I walked into the tavern, feeling a pain in my ankle, but that would go away with time. What wouldn’t go away with time was my growling stomach, but first, I needed to turn the quest in. The guild official stood behind his stand and I joined the queue in front of him. However, my eyes were on the other adventurers seated at the tables further in the tavern. There was so much warmth and cheer amongst the veterans, but I could see sadness amongst the new adventurers.
“Name?” the guild official asked.
“Teuge of Green Cr-” I began.
“Cross, I got you here. Turning in quests?”
I handed the official the contract, a little bloodied on one side, but that was common.
“Considering you are not dead this deserves a rank up,” the official said with a smile. “A troll is no easy target, congratulations.”
Suddenly that smile vanished and he eyed me with concern.
“Listen, Teuge,” he started slowly. “I have seen too few adventures starting out find success. The chances of a new adventurer surviving in this world are not high, which is why I believe it is time you formed a team.”
I avoided his stare, but he wasn’t giving up.
“It doesn’t pay to be greedy, Teuge,” the official explained as he placed the reward for the quest on the counter. “You will bite off more than you can chew one day and then what? One less adventurer I see the next day. And then-”
“Okay, I understand,” I muttered snatching the gold satchel off the counter. I was about to leave, but it was impossible with such pressure no laid upon. There was a limit to how rude I would be. “Do you know anybody that could use some help?”
“There is one mage down on his luck near the window over there,” the official told me with the slightest smile, happy that I conceded at last. “He had a team once, but after a mishap during one of their adventures he lost them both to bandits.”
“Bandit quests?” I asked him. “Aren’t those a little high for mages of such low rank?”
“It is, but as of this moment there is nothing against higher ranks sharing a quest with lower rank teammates. There have been many cases such as this, which is why there will be a change to guild code in the coming spring. The whole inner circle will be communing officially. You should join ceremony, perhaps vote in favour of the code being changed or a rule added.”
“Just give me time and place.”
Noting the event I walked towards the window. It was awful to lose your team to bandits. I have seen adventurers die at their hands. The bandits were merciless, take no prisoners when it came to adventurers. Most wielded axes, which made it easy to dodge their attacks, but one solid hit would be enough to end you.
“”You’re Merha, right?” I asked the mage, taking a seat across from him. He wore robes that were dirtied, ragged and cheap. In his hands was a book, spell tome, that he wrote slowly in. Bettering his magic, possibly creating new spells. So he hasn’t given up. “I heard what happened to your team.”
Merha continued to write solemnly. He wasn’t paying me any attention, or so it seemed. I knew this silence so well.
“Tell me where the bandit camp is,” I told him. That is what caused him to pause. There was an anger within him, a thirst for revenge. “Ah, so those ears do work. Well, perhaps they will this offer then. Mage, you are in need of help and no amount of research you do will help you. Lower rank mages don’t have access to stronger spells, so no matter how hard you write you will only make your magic light grow a little brighter.”
My words were truth, of experience when dealing with mages who got in my way.
“And you wish to help me?” Merha asked.
“I need to form a team, Merha,” I told him. “I will not lie to you and say that your story touched me so much to help you get revenge on those bandits. It happens too often for me to care anymore, but if you want my help, I will give it if you join me.”
“Your words a harsh and insulting,” Merha grunted. “But I do not deny that I need a sword to strike with my anger and you might just be the sword I need.”
I reached into my satchel and withdrew a contract, one that bound us together as a team. It would allows us to communicate from afar on important matters, making it easier to coordinate actions, but I needed his signature.
“Then do we need to discuss it further?” I asked Merha. “I feel as if I spent enough time in this tavern as it stands and therefore you have wasted much more time. My food stocks are filled and now I need your signature alongside mind.”
Merha hesitated; perhaps I was far too blunt? However, that is the language best used man-to-man, if not knight-to-mage. He inked his pen once more and drew his fanciful signature alongside my scrawl. You could always rely on mage to be a showoff, in any circumstances.
Once the name was written out I pocketed the contract and drew out my map.
“Mark the bandit camp and we will be off,” I ordered.
“Surely you don’t intent to strike now?” Merha replied, surprised for the first time. “It is dusk and by the time we reach the bandit camp it will be far into the night.”
“I may be a knight, but I am not a brute, Merha. I know when it is best to be discreet and if you want these bandits to suffer, being discreet is exactly what we need to do.”
Merha kept his silence now, not hesitating anymore. He knew now that he made his decision wisely. Our first adventure had begun.