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A Child's Eyes

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She arrives in a gray, blank world. Mists, swirling around her, eddying and glistening in some unseen light. It is as if the air were made of glitter, dew drops, stardust slips through the strands of her long white fur without a hint of touch. The world is so quiet, so empty. She swore there was shouting, her shouting. Images of black space and pin points of light and some mighty, unknown hand, pulling her, inexorably, onward, away, from the fire. There was fire. But she did not fear for her life. Perhaps she is lost in the ashes, now. Awakened to the aftermath of the blaze.

She looks at her hands. Her paws, massive, tipped with cruel, hooked claws. She feels her broad shoulders, stout horns, long snout and jagged, overhanging teeth. A monster. The fire must have changed her. She was not always like this. Was she? What was there before the fire?

What fire?

What is her name?

She begins to walk. She feels hollow, without a name to go by, in this strange, hideous body. She walks for miles, for hours, days; there is no time, actually. She is not sure what time is. She questions the word. It sounds like nonsense. And though her footsteps never seem to gain traction, the sparkling mists eventually clear, and she sees that she is on a vast, empty plain. An eerie blue pallor hangs over the land, from horizon to horizon. Long, burnished copper grasses sway in a wind she cannot feel, for the air, if air there even is, is perfectly still. A lone little twig sticks up from the grass some distance away. She proceeds, huge, hulking form seeming to slip and slither over the earth, gentle as an iridescent snake.

A figure stands beside the twig, its back to her. She reaches out, and places one paw on its shoulder, claws sinking into inky, smoky flesh.

“Who am I?”

The figure stares at the horizon, unmoving, nondescript. She carefully plods around in front of it—and it is gone. One moment, she was looking at the shadow, so familiar, so still. And now there is nothing but empty air.

A shiver runs up her spine, making her fur stand on end. She needs to speak with the figure. The shadow. But it is gone. She is alone, in this ceaseless, washed out world.

She walks.

There is no time, but something must pass, for although the twig in the grasses never grows out of sight, it does become smaller, the grasses on the horizon coming and going. She sees them undulating like amber ocean waves, whenever she closes her eyes. When she closes her eyes, she swears she smells the scent of smoke. Something is burning. Something reeks.

Her eyes pop open, and she brushes a paw over her spotless white fur. Unmarred, but it shouldn't be. It shouldn't. But why? What was it that smelled? This place is scentless. Here, there is no such thing as smell. And the more she thinks about it, the less she believes smell was ever real.

She finds another figure—this time, it moves, and it sits hunched in the grasses, crying softly into its knees. A strong, but battered man. A human. She approaches soundlessly. When she finds herself standing at his feet, she looks down, and holds out a helping hand for him to take.

“Hello.”

Her voice is like a thunderous, furious roar in the thick silence of the plains, and her heart aches to hear it.

The man instantly recoils, scrambling backward frantically, scarred face twisted in horror and rage. He struggles to his feet in his full plate armor, pierced in multiple areas by familiar little holes, though she can't quite place them.

“Get back, foul beast! Must you haunt me even here? Is it not enough to take a man's life, but his spirit, too?”

She inclines her head, a sort of resigned nod. She did not expect this, yet, she is not surprised. The man's face is familiar. Her shoulders slump forward, and she lowers her eyes, meek and ashamed.

“Forgive me. I only wanted to help.”

“Help! Idiot creature! The help of a charr is as wasted on me as--”

“Charr?” She blinks her narrow eyes at him. “What is a charr?”

The man quiets for a moment, rubbing his hand over his jaw, putting it all together. “You, you don't know where you are, do you?”

“No. I do not. I woke up here. What is this? And where have we met?”

“In your dreams, charr,” the man hisses, spitting at her feet. She feels the warm liquid seep into her fur. “You will wander as I have, lost and damned, until you have worn your cursed feet to stubs!”

“I am not lost. See,” she says plainly, turning to point at the little twig, far in the distance. The man looks, and shakes his head, turning away, starting for his own horizon.

“You're already going mad, Rajya Goldeneyes. Weak as the rest of your kind.”

She turns away from the twig, and he is gone. Vanished, without a trace.

Rajya Goldeneyes wanders the hollow, blue earth, and as she goes, no matter which way she faces, the twig is always there, newborn leaves fluttering in the breeze. Eventually, the sky changes—no longer a thick blue slate, but starry, pulsating with a thousand twinkling diamonds, like the water of a lake, rippling outward at the gentle of plop of a pebble. She lies on her back, and watches. She has a name now. Why Rajya Goldeneyes? Are her eyes golden? Is she really a charr? She knows that she does not look like the human man, with his furless skin and small frame, but this charr he speaks of—a terrible word. It sounds like metals grinding together. She looks like a monster, yes, but she is not a monster. She's just like him.

She repeats it, over and over, in her head. Just like him.

Skies come and go, and the twig grows into a tree. Rajya watches it from far off, idly curious. After all, nothing ever changes. What else is she going to do? Tiny little sticks split off into great branches that scratch at the shimmering sky. The tree is so small, compared to the eternity of the rolling plains. Yet it seems to defy the ground it stands on, sprouting little orange leaves, here and there at first, then by the dozens, the hundreds, an excess of leaves spilling down like fresh spring blossoms in the afternoon sun. She remembers that sun, warm on her back, the sound of weapons clinking, birds chittering, and flashes of people—of charr—out of the corner of her eye. Her friends. Patting her on the back, chiding her.

Keep up, Rajya. Pretend to be interested. Or the Primus will yell at all of us, because of you.

She shakes her massive head, fur fluffing and settling. A young cub's voice. But who? A he, but who? And where?

A cub. She is a charr. Charr start out as cubs.

She looks to the horizon, where she thinks the man disappeared, so long ago. Grasses dance and shimmy, tantalizing, like a mirage of days gone by. She is a charr, she is a monster, and the man fears her because of it.

The realization hits her like a flash of white light, and when she sullenly swings her head back to the tree, yet another change has transpired—a desk sits beneath it. A fine, old wooden desk, with a starkly functional chair. In no time at all, she finds herself sitting in that chair, watching as leaves drift down upon a blank sheet of paper, laid out on the desk. She picks up a quill—where did she get that?—and presses it to the parchment.

“All this for a beast like you, eh?”

She looks up. The man is there again, on the other side of the desk, gazing at the tree in wonder, the hard creases and the scowl on his face softened, if only for a moment. He has shed his armor, instead wearing a threadbare tunic and thick tights, little more than undergarments.

“And I got nothing—I sacrificed everything for my people, and I'm probably lying in a ditch somewhere, with a hundred of my comrades. Why? Why you?”

Rajya shrugs, the chair creaking under her great weight.

“I do not know. I know nothing, except that I am a charr, a monster, and my name is Rajya Goldeneyes. You taught me that.”

“I didn't have to teach you—you already knew it. I could see it in your eyes, when you found me. You suffered.”

“What did I suffer?”

“I don't know. Penitence? Perhaps you atoned for your evils against humanity,” the man says bitterly, though not unkindly. “Either way, I think I—I'm ready to go.”

“Go where?” Rajya asks, deep voice rumbling through the rustling of the leaves.

“Onward. To whatever comes next. But I need my name. And you know it. Please, you ugly old fur ball, tell me my name!”

The man slams his hands on the desk, eyes suddenly swollen with emotion. Rajya gazes down at him. Those eyes are gray, pale gray. She has seen eyes like that before. Not the same, no, but like them, the color, the intensity. Like soft morning rains. That swiftly boil and crackle into evening storms, raging tempests that pull at her heartstrings, filling her chest with aching, longing, love. She left someone behind, before she came here. She left someone, and she must find them, she must go back, she must find a way, because someone needs her, the one with the pale gray eyes, the child's eyes, forever a child at heart, perfectly broken in the face of this vast, empty world.

She must go back. She must remember.

“Rin Reichard,” she says, after what seems a pause of many years long. Her voice sounds lethargic, distant, as if coming from behind a thick, silken veil. “I am sorry it took me so long. I have been sorry since the moment I saw you. I will always regret what I have done.”

The man stretches out his hand, placing it upon her paw, on the simple wooden desk. He smiles, and the scars on his face are gone, a man ten years younger standing before her. A halo of white light glows magnesium bright around his head. The sun, welcoming him home. She remembers the sun.

“Wait!” she suddenly cries out, leaping from her chair, reaching out to grab him by the shoulders, “Take me with you! Do not leave me here! Please, I beg you, take me--”

“--I, too, will always regret what we have done. I forgive you, Rajya Goldeneyes.”

And, like the figure that once stood beside the twig, so long ago, the man is gone.

She sits back in her chair. She puts the quill to the paper.

Skies come and go, leaves grow and grow, they flutter down on her, collecting on her head and her shoulders, in her lap and on her blank white paper. Golden eyes remain focused on that paper, waiting, desperately hoping, that the man will come back for her, will take her back to the place she came from, where the sun shines, and a little girl holds her hand. She waits, and she hopes, that she will remember. In a place where there is no time, every moment is an eternity. The man was right. She is lost, beneath this thriving tree. Lost in plain sight.

She sits at her desk. And she waits.
Posted Nov 17, 17 · OP
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She arrives in a gray, blank world. Mists, swirling around her, eddying and glistening in some unseen light. It is as if the air were made of glitter, dew drops, stardust slips through the rivets of her stiff blue bark without a hint of touch. The world is so quiet, so empty. She had thought that Tyria was vast before, that Ascalon was insurmountable and unknowable on its own. But this place is different. Weightless, yet her task looms more heavily on her back than ever before. As she begins to walk, watching the mists slowly thin and clear around her, she feels as if she is awakening again—or perhaps for the first time. This strange plane is so familiar.

The air clears, and indeed, it is the same copper grass she walked on, in her dream. The same treeless expanse. The same broad blue sky. The same wind stirs the air, though she cannot feel it, and the same sun brightens the horizon, though she shivers as if cold. An eerie blue pallor hangs over the land, from horizon to horizon. So beautiful it aches, and the lack of life, lack of the heart of all these beautiful things, makes it hurt all the more.

She pauses. Turns in a slow circle, trying to get her bearings. But there is nothing to bear upon—just the same endless, shimmering, Arcadian swell. She calls out a greeting, though she never hears her voice. Her intent drifts outward into the impenetrable silence, and, to her surprise, receives something in return.

A tree, along the distant horizon.

She wonders what she will say. What could she say? Hello, nice to meet you, Miss Rajya Sleekfur. You were killed in a fire, murdered by a Separatist, but now I am here, to carry on your legacy. To keep watch over your little human girl, who I am told is not so much a girl as a woman. Funny, how in all of your memories, all of the impressions of your love for her that I have felt, she has always been a child. Pure and blameless. Do you really see her that way? Is that who she is? Why does she matter? And why me? Why did I have to awaken like this, when I could have been normal, like the other sylvari, happy-go-lucky and only just leaving the Grove for the first time? You have drove me to so many insensible risks. I have thrown myself into the lion's den trying to find this girl, all for a love that isn't mine. Yet, I suppose it is mine now, isn't it? We are one soul, in my body. Your love is my love. Perhaps I should be happy. Happy that I have this older and wiser being to guide me through these perilous times.

The wind seems to part the grasses for her as she goes. She is not sure how much time passes, for it seems that here, time does not exist at all. As if everything were in stasis, forgotten in some pocket of the world between life and death. But, in what seems like the blink of an eye, she finds herself before the tree, an exact image of the tree she sits beneath in the land of the living—except this one is overflowing with chittering amber leaves, drifting down from its broad branches like sweet spring blossoms. And beneath this tree, sitting at a wooden desk, leaves gathering in heaps on her massive shoulders, is Rajya Sleekfur. Pen has never seen her before—not like this—it is just something she knows. She feels it, in the tightening of her chest.

The charr looks up, only with her eyes, twin golden suns shadowed by a fierce brow. Pen takes a step forward, and holds out her hand, all fear and all doubts lifted from her mind.

“I am Pen Yfan. Tell me, do you know where you are? Do you know why I am here, Rajya Sleekfur?” Her voice is steady, deep and smooth, reflecting a newfound calm that only grows stronger as the charr, gazing intently at her, finally places her paw in Pen's hand.

She closes her eyes, a shudder running through her willowy body. Relief, such relief, so much peace. Her mind is silent. And she no longer feels herself tugged in every direction, like a lone twig fighting against a rainstorm.

“Yes,” rumbles Rajya, her voice like gravel, loose underfoot. “That is my name, is it not?”

Pen steps up to the desk, and leans her body over, pressing her forehead to that of the seated charr, still nearly too short to reach.

She remembers her friends, bumbling little cubs chasing devourers in the Plains of Ashford. She remembers crushing a butterfly underfoot, and carrying it around for hours, waiting for it to come back to life. She remembers loading a gun for the first time, making bombs from scraps, the yelling of her superiors and the bliss of being lost in a good book. She read everything, from war tactics to contraband, historical tomes kept locked away by the Priory folk. She remembers reading about the Ascalonians. She remembers killing the Ascalonians. Hundreds of them. And she remembers not caring, feeling neither pleasure nor anger over their deaths. She did her duty, all she had ever known, and though she was absent-minded and disobedient, she did it fairly well.

She remembers reading her first journal. About the children the human soldier had left behind. And how her life unraveled afterward. Lost in her self-loathing, with little time left for gadgets and gizmos, without enough energy to pretend she had passion for the cause, for war, for a life that she was never meant to live. She recalls making a mistake, her comrades, who had always been kind and patient with her, blown to bits in an open clearing. She fled through the Shiverpeaks, through the forests of Kryta, until eventually she came to the Reach. And there was that little girl. A lost soul, mistreated by the other urchins, who had never known a life without emptiness and fear. She would teach that little girl what it meant to be human. What it meant to be a charr. To be anyone, trying to survive on the face of Tyria. Such a beautiful, brutal world—without brutality, there would be no beauty to speak of. Only indifference.

She would teach her, while continuing her own studies, under the protection of the Priory. The futility of a charr searching for peace in Divinity's Reach. Like a cruel joke, played by the powers that be. She prays to the Six, begs for their forgiveness, and slinks away in the wee hours of the morning, when there is not another soul to be disturbed by her presence.


Pen sighs, so far away from the Mists, scarcely feeling the silk of Rajya's fur on her forehead. Fifty-five years of life flashes before her eyes, and though it only lasts a moment, she experiences every second as if it were only yesterday.

And, at the very end, as fire rages around her, decades of work and priceless historical tomes disintegrating in the bitter inferno of hatred, the world goes black. An unseen force grabbing onto her body, pulling her away, and away, inexorably, no matter how hard she fights, and how hard she roars, how she lashes out with her claws and her vicious teeth, striking with a fury she never felt in life. Twinkling silver stars grow out of the blackness, and as she rages, flailing and fighting, she grasps one—she feels another soul within, a peaceful being, a blank slate about to emerge into the world, fully grown and ready for the trials that Tyria will throw at her. She tries desperately to hang onto that soul, to take its place, but the tide is relentless, and she finds herself swept away, torn asunder. A piece of her is left behind.

They both open their eyes. They gaze at each other for a long moment. What can I say to you, with whom I have shared so much, so unintentionally? You who have given me greater purpose than any young sapling could possibly hope to awaken with?

A simple 'thank you' would be in good taste, interjects Rajya, her voice echoing through Pen's head as if it were her own.

A wide smile blooms across Pen's face, and she throws her head back, laughing, warmth glistening on her cheeks. No more pain, no more confusion, no more nightmares and no more madness.

Finally, she remembers. And she is at home in her own blue bark. At once herself and someone else, just how it should be.
Posted Jan 26, 18 · OP
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Pen lies on her back, watching the liquid sky, heavy with crystalline stars and the inky blackness of night, shimmer and shiver above her. On this particular visit, she found a ridge, a strange sort of hill jutting sharply from the amber plains, and though it seemed to crane hundreds of feet into the cosmos, she reached the top after only a minute, or perhaps, even less. Rajya was waiting at the top, standing still as a statue, looking down over her domain. Empty and oppressively silent, yet the charr does not seem to be bothered. As if she doesn't even realize what's missing. Pen remembers what it felt like when Rajya was longing, for life, for freedom, for the sun—that is gone now. By bringing back the part of her soul that was missing, it seems that the charr has become less alive. More resigned. More of a ghost than a restless spirit.

“You think she will like the tale about the disgraced son?” Pen asks, stretching blue fingers into the stars, and stirring them, swirling them into a gale of icy dust. Rajya's ear twitches as she nods.

“Yes. Marea will like it very much. Adventure and dubious heroes were always her favorites.”

“Dubious heroes. Like Raigar and his crew.”

“I never met Raigar. But from what little Marea shared with me, I would not call him a hero. Not an evil man, but not someone who was placed on the earth to do good, either.”

“So, the son is a bit better than the people I know. Perhaps one of the Accord. They have a wild collection of personalities,” Pen chimes with a smile. She allows images of the Astralarium to trickle through her minds eye, sharing them once more with Rajya. The charr had not been present for the entire adventure—she missed the friendly librarians who let her take a book with her, and the journey back to the camp.

“They do. I enjoyed the Accord, in the brief time I spent on their grounds.”

Pen closes her eyes. She sees impossibly tall golden walls rise up around her on all sides, overflowing with ivy vines, the rushing of water in the distance mixing with the nearby chatter of two sylvari. White noise like candy, so delicate and pretty she could pluck it between her fingers and shape it into a bead, and that bead would fall into the passing stream, bobbing along through lush green valleys teeming with bio-luminescent flowers, until finally, hurling off the ridge of a water fall and connecting with the rocks below, the memory shatters, and she opens her eyes, sighing softly.

“Beautiful. The old headquarters. I was there a few times, myself. But it seems you saw a good deal more than me, Rajya. You, you felt more than me, if that makes sense.”

“It does. I had a knack for feeling things,” Rajya grumbles, pulling her cloak of coarse wool tighter over her shoulders. “Many said it was my greatest failing as a soldier.”

“Really? I thought the pacifism would be far worse.”

“Believe it or not, the feelings came first, and many, many years later, I defected from the legions,” Rajya says slowly, as if speaking to a newborn cub. Pen bites her lip in embarrassment, clearing her throat.

“Right, that does make sense! Well, I have said my stupid thing for the evening. You cannot be surprised at this point. Why don't we change the subject—Rajya, what do you know about revenants?”

“Next to nothing.” The charr's voice has grown cold all of a sudden. The air around Pen's head feels thicker, heavier. She sits up, reaching for a white furred shoulder.

“Wait, Rajya Sleekfur, do not leave me. I have more I wish to ask you! You were well learned in your time, and even if you had little chance to meet a revenant yourself, you must have heard something about them. I want to channel you, Rajya. When I fight. I already have my talents for guns and my highly inaccurate sense of proportion from you, and that has gone quite well, so imagine if I could directly channel your spirit in hand to hand combat? When I use my staff? You knew how to fight with one too, didn't you? You are so much more experienced than I. Allowing you to guide my movements would--”

“--I do not fight.” The answer is sharp and cutting, yellow eyes darting towards Pen's face behind an unpleasant snarl. “What part of 'pacifist' did you not understand, sapling? Twenty years in the home of my race's enemy? You have felt the things I have felt, and you dare to speak so foolishly. As if you are a bouncing baby tree that knows nothing but the Grove and Ventari's teachings.”

Pen shrinks back, withdrawing her hand, clutching it onto the fur around the collar of her coat. “Oh—yes. I, I am sorry. I get carried away, sometimes. I am not all Rajya, after all. I am Pen as well.”

She offers a reassuring smile, but the charr turns away. The charr fades away, melding with the evening shadows before her very eyes.

Pen has discovered that spirits are not quite like the living. They have moments, sometimes hours, even days, where they seem little different. Personalities and memories in a unique fleshy shell, who she can talk to, tell stories, hear advice, learn to cherish as she might a wise old mentor in the corporeal world of Tyria. But just as quickly, they turn on you. They run off, and no matter how long she searches, she can't find her constant companion. The charr has retreated to the Mists somewhere, to brood, or wander, or do whatever it is that moody ghosts do. And Pen feels strangely hollow.

In those hours when she is left alone, when she lies in the long amber grasses and watches the sky glitter and shift, she wonders who she is, who Pen Yfan really is, irreparably altered by a soul far stronger than her own. Would she recognize herself without Rajya in her head? Would she still be a Dreamer? Would she still indulge herself with savory meats, still get lost in the methodical machinery of rifles, still love the tortured land of Ascalon, that she feels far closer to than the Pale Tree herself?

She digs her hands into the dirt. Such questions are dangerous. Fleeting, irrelevant. She is the only Pen Yfan that exists, and ever will exist. Hypotheticals make no difference. Many doors are closed to her, but far more have been opened.



Marea tells herself something similar. She sits very still on a hard wooden chair in the infirmary, the crew's questionable doctor tending to her wound from the previous evening. She took a giant metal pinwheel to the head, and now she grits her teeth and clenches her fists as necromantic tendrils weave through her crushed ear, pulling cartilage back into place. The sound it makes is grisly, wet, sinewy snapping, but through the disgusting melange she begins to hear the birds more clearly, chipperly chittering atop a building across the courtyard. Her eyes flit upward. The birds are small, blue, all standing in a line at the edge of the stone roof. As if watching her, an exhibit on display.

After only a few minutes, the doctor wraps a bandage around her head, and instructs her to wear it just like this for the next three days, after which her ear will have healed properly, good as new. She gets to her feet and strides away without a word of thanks, starting across a long rope bridge to another part of the canyon. It's amazing what magic can do, she thinks, her own insufficiency foremost in her mind. Necromancers can rebuild tiny, minute bones in only fifteen minutes. At least, some can. Not her, never her, the barest minimum of power is all that will grace her since she lost her old focus.

She comes upon a small outcrop in the cliff wall, outfitted with a table and chairs, of once noble make but since scuffed and worn down to better suit their ramshackle home. She sits down in one, kicks her feet up on the table. And finally allows herself to smile. The night before was thrilling—explosions, placed and set off by none other than herself, roving golems and plenty of tech abandoned for the crew to plunder. She lives for the excitement, for the brutality, of a fight for her life. The golem was an unfair match, but even with falling on her ass in the mud and getting whapped upside the head, she can't wait to do the whole thing all over again. In another place, with different dangers, and even better rewards.

Her manic desire for destruction is something she knows to be troubling—it does not bother her, but it takes little sense to put two and two together. That her full embrace of what she considers human nature is what leads to her downfall, over and over again. But so far, since the chilly evening when she spoke to Raigar in the Priory encampment at Fortune's Vale, she has held to her promise. That she would become Marea the Woman, and leave behind the Girl. Leave behind the wanton carelessness. Leave behind the failure.

What constitutes a woman is still to be determined. On the whole, she feels unchanged. She still eats sugary sweets by the dozen, laughs at inappropriate times and becomes needy and jealous when ignored by her captain and best friend. But at the same time, she feels a sense of calm. Something is keeping her grounded. Allowing her to toe the fine line between too much of herself, and just enough. Perhaps she is truly growing up. Maybe she can change. Perhaps it's like Rajya said—all beings, great and small, are capable of changing, of becoming better versions of themselves.

Or perhaps there is disaster lying in wait, just around the corner. After all, life never stays quiet for long. But for now, Marea is content. She tucks her arms behind her head, gazing out over the craggy cliffs, squinting at the hard slate blue of the sky. A sight she has seen in her dreams, for as long as she can remember. Home. For now, she will stay. Live. Work hard and prosper like any average sky pirate might. She will make the most of her time, before the ugly, snarling head of human nature returns to the forefront once more, and plunges her life into chaos.

With a sinking feeling her chest, she wishes that the afternoon would never end.
Posted Feb 27, 18 · OP
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Marea stands in the doorway to her balcony. Her shoulder rests against the stone arch, eyes fixed on the cliff wall ahead. Absently, she works at undoing her braids, long boughs of wavy black hair settling along her shoulders, pocked with leaves and dirt and tiny twigs. A soft rain falls over the canyons, pattering on the leaves of her potted trees, collecting in a puddle at the base of the stairs. She closes her eyes, and breathes. Her mind is quiet, calm, if only for a moment, for a minute, perhaps even an hour. She is alone, and she can pretend that her ducks are in an orderly row.

She is sitting on a window bench, clutching a notebook to her chest, and peering up at the outside world through gilded panes. The room is snug, warm and soft, a small crackling fireplace like music to her ears. Pops and hisses, all so clear in the muted library quiet. From the tower, it seems that she can see the whole city—the stubby, slanting roofs of shops and houses, miniature people hurrying through the snake-like streets, the flags on the outer ring whipping sharply in the colossus breeze. She presses a spindly hand to the window. At eye level with those flags, she can see the green mountains beyond the walls of Divinity's Reach, sprawling, weaving amongst each other, bonds greater than nature itself binding them into one being, until they fade to hazy blues, ocean waves against the gray sky.

She dimly hears the conversation behind her. Rajya skims over a book pulled from the shelves, her claws scratching against paper. A norn woman with an orange braid like rope speaks to her, a tone of reprimand in her voice, and a blue silk pouch in her hand.

“What were you thinking? Plucking some girl from the streets and taking her in. Rajya, this will not be received well,” the woman hisses, keeping her voice low, so as not to disturb a scholar across the room, who hunches over a desk, still as a statue. “Your landlord could increase your rent over this. The Priory is only willing to pay so much for a ramshackle--”

“Do you know what year this book is from?” Rajya interjects casually, turning the tome over in her massive paws. She can't help but sound like thunder compared to the whisper of pages shuffling. That is how it is, always, everywhere she goes. Footsteps that shake the ground, a voice like rumbling stones. Horns that get caught on doorways and broad, white shoulders, folded inward, as if they were trying to disappear.

“Do not ignore me!” snaps the norn, voice rising for just a moment. “I am trying to help you! As if you were not hated enough as it is, the humans will see this as you stealing one of their own.”

“She was an urchin. No one cared for her before. Why would they now?”

“Because humans are petty. As you very well know. Your life's work is a study in pettiness. How cruel we can all be to each other.” The norn's voice softens, a sympathetic smile gracing her statuesque face. “At least take the extra coin. You cannot feed the girl raw animal guts from the butcher's trash heap, as I know you are prone to eating yourself. Truly, it sounds like torture.”

“I do not take more than what I need,” Rajya murmurs, even the gentlest word like gravel underfoot. “And Marea seems determined to eat what I eat. She has been sick several times, but refuses the fruits I have offered her.”

The norn scoffs, shaking her head, and reaches up suddenly, hanging the pouch from Rajya's left horn before she can react. Rajya swings her head about in surprise, trying to see the offending money purse, but it eludes her.

“Fine—keep the urchin. And the coin. I will keep her company while you browse,” the norn obliges with a sweet smile, turning away and striding with practiced grace over to Marea. She kneels down on the floor before the window bench, at eye level with the skeletal little girl. “Miss—Marea, was it? Where are you from, Marea? Do you have any family?”

Marea sits back from the window, torn away from her blissful reverie with the distant mountains. She stares blankly at the norn for a moment, as if her mind were somewhere else entirely—but all of a sudden, her gaunt face lights up, pale gray eyes shining with curiosity. “I'm from here,” she says matter-of-factly, fingers twining and fidgeting in her lap. “I do, do have family—well, that's what they called themselves. I don't miss them, though. I like Rajya more. She's soft.”

The norn chuckles, flashing pearly white teeth. Marea absently reaches up, sticking a finger in her own mouth, prodding at her teeth, already beginning to rot, crooked and chipped.

“She does look soft, I agree. What do you have there?” The norn reaches for Marea's notebook, easily prying it from her fragile hands. She flips it open, to find page after page of sprawling cursive writing, wildly looping and elegant. She squints at it, starting to make out lines from an epic poem. “This is 'Captain Laine and the Endless Sea.' You've plagiarized it.”

Marea tilts her head, still with a finger in her mouth. “P—plaguh—plagiarized. I dunno what that is. I copied the story to practice writing. Rajya taught me all my letters a couple weeks ago.”

The norn raises her eyebrows in skepticism, but folds the book shut, handing it back to Marea. “And you already have hands that steady? Impressive. Do you like the Captain's tale?”

Marea nods eagerly, finally popping her finger from her mouth, and wiping it on her frayed dress. “Yeah! He goes on adventures, and he sees lotsa things. Rajya says I could go to those places, if I wanted to, some day.”

“Ah, yes. You're a little captain-in-training.”

“And those are my waves!” Marea smacks her hand against the window glass, gazing out at the mountains beyond the city. The norn looks out as well, face pensive for a moment.

“They are like waves, aren't they? Well, Captain Marea, I will leave you to your daydreams. See if Rajya needs me.” With that, the woman rises to her feet, and saunters off, vanishing around a bookcase in search of the charr.

Marea loses herself in the mountains once again. She can almost feel the rhythmic swaying of the sea, the tickling of white foam, the cries of the birds, and the crisp wind drawing goosebumps to her skin. She has never left the Reach, never seen a pond. But she dreams of the world beyond, a world which Rajya has so carelessly blessed her with. One day, her life was little more than the gutters slept in. The next, an endless sky paved the path before her, and there is certainty in her heart that some day, she can go anywhere, any way, she pleases. She can be free.

The memory comes and goes in a matter of seconds, and Marea laughs, striding down the stairs to her balcony, footsteps easy and agile on the uneven stone. She is not a captain—not by name, anyway—but she is close, now. She runs the crew, makes the contracts, follows the intel, calls the shots. Yet the shoes to fill are so big, her feet so small. She is drowning in the clouds of her dreams, floundering for purchase aboard the deck of her warship. She doesn't know what the fuck she's doing, who these people that she hired off the streets are. There are no words to adequately express her fear—the sensation of falling that suddenly permeates every waking moment, the lurching in her chest every time someone calls her name—so she screams.

She shouts wordlessly into the silence, rain dripping down her face, and holds her head in her hands. Birds scatter across the ravine, startled by her fury. Her shoulders tremble. Her chest heaves. Freedom stretches across the heavy sky above her, far out of reach, lapping at the waves of distant mountain peaks she will never find her way to.
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Rain showers in a hazy veil over the bay of Lion's Arch, droplets seeming to glitter as they patter across the surface of the water. Marea sits perched on a pedestal at the end of the dock, her back slouched against a pillar, staring out into the somber distance, into the gray, blurry line where sky meets waves, and horizon fades into nothing. She hears movement beside her, the sound of a bottle clinking as an imposing presence settles down on the other side of the pedestal, silent and still.

“Tyria isn't the same as I remember it.”

“So you say.” Cara shifts slightly, trying to get comfortable, brushing a wave of golden hair behind her shoulders, dulled by the fog.

“I know you don't believe me,” Marea quickly replies, a faint smirk on her face, though her eyes never leave the horizon. “I'm surprised so many people do.”

Cara pauses a long moment before replying, deep voice hushed by the rain rattling on the awning above them. “It's not surprising. You... are endearing.”

“Pah!” Marea lets out a bark of laughter, eyes squinting for a moment as she smiles. “And you've made great strides in the art of human emotion. Couldn't be more proud of my favorite automaton.”

“As you know, things have changed since we last saw each other.”

“Of course, it's been years. Never would've expected to find you working as a guard on an airship. Hardly a righteous cause.”

“The Captain is a good woman. It's fine. For now.”

“Maybe it'll help you loosen up.” Marea straightens a bit, finally tearing her gaze away from distant waters. “Y'know, shortly after I left the Wastes, I ended up here. Right in this very spot. I'd sit here every day, long into the evening, just reading or thinking. If you could call what I did back then 'thinking.'” She points a silver finger to the rocky cliffs across the way, gentle waves frothing at their feet. “I built a shack over there out of driftwood. This one Lionguard nerd kept telling me it was a zoning violation, but I think my eyes spooked him, because he never brought reinforcements to kick me out.”

“The eyes. What happened to your focus?”

Marea waves a hand dismissively. “Long story, you wouldn't like it.”

“I believe you.”

“Thanks for the support.”

“So. You lived in a shack.”

“I did! And,” Marea looks over her shoulder, across the bay in the other direction, faint yellow lights blooming through the mist, “And I joined a mercenary company, called Blackclaw. I lasted like, two, three months max.”

“Impressive. That they hired you, I mean.”

“No kidding! And, in this very spot, where I spent all my days in repose, I tried to stab a Warmaster in the face.”

At that, Cara turns her severe gaze to look directly at her, emerald eyes bright even beneath the overcast sky. “Marea,” is all she says, firm dismay in her voice.

“Hey, it was more than three years ago now. I've learned better. Or at least, that's what I tell myself when I lay awake at night. She deserved it, though. Think she bugged me because she reminded of you, a bit.” She idly pets at one of her braids, quiet for a moment. “Except also very, very different from you. Guess I missed having an angry protector all the time.”

“Angry protector?”

“Yeah. You can't argue with that. Beat the shit outta me all you want, but you risked your life for me countless times, even though I didn't deserve it.”

“It's my job.” Cara turns her steely gaze back to the bay, eyes narrowing. “I protect the helpless. Shield the innocent.”

“But I'm neither of those things.”

Cara unhooks an amber bottle from her belt, taking a long swig of the contents, before replying. “You are. Not in the typical way. But I can tell. It's always been written in your face, even when I couldn't see your eyes.”

Marea blinks a few times, quiet for a moment. “Right. It's all in the eyes. That was the first time people saw them, after years and years. After I attacked the Warmaster, I lost my link to my focus. And poof, suddenly, my soul is naked!”

“A strange expression.”

“That's what it's like, isn't it, though? When you look me in the face, you see everything.”

Without turning her head, Cara nods. She stares straight to the horizon, and after a moment, Marea looks back that way, too, tilting her gaze up to the sky, to the lacy gray clouds that sit heavily upon the atmosphere.

“I want to believe you.” Cara taps callused fingers against her knee, an unusual fidgeting movement. “I want to believe you left Tyria, because I can see it in your eyes. Something has changed. I don't have the words for it.”

“You don't have words for much.”

“You look through things. When you speak, you are not present.”

“I guess, I guess sometimes I'm not.”

“Why?”

“Because--” Marea grits her teeth for a moment, crossing her arms over her chest. “Because nothing is the same. Tyria isn't the same. It's so small, and everything happens so quickly. Life here is so easy, yet so terrible. Flip a switch and there's enough light to fill up a feast hall, break an arm and it's fixed in hours. Yet we're tearing ourselves apart by choice!” She knocks her head back against the pillar, grumbling low. “And all of this, all of this success and invention and all of the hate and the fighting, is pointless.”

“How is it pointless? We cannot let ourselves bow to terrible forces.”

“Because Tyria—is nothing.” She untwines her arms, lying them against the stone surface on either side of her. “Tyria is a single star, floating in an endless abyss of millions, billions, infinite other stars. We are surrounded by nothing, and we could be swallowed in nothingness, just like that.”

She makes a snapping motion with her fingers, a metallic shing drowned out by the pattering rain.

“Marea, you're not making sense.”

“Well, I've seen it. And that's what I'm looking at when I look 'through you,' or whatever. I couldn't get away from it if I wanted to.” She licks her lips, eyes unfocused as she stares at the static horizon. “And although it, it terrifies me, I don't want to get away from it.” Her head abruptly jerks to the side, a sort of violent twitch, before slowly returning to her previous position.

“I just don't understand.”

“And you can't understand. Not unless you've experienced it yourself.”

“Fine.”

Marea stretches a hand out from beneath the awning, letting cool water droplets stream over her metal fingers. She watches them drip and run with each other, a soft, glistening dance.

“Nothing is the same. But I still love to imagine I can feel the rain on my skin.”

Cara cups her own hand in the downpour, collecting a bit of water. She looks at it for a moment, hardened visage reflecting in the tiny pool, then parts her fingers and lets it splatter on the concrete.

“It's just water.”

“It's water that I can never have,” Marea says softly, pressing cold, wet fingers to her cheek. “And that's why I dream of it when I fall asleep.”
Posted Dec 9, 18 · OP · Last edited Dec 9, 18
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The sun was just rising, flooding the fields with golden fire, turning great standing stones black against the rubied sky. In the distance along the edge of the cliffs, the Pact airship hovered and whirred, disturbing the long, peaceful silence that Pen has come to know on this strange island. Captain Artur stands beside her, another sylvari, tall and thin with smooth scarlet bark and an informal manner about him, black eyes expressionless.

“Can I hold it?” he asks, reaching for the plump creature in her arms. The bird squawks and flaps its feeble wings and she gently hands it over, caressing the black and white face as she does.

“Of course you can. You can hold most any of them. They are very friendly. But do not try to stop them flying off, or you will get hit in the face.” She offers the latter with a sideways smile, before turning her gaze back to the standing stones, fronds falling about her face like curtains.

Artur strokes the bird's hooked orange beak, examining it curiously. “What're you staring at, sapling? Can't imagine you'll miss this place when we go. Empty handed, of course, can't wait to hear about that from the big boss.”

“Do you feel—something? In the air?” Pen tilts her head slowly, scarcely blinking. For a moment, the blooming sky wavers and trembles, a pond disturbed by a single pebble. A dull fear rises in her chest, memories of the night she lost Bashere suddenly fighting for purchase in her mind's eye, but she pushes them away, buries them in the alien serenity of the Unending Ocean that has cradled her all these months.

“I sense nothing. But, Vigil soldiers are not known for our spiritual sensitivity. I could go grab this girl that talks to the stars? Human mesmer, barely twenty and already going bonkers. I always get stuck with the weird ones.” Artur pauses, ridged brow furrowing as an idle spider-like finger strokes the head of the bird in his arms.

“No, it is alright. This place does strange things to the mind. Probably just passing paranoia.” She looks down at her feet, wrapped in fresh leather boots. She taps the toes of them in the long grasses, and remains quiet, waiting for input from the voice in her head. But Rajya remains silent, wandering in the Mists, likely lost in mourning for the cub she couldn't teach to keep still, and the woman she couldn't keep within reach.

“Well then.” Artur sets the pudgy bird on the ground, and it waddles off to join a little gaggle of brethren nearby, stirring up a trumpeting din. “It's about time we left. I'm going to prepare the crew. Join us as soon as you're ready.” He pats her on the shoulder, smiling faintly, an attempt at comfort. “You're going home, Pen Yfan. You won't die on some forsaken island in the middle of the Unending Ocean. Be happy.”

“How could I be,” she murmurs, so softly that he doesn't hear her as he turns his back and strides away, “when all I cared for is lost to me.”

She stares to the horizon, eyes glued to the wavering disk of the sun as it rises over the sleeping sea.

And then, the pebble in the pond falls again. It sends ripples out over the sky, the waves, the air itself seems to tremble and hum with an eerie vibration that she has felt once before, what feels a lifetime ago, as she bobbed like a twig in a lifeboat, and watched a tiny blue and white airship, engulfed in flames, hurl towards certain death in the raging depths of the sea.

This time is much more peaceful. These is no storm, no howling wind or thunder. The world seems to shift, in what way or direction unclear, and the golden grasses fan outward, undulating as if stirred by a summer breeze. And in the middle of the standing stones, where before there was nothing, is now something. A girl, blinked into existence without fanfare.

Pen snaps into motion, sprinting down the hill towards the little figure that the grasses fan out from. The girl kneels, head tilted back at a painful angle, eyes wide open and staring at the sky, mouth fixed in a grimace of terror. Before Pen can reach her, she collapses forward, a huge sack sliding down from her back and covering her head. Atop that sack, a slab of sheet metal is tied, soot-blackened white, the letters Horiz painted on it in pale blue.

Pen comes to a skidding halt in the middle of the stone circle, tearing the luggage off the girl, and she clutches her bony frame to her chest, her sobs wracking the serene sky.


“Marea the Silent. I prayed to your gods that we would never cross paths again, yet here you are, on my ship, sitting in my own bed, eating my rations. Looking like you're going to snap your neck if you don't—calm—down.” Artur lurches out, smacking a hand on either side of Marea's head and struggling to hold it in place. Marea grits her teeth, eyes squeezed shut tight as waves of vision roll over her, seas of empty stars, echoing endless nothingness, and her body reacts violently, attempting to throw itself away from the horror, still so visceral, as if she had never left the void. As the fit passes, she shoves Artur's hands away rather harshly with her own prosthetic ones, scooting herself up against the wall of the airship.

“I didn't choose the mooch life, the mooch life chose me,” she rasps out, throat hoarse from screaming. Eyelids flutter rapidly, and she folds her arms over her chest, as if seeking warmth.

“You didn't—what? Pen Yfan, does Marea always talk like this? I can't even describe this—this, accent. It's like she's just babbling.”

Pen shakes her head where she perches on a stool by Marea's pillow. “No, I've never heard this before. Perhaps something is wrong with her brain? From trauma?”

“I don't even know you,” Marea snaps, glaring weakly at Pen from the corner of her eye. “You were such an absentee employee that I never even met you. Stop acting like you, like you know me. Weirdass blue kindling.”

Artur and Pen exchange a look, and the latter shrugs. “Whatever she said, she's not very happy with us. I suppose we cannot blame her.”

Marea presses her forehead to the cold metal wall of the ship, taking deep breaths. She aches in every bone and trembles like a withered leaf, blown loose and set on an impossible journey, never to see the safety of a tree as solace again.


Gippa's notes are stacked on the table between them, tilting slightly, a leaning tower of mad ramblings. Artur simply stares, as if afraid to touch them, while Marea slouches in her chair, legs kicked up on the desk, cradling her skull focus between her hands. Her eyes are alight, almost manic, as she observes the sylvari's hesitancy, and an ever-increasing well of life force gathers around her. She breathes it in, revels in it, almost imagines she can feel the skull in her hands with the joyous bliss that holding magic once again brings.

“I feel like they're cursed. Are they cursed, Marea? Did you curse them?”

“I told you, a goddamn ghost contacted me through my ship's communications and told me to come down and help them. When I got there, the Pact ship was destroyed, no one alive on board. Just the skeleton of an asura—Gippa, I would guess—and these notes, bundled up very deliberately. Her spirit was waiting for someone to take them. I did. And I didn't look back.”

Though Marea's odd accent has lessened now, Artur still has to concentrate as he listens to her, warily taking the top bundle of papers from the stack. “And you gleaned from them--”

“--The existence of things beyond Tyria,” she cheerfully completes the sentence, winding silver fingers through the air, energy swirling around them like water. “I assume you know, as the Captain of the rescue team, that Gippa brought her doomed pod of scholars out here to research anomalies in the Mists and the Eternal Alchemy, her hypothesis being that things were going pretty wonky over the Unending Ocean. You can read all about her scientific data and horrific experiences in there, I sure did. I'll need to make copies of some before we part ways.”

“I can't allow you to copy classified--”

“--Excuse me, who's the adventurer that got ripped through space and time and made it back in one piece? That's me, I found the notes, I lived the notes, I compulsively crack my neck every five minutes and I want a few damn sheets of paper. Is that too much to ask?”

“...No.” Artur plops into his chair with a heavy sigh, closing his eyes for a moment. “I suddenly understand Lieutenant Graves very well. Running my own ship has been an incredibly tiring task, and having you here has only made it worse.”

“And you're not even attractive, so you've got nothing going for you.”

“Marea, be silent! Own that stupid old name! Let me think, for two seconds.”

“Sure, sure. What a luxury, peace and quiet.”

Her grip on the skull tightens. Magic is not quiet. It sings to her, entwines and tethers her in connections with the lives around her. She senses them all acutely. After the aching, beautiful silence of Middle-Earth, where at first she longed for the hectic embrace of necromancy, now, a part of her wishes she need never feel that tug on her soul again. Drawn to it, like moths, diving into flames. Sweet and tempting, and she always longs to hold more.
Posted Dec 15, 18 · OP
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Her feet slip fast over the damp sands of the cavern, and only palm fronds, shifting in the warm breeze, attempt to hush her. Whisper-quiet past the Lady’s Bane camp, silent as a mouse as she darts through the sleeping raptors. At the entrance to the oasis, she pauses. Endless rolling dunes, turned milky by the cool moonlight of the highlands, stretch before her, and, unfathomably far in the distance, they weave into the diamond-studded sky. She can only look at it like this, now. An eyeful of stars sends her reeling, trembling, seizing up on the floor like a dying beetle.

She slips a bit on the boulder as she climbs. On a flat patch at the top, she sits down, entwines her legs in front of her, and places her hands, cradling her focus, in her lap. A thumb slips into the old Sep’s eye, running against the jagged edges of raw amethyst there, unable to feel what would scratch human flesh.

Raigar gives her a hard glare. “Where’s Gen, Marea?” he snipes back.

She closes her eyes. They flutter at first, reluctant.

He just stares at Marea, his own eyes narrow and full of rage. “Probably dead too,” he mutters, answering his own question. “Hell, Gio probably got her first. Tortured her, then killed her.” He rolls a shoulder. “What do you care though, right? You’re home, having another jolly adventure with your big brother Raigar.”

With a long, deep breath, she focuses on the darkness of her eyelids, and lets her spirit wander. The desert is barren at this time of night, but soon enough she finds some tiny creature, perhaps a little mouse. She feels it pause, confused, as she latches onto its life force. Then a great panic, kicking up of dust as it flees from an unseen predator, and with little more than a catch in her breath, she steals the same from her prey.

The energy gathers around the skull in her lap, and she breathes out, and in, feeling it ebb and flow, outward and inward, leaving a drop at every joint as she carefully guides it around her body, a weak shield against the stars.

She imagines what she wanted to say.

“Do I look jolly?!” she cries out, striding up to him, jaguars be damned. “I came all this way for you, I left behind actual happiness for you, and this is what I get? You blame me for Gen and Cairndusk yet I left you here, you were in charge, you abandoned them after I had gone, it was you! I owed them nothing! And no one expects anything from me!”

She imagines a steel fist, smashing his jaw to bits. It brings her no satisfaction.

Neither does the imagined yelling.

It makes her sick to think of Gen, potentially ruined and dead. Yet she had never thought of her before. Perhaps for the barest moment, when she first returned to the refuge with the strange blue sylvari on her tail, and went in search of any remaining residents. But after, Gen and all her friends were bleached from her mind as the sun once cleansed her focus, and all she could think of was Raigar, where he could’ve gone, what could’ve gone wrong.

She remembers a time when she was astounded by how things changed. How she grew to love and care for others. And now she sits with her eyes closed and her skin tingling with magic, and she realizes she never really changed. There was always only room for one person in her heart. And when Rajya died, Raigar was the only one who seemed to care, the only one who reached out to her. And what’s a beast without a cause to love and care for, a light to guide her and stay her hand on the chosen path?

With a sigh, she releases the life force, gently, like tendrils of smoke, into the ether. She imagines it winds and twists up into the molten constellations above her, those which she cannot see, but remembers so vividly in her mind’s eye. She remembers standing amongst a strange circle of stones, rising high above the ruins of Fortune’s Vale, and watching the glittering cosmos slide under the indigo clouds. Or more likely, the clouds slid over the cosmos. It can be hard to tell, when she sees all the world with frenzied wonder in her eyes.

“Bigger person,” she murmurs aloud, opening her eyes. Dust billows in pale drafts across the dunes, dancing ghosts that fly faster than they came. “He needs me to be the bigger person.”

She blinks in surprise as a tear from each eye finds its way down her cheeks, and she quickly wipes them away with rough rubs of her hands, hinges catching at skin.

Rajya wasn’t a beast, but Raigar is, just like her. It will take more effort to fix things when she runs away from him. He is far from a repentant soldier and self-loathing scholar; he rages like her, even if it comes from a different place, and manifests in a different way. As she rolls her focus between her hands, she tries to imagine how she would behave in Raigar’s shoes, how she would want him to deal with her. The exercise is not helpful, but the tears do slow. And with her watery eyes she can look at the stars, so densely packed as they are, and see only a crystal blur, shifting this way and that at the tilt of her head.

Abruptly, the tears dry up, and the midnight sky hits her like a brick to the face. A shudder rocks her body from head to toe, she falls onto her side, and for a long moment, all she can see upon her wide open eyes is the void. Impenetrable endless black, swallowing her, squeezing the breath out of her. And the stars like doors, cold and cruel and far out of reach, beckoning her on into nothingness.

Minutes pass, and she ceases to thrash around. Her vision returns, and she finds herself staring at a rock, sand gathering in her yawning grimace of a mouth. She sits up slowly, her flesh and bone still weak from the fit, and stretches an arm out to grab the Separatist skull, rescuing it from the edge of the boulder.

“I’ll be his Rajya,” she murmurs, pulling her knees up to her chest, resting the skull atop them and her head atop that. “I’ll be what he needs, until he doesn’t need it. ‘Cause that’s what you do when you love someone. Right?”

Nothing but sand stirs in the desert below her.

“Thank you. That’s what I thought.”

With a great yawn, she lies herself down again, gently this time, her focus clutched to her chest. Sleep never comes, but any rest will do her good.
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