It was a time for mead. Or maybe a time for ale. Or maybe a time for whatever drink that humans were willing to ingest as long as something was fermented in it. Amelian looked at the bartender with a hint of disgust. She didn't hate humans. Some of her best friends were humans. But in the back of her mind, tucked in those dark spots which you were not allowed to admit to because such thoughts were cruel and mean and you would be considered a judgemental flerk if you spoke them allowed, she wrinkled her nose.
She wasn't racist! Not at all. She spent time with a lot humans, had them live with her in a little flat that she had rented outside of the town. She would employ them if she needed to go on a hunting raid, and one of her favourite tutors was a human. Well, of course, she was being tutored in the ways of human food preparation so the tutor had to be human, but she was much more agreeable than her lute instructor, who was an elf, and even though one of her own kind, she hated that teacher more than she had hated any other living being she had ever known.
In fact, most humans she had met were warm, inviting, friendly, and quite funny. And they were passionate. By the tree were they passionate. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that their speck of life made a naught of difference in the grand scheme of things. And thus, they needed to retaliate against the fates by attacking every situation, no matter how banal, with a degree of fanaticism that any other race would have decreed unhealthy.
Of course, most of the evil entities that needed to be vanquished tended to be human, or undead humans, or once-was-human, or monsters uncovered by humans, but Amelian guessed that came with the territory. And it certainly made for a more lively world, that's for sure.
Humans have been around for centuries, but before that, the wars between dwarves and elves were long, bitter, and mostly mild skirmishes. Dwarves didn't like to leave the mountains. Elves didn't like to leave the forests. Not much fighting happened except for where mountains bordered anything forests.
And then, inexplicably, there were humans. No one knew where they came from. They were a stupid lot and couldn't seem to master basic hunting or tool making. And they seemed to die all the time for really stupid reasons. Oh no! The humans are dying of plague! STOP EATING THE RANCID MEAT YOU USELESS EXCUSE FOR A SENTIENT RACE!
Ahem. But that wasn't the thinking of a cultured and tolerant race. So she didn't think it. At least not out loud.
Amelian shook her head as if to that would erase the thoughts from her mind. She loved humans, and they were good to her. But sometimes, she wanted to ring their grubby little necks and beat some sense into their meat faced heads.
Wait, what was she thinking about. Ale! That's right. The thought thread had started because she was longing for a drink, but she didn't want to test her immune system with the unsanitary practices of the establishment.
She took a small swig from her water canteen and sat at her booth. She was waiting for humans. Well, she was waiting for anyone, really, but in particular, she was waiting for human adventurers. The Adventurer's Guild was the place that adventurers gathered looking for adventure, and this was the only place she could think of to recruit them.
No other race really had an Adventurer's Guild. Dwarves were content with mining. Elves were content with staring at things for eternity. Halflings were content with eating. But humans, they needed adventure. It probably had something to do with the whole short life span, but a halfing's life wasn't eternal and they seemed to find contentment.
There wasn't really a good system to finding an adventurer. The Adventurer's Guild seemed to be set up to accommodate those that were looking for adventure, but not those that were wanting to find them. There was a large billboard specifically reserved quests and jobs and Amelian had placed her notice on it. It looked out of place amongst the other quests.
Well, they weren't quests, really. No one seemed to be needing anyone for quests. Most of the postings were jobs. Someone needed to have a flower delivered to them. Another one had lost their child and needed an adventurer to find him. This one really struck a chord with Amelia. A child was LOST and instead of going out to find them, they just stuck a notice on the board? How long has this child been lost? It's a dangerous world out there, why not contact the city guard? Why not contact someone other than leave it to a stranger desperate for coin.
And that's what adventurers were. They were desperate. At least, they used to be desperate. The Adventuring Profession was wild back in the old days of humans, (smug sniff at what humans thought of as 'old') however that had gone the way of human chivalry as well as practical armour for women.
Now the boards were filled with jobs and one solitary pathetic request for a quest. This should have been a selling point. There were no other quests on the board. Adventurers preferred quests!
What was missing from this equation, however, were the Adventurers themselves. Where were they? She had been sitting in the tavern since early that morning and the place was only occupied by older men all playing simple board games and giving her looks that they probably thought was flattering.
She ignored them, of course. If there was anything her race had mastered it was being cold to all the other races.
Amelian leaned back in her chair. The Adventurers Guild may have been glamourous at one point in history, but it was really nothing but a small pub. She couldn't have imagined this was the original guild, considering she had heard stories sung of the adventurers of old. There were hoardes of them, all swarming the country side in a desperate need to fulfill every quest and rid every evil. She had no interest back then, she was stuck playing the lute. And having to learn the lute for a century may have made you a good lute player, but she couldn't really see the practicality of it.
Oh, she had plenty of other skills of course. There really wasn't much else you can do when stuck in the trees for eternity. However the lute playing was what really drove her to leave the forest and find out what life was like outside of the Elvish ways.
Life outside amongst humans was much more frantic than back home. Except for times like this, where the old humans just sat and played their games, and leered at any women that walked outside the guild.
No one was rushing off to get anything done. No one was yelling or arguing. No one was bartering or selling. It was almost peaceful. Except for the creepy old men.
She wasn't impatient. No, Amelian could sit in the guild all day. All week, in fact. Her brother was tasked once with forming a decorative stone ball to be used for one of the harvest festivals. He had settled on using the will of his mind and the gentle touch of his breath. Took him two hundred and twenty three years. Elves were born pertinacious.
"No," said Alonna.
"We can beat the rush! Hurry!" said Lorren.
"I don't want to go to the Adventurer's Guild. We were there yesterday. They just had errand jobs. One person had lost their child. Seriously! Why put it up on a job board? That's not a job! That should be a report that you file with the City Guard and they will hopefully get your kid back," said Alonna.
"I don't want to miss any new quests!" said Lorren.
"There aren't new quests! We've been there every day, and there hasn't been any new quests since, well, since we started! It's the same jobs. They don't put any dates on those notices either, did you see that? How long have they been up there? Maybe that kid who is lost is already eighteen and off and making his way in the world!"
"Oh, I hope it's a quest with a dragon!" said Lorren.
"Look! There is no quest with a dragon! There is no quest with a lizard. Or even a small rat. There aren't any quests. I don't want to go."
"I will get some cider. I like the cider there," said Lorren.
"I don't like it there! It's filled with creepy old men with a doctorate in leering. I hate it there," said Alonna.
"It's the only place to get quests!"
"There aren't any quests! Would you listen to me for once?" asked Alonna.
"And after we find a quest, I want to get some wings," said Lorren.
"It's not even noon!"
"Oooh, right! Wings with Eggs! Ah man. I love eggs! I'm so hungry now! Ok, maybe we should go get lunch first!"
"I'm in for lunch. Better than that guild."
"Oh, that's not good, I don't want to derail you from that. Ok. You convinced me. The Adventurers Guild it is! To the Guild, where Adventure Awaits!"
"Lorren! Give it up!"
"It's just down the street! See! I just want to take a quick look. If there is nothing on the boards, then we go get some lunch."
Alonna looked at him and glowered.
"You don't even have to go in. I just want to see. If there is nothing there, then we leave. But if there IS a quest, then you can come in."
"I don't have to go in the Guild," asked Alonna.
"Nope, you don't have to go in."
"And if there's nothing there, we can go."
"Go get lunch, yes," said Lorren.
"It's too early for lunch!" said Alonna.
"Then brunch then. I don't care what you want to call it. Should I use the term second breakfast? Honestly, halflings are the smartest people on the planet."
Alonna grunted and pulled Lorren towards the guild, "Let's get this over with."
Amelian looked up as a man entered the guild. He wasn't one of the older humans looking for a drink and a place to settle in for a long day of ogling. He looked much younger and, in fact, an actual adventurer. Amelian sat up, she wasn't expecting someone on the first day. Nor was she expecting someone that actually looked like a real adventurer. She had formed images of what an adventurer looked like, but when she came to the city, all the young humans were dressed in the most strangest of styles.
This man had on a leather jerkin, a dark cape, and a mace at his side. He must have been a cleric. A cleric looking adventure! She was surprised. She realized she hadn't really been expecting anyone to come. At least not on the first day. And now, now someone had shown up!
The man went to the job board with the attitude of someone who expected something special to be there. And he was not disappointed.
"HUZZAH! LONPONS! LONPONS!" he screamed out.
The older men hadn't given him much notice of before, but when he screamed they looked up at him and donned their most visibly annoyed face. The cleric paid them no heed however, so the men went back to their business, but not after stealing another glance at her. It wasn't kind to wish ill of the elderly, but she desperately wanted to punch one of them in the face as an example.
"LONPOOOOOOONNNNNNSSS!" continued the man's scream. Amelian wasn't too sure what this was, but it didn't look nor sound like an incantation. Clerics weren't usually this loud, for that matter. He ran out of the guild and she could hear the excited conversation of one side.
"THERE'S A QUEST! THERE'S A QUEST!" Amelian heard.
Muffled sound of disbelief.
"NO! THERE IS! COME IN! YOU'D SAID YOU'D COME IN IF THERE WAS!"
Muffled sound of someone thinking she was being tricked.
"I WILL BUY YOU BRUNCH IF I'M LYING! COME IN!"
Defeated muffled sound of acquiescence.
The door burst open as the cleric ran in and to the job board. He was followed by a shorter woman, dressed in a leather jerkin. A sword was at her side and she carried herself like a fighter. Albeit, a rather embarrassed looking fighter.
The older men looked up, interested that another woman had entered the premises.
"In my day, women knew how to wear armour," grunted one.
"And it was a lot more form fitting," grunted another.
"And a lot more practical for suntanning," said another.
"WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!" screamed Amelian.
In her mind.
She turned her attention back to the pair who had entered. Actually, no attention had to be turned, considering the cleric was well versed in outside voice.
"THERE! THERE! LOOK! IT'S PRETTY! IT HAS PRETTY HAND WRITING!"
"Calm down! I see it, jerkface. Fine, you're right."
"Now you owe me wings."
"I don't owe you anything!" said the fighter.
"After we find out how to do this quest, we get wings, and then you get your armour. Why aren't you wearing your chain mail?" asked the cleric.
"Because it's hot and it's heavy?" said the fighter.
"I'm wearing my armour!" said the cleric.
"It's what you always wear! You even wear that stupid cloak! What on earth do you need a cloak for?"
"Cloaks are cool. I like how it billows out when I walk. Billoooowwww.... billoowwww" said the cleric as he started to jump around the guild.
"Lorren! Be normal in public!" scolded the fighter.
The cleric walked back to the board and carefully removed Amelian's quest.
"LOOK! LOOK! This parchment feels so soft!" said the cleric.
"How can I look at how something is soft?" asked the fighter.
"Mmmmm, it smells good too! Mmmm... parchment smell...." said the cleric.
"Ok, you're being a freak now. What if the person who put that quest up is here?" asked the fighter.
"Oh, I think she's sitting over there at the table," said the cleric as he indicated to Amelian.
"What?!" said the fighter as she looked over. Horrified that Amelian was looking back at them she turned away and started to inspect her sword. The cleric walked over to her with a huge grin on her face.
"Hello! My name is Lorren! You must be Amelian," said the Cleric as he procured his hand.
Amelian stood up and smiled as she took his hand. Humans really enjoyed physical contact. It was one of the customs that she had to overcome. The first few times she had wrinkled her nose at the thought of touching them, they weren't the most cleanest of races. Dwarves, despite looking ungainly unhygienic were in fact very clean and not only resilient to magic, but most diseases. A human could just look at curdled milk and break out in some form of black death that would decimate a village. She would be immune, of course, but it still bothered her from time to time.
"Yes," she replied, "I'm Amelian. I take it you are looking for adventure!?"
"AM I!? AND HOW!"
"You don't have to yell," said the fighter.
"This is my trusty and worthy companion, Lonpons," said Lorren.
"Alonna," corrected the fighter, "but you can call me-"
"Lonpons," interrupted Lorren.
"LONNA! You can call me Lonna."
"Or Lonpons," said Lorren.
"Don't listen to him. He's a bit insane," said Alonna.
"It's good to meet you," said Amelian desperately trying to gain control of the conversation.
"You're an elf! That's fantastic! I haven't seen elves around her in a long time! And now I get to talk to an elf! What an awesome day!" said Lorren.
"Yes, and I see you're both human. But... I can't quite place you," said Amelian. Lorren looked different than any other person she had seen, either elvish, dwarfish, or halflingish. His hair was quite dark, and his skin colour not the normal shade that she was used to. It had a dark tone to it. The only other race that had a different skin tone were the dark elves. And Lorren's eyes had a shape that was not oval in nature.
"Nah, don't worry. No one knows what I am. Some people think I'm another race," said Lorren.
"His parents were born in a very far land," said Alonna.
"But, I'm an Elf. I've been around for hundreds of years, and yet I don't know what land you come from," said Amelian.
"It's one that's far away. I don't suppose this is a problem," said Lorren.
"Oh! Not at all! I find it fascinating! I rarely come up against something new," said Amelian.
"Could we not discuss this? It makes me uncomfortable," whispered Alonna to Lorren.
"When aren't you uncomfortable," said Lorren.
"Well you keep pointing out race! That's impolite!"
"She started it," said Lorren.
"She did not! You pointed out she was an elf!"
"But she is an elf!" said Lorren.
"Well yes, but you don't have to shout it!"
"I didn't shout it. I shouted about the Quest!"
"You know what I mean!" said Alonna.
Amelian was starting to wonder if this was a good idea. However, she did need a fighter and a healer in a traditional party of adventurers.
"Excuse me, about the quest?" she ventured.
"QUEST! I'M IN ON THE QUEST! What are we questing?" asked Lorren.
"Well, I hear there's a dungeon-"
"YOU FOUND A DUNGEON!? WHERE?! HOW ON EARTH DID YOU FIND A DUNGEON?! DO YOU KNOW HOW IMPOSSIBLE IT IS TO FIND A NON-RAIDED DUNGEON?!"
"Quit shouting!" said Alonna.
"Well, there's a dungeon not too far from my home glade," said Amelian.
"Whoa, elves have dungeons?" asked Lorren.
"Well, it's not exactly a dungeon. It's more like a barrow," said Amelian.
"A castrated male pig? Why on earth would we be exploring that?" asked Lorren.
"No! You're disgusting! A barrow is ALSO a burial mound," said Alonna.
"Wait! We're going to be digging around in Elvish burial grounds? I may be human, but I know dumb ideas when I hear them," said Lorren.
"It's not an Elvish burial ground-"
"Wait! I thought you guys were immortal! Why would you need to bury all these elves?" interrupted Lorren.
"Let her speak!" said Alonna.
"The barrow is more of a legend than it is a burial mound-"
"Hold on, can Elves have legends considering they lived through them? Isn't that more history?" asked Lorren.
Amelian looked at Lorren. Lorren smiled back. Amelian gave him her most practiced look. Lorren grinned. Amelian gave up and just continued with her story.
"The burial mound was said to be the resting place of an ancient god over twenty two thousand years ago. No one was allowed to set foot in the place and it was revered for centuries. Until about two hundred years ago, when a group of adventurers were seeking access to the barrow. There were skirmishes, there were arguments, there were quests we gave them hoping they would never return, but return they did. The short story of it all was these humans found the real burial place of the old god, ransacked it, and then came back with proof that what we had been revering was just a natural formation."
"Wait, don't you guys always worship natural formations? Like trees, and waters, and woodland creatures? Deer, for example? You guys like deer, right? I'm not fond of venison at all. So no worries, I will not be killing deer when we go to your house."
"Wait, does that mean we have to be vegetarian when we go to your house?" asked Lorren.
"It's called a glade!" corrected Alonna.
"When in my home glade, yes, you will eat what we eat."
"I better stock up now then," said Lorren.
Amelian looked at Lorren. This was why they smelled as bad as they did. She never did get used to the idea of eating meat, let alone trying any. But she also understood the little savages needed to survive, and it wasn't one for her to judge the practices of a species that needed to claw their way out of whatever gestation pool they spawned in.
"So when do we leave?" asked Lorren.
"She hasn't hired us. And we haven't even discussed terms of service!" said Alonna.
"Oh! Right. You deal with that, ok, Alonna? I'm going to order breakfast. Or lunch. I take it Ames will not want anything here, since it's all soaked in animal grease, but I could get you a drink. Do you want a drink, Ames?"
"Ames?" asked Amelian.
"No, I'm Lorren. You're Ames," said Lorren.
"You're such a jerkface," said Alonna.
"I am ok with refreshments," said Amelian.
"Cool, well, tell me if you change your mind, Ames," said Lorren as he went to the server.
Amelian watched him. He was a confident man, and it wasn't for show. She'd been alive longer than the adventure guild was around, and although her exposure to humans had been limited, elves were rarely conned by humans. Their passion exposed them more than they realized.
But this man, this strange man of an unknown race with his excitement at the most trivial things and no adherence to any polite societal norms, was genuine. It would make for an interesting adventure.
She turned towards Alonna. She looked like a fighter. She wore the clothes and she carried herself as a woman of confidence, but there was a hesitation - as if her mind were doing quick glances of suspicion at every aspect of life. Was that caution? A cautionary fighter? She couldn't quite tell.
"Your friend is quite the character," said Amelian.
"Yes, but he's reliable. I wouldn't worry about him. He'll get on your nerves, that's for sure, but he won't fail you in battle. Well, I'm assuming that. We're both level one adventurers, so we really haven't had any battles as of yet. But he's not really let me down in any other situation, so I guess I trust him. Funny that," said Alonna.
Humans also talked a lot. If there were some practical way for them to narrate their life in written form, Amelian was sure that the entire race would be up for that.
"Well, you're both hired. The adventuring profession isn't really in season at the moment. And I don't have a cleric or a fighter. I do need a few more people to make up the party, though. I'm a ranger, if you haven't guessed that."
"YOU'RE AN ELF! OF COURSE YOU'RE A RANGER!" yelled Lorren from across the room.
"So we need a magician of some sort and a thief?" asked Alonna.
"If we want to go by the book, yes," said Amelian.
"Cool, I know a thief. She's very nice, we get together for knitting," said Alonna.
"That sounds... exciting," said Amelian.
"I KNIT TOO!" yelled Lorren again.
"Well, we haven't been adventuring much. Your quest is the first one in years. No one comes by because no one expects any quests to pop up," said Alonna.
"Except for your friend," said Amelia.
"Except for my friend, yes," sighed Alonna.
Students filed out of the classroom with the gait reserved for those on prison detail. Kariss watched them. She tried to hide the glower on her face but years of teaching in this one class had a debilitating effect on her mood, physical features, countenance, and general outlook on humanity.
She didn't mind people who were stupid. Well, to be honest, she did, but she didn't mind teaching people who didn't know anything because that was her job. But why did they revel in it? Why did they defend their stupidity with such a ferocity that if applied to actual learning it would garner them scholarships and accolades? Why did they feel so entitled to their ignorance? She watched them file out. She knew they didn't understand today's class, and she knew she would get messages on how they didn't understand the class. And she knew they would argue with her not on the content of the class, but how they didn't understand. Anything.
Everyday was filled with surprises. She was in a fowl mood that morning, and just when she thought it couldn't get any worse, a day with first year students proved her wrong.
She gathered her inks and her scrolls and debated whether or not to go to her office for the next hour, or just hide herself in one of the many dank basement rooms of the university. She liked those rooms. They were dark and no one ventured into them. There were whispers and rumours of course of hauntings and ark ominous presences. However, when it came to foreboding and disdain, no evil essence could hold a candle to her.
The basement it was then. An hour of stewing but at least in peace. However, the Don had caught sight of her.
"Kariss! There you are, I was wondering where you were," said the Don.
Kariss bit her tongue. Her schedule was on her office, in the calendar, in fact it was the same schedule she had had for the last four years. She was always there, at this time, always on time. Her soul trapped in some perpetual hell of stupidity.
"Good morning, Don," said Kariss.
"The headmaster is looking for you," said the Don.
"Is he," said Kariss.
"Yes. He is," said the Don who then looked at her expectantly.
Kariss wasn't one for small talk, and returned a look back to the Don. Did he expect her to thank him? Smile? Ask about his day? Start another thread of conversation that didn't relate to this already agonizing exchange that had gone on longer than she would have liked?
The Don cleared his throat, "Well, uh, be on your way then."
"Thank you, Don," said Kariss. She looked at her belongings and wondered if she should take them with her. If she dropped them at the office, some student may catch her and then she'd have to spend the next fifteen minutes trying to convince the student she had somewhere else to be. And that was always an exercise in futility.
Kariss liked the headmaster. The headmaster was always to the point, albeit absent minded. But she was brilliant and everything she had to say had a purpose. Well, usually had a purpose. Sometimes she couldn't follow where the headmaster was heading with some of her conversations, but she was a pleasant woman, and treated all of her faculty with respect.
The headmaster's office was not that far and it wouldn't take her long to reach it. Students filed around her. They were all caught up in their own world, but had enough presence of mind to avoid obstacles. And that's what she was to them, an obstacle. A impenetrable force barring them from acquiring that scroll of graduation they felt they rightfully deserved regardless of the lack of knowledge or education they did not desire to learn. Kariss hated students.
She knocked on the headmaster's door and it opened.
"Come in, Kariss," came the voice from inside.
Kariss came in, her arms still full from her previous class. Maybe she should have risked dropping them off at her office.
"Please, put your scrolls on the desk beside you and come sit. I have an opportunity for you," said the Headmaster.
Kariss hesitated for only a microsecond. She could no longer tell if it was her and her pessimistic look on life or just the way the headmaster formed the word 'opportunity' that gave her the briefest of chills.
She put down her scrolls and sat before the headmaster.
"You've been with us for almost thirteen years, Kariss," said the headmaster.
"Yes, headmaster," said Kariss.
"And yet, you have not expressed any desire to advance any further from where you are now," said the headmaster.
"No, headmaster," said Kariss.
"Why is that?" asked the headmaster.
"I'm content where I am," said Kariss.
"No, that's not true, Kariss. Before advancing, you need to prove your practical skills outside of these theoretical walls of scrolls and words. You need to exercise and utilize what wisdom and knowledge you have accumulated in real world applications. Yet you have not applied to any of the jobs that have been offered," said the headmistress.
"I like it here," said Kariss.
"You fear the outside world, Kariss," said the headmistress.
"I don't know if I can spend a month helping bread rise. Or making sure that latrines are working. Magic should have more of a purpose than that," said Kariss.
"No, magic shouldn't. Magic is a means to an end. It is not something that should be revered, no more than a midwife's ability to deliver a baby. It is a skill, yes, but not any loftier than any other skill," said the headmaster.
Kariss remained silent.
"However, an opportunity has arisen for you, Kariss. A group is going on a quest and they are in need of a Magic User," said headmaster.
"A quest?" asked Kariss.
"You disbelieve me?" asked the headmaster.
"No! I mean, a little. There haven't been quests for over fifty years," said Kariss.
"Are you interested in partaking in this quest?" asked the headmaster.
Kari remained silent. She had read every quest, every adventure that had occurred in the last three thousand years. She knew every beast, every villain, very demonic force that had attempted to devour this world. It was her dream to actually be a part of anything that would have magic be used for more than just basic city maintenance and home repair.
"Considering this is the first expression that I've seen you use that didn't involve some hint of disdain, I take that as a yes. They will be back this evening. So prepare your office and you will be relieved of your duties for as long as needed," said the headmaster.
"Thank you, headmaster. Thank you very much," said Kariss.
"Oh, don't thank me until you're back, Kariss. The world holds many mysteries that may even surprise you," said the headmaster.
Kariss smiled, a genuine smile, and collected her things.