In Siegardt the words, "I want to be an adventurer" were commonplace to the eager and hopeful. For Ro it was no different. For him, being an adventurer meant becoming an adult, abiding the laws of the land and defending the weak. When a good friend of his, Satsu, takes him under her wing, he learns all there is to know and more about making money, getting a job, socializing and everything else in between. With her as his mentor there would be no doubt that he would become a great adventurer. But will it be everything he hoped for?
Updating every Saturday!
Becoming an adventurer
“Shhhhhh, be quiet.” My friend, Satsu, an expert from the hunter’s guild, quietly whispered to me as she pointed to a small creature just a few meters ahead of us. I was a recent recruit, a novice by not only name but experience. Unlike Satsu, I didn’t know the first thing about hunting, killing, fighting or anything really for that matter. Satsu insisted she was the same once upon a time, and to be honest that was what kept me going. If it weren’t for her, I’m not sure I’d have followed my lust for adventure.
“What now?” I asked feverishly.
“Just a minute,” she barred me with her arm, her eye never leaving her target. “They’re skittish as hell. But if we can kill one,” she turned to me with a grin, “it’ll be proof enough that you’re not a novice.”
My eyes widened at the prospect. No longer a novice? You mean I wouldn’t have to scrounge around for every coin I could find? Fight desperately just to snag food for the day? I wouldn’t require someone to chaperone over me as I learned? I would actually have a job and take on duties to earn a living. I remember thinking that she was just trying to encourage me. That I was in over my head and working for the capitol of Siegardt just wasn’t feasible.
“I could get a job?” I said almost too loudly. Satsu took a soundless finger to her lips and I shrunk down to my knees at my own voice. She snapped back around to see the furry ball of fluff was still blissfully drinking from the stream. Satsu gestured to me and I removed my hands from my mouth to peer over the bush. She motioned the signal to me asking if I was ready. I motioned back ‘yes,’ and Satsu reached into the quiver hung across her back to nock an arrow across her bow. Satsu took aim at the creature making sure not to make a sound and nodded. It was time. Now or never, I needed to make sure this counted. I knew I could rely on Satsu, it was myself I was worried about.
I took up the machete I had been holding in my hand. It wasn’t much to look at, but even the scraps looked appealing to someone like me. I held the blade out in front of me as if I were challenging the creature. Then, just as Satsu reached the peak of her bowstring, I leapt.
* * *
Satsu proudly threw the dead critter up onto the counter, drawing the attention of the butcher from, well, butchering whatever it was he was hacking away at. Thick droplets of blood poured out of the critter’s mouth, a gruesome sight considering the only wound it suffered was from Satsu’s feathered arrow. Satsu tucked some of her long, auburn hair behind her ears and grinned.
“Three hundred,” she demanded.
The gruff man behind the counter scoffed and wiped his hands against his apron.
“You’ll be lucky to get two-fifty,” he snapped back. “I ain’t buying for more than that, Satsu. I ain’t filled with riches.”
“I know you make more money than you’re letting on. I’m sure you’re not also in the business of conning. Three-hundred.”
“And it seems you ain’t in the business of hunting,” he said. Satsu and Rosenburg were on near familial terms at this point and he knew exactly how to wound her pride. “These little critters ain’t worth much of late.” Rosenburg pinched the ear of the luna and turned it over. “See here, you didn’t get a great shot either. You hit the stomach. That’s gonna make a mess of the innards. Had your arrow hit the heart or the lungs, then maybe I could settle for two-eighty. But three-hundred is simply not happening.”
“Fine.” Satsu gripped the animal by its long ears and pulled it away to hang at her side. “I guess I’ll continue my business elsewhere.”
The old man shrugged.
“Don’t bother me any. See you another time then, Satsu.”
Satsu turned on her heel, her nose up in the air. I’d seen it time and time again. Satsu was a great hunter, one of the best in fact. She had pride, her dexterity and agility were on point, and many of the bows she used were hand-made. The thing is though…
She wasn’t very good at haggling.
“C’mon, Satsu. It wasn’t that bad. At least you got two-sixty,” I said as I took a bite out of my griplo burger.
“Yeah, yeah,” she sighed.
I didn’t want to seem too excited about graduating from novice-hood. It’s true that we didn’t get as much for the luna as we originally hoped. In truth, I knew we wouldn’t. Satsu was no match for Rosenburg and he knew it. Her desperation would always get the better of her and she was a bit impatient when it came to getting what she wanted. I’m just glad Rosenburg was a kinder soul than the other merchants. Many would have you believe the merchant’s guild is filled with honest would-be capitalists who simply wanna make a quick buck in the world, but it couldn’t be any further from the truth. Most of them would leave you for dead if it meant picking the clothes off your skin.
To put it simply—I was glad we knew Rosenburg, but my impatience was beginning to get the best of me. It had been weeks since I started my novice training and even though I wasn’t sure which job I wanted to dedicate myself to, I was excited to be part of the adventurer’s guild.
“Yes?” She grumbled between bites of her burger.
“Do you think the luna will be enough to graduate me?”
Satsu gulped down the last bite, satisfied, then turned to me. I didn’t like it when she did that. The separation in years became far more apparent whenever she would lock eyes with me, and me being the sixteen-year-old boy I was, I was often defeated by what sat below her eyes.
“Without a doubt.” Her smile did greater wonders for me than any part of her body. It was cocky and strong in her own feminine way and not much else could more intoxicating. “Rosenburg may be a smut, but I can at least say that most novices don’t slay lunas by the time they graduate. Way too rare, skittish, hard to catch, harder to track, that sorta thing. So don’t worry yourself, you got this.”
And just like that, my courage resurfaced.
* * *
The old man stroke his beard as he perused over the handwritten scroll Satsu gave him. For as impulsive, wild, and pushy as she was, her penmanship had the appeal of a sophisticated, well-learned woman with an incredible talent for word choice.
Gellick spent time, way more time on it than I thought he would. It was only five paragraphs, but somehow he had managed to spend ten minutes already. I knew he was a quick study, so maybe he was looking for something else on the document. Something that would show I was lying or somehow disprove her account of the events. Eventually though, he looked up from the scroll, and rolling it back up, he handed it to Satsu and nodded happily.
“I don’t see a problem here. Ro has been making progress I see. Still stumbling through like a deer through a sticker patch, but I don’t see why we can’t accept it.” Gellick looked to me and folded sweaty arms. No doubt the man had been working the smith up until we arrived. “I ain’t much for ceremony, so I’ll put it like this. Congratulations, Ro. You’re no longer a novice. You are now a fully-fledged adventurer. From this point on your decisions are your own responsibility. No one will take the fall for you,” he eyes Satsu for a moment, “not even Satsu. Is that understood?”
“Yes!” I stood erect like a statue and saluted. Looking back on it, that was pretty embarrassing. But Gellick was a good guy and laughed like an old dwarf.
“Geh ha haha! Boy’s rigid as a tower. Loosen up boy, or you won’t last a week.”
Gellick walked away and stood before a bookcase. Wedged in between them was a flattened scroll. The old smith unfolded the piece of paper, looked it over and folded it back up.
“Here,” he handed the paper to me, “you’ll need this to get a job. Remember that once you pick a job you’re stuck with it. There aren’t many exceptions to the rule. You’re already an adventure, so take time to think it over and don’t be brash about your decision, ya hear?”
“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”
“Don’t mention it,” he waved it away as if the apology carried its own stink, “with Satsu behind you it was only a matter of time anyways.”
He winked at her and she rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, yeah. Thanks, Gellick,” said Satsu. No doubt she was eager to leave. Eager to teach. For what reason I don’t quite know. There were just as many unequally talented novices like me who couldn’t throw a knife, much less hold it properly. Yet here she was, guiding me along like a lonely ugly duckling.
Satsu put her hands on my shoulders and led me out of the novice’s hall and onto the cobblestone street of Giffen. Her soft, milky-white hands sent a chill down my spine, my boyish instincts taking hold of me. I felt my face flush and was grateful she couldn’t see the trembling fear plastered on my face.
“Open up the letter.”
“Ah, that’s right.” I had honestly forgotten with Satsu behind me. I opened up the letter just as Gellick had and read over the letter.
For the one who receives this letter.
The one bearing this letter has full authority and by right of the novice’s hall and adventurer’s guild, we do hereby proclaim that Ro, a boy of sixteen summers, is now fit to carry a job and provide his assistance to society. If one such person, man or woman, claims otherwise, may they challenge Gellick of the Blacksmith’s Guild.
The words weren’t particularly impressive. Gellick was after all a blacksmith. Not quite the wordsmith Satsu was. But it was here, in my hands. Finally within my grasp I could move forward and away from novicehood and take up a job. I’d have to be careful in my selection. Just as Gellick advised. Little room for doubt existed within me. I knew that whatever job I picked I would jump in with both feet. I folded the paper back up and slipped it into the back pocket of my trousers. The first and most important hurdle had finally been conquered.
I was now an adventurer.
There are a few notes to keep in mind when you’re an adventurer. For one, if you are adventuring or performing your jobly duties, you are to be in your uniform at all times. Within reason of course.
Secondly, you are under no obligation to work unless the guild personally requests you to. This means, that if you don’t feel like adventuring for a week or two, that’s up to the person. But chances are that person would also be dead. Gotta eat to live after all.
Last and most importantly, you are absolutely forbidden to attack other people or to steal any of their gear. You would think this would go without saying, but we do have a name for people like this: outlaws.
Outlaws don’t care one way or the other. Be it human or beast, demon or angel, they’re all the same to an outlaw. The worst part was, a good outlaw knew how to sneak around, how not to get caught, to be cunning and ruthless. There were of course sloppy outlaws too, but most of us weren’t too concerned about them. You were in good hands once the guards witnessed a crime.
“Are there any reputable outlaws out there?” I asked Satsu.
“A few. As long as you keep your wits sharpened, nothing should happen though.”
“Did you ever run into one?” I asked as I bit into the crunchy red apple in my hand. Satsu smiled.
“I had a friend. Actually, let me retract that. I thought I had a friend who turned outlaw. Turns out he was stringing me along the entire time. We met as fellow hunters at the guild. He was a little too much of everything. Too quiet, too suave, too skilled. It was suspicious. Me being the fool I was, I thought he was just misunderstood. I offered my hand in friendship and the two of us went out hunting together.”
“Oh crap, did he steal your stuff in the night?”
Satsu shook her head.
“He wasn’t so obvious. He wasn’t one of those clowns who gallivant about aimlessly looking for girls or money. This guy was clever. Too clever. We went hunting for as long as two months together before I started to finally notice trinkets here and there were missing.”
“Doesn’t that make him the obvious culprit?”
“Naturally. That’s the thing though. It was something that started to occur even when he wasn’t with me. So for a while I thought maybe some animal or group was spying on me and taking small things here and there thinking I wouldn’t notice. It worked for a while. I thought something was off, but it took some time before I realized items were missing. At first it was just a few coins, nothing noticeable. Then a couple arrows. And then some gauze. When I couldn’t find my dagger, I finally realized that someone had been taking my things.
“Now something you have to realize. Accusing a fellow guild member of a crime is a terrible shame. The penalties are severe if you turn out to be-” she suddenly cut off when something at one of the stalls. She gestured for me to wait and at a brisk pace, she walked away to a nearby stall, her eyes alit with the shine of the newly displayed dagger. The crowd was bustling, and me being the timid boy I was, I waited nervously in the crowd for her return. Satsu untangled the knot keeping her coin purse to her belt and threw eight gold targents onto the keeper’s counter. The man stroked his beard, thought intensely, then swooped up the coins and placed the now sheathed dagger into Satsu’s hands. She waved to me on her way back and I could feel my nerves calm.
“So as I was saying,” she tied the coin purse back around her belt and we resumed our walk, “you can’t just accuse someone of being guilty for a crime. You’re guildmates. You’re supposed to work together. If the proof’s there, they’ll get caught anyways, and usually it’s best to just let the guildmasters take care of that. But if you feel so inclined to accuse someone, well… you better be right. Because I almost lost everything.”
“One day he just vanished. Like a ninja, he disappeared into the night with all of my stuff and with a dagger pinned to a note, my dagger by the way. He left a nasty message. We never saw him again.”
“Jeez, Satsu. So what then?”
“Nothing. There wasn’t anything to do. The guild pitched in and got me some new gear. Not as good as the stuff I had, but it was suitable enough. I almost quit when that happened.” Satsu looked pensive at that moment. The sun reflected in her eyes what I felt was a somber, melancholy tone. She seemed to be struggling with the event, and it got me to think that maybe there was more to it than she let on. “So? Did you make a decision?”
“About what?” I asked honestly.
“About what?” she asked incredulously. “Your job, what job are you going for?”
“Oh, right! Ummm, well. I don’t know actually. A knight would be pretty cool. Strong, courageous, dependable.”
“All the things you aren’t,” she chuckled.
Frankly, I was hurt pretty bad by that comment. Sad to admit, I know. But I really had my heart set on becoming a knight. She was beautiful, taller, and her womanhood was, well, for a boy my age, very pronounced where I liked it. I wanted to protect her as dumb as it sounds. She hardly needed any protection from me, but it was a fine dream at the time.
“Let’s see,” she said, stopping me and taking a good long look. “You’re not strong or dependable. You’re fragile, clumsy, and don’t have much of a talent for music or dance.”
I could feel my enthusiasm dropping into the pit of my stomach. My self-esteem was being dragged along with it, and I was beginning to feel less and less like an adventurer, and more like the kid brother.
“However,” she paused, “you’re quite smart, you know how to strategize. Reason is definitely one of your stronger suits and even when you’re panicked your arm doesn’t falter.”
It took a couple more minutes of her touching my face, giving thoughtful expressions and mumbling until at last she came up with an answer. Her answer came so freely, so perfectly. I’ll never forget the way she smiled that moment.
The Crystal Machine
Here we were, at the gates of a college I knew very well. I was never too interested in attending the college. I knew better. At least, I thought I did. I never did see myself as a very athletic, intelligent, savvy, or interesting person. I thought myself fairly average, comfortable with living out the same daydream most boys did. Protecting the innocent, rescuing young girls with my silver blade held at a bandit’s throat, dismantling entire squadrons of evildoers… the one dream Satsu would make sure never came true.
“Where are we?” I feigned ignorance.
“Calieu,” she said proudly. “It’s a huge college filled with magical creatures, studying mages, a whole plethora of topics to explore. It’s perfect for a bookworm like you!”
I don’t know where she got the impression I was a bookworm. I couldn’t recall ever walking around with one, talking about one, or anything of the matter. Is that something girls like her just assume of quiet, weird boys like me? I’m not sure, but I answered her the way she probably wanted.
“Even so. Me casting magic? I think I’d do a lot less damage as a knight.”
“You wouldn’t last a week as a knight.” She shooed away the proposition like a mosquito. “Give it a try, you’ll like it!”
“Magic, huh?” I held my palm out to look at it. I couldn’t conjure a thing yet, but if I decided to take this path I could manifest something immaterial and wholly deadly. “I… I’ll give it a try.”
Satsu practically leapt for joy at my acceptance.
* * *
Satsu and I separated. A weird feeling. She had not left my side since I made my decision to become an adventurer. I was alone like a naked babe, left to wander the academy in a set of robes I could only just barely afford. With my books held under my arm, I journeyed through a long ornate corridor, the ceiling stood arched and the white marble floors brimmed with excellence. I trailed behind a small crowd of students pouring into a room for their first lesson. And mine.
I clasped the beam of the door as I entered, quickly and timidly locating a desk and seating myself. A couple of the students looked at me strangely but no one said a word. I took a table as far away from the crowd as I could. Yes, a table. I guess desks weren’t a thing in this academy. The window would be a nice way to dissuade people from sitting down with me. Or so I thought.
Three others came down to sit at my table. A lanky boy with black hair and robes similar to mine sat to my left. Across from me was a woman about the same height as me, brown hair and blue eyes. To my right a guy I could only describe as ‘cocky’ sat down, his robes dyed a red color unusual from the others in the classroom.
“Yo,” the guy to my right saluted with his pointer and middle fingers. “New here?”
“You’ll get into the swing of it. Mister Claristo has his way of making sure students participate. Doesn’t he, Tsuki?”
The girl across from me rolled her eyes. “Something like that.”
“Name’s Dave by the way,” he reached out his hand and I shook it with what I thought was a natural reciprocation. I hope they saw it that way. “That guy there, his name is Larule. Quiet, but sinisterly intelligent.”
Dave smiled and Larule shot a glare at him.
“So this is your group of friends or something?” I asked.
“Friends might be pushing it,” said Tsuki. “Partners, more like.”
“Why you still so cold? I thought I warmed your heart by now,” said Dave.
“Oh my god,” Tsuki whined. “Just sit down, Dave. It’s too early for this.”
Three loud, dull claps caught the attention of the class and with its demanding sound the students seated themselves.
“That’s Mister Claristo,” whispered Dave. “Just don’t get on his bad side and you’ll pass.”
“You’re mages already?” I asked bewildered.
Dave just smiled.
* * *
“The machine is sensitive. What are you doing? You have to treat it like a woman, be gentle.”
Tsuki raised an eyebrow. I stood beside as I awaited my turn. I wasn’t sure at the time since I had just met her, but I had the distinct feeling she didn’t like this man.
“Okay, get out of here, you’ve had your try.” Claristo practically shoved the failing student away from the machine situated at the center of the room. The student caught his balance but was clearly disappointed in himself, his lips sucked in as he fought back the tears. “Next!” Claristo made the demand like a drill sergeant, his voice clear but and rough like an old dwarf who swallowed a barrel of nails.
Tsuki stepped up to the upside down, diamond-shaped machine with grace. So much so that I swore she floated. Tsuki climbed few stairs leading up to the machine and looked to the cabinet to her right. Claristo waved his hand and the cabinets shut close. It rumbled and shook, the clanking and clacking of bottles and instruments threatening to break loose out of its wooden prison and spill upon the floor. Claristo waved his hand a second time and the cabinet went silent. The doors opened on their own and a wide array of different tinctures, chemicals, bits and pieces of creatures lied in wait.
“You may proceed,” said Claristo.
Only now could I see how thin and sullen Tsuki truly was. Her robes hid her small frame, the pads of the shoulders giving her a stronger than true appearance. Her arms peeked out from underneath her robes and keeping her hands distant from each in a symmetrical fashion, she moved her hands and bowed her head, reciting some strange incantation. A foggy mist of purples and sprinkled blues twisted and turned, coiling around the machine as if possessed.
“Lock,” said Tsuki. At the word, a blue light flashed from the tip of her pointer finger. If you blinked you missed it. She rested her arms and looked at her professor. “May I?”
Her palm held out, three bottles, two colored a vibrant, nearly florescent pink, and another filled with what I thought was ink, floated over to her. The bottles were small enough that she held each one between a set of fingers, pour them one by one into the small chamber at the base. She raised her hand up to the cabinet once more and two stranger objects made their way over to her through the air—a tuft of white fur that seemed to have a tail attached, and a deep red thorn long enough to pierce the heart and then some. Holding one object in each hand, Tsuki crushed the tail in her hand, a blue light emanating from the shattered remains. She tipped her hand and poured the pieces of, swatting away the remainder like dust. Tsuki neared the concoction and took a cautious whiff of it.
“What’s she doing? That’s not part of the test.” I whispered to Dave.
“Oh, it is. Just watch.”
Whipping out the thorn like a conductor’s baton, she moved it in all fashions. Figure eights, up and down, side to side, I couldn’t tell what she was doing. It was as if she was playing with the pot or singing to it, I don’t know which. She suddenly stopped and dipped the thorn into the soup. Nothing happened. She smiled and stirred the soup clockwise for at least a minute or two, tapped the thorn against the side of the machine every so often and sniffing it. She’d continue again and again until at last she set the thorn on a nearby table. Tsuki took the lid with both hands and shut it tight, moving the clasps into place so as not to disturb the concoction. She pressed four buttons. The third button twice, the fourth button once, and the first button last. Tsuki took two steps back and watched as the machine trembled and roared. Some of the students stood back, me being one of them. After a while the machine calmed and the students slowly came back to watch.
“I’m excited to see what you brewed, young witch,” smirked Claristo. The professor approached the door of the machine and bravely opened the hatch. I thought he was insane after what we just witnessed, but he opened it as if he were just rummaging through his drawer. He slipped on worker’s glove and held a vial between a set of tongs. Generously, he filled the vial to the brim, shaking it ever so slightly. Claristo approached a small cage carrying a muttrat, an unusually strong and dangerous type of rodent. Without any hesitation, he poured a few drops into the water dish of the creature.
The muttrat sniffed at the nearly clear liquid, a bizarre result from such thick, darkly colored substances. Two licks is all it took. The muttrat convulsed and within seconds the lower half of its jaw dropped to the ground. All of us watched in horror as the muttrat coughed up blood and black goo. It was as if it was melting. I didn’t feel like I was watching an animal die, but rather a candle melting away from an open flame. By the time it was over, only the small pinches of fur could have ever told us there was once a living creature there.
“Exquisite work,” complimented Claristo. “Your potions are as potent as ever. Marvelous. Truly.”
“Impressed yet?” whispered Dave.
Magic was a fascinating concept. Far more so than I had ever given it credit for. You could create potions to cure the wounded, poison the deadly. Command nature at will and summon forces beyond the imagination to do your every bidding. Never had I thought such a world was open to me.
“Yes,” I said, enraptured by the witch. “Very.”
That was when the door opened. A door I would later come to regret opening.