By Blake Tan
Continued from part one:
“Are you done?” Jehanni asked when Geirmund stopped to breathe, snorting and chuckling, wiping snot from his beard. “Well, what do you think?”
“By the Spirits, warmaster, you’ve been dreaming of an assignment like this for as long as I’ve known you!” Geirmund roared, pounding his chest. “Let’s take the fight to Jormag! It’s time to crack the Fang of the Serpent, and Geirmund Gavelfist’s the norn to do it!”
The sylvari opened her eyes, golden flecks of pale light, and regarded her warmaster and the norn crusader. “What of the asura?”
“Nixx and his krewe have the resources. They’ll find other guards,” Jehanni said, though she left the truth unsaid. The asura surely had the coin to hire on new guards, even out here in the wastes of the Maguuma, but none the equal of a Vigil security team.
“The little asura are on the brink of a breakthrough, warmaster, and if Nixx is right, the applications of the technology would be nothing short of miraculous,” Eris said. “And if the rumors around camp are true, then Scarlet Briar’s plotting will put this location in extreme danger.”
Geirmund touched the axe on his hip. “I don’t share the tactician’s enthusiasm. New weapons are always welcome, but when the dragonspawn are bearing down on you, I put my trust in my own hands over asura golemancy.”
“This is more than just simple golemancy, crusader!” Eris protested. She reached into the satchel she wore over her shoulder, rummaging through torn and crumpled pages of research. “Nixx has found a way to synergize golem tech with the ancient magic of the druids of the Maguuma to create a universal tactical battle harness.”
“A siege golem?” Jehanni asked, raising an eyebrow. “We’ve spent years protecting this research site for Nixx to reinvent a siege golem?”
“Reinvent?! REINVENT?! Warmaster, I am utterly offended!”
The three Vigil soldiers turned, their discussion interrupted by the arrival of an asura, his goggles pushed atop his head. He strode into the room, his power armor clanking with every step, sparks of electrostatic energy bouncing from the joints. Even Geirmund gave the asura a wide berth, unwilling to risk another confrontation with Nixx’s patent TITAN armor system. Jehanni found herself smiling at the memory of Geirmund flipped hand-over-foot with a flick of Nixx’s arm when the norn had laughed at the idea of the asura being his equal in a wrestling match while wearing the suit.
“If what I’m doing is just reinventing the golem, warmaster, then Gadd was just reinventing when he thought to infuse golems with the bloodstone energies during the defense of Rata Sum in 1078 AE!” Nixx said, producing a warhammer from his back and pointing the crackling head accusingly at Jehanni. “You swore – swore on your honor – warmaster, to stand beside me until my work was done.”
“I know what I said, Nixx, but orders are orders,” Jehanni replied, crossing her arms. “I can’t go against them, even if I wanted to.”
“Ha! So you admit it then. This posting never suited you, Jehanni.” Nixx put the hammer away, slumping, his ears drooping down so that they hung past his knobby chin. “I will see about hiring a new security team then. Can you at least stay until I find one?”
“Of course, Nixx,” Jehanni said, but before she could say more the asura had turned and begun stomping away. “Wait, Nixx –“
“There’s nothing left to be said, warmaster,” the asura said, looking over his shoulder, his big, saucer-like eyes glistening. “I thought that we were friends.”
“Oh, Nixx, you this isn’t about that!” Jehanni said, her heart dropping like an anchor. She forgot how emotional the asura could get. Nixx was peerless in the fields of golemancy – the Arcane Council highly recommended his talents to the Vigil – but the little guy had the emotional toughness of a baby quaggan. Despite his sensitivity and fragile nature, Jehanni found she had even grown to like him. “Nixx!”
But the asura refused to listen and kept on stomping along, shoving past a pair of Vigil soldiers returning from patrol. One of the troopers caught the brunt of Nixx’s rampage and was tossed flying through the air until he landed with a thump in front of the warmaster and her officers.
“Crusader, report,” Geirmund grunted when the soldier picked himself back up.
He saluted and Jehanni recognized him from her former command in the Seraph. “Nothing out of the ordinary, sir. Recruit Bonfaaz thought he saw one of them mosshearts, you know, the really big ones, but it was just a tree. Otherwise, jungle’s quiet, sir.”
“Moa-Brain Ben? Is that you?” Jehanni asked, putting a hand on the sword hilt at her hip. “Shaemoor garrison, under Lieutenant Ryder?”
“Yes, sir, that’d be me, Jehanni,” the crusader replied, beaming, then catching Geirmund’s glare, corrected himself, “I mean, warmaster, sir.”
“When did you join the Vigil? And better question, when did you get transferred to my command out here in the middle of nowhere?”
“After the Pact kicked Zhaitan out of Orr, sir,” Ben said. “When I saw your name come up on the lists, I volunteered to fight under you. You’re a damn good soldier, Jehanni – um, I mean, warmaster.”
“Why do you think she’s in charge, wurmspit, and not me, eh?” Geirmund cut in, “because if I was your warmaster, I’d have you hauling dolyak feed from here to the Shiverpeaks if I caught you talking so comfortably to me.”
“At ease, Geirmund,” Jehanni said. “Ben is an old friend.”
“Aye, sir, old friends, sir,” Ben echoed sheepishly.
“The Pale Tree tells me you two were more than that. Lovers, perhaps?” Eris asked, her golden eyes dancing between the two of them. “Definitely lovers, I’m almost positive.”
Jehanni choked, coughing, before nodding toward Ben. “Best pack your things, crusader. We’ll be marching out soon.”
“Uh, right. I mean, yes, sir, warmaster!” Ben half-walked, half-ran away, joining his squad and out of earshot before Jehanni rounded on the sylvari.
“So I was correct!” the tactician said, clapping her hands.
“You being wrong or correct isn’t the problem here,” Jehanni said, her cheeks burning. “That’s a private matter!”
Geirmund looked out over the camp, past the light of the campfires and the asura’s magitech lamps, peering into the depths of the jungle. “Is it decided then, warmaster?”
She regarded her second with some interest. “Are you having doubts now, Geirmund? I thought you’d be the first one aboard that airship.”
“Don’t get me wrong, warmaster, I’m glad to take the fight to Jormag, but – ,” he trailed off.
“Doesn’t feel right to leave a job half-done,” Geirmund said, shrugging. “Even if that job’s been sitting around getting fat.”
Jehanni followed Geirmund’s gaze into the jungle. At night the Maguuma came alive with noise and unseen activity. There could be Inquest, bandits, Nightmare Court, and much worse out there. But Nixx and his krewe weren’t completely defenseless, even without a security team. They had their golems and their intellect, which made attacking them a much more difficult venture than most. But was it enough?
Continued in part three.