It is nighttime in Woodhaven. A gentle frigid breeze blows through, and a Charr guard smothers a cough with her parka. The flickering torches barely provide enough light for her to see her colleagues on the opposing wall. There is little noise – she can just about hear the unearthly growl of a cultist's ghostly minion on the tower's main room – but she knows this peaceful quiet will not last forever.
A mild noise teases her senses – a slight whistling sound. Her heart pounds, her grip on her shield tightens; she knows exactly what that sound is, as so many of her wounded and now deceased colleagues have described back at camp. The war is no longer far away – it is about to come crashing right through their door.
“Trebuchet! Brace yourselves!”
The whistling sound has now grown into a deafening roar. The guard looks up, and she sees it – several large flaming projectiles, heading straight for her section of wall. She stands there for a moment, stupefied, all her senses lost in bewilderment. A fellow guard calls her name, pulling her back to reality.
“Stonemaw! Vinna Stonemaw! MOVE!”
It was now or never. She dashes down the stairs to the courtyard with her colleagues, barely managing to brace for impact when the first of the shots hit the wall. The explosive force of the impact knocked her off her feet, and debris rained on her. The next shot sent a piece of wall flying straight for her, crushing her right leg. The pain is too much; her hearing and sight dim as the painful sensations overtake her. She sees the bloodied, broken body of an archer, contorted in an unnatural pose, and cries in pain and despair. She barely hears the sound of the alarm as darkness overtakes her.
Early morning in Rata Sum. Some asura have started ambling around the large superstructure, relieving their fellow researchers as they take shifts watching their experiments. Merchants and travelers alike are walking into the mercantile district, bringing fresh merchandise from all over the world through asura gates. The whirring sound of golems and machinery echoes throughout the various levels and walkways of the bustling city. A charr and an asura stand near the gate to Lion's Arch at Magustan Court. The asura clears his throat.
“Ahem! Ladies and gentlemen, please take a moment out of your busy lives to listen.” Some newcomers gather around, eagerly listening. “Join the Battle for the Mists! Defend our world! Geniuses and others needed to keep evil at bay! Fortune, glory, and victory await the conquering warrior! Come one, come all!”
A merchant heckles from the other side of the square. “Oh, sod it, you shameless scum! You already have sent many to their deaths with promises of prestige and victory. No one is going to win the Endless War! You aren't defending anything! It's nothing but an arena where the strong kill for sport, and you are not going to be sending anyone there. Not today, not ever!”
The charr growls at the heckler. “Come off it, or I will gut you where you stand! Mists business is our business, and it definitely isn't yours.”
The small crowd surrounding them already had dispersed, having lost all interest. The asura sighs, sitting down. “Let me reiterate, my dear feline friend, for the umpteenth time. These dust bunnies have no interest in gut-wrenching, mind-blowing war! We'll never get recruits. At the rate the Mist War has progressed, and seeing as most of our recruits don't make it back, I'm not surprised the public isn't exactly enthusiastic about joining.”
The asura stretches, relaxing on the courtyard steps. “It's your turn to dance and sing. I tell you, the more time I spend in this recruiting gig, the more doubt I have on the things I'm saying. One day, I'll forward my resignation and have a nice vacation in Southsun Cove.”
The charr scoffs. “Just be glad you are not on supply escort duty.”
He straightens up, letting a sigh. “But, you're right. The Mist War will still be there tomorrow.”
“You, there, sylvari in the blue robes! Come here, and let me tell you what I have been through. Let me show you what the Mists are like.”
The war had not reached Champion's Demesne for quite a while. Most of the guards are sitting on the grass, telling stories and discreetly passing along some ale. The quartermaster has resorted to sleeping, her production quota for the day completed. The supervisor is tending to a dolyak, already laden with supplies. She pulls out an apple from a bag, offering it to the bovine while she looks in the distance.
The supervisor grumbles. “Where are those guards? We're already late and they still haven't shown up for escort duty. If this supply doesn't make it to Redbriar before late afternoon, I'll have Rinimir chewing me out until the end of days!”
“Steeledge! Geldan!” Two guards stand to attention. “You two seem to be the most sober of the lot, so I'm assigning you to escort duty. I cannot afford to delay this shipment any longer, and you're all I have to spare. If you make it home by end of shift, I'll see about hazard pay.”
The human rogue balks. “Oh, no. You aren't making me do this. I would like to be alive by today's end, thank you very much – hazard pay or none.”
The charr growls at his partner. “As if you have a choice. Now, step to before you get demoted to sentry duty. We need these supplies moving, now.”
Holding the reins and a carrot, the human coaxes the dolyak forward. It grunts and snorts, moving at a walking pace with its heavy load. As they finish crossing the bridge, the charr signals them to stop. Narrowing his eyes, he scans the area ahead of him.
“All clear. From this point on, it's only you, me, and the yak. Let's go – and pray to your gods. We'll need it.”
In the distance, a shrub rustles slightly. Virtually invisible to the naked eye, an arrowhead barely peeks out of the camouflage. A whisper, and an acknowledging growl as two shining feline eyes vanish from the shrubbery.
The citadel is bustling with activity, even if it is under cover of deep night. The plaza is full of people, people of various races and garb. A call to arms has resonated around their realm, and many have risen to answer the call. Many are hardened veterans, but the majority are green and eager to prove themselves. The crowd buzzes noisily with conversation, but soon a voice pierces the noise.
“Soldiers, attention! The commanders have decided it is time to form up.” The soldiers form into three ranks, and as soon as the ranks have solidified, the plaza descends into stillness and silence as the soldiers await their orders.
At the front of the ranks are three soldiers, standing among banners of their realm. These soldiers stand out from the rest – a thief, wielding a sword that crackles with lightning and a dagger that has a blade of fire; a warrior, brandishing a greatsword that has the night sky as a blade; a guardian armored in a gleaming gray metallic coat, leaning against a colossal hammer that some soldiers swear is made of liquid steel. Some look with respect, but many look in awe. Never before have they seen such magnificent weapons, but there they are – and their wielders will lead them into battle.
The thief speaks first, her alto voice piercing through the darkness. “We will split into three groups. I, Kirena Laernei, will lead my group into the enemy's borderlands, and we will wreak havoc among their holdings.”
The warrior speaks next, his voice carrying through with perfect clarity. “In the meanwhile, I, Rikker Faldark, will lead the largest group to battle in the most glorious of battlefields – the fabled Eternal Battlegrounds.”
Lastly, the guardian speaks – although her voice is calm, it still is heard by all. “While the other two fight abroad, I, Bricia Silvershield, will stay – and together, we will stem the tide, through fair and foul, as long as there are enemies in the horizon.”
The three form a salute, and look up as they chant. “In defense of all we hold dear, and in pursuit of honor and victory, we stand together, both as the sword and shield of our glorious realm. May our weapons strike the enemy, and our shields stave their blows. For our world!”
The soldiers raise their weapons in salute, and solemnly reply.
"For our world."
“Hey, Andrew. Get your tools. The commander just gave us an order. We need these doors strengthened.”
The Dreaming Bay is hotter and more humid than usual today. Most of the guards have loosened their armor, and the supply dolyaks that do make it have been going slower and gulping in much more water than usual. Andrew, the workman for the keep, has begun fortifying the keep's doors – and the sound of hammering resonates throughout.
The workman stops as he hammers the last nail on a reinforcing beam. “Did you hear? A dolyak just up and died right on the gates a couple hours ago.”
The quartermaster sighed. “Another one? I keep telling the commanders to give them a break and slow the supply lines down, but they never gave them the time of day. Working them like this isn't worth the supplies. We can't ask the good folk up on Dolyak Pass to give us more than they already do to supplement our own dolyak raising operation.”
Andrew picks up some more supplies, heading over to another door. “Well, as long as you're a lowly quartermaster, you can't really do anything about it. As long as we have commanders who see us men as nothing but servants, nothing is going to change for the better.”
He hears a distant chuckle. “Too true, my friend. They do have a point, though – we are merely small cogs in an ever-moving machine.”
Dusk falls, and Andrew has finished installing the last reinforcements on the outer keep doors. The air has cooled considerably by this time, and the torches are being lit. Some guards have gone back into the keep to rest, their relievers already on the way to their posts. Andrew lays his toolbox down as he relaxes in the supply depot.
“Thank the gods. I thought the heat would last the night.” The workman grabs a towel, drying his face and hair. “How many?”
“Four today. That makes thirteen dead dolyaks this week, simply due to dehydration and exhaustion. Let's not even count how many caravans didn't make it due to raids.”
“They really need to give their supply lines a little more attention, before it becomes their downfall. Any news on when the other workman will arrive?”
The quartermaster shakes his head. “Nothing. The commanders keep telling me they don't have anyone to spare at the moment.”
An involuntary yawn comes from the workman. “I really need a break. Wake me up if anything happens.”
“Will do. Rest well.”
The evening has turned into deep night, and yet the air remains humid and warm. The guards have rotated shifts once again, and the torches still burn brightly. The quartermaster leans against a beam in the supply depot, reading the latest communiqué and orders from their command. He turns to the sleeping worker and wakes him gently.
“This just came in.” The quartermaster hands Andrew the papers. “Reinforcements heading to Etheron Hills, the usual applications for sentry positions, orders to expedite the delivery of supply from the eastern manufactories to Etheron and Bluelake.”
“Nothing for us here in the west. What are they doing? Are their coffers so drained they can't send even just one extra man or commission some defensive improvements here? Do they really expect the enemy will just kindly ignore our measly number of defenders while they repeatedly smash their heads on the fortified, manned Etheron walls?”
“The current commander is young, brash, good at leadership in combat. Not as much depth or strategic thinking, however, even if he thinks otherwise. It isn't surprising.”
“Isn't he part of a large guild? What would they be saying about this?”
The quartermaster shrugs. “He's too charismatic. He draws adventurers to the guild like a pile of golem parts would draw skritt. They wouldn't dare hurt their star, lest he and his followers leave them.”
The sound of hammering fills the air. “There's more to our world than its army, however. Vigilantes, independents, raiders, wardens, chaos teams...many small groups outside the army's banner, doing what they believe is best.”
The shouting voices of some adventurers waft into the depot – one asking for supply, the other debating where to put a trebuchet. “They may not have the coffers or numbers, but they have experience and unwavering spirit...some of them, at least. They don't need orders, communiqués, chains of command – none of that.”
The worker hands the papers back to the quartermaster. “No orders for today, then?”
“Looks like it – bless the bureaucracy. Relax and take it easy, while you still can.”
Sorry for the slow updates! Time seems to go much quicker than I thought. Enjoy!
Deep night in the Bluewater Lowlands. The mighty Etheron Hills has been relinquished after a long, agonizing siege. The combined armies fought down to the last man, but it was all in vain – they barely had time to evacuate before the enemy would be snapping at their heels. Some time has passed, and supply has flowed into the enemy keep. The first reinforcing beams are already in place, and the sound of hammering echoes throughout. Many raiders and independent bands have tried to wrest control of the southern supply lines in an effort to stop the keep's fortification. As of yet, none of the attempts have been successful.
Just a stone's throw away from the Lowlands' fishing camp, waist-deep in water, another group is about to make another attempt. After a hurried, whispered conversation, they charge the camp's defenders, bursting out of the water and brandishing their weapons.
A Norn warrior, clad in pitch-black armor, charges in first. With a dreadful roar, he sprints to a scout. With almost superhuman speed and strength, he knocks his adversary down with a mighty uppercut. Just as his first adversary collapses, he pulls a hatchet and throws it at another scout. It sinks deep in the scout's shoulder, forcing her to loose a scream of pain and drop to the ground.
A human thief steps out of the shadows and leaps on a guard running towards the warrior. A well-placed stab to the shoulder forces the guard to go on the defense, whirling around. His speed is no match to that of the thief, however – the thief deftly sidestepped his counterattack, and is now to his flank. An impressively accurate pistol shot tears through the guard's neck, and he goes down, clutching his neck. The other guard makes a desperate rush, but a shot to his shin trips him. Seeing his chance, the thief triumphantly flips him on his back and slashes his throat, letting a sinister chuckle.
The thief's celebrations were cut short, however, with a massive hammer blow to the chest, launching him a good distance away. A sharp gasp, then silence from the thief. The supervisor turns to the warrior, gripping her warhammer tightly.
Only the two remain.
Beaten and weary, the supervisor kneels in surrender. A quickly produced length of rope and a piece of cloth – the supervisor is rendered a prisoner. The unconscious scout is next – hogtied, gagged, and hidden in one building. Seeing the coast is clear, the warrior produces a complex whistle. A nearby raven flies over to him and lands on his shoulder, offering a leg. The warrior gingerly attaches a piece of paper to the leg; seeing the paper secured, the raven takes off silently, relaying the message to his group and his world's command.
Gently pulling, he brings his only awake prisoner into one of the buildings. Its hearth still has some firewood; some flint and a gently crackling fire is created. He removes the gag from the supervisor's mouth. No words come spilling out; the woman sullenly looks at the flames and at her captor.
"You're lucky you weren't jumped by the thief. He would have slit your throat the first chance he got."
A weak snarl in response. "Might have been a better fate. What are you going to turn me into? A slave? I'd much rather that butcher stick me like a pig."
"What do you think we are? Barbarians? No point wasting perfectly good labor. No, you'll just be sent to the orchards to pick us food or help out in repairs."
"And then what? Simply wait until the next band of high-and-mighties come and take us under their protection?" The woman scoffs. "Not convincing."
"Who said it was supposed to be? In other worlds, you would just be a trollop, stuck in one of Tyria's more seedy bars until disease or age catch you."
The woman guffaws, gasping with derisive laughter. "Quite odd! That's exactly what we were told of you."
Heaving a sigh, the warrior places the gag back. "Enough."
Almost morning. The noise of a snapping branch wakes the warrior. Quickly gripping an easily accessible blade, he stands, looking around the interior of the building. Noting that his captor remains sound asleep, he creeps to the door and peeks. A figure in silver robes stands in the middle of the fishing camp, looking around. This certainly was not the company he was expecting; a group of workers and guards are due to come, not a lone mesmer.
Creeping back to the interior of the building, he grabs the rest of his gear and puts it on silently. Peeking out, he sees the figure, heading inside another building.
Time was of the essence – he must repel this invader before he sees his captors. He breaks into a run and dashes to the figure, yelling a fearsome roar. Just before his prey is within reach, a cloud of glittering dust explodes around him, causing him to miss and almost lose his balance.
"I swear," the warrior mutters with gritted teeth, "I will find you!"
The sound of a pistol shot to his flank – the shot embeds itself in his left shoulder. A piercing pain shoots up his arm, but he shakes it off. He runs to the source of the shot and swings, only to find thin air. A clink and an almost indistinguishable whirr. Two shots this time – one grazing his side, another deflected by his armor.
"How many are you?!"
Soft laughter, seeming to be coming from all directions. "As many as you would like to think."
Desperate to escape the dust, he rushes forward. Rubbing his eyes, he scans the area – no one in sight. He drops his sword and clutches his rifle, ready to fire a shot.
Another clinking noise, just to his side. He whirls, only to see a small metal sphere explode in concussive force. The sheer force of the concussion device staggers him; his hearing shattered, his mind reeling.
"Give up, so I can ease your torment."
He looks up, seeing three of the silver-robed figure. He charges in blind fury and swings his rifle butt to the nearest image; there was no purchase. He whirls and finds another; a furious swipe to no avail. The concussion has overcome him at this point; he collapses to the ground, his vision fading. One last effort – he could not even raise his hand.
"Never underestimate a Mesmer, brute."
"Wake up, Clay. What happened to you?"
It's midday. The Lowlands are theirs; the personnel have arrived, and work has commenced. A dolyak waits in the supply depot, munching on some hay. Some supply crates have been made; the latest one is being filled with fresh fish and kelp. Some of the warrior's companions have arrived earlier, and a Sylvari ranger is hanging over him inside one of the village buildings.
"A Mesmer. Incredibly good." The warrior sits up, rubbing his temples. "I still have a huge headache. He is unlike any other. His tricks, his illusions..they're better than any other I've seen."
"So he had you at his mercy quite easily, then. Why didn't he kill you, even just for sport?"
Clay looks at the Sylvari, and shakes his head.
"I honestly do not know. Honor? Toying with me? I wouldn't be surprised if it was the latter."
Hi! Hopefully I'll update more frequently now. This is also my -first- stab at writing a graphic combat scene. Any and all criticism and suggestion is very much welcomed.
Recently I added a new tag: "Low Fantasy". An interesting idea came to my head, and I just rolled with it - what if Guild Wars 2 was on a low fantasy setting? No fancy magic, just technology. It came to my head when I read this XKCD comic that had Clarke's Third Law on it:
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
Well, what if the Mesmer was less a mystic illusionist and more of a lightly-armored Batman with shiny stuff? What if the Elementalist doesn't spontaneously generate magic and rely on, I don't know, focuses or magical reagents (like gems)?
It's a neat idea, I think, and I'll be looking to incorporate that more and more into the drabbles - I feel it gives a nice sense of sobering realism that Guild Wars 2 kinda lacks in-game.
MANY, MANY THANKS to ladylaura for helping me flesh out the idea of the Mesmer translated in a low-fantasy environment. Without you this chapter wouldn't have happened!
The sun, high and mighty on the sky, lashed with its rays the defenders and the siegers of the beleaguered tower of Cragtop. Two burly warriors manned a menacing battering ram, beating it against the tower’s doors in a slow, deep beat. On the hill to the side stood a company of marksmen, hoping to pick off any defender that shows his head on top of the tower’s walls. Among them was an engineer who has just finished his contraption, trained at the tower’s main room.
“How many men on the flank?”
The young soldier peeked outside and narrowly dodged a marksman’s arrow. “Fifteen very good marksmen and an engineer with a contraption, sir.”
“A contraption? What did it look like?”
“It looked like it had a firework, sir, honest.”
The officer made a grim chuckle. “A firework. Grab a chisel from the workman - actually, just bring the workman up here. Don’t die.”
The tower shuddered as the door was struck with a particularly powerful hit from the ram. The workman crawled his way to the officer, who directed him to make some holes in the wall. The sound of chiseling and hammering was drowned out by the beat of the battering ram.
“Finished,” the workman barely managed to breathe the word before the officer pushed him and peeked through the hole.
“They didn’t see it,” the officer pointed throughout the walls. “Make more holes like these, so our people can fire through them. You,” the officer faced the soldier, “get those men some guns. You can’t fire a bow lying down.”
Slowly, one by one, the side palisade had small holes for the men to look and shoot from. The door has not given any sign of it breaking down, but every soldier inside knew it was only a matter of time.
“Catch them by surprise. Aim carefully.” Most of the defenders had crawled towards the side, and most had trained their guns on the men on the hill. The officer had aimed for the engineer, crouched behind his contraption.
The defenders’ massed volley tore through the group on the hill. Screams of pain were heard, and the engineer was thrown to the ground, a bullet having torn through his head. Some of the marksmen threw some shots in reply, with no purchase.
“Keep firing while you have a shot!” Shots whizzed from the walls to the hill, and the remaining marksmen retreated behind the hill, pulling their injured and dead. Having seen this, the two warriors abandoned their siege weapon and ran, taking some shots from behind.
There was no cheering or whooping to be heard from the tower’s defenders. A few of their comrades, injured earlier during the siege, had died on the healer’s table. Those who had survived huddled around their officer as he stood in front of three wrapped bodies.
“Eran, Latis, Halftooth. Three more good men,” the officer sighed. “I don’t want to repeat some platitudes or speeches about loyalty. They have lost meaning here. All of you - take care of yourselves, and make sure you don’t go home in a coffin like these three. Back to your stations.”
The supply caravan from the Titanpaw arrived in the Citadel laden with three coffins that night.
“The outside walls are lost. The doors may not be breached yet, but if they stay it’ll be a slaughter,” the commander remarked, looking at the battle from the keep. “Bugler, call for retreat.”
War had finally come to bear on the strong walls of Dreadfall Bay. Cut off from supplies due to a successful siege on Sunnyhill and a raid on their supplies at Faithleap, the soldiers garrisoned in the keep have slowly run out of supplies and rations. It was only a matter of time that their enemy struck.
The bugler’s call pierced through the sounds of battle on the outer walls.
“They’ve sounded the retreat,” an officer on the wall called out. “Get out of here! Move to the keep!” The defenders, crouched along the wall for cover, started making their way down the wall and up the path to the keep. Some of them carried their wounded - the dead were left behind, as they cannot defend the keep.
“The enemy’s in retreat! Break those doors down!” A commanding voice resounded through the sieging ranks, and the battering rams beat on the doors with renewed fervor. A loud crash can be heard on the southern part of the wall as the rams breached the doors.
“Charge! Cut the enemy down!” The war cries of a hundred soldiers filled the air as they charged forwards onto the retreating ranks. Screams and pleas of mercy were barely audible over the sounds of flesh being beaten or stabbed with steel.
“Too late..I was too late.” The commander looked away. “Marksmen, fire at will! Get that engineer to the southern wall! Put the bars on the doors - there’s nothing we can do for our men out there.”
The keep closed and barred its doors, and the men on the wall had started to fire on the fighting as some defenders took their last stand on the bridge in front of the keep. Some of the retreating soldiers reached the door and hammered on it, screaming that they let them in.
An engineer, hauling a contraption, made it up the keep’s walls. A couple of soldiers stood aside to let the contraption sit on top of the walls, and the engineer started to set the turret up, riveting some protective steel plates to the side of the turret’s barrel.
“Soldier, go to our supply cache and find boxes of ammunition like these,” the engineer pointed to a small olive-colored box at the base of the contraption. “Carry as many as you can.” The soldier nodded and made his way down the wall.
“Now, let’s see what this can do.” Aiming at the fracas at the bridge, the engineer crouched behind the turret and pulled the trigger. The turret fired a short burst of shots into the battle, making purchase on a couple of men.
“Good,” the engineer remarked. “Let’s just hope it doesn’t jam.” The turret kept firing into the enemy, burst after burst. The soldier came back with some boxes of ammunition, which the engineer laid beside him.
“Thanks,” the engineer looked at the soldiers alongside him, and at the couple of soldiers that have been hit, bleeding as they lay. “Keep firing - we can’t do much else now.”
Out of food. Out of ammunition. Out of bandages. The last bullets and arrows have been fired, and the siege was not broken. Tens of bodies lay on either side of the keep doors, but the defenders had ran out, and the battering ram continued to beat a deep beat throughout the keep.
“I just want to close my eyes and wait,” a soldier mumbled. “If I’m lucky, I could just fall asleep and never feel anything.”
“How many times did our commander offer surrender again?”
“Five, six times. He just got shot at.”
“I heard this one time in a keep that some rogue put poison into whatever water she could scrounge and just offered it to the others,” Another soldier sighed. “When our people finally broke inside, everyone was just..dead. It was eerie, but when you think about it, it kind of is a better way to die.”
He was met with a derisive snort. “Hah, I wish we had that luxury.”
The battering ram beat on the door below them, and they fell silent. It had turned to night, and the keep was in complete darkness - there was not even enough oil to light a torch, as they ran out of oil days ago.
What seemed like hours passed - it may have been minutes or only an hour - but the last line of defense, the keep’s doors, swung inward with a crash. There was no battlecry from either side, nor did the sound of steel clashing against steel ring all along the keep.
Dreadfall Bay had fallen.
Later, when High Command asked about the surprisingly low casualty numbers, the siege commander just remarked, “They just..they just gave up when we breached the walls. They just lay there and waited for us. Some of my men took glee in that...I can't. There's no thrill or excitement, nor honor or bravery. It's just a slaughter.”