Part 1: Trials and Tribulations

Kryta: Three years ago, after the fall of Lion’s Arch.

The impenetrable wall of white rose up before him. At some point, he could swear the crags and peaks that he thought he saw weren’t real. His fur-lined cloak was wrapped tightly around his armored frame. Shield slung over one shoulder, with sword set loose in his scabbard. Jotun looking to protect their territory, or Ice Elementals that wandered about, both were present threats that he was keenly keeping an eye out for. To any members of the Irregulars that would see him now, he might appear unrecognizable. His hair was longer, uncut for a few weeks, and he was sporting a thick beard. Almost three weeks of wandering would leave him in a haggard looking state.

The valley spread out before him, the snowstorm abating enough to give him at least a halfway decent field of view. He stopped for a moment, making sure his bearings had a brought him to where he thought he’d made it to. It was mostly unmarked land, having been lost to the encroachments of Jormag. “It’s been too long since I’ve been here my friends.” Faces flashed before him, men and women who’d put their lives in him to lead them to glory and riches, as well as defense of Tyria. None were left, save one, at least as far as he suspected.

“Too long indeed, Bordren.” Echoed a voice in the back of his head. He spun, the naked steel of his Ebonhawke crafted sword glinting like a mirror in the crystalline white that surrounded him again. His eyes were wide, wary, almost feral. “I-Impossible. You can’t be here.”

“But I am. But I am not here to torture you. I’m here to help you.”

Riathan turned, checking around him, a little less wary. Turning again, and looked as if almost melting out of the shadows, a figure stepped out. Daggers strapped to his hips with a shortbow clad on his back. “I’m here to help you make things right. And put our comrade’s spirits to rest.” A sigh slipped from his rough lips, chapped from the cold and wind.

“I really did think you were dead, Al.”

The thief pulled down his hood, his dark hair whipping in the winter wind. “Come on Bordren, you should know me better than that. There isn’t a simple thing as a Icebrood Lieutenant that can keep me down. Although it was the first time we ever saw one.” Alastin Galrend, his long time accomplice and friend, and thought long dead. The thief paused for a second, the thoughts flipping through his head for a moment, of that terrible moment.

The two kept moving, towards the spot they both were sure they’d never leave, or return to when they actually did. Riathan paused for a second, thinking of the other Company that he was a part of, realizing he had no idea what they were involved in at the moment. Were his new compatriots in danger? He didn’t know, and he couldn’t afford to, not now. The note he received by way of courier made far more sense now that Al was here. Two weeks later and here he was, back in the farthest corner of Snowden, in a deep recess of a cave network. Random pieces of equipment littered little alcoves as they passed. Riathan tried his best not to recognize who they belonged to. He failed, every time.

Alastin was right beside him, a shadow over his shoulder, flitting from shadow to shadow. Crunching behind him caused Riathan to spin around, gripping the hilt of his longsword and bringing up his shield just in time to deflect four razor sharp ice bolts. He fell to one knee, projecting a wall of light to help protect Alastin as well. The thief darted past him, his twin daggers spinning in his fingers.

He leapt over a swinging arm as the first of the lumbering Icebrood norn duo, slashing at frozen jugulars and frosted hands to disarm him. Riathan blinked himself forward, a flash of white light dazing the second of the group, who was about to lift up his frozen maul to smash Al. Riathan’s blade embedded itself in its sternum, and he quickly ripped it out, frozen blue chips of what used to be blood. It crumpled down, stunned by the sudden attack, and still blinded by the flash of light. The third clambered towards him, bearing twin frost rimed axes. Riathan deflected one with his shield and parried with the other before spinning around him and hamstringing him. He could hear the tendons snapping and breaking, the frozen muscles shattering. Al was busy darting around his own opponent, his gleaming blades ripping the creature to shreds. The creature fell in a shower of ice and blue blood. Al wiped his blades clean on his leathers before resheathing them. “And to think we’re just getting started.”

Part 2: Deeper and Deeper

The footsteps of the two comrades echoed with a mixture of wet and dry crunching. The pools of slightly warmed, blue blood sliding down the icy ramp. At the bottom of it, an icey maw opened up into a large cavern.

It was hard to tell from their position whether there were any further passages, simply from the size of the room and the eerie stillness of the room. It wasn’t completely dark, with all of the corrupted ice lining the walls emitting an unnatural light. It wasn’t bright, and it certainly wasn’t clean, and staring directly at the ice too long gave Riathan a headache. Al was right beside him, sword and dagger out, a brace of pistols on his belt as well as a second dagger. He’d picked up the sword from one of the dead Icebrood Norn, and while it was a short sword for the Norn, for Alastin it was a full length longsword. Riathan was still equipped with his Ebonhawke Longsword and Krytan Kite Shield. They had quickly become his favorite things at the moment. Both of them clutched their equipment tightly and kept them ready for use. It had been nearly fifteen minutes since their encounter at the top of that long ice chute, and the quiet and stillness was beginning to unnerve them. Their fight hadn’t been quiet, and both were expecting more of a response.

Moving further in, they kept close to the walls, despite the discomfort it gave the both of them with the unnatural ice formations. They saw a corner and gingerly peeked around and moved forward. There, in a huddled mass, were the frozen and broken remains of three males. A human, a norn and a charr. The charr’s tail and horns were broken off, and the norn’s frozen beard was chipped away like a piece of stone. Riathan did his best not to retch at the sight. It wasn’t the gruesome details, like the human’s missing arm and leg. He knew their faces, all three, and the sight of the horror forever marked on their faces made him feel sick to his stomach.

He knelt down, facing them. Al glanced back a few times, watching out from the corner to keep them covered. The pained look on his face, one that Riathan wouldn’t see, but guessed was there, was more than enough to show he felt Riathan’s pain. They were comrades to both, but ultimately it was Riathan who bore most of the burden. Three more dead, confirmed. He searched among them and found three items he had on a list. From the Norn, a broken and shattered horn, that lay next to his broken form. From the Human, a satchel containing letters home, and from the Charr, only his tags of service. Lorengar, the norn, had often used that horn to signal the charge of the Company. Wilhelm, the human, had often spent nights writing home to his wife and child. Riathan dreaded that meeting. Skrox Steelforge, had only requested that his tags of service be submitted to the Iron Legion command. Riathan glanced down at his body, and picked up the Charr Engineer’s pistol. He had a friend who he knew would want this as a memento of their fallen comrade. Pulling out the satchel he had strapped on his back, he gingerly deposited all three heirlooms. That was how he saw them now, heirlooms, in honor of the fallen.

Standing, he turned to his compatriot, nodding. “Let’s move on, we need to find all of their remains. I made a promise to all of them, and I failed, I won’t leave here empty handed.” Al had watched the way Riathan had almost reverently placed the items in the bag. He knew how much this weighed on his friends shoulders. The importance was shared, although Al would probably never admit how much he shared in the guilt. He had survived where they had not. Gripping his dagger and absconded sword, he turned and walked with Riathan, heading back out into the cavern. Three more bodies were found, all separated from each other by frozen stalactites that had erupted from the ground between them. At each one Riathan stopped and collected their heirlooms. Victor’s axe, it’s handle many notched and grip worn smooth, a mostly broken comb, butterfly’s ingrained on it that had belonged to Jillian, the groups mesmer. Finally, a pressed flower collected to be delivered home in Rata Sum for Kallix, the asuran elementalist and botanist. Every member of Eagle Company had a piece to be delivered home upon their death. And every one Riathan had gathered. He tried his best not to picture how they had all been cut off from each other into smaller groups by the Icebrood. How this place had shifted and become a complete deathtrap. And then he came upon the two breaks in the ice. They were sealed, but he could see through the slightly opaque surface to the chute below. it hadn’t fully reformed yet. Al was standing near another, a similar look on his face.

“You fell into one too then?” Alastin nodded. In the midst of the fight, Riathan had fallen through this patch of ice, and despite his best attempt, had slipped and tumbled all the way down, sliding down another ramp into an ice melt, washing out into a frigid basin below. He could see where he had attempted to jam his sword into the ice to catch himself. He could see the top half of his blade still embedded in the wall, frozen and shining with Corrupted Ice. That was how the both of them had survived the encounter, pure dumb luck. He thought again about the Firstwatch, and the work that he had done and was missing now. He felt a tinge of regret on not being with them now. But he had debts unpaid, and he would not go on without repaying them. He and Al were both broken out of their reverie by a rumbling behind them. It had seemed that they had been discovered… again. In the same room that all of their comrades had been so violently disposed of.

Author Riathan
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