or things to sell to keep himself alive. “Some of the murder doesn’t either, especially if they’re people I don’t like. But the lack of regard for others’ lives? Yeah, that gets me testy.”
He looked up at the leaves above, tilting his head in thought. “I’m not great with all this morality stuff, but it hurts when you don’t care,” he mused, partially talking to himself. “You’re a better person than you let on, and I believe you cared at one point, and it hurts to see how that kindness has dried up…I hate to think that the world has treated you so harshly that you’ve given up on caring.”
She snorted at that. "You're just as bad as I am...you're just particular....hypocritical. These ones are fine to torture but not these over here." she said, gesturing to separate two invisible batches of people in the air.
Gulmont laughed self-deprecatingly. “You’re right,” he conceded, “I am a hypocrite, but I have to at least try to do what I think is right, don’t I? If I didn’t I’d be no better than…I don’t know…the guy I hear is running Elona.”
"By all accounts he's doing a fine job of it. His people have food and water and when their loved ones die they can be brought back." she pointed out. "....if I could have reasonably had my lover become Awakened...I wouldn't have needed to steal from Raven. Only please Joko...which I'm sure I could have managed."
Gulmont prickled. He let out a grunt, his fist clenching for a second, tugging a little on her hair, before he relaxed again. “Guess I’ll see when I get there, however long that’ll take. The refugees have started to open up a little, their impressions on the Lich king don’t seem good. They spoke as if he was a mad man that would kill them all just to raise them again to bolster his army.”
"Their impression of the god of fire and war raining down destruction seemed more pertinent. They didn't start flooding out of Elona until he went there...Joko seemed tolerable. At least, there's been no max exodus in two centuries." she said.
He scoffed, “Any god is an arsehole, and people are just only now figuring it out. It’ll be a good day when they stop singing their prises and start realising that the so called gods are just self-serving creatures who care nothing for the people they apparently watch over. Balthazar is just being more obvious about it.”
He remembered darkness, being lost in a vast plain of dead trees and barren earth. He remembered running, though from what he wasn’t sure, he only knew that he had to escape. He remembered calling out to the gods, to Grenth or Dwayna, asking them for help. He remembered his pleas falling on deaf ears.
"What? Creatures like us?" Erabex pointed out, eyebrows arching at his description. "Or is that what makes you less and therefor better?"
Gulmont’s eyes flashed with anger. He leaned forward a little, looking over her and she lounged in his lap. “I’m not like them,” he spat, his voice laced with venom. “I wouldn’t turn my back on someone who asked for me help. I’d go to the ends of Tyria for them, even if it meant I’d get hurt in the process.”
He then leant back against the tree trunk. “You’re not like them either,” he added stubbornly.
"No I'm not." she agreed, though her smile was absolutely wicked when he got angry. "I'm honest about being petty." she mused, reaching up to poke the end of his nose lightly with a fingertip.
He twitched his nose, scrunching it up and growling under his breath. He inhaled and exhaled, calming himself and moving back towards the absent indifference that he tried to embody, despite his hands reaching out to intertwine themselves in her ravel hair.
He ran his tongue over his top teeth in thought, and then shook his head, dismissing whatever idea had popped into his brain. “You’re more honest than most,” he sighed, looking down at her. “It’s a pity that others aren’t as true to how they’re feeling instead of pushing things aside for the sake of keeping up appearances.”
"People liiiiiike you ?" she pressed, clearly enjoying whatever level of mild torment she was putting him through. "You're the most dishonest...always covering up that lovely skull with a shroud."
“You’d rather I showed you what I actually look like?” He asked, vulnerability seeping into his voice. He beat it back into submission, making himself sound uninterested again. “No one wants to see that. Besides, it’s easier this way. I don’t have a load of god fanatics trying to put an end to me.”
She grinned up at him from his lap. "Of course, I've seen it before." she reminded him. "I can feel it...rotting away slowly until you break down and have to recuperate." She pushed herself up so she was sitting across his lap, legs dangling over the edge as she lifted her hands to either side of his face. "I just adore your bone structure."
Gulmont averted his eyes as her palms touched his cheeks, but didn’t move his head. The greenish shimmer around him began to lessen, then fell away completely, leaving the rotting flesh and the mostly exposed bone.
His eye sockets were hollow of flesh, with only two flickering white flames within that billowed up over his head. The fire emanated no heat however. It was cold ghost fire that didn’t burn, only wafted in the wind.
“Bone structure, right,” he repeated, the flames of his eyes illuminating the darkness. “Because this is obviously preferable to how I used to look before all…” he waves a hand over himself, “…this.
Her smile was less predatory this time, not looking for a win. There was something a lot softer to it as she looked him over in all his gory glory. "I think you're a very handsome undead." she countered, sounding quiet serious. "I could give you a kiss."
Self-pity overwhelmed Gulmont, like a tide that was moving in and submerging him. Her words somehow didn’t register with him, they seemed so wrong in his mind that he could hardly comprehend them. It was like she was speaking another language that he only had a vague grasp of.
“Erabex, please, don’t do…Just…Don’t…” he whispered. He didn’t even sound as though he knew what he was protesting.
He was conflicted, vulnerable, and he didn’t like it. He hated to feel so exposed with her, hated the idea that she might actually care about him despite all of his preconceptions, something he thought to be impossible, especially as he was.
She stared at him with those big yellow eyes, not at all bothered by the smell or decay under her fingertips. "...fine." she said after a moment, "Hide if you must."
Gulmont looked down, moving his jaw back and forth, the bones creaking under the tattered flesh. The finality of her words stung and for some reason he felt as though he had disappointed her, and he didn’t like it.
He remained as he was, dead hair cascading down his shoulders. He leaned forward a little, resting his head on her shoulder as he went to wrap his arms around her waist.
“You confound me.”
"...why?” She asked as she brushed her fingertips down the back of his skull and letting them settle across the back of his neck. “I am so honest...so unlike others am I not? Is it me that is confusing or that you refuse to accept the honesty I offer?"
“I don’t know any more,” He admitted, breathing in her scent. He stopped himself from nuzzling her neck, and instead just stayed there, clenching his fists to stop himself from moving any more.
Erabex propped her chin on top of his head, a bemused look on her face. "Why do you try to know? Just follow your instincts....better to be an animal than one of them."
“I was an animal for a long time,” Gulmont whispered. “I don’t want to be one anymore.” He stayed still for half a second more, then lets out a hiss, hugging her tightly, not looking up to see her face. “Thank you,” he murmured.
She blinked at that. Her brows pulled down, she glanced at the creature hugging her. "...for what?"
Gulmont paused as he tried to figure out what exactly it was he was thanking her for, but couldn’t come up with anything specific, so he just shrugged. “Just for being you, I guess. I don’t know, I’m just grateful to you…Or something.”
Erabex snorted in amusement. "Well...that's certainly a first. I'm usually cursed and reviled for being myself," she mused. "I suppose we...undying folk must take the good where we can."
“You being yourself might not be ideal all the time,” Gulmont admitted, “But I appreciate you, for whatever little it’s worth. You’re important to me and…” He trails off, trying to find the words that wouldn’t give away too much. “I like having you around.”
"Oh DO you?" she asked, brows lifting as she leaned back slightly. "...you could have saved yourself a lot of misery just admitting it earlier. To yourself." she pointed out. "...though I suppose telling anything immortal something like that comes with a risk."
“Don’t rub it in,” He complained, pulling back to lean against the tree trunk once again, his arms folded. He huffed through what’s left of his nose, growling under his breath, the sound reverberating through his rib cage.
"Don't sulk so much about it." she mused, lip curling into a lopsided smile. "You act like I'm the worst thing possible, and the best thing at the same time. I think you've just got your priorities out of line for someone with as much time as you've got."
“What, I can’t think you’re both?” He perked a brow. “You’re like chocolate, tastes delectable, but it’s no good for you. In fact that might be the perfect analogy.”
"I'd say that life it short and worth the thicker waistline...but we both ran into something with that, didn't we?" she said, looking amused. "I suppose I can be both."
Spoiler: Show

Posted Oct 8, 17 · OP · Last edited Oct 8, 17
x 3
x 3
The Road to the East:
Chapter Three

Argyle awoke with the dawn, as he did every day, just as the sun was peeking over the horizon and coating the sky in a warm orange, the light cascading its way into the Queen’s Forest and chasing the dew drops away.
He rose from his bed, which had been more comfortable than he would have liked. He didn’t deserve a comfy bed, it was better for him to sleep on nothing but a bed of leaves. It was just one way he atoned for his past failings.
He blinked his way out of the room silently, so as not to wake Clockk as he snoozed in the bed beside him, and made his way down the stairs, his body creaking like the floorboards under his feet as he put pressure on them.
He opened the door to the hunting lodge and looked out blankly, inhaling the fresh scent of morning through the slits in his face that served as his nose. It was still a little dark, but the day was fast approaching.
He made his way down the path, a little ways away from the hunting lodge, looking for a empty space to start his morning exercises and strengthen his mantras to block out emotions and the ever persistent Dream.
As he walked, he heard voices, one of which was familiar, Gulmont’s. He was talking to someone, a woman, he thought, whose voice was smooth like melted caramel. A little curious, he made his way towards the voices, his head tilted to one side in a bird like manner.
Through the trees, high up in the branches, he was Gulmont and the woman, draped over him, her legs swinging back and forth on the branch. They were looking towards the sun, and neither of them seems all that pleased that day light was arriving.
The woman looked to be about to jump from the tree, but Gulmont reached out to stop her, taking her hand in his and squeezing it affectionately, as if he didn’t want her to go, the pain in his eyes almost palpable.
Argyle couldn’t see the woman’s face, she was turned away from him, but she seemed tense, anxious, like she was waiting for something that she didn’t want to come to pass. She leaned forward to gently kiss Gulmont on the cheek, and then drew away, falling to the ground nimbly, before disappearing into the trees.
Gulmont bowed his head, not watching her go, looking as though a great burden had just been placed upon him.
Argyle was about to approach, but before he could he was stopped short by a terrible scream that pierced the air. The scream warped and changed until it was obvious that it wasn’t a scream at all, but the morning call of some kind of bird.
Dismissing it, Argyle stepped forward, brushing away the foliage that got in his way. He walked up to the tree Gulmont had perched himself in, looking up at the man absently, his eyes devoid of life.
Gulmont looked as though he hadn’t really been paying attention, but when he finally noticed Argyle he blinked in surprise, his face going pale. “How long have you been there?” He asked suspiciously, jumping down from the branch and landing cat like before Argyle.
Argyle only started at Gulmont, saying nothing, his gaze distant and unresponsive. It was almost as if the man was staring directly through Gulmont and instead looking at the tree behind him.
“How much did you see?” Gulmont breathed, sounding a little defensive now. He crouched a little, like a Jungle Stalker before it pounced, his posture tense.
Again Argyle said nothing, only staring ahead.
“It wasn’t what it looked like,” Gulmont started to explain, his eyes shifting back and forth nervously. “We’re friends, that’s all,” he said, even as the words caught in his throat. His tongue felt heavy and his throat felt like it was closing up.
What he said had been the truth, they were just friends, the fact that he felt more deeply for Erabex than he cared to admit didn’t change anything.
“Besides,” Gulmont went on, looking at Argyle, who only stared back without comment, his face as blank as a clean sheet of paper. “I can have friends, I can seek comfort in the company of others if I want to. I’m not hurting anyone.”
Argyle said nothing, standing still and staring. It was questionable whether he was even paying attention to Gulmont or not. His dull, colourless eyes were not lit up by the light of intelligence, it was as though he was nothing more than an inanimate object.
“Don’t look at me like that!” Gulmont growled, seeing a judgment in Argyle’s dead eyes that wasn’t there. “You’ve no right to judge me! I’m not doing anything wrong! When was the last time you saw Vervain, huh? Or Clockk with Nifar? People have moved on! They always do! It’s the way of things! I’ve not seen Ehbrel in I don’t know how long! What’s so wrong with doing something that makes me even a little bit happy!?”
Still Argyle said nothing. He just turned away, walking off into the forest, leaving Gulmont to quietly fume to himself. Argyle felt nothing, no anger or sadness, no sympathy for Gulmont. He was an empty shell, and if he wanted to remain that was he’d need to carry out his morning rituals.
Gulmont watched Argyle got, his teeth gritted together in frustration. He wasn’t really angry at the Sylvari, he hadn’t done anything wrong, but the guilt was gnawing at him. It had spilled over in a moment of weakness, and he had lashed out defensively.
“Damn it,” He cursed. “Gods damn it.”

When the sun had fully risen, the trio gathered in front of the hunting lodge, Gulmont advoiding eye contact with Argyle. Argyle, for his part, looked completely indifferent to everything around them.
“We’d have been there yesterday if you’d have taken an Asura gate,” Clockk complained, curling his lip in disgust as he looked at the road ahead. “I hate walking…”
“You didn’t have to come with me,” the Gulmont smirked, acting as if nothing had happened between him and Argyle that morning.
“And let you go off on your own while I’m left to twiddle my thumbs at the Desert Gate?” Clockk snapped. “Not likely. Besides, you’re liable to get in no amount of trouble if I’m not here to keep you on the right path. You don’t even know how to read a map, for Alchemy’s sake.”
Gulmont rolled his eyes, “pfffft, maps are for people who lack a sense of adventure.”
“No,” Clockk interjected, “They’re for people who actually have a destination in mind and want to get there in the fastest possible way, which would have been an Asura gate.”
Gulmont waved his hand, “Doesn’t sound like much fun to me. Besides, we’re meeting Rheya, Kharn and the others in Lion’s Arch, if we’d gone straight to Ebonhawke they’d have missed us.”
“Bah!” Clockk huffed, throwing his arms up and walking off. “Well if we’re going to go we’d best get moving. The sooner we stop this walking nonsense the better.”
Gulmont sighed as he followed, looking in the opposite direction as he passed Argyle.
Argyle trailed behind the other two, walking slowly, his joints creaking.
The trees of the Queen’s Forest soon began to thin out, giving way to the grassy plains of Queensdale that seem to go on for an eternity, the vast expanse of green only ever interrupted by the odd crop of wild flowers that splashed a bit of colour into the endless sprawl, and the cobblestone road that was old and badly maintained, with grass and weeds springing up between the stones, slowly overtaking the path. Nature was reclaiming it as its own.
Crickets chirped in the undergrowth, a sound that was accompanied by the buzzing of other unseen insects flittering around, gathering pollen or flying around hidden animals that hopped and scurried between their burrows, chewing on blades of grass and keeping a careful eye out for the birds that sore over the plains, occasionally calling out from above to potential mates they have yet to meet.
The plains soon started to take on some character to them. Hills sprouted up here and there, some that might be ancient barrows whose occupants have long since faded from memory, others that are simply hills.
Wide valleys stretched out before them, the cobble stone path passing through them, with steep inclines on either side of the road that towered over the travellers, over shadowing them and making for welcome reprieves from the sun.
One or two rock formations could be seen on the horizon, large boulders that had emerged from the earth long ago and had served many travellers as shelter from passing showers, or torrential downpours that last for hours without end.
As the rock formations become more frequent, the landscape around them changed too. The plains become moorland, the vegetation that thrived here hardier then those closer to the swamp lands of Godslost.
A few trickling streams popped up here and there, and the travellers found that the water often crossed the road, which is beginning to become more and more unkempt the more they went. They clambered over the slick rocks, being careful not to lose their balance and go sprawling onto their backs.
Along with the streams, there were bogs to contend with. At points the road completely disappeared, swallowed up by a bog that had expanded from when the road was first built, the earth, wet and muddy, having gobbled it up like an insatiable maw.
As the travellers advanced, so too did the sun across the sky. Where once it was mid-day, when the sun was high in the sky, beating down from above, it has now become mid- afternoon, and the shadows grow long.
The grassland and moorland gave way to small fences and stone walls, where cultivated land lied within, crops of grain and tilled earth that were getting ready for the next harvest, with large stone water towers in the middle that sprinkle water over everything below.
Cattle and sheep could be seen grazing in fields, their mouths moving rhythmically as they chewed on a lump of grass before them, their pleasant cries drifting up to meet the travellers, like a friendly greeting.
The road too improved, becoming easier underfoot the closer they come to what they could only assumed to be civilisation. It started to look as though it’s seen recent repair here and there, stones replaced and pot holes filled in.
Just when it started to look like the whole day was going to be pleasant and uneventful, Gulmont came to a sudden stop, holding up his hand. “Wait, what’s that ahead?” He asked, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.
“Is that a body?” Clockk asked, peering around Gulmont.
There, just to the side of the road, face down against a stone wall, lay a figure that didn’t seem to be moving.
Argyle stepped forward, creaking with every move he make, walking up to the body without an ounce of caution or fear that this might all be a trap. He didn’t seem confidant either, he was simply a blank slate.
“Careful,” Gulmont hissed at him from behind, “I see life force around us. It looks like we’re being surrounded.”
“Surrounded by who?” Clockk growled through clenched teeth.
“If I knew that I’d tell you,” Gulmont grunted, drawing his bow and notching an arrow.
Argyle kneeled down beside the body, reaching out to check for a pulse, but before his gnarled fingers could touch the body’s skin, it moved.
The man lashed out, jumping to his feet and swinging a sword at Argyle, laughing out loud in a thuggish voice, “Idiots, you fell for it!”
Argyle looked up as the blade fell down upon him, not reacting in the least. The blade hit his head and kept on going, cutting Argyle in half like he was nothing more than a piece of paper that had just gone up against a pair of scissors.
The bandit blinked, his eyes going wide. He expected an explosion of gore to erupt from the Sylvari, but instead the two halves of Argyle flittered to the ground, and instead of a fountain of gore, confetti spouted from the wound, showering the bandit in glitter and paper.
Argyle then shattered like glass, disappearing before the bandit’s eyes. He reappeared in a flash of light, clad in his armour, his rapier in his hand. Without a moment’s hesitation, he drove the blade through the bandit’s chest, watching as blood pooled around the wound.
In that moment four more bandits vaulted over the walls, drawing weapons and rushing the trio. “Get ‘em, lads!” one called out, Swinging a spiked ball on a chain around his head and hollering an ugly sounding battle cry.
The cry was cut short as Gulmont let the arrow fly from his bow. It found its mark, right in the bandit’s throat, turning the battle cry into a gurgled, strangled mess. The bandit keeled over, slowly drowning in his own blood.
A bandit with a hammer chose Clockk as his target, swinging the heavy weapon over his head, aiming to bring it down on the Asura, imagining a puddle of gore when he pulled the hammer away. He never got that far however.
Clockk drew the greatsword from his back, running forward, between the bandit’s legs, slashing the blade in one swift movement, severing the ligaments of his calves. The bandit let out a scream as his legs gave way beneath him, only to have it stifled as Clockk drove his blade through his skull.
A bandit with a sword paused for a moment, which ended up being his undoing. Argyle appeared before him in another flash of light, driving his rapier through his neck. He disappeared as soon as he had appeared, getting out of the bandit’s reach, not that it mattered, the man was already dead.
The remaining bandits looked at their dead comrades on the ground, then to each other. With a gulp, they each turned on their heels and ran, tripping over their own feet in a bid to get away as fast as they can.
“Do we go after them?” Clockk asked, hefting his greadsword over his shoulder.
Gulmont shook his head, “Not worth it. Besides, maybe this will be an eye opener for them.”
“Or maybe they’re come back to get their revenge,” Clockk pointed out.
“Maybe,” Gulmont agreed. “But I can hope, can’t I?”
Argyle stands where he is, looking down at the dead with eyes as lifeless as theirs. He showed no remorse, but there was something about him that seemed to grieve for their deaths, even if he was incapable of it.
Gulmont furrowed his brow, stepping close to Argyle and putting a hand on his shoulder. “You all right, mate?” He asked, their argument momentarily forgotten.
Argyle nodded once, turning to look at Gulmont absently, saying nothing.
The awkwardness of their previous exchange came rushing back to them, and the moment passed. Gulmont cleared his throat, averting his eyes from Argyle as he said to Clockk, “Right, let’s get going. Don’t want to be around if the Seraph come by.”
“Right, yes, those blundering fools,” Clockk tisks as he follows. “They’re as bad as the peacemakers.”
Argyle trailed behind them.

Posted Nov 12, 17 · OP
The Road to the East:
Chapter Four

It was late afternoon by the time the trio of travellers made it to the walls of Beetletrun. The town itself looked much the same as it always had at first glance. People went about their business happily, stopping each other in the streets to talk and pass the time of day.
A few merchants haggled with fishermen that were bringing in their day’s catch, while children ran around with one another, playing games like tag and hide and seek, while trouble makers were forced to sullenly clean the porches of their parents homes.
The houses didn’t look as though they really needed cleaning, but the citizens of Beetletrun seemed to pride themselves on how clean their little town was, offering each person a friendly smile and a word of greeting.
Perhaps it was only Gulmont who noticed how strained their smiles looked, and how they didn’t quite meet their eyes. There was an oppressive air around the town, one that could be felt more in the most populated areas than anywhere else.
When no one was looking, the people would let out a sigh and cast their gazes towards what was once a proud statue in the centre of town, a sense of loss and betrayal within their hearts. Now the statue was not so proud, It was little more than a pile of rubble in the street, with hate filled graffiti written all over it.
The once great and wise Caudecus Beetlestone had truly fallen from grace, and his great manor that loomed over the town lay abandoned, its gates tapped off with warnings from the Shining Blade not to enter.
Beetletun had seen better days, and while it was hard to tell at first glance, the people were suffering for it.
Gulmont, Clockk and Argyle moved through the town, looking about, the Asura and Sylvari not seeming to notice anything out of the ordinary.
“Oh, they’ve torn down the statue,” Clockk mentioned idly. “Good, it was an eye sore. I was dreading the prospect of having to look at that pathetic excuse for a beard, I’m glad I no longer have to.”
“This coming from the guy who wears his hair like a leek?” Gulmont smirked, raising a brow at the Asura.
“I’ll have you know this style is the height of fashion in Rata Sum!” Clockk snapped, looking indignant. “It’s hardly my fault that you’ve no appreciation for such things. It is therefore my place, nay, my duty to set an example for the both of you!”
“Riiiiight,” Gulmont chuckled, shaking his head. He points a thumb at Argyle, the most well-dressed of the trio, inclining his head towards Clockk.
Argyle said nothing. He simply stared at Gulmont with his soulless, impassive gave, giving away nothing of what he might have been thinking. His neck creaked a little as he tilted it to one side, as if trying to emulate a dog when it tilts its head in curiosity, but the Sylvari’s black expression just made him look eerie.
Gulmont rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, averting his eyes, the one sided argument they’d had that morning playing over in his mind. He let out a little curse and walked on ahead, waving a hand at the two others. “You go on ahead an’ look for a place to sleep. I’m going to go clear my head, maybe skip stones by the water or something.”
Clockk blinked, watching Gulmont go before turning to Argyle. “What did you do!?” He bellowed. “You two have been acting strangely all day!”
Argyle only shrugged.
Clockk’s eye twitched, a vein pulsating in his temple. He raised a finger, opening his mouth to say something, only to throw his arms up in frustration and turn on his heel, walking away from the Sylvari. “Useless! He yelled back at him. “Utterly useless!” He didn’t look back to see if the Sylvari was following him, instead he made his way to the nearest inn and rented a room.
The room was more or less like it had been the night before, small and wooden, with two chests of draws and two beds, one for Argyle and one for himself. The beds were uncomfortable, they didn’t hang off the ground, nor did they hover with the use of levitating cubes. They were completely and utterly unsatisfactory, and Clockk was already getting ready to complain to the owner about how primitive the beds were and how they would be much better off they were of an Anuran design, when his datapad began to beep, telling him he had an incoming call.
Clicking his tongue in annoyance, Clockk grabbed his date pad and clambered onto the bed, sitting himself down before answering the call. “Excelsior, you’ve reached the datapad of Padmavyuha Captain Clockk of the Dragonbane Order, Master of Temporal Theorem. This is he speaking, might I ask who is calling?”
“Excelsior, progenitor,” came the voice on the other end, and Clockk immediately lost the formality, his permanent scowl becoming just a little softer. “This is Noofa, I’m calling to ask your opinion on something. If I were to add a magimagical soundwave generator to my Stylish Music apparatus, SMA, would it amplify the sound, or cause it to explode?”
Clockk hummed for a moment. “It wouldn’t cause it to explode, but it would put considerable strain on the machine. I recommend a set of head phones. Just don’t turn it up too loudly, you don’t want to damage your ears.”
“Ah!” Noofa exclaimed. “Very logical of you, progenitor. I shall be use to use them.”
Clockk nodded, his ears flopping as he did so. “Will that be all?”
There was a brief pause. “Progenitor?” Noofa said after a while. “I miss you, when are you coming home?”
“I’ll be home as soon as I can,” Clockk assured her. “Are you being good for your aunty Meddi?”
“Of course!” Noofa replied. “She had a number of very intriguing medical apparatus that she has allowed me to dismantle and reassemble. They’re quite fascinating. I was unable to reassemble it at first, but I got my head around it after a while.”
“Very good,” Clockk sniffed arrogantly, his chest swelling with the smugness only a father can have when thinking of his offspring’s accomplishments. “I’m very proud of you.”
Noofa let out a little squeak on the other side of the call, “Thank you, progenitor.”
“How are your brothers and sisters?”
“They’re well,” Noofa nodded, her ears flopping like her father’s. “I’ve not seen very much of Zapp, but I never do, and Nhaani’s been hanging off Aunty Meddi’s arm all week.”
There was the sound of a door sliding open and a gasp in the background. “I heard my name! Is that Daddy!?” Nhaani’s voice floated into the call. “Oh oh, give it here, give it here!”
“Nhaani, no! Let go! I wasn’t done!” Noofa protested. There was the sound of a scuffle and soon Nhaani’s voice came through loud and clear.
“Daddy!? Hi! It’s Nhaani! Hello! How are you, daddy!?”
“Nhaani!” Clockk snapped. “Were you just fighting with your sister?”
There was a pause. “…Noooooo.”
“Yes she was, progenitor!” Noofa called out. “She took the datapad right out of my hands!”
“Snitch!” Nhaani yelled, and Clockk could tell even from all the way in Kryta that she was sticking her tongue out.
“Nhaani! Apologise to your sister!” Clockk demanded, glaring down at the datapad, for all the good it did him. No one could see him.
“Sorry, Noofa,” Nhaani mumbled, though she sounded very sincere, and she was. If Nhaani was one thing above all others, it was caring.
“Good!” Clockk exclaimed. “Now, how are you, dear?”
“I’m okay!” Nhaani told him. “Aunty Meddi showed me around the hospital and introduced me to the patients, and I love them. Then she gave me a stuffed golem teddy and I love it! I’m going to call it beep borp.”
“Hmmm,” Clockk hummed. “A very apt name. Commendable of you, Nhaani.”
“Thank you, daddy!” Nhaani smiled, wriggling this way and that on the other side of the call.
“Is Noxxi there with you?”
“Um…” Nhaani hesitated. “She’s in the other room, I’ll go find her.”
Clockk heard the sound of rushing footsteps and the hiss of automatic doors as Nhaani rushed through his sister’s home, looking for his third daughter. “Noxxi! Daddy wants to talk to you!”
“What!?” The irritated and scornful voice of Noxxi called back. “I don’t want to talk to him, he’s left us here and I hate him!”
“Daddy!” Nhaani’s voice came loud and clear through the datapad. “Noxxi says she hates you and doesn’t want to talk to you.”
Clockk let out a sigh, “Yes, Nhaani, dear, I heard her. Could you pass her over anyway?”
“Okay!” Nhaani said. There was a rustling noise as the datapad was handed over and Noxxi’s voice came through.
“What?” She snapped.
“Excelsior, Noxxi,” Clockk acknowledged. “I just thought I’d say that I love you very much and I’ll miss you every day that I’m gone.”
There was a pause, then a sniffing noise on the other end of the call. “Hate you,” Nooxi mumbled.
“Yes, well, I love you. Now, could you pass me back to your sister?”
“Hi, Daddy, I’m back!” Nhaani called s the datapad was handed back to her.
“Excelsior, Nhaani. Is Zoom or Zapp anywhere around?”
“Sorry, Daddy, Zoom is in one of his moods and I don’t know where Zapp is. I think he’s hiding again.”
“Hmmm,” Clockk huffed. “Very well, so be it. I’m hanging up now, Nhaani. Be sure to give this back to Noofa. Progressive endeavours.”
“Progressive endeavours, Daddy!” Nhaani said back to him. “I love you! Be safe!” The line then went dead.
Clockk stared at the silent datapad, the permanent scowl deepening once again, his demeanour returning to the irritable, snappish way it always was. He pressed his lips in a thin line, tapping at a few of the holographic buttons until he pulled up a captured image of his five progeny.
Noofa, Nhaani, Noxxi, Zoom and Zapp all looked back at him from the screen, all but Noxxi smiling, all their expressions different, yet none that were absent of affection. Even Noxxi displayed a muted, begrudging love for her father.
Clockk missed the five of them desperately. He didn’t really want to leave them with his sister to go off chasing dragons, but he wanted a future for his children where they didn’t have to fear the threat of the elder dragons.
He was doing this for them, to protect them. At least that’s what he kept telling himself. With a sigh of aggravation, Clockk raised a hand to his brow, rubbing his temples. He was getting a head ache, he always did when he got stressed.
After a while he got to his feet, deciding that he needed to go and get something to eat and drink. Maybe he’d also go and complain about the beds to the owners. That might help relieve stress.

Posted Nov 14, 17 · OP
The Road to the East:
Chapter Five

The next few days of the journey was through Gendarran Fields, and the trio found themselves walking through lush grassy plains that seemed to go on forever, even if they knew that sooner or later they would stop.
They spent one or two nights under the stars, looking up at the sky above, saying very little to one another. The air between Gulmont and Argyle was still awkward, which made Clockk even more irritable than usual, so silence seemed to be the best option.
Soon, large stretches of grassland became muddy and ruined, showing signs of the devastating war between the humans and centaur. Craters where explosives had gone off showed here and there, along with the occasional broken siege engine that had been destroyed and abandoned.
After the vast expanses of verdant green, when the town of Nebo Terrace came into view, it was a welcome reprieve. The town was a little smaller than Beetletun had been, but that was more to do with how compact the houses were than a lack of people living there.
The people of Nebo Terrace were a hardy lot, being on the front lines of a war zone, you had to be. They showed signs of loss and hardship, but there was also a continuous feeling of hope, and a determination to keep on fighting.
They stayed the night in the local inn, Clockk and Argyle sharing a room again, while Gulmont went to find a tree to sleep in. The night past without coming under siege by the centaurs, but the Seraph and Gulmont remained ever vigilant.
The next morning they were off again, and found they were once more amongst the green fields, dotted by the odd patch of yellow wild flowers, which proved to be the only contrast to the green that went on and on, with no end in sight.
There was a road now though, cobbled and worn with age. The further away from Nebo Terrace they got, the worse the road became, until it was no more than a dirt track that had been well worn into the earth.
It was another few days until the Ascalon Settlement came into view. The first sign of it was the old tower ruins up on a hill that rose into view one afternoon, peeking out over the otherwise unremarkable horizon.
The walled township soon followed, the sturdy fortifications making the Settlement look quite imposing. Within the walls however, the buildings were more spread out, leaving room for picturesque gardens where a myriad of brightly coloured flowers bloomed.
They stayed in the settlement for the day to rest up after the last few consecutive days of walking. After being in each other’s company for so long, they found it a relief to spend some time apart to do their own thing.
While Clockk locked himself in the inn room he and Argyle rented, Argyle found himself down at the Seraph training grounds, practicing his swordsmanship. He even got asked to show the Seraph recruits a thing or two.
Gulmont on the other hand made his way up to the ruins, and spent most of his time there. The veil between the world of the living and dead was thin here, and Gulmont found himself talking to the spirits of the fallen, trying to console them in their grief.
When the time came to leave, none of them found they were too disappointed. The people of the Ascalon Settlement, believing themselves to be better than the Krytans, even if they themselves had never seen Ascalon, and were at this point just as much of a Krytan as the people they looked down upon.
The quality of the road was completely the opposite of what it was now to what it had been when leaving Nebo Terrace. The further away from the Ascalon Settlement they went, the better the road became.
The dirt path became cobbled, and the cobbles were well maintained. There were a few patches of grass popping up between the cobbles every now and again, but that was better than the dirt path it’d been not too long ago.
Rolling hills started to push up through the grasslands now, giving the landscape a bit of character. This was a welcome change after the last few days of walking through nothing but long stretches of field. The hills did make for harder walking however, and if their thighs didn’t ache before, they certainly did now.
Farmland started to pop up here and there, a windmill here, a grain house there, with fields of corn with fences around them. It was clear that the trio were reaching civilisation, but just how close they were didn’t become apparent until the grate white walls of Lion’s Arch began to loom over them.
“About time,” Clockk complained.

The Elonian refugee camp in Lion’s Arch was bustling with activity, from volunteers trying to help the destitute people or refugees themselves, milling about, trying to find work, or simply groaning in quiet agony from wounds they’d sustained in their flight from the Crystal Desert and the land of the golden sun.
Gulmont leaned against a wall, twiddling a toothpick between his teeth and looking over the Elonians with narrowed eyes. He listened closely to their conversations, drawing his own conclusions from what they say and making mental notes.
Clockk paced up and down in front of him, stopping to occasionally tap his foot impatiently before beginning to pace again, muttering under his breath as his ears flopped this way and that, his constant scowl only becoming deeper.
“Where are they!?” He eventually bellowed, turning to Gulmont, pointing an accusatory claw at him. “You told them to meet us here, didn’t you?”
“Yup,” Gulmont answered in a nonchalant fashion. “They’ll get here when they get here, Clockk. Give ‘em a bit o’ time.”
Clockk threw his arms up in the air in frustration, going back to his pacing.
Argyle meanwhile stood a little ways away from the other two, as still and silent as a statue, staring blankly ahead. He faded into the background, becoming just another part of the scenery, as forgettable as the tarps and tents that made up the refugee camp.
"HEYA ALBATROSS"! Kharn suddenly appeared from around the corner, wearing the usual toothy grin and missing the usual patches of fur.
Gulmont almost jumped out of his skin. He fell back, losing his balance and landing on his rear, looking up at the Charr with a startled expression on his face. “I will never be able to figure out how you sneak up on me like that,” He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck.
“There you are!” Clockk announced. “What took you so long!?”
"I've ran stealth ops in the Legion before.” Kharn became, only to turn his head to Clockk half way through. “HEYA TOKKERS!” He yelled, then went back to Gulmont, “I know how to be quiet.” Then back to Clockk, “SORRY I'M LATE BOSS! WE GOT CAUGHT UP IN THE GROVE!”
“DON’T TALK TO TWO PEOPLE AT ONCE!” Clockk yelled back. “IT’S RUDE!”
“Some would say shouting is rude as well,” Gulmont points out, waggling his ear with a finger.
“I’M NOT SHOUTING!” Clockk shouted. He then cleared his throat, lowering his voice a tad. “What were you doing in the Grove?”
Kharn waved at a few of the refugees who looked in their direction when the shouting started. "We were trying to get Snowy, but then Annorn got distracted by a hawker selling off some imported drinks, so she thought she'd pick up some cheapo mead for the road. Then after that we found Snowy, had a talk or two about bowls, then she fell over and face planted into a rock, blood or sap or whatever Sylvari guys have all over which I had to clean up, then Snowy started running around after a moth I think and Annorn gave chase and last I heard she still is. PHEW"! Kharn inhaled after the barrage of words tumbled out of his mouth.
“Take a breath, Kharn,” Gulmont snickered. “No need to rush, we’ve got all the time in the world.” He then folded his hands behind his head, leaning back against the wall, the toothpick moving up and down.
“So we’re only waiting for Hoddsdóttir, Winter and…” Clockk trails off, looking confused for a moment.
“Vervain,” Gulmont continues.
“Yes, that one!” Clockk said, waving a hand dismissively as he once more forgets Vervain’s name.
At some point during Kharn’s explanation, Vervain had appeared, leaning casually against the statue that is Argyle. Her arrival went unnoticed…or was she there all along? She watched the exchange, on her face the usual cattish, amused half-smile.
Argyle slowly turned his head to Vervain, his neck creaking, his face impassive. His eyes never moved, they remained glassy in their sockets, almost like a doll’s eyes. The movement made him look like a puppet possessed by some spirit. He raised his hand to Vervain, waving, his arm moving back and forth, like a marionette that’s had its strings cut.
"Hello, buttercup", Vervain coos at Argyle. "And the rest of you too, I guess."
"Heya Agro"! Kharn waved like an idiot.
Vervain smiled impishly and purred. "It's my bestest friend, Kharn!" But her expression changed in an instant from dazzling smile into childish pout. "But I do wish you'd stop calling me that."
“’Ey, Verv,” Gulmont said, offering Vervain a little nod of his head.
Clockk's data pad gave a buzz, indicating the arrival of a new message. The Asura completely ignored Vervain, only offering her a wave of his hand as he adjusted his monocle, taking out his data pad, and tapping away at it.
The message simply read "omw w8 4 m3."
Clockk stared at the message. “…” He blinked. “…” He took a deep breath. “WHAT IN THE ALCHEMY IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN!?”
He began typing furiously on his data pad, first in Asura script, then in New Krytan, one on top of the other. Listen here, you prepubescent postgraduate! I demand that you use proper language in your messages! You shouldn’t take language for granted! It has a myriad of uses and to water it down as you have is disrespectful to the historians who tirelessly spent their every waking moment translating and adapting New Krytan!
Clockk's data pad buzzed a nanosecond later. "tl;dr", reads the message.
“I think that means Aki’s coming,” Gulmont snickered. “Hope he packed right, we’re going to be heading into the Shiverpeaks and Ascalon before we get anywhere near the Crystal Desert.” He then looked over his shoulder, huffing at his backpack. “We might have to find somewhere to ditch our gear if we get too overloaded.”
The group soon spots Aki approaching through the crowd. It seems he's hardly carrying anything, apart from the mini data pad that seems glued to his hands. As he gets closer, though, it's apparent he's not alone; two servants tail him at a respectable distance, a woman and a man, both carrying hefty bags. The teenaged noble nods a greeting to the group, half-mumbling a moody "hello".
"Heya Abooki"! Kharn waved at the tiny human.
“You whipper snapper!” Clockk roared, advancing on Aki. “Read my messages! You’ll learn something! Now…” he pauses, clearing his throat before going into a full blown lecture on exactly what he said in the message, only this is in person, more long winded, and full of Clockk’s condescension.
Gulmont meanwhile wandered up to the servants, giving then a little bob of his head. “How ya doin’?” He winks at the woman, giving her a roguish smile before kneeling down to open the luggage, saying absently. “Ya might wanna get ready to catch all this.”
Gulmont then started to toss out articles of clothing, flinging them over his shoulders. “Won’t need that,” he mutters to himself. “Certainly won’t need that. That might be useful, but that’s just silly.”
The two servants gasped in horror and hurried to gather all the pieces of clothing and several books, all the while apologizing profusely to the noble and assuring him everything will be packed neatly soon. Aki looks at Gulmont furiously. "What do you think you're doing?!"
“You’ll not need all this,” Gulmont told him. “It’ll just drag you down. We’re not going on some pleasurable jaunt, we’ll be out in the wilds for days at a time, you can’t lug around all of this stu…”
Gulmont is cut off as Clockk delivers a flying kick to his face. He topples over, covering his face with his hands and groaning.
“Don’t you dare treat books so poorly, you philistine!” The Asura bellowed. “Don’t you know how much knowledge these things hold!? How dare you just throw them around! They’re not damaged, are they?” He asked, his ears drooping as he goes to look over one of the discarded books.
Gulmont just rolls around in a ball, his knees pulled up to his chest, giving out a few muffled, nasal noises.
"Thanks, Clockk", Aki remarked as he passed by the asura and strode over to Gulmont, crouching down slightly in order to speak with a lowered voice. "Listen, smartass", he says while tossing a glance to the servants who are still busying themselves with repacking, "it's not my choice, okay? Do you have any idea how much time and convincing it took to get my parents to allow me to leave at all?" The pretty-boy teen huffed, flipping his hair away from his face. "We roll with this here arrangement, or we don't roll at all. So if you're so eager to never see me again, go ahead and send the servants back with all these 'needless' things."
Gulmont removed his hands from his face, arching a brow. "Wait, they're coming?" A drop of black blood dripped from his nose.
As Aki stood up, he gave poor Gulmont a look that says "D'uh."
Gulmont turned to the servants. “You two are all right with this? I mean, we’re chasing after rumours of an Elder…” He paused, looking at Argyle before continuing. “…Thing, and a crazed god. It’s not the kind of environment I’d want to be carrying luggage around in.”
The servants gave each other a nervous glance, then speak with polite, soft voices. "Well... we were in an understanding that.. that we would keep camp while you heroes venture into danger."
"Camps! Right!" Gulmont declared. "We'll definitely have those!"
“You’re the only one who sleeps in trees, idiot.” Clockk snapped.
“You’re the only one who sleeps in trees,” Gulmont mimicked childishly, pulling a face.
Meanwhile Vervain whines about wanting her own servants, too.
Argyle just stared blankly ahead as a horde of phantasmal servants appear in front of Vervain, bowing in reverence to her as they pledge their every lasting devotion to her, even though that devotion might only last until they shatter.
Vervain, immersed in her little fantasy, struts around as the phantasmal servants follow her, offering her gifts of diamonds and pearls, which she refuses, claiming that none are good enough for her and telling them they’ll have to go out and find bigger ones, but to put the ones they’ve already collected in her vault for safe keeping.
Argyle then began to help the servants pick up Aki’s things, creaking as he slowly bent down to pick up articles of clothing from the floor, folding them delicately before putting them inside Aki’s bags, moving methodically, like an automaton programed to carry out very specific movements.
“Guess we’re just waiting on Rheya an’ Winter now,” Gulmont muses.

Spoiler: Show

Posted Nov 26, 17 · OP · Last edited Nov 27, 17
The Road to the East:
Chapter Six

As the Dragonbanes waited for Rheya and Winter to arrive, Gulmont took out a wooden coin from his pocket, folding his arms and flicking it into the air with his thumb. The coin spun in the air before it dropped back down, where Gulmont caught it once again.
He looked over the Elonian refugees in their strange clothes, the cloth wraps they wore upon their heads and the loose fitting fabrics that they adorned themselves with. The fabrics looked far too thin for the Krytan climate, and many looked cold.
Many of the Elonians were talking angrily, some loudly, others softer. There were two people not far from the ‘Banes, one looking confused and betrayed, the other bitter and resentful.
“The Branded started moving, then Balthazar showed up with his army,” The confused man begins, as if saying it out loud will help him understand. “That’s two hostile forces on Joko’s Doorstep. Why won’t Joko respond?”
The bitter looking man shook his head, scoffing at the other. “He doesn’t think like we do. He’s undead and immortal, insane. He’d probably let all those people die to have a fresh batch of corpses for his army.”
Gulmont moved his jaw forward in thought, pressing his tongue in between his teeth. He narrowed his eyes as the man spoke of the Lich King of Elona, wondering what he would be thought of if his secret ever got out to the wider world.
A messenger cub approached the camp. He seemed a tad nervous and looks into the crowd, scratching his head. He looked towards the Dragonebanes after a while, seemingly deliberating whether to approach them or not.
Gulmont didn’t see the cub, too focused on the gossip of the refugees.
Clockk saw him however, waddling up to him with his permanent scowl, now with an added vein pulsating on his temple. “Yes! What?” He demanded, looking the cub over. “Well? Out with it! Hurry up now!” It’s one of the few times Clockk is able to look someone directly in the eye.
"Oh hi mister. Ehh, you the Dragonboners? I gots a message for the Dragonboners". He said clutching a rolled up letter in his paw.
"BANES!" Clockk yelled, spittle flying out of his mouth to sprinkle the little cub. "IT'S THE DRAGONBANES!"
"EEeeewwww....". The cub flails his arms about for a bit as he’s showered in saliva. "Well, whatevers. Here"! He thrusts the letter into Clockk's hands, not waiting to see whether Clockk actually takes it or not before scuttling off back towards the city centre.
The letter looked hastily prepared, with only a thin bit of string keeping it sealed. On the front is very clearly written in a recognisable and neat script. "Dragonboners".
"Hey, that looks like Annorn's handwriting". Kharn said. "Reminds me, I still need to return some books she lent me".
Clockk tore open the letter, muttering about primitive writing implements and how it would be much more practical to use a data pad. He raises a claw to Kharn as he reads the letter over, his eyes scanning from left to right.
Hey you lot! I expect Clockk is fuming right now. Just a joke! Anyway, I'm going to be delayed here with Winter so head on towards Ebonhawke and I'll met you all there. I'm also going to stop by Hoelbrak and pick up some essential supplies for the trip. You know, furs, salted meats, dried fruits, stuff like that. I reckon Gul is going to do the same but having extra never hurts. No idea what we might encounter in the desert and we may have to rough it at a few points. See you all soon!
The letter was signed at the bottom. Rheya.
Clockk shredded up the letter, flinging the pieces into the air. “Gah! To think, we wasted all that time just waiting around!”
“What’s up?” Gulmont asked, raising a brow.
“Hoddsdottir is going to meet us once we reach Ebonhawke,” Clockk told him, so red in the face that it looked like steam were about to come out of his ears.
"Hey, there’s a P.S. on the back! Aww, you tore it up now". Kharn whined.
“There a what?” Clockk blinked. “TELL ME THAT SOONER, FOR ALCHEMY’S SAKE!”
Argyle looked at the pieces up paper fluttering in the air, then clicked his fingers. The pieces seemed to go in reverse, as if a VHS tape was being rewound. The pieces all come together, flying into Clockk’s outstretched hand.
“Huh? What!?” He barked. “Oh…Thank you.” Clearing his throat, he turned the letter over.
On the reverse was a P.S ... and then a cartoon of an angry Clockk with his arms in the air, steam coming out of his oversized ears with what is assume is this very letter floating above him, torn in half. Also present is Kharn with the toothy grin and messy fur, three Vervains with mischievous expressions and guess which is the real written underneath. a solemn looking argyle, entirely in black stands beside Gul, who is cheering for some reason. Finally, there's a mini Rheya poking down from the top left corner, giggling at the scene.
"... my fur's not that bad... is it"? Kharn asked.
Clockk deadpanned.
He then let out a scream that echoed through the streets of LA and ripped up the letter again, stomping towards the gate to Lornar’s Pass.
Gulmont followed behind him, grabbing his sides as he shakes with laughter, trying his best to contain his mirth lest he fall under Clockk’s wrath.
Argyle remained as stoic as ever, simply saying, “Funny.”
"Wha? HEY WAIT FOR ME GUUUYYSSS!” Kharn called, dropping to all fours to run after them.
Vervain pouts. "Aww poo... I liked that drawing. Do you think she'll draw another one for me?" She said as she turned to follow Clockk with light prancing steps, clasping her hands behind her head nonchalantly. "But, y'know, of just me."
“Ask her when you see her,” Clockk snapped, shaking his head, his ears flopping.
The noble kid has had his gaze glued to his data pad for the whole exchange, and doesn't look up even as they start to move. It's a miracle he doesn't bump into things as he walks. The two servants follow him dutifully, Aki’s entire luggage in tow.
“AKI! Don’t walk and text! It’s bad for you!” The Asura bellowed, his shouting falling on deaf ears.
Gulmont snickers as they walk, though his mirth soon subsides as he listens to the people around them. He sets his gaze on one woman, tears streaming from her eyes, holding a blanket in her hands that’s charred and ruined.
“The Branded were always a threat,” she told the volunteer that was giving her a bowl of food, “but we could handle them. At least until Kralkatorrik moved and they followed. No food, no water, we lost more people in the trek through the desert than we did in the attack.”
The volunteer reaches out to put a sympathetic hand on her shoulder. “But some of you survived. If you stayed and fought, you’d all be dead.”
Gulmont was sure those words were of little comfort to the woman. He clenched his fist, his resolve renewed.
The Order walked quickly through the streets of Lion’s arch, past the harbour with its sailors hauling up fish that they’d just caught, or loading cargo onto ships that were headed to Orr, Ascalon, Rata Sum, and other parts of Kryta.
The bawdy sea shanties that were sang were irritatingly catchy, and Clockk had to stop himself from humming along, instead throwing a glare at the men who sang them, giving them a few choice words when his tempter got the better of him, even if he was only met with laughter.
There were snippets of other conversation that did catch his notice however, one in particular involving two refugees that were arguing with one another, one adamantly gesturing to the other as he tried to make his point.
“No, Balthazar is there to lead his army against Kralkatorrik's Branded. Dragon minions are the real threat.”
The other refugee shook their head, “We were keeping that threat in check. Balthazar's invasion made everything worse.”
The first balled up his fists, nearly yelling with how angry he was. “The Pact proved Elder Dragons can be killed. Balthazar is taking up that challenge. He's finally answering our prayers.”
The other refugee scoffed, “Who prayed to be invaded? As far as I'm concerned, Balthazar's armoured horrors are worse than the branded. They raid, ransack, and pillage. When they're not burning villages, they're starting battles in them.”
“War demands sacrifice; victory, even more so. Balthazar understands that and doesn't shrink from it,” The first pointed out, folding his arms and nodding, looking satisfied that his point had been made.
“If you think Balthazar's war is so necessary, then why didn't you stay to help him fight it?” The second added, pointing a finger at the first who averted his eyes, shame clouding his features.
Clockk rolled his eyes, muttering under his breath, “ignorant humans, so caught up in their gods. It’s much easier when you acknowledge that everything is part of the Eternal Alchemy. There is a purpose in everything according to the greatest science in the world.”
Argyle didn’t argue, not that anyone expected him too. In fact, the Sylvari had been even more quiet then usual, his presence even more diminished. As they walked through Lion’s Arch, making their way to the glass dome of the Grand Piazza, he had shirked away from the others, occasionally muttering to himself words no one else could hear, his visage shimmering lightly.
“I believe Balthazar is determined to kill Kralkatorrik,” He heard one person say, the Sylvari visibly shuddering each time the name was mentioned. He then began to mutter again, building up his resistance once more.
“That's why I still support him,” the person continued, nodding their heads. “How is his campaign different from what the Pact does?”
“Balthazar doesn't care who gets hurt in the process,” the person’s friend pointed out. “Besides, he's also the god of fire. Fire needs to be controlled, or it consumes everything.”
“Sacrifices have to be made. It's worth losing a few thousand to save a million, the first person said, raising their nose in the air as they looked down at their friend.
Gulmont’s face twisted in hate each time he heard someone talking about the god of fire and war. He marched through the Arch swiftly, ignoring everyone he heard as he made his way up the steep slope that lead out of Lion’s Arch and into Lomar’s Pass.
The city faded away beneath them as the order began to climb the mountains, tropical beach took a drastic turn as the heat evaporated, instead getting replaced with a cold breeze that became more and more bitter the more they climbed.
After about three hours, snowflakes bean to fall around them, after another two more the Order had entered tundra, where very little vegetation grew. Gone were the green fields of Kryta, instead replaced by brown and prickly shrubs.
“We should stop here,” Gulmont said, looking back over his shoulders at how small Lion’s Arch had become, a mere blip in the distance. “It’s going to get colder from here on out, and it may be getting dark soon. We can either push onto the Priory or camp here.”
"Y.. yeah, I agree with Albatross. Bbbrrrrr"! Kharn shivered as a cold wind blows around them. Not being completely covered with fur most of the time made him more sensitive to the cold.
Gulmont blinked, "So...Camping here?" He asked, not all that sure what Kharn's getting at. He didn’t seem to be that cold himself, but he was cold all the time anyway, so the bitter winds didn’t make much difference to him one way or another.
"So long as it's somewhere warm...." Kharn chattered.
Aki suggested they make for the Priory to get more shelter from the weather, but Vervain furrowed her brow. She's pinches her mouth shut, not saying anything, but she looked miffed.
Argyle tilted his head to one side, staring at Vervain, as if prompting her with his cold, dead eyes.
Vervain rested her hands at her hips as she turned to look at Argyle, her expression unchanging. It's as if she expected Argyle to understand her with just a look alone.
Argyle continued to stare for a long time, the minutes ticking by painfully slowly. He opened his mouth once, then closed it again, turning to the others, giving them the same look. Eventually Argyle gave up, taking off his coat to drape it over Vervain’s shoulders, his face melting away, his features changing comically into a question mark.
Vervain let out a frustrated shriek and shrugged the coat away with a violent motion of her arms. Obviously Argyle had missed the mark.
Argyle’s shoulders sagged as he wilted, looking like a sunflower that hasn’t gotten any sun. He looked down at his coat on the ground, getting wet and cold, just staring, like it was taking him a second to comprehend what happened.
He eventually picked up his coat, putting it back on, still not sure what just happened.
Clockk stepped up beside him, putting a hand on his back. “Women,” the irritable Asura grumbled. “They’re a mystery.”
Argyle didn’t look like he agreed, nor did he look like he disagreed however. He didn’t look like much of anything.
“I say we push onto the priory!” Clockk announced. “And seen as I’m the senior member here, what I say goes!”
“Since when were you the senior member?” Gulmont asked, folding his arms and perking a brow.
“Since now!”
"Tokkers certainly looks like a senior". Kharn confirmed, nodding his horned head innocently.
"Oh shut up!" Clockk snapped back.
Kharn looked confused, unaware of the burn he just dealt.
"Guess this means we're moving onto the Priory," Gulmont said, hefting his back pack a little higher and walking on once more.

Spoiler: Show

Posted Nov 27, 17 · OP · Last edited Nov 27, 17
The Road to the East:
Chapter Seven

The winds blew bitterly as the Order made their way across the landscape. The prickly bushes made it a little hard to walk without getting their legs scrapped, and every now and again they have to make their way around large puddles of water.
There were a few rocky outcroppings dotted around that reminded Gulmont of mountains that had yet to form, the stone jutting up from the earth and trying its hardest to stretch up to the skies above, just like all the other boulders and rocks around them.
Argyle noticed a few herds of wild Dolyak grazing on the inhospitable grounds. He wondered what they could find to eat out here, with so little of the plants being able to survive. The shrubs and mosses looked as though they couldn’t sustain a fully grown Dolyak, let alone a whole herd.
Clockk was having more trouble walking than the others. Being the smallest of the group, he had the most trouble with the vegetation. The shrubs tugged at his ears, nipping and scratching them. More than once the others would hear him muttering curses as he drew his blade to furiously cut away at the bushes.
The shrubs, sedges and grasses soon thinned out and gave way to only mosses and lichens. They were soft underfoot, crunching when they put a foot down, letting out a sigh of relief, or something akin to it, when taking their foot away.
The ground became much rockier, and the Order found they had to move around rocks that were so large they blocked their progress, towering above them and casting a shadow down the slowly inclining slope they were walking up.
Night began to fall, the shadows encroaching around them as daylight faded over the horizon. Gulmont knew that it would have still been early evening if they were anywhere else in the world, but the mountains that had been building up around them had started to block out the sun.
The snow had begun to fall in earnest now, coating the ground in a crisp, immovable white. While others found that their feet sink into the snow, up to their ankles, Clockk found that he was in it up to his waist, and had to swing his hips in order to get through it.
Finally, when it started to become too dark to see by, a light could be seen in the distance, a small flicker of life high up on one of the tallest mountains, acting like a beacon for the weary travellers that had been on the road for several hours.
Gulmont produced a staff with a lantern hanging upon it, though from where it was unclear. The light from the lantern was an eerily, ghostly colour that lit the way through the night, casting everything outside the bubble of light that encapsulated the travellers in unnatural shadows.
As they drew closer to the mountain with the light atop it, it became more and more obvious that this was not a mountain at all. The rock was too smooth, like it was sculpted out of a mountain itself by monk’s hands.
“Here at last,” Gulmont sighed as he ascended the steps to the Priory. “I thought we’d never get here.”
"Y.. yay! H.. home"! Kharn chattered, hugging his arms close to his chest for warmth. Steam escaped his muzzle as he breathed. "I f..f...forget how c...c...cold it gets up here....!”
Steam rolled off Clockk’s armour, the snowflakes evaporating before they can even touch him. “Yes, you do have a rather shot memory,” he chided. “It’s warmer inside though, I guess that’s something. The fools still won’t approve me installing heat regulators.”
Kharn sneezed violently, his snot turned to icicles.
“Common, Kharn,” Gulmont said as he patted the Charr on the arm. “We’ll get you some place warm, get you some tea an’ a blanket, how’s that sound?”
"S..s...sounds good....”
“Don’t baby him!” Clockk yelled as they walked off, his voice fading into the background as Gulmont began to lead Kharn into the monastery, past a few scholars that give the two of them a look of recognition, some nodding their heads, others taking a step back in case the Charr exploded something.
“Heya Penny.... ACHOO!" Kharn greeted one of the scholars, sneezing again.
"This uniform was clean on this morning!" Penny grumbles.
As soon as they stepped into the Priory, Vervain sprinted off into the structure's corridors, leaving her Dragon Bane companions to camp. Her soft steps could be heard getting more and more distant until they could be heard no more.
Gulmont found a fire and sat Kharn down, his breath not fogging before his face like it did Kharn’s. “Right, anyone know where they keep the blankets an’ stuff?” He asked, looking around at those in the area to see if they could point him in the right direction.
Argyle stepped forward, a blanket already in his hands. He draped it over Kharn’s shoulders wordlessly, even going so far as to tuck it under his arms in a motherly fashion, which looked a bit weird on a Sylvari with no expression.
"Th..th...thanks Argo. You're a pal!"
Argyle patted Kharn on the head, then shattered like glass, the shards floating in the air for a moment, spinning on their axis, before they fell to the floor, tinkling as each shard hit the stone ground, before disappearing completely.
Gulmont blinked, looking this way and that to see where Argyle went. “I hate it when he does that,” he complained as he lost track of the Sylvari, rubbing the back of his neck. “I’ll go see about that tea,” he said, getting to his feet and starting to walk off.
As he does, he passes Clockk, the Asura already holding a tea pot in one hand and a cup in the other. Gulmont gave him a smug grin, his tongue sticking out from between his teeth. “Well lookie here, what’s all this?”
“Not a word,” Clockk glared at him, raising a claw to silent Gulmont, who only snickers, walking off to go and find argyle.
“KHARN!” Clockk hollered, walking up to the fire and setting the tea pot on top of it. “Here!” He demanded, thrusting out the tea cup.
Kharn mumbled a "yessir" and took the tea, guzzling it down in one go. "Ooohhh, hey I see why Annorn likes this stuff so much. Warming".
The two servants set down their baggage. The man laid down a soft cushion by the fire for his young master, while the woman poured the kid a cup of hot tea. As Aki sat down, a blanket was gingerly laid onto his shoulders to keep him warm.
"Hey!" Clockk snapped at the woman, pointing at the tea. "Who said you could have any of that!?"
The poor lady gasped in fright and backed off, her head bowed. "M-my apologies, sir! Please allow me to brew another pot full. I'm terribly sorry..."
Aki waved dismissively, "It's fine. I say it's fine." The kid wrapped the blanket tighter around his shoulders, "Don't scold my servants, old man. I'm responsible for them, okay?" he said in a bored manner.
The lady servant mumbled another "I'm sorry", but this time to Aki.
“Yes, you should be sorry. There’s a thing called manners, you know?” Clockk told her, hypocrisy oozing from every pour. “Next time ask before taking something.” He didn’t seem all that mad at the woman, but then again, Clockk always seemed irritable, so it was kind of hard to tell.
"Oh! And I suppose you want some as well, do you?" Clockk snapped at Aki, already pouring a cup for the woman, the man, and Aki himself without complaint. “Well don’t say I never did anything for you,” he sniffed, turning to the woman.
The woman shied away from Clockk, stepping closer to the male servant skittishly, seeming hesitant to take the tea.
"I said stop yelling at her", Aki sniped in annoyance.
“I’m not yelling!” Clockk yelled. He then saw the servant shying away from him and huffed in aggravation, setting the tea cup down before her instead. “Take it or don’t, see if I care.” He grumbled.
He then walked over to Kharn, circling him. “With all this fur you would have thought you would be warmer. Obviously not. Don’t you have something warmer to put on?” He asked, suddenly perking his ears and looking over to Aki.
“What about you!? Warm Clothes!?”
Aki picked up the cup of tea and held it out for the servant, though he didn’t offer her half a glance.
The woman immediately took the cup and bowed her head in thanks before stepping back out of the way.
"Yeah, I have warm clothes with me,” Aki replied. “Are we staying here for the night?" He raised his hand as a signal to stop the male servant, who was about to search for said warm clothes in the noble's luggage, once again not giving the man a glance.
"I didn't think we'd need 'em since we're headin' into the desert,” Kharn pitched in.
Clockk looked over his shoulder, looking for Gulmont and Argyle, but they were nowhere to be seen. He clicked his tongue, turning back to Aki. “Well, seen as it looks like I’m the only one capable of making a decision, then yes, we’re staying here for the night.”
He walked up to the youth, clicking his fingers in his face. “Hey!” He called. “They’re over there. You might want to look in their eyes every once in a while. They’re your krewe, show them at least the respect of looking them in the eyes.”
Aki leans back, away from Clockk's snapping fingers, and rolls his eyes. "They're not my 'krewe'", he mumbles half audibly.
“They carry your things, they do work for you, they follow you around,” Clockk says to Aki, like he’s spelling it out for him. “They’re your krewe, by any other name, so they should be treated as such, not like they’re not even there.”
He then turned back to Kharn, letting out a sigh. “I’ll see if they’ve got anything for you here.” He then paused. “Don’t you have quarters here?”
"Well sure. We could use them if you get Gixx's permission. I mean, I can use 'em but not sure 'bout the rest of you."
“Then you’ve warm clothes you could put on, don’t you, you dithering club foot!” Clockk groaned at Kharn, throwing up his arms before lowering them to pinch the bridge of his nose, rubbing his eyes, looking like he’s developing a head ache.
"Who's Gixx?" Aki asks.
“Gixx is a self-important curmudgeon who has a long memory and holds a grudge longer than Hoddsdottir’s arm.” Clockk said, then pauses for half a second, only to continue as if he’s just remembered something. “Oh, and he’s the head of the Durmand Priory,” he added, like it was an afterthought.
“Heya. Good tea huh"? Kharn grinned over at the female servant. He either didn’t realize the purpose of the two servants, or doesn't care.
The lady servant smiled politely at the charr, nodding in agreement. "Yes sir, very good, sir", she said softly.
"Sir? Nah, my name's Kharn, Dragonbane Order, Durmand Priory. Nice to meetcha! An' you too"! He grinned to the other servant as well.
The woman curtseyed and the man gives a bow, but they make no initiative to introduce themselves. "A pleasure, sir", they both chime.
Kharn scratched his head. "Soo.... what's ya names? You have 'em right"?
The servants remain quiet, until Aki turned to look at them. This display of attention seemed to be a ‘go-ahead’ from the noble.
"My name is Walter, sir", the man said.
"I am Agnes", peeped the lady.
"Bah, petulant brat," Clockk glared at Aki.
Aki just rolled his eyes again, but fails to prevent a small cocky grin from forming on his lips.
Turning to Walter and Agnes, Clockk said, “I am Padmavyuha Captain Clockk of the Dragonbane Order, Master of Temporal Theorem. It is your pleasure to meet me. Please excuse young Aki, it seems that he WASN’T TAUGHT ANY MANNERS by your employer.”
"Aku is polite!" Kharn declared, then mumbles "... some of the time anyway..."
Every inch and mannerism of the servants had been most pleasant and polite until then, but hearing Clockk's words seems to incite slight shock and disdain. Though they try to mask it with their civility, they clearly regarded the Asura with less favour now.
"Young master Lapin is a most well-behaved gentleman, I assure you, sir", Walter said.
Clockk looked the two of them over, looking down at them from over the rim of his monocle, or at least as down at them as an Asura can. He let out a huff, waving a hand dismissively. “If you like being treated like dirt by someone that’s your own prerogative.”
"You don't get how this works, old man", Aki said calmly to Clockk before taking a sip of his tea.
“Oh, I know exactly how this works. You don’t bother to give these to the common decency of treating them like they’re people because your father never did, and his father never did, so you perpetuate the cycle over and over.”
He shook his head, his ears flopping as he did so, still completely unaware of his own hypocrisy.
Aki gave Clockk a glare out of the corner of his eye, but decides to not argue with the Asura.
Clockk muttered to himself, crossing his arms and sipping at his tea.
Walter stepped closer to Aki and leaned down to speak softly. "Permission to step away to arrange for your accommodations, sir?"
"Yes, go ahead."
With that, the male servant left.
“What, you can’t even do that for yourself?” Clockk asked bitterly, waving a hand after Walter.
"It's their job."
“Bah,” is all Clockk says. He got out his data pad and began to tap away at it, frowning to himself as he mutters.
"Man, hope it pays well," Kharn speaks up.
Aki slowly turned to look at Agnes.
The lady looked surprised and stammers a bit, "L-Lord Lapin promised the most generous payment for this assignment, indeed", she squeaked, "upon our return."
Aki turned back to face Kharn and nodded.
Clockk stopped tapping, perking an ear. He stared at his data pad for a long, long time, lapsing into silence, the only sound being the crackling of the fire as it burned away merrily, and the chattering of conversation from Kharn.
For once, he didn’t say what he thought, he only stareed at the data pad, at the picture of his sons and daughters upon it, the permanent scowl that usually adorned his face strangely absent, instead replaced by a sombre, sinking sense of dread.
"Huh, ok. What about spendin' money? Might be some nice souvenirs out in Elona." Kharn continued.
Agnes waits for the go-ahead from the noble once again before speaking. "No sir, no spending money", she replies sheepishly.
"WHAAAATT"? Kharn declared. "Man that aint fair! Uhh, let's see... here! I can lend ya a few silvers. No gold on me at the mo though... but it should be enough! Bet Annorn'll lend ya some too if ya ask nicely."
Agnes gasped quietly and raises a hand in rejection of the offer. "Oh, n-no, I cannot possibly accept... I cannot pay you back."
Aki seemed to not care one way or another.
Clockk tapped away at his data pad for a moment and then all of a sudden, Aki's data pad blinked, indicating he has a notification.
Aki deftly flipped out his data pad and taped to view the message with one hand.
It was a cat video, the little feline meowing loudly.
He lets out a small amused "hm" and is once again absorbed into the digital world.

Spoiler: Show

Posted Dec 14, 17 · OP
The Road to the East:
Chapter Eight

As night fully takes its hold, the stars begin to peek out from the sky above, Illuminating the snow in a silver light that makes everything look almost ethereal. It’s as if the world around the priory has turned into a treasure trove made entirely of silver.
Argyle stands on a high rock, just outside the Priory, looking out over the valley below that’s covered in a layer of white. Pine trees scatter the landscape, peeking out of a fine mist that all the way up in the mountains can only be cloud.
He doesn’t turn his head as he hears the crunching of footsteps behind him, nor does he when Gulmont walks up beside him, his arms folded, rubbing them as if to act as though he’s feeling the chill mountain wind.
The two stand in relative silence, looking down at the landscape that they must traverse the following morning, neither one saying a word, the only sound being Gulmont’s chattering teeth and the creaking of leather as he rubs his hands up and down his coat.
Gulmont shuffles from foot to foot, trying to find the words. The argument they’d had a few days ago still weighed heavily upon him. He tried to find the words to apologise, but none came to him. He had never been very good at saying he was sorry.
The silence stretched on between them, Gulmont forgetting all about keeping up the façade of being cold, and instead simply standing beside Argyle, looking out at the valley below, as still as the Sylvari, almost statuesque.
Argyle’s breath plumes in front of his face, though Gulmont has no such thing. His chest remains still, no breath rattling around the dead ribcage that once held his lungs, which are now no more than shrived up husks in a decaying carcass.
As the silence becomes almost unbearable, Argyle breaks it, opening his mouth to say in a monotone voice that’s perhaps even more emotionless than the rest of him, “I said nothing.” Those three words were the first thing he had said since they had begun the trip, just Clockk, Gulmont and Argyle.
Gulmont did a double take, his hair whipping about his face. He almost lost his balance in his surprise and went toppling over the cliff edge, falling down to the rocks below, where he would no doubt have spent a long time climbing back up.
“What?” he asked, so taken aback that he had no idea what Argyle was referring to. His mind swam with the various possibilities, reaching out for some sort of connection to the three words Argyle had uttered.
“I reiterate,” Argyle says, sounding a little like a recorded message. “I said nothing.”
“Well I know that,” Gulmont assures him. “It’s not escaped my notice that you’re not the most chatty bloke around.”
“No,” Argyle interrupts, cutting Gulmont off. “Before. At the Hunting Lodge. I said nothing. You shouted.”
Gulmont averted his eyes, looking down at his boots. “Yeah…I did, didn’t I. Listen, I…” he begins, only for Argyle to interrupt him again by raising a hand, his arm creaking. He looked up into Argyle’s empty, colourless eyes, confused.
“You feel guilty,” Argyle begins, spelling it out for Gulmont. “You feel for this person. But you’re loyal to Ehbrel. You bottle this guilt up. Never speaking of it. But the guilt bubbles. It overflows. You lash out.”
He turned his head to Gulmont, tilting his head as he watched him with a kind of scrutiny that was so dispassionate that it made Gulmont feel like he was no more than a mouse being looked down upon by a unsympathetic scientist that was making notes on his every move.
“You weren’t angry at me. You were angry at yourself. You still are. You will remain so. Until,” Argyle said, raising a gnarled finger. “Until you solve this. Make a choice. One you can live with. Whatever that means to you.”
He then lowered his arm, turning his head back towards the vista in front of them, going back to being as still as an inanimate object, like that brief moment of activity was no more than something you’d expect from putting a coin in an automaton.
Gulmont stood in silence, his eyes wide with surprise. He was not expecting Argyle to talk that much. He even had a sneaking suspicion that it had been the most he’d ever heard him say. Argyle was a man of very very few words, but when he did speak, he spoke wisdom.
Gulmont cleared his throat, rubbing the back of his neck. “Well,” he began awkwardly. “I’m sorry for taking it out on you anyway. You didn’t deserve that.”
“Nothing to apologise for,” was all Argyle said.
Gulmont nodded, turning to look across the landscape with Argyle once again, taking in all the beauty of the night.
Argyle’s form then shattered, the shards hovering in the air for a moment before dropping to the ground, the shards soon fading away, like they had never been there to begin with.
“I hate it when he does that,” Gulmont sighed.
“I know.” Said a monotone voice on the wind.
Rolling his eyes, Gulmont turned on his heel, making his way back to where he’d left the others, finding Kharn and Clockk alone by the fire.
"I wanna ride the pony mamma...!" Kharn mumbled in his sleep. The Charr had fallen asleep, unnoticed by Clockk and Aki, the latter of which had already retired for the night, his two servants disappearing with him.
"Oh for Alchemy's sake," Clockk muttered, waving to a few of the nearby Priory monks to help him get Kharn to his quarters.
Gulmont returned to find Clockk and two others doing their best to carry Kharn. He raised a brow, but didn’t stop to help, just watched.

Night was replaced by the brightness of dawn. It began slowly at first, an orange hue over the horizon, a smouldering ember that began to grow. It traveled across the mountain sky, turning the ice and snow into gold.
Argyle was up with the dawn, walking away from Vervain’s hidey hole that he’d been guarding all night. He walked out to the front of the priory, joining the monks in their daily exercises. He performed his own, and some followed him, but most of the scholars did their own thing.
Gulmont watched from the stairs that led down to the great Priory Bridge. His keen eyes tracked the monk’s movements as they shifted through each stance, the positions reminding him a little of a dance, only slower and with a different kind of fluidity.
Clockk remained passed out with Kharn, having fallen asleep soon after taking the Charr to his room. The duo were sprawled out, their mouths open, Clockk in particular snoring loudly, something he only ever did when exhausted.
Once Argyle was done with his morning exercises, Gulmont walked over to him, pointing a thumb back over towards the Priory. “I’m gonna go check on Clockk an’ Kharn. You got Vervain an’ Aki?”
Argyle stared at Gulmont for a long while, then nodded woodenly, turning to walk towards the dormitories.

Within Kharn and Clockk’s room, an alarm starts to go off. It’s a simple beeping noise, but it wakes Clockk with a start. He looks around with bleary eyes, not quite sure where he is, before he lets out a little groan and wipes the drool from his cheek. “How many athermetric computations did I do last night?”
"WHERE'SMY POOONNYYYY"??!! Is Kharns answer, complete with the odd flailing of a limb or two. At least it wakes him up. "Hhruhh? Oh is it mornin' already"?
"Apparently," Clockk grumbles, groping around for his monocle. When he finds it he pops it back on his face, glancing around. "Why am I only now noticing what a mess your quarters are?"
"Whaddya mean? Everythin's in its proper place so I can find it. Hey, what's for breakfast"?
The small mountains of random junk don't match Kharn's description of the place. Several piles of scrap are in one corner, a mass of book and paper stacks in another, much of the floor is paved in what looks like rocks and pebbles.
"By the Alchemy, did those socks just move!?" Clockk calls out, taking a step back from the mound of clothes, a hand going to punch his nose. "Have a sense of decent hygiene!"
The Asura begins to go around cleaning the room, gagging every now and again at the stench or when his hand lands on something squishy.
"Hey, there you are Frank!" Kharn goes over to pull the offending sock. It does move. Not just move but undulates.
"Don't name unidentified molecular species, Frank!" Clockk bellows, holding out a bin and waving his hand at it. "I'm not even sure I want to examine that thing for scientific discovery!"
"Huh?" Kharn looks confused as a rather small grub emerges from the sock. "Nah, this is frank. He sort of lives here."
Clockk deadpans, and then explodes. "WHY IS THERE A GRUB LIVING IN YOUR SOCK!?"
As Clockk shouts, a banging comes from the other side of the wall, and a muffled voice says, "would you be quiet? Some of us are trying to sleep!"
"OH SHUT UP!" is Clockk's only response.
Frank meanwhile, wiggles around, springs up like a horse, then launches himself at Clockk.
Clockk lets out a gargled yelp as the grub lands on his face. He topples backwards, falling into Khan's pile of dirty laundry, the strange sound he’s making only becoming all the more exasperated.
"Aww, he likes you!" Kharn grins.
As Clockk flails in the dirty laundry, trying to get Frank off his face, there's a knock at the door and Gul's voice comes wafting in. "Are you two ready? It's time we were off!"
Kharn rumbles around in a random pile for a bit before whipping out some old apple cores. They hum with a foul stench, and Kharn holds his nose as he wafts it about in front of him, spreading the aroma around. "Here Franky! Num nums."
Frank perks up his head, detecting the smell, then crawls off of Clockk, wiggling towards the apple cores just as Kharn lays them on a small plate. With a noise that can only be described as delight, the grub tucks in, munching away.
Now free of the grub and the dirty laundry, Clockk jumps to his feet and storms out of Kharn's room, leaving Frank with a few choice words.
Gulmont just shakes his head, "It's going to be one of those days," he muses before winking at Kharn. "We'll be by the bridge," he says before turning on his heel and following the irate Asura.
"Oh heya Albatross, didn't see ya there. Hang on let me get my socks on. oh wait I don't wear socks. so how come I got socks in my room? HEYWAITUPGUYYSS!"

Spoiler: Show

Posted Dec 15, 17 · OP
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