Wintersday is in full swing but there are some in Tyria who are not interested in bell choirs or Toypocalypse.
This year, Wintersday had crept up on Tyria. With so many off fighting Elder Dragons, it was a wonder Tixx had decided to visit at all. Although the war in the Maguuma Wastes was going nowhere, children still played with magic snow, bell choirs still rang through the streets, and Wes still didn’t have a present for his beloved. The ranger took his hat from his head, spinning it idly as he stared at the book cart. The world floated past him – the barking of merchants, the laughter of children – but it was all lost to his inner maelstrom of thought. He read through the titles dismissively, grimacing over some, chuckling at others. The reef drake at his side nudged him, nearly bowling him into the cart. Wes laughed, shaken from his musings. “What is it boy?” he asked, “Sick of shopping already?” The drake smacked its lips, blue tongue peeking out. “Alright.” Wes placed his hat back on his head and motioned for the drake, “Let’s go.”
Divinity’s Reach cavorted around him as he moved along the lower ring road, glancing at carts and storefronts. Every time he slowed, the drake bumped against his knee, forcing him to move again. Wes glared at him after the third bump. “Now, listen, you. Stop. We have to get her something, so I have to shop.” The drake made the same smacking sound, twisting his head to study Wes as he spoke. Wes started to say more then changed his mind. He shook his head and turned away, “Dogs, nothing wrong with dogs,” he muttered, starting down the street again.
Once he reached Dwayna’s High Road for a second time, he sighed, “Divinity’s Reach is too ordinary,” he said. “We aren’t going to find anything for Roobi here.” He stepped through the elevator transport and walked across the upper plaza to the asura gate, heading for Lion’s Arch, “Let’s hit the road.” He stepped instantly to the Krytan port city, trading green hills urbanity for the bustling port city. Beyond the gate hub, the ringing of hammers joined with Wintersday bells to create a disjointed chorus. He paused for a moment, trying to decide which city would offer the best chance for the gift he wanted. Then, crossing the sandy cobblestones, he headed for the gate to Rata Sum and stepped from the sea salt air of Lion’s Arch to the steamy, oppressive humidity of Maguuma Jungle. “Maybe we’ll find something here,” Wes thought, “The Toymaker himself is asura.”
Alchemagical creations greeted him, glowing blue-green-purple in the ancient city. Most citizens of the city barely reached Wes’ knees and he found himself having to look down more often than not as he traversed the stone rampways in a vain attempt to not bump into a scurrilous bookworm or mad scientist. When he reached the bottom of the tetrahedron, he sighed and looked around. He had passed through the crafting and merchant areas and was still empty-handed. Before him, a dark alcove sat, half-hidden by a set of dim curtains. Two fervid, pink eyes gleamed in the darkness. “What are you looking for, Booka?” the asura in the alcove asked.
Wes straightened, trying to decide how to answer. The reef drake nudged him again, warning him that they had stopped too long. “A gift,” he answered, closing the distance between him and the pink eyes. “A Wintersday gift for my love,” he added, crouching just outside the curtains so he could make eye contact with the asura. She was elderly, her leathery ears covered with wispy grey hair, the light mossy skin stretched tight across her bones.
“There aren’t many merchants here,” the asura replied, “You’d be best served in Lion’s Arch.”
“I know,” Wes sighed, “But I’m looking for something as unique as she is.”
The asura pondered a moment, scratching a withered ear. “And what is she?”
Taken aback by the question, Wes hesitated to answer. “She’s the most wonderful person I’ve ever met. She’s confident and strong and … real. When we’re together it’s just ….” He trailed off.
“Let me show you something,” the asura said after a moment. She turned and hobbled deeper into the alcove, rummaging through a pile of boxes at the back. “In my travels, I once came across an odd portal stone,” she said, returning with a small black chest. “Here,” she said, offering it to Wes, “Open it.” He did so as she added, “It works, I’ve used it before.”
About the size of a pocket watch, the portal stone inside the box was etched with alchemagical symbols that glowed with a dancing viridian light. Wes plucked it gingerly from the velvet lining and turned it over in his hand. “Where does it take you?” he asked.
The asura shrugged, “A ruin in the north. There isn’t much there, but it might be an interesting trip for you and your love.”
“How do I use it?”
“You don’t without payment,” the asura scoffed.
Wes laughed at her words. “I can give you fifty silver for it,” he said.
“Only fifty silver? It’s worth at least a gold!”
“But you said there isn’t much there. So, I’m thinking how much would a trip through any asura gate cost me? Just a copper or two. Making this a special trip, but nothing more. You’re lucky to get a whole silver for it.”
Pink eyes studied him shrewdly. “Seventy-five silver,” she said.
Wes put the portal stone back in the box and closed it, “Sixty-five – Final offer.”
“Done,” the asura murmured. With a smile, Wes passed the asura a handful of coins and opened the box again.
“So? How does it work?”
“Hold your breath and then flip that switch on the side. Press it again to come back.”
Wes stood and backed away from the alcove. He looked down at the drake, “Ready for an adventure?” he asked. The drake tossed his head. With a smile, Wes took a deep breath and pressed the button.
Bitter cold slammed down upon him, driving the air from his lungs. He looked around. They were in a huge ruin, snow falling lightly through the shattered dome of the vaulted ceiling and piling up near the far walls. Shimmers in the distance hinted at the otherworldly presence of ghosts. Wes smiled, pulling his short bow and knocking an arrow before approaching the ghost. But the shade didn’t attack. Instead it waved, “Welcome Friend, Welcome to the Eye of the North,” it said.
To Be Continued…
If you’d like to read another Wintersday fic, be sure to check out GuildMag’s special Wintersday magazine issue! Come back next week for Part II of “The Perfect Gift.”