Apatia - Part 2 (Potential GW2 Story Spoilers
I had known it all along. From the moment Apatia and I had parted to intercept the two Krait envoys, I had felt an anxious desperation churning deep in the pits of my stomach. One of us was not coming home. I had wanted to embrace her in that moment. To let her know that no matter what happened, I would come back, and to force her to promise me the same. But I didn’t. I knew how absurd it would look, how stupid I would feel, acting on such stupid impulse. Selfishly, I couldn’t get past my own stupid pride. I would look weak, and emotional. How embarrassing would that be? Trahearne never showed emotions. He was always a calm and collected leader, a perfect example for the rest of the Pact. As commander I felt it my duty to do the same. So I did nothing. As we parted ways, I did not so much as glance back at her, silently praying the feeling in my stomach was wrong. Perhaps if I had just snuck that glance, I would have seen her fiery eyes and determined smile one more time.
Snapping back to reality, I forced myself to look at the deformed monstrosity before me. Here she stood, but this was not her. This could not be her. Someone had taken my Apatia, and replaced her with this lifeless doll. She would not do this to me. She would note my arrival with a smart salute, and a smarter grin. So, this slack-jawed thing that stumbled before me, it could never be her. Its cold and empty eyes stared past me as though refusing to acknowledge me. Rotting arms hung limply by its ruined sides. This was not possible. None of this was happening; it was all just a nightmare brought on my exhaustion after the fight at Fort Trinity. None of this was real, any moment now I knew I would hear her calling me awake... I began to yell at the husk before me, taunting it, begging it to notice me.
“Look at me!” I screamed. “What do you think you’re doing soldier?! Don’t you dare ignore a direct command from your superior officer!”
I had never pulled rank on her before. We had always been partners... equals. But in this moment, I was willing to do anything to force her acknowledgement. I couldn’t let my trusted partner break that bond now. I wouldn’t let her. My eyesight began to blur, and my shouts turned to whimpers. I felt me legs give way beneath me. I slumped to my knees, eyes planted squarely on the wood platform below me, no longer able to bear the sight of my fallen friend.
“Apatia! I’ve come to help you... I’m here! It’s going to be okay!” I muttered desperately, though I knew my pleas would fall upon deaf ears, “We’re going to get you out of here! It’s going to be okay! please... please...”
I felt a warm hand on my shoulder and turned to see the blurry face of Crusader Afanen behind me. She and the others had been finished down below and had quietly approached while I was mourning.
Explorer Hekja was the first to speak, “Commander, Apatia’s sacrificed her life to save hundreds of lives at Fort Trinity; without the krait orb the two of you recovered, none of us would be here today. She was a great warrior and a hero; her legacy will always be remembered by the Norn and I will see to it personally that her part in this war is documented in the Priory’s tomes.”
“Still, it’s a shame she had to go this way,” Afanen consoled empathetically, “she had so much strength and passion.”
“Steel yourself, Commander” came the ever calm voice of Trahearne, “In my time in Orr, I have lost many good friends, and we shall see many more go before this campaign reaches its conclusion. If you and I are to break, this unstable alliance may soon follow.”
“I see,” broke in the voice of Zrii from somewhere further behind, “She became a risen. My condolences Commander, I truly believed she had survived,” she paused for a moment, then continued, “But... this doesn’t have to be the end! Having an undead captive to study, especially one we know well could be a huge boon to the Pact! You see, the Order of Whispers has been considering such tests ever since the Orrians sieged our headquarters following...”
She spoke the words with clear conviction, as though mocking me. What would she know about my partner? I cursed her bitterly. I cursed her and the Pact and Zhaitan and everyone in Tyria. Not a single one of them could ever comprehend the pain that had welled up in my chest. The idiot Asura didn’t seem to care though, continuing on with her absurd plans for Apatia.
I could hear Hekja sigh quietly. She muttered something frustratedly to the Asura, causing the later to stop mid-ramble.
Nothing they said mattered though. I was awash with emotions: anger, humiliation, anxiety, fear, and guilt. None of these fools had ever done as much for me as she had, and yet, because of my decision, they lived on and she did not.
“I would trade them all, each and every one of their lives for yours, Apatia,” muttered a strange, dark voice in the back of my mind.
The thought sent a chill through my body. My deepest darkest feelings taking corporeal form. And I found myself wrestling with the words now attempting to push their way out of my throat. What came out was closer to a strangled wheeze then a comprehensible sentence. For a moment there was a heavy silence over us, then came the uneasy voice of Zrii.
“Ah, my apologies again Commander, I must have gotten carried away there. I didn’t mean to...” she trailed off awkwardly and the all consuming silence returned. Then the quiet was broken again, this time by Afanen.
“Commander,” she said with a sad warmth, “Apatia is gone. We have to set her spirit free. If you are not feeling yourself, Hekja or I could send her onward to The Mists while you return to the boat.”
“Don’t touch her!” I snarled ferociously at the bewildered Sylvari, painfully raising myself to my feet. My head rang out in a cacophony of shrieks and bells and my vision became blurry. I grabbed my head in both hands, squeezing tightly as though I could force back the pain in my skull like another common foe. Staggering dizzily, I took a few experimental steps like a toddler, trying to regain shattered sense of balance. With her gone I was a child again, alone and confused with even the most basic of things, but slowly the world came into focus again and I could control my own body.
“I... I need to do this myself.” I muttered roughly.
My arm felt as heavy as lead as I raised it to wipe my eyes, shuttering slightly at the sudden sting of the polluted air as I opened them wide. With my other hand, I fumbled with the buckle that fastened the axe to my side. Raising it before me, I tiredly examined it, pouring over every detail with stinging eyes. Rather then the traditional Lionguard weaponry emblazoned with the golden lion, it was simply built and without embellishments. Its handle was elder wood, worn with time, but sturdy nonetheless, and its blade was still sharp from loving care despite the lines of rust which arched across its tough Mythril head. Red and Gold ribbons intertwined around its base, forming a surprisingly strong grip, these too were worn and discolored with age. Memories flashed like blinding lightning inside my skull. Finding her forlorn axe laying in the mud, krait blood still smeared across its head. I had taken it, cleaned it at Fort Trinity and promised myself I would bring it back to her. Now because of some stupid Krait, I could never complete that promise.
“AARGH!” I roared aloud, stomping raucously towards the cage, “Curse the Krait! Curse Zhaitan! Curse you all!”
Taking the axe in both hands, I thrust it upwards, over my head, and brought its cutting edge down upon the lock with as much force as I could muster. The rusty metal split easily beneath the sharp blade and the lock fell to the floor with a ear ringing clank, but the monster within the cage still refused to react. It remained where it stood, empty stare still upon its rotted face.
I tightly gripped the bars of the cage door with my left hand, still clutching her axe tightly in my right. The hinges screeched and resisted, but eventually gave way with a jerk. Suddenly, a sharp clang rang out from below. I stared dazedly at the axe I had been holding, now fallen against the metal floor of the cage. With a start, I realized my whole body was trembling, my sudden wrath was replaced by just as quickly by anxiety and exhaustion. Taking a few steps back, I reached for my other weapon, a longsword slung on a leather band around my back. Lethargically, I planted my feet upon the ground. Both hands gripped the sword handle as I struggled to stop the shakes that ran through my body and into the sword. Breathing deeply I paused until I was calm enough that the blade before me had steadied.
Silently, with cold, practiced motions, I took a single step backward, placing my left foot a few feet behind my right. I swung my arms backwards, pointing the tip of my blade forward towards my target. Tears streamed down my face now, in unabashed streams. I wanted to say some last words to her while I still could, but my throat constricted and refused to cooperate. My lips moved in ghostly syllables, and as my dry tongue ran across their cracked surfaces I could tasted the salt upon them.
“Goodbye, Apatia...” I finally mustered. My arms arched forward carrying their heavy load burden, away from my heart and into hers.
Then, in that one swift motion, the deed was done.
She was falling now. Her limp form dropping to the ground. I had to catch her! I knew I had to catch her! But by the time my exhausted body could even begin to react, she was already slumped against the far cage wall. Again I fell to my knees, arms stretched across the body of my fallen friend, my face pressed against her unmoving chest. From somewhere deep within me came a guttural moan of remorse, it started deep and passionate and stretched on for as long as I had breath in my body before trailing off in a pathetic whimper of defeat. Moments turned to minutes, and still I lay pressed against her, my bitter, defeated whines like a storm upon sea of tarnished gold and I cried. I cried as though my burning hot tears could restore the warmth to her body, and fire to her eyes. But it was not so.
Apatia was gone and nothing could ever bring her back.