Apatia - Part 1 (Potential GW2 Story Spoilers)
Rotting wood crunched beneath my feet, as I stepped from the dingy boat unto the gangways approaching the krait tower. Its ominous form consisted of a skyskraping Frankenstein stitched together from pieces of abandoned and waterlogged old galleons, Rotten masts protruding towards the cloudy beyond, bore dozens of precariously hung, rusted iron cages. Overhead the blue skies were blotted out my a heavy hanging mass of green and grey. The thick air around us bit like acid. The whole place stunk of rot and disease and groaned like a dying whale as the rest of my team set foot on its bloated mass. The beast towered above us, sickly twisting arms of wood and metal painting a ghastly silhouette against the haunting cloudscape above. But despite oppressive atmosphere, I could not help but breath a sigh of relief. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, it was time to rescue my captured partner. With me stood only a small rescue team, five strong. Few had been willing to brave a corrupted Krait stronghold to search for a single captured operative, and even those who had come were more interested in Marshall Trahearne and I return safely then they were in the mission.
“Careful”, I heard Trahearne warn from behind me, “this place has been claimed by Zhaitan’s corruption, contact with the water may prove fatal... or worse.”
I could hear the rest of our party shifting uneasily as they looked for steadier footing, but my concerns were on the safety of someone else.
“Don’t worry Apatia,” I found myself whispering quietly to the air, “I’m here.”
Apatia, my partner and close friend had been captured by the Krait during a mission gone wrong. The two of us had been sent to steal a valuable artifact as it was being transported by a Krait envoy from one safe-hold to another. We had set up traps and lay expectantly in wait, but we were not the only ones expecting a fight. The Krait had split up into two envoys, and with no time to send for backup, we had been forced to split up and attempt to engage both at once. I had returned with the artifact in tow, she had not returned at all.
“Commander, everyone is situated and ready to move,” came Trahearne’s calm, monotonous voice again.
Wiping my stinging eyes, I paused for a moment to gather my strength, “Alright team, you heard the Marshall! Move out!” I yelled, my voice filled to bursting with false bravado. The others replied with halfhearted agreement and we begin to move.
We proceeded slowly, no one wanting to slip upon or fall from the mossy wood. Still, I found myself wishing we could move faster. Every moment we wasted upon those docks was another moment Apatia lay suffering above us. I did not doubt the severity of Trahearne’s warning, however and remained at a slow, subdued pace. Suddenly the water beneath us seemed to pucker and bubble. Automatically we shifted into a circle facing outward, eyes flickering and ears open. With our weapons drawn, we stood stock-still, tensed and ready for combat at the first sign of danger, but the water returned to its eerie calm and the bubbling stopped just as quickly as it had begun.
“Don’t move and keep your eyes peeled,” grimaced Explorer Hekja, an experienced Norn hunter and scholar of the Priory, “This is and old Krait hunting tactic. As soon as you let your guard down...”
Suddenly the water erupted from all sides and with it came the risen Krait. Their wormlike bodies had taken on the same corrupted grey-green that seemed to infect the water, some were missing significant chunks of flesh as though they had been torn apart. Zhaitan’s dark powers had claimed these already dangerous sadists, stripping them of their heartbeats and replacing it with an unsatisfiable hunger for blood.The rotten smell from before began a new assault upon my nose with tenfold its previous power. For a moment I stood dazed by the beasts before me, but this was not the time for daydreaming. My reverie was broken as metal clanged against scale. Crusader Afanen smashed her sword into the Krait blocking our way, the beast reeled backwards, into the water, but another was quickly moving to take it’s place.
“Hurry commander,” I heard the Sylvari whisper as she passed me to engage another rotting wyrm, “We’ll hold them off here, you go find Apatia.”
Ducking past the new krait attempting to block my path, I began to run, just barely missing its sweeping trident. I scrambled up onto the higher rafters, away from the murky water and the battle below, closer to the lonely cages hanging above. Below me, I could hear Hekja calling my name, but her words floated in my head like an echo in the distance. I began to climb faster as a chill shuddered through my bones. Just above me was a stable platform upon which rested several cages. I hoped desperately to find Apatia’s amongst them.
The rusted metal chambers were devoid of life. Whatever poor souls they had once contained had long since rotted away and only corroded bone and bits of twisted metal remained. Slowly I approached each one, searching carefully for any signs that could link them to my captured comrade. The first skeleton was small, it had likely once been an Asura. The bones lay in a scattered mess, some shattered, gnawed and broken into pieces. The second cage was empty and I passed it by with nothing more then a precursory glance. The last one gave me pause however. The remains were significantly larger then the previous skeleton, either a small Norn or an exceptionally large human. Still, it was not the one I was looking for. Suddenly my body grew stiff with the unnerving feeling of eyes upon my back.
I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck prickling. Even undead, the Krait were unlikely to leave their prisoners unguarded. I turned slowly, cautiously, only to find nothing behind me. Down below, I could faintly hear the others still fighting with the Krait, but the platforms around me were strangely abandoned. At this altitude, the miring smog was thinner and I could almost feel an icy wind blowing slightly against my neck. The Krait clearly hadn’t abandoned this place, so why weren’t they here? A clawed gray hand clacked against the edge of the platform in response.
I had unhooked an axe from its buckle at my side and was just preparing to cut the gray fingers clean off when Agent Zrii vaulted up onto the platform. I blinked in surprise as the little white haired Asura swaggered across the platform towards me. I quickly re-sheathed my weapon, glancing quickly from it to Zrii’s hand, one which I had been on the verge of mutilating. Subconsciously the Asura rubbed one hand with the other as though reading my thoughts.
“Commander,” she began with an Asuran haughtiness “I’ve spotted a cage on the platform above us over there, who’s captive appears to have gold armor, much like that of our missing Lionguard,” Zrii stretched her little arm upward and towards the barely visible mountains opposite the direction of our arrival. She smiled smugly, “No need to thank me.”
I attempted to shrug off the Asura’s last comment, instead focusing intently on finding the fastest way to reach the cage. Silently I reminded myself that I had almost hurt her much more severely then a few untimely jokes and jabs. A narrow wood plank connected this platform to the next and from there another one reached up towards the aforementioned cage but as I stepped onto the rickety husk I heard Zrii’s high-pitched voice calling out to me again. After a moment of deliberation, I decided to press onwards; now was not the time for another of the Asura’s belittling remarks.
“Commander,” the Asura called out insistently, “the figure above us, it was still moving. I do believe your friend may yet live.”
Turning to her, I found the Asura was again smiling, this time with genuine warmth. Quickly, I smiled back before returning my thoughts fully to the task ahead. The plank was still slimy from it’s previous Krait owners and I balanced carefully upon it. It would be too ironic a tragedy to slip here, so close to the reunion with my partner, so close to the end of this nightmare. Reaching the first platform, I paused briefly, resting my back upon the ancient mast that hoisted the rotting section of deck so far above the ocean below. I strained my eyes in an attempt to see the figure inside the cage, just barely visible over the side of the final platform. There she was, just as Agent Zrii had described, a slouched figure in golden armor. As I continued to watch, I thought I could see her body rise and fall slowly with labored breaths. She was okay! Despite all the death and horror that seemed ever-present in our campaign against Zhaitan, a single beam of golden light shown through the darkness. Somehow, Apatia had survived!
“Apatia!” I cried out in relieved joy, “I’m here! I’ve come to get you out of this place!”
The slouched figure did not respond. Something was wrong.
I was running now. Dashing over the wooden final wooden flat with reckless abandon. This couldn’t be her. There had to be a mistake! This couldn’t be her! It just... couldn’t be! She... no... it, turned to face me as I clambered onto the platform. It’s dead eyes stared blankly and it’s shuddering body hunched over limply. But it was Apatia. It wore the same golden armor, now tarnished and battered. It had her brown hair, now matted with dirt and blood, torn and burnt. This mutilated monstrosity was her, and yet it wasn’t. While I had been away fighting at Fort Trinity, she had suffered at the hands of the Krait, been corrupted by the toxins of Zhaitan, and finally, reborn, a risen.