Synopsis: A fast-paced story about a youngster who loses everything and everyone he holds dear. Through the only family that still remains with him, his uncle, he gets to choose to dedicate his focus and attention to blacksmithing rather than to fall into depression and street life...
Looking for Authors for Exclusive positions! Paid. DM the Admin on Discord if you're interested. LINK
Across crooked trees, a four-eyed crow landed near the edge of a puddle. It waddled along the circumference, leaving a trail of talon-prints atop moist mud. The crow then slowly sunk its beak into the puddle and gulped at what appeared to be a thick, purple liquid. It shivered when finished and danced with its wings wide open. With another shake, the crow flapped, rose, and shot into the darkness.
From a distance, Rollo observed this behaviour with a tired expression. He stifled a yawn, folding his arms behind his back to stand upright and alert. His head cocked to one side with disinterest until a larger man emerged, covered in armour from head to toe. He smiled and waved at the man, shedding from his identity as a mere Godvildian trainee.
“Well, aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!” greeted Roland, cheerily. “How are you doing, Uncle Noah?”
“Prince Roland, I apologize for having kept you waiting,” said Noah, sincerely. “Matters back at home have kept us busy, around the clock on most days.”
“What about my father?” asked Roland. “I suppose he’s taken control of my dukedom, estates and all.”
“Yes,” said Noah, with a nod. “The past few months have weighed on us all. Your presence here as a pretend prisoner hasn’t made it any easier.”
“I’m not oblivious to your plight,” said Roland, apologetically. “You’re keeping my secret, after all. Thank you…for your patience as well. I do appreciate it.”
Roland slowly unstrapped the bracelet around his wrist and returned it to Noah. “I need a replacement.”
“You’ve damaged this one quite a bit,” remarked Noah, while examining the cracks on the bracelet. “Aeter Restraints are hard to engineer. You must be more careful with such items, My Prince.”
With a sheepish smile, Roland scratched the back of his head and apologized once more. He felt the presence of a father from the man in front of him, something he had missed growing up with his own, the Emperor of Relicta.
“Uncle, it never hurts when you scold,” thought Roland, with a happy expression. Aloud he said, “I understand. Would you happen to have any with an easier to manage load limit?”
Noah gazed at his Prince for a moment and smiled. He rummaged through a small pouch and removed a slimmer, silver bracelet. “The limiter is set at one-fifth of your maximum aeter output, nothing too suspicious. I would still recommend that you not touch the limit often.”
“Thank you!” said Roland, cheerily. “I’ll bear that in mind.”
Noah grinned a little, underneath his sturdy helmet. He waited a moment, and then asked, “Is he everything you had hoped for?”
“And more,” admitted Roland, honestly. “I suppose you’re talking about Daiden Lost. Did you know that he’s the descendant of Takshaka?”
Noah staggered at the revelation. His heart hastened, thumping against his chest in a frenzy. He swallowed a nervous lump in his throat and shook a little to reclaim his composure.
“Does…does the child know of his worth?” asked Noah, cautiously.
“I doubt it. Takshaka is a ruined and forgotten presence. And Ehedus…well, the Godvildian God is playing a very clever, dirty game,” guessed Roland. “I’m not sure what it is, but Daiden must be protected and allowed to flourish. Ah…speaking of which, there’s another reason I requested our meeting today.”
The Relictan Baron pressed his feet together and then apart, in attention.
“You’re too formal…” complained Roland, while massaging his forehead. “Anyway, we’ll be choosing trainee quests for our final two months in training. I believe there is a crazed Lord in Multana City with a peculiar problem. Could you send me more information on the matter?”
In an arc, several carriages parked near the western gate of Mutuba Village. The clearing bustled with activity despite being a little outside the range of farmlands and houses, as a stop for mercenaries and adventurers. A large board at the centre landmarked the location as an area for quests, with hundreds of different, unofficial requests pinned in stacks to the soft wood. Ser Valaris led his trainees to a small, two-floor building near the board instead.
Daiden admired the neat interiors, rounded tables, and comfortable chairs. His stomach grumbled at the smell of food, meat mostly, and alcohol. The lamps buzzed with large, aeter-flamed insects, illuminating the hardwood with a comfortable, orange light. Behind the counter, Daiden spotted a plump, sweet-looking woman scolding some of the rowdier customers. Her apparent husband, a lean man with a thick beard, stood beside her, wiping plates and glasses with a clean, dry cloth.
“Very classy!” said Daiden, out loud. He covered his mouth for a moment and looked around, a little embarrassed. “This doesn’t look like your typical inn.”
On the second floor, Daiden noticed a few open doors. “Oh, wait, this is an inn.”
“Well, in part, yes,” said Rollo, walking to Daiden’s side. “How are you doing?”
Daiden rushed his eyes through the room and spotted a familiar face. He waved for attention and smiled when Laella noticed them from the crowd as well. She slowly waded through the other trainees and greeted Rollo when within earshot. Daiden pointed at her and then himself.
“We worked with the healers before arriving here,” explained Daiden. “Orders from the Senior Knight, all to keep us in prime condition for the trainee quests.”
Rollo smirked at Laella and Daiden, together. “I’m happy to see the two of you getting along well, especially after six months of collective anti-social behaviour.”
“Avoid testing my patience, Rollo,” warned Laella, twitching around her eyebrows. “It’s best we focus on the task at hand.”
Daiden managed a nervous laugh and stepped in between the two of them. “This scene is like something from a book! How about we just calm down? I mean, consider me an idiot. Explain the situation to me.”
Rollo continued to smile and conceded his role to Laella with a sly expression. The latter twitched again, but obliged given her new, friendly relationship with Daiden.
“This is…what do you call it? Ah, a stop for mercenaries and adventurers; it’s an inn,” said Laella, slowly. “But it also functions as a Godvildian Circle of Quests and Information.”
“Long…” remarked Daiden, simply. “A place to acquire and trade information, while also accepting quests?”
“That’s a reasonable inference, yes,” said Laella, impressed. “But the GCQI is also an official observer for quests. They handle transactions of any size, compensate success based on the Empire’s allowances, and categorizes reputation. Any quest posted here is official, as opposed to those posted outside. The downside is that the GCQI grades a quest based on difficulty, restricting immediate access to higher grade quests.”
“As expected of an Amell!” praised Daiden, genuinely.
“Well, there’s an upside as well,” continued Laella. “You’re rewarded correctly with the grading system, the higher the risks, the higher the rewards. That’s a net you won’t find with unofficial quests.
“Interestingly though, as High Rankers, we’re allowed the privilege to bypass the restrictions with trainee quests. It’s a crude, but simple method to analyse our grade from the start since we’re more likely to graduate as Three-unit Captains than soldiers.”
“I honestly can’t tell if that’s more tempting or risky,” said Daiden, cautiously.
“Definitely not something that requires your cautious mind,” interjected Rollo, hurriedly. “And I have just the quest for you, Daiden.”