There should have been more than three of them at the site. Any expedition in Lornar’s Pass was at risk from dredge, pirates, grawl, and other hazards. But time was of the essence, and hands were in short supply….
Ambrosine had chosen a ridge above the excavation as her sentry point. She wasn’t worried about trouble at the site itself–there was little that the two necromancers below couldn’t handle themselves. If some imps or anything got stirred up, they wouldn’t last long.
Still. There should have been more than three. “Do you think we’ll ever be at full strength again any time soon?”
Ceridwen paused her parts-cataloguing long enough to consider. “…no,” the sylvari said simply. “Not with the current goings on in Elona. Not so soon after Mordremoth’s fall. I expect to be twice my age before the Priory’s halls don’t feel so empty.”
Ambrosine chuckled softly. “As long as it’s not twice my age.”
It was quiet for awhile. Then Rikvi’s head snapped up and she froze, eyes glazing over. “Ambrosine,” the Norn said tonelessly. “Northwest.”
Ambrosine swung her longbow up, just in time to let fly an arrow at the first pirate to crest the hill. “Figures,” she muttered under her breath. Then, in her Boss Lady voice: “Ceridwen, your friends. Standard tactics.”
“Yes ma’am.” Ceridwen hummed softly as she summoned her fleshy companions.
Rikvi had already shaken off the fog of premonition and taken up her greatsword. Whatever the pirates had been expecting it wasn’t _that_. It was one thing to brace yourself for the ferocity of a Norn and another to be ready to face a nine foot tall woman with a skull-adorned greatsword coming at you in a cloud of miasma and death.
The second, smaller dose of death that dogged her heels was just adding insult to injury.
Ambrosine dropped her longbow in favor of mace and shield as soon as the last of the pirates had joined the melee. A quick count had stopped at twenty before she’d radioed for backup.
How fast that would come, though…
Ah well, it’s why I’m here, isn’t it?
She got as close to Rikvi as she dared, and watched her back.
Help arrived in the form of two Lionguard, probably one of the road patrols. This turned the tides nicely–the Priory and Lionguard together had better equipment and training than the pirates, and the survivors began to break off shortly afterwards.
The Norn Lionguard had no mercy, and stepped aside to lift her rifle. Several of the runners didn’t make it to safety.
But not all fell.
Rikvi hated her foresight when it came upon her so suddenly, and so uselessly.
Here are a hundred directions the situation can go. You have seconds to look at them and figure out which ones involve the least death.
The healer amongst them is always the most important. Rikvi had many skills, but she only knew what to do with bodies after they were dead. And so–
Rikvi snapped her head to the left, towards the mountain. “Ambrosine, shield!”
There were no enemies within range of the shield on her arm, so that could only mean one thing.
“Maybe call it barrier or something,” Ambrosine muttered, before shouting, “Close in!”
She threw up the magical dome just as an explosion rocked the mountainside. One of the pirates must have decided that if they couldn’t have the artifacts, no one would.
The second Lionguard, a Charr elementalist, was able to dart inside the bubble as rocks started sliding. But the rifle-weidler was too far away–
There was no way to make it large enough and strong enough. Not when she was already winded, and wounded to boot.
“Jo!” the Charr elementalist who’d been with her leaned towards the limits of the shield.
“Wait,” Rikvi said, sliding her full attention to the other Lionguard as a terrible fear knotted her gut. She knew a Jo who patrolled these roads. “Jo? Please tell me that is not short for Jofurfost. Mundgeirssdottir?”
But the Charr nodded mutely, and Rikvi slammed her greatsword into the ground. “Ambrosine, we need to find her.”
“Oh by Kormir’s knickers,” Ambrosine said weakly. Her shield flickered and died. A few loose stones clattered to the ground, but for the most part they were in a safe little circle, surrounded by boulders that could have crushed a dolyak. “Another cousin of yours, Rikvi?”
“And near-kin of yours, as well.”
Ambrosine wearily tried to figure that out as she heaved herself over the rocks. “I don’t know how much I’ve got in me, Rik.”
“I’ll help.” The Charr was right behind her.
Well, at least the woman–Jo–had been wearing heavy armor. That had saved her some grief, and she was only half buried when they found her. Rikvi, the Charr, and Ceridwen’s minions did most of the heavy lifting, while Ceridwen played assistant to Ambrosine.
It wasn’t until she gently eased off the woman’s helm that Rikvi’s comment made sense. The line of her jaw, the golden skin, the black-red hair…
“Ingridr’s sister?” Ingridr, wife to Jim, who was brother to her Jess. Near-family, sure.
“Yes.” Riklvi sighed. “Ceridwen, keep watch with me and let them work.”
Healing was…intense. In combat it was a slapdash ‘throw magic at the problem and let the body do its thing’ but this was of a far more delicate nature. No magical healing was without cost, and Ambrosine was carefully cherry picking her way through Jo’s injuries. This isn’t life threatening, it can heal on its own. This I need to heal right now or she’ll die. This leg injury, too. This broken arm can wait. This back injury is something I should heal, but if I do, there might not be enough strength in Jo’s body to survive…
And so on. A hundred judgement calls, and a solid hour of detailed magical survey of a body, basically. Ambrosine wouldn’t have had the power to do it if the Charr hadn’t been at her shoulder, lending the strength she had in plenty while letting the guardian guide where it went.
“This is as good as it gets, Rikvi,” Ambrosine said hoarsely. “She should be coming around now.”
But she wasn’t.
Rikvi looked at Jo and frowned, then…looked at somewhere not Jo, but rather just over her shoulder, and frowned harder. “Excuse me, I need to rip a hole into the Mists and fetch a soul. One moment.”
The Charr looked at Ambrosine. Ambrosine shrugged.
“She can do that?”
“It wouldn’t surprise me.”
Rikvi was no havroun, to be able to cross into the Mists at will. But she was a Revenant, which meant that accessing the mists from here was something she could do. Could she find a soul through one and shove it back where it belonged?
Eeeeh, that another question. Time for a field experiment.
The only reason Rikvi considered this possible was because Jofurfost’s soul should not have wandered far, not with her body still technically alive.
Rikvi took a deep breath and…sliced through into the Mists. There. It was like reaching for her revenant abilities, if you squinted just a little bit.
Jofurfost. Daughter of Snow Leopard. Lionguard. Fierce warrior. Eldest child. Cousin of my blood, if distant. Come.
As Rikvi named Jo, she found her: one confused but intact soul. Rikvi made a mental grab for her, then yanked…
“Ambrosine, drop magical contact with her,” Ceridwen said suddenly.
Jofurfost sat up coughing, and took several deep, shuddering breaths before looking at Rikvi, aggrieved. “Raven take me or leave me, but please, make up your mind.”
“Forgive me, cousin. I did not see what was coming until too late.”
Ambrosine took a second to assure herself that Jofurfost seemed to be okay before surrendering to the black at the edges of her vision.
Rikvi sighed deeply and rubbed her eyes.