Originally published at All or Nothing Requiem: Caithe.
Requiem: Caithe is one of the three All or Nothing: Requiem short stories which explore the thoughts and feelings of some of the Pact Commander's allies in the aftermath of Living World Season 4's fifth episode, "All or Nothing."
It's strange. Here, at the end, all I can think about is the beginning.
You were so small once. A tiny, jewel-bright bird beginning to test her wings. Every time you took flight, it stole my breath away. I should've spent more time in those moments, little one. Now I'll never see you fly again.
And Kralkatorrik—the one who took you from me—has slipped through our fingers again. The end has come. Without you, what hope does Tyria have? My duty now is to bear witness to the end of all things. To stand beside your shell as I wait for reality itself to crumble away.
It doesn't frighten me. How could it? My world ended when your heart stopped beating.
I made so many mistakes.
I wonder if you still would've liked me back then. When I watched Cadeyrn beg the Pale Tree to change her ways. We were just beginning to see what the world was really like beyond the safety of our peaceful Grove, and it shook us.
Tyria was so big, so full of contradictions. Ventari's Tablet didn't explain why other civilizations—other people—have mothers and fathers. Why they follow the scripture of gods they can't see. Why some follow no scripture at all.
He wanted vengeance.
Cadeyrn stood before the Pale Tree and asked her to abandon Ventari's Tablet. The world had shown us its ugly face, he said, and the tablet prevented us from defending ourselves. He wanted us to display our strength. Show our thorns.
I remember thinking he was a fool. An empty-headed secondborn who could never understand the importance of a peaceful life. I hoped the Pale Tree's avatar would appear and tear him down for his ridiculous ideas.
Instead, he received only silence.
It was one of those moments where fate diverged. Where mere words could've changed the course of everything to come. If only I could have seen a glimpse of the future like you, I would have acted differently. I would have known that who I was then is not who I wish to be now.
Cadeyrn was wounded. Of course he was—he had spoken out, and the Pale Tree ignored him.
"I am the first of my generation," he insisted. "I deserve to be heard!"
I could've been gentle with him. Told him he mattered, that the Pale Tree heard and understood all her children. I could've been harsh and called him a traitor. Warned him his wild streak would endanger us all. They were both what he needed to hear.
But I was callous back then. And so, so shallow.
"Why should she care?" I said. "She has thousands of children now, Cadeyrn. You're either firstborn...or you're simply sylvari."
Worst of all: I believed my words. I thought I and the other firstborn were superior. Free from generational strife and political atrocities. Perfect and pure. In time, the Jungle Dragon would prove us wrong.
I wish I could go back and erase the smugness of my voice. Soothe the sting of what I said to Cadeyrn.
But I said it, and it changed him. My cruelty hardened his heart and planted the seed of resentment. Hatred. I know I wasn't the only one, but I helped set him down the road he would soon follow. To the creation of the Nightmare Court.
From the moment we emerged together, Faolain and I were like twin leaves sprouted from the same branch. She had endless questions, and all I ever wanted was to find the answers for her. We ventured into the vast unknown together, saw beautiful and terrible things. We made the world our own.
I thought I had been created just for her. That she was born to discover, to change and shape everything she touched, and I was born to love her.
Maybe I really did love Faolain, in my own way. But I was so selfish then. I think I only loved the way everyone looked at me when I was with her.
She knew this. And she used it.
When I was young, I thought I knew everything there was to know. I was a firstborn sylvari—the tablet told us we were the purest creatures in the world. And I believed it, because I wanted so desperately to be unique. To be special.
We were just beginning to see our own insignificance in the world, and while it drove Faolain and made her hungrier, it caused me to turn inward, become even more arrogant. It masked my fear of not being important. Of becoming nothing.
It was the tiniest seed of a weakness, the desire—no, the need—to be exceptional. But Faolain found it. She had a knack for finding weaknesses. And for exploiting them.
In the beginning, she was sweet, even romantic. She took me to moonlit clearings, where fireflies danced around our feet. She wove summer flowers through my hair and held my face in her hands and told me I was the most beautiful, important person she would ever know. That I would make a difference. That she was proud of me.
I loved the way she looked at me, like I was the only creature in the world. I felt like she understood me, as no one else could. There was such admiration in her eyes, it became hard to look away. I needed her to be my mirror, because I couldn't see what she saw. I needed her love to feel whole.
Which was precisely what she wanted.
Depending on Faolain felt so natural, just like loving her. I was so young, so untested; I thought they were the same thing. I knew as long as I had Faolain, I could do anything. I was ensnared. I was her prey.
That was when things changed.
It's easy to look back now and say I should've seen what Faolain really was. What she was doing when she would ignore me for days at a time, seemingly out of the blue. When she would come back as if nothing happened and chastise me for getting upset.
But it's so difficult to recognize when you're under the murky water. She made it difficult.
She would starve me of the attention she had once lavished on me. She withheld it from me when she saw I was hungriest for it. And when I would finally get angry, she wilted. Acted as though I had wounded her. She made it my fault. Mine. Never hers. Not even ours together.
Faolain began hinting that I was becoming dull. She said that without her, I would be indistinguishable from other sylvari. Sometimes, she wondered out loud if she would grow bored with me. She knew exactly what to say. And I was so deep under the water, I believed her.
I would do whatever it took to regain her attention. I did favors for her, made myself perfect for her, picked fights with her. In my eyes, even her anger was better than her indifference. But none of it worked.
The only time she gave me her full attention was to scrutinize me.
Faolain picked me apart. The things she used to say she loved about me—my directness, my preference for listening over speaking, the way I brought her back when she pushed boundaries—now she criticized, even despised them.
She said I was holding her back. That she could be so much more without me, but she stayed with me out of pity. And just when I'd decide I was more miserable with her than I could ever be on my own, she would turn back into the loving, attentive partner I remembered from long ago. She would take me back to the clearing and weave flowers into my hair. Tell me I was still special, if only I could stop dragging myself down.
I wish I could say I escaped her in the end, little one. But she escaped me. In the Nightmare Court, she found a community of sylvari desperate for change, for something they could believe in. And she used them, too.
My freedom lay in staying behind when she left. I used the Pale Tree and Ventari's Tablet to give me the strength I didn't think I had, and they helped me move past her. The Pale Tree helped me to live well and fully, to never leave a wrong to ripen into evil. Those teachings gave me the peace I needed. They gave me a purpose where I had none.
But that was all a lie, too.
When Wynne revealed the truth of the sylvari to me—that we were created only to serve Mordremoth—I felt hollowed out all over again. The Pale Tree's words healed me and brought me out of the darkness, but they had been empty. A convenient lie she spun to give us meaning where there was none. We were not pure—we were simply tools to be directed at a target. I was meant to be used. Again.
I was so angry at the Pale Tree, at my mother. But now...now I understand why she hid the truth from us. A mother does whatever she can to protect her child, even if it means lying.
I wish I could take away the terrible knowledge you had to live with, little one. I wish I could undo your fate and make it my own. Everything I've been through, I would suffer it again just to spare you.
That's what love is.
Do you remember when we first met? You were still inside your egg, growing into the beautiful creature you would soon become.
The feeling came so easily, wanting to keep you safe. I hadn't even seen your face, but I knew you were so, so special. Protecting you wasn't an order—it was an instinct.
But then the thoughts turned. Take the egg to the Heart of Maguuma, my impulse told me. I didn't know what I would find there, but the very fibers of my heart were pulling me forward.
Sylvari are not meant to question their Wyld Hunts. We were made to fulfill them. But I remembered what Wynne told me when she revealed the truth.
Trust no one. Not even the commander.
I tried to make sense of the notion blossoming in my mind—one that felt so much like it was my own. But I knew that Mordremoth's whispers were indistinguishable from my Wyld Hunt. Was I to just ignore my own desires? Did my instinct even belong to me anymore? Or was I being used, yet again?
I was more alone than I had ever been. The Pale Tree, the commander, Wynne... I trusted no one. Not even myself. It was just you and me and that horrible, endless jungle.
And so I focused on you. I devoted every part of myself to keeping you from harm. I understood your importance in the world, even if I wasn't certain of the future, but it was more than that. You were all I had. I couldn't lose you, too. Losing you would mean losing myself.
I think that was when I understood. I would never be significant, and that was okay. No sylvari—not Cadeyrn, not Faolain, or Wynne, not even the Pale Tree—mattered all that much. We weren't pure, perfect beings, and we weren't the most important creatures in the world.
And I would protect you with everything I had.
The Pale Tree protected me—protected all sylvari—the only way she knew how. She hid the terrible truths of the world from us and tried to make us feel safe and supported.
It made me believe I was chosen. Special. But it was never about that—it was about passing this feeling on to another. And I passed it on to you, my jewel-bright bird.
Protecting you didn't mean hiding the ugliness of the world from you. I wanted you to be strong in a way I never was, to meet your fate head-on with courage and confidence. I wanted—needed you to be ready.
So I stayed with you and taught you everything I'd learned. All my mistakes, my pain—it would help you grow. It was the most important thing I've ever done, and ever will do. You would save the world, the sylvari, the Dream—all of it.
But you were never just that to me. You weren't simply the dragon that would defeat Kralkatorrik. You were mine, and I was yours. You taught me how to love fully, without holding back. No matter how guarded I was around the others, you saw what no one else did: the warmth at my core.
I finally had a purpose.
I empathize now with the Pale Tree. She was a mother forced to send her children into the cold, unforgiving world, knowing the harm—even death—that would befall them.
But that mother must let her children fly, even fall—so they may learn. And you'd fallen before, only to get back up stronger and more certain. And I was always there to help you. I thought you were ready. I thought we would win together.
And now I've lost you. You were a part of me, and I of you. How does a heart beat when half of it is gone?
I wish I had done more to show you how much I loved you. How much you meant to me—to all of us.
I haven't heard from the commander in days. I wonder if our leader's heart has crumbled into dust, too. Now we have no plan. No ideas. Nothing left to do but mourn our lost hope—our lost child—and the terrible, beautiful world she tried to protect.
I hope I see you soon, little one, when the end comes.
We need to be with you for this, all of us. You brought so many people together, touched so many souls. We should face what comes together, one last time.
I can't do this alone—I need someone else to help me meet the end of all things, and the failure of all our plans and dreams. Someone who loves you like I do.
It's time I call the commander.
- On the release page, the three All or Nothing: Requiem short stories have been formatted using the open-source program Twine.
- The story is illustrated by ArenaNet's creative partner Kinixuki.