Kelsandra, Chapter 12

Kelly happily bounded beside Valgar for a full mile before either of them said a word. She was hoping it’d be Valgar, but was content to share some of her own life with him.

“I once had a friend who wouldn’t stop talking about the Gendarran Fields.”

“I’m guessing she did not live there,” he said flatly.

“I didn’t even say whether she liked it!”

“Uneducated humans love the region more than they should.” He looked at her, scowled at her playful smile, then stopped. “Can you stop bouncing? Objectively, it’s quite remarkable how you can be this cheerful for what I’m assuming has been over an hour.” He continued walking.

Kelly’s face fell, and her smile quickly changed into one of incredulity. “Trust me, it’s been difficult,” she called after him before running forward. When she caught up, she continued, “And it hasn’t even been close to that amount of time.”

A pause. “I was wondering why we hadn’t seen the caves yet,” he replied.

“Are we going through the caves? I thought I saw water on the map south of the Fields. Sterj—“

“Yes, yes, we all know about your pet’s needs,” Valgar said, a bit louder than he’d intended.

Kelly jokingly looked around, noting that only the drake was there, running behind them, thick saliva dripping out from between his teeth. “Oh, we all know, do we?”

Valgar lightly groaned. “I’m used to traveling in large groups.”

“We’re going to slow down now. He’s tired.”

Valgar slowed his walking. “And there’s usually only one person who’s like you. But it’s always a human.”

“I’m sure that’s just selective memory. There are charrs of all personality types, I’ve heard.” Kel patted Sterjin’s head as he caught up beside them. His skin was dry, though not as badly as it had been before, when she’d been oblivious to his need for water. The grass was getting more sparse now, and as they scaled a hill, Kelly saw what looked like a forest of mossy, dark trees with black trunks, and darkness underneath. “Are those what they call caves?” she asked, stopping.

“The Ponds.” He looked at her. “The water you were talking about. On the map.”

They continued walking straight toward the forest. “Are you being smug with me?” she said, then wrinkled her nose. “Oh. No.”

“You smell it, too?” he asked.

It was very faint, but she knew it right away. They’d only just left the village where they had to fend off a bunch of the foul-smelling beasts. “Well, that ruins our chances of getting food from the lake,” Kelly said. Sterj was ahead of them now, and they resumed with Valgar’s pace of comfort.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “there’s plenty a Golden Moa in the Fields.”

“They’re so pretty, though.”

Valgar scoffed. Kelly started running to catch up with the drake.

“We’re not fighting them again!” her friend called out to her.

“I don’t want him getting hurt!”

Sterj stopped when she shouted, but then ran alongside her as they went into the darkness. She immediately stepped into swampy water and backed out. Sterj dove in.

There was an illuminated portion that broke the darkness everywhere inside the cavelike forest. It was a group of sylvari—she couldn’t tell which professions except for one Mesmer, due to two clones being part of the action. They had set up torches that emitted blue lights right in the middle and were in a circle facing outward, fighting off the undead from all sides.

She was in awe of the scene. Their moves were so swift, yet brutal on impact. None of them had ranged weapons, but as she stared, momentarily looking around to make sure the area around her was clear, the undead couldn’t even get a hand close to any parts of their body. Every point of contact was a blow dealt by a sylvari, every move deliberate and unfaltering.

Valgar slowly stepped beside her, blinking to adjust his eyes to the dark. “Show-offs,” he said, half a minute later.

“There’s only seven of them. They could have taken on that horde back at the village on their own.”

“We’re in a different place. It happens.”

Kelly sighed. After a long quiet between them, Sterjin sloshed out of the water, covered in mud. He looked at Kel, then walked past them toward where they’d entered.

“That’s all?” she asked.

“He’s tired of it already.” They set out again, mutually preferring to walk around the Ponds rather than through them. “Do you have any food? Not meat. I can’t stand that smell.”

Kelly opened her satchel and took out half of a squashed baguette. She gave it to him.

He took a bite out of the open, stale end. “Hunting Moa…and salvaging their meat would yield us so much money at Lion’s Arch!”

“Our problem isn’t lack of money, is it?” Kel asked.

Valgar put the last piece of bread into his mouth, to her alarm. She hadn’t remembered him eating the rest of it. “I guess not. It was only an idea.”

An hour later, they saw Traveler’s Dale on their left. Kelly started moving off the path toward it, but Valgar stopped her.

“There’s nothing there, trust me.”

“Then why would they call it—“

“We can’t afford to make any more stops.”

They kept going. In reality, Kelsandra had wanted a rest more than anything, and perhaps to talk to someone, more explicitly someone with a personality different from that of her current company.

For the rest of the day, they only strayed off the path to avoid wolves seeing them, and barely talked to each other. Right after going across the bridge, both of them sighted the Moa, walking along the bank.

“Oh, dear,” Kelly sighed in relief. “Sterj must be starving. And me.” She continued walking as she took an arrow out and positioned her bow. Then she slowed and shot.

She’d been aiming for the head, but missed and hit the tree right behind it. Embarrassed, Kelly shook her head and took out another arrow.

“Bear,” Valgar said.

“What?” she asked, and put her weapon down, following his gaze. From behind the tree, a medium-sized brown bear peeked out, and began walking, not necessarily towards them but in their general direction.

She stared at the bear, and caught its eye. It lazily blinked and looked away. Kelly walked towards it.

Sterjin didn’t follow. “Kelly,” Valgar said cautiously, from the foot of the bridge. “I wouldn’t do that.”

She put her bow and arrow away and slowed her walking right in front of the bear. It was going toward the water, but stopped to look straight at her.

“Kelsandra, come back here,” her friend said, a little louder.

She reached out to touch its glossy, coarse head. The bear bowed, then arched its neck upward. “You are so beautiful,” she said quietly.

Kelly lost herself in the bear’s completely black eyes. It growled softly and stepped closer to her.

A Moa right next to her squawked as Valgar slashed at its neck with his sword. Kelly jumped and looked to him. He picked up the body and threw it back to Sterj.

“You have a pet, you know,” Valgar said.

She walked back to her drake, who was only looking at her. Kelly sat down on the sand and pushed the dead Moa towards him. He dug in.

The bear continued his walk to the water and stood in it, looking for fish.

“You want one for yourself?” Valgar asked, still standing.

“No, that’s alright,” she said distractedly. She was going over what had just happened in her head. The incident with the bear was normal; it was only something that came with being a ranger. But what had happened before made her feel uneasy. As she realized what it was, she felt a prickling on the back of her neck; she could hear Valgar restlessly pacing around and then the rustling of paper—him opening the map.

Kelly went over the many things they’d been through together over the short amount of time they’d known each other…and among all of that, she couldn’t recall one moment in which she told him her full first name.

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