Age of Deceit – Chapter 9 & 10
The text below is based on Guild Wars lore but is purely fan-fiction. Click here for Chapter 8.
Be sure to listen to this playlist in the background to enhance your reading experience.
Chapter 9 – The Calm Before The Storm
The Canthan diplomats left the tent one by one. Only their leader, Ambassador Baigon, remained inside. The stocky, middle-aged Canthan had a black beard around his smiling mouth with a small, braided goatee hanging from his chin. Baigon reached out with his hand to grab Kanaxai’s who towered above him by two heads’ height. The two men then shook hands.
“I don’t really understand why the General and the Emperor were so… anxious when they briefed me on this mission.” The little man let go of Kanaxai’s hands. “You see, I’m a natural optimist, Captain… I did not believe that anything could have gone wrong and fortunately, my instincts were right again.” Baigon laughed cheerfully then motioned Kanaxai to follow him outside. Kanaxai stepped out after the ambassador who had to shield his eyes from the strong sun.
“Phew… it’s only the beginning of Zhoyo and it’s almost as hot here as in the middle of summer up in Raisu.” The sweating minister started to fan himself with his own hands. “I keep forgetting that it’s an entirely different climate.”
“I couldn’t bear the heat either if I had to spend my entire day in that suit, Ambassador.” Kanaxai smiled as he inspected Baigon’s ministerial uniform: a blue tunic with dragon motifs that enveloped him completely, topped with a blue hat. The cheerful little man laughed again – Kanaxai wasn’t sure whether he was overly friendly and talkative because of his job, or if it was in his nature.
“So true, Captain, so true. I believe I’ll have a complaint to make to those imbeciles who forgot that the Dragon Empire includes climates other than the northern one.”
“These lands are not part of the Dragon Empire anymore.” Kanaxai tried not to come off too unfriendly, but he instinctively thought that one sentence would make things more difficult in the long run. Although Baigon’s mirth apparently diminished a bit, he still didn’t show any sign of that.
“Of course not, Captain Kanaxai. And excuse me, but this secession happened so quickly and not so long ago, that from time to time I tend to forget that it actually occurred. After all, the Jade Sea’s been part of the Empire for so long. I still remember that as a youngster, me and my mother spent our vacations here on a regular basis.” The ambassador inhaled deeply. “The fresh, salty air, the warm sun. I love this place. Hopefully I can come back here with my family once this business is over.” With another smile on his face Baigon went after his companions, but a couple of seconds later he turned back once more. “I think we’ve made good progress today, but we are all tired. Shall we continue the talks tomorrow around the same time as today?”
“Certainly, Ambassador.” Kanaxai replied and forced a smile on his face. He was conflicted though he couldn’t fully grasp the reason for why.
“Splendid! See you tomorrow, Captain!”
Kanaxai stood silently in front of his tent for moments staring into the distance. Finally, he came to his senses. Looking around, he saw that while his people were working and tending their own business, they were curiously watching, staring at him. I bet they were listening to the whole conversation. I wonder what they are thinking right now. Kanaxai pondered as he stepped back into the tent. I never really asked them what they wanted, but we forced this whole affair on them… and now they see me negotiating with the Imperials. It must be all too confusing for them… hell I am just as confused as them.
Kanaxai sat down on the rugs and rubbed his eyes. But for the brief moment he closed them an intense series of images flashed into his mind: he saw his double-bladed axes descending upon a man’s skull and burrowing their blade inches deep into the head. The man dropped dead and Kanaxai recognized the dreaded, pain-twisted face: Ambassador Baigon’s.
He forced his eyes open. Hands and legs shaking, he managed to stand up and stagger to the water bowl. The lukewarm water he splashed on his face and neck cooled him off a bit. The tenseness was fading but he was terribly afraid. Why nightmares? Throw the largest beasts of the world at me and I will not tremble, but I don’t know what to do with these damned dreams… I cannot fight dreams.
Kanaxai remained at the water bowl, staring at his own disturbed reflection. Unknown minutes passed again when he heard small footsteps behind him. He spun around and found his wife worriedly looking at him.
“Are you alright, dear? Did something go wrong during the talks?” Arianthe asked as she ran forward and hugged Kanaxai.
“The talks went well.” He said embracing Arianthe. “I am not sure how it will all turn out but the Imperials are hoping for a peaceful resolution as well. One that benefits both sides.” He kissed his wife on the head. They stood there entwined in each others’ arms for a couple more seconds before Arianthe released him.
“Then what is wrong? And don’t try to hide it like last time. I can feel something is troubling you.” Her imploring gaze pierced Kanaxai. “Please, tell me! Maybe I can help.”
“I… I had another dream similar to the first. This one only lasted for a brief moment and I was even awake!” He couldn’t bear the painful sorrow forming in Arianthe’s eyes. He had to look away.
“What was in it this time?”
“My axes chopping into the ambassador’s head.” Kanaxai felt better just from saying it out loud but regretted it instantly as his wife gasped in shock. “And I don’t know whether these are only bad dreams or visions.”
Silence enveloped the tent. Kanaxai didn’t know what to say or do, but helplessly watched as his wife smeared the newly-formed tears on her face. He wanted to cry, too, but was unable, paralyzed.
Suddenly, Arianthe reached out and touched the sides of Kanaxai’s face and looked defiantly into his eyes.
“No. They are not visions. The last one didn’t happen. Yian Zho did not slaughter us, but instead presented a way that would benefit everyone. This will not happen because I know you are a good man and would never hurt innocents.” She grabbed her husband’s broad shoulders and stood up to her tiptoes to better face him. “Everything will be okay.” Arianthe said and kissed him.
Kanaxai wiped the sweat off of his forehead as he stepped off the ramp leading up to the main deck. He was helping out his people with moving cargo onto the Kraken’s Dream, the largest vessel of not only the clan but that of the Armada as well – it was Captain Kanaxai’s own ship.
They were done with loading the freight and now Kanaxai was admiring the view; his beautiful ship mildly rocking on the waves, gleaming in the bright, noon sunlight.
I can’t believe she will set sail without me. The first time she goes on a voyage without her captain. Kanaxai thought to himself as he idly stood in the harbor, observing the final preparations for the departure. He felt much better this day. No doubts, no flashes, no nightmares… just the day to be seized. A new day, a new challenge. Father, your words always ring true. Kanaxai smiled and turned around. He didn’t want to keep the Canthans waiting.
“Aren’t you coming, Cap’n?” A grizzled, old Luxon with long hair and beard jogged up to him. “What’s wrong with you?”
Kanaxai laughed heartily and patted the first mate on his back.
“Not this time, old friend. I need to ensure we remain on good terms with the Empire.”
“You go do that… I’ll ride off with your ship and the cargo.” The first mate winked as he teased his Captain.
“Take care of her, you old pirate!”
“Don’t I always?”
“Just one scratch…”
“Won’t happen… she’s like a daughter to me.” The first mate smiled and saluted. “Farewell, Cap’n!”
“Farewell! We will see each other soon!” With a sigh Kanaxai began the trek back to the camp.
Be sure to listen to this playlist in the background to enhance your reading experience.
Chapter 10 – Dire Decisions
Kanaxai heard the boy sooner than he saw him. He began running towards the little figure in the distance. When they got closer he recognized him as the leatherworker’s son.
“Captain!” The boy took a moment to catch his breath. “The others sent me to find you. There’s some bad news I bring.”
“What is it?!”
“A wounded hunter just returned to camp. He began shouting that all his companions were slain by snakes, then he passed out.” He nervously looked back from where he came. “Your wife and some healers are tending him right now.”
“Let’s go then! Hurry!” Kanaxai shouted and was sprinting towards the camp already.
Three minutes later they arrived, although the boy came in a bit later with tongue out.
“Get him some water and show me to the wounded!”
A Luxon guard saluted and beckoned him to follow.
The entrance of the tent from where the cry came was bloodied. Kanaxai rushed in and his eyes went wide.
“By Kraken’s Eye!”
Arianthe and the healers turned to the newcomer. The latter nodded then turned back to the patient, but Arianthe stood up and went to her husband. Her hands were also bloody.
“I’ve seen wounds and blood a lot in my life but this is…” Kanaxai was still staring at the poor victim who was silently whimpering in pain. “What happened to him?”
“We couldn’t get that out of him. All we know is that he was hunting in the hills with some of his fellows when they were attacked by a horde of naga.” Arianthe said as she washed the blood off with some water. “The naga killed all of them save for him, but they still badly tore up his arm… The healers say they will have to cut it off to save him.”
“Captain Kanaxai…” A hooded healer called out to them. “He wishes to speak with you. Please, don’t tire him out much.” With that the man and his colleagues left the patient and began preparing the scene and the tools for the operation.
Kanaxai walked up to the hunter and sat down. The man’s mangled arm was bandaged and wasn’t bleeding anymore, but he was still very pale. Kanaxai could only hope the blood in that arm was mostly gone already, thus he wouldn’t die of the blood loss after the limb’s removal.
“Captain…” The man turned his head to Kanaxai. “You need to know what… *cough* … happened.”
“I’m listening but try not to upset yourself. You are safe, you are in good care and they will heal you.”
“Yeah… but I’m not important. *cough* The things that attacked us were naga, but they were… *cough* … not themselves.” The hunter stopped, closed his eyes and clenched his teeth. “I saw them from afar. They… they were shouting something… again and again as they came. It was a mantra perhaps. *cough* I could only escape because I was picking fruits. From the tree I saw the others getting cut down and I knew I couldn’t help them. I had to run…” The memory of his friends getting killed twisted his face. He swallowed hard before continuing. “… but a lone naga sneaked up on me. He tried to kill me with a sickle but I managed to disarm him… then… *cough* …then he jumped on me and bit into my arm. We wrestled and I somehow grabbed the sickle and cut him open. I heard his friends coming and I knew they would outrun me. So I hid.” The pain surge repeated but this time the man cried out.
“I’ll *cough* get to the point. The other naga found his corpse… some of them seemed to be confused. They shook their head and began showing regret. A couple few watched with contempt and apathy instead. The ones who mourned their friend began to prepare him for funeral; I think… it seemed so. But then they froze. Another snake, a big one appeared behind them. He had bony spikes jutting out of his clothing.” The man took a deep breath. “He started arguing with the normal ones, then… when he got nowhere with ‘em, he chanted something in a weird language. *cough* Nothing happened, and he became even more frustrated. One of the freed picked up the sickle and rushed at him. He managed to cut the big one on his face, but it evaded the killing blows and then ran his own hand through the attacker, while the crazy ones slaughtered the normal naga. *cough* Their boss started hissing and growling and then they all left. I… I was bleeding badly but I waited out… *cough* …waited out ‘till I heard them only from afar… then I ran as fast I could.” The man finished and began panting.
“Tell me one more thing… this big snake… did it look like the other naga?”
“N… no. It was grey instead of green. Longer and taller than the others and its muzzle was different as well. Sharper edges, fangs protruding from its mouth. Its horns and crest were also bigger… more defined.”
The realization dawned on Kanaxai but he didn’t want to trouble the victim any longer.
“You’ve been through a great ordeal and this news – however horrid and costly it was – is invaluable.” Kanaxai softly touched the hunter’s healthy arm. “Hold out a little longer. You will be cured.”
“Thank you, Captain.” The man closed his eyes and swallowed hard. “Kill that wretched beast if you get the chance!”
“I can promise you that I will.” With that Kanaxai stood up and backed away. He looked back from the entrance once more; the man was already surrounded by the healers – all of them equipped with the proper tools.
Outside Baigon, who was seemingly troubled this time, and Arianthe were talking. They both looked up when Kanaxai stepped out.
“What did he say?” Arianthe asked.
“The naga are brainwashed… and all evidence imply that we have a Corruptor on our hands.”
“A Corruptor? What is that?” Baigon asked with great curiosity.
“It is a snake-like entity. Wielder of powerful and malicious magic. Fortunately, it is very rare. We thought we had killed the last one more than two decades ago… I was there with my father when it happened.”
“Oh… now I remember.” The ambassador took his hat off and scratched his head. “The naga lords who led their people on a rampage around these parts and even attacked the Empire. If I recall correctly, General Seritena’s wife died in their assault.”
“Not exactly. Common knowledge holds the instigators were naga, but actually they were these Corruptors. Your scholars even theorized that they are not even native to Cantha.” Kanaxai rubbed his chin. “But now we know how they control the naga; by brainwashing them magically… poor innocent souls.”
The three of them fell into silence, contemplating the shocking information. Arianthe nervously looked up. She bit into her lips, but after a few moments she decided to speak.
“What are we going to do about them?” She asked and Kanaxai now understood why she was so hesitant: she already knew the answer.
“I’m going after this Corruptor and kill it myself.”
“No! That’s too dangerous!”
“Don’t worry, love, I’m also bringing my best warriors.” Kanaxai’s wink was most telling.
“Ahem…” Baigon reentered the conversation. With a careworn expression on his face he was seemingly lost in thoughts but continued. “I would object to that decision, Captain.”
“Why is that? Don’t you want to save hundreds of lives?”
“Of course I do but in our current situation, leaving the talks would not be wise.”
Kanaxai crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes. I don’t like where this is going… not one bit.
“What do you mean by ‘our current situation’?”
Baigon could bear Kanaxai’s stare no longer. He looked away and started twiddling with the hat he had taken off previously.
“The Emperor would be left most… displeased if he learned that you marshaled your forces and left to hunt down some mythical creature in the middle of the negotiation.”
Kanaxai was taken aback by the ambassador’s accusation. He was losing his temper now.
“What?! I take the best of my clan – leaving our homes almost defenseless – only to end this beast once and for all! No marshaling, no tricks. I’m doing this not only for the good of Luxons but for all of Cantha as well! If we waver, countless more could die… they could even turn north and invade the Empire again!”
Baigon was clearly conflicted now. But he regained his words and took a step towards the Captain.
“I…I understand your intentions and know them to be honest, but… but the Lord Emperor sees things a bit differently. I must report everything to him and he could misunderstand these actions… like I just did.” He finally managed to look Kanaxai in the eye again. “Please, I beg you… don’t risk the establishment of this truce, Captain. Let us warn the Emperor and the General! They will send troops and a coalition of our forces will destroy this Corruptor!”
Kanaxai vehemently shook his head in disagreement.
“Absolutely not… the invitation of Imperial soldiers to Luxon lands would make my people feel threatened and aggravated instead! What makes you think those Dragonguard won’t just stay after the Corruptor’s been dealt with?”
Seconds passed, but they just glared each other. In the end, Baigon sighed and put the hat back on his head.
“I am sorry, but my hands are tied. Decide as you see fit, Captain, but I will report it.”
“I’ve decided already.” Kanaxai’s voice was as firm as ever even when he knew he was taking great risks. “I’m putting an end to this threat for good… and now. If you can, please convince the Emperor that this is the right thing to do.”
“You can count on that. I will definitely try.”
“Thank you, Ambassador.”
“Now hurry… the faster you kill that snake, the sooner it ends and we can all sit down and talk in peace. His Majesty expects a letter each day. Today he won’t get it.” Baigon’s faint smile contained a little spite. “But I’ll have to send him one tomorrow at dawn or else he will take actions.” The ambassador offered him a hand. Kanaxai looked at it but a moment later they shook hands. “Farewell, Captain Kanaxai. May the gods watch over you!”
In an hour’s time Kanaxai’s handpicked warriors stood ready with supplies packed. Kraken Clan knew what the group was up to and how dangerous it was going to be. Relatives and beloved ones said goodbye to sons, fathers, husbands. Anxiety was thick in the air.
Kanaxai looked at the faces of his men and their folks – some people’s eyes gleamed with tears.
After this is over, I am making peace. Seeing my people harrowed by despair grieves me… Spirits, gods, anyone! Give me the strength to finish this! He began searching for his family and found them soon enough. His wife’s eyes were full of sadness but her stature radiated strength and when their gaze met, Kanaxai knew she was proud. Zannos on the other hand looked confused and nervous.
“We will be back in no time.” He said as they embraced each other. “The last one didn’t put up much of a fight when we destroyed her with your grandfather.”
“Don’t die out there, dad.” Zannos mumbled in a faltering voice.
“Not a chance. I’ve still got a lot to teach you.”
Zannos smiled weakly and took a step back to leave his parents alone.
“I’m so sorry.” Arianthe whispered in his ear. “I promised you everything will be alright and now here’s this.”
“You couldn’t have known. And this Corruptor wasn’t in my dreams after all. Be strong… I will return as soon as possible, that I promise.” He combed into his wife’s hair and drew in her scent.
“I think you will miss the birth of our baby.” She looked down upon her abdomen and caressed it.
“I’m doing this for all of us. For your safety.” Kanaxai also put his hand on her belly. “I’ll have one more reason to come back sooner. That snake’s not going to stop me from witnessing my child’s birth. If he does, he will be sorry he was born.” The usual smirk appeared on his face but it wasn’t sincere this time. He was sure Arianthe was aware of that, too.
“I can’t lose you.”
“And you won’t. Don’t worry so much.”
“I love you.”
“I love you, too.” Their words and undying devotion to the other were sealed by a passionate kiss. While it lasted, they locked out everything around them – matters, people, the world. Time stood still until their lips parted. Husband and wife finally let go of each other. Kanaxai looked at his beloved family one last time as he backed away and brushed his way through the crowd to the front. Everyone knew that the moment had arrived. His warriors readied themselves, turning away from their family.
“Krakens! We shall go forth and destroy the last of the Corruptors! We won’t let this conflict be dragged on… we will end it here and now. The sooner the snake’s severed head is on our spears, the sooner we can return to our families and live out the rest of our lives in peace!” The furious roar of his people was a satisfactory answer to his short speech.
With an axe raised up high Kanaxai began a forced march. He heard the heavy footfalls of his twenty soldiers increasing and catching up with his pace.
Kraken goes to battle. Hopefully for the last time…