I had an elaborate dream about Guild Wars, and when I was telling Beth about it she convinced me to write it down. I’m glad I did, though you might notice it doesn’t perfectly correlate with the game (such is the nature of dreams. Also, it would have been ridiculous if Atakus was an omniscient wizard who could transform into a kitten.)
Gyron Burnteye limped into his hut, leaning heavily against the doorframe while his pupils expanded to adjust to the dim light. Aneiwa, his human wife rose to help him, slinging an arm around her strong shoulders and helping him to the bed.
“My leg,” he growled in the old Charr language, drawing up the material of his pants to reveal an inflamed wound. The edges of his dark fur were stained a worrying purple, and despite being weeks old it wasn’t getting any better.
“Gyron, it’s infected. You have to do something about it,” Aneiwa said gently, her eyes filled with concern. At that point, their ten-year-old human son walked in, a question dying on his lips as he saw his father’s injury.
“Not now Sam!” barked Gyron. Sam closed his mouth and left promptly, running out the back door. To his wife he said, “Get some bay leaves, red oak bark, powdered sage…” he rattled off a list of ingredients as she hurried to their small larder. Aneiwa sat by the bedside and began carefully mixing the concoction. As she was adding a bright green powder there was a knock at the door, and she looked at her husband questioningly. Uncertain, he shook his head. Against his wife’s protests, he forced himself to his feet and limped over to the window, peering out into the daylight. Aneiwa’s heart caught in her throat as her husband’s ears flattened against his skull unconsciously. Across the street from their house, Sam was talking to one of the Queen’s Men as four others loaded their rifles. Gyron had known the boy hated him, but he never thought it would come to this.
“Back!” he hissed to his wife as he considered whether he had time to arm himself. Before he could, the first of the men reached the open doorway and let out a yell of surprise as he was grabbed firmly by the jacket and hurled against the wall. The officer slumped to the floor unmoving as the shelves crashed down around him, a basket of cucumbers spilling across the floor. Gyron peered out the window to reassess the distance between the remaining men. The remaining officers were yelling now, their human words sounding harsh and cruel to his ears. They had fanned out, guns raised and were slowly advancing towards the open door. He had only moments to act before they were upon him, and his wounded leg was forgotten as he burst through the door and took the first human by surprise. He smashed the rifle from the man’s grasp with a terrifying snarl and struck him hard in the side of the head with vicious swipe. Without stopping to watch him crumple, he bounded to the next man and seized him by the throat. Gyron’s claws tightened and the officer’s scream died in his throat as he went limp. Gyron’s eyes were wild with rage as he looked for his next mark. An explosion cut through the daylight like a thunderclap as one of the soldiers fired. Gyron staggered from the impact of the bullet, and a moment later another there was another burst of fire and smoke. Gyron had no memory of falling but he found himself on the ground, blood trickling from his chest. Through the intensity of the pain, some part of him was aware of laughter before he felt himself being dragged, lifted and then shoved roughly into a tight space. The world suddenly went dark and he found he could hear only murmurs above the ragged panting of his breath. His heart sank as he realised he had failed, and that he would never see his wife again.
Atakus had just arrived in the great human city of Divinity’s Reach. He had heard about its grand palace and proud spires all of his life, and the first time he had glimpsed them from the road his heart had skipped a beat. He had been travelling for months to get here overland from the Fields of Ruin, a distant human settlement, but it had been worth it. He dreamed of finishing his studies as a lawyer in the The Reach, where he could finally gain the qualifications he needed to assist with the negotiations in Ebonhawke. To this end, his heart had lead his feet all the way to the University of Queensdale. Or at least, it tried to. Somewhere along the line he had taken a wrong turn, and he was now thoroughly lost in the slums of the city. He was deeply engrossed in his map when he heard the sounds of a scuffle, and looked up to see a dark-furred Charr kill two men in uniform.
At first he was alarmed by the violence and assumed that the charr was some kind of criminal being arrested by the Ministry Guard. But the way they laughed as they brought him down unsettled him, and he couldn’t help but notice a woman’s visage in the window, a haunted look upon her face. Some instinct inside of him told him things were not as they seemed and without thinking he sprinted after the carriage, catching it just in time to hang onto the back of it as it hurried through the streets. As Atakus clung on for dear life, he caught sight of the wooden trunk that held the prisoner (though it was barely big enough to contain him). He knew it was his imagination, but he could not supress the vision of the charr curled up at the bottom, alone and in pain. Absurdly, Atakus wished he could crawl inside there and comfort him. His fantasies were cut abruptly short as the carriage began to slow. The young student slipped off before they had quite finished moving and stepped away to observe their surroundings. They had drawn up in front of a grand building which read in gilded letters “MAGISTRATE’S COURT”. Atakus slipped inside and joined the growing audience who had begun to gather at the sight of the carriage.
It was several minutes before Gyron was dragged before the court, his wrists and ankles bound together by heavy chains. He stood on his own in the centre of the ampitheatre, facing a raised dais upon which sat several councillors in their official robes. Central among them and raised higher than all the rest was a man whose smile curled at the corner of his mouth. The excited murmur of the audience hushed as he spoke:
“Do you know the weight of your crimes?”
Gyron looked at the ground in front of him, breathing heavily. Blood trickled from the side of his maw and dripped slowly to the wooden floorboards. The magistrate’s eyes hardened.
“Answer me, charr. Taciturnity will only worsen your fate.”
Gyron raised his gaze slowly, catching the minister’s eye and holding it for a long moment. The air was heavy with the silence.
“Your Honour,” called Atakus, breaking the tension like ripples upon the surface of still water. The crowd parted for him as he pushed his way forward to stand beside the charr. “Our friend may not speak English. I will speak on his behalf.” The judge started. This had never happened before, and the fool clearly had no idea what was happening. One of the guards moved to intercept the man but the magistrate raised his hand to stop him. This was an unexpected spectacle; perhaps the idiot would provide further entertainment to the proceedings.
“Very well,” he said sitting back in his chair and folding his fingers in front of him. “Let it be known that I am not an unfair judge. You may answer for him.”
To the charr, Atakus quickly said in a feline tongue, “I am a friend. I will help you. You must tell me what has happened.” Gyron couldn’t help a surprised flick of his tail as his eyebrows raised in astonishment. In short words Gyron clenched his teeth against the pain and explained how he was a gladium who had been outcasted by his warband after falling in love with a human. After fleeing to Divinity’s Reach, he could barely provide for his family. There was no work and no food for the likes of him. In desperation, he had begun stealing from a farmer in Queensdale, who had finally shot him in the leg.
Atakus hadn’t dared to believe the stories he’d heard from travellers on the road, but the truth was before him and he could not avert his eyes. In Ebonhawke, there was little love lost between the human and charr. The two races had fought each other for generations, and there were still factions of separatists and renegades who were too hurt, too blinded by their grief to know anything other than war. But the Fields of Ruin were the forefront of a hard won peace, and Atakus had seen firsthand humans and charr working together. He had always believed that Divinity’s Reach would be a paragon of peace, but it seemed that the rumours of xenophobia were true. All he could see in this great hall of law was hatred, ethnocentricity and corruption.
“Well?” asked the magistrate, tapping his finger on the bench with impatience. Atakus swallowed. He stepped forward to face the council, standing between the charr and his judge.
“Gyron is innocent.” Gasps rose from the audience as the magistrate smiled a smile that showed too many teeth, his lips twitching slightly.
“He is a thief, and a murderer.”
“He is a victim,” Atakus replied, heart pounding in his chest. “He is a refugee who sought peace behind the walls of this great city, and all he has found was injustice and poverty. The government might tolerate the charr’s existence, but they will not support them as citizens, nor help them when they are starving. ” The councillor found he was stunned and then furious.
“The Government does not have the funds to hand money out to every beggar in the streets who-”
“How much gold does the city spend on plays?” Atakus asked suddenly, cutting him off. “How many billions of silvers are spent each year on festivals and feasts? Could not even a handful of coppers be spared to help an old man see his family fed?” He turned to face the audience as he continued his challenge. “Where do all those taxes go? Surely not to the pockets of those who collect them?”
The crowd began to murmur, and that murmur began to rise. Someone yelled something at the councillors that Atakus couldn’t make out over the pounding in his ears. People loved nothing more than to think they’d been cheated, and he knew he was winning them over. This was a dangerous moment: either he would break apart an ancient institution, or he would himself be broken.
“Now see here-” the Magistrate began, trying to regain his composure.
The courtroom exploded into a jumble of yells. Atakus returned to the benches where the public were able to view the proceedings of the court. In spite of it all, the crowd drew away from him, and he found himself alone. Not even the Magistrate would meet his eye, though he could feel wrath emanating from him like steam. He looked at Gladium Gyron, whose golden eyes glittered in the theatre. The old charr dipped his head slightly, and after a moment of surprise Atakus responded in kind. Whatever happened, both of them were bound now, and they would face the end together.