Monday, February 10, 2014

Notebook: Last Vigil, Part One

Last Vigil
By Blake Tan

“Compliments from the marshal, warmaster.”

Jehanni looked up from the reports scattered across her desk, the magitech lamps flickering in the dim gloom of her makeshift office. Backlit by the moonlight outside, the messenger stood with an easy, unassuming posture, half slouching, his hands in the pockets of his overcoat and his mask pulled down around his neck to reveal a cocksure grin only an agent of the Order of Whispers would dare to wear in her presence.

“Nolan,” she said through gritted teeth, folding the corner of the page from Tactician Eris’s latest report. General Soulkeeper might be fool enough to trust the spies of the Order, but Jehanni knew to trust only in her own sword and shield. “Out with it and quickly. Unlike others in the Pact, I do not have time for foolishness.”

The agent tugged at his coat sleeves, pulling loose a folded letter from a hidden pocket. Still with that idiot grin on his face, Nolan handed the letter to her. “New orders from the marshal in Orr: The commander is leading the majority of Pact forces north. The norn in Hoelbrak have been pushing the Pact to engage Jormag in the northern Shiverpeaks, and Captain Magnus in Lion’s Arch is likely to join them in clamoring for another victory over the Elder Dragons.”

She ground her teeth at the mention of Orr. It was the battle of the ages, Pact airships engaging Zhaitan’s champions in the sky, soldiers of every race and background rallying under the banner of Tyria to deal the killing blow to an Elder Dragon at the Gates of Arah. But when the Pact had launched its invasion of Orr, where had General Soulkeeper put her but in charge of a Vigil security force in the far west of the Maguuma? Jehanni clenched her fist. She was a soldier, not some over-inflated watchman.

“So soon? Even with Scarlet terrorizing the rest of Tyria?” Jehanni asked, peering over the letter, her mouth twisting. “I’d rather we make a stand with the people of Lion’s Arch, especially with the Aetherblade pirates opening portals to the Mists. Whatever they’re up to, it’s not good.”

“The Pact fights dragons, warmaster, not insane sylvari. Scarlet is a matter for the Pale Tree and the Firstborn to deal with, not us,” Nolan said, wandering toward Jehanni’s table of drinks. His fingers touched the stopper of a dwarven brandy – a priceless gift from the kodan of Snowden Drifts – but he stopped when he felt Jehanni’s glare on his back. “Your dislike for the orders, Jehanni, is noted, but orders are orders and this comes down from the marshal himself. Even Almorra is wholly onboard with the plan.”

“General Soulkeeper is eager to take the fight to the dragons, but she risks overextending our forces. The Vigil is not infinite in its manpower,” Jehanni argued, the letter crumpled in her fist. “And I believe the Scarlet problem is not as separate from the Elder Dragons as you think."

Nolan sighed, a dagger suddenly appearing in his hand. Jehanni stiffened, a warding spell coalescing at the fore of her mind, but Nolan simply tossed the dagger in the air, flipping it, and catching it before giving the warmaster a severe look, the friendly façade falling away.

“I’ve heard of these theories, Jehanni, but there is no proof that the madwoman Scarlet Briar is linked to the Elder Dragons, no matter what those –,” he paused, biting his lip, trying to find the right words, “—heroes from Delaqua Investigation might think.”

Jehanni slumped, the fight going out of her. What could she do, after all? She was a soldier of the Vigil, sworn to do her duty and follow orders, whatever those orders might be. Even if it meant marching the wrong way. “What does the marshal require of me?”

All smiles again, Nolan nodded to the crumpled letter. “You will take your troops east toward Kessex Hills where an airship will pick you up for redeployment in Frostgorge Sound.”

She blinked, not believing her ears. Frostgorge Sound would be the thickest fighting, the site of the fiercest offensives against Jormag’s icebrood. Nolan crossed his arms, his grin reaching his ears.

“The marshal’s heard of your thirst for glory, Jehanni. Here’s your chance,” he said. “Don’t screw it up, eh?”

With that, Nolan disappeared through her tent flap, leaving Jehanni alone to wrestle with the newfound exhilaration welling up in her gut. The Sound meant she would be part of the Pact vanguard, the glory she’d been chasing since leaving the Seraph finally within her grip. But her hands still shook, and her eyes wandered back to the Eris’s report, and Jehanni found that her doubts had not left with the Whispers agent after all.

Continued in part two

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