The night is warm and thick in Lion’s Arch. The encroaching summer causes the wet sea air to settle and crawl through streets despite the breeze. Spring sighs under it’s humid weight amongst a chorus of cicadas as it clings to it’s few remaining weeks.
Isolde Blackstone’s eyes open, and her consciousness is greeted by the dark, heavy night. It’s late. Or early; she can’t quite tell at the moment on which end of the cusp the land has tilted, and the sun moves. All she knows is that she shouldn’t be awake, and yet something won’t let her sleep. It nags at the back of her neck like a stubborn itch.
It’s all so quiet and still. Nothing but her stirs in their upstairs apartment, and not a sound rises from the shop below. Though she knows these mean nothing.
With a sigh, she finally untangles herself from the massive mess of furred limbs that was her sleeping husband, and drapes a robe of patchwork silk about her bare shoulders. He growls lowly at her absence before rolling to his opposite side, taking the blankets with him. Isolde chuckles softly and presses a soft kiss to the tips of his ears. It’s a marvel he can sleep so soundly despite the legendary prowess of charr senses. And she muses so as she ties the robe around her.
Magic sparks between her fingers as she descends the stairs, ready to be wielded if necessary. Yet her intuition told her it wouldn’t be. While there was something very off in this still silence, there was no danger here. However, her guard was a difficult conditioning to break.
The shop was just as she left it; everything was in its rightful place, dark and quiet aside from a faint, green glow in a back corner. It was the soft phosphorescence of a Sylvari. The color is distinct.
With an expert and effortless grace, Isolde soundlessly weaves through the mannequins, looms, and Briareus’ engineering experiments toward the light’s source. No, there was no danger here. Just some minor mischief, and a lack of common courtesy. She supposed she could let these things slide.
She found the young thief not conducting any mischief this time, but instead bent over his makeshift workstation, carefully mending a satin hem. He was quiet, face devoid of his contagious smile and boundless energy. It was strange. And she found the meaning for the nagging that left her sleepless.
“You know,” Isolde’s voice breaks the silence, though it’s soft and even, “When I said you were welcome here at any time, I had hoped to have a little warning before hand. I would have left the door unlocked and been a little more presentable.”
Genjl starts. A few pins scatter to the floor with the faint tap of their tips against the wood. “I’m sorry,” he murmurs as he scrambles to retrieve them, “I didn’t want to wake you.”
“Well darling, a lot of good that did, hm?” she stoops to help him. “I’m awake now.”
“I know, I’m sorry,” he repeats, his tone timorous. He rises, the last pin in hand.
Isolde smiles fondly and adjusts her robe as she reaches to turn on a lamp. “Don’t work in the dark, love. You’ll ruin your eyes.” It’s more of a gentle reassurance than any sort of command. And it’s only once there is light that she notices unsolved the logic puzzle sitting at the table’s corner. Idly, she runs a finger over it, noting the recent wear from a lot of noncommittal fiddling.
“Though you’re not really here to work, are you?”
Genjl’s fingers curl around the fabric in his hand. The bark of his lips purse for a moment, but it’s brief, and his own smile can’t stay away for long. “I just thought I’d help.” He looks to her, some of the spark returning to his golden eyes. He can’t help but muse to himself how beautiful his human mentor is even without a painted face and dark curls askew. Her presence is warm enough to make him feel at ease. Or at least, as much as his worrying mind would let him. A hand smooths the garment over his thighs.
“I appreciate it, Genjl, but I think we both know you’d get more accomplished during work hours rather than the middle of the night.” She reaches for the chair at her own station and draws it to take a seat next to him. The robe flutters about her as she pulls it closed and arranges it over her crossed legs for modesty’s sake. “Tell me what’s troubling you.”
There’s a pause, and within it Genjl regathers his needle and thread. “I guess I just needed something to do. So I came here.”
Isolde’s hand comes to rest at her mouth as she nods. The other reaches for the logic puzzle and picks it from its place. She feels the sylvari’s attention lock onto her immediately, and his following unease. It causes her to frown, but she doesn’t put the puzzle down. “Does anyone know you’re here?”
“They’re busy,” Genjl replies, harriedly setting back to work. His stitches are deft and precise; a fast learner.
“Commander Bordren? Captain Ironwood?”
“He’s busy. Jesse’s busy. Fiel is… They’re all busy.”
His dismissal causes her to frown deeper. “And you are usually in the middle of their business.”
The lamplight catches the knowing gleam in her striking teal gaze. Genjl pauses again. He studies the garment in his hands, and how the needle glides in and out of the fabric’s weave. Words roll about his mouth but he doesn’t say them right away. It’s as though he’s having trouble finding the right ones to use, or even trying to figure out if he knows how to string them together.
But Isolde is patient.
After a moment, she returns the puzzle to its corner. “It’s alright, dear. Just say what’s on your mind.”
“I can’t.” Genjl’s reply is strained. “I don’t know.” He leans forward as his hands clutch the sides of his head. The soft glow of his body brightens and pulses erratically before dimming. The dress falls from his lap and to the floor.
Isolde reaches for him, hand gently falling to his arms as she gathers the sapling close.
In that instant, the flood gates open.
“I don’t know anything. There is all of this and I don’t know any of it,” Genjl sputters as he slumps against the mesmer’s chest. “And I can’t help because I don’t know anything. This… this Sahad. He knows everything. About the dragons, this Unseen One. Abaddon. He made himself a god. He says his Wyld Hunt is to defeat this other god. Koryander says Abaddon was forgotten. There are chains. And we can’t beat him. And the dragons! The Dragons!”
There’s a wild gesticulation of his forearms.
“Kraklatorrik is here. He’s here! I heard Mordremoth in my Dream,and sometimes I swear I can still hear him. But I don’t know if it’s real. I don’t know if it’s my memories or someone else’s. Others are called to hunt them. To defeat them. Their Wyld Hunts were to defeat Zhaitan. Brigid! She’s doing so many things. She knows so many things. I can’t… She… And! Sahad is a god! To defeat gods! But I have nothing! I know nothing!”
There’s pain in his voice as it rises.
“I don’t have a Hunt! I should! I feel it! I know it’s there because it calls to me and pulls me! But I don’t know what it is! I just have this emptiness and uncertainty that reminds me how much I don’t know and how big this world is and I only have so many bits and pieces. I can’t even put them together. I found the Vanguard and I hoped they would help but I only have more questions. I don’t know who I am or what my purpose is. I don’t know who I am or what I am to be. I don’t know who I am! I don’t know anything! And I just…”
Genjl seizes a moment, every verdant muscle in his body tensing, before he suddenly goes lax in Isolde’s arms.
“I just… thought maybe you could help me…”
Isolde is quiet. She is thankful that the dim light masks the pallor his words have left her with. There were names among those he uttered that made her shiver at their implications. But they were a battle she had more time to prepare for. Right now, there was a hysteric sylvari in her lap that required her full attention.
“Oh darling,” she coos softly, running her fingers over the branches of Genjl’s head, “that is so much.” She feels him take in a deep breath, chest rising and falling against hers.
After a moment she eases him upright, though leaves her hands securely on his shoulders. Her grip is secure and comforting. “Do you remember why you agreed to come to me and join the Order?”
Genjl nodded, and wiped at his cheek with the back of his hand. The bark glistened with moisture. “Yes.”
“You chose to do that, right? And you remember what you said?”
“Because I could help save people.”
“Right. And I told you it was your choice. You had the right to say no. But you took it. You took it for your own reasons. You made that choice, and no one else did.” Her tone is firm, though her volume does not rise. “You choosing to join the Order, you choosing to join the Vanguard, you loving your Jesse, your reasons for doing so, and all of your amazing, wonderful talents, specialized as they may be; all of these things. These are who you are. These are your purpose.”
She places a finger beneath the sylvari’s chin, tilting his gaze to meet hers. “Now, I may be more versed in the dealings of humans and Charr, but I do know this. Your Hunt is special, but it does not define you. A calling does not define you. You define your calling. And you define yourself. Perhaps all of these choices you make, all of these things you do and learn are preparing you for your Hunt when it presents itself to you. Not knowing it now does not make you lesser, or incapable. You are not Sahad or Brigid. Though you may be connected, you are still you. And there is only one Genjl. One magnificent Genjl, who knows himself and more things than he is willing to admit to himself.”
Her finger traces his jaw to the line of his nose, and gives the bark a gentle tap. It elicits a smile that reaches the gold of his eyes. They seem to shine so brightly, it nearly drowns the lamp light. She’s not entirely sure if her words meant anything to him, though she hoped they did. The impact this young sylvari had on the lives of those around him was something of note, and so disheartening to hear that he couldn’t see it himself, too wrapped up in purpose and expectations.
“Come now, love, let’s get you to bed. The hemming can wait until morning.”
Tentatively Genjl takes his mentor’s offered hand and stands. Politely he averts his gaze as she pulls her robe about herself, before tailing her up the stairs.
“I apologize the guest room isn’t in order,” she says as she opens the bedroom door, “If I had known we were expecting company I would have gotten it together.” She casts a rather pointed glance at him, a smirk curling the edge of her full lips.
It causes Genjl to recoil a bit sheepishly, his smile faltering in reflection.
“But I do hope you’ll find it comfortable.” She turns to leave, and the door creaks on it’s hinges as she pulls it behind her.
“Isolde?” Genjl’s hail makes her pause.
The next moment and his arms are wrapped about her in a tight embrace, his head falls to her shoulder. “Thank you.”
Isolde’s lower lip rolls between her teeth as she makes a futile attempt to bite back a smile. Her arms curl to rest on his back and pull him closer. “Of course, darling. Get some rest.”
He releases her, and slides into the bed on the other side of the room.
“Tomorrow, we’ll talk more about this Unseen One and this Sahad. And Genjl?” Isolde gives him a final look around the edge of the door. “In the morning, contact Ironwood at the very least and tell him you’re here.” She catches the sprout nodding in the darkness just as she pulls the door too, and it latches with a faint click.
Briareus stands in the hallway. His hulking form takes up all of the available space, horns casting eerie shadows in the streetlight bouncing from the fog below. It makes his eyes glow like embers, and they smolder with concern as he gazes at her. But they burn away the chill that had settled in her chest.
“Everything alright?” his question is a low and gentle thunder.
Isolde nods and pushes herself from the door. She finds her her way to him and presses herself to the wide expanse of his furred chest.
“For now,” she admits with a sigh, “though I feel we all are, and soon will be, fighting more than dragons.”