“So,” Figz asked as Kyle took a seat in his office. “How are you feeling?”
“Well my parents were killed and burned at the stake two days ago,” Kyle replied drily. “So not great.”
“But better than you were yesterday morning, right?” Fi ventured from her usual spot wrapped around her partners neck.
“… Yeah,” Kyle sighed eventually giving her a small and rather brittle looking smile. “I don’t think that I’ll ever quite be the same as I used to be, but I don’t want to become someone that my friends are afraid of either,” Kyle replied.
“That’s good,” Figz told him. “You’re already starting to think about the future instead of dwelling on what happened. That’s the first step and you’re right; you can never go back to the way that you were before but that doesn’t mean you have to let what happened destroy you.”
“I still need to get my sister back from them though,” Kyle said quietly and Figz nodded in agreement.
“And like your friends said yesterday; you’re absolutely in the right there,” he agreed. “But there is a right way and a wrong way to go about doing that and killing every Imperial you come across until you find her isn’t the right way. Now I don’t mean to say that you were actually planning on doing that but that is what it looked like from the outside.”
“I think it was what I was planning,” Kyle replied and was surprised to feel tears starting to form in his eyes from the admission. “And I hate myself for that.”
‘You shouldn’t,” Figz told him firmly. “After what they did to your parents and friends that’s not a surprising or even an unusual reaction it’s just one that makes things worse in the end. Vengeance doesn’t just end when you kill those responsible for harming you it just makes their loved ones search you out for their own revenge.”
“Yeah that makes sense,” Kyle sighed as he rubbed the tears from his eyes.
“And if I have to, then I’ll remind you of that every day,” Fi told her partner who nodded silently in agreement.
“Now that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take part in the war when it begins,” Figz continued as he also nodded at the serpentine companion. “And mark my words it will begin and soon at that. All I’m saying is that the rules of engagement, which you will learn about if you decide to join in on the fighting exist for a very good reason. I’ve seen too many people lose their humanity in war to think otherwise.”
“You’ve fought in a war?”
“Yes, I fought in the last war that we had with the Empire,” Figz replied. “I was actually born in the Empire as a slave, so I understand the hatred that you feel for them very well.”
“I didn’t realise-”
“That I was that old?” Figz finished with a mental chuckle. “Yes, my species ages slower than most people expect. I’m actually almost as old as Galdon is.”
“Huh, I didn’t actually know that.”
“I didn’t expect you to,” Figz replied. “Anyway, is there anything else that you want to talk about?”
“Well I can’t really think of anything else important off the top of my head,” Kyle replied with a frown.
“It doesn’t have to be important,” Figz said as he waved away Kyle’s words. “It can be about anything, a funny story about your family, you can ask for advice about being an Adventurer. Anything you like, I just think that it’s important for you to talk to someone right now.”
After thinking about what he wanted to say Kyle started talking. Like Figz had suggested most of the things that Kyle talked about weren’t important but somewhere along the line Kyle stopped thinking about what he was talking about and just told Figz anything that crossed his mind. Most of what he ended up talking about actually did simply turn out to be silly stories about things that happened when he was a kid and occasionally Fi chimed in with a little anecdote of her own. Kyle laughed and cried in the same sentence as he realised that he would never be able to experience another moment with his family like the ones that he was talking about again, but he didn’t stop talking and Figz didn’t stop patiently listening.
A little over an hour later Figz finally decided to call for a halt.
“Okay that’s enough for today Kyle,’ he told the young man who blinked slowly in surprise as he realised how long he had been talking.
“Uh, yeah,” he agreed. “I do have other things to do today.”
“Yeah we need to go and register ourselves at the Adventurer’s Guild and get a room at one of the inns in town at the very least,” Fi said thoughtfully. “If we have time we should also try and find a Quest that we can do so that we don’t have to worry about that tomorrow.”
“That would be a good idea,” Figz nodded. “However, before you leave, you have your Communication Orb with you right?”
“Yeah,” Kyle agreed pulling the transparent orb out of the bag next to him.
“Good, let me just add my own Orb to your contacts,” Figz said as he took the item from Kyle’s hand and wandered over to his desk where his own Communication Orb was and placed Kyle’s one up against it causing them both to flash as the magical items memorised each other’s magical signature which would allow Figz and Kyle to talk to each other whenever they wanted to.
“If you need someone to talk to just call me,” Figz said as he handed Kyle’s Communication Orb back to him. “If any of your friends has a Communication Orb, I’d suggest that you exchange contact information with them as well if you haven’t already of course.”
“Okay,” Kyle nodded as he stood up. “Hal’s in the blacksmith’s workshop so I’ll go and get him for you. I have to pick something up from there anyway.”
“Alright thanks,” Figz agreed.
Making his way out of Fig’s office Kyle made his way towards where Hal would be waiting for him with his new chain.
“Come to think of it I haven’t even tested out my Chain Manipulation Skill yet,” he realised as he walked along.
“Well then why don’t you try it out for the first time with that chain that Hal’s making for you?” Fi asked. “After all that’s probably going to be the chain that you use that way the most.”
“Yeah that’s what I was thinking,’ Kyle agreed as he stopped outside the entrance to the workshop and opened the door.
Inside was the usual scene of barely controlled chaos. It wasn’t just Hal working inside, even this early in the morning there were several other blacksmithing students also working on their own projects who were all watched over by the stout figure of Comhan the Dwarfish Blacksmithing teacher.
As Kyle walked towards Comhan the gruff-looking Dwarf turned towards him and broke into a smile that was completely at odds with the stern one that had been on his face mere moments ago.
“Kyle!” Comhan said loudly. “How are you doing my boy, I heard about that terrible business n Farholt, but Hal doesn’t want to talk about it.”
“Well I wouldn’t blame him for that,” Kyle replied giving the Dwarf a sad smile. He was certain that Hal would talk about what they had found in Farholt with Comhan eventually, he just wasn’t ready yet.
Both Kyle and Hal had an awful amount of respect for Comhan. Comhan was an extremely talented blacksmith and ran his smithy with an iron fist. However, he wasn’t harsh with his students for the sake of being harsh but rather because a smithy was a dangerous place where the slightest mistake could scar you for life or even kill you. In fact, Comhan was actually very well-liked by all of his students because he didn’t treat them like children but like adults and was very good at explaining anything that he was teaching them about so that they could understand exactly what they were supposed to do.
Comhan was also quite fond of both Hal and Kyle because of their impressive work ethic and willingness to listen to the advice that Comhan gave them. He didn’t teach any of the classes that Kyle took but Kyle did help Hal out in the forge on occasion and more recently he had even started offering his services as an Inscriber to the other blacksmithing students. The Inscriptions that Kyle made weren’t as good as the ones the more experienced students made but every single time, he made one Kyle improved. The fact that he charged less than some of the other students because he was aware of his lack of Skill compared the other students who had learned to Inscribe items had also endeared him to Comhan and the Blacksmithing students who asked him to Inscribe the equipment that they made.
“He’ll tell you when he’s ready,” Fi agreed. “Ah, looks like he’s noticed that we’re here.”
Sure enough, Hal was heading over from where he had been working with a familiar looking chain in his hands.
“Here it is Kyle,” he said as he handed his friend’s new weapon over to him. The chain itself wasn’t really any different from the ones that he already had; it even had the same part that could be attached to his wrist like the other ones. The only real difference was that instead of the hexagonal weight that the others had this one had a spike that was about thirty centimetres long in the end of it.
“Do you want me to Identify it?” Fi asked as Kyle tried to figure out what he was going to do with it. He already had two chains that he attacked to his wrists normally and the bracelets that the chains were attached to were fairly large and took up quite a lot of his forearms so attaching another bracelet to his arm wasn’t really an option.
“Yeah that sounds like a good idea,” Kyle replied and then read the blue screen that appeared when she did so.
Spiked Iron Chain
Item Tier (Rarity): Unusual (Well-made)
Weapon type: Chain
Weapon damage: 8-10 Piercing or 5-8 Blunt
This intriguing weapon was made by a blacksmith for a close friend of his. It is clear that he put a lot of work into making sure this weapon would last.
Deciding to try using his Chain Manipulation Skill Kyle attempted to recall what he had felt when he had used the chain that Nemesis had given him to kill the soldier. Not the anger or rage but how it had felt to move the chain with his mind. Slowly, the spiked end of the chain rose up off of his hand and started swaying slightly in front of his face like a snake.
“Yeah, this will do nicely Hal thank you,” Kyle nodded as he put the weapon carefully in his bag. “Are you going to head over to see Figz now?”
“I suppose so,” Hal replied, rolling his eyes slightly. “Are you going to the Adventurer’s Guild now?”
“Yeah, just have to go and get my graduation letter from Galdon,” Kyle agreed. “I’ll see you later man.”
“Stay in touch,” Hal said as they walked out of the workshop together.
“I will Hal, you make sure to spend your time with Figz today wisely,” Kyle agreed before they parted ways.
Not long after this Kyle knocked on the door to Galdon’s office and was quickly invited in.
“Good morning Galdon,” Kyle said as he walked in. “Wow, you look busy.”
“No kidding,” Galdon agreed as he peered over the massive pile of documents on the desk in front of him. “I suppose you’re here for your letter then?”
“Yeah,” Kyle nodded and with a sigh Galdon started sifting through the papers in front of him.
“Now where did I put it,” the old man grumbled to himself. “Ahah, here it is!”
Stepping out from behind his desk Galdon walked over to Kyle and handed him the envelope.
“Here you go Kyle,” he said giving before giving his student a sad smile. “I’m sorry normally this would be a bigger moment but with everything that’s going on right now…”
“I understand,” Kyle replied quickly. “Besides it’s not like I really have anyone to celebrate with anymore aside from my friends and they’re all busy right now.”
Galdon flinched visibly at Kyle’s words. It was obvious by the way that he was acting that Galdon expected Kyle to blame him for the deaths of his parents and the kidnapping of his sister, but Kyle had no such plans. If he had been asked whether he blamed Galdon yesterday he might have had to think about it for a while, but Kyle was confident that his answer would be the same. The only people responsible for what happened were the Imperials who had ordered the attack on Farholt and Kyle made sure to tell Galdon this.
“But if I had told the Adventurers to be ready in an hour instead of waiting overnight, we might have gotten to Farholt in time to save them,” Galdon pointed out.
“You made the right decision,” Kyle disagreed. “Even if we had got there in time to take part in the battle, I don’t think things would’ve turned out much better. Those soldiers managed to take out my parents, their party and the Guards.”
“That’s true,” Galdon sighed sadly. “But I can’t help but wish that I had been there.”
“There was no way that you could’ve been Galdon,” Kyle replied, his voice catching slightly as he spoke. “Trust me I wish that I had been there as well. Even though I know that I would’ve been no help in a fight like that.”
“You’re right, if you had tried to butt in you would’ve just been killed,” Galdon agreed. “And I know that it’s not my responsibility to protect everyone.”
“Right,” Kyle nodded. “Trust me I wish that we had been able to stop the Imperials, but I can’t help but think that we would’ve just ended up having to let the families of the Adventurers who came with us know that they died.”
“Maybe you’re right,” Galdon sighed. “Anyway, I heard that you’re not going to hang around in town long?”
“Yeah,” Kyle agreed. “There are more powerful monsters in the lower Levels of the Dungeon but we both know that going to deeper floors is more dangerous than going to a different Dungeon with slightly stronger monsters in the early floors because getting to and from lower floors is actually more dangerous. Especially since I don’t have a party right now.”
“You could try joining a party,” Galdon pointed out.
“That’s an option sure,” Kyle nodded. “But Ulrich, Resald and Claire want to be my party members when they graduate so if I did join another party properly then I’d have to leave it when they graduated. I might temporarily join a party if I find some people that I think I can trust but I’m not going to officially join one.”
This might sound like a weird thing to say to someone who didn’t understand how the party system worked for Adventurers but official parties had to be officially recognised by the Adventurer’s Guild itself which would allow a single member to retrieve the reward for completing a Quest without every single other member being present. It also would allow that party to take on Quests that were reserved for parties with a certain level of strength or even certain Skills or magic. It was possible to add a temporary party member to cover for a specific skillset that your party might not already have but the Guild generally preferred that you didn’t do this because of how easy it was for less reputable parties to take advantage of or in the worst case scenario even abandon the temporary party member if they found themselves in danger.
“I see,” Galdon sighed. “Well then I suppose that I have some good news for you.”
“All of the teachers have been drafted into the army, either as trainers for the other draftee’s or as officers and yes that includes me,” Galdon explained. “So, we’re going to be increasing the workload for the students so that they can graduate as soon as possible without just taking them into the Dungeon so that they can reach Level 5 overnight. They might not have Skill Levels quite as high as some of the students from previous years but there’s not much we can do about that unfortunately.”
“Well that explains the massive pile of paper on your desk,” Fi said. "You have to organise what will be done with the school buildings once all the students are gone.”
“Oh, that bit’s easy,” Galdon replied. “We’re going to use the school as a training ground for the new soldiers. The more difficult part is organising everything so that the students don’t miss out on too much and letting their parents or guardians know what’s happening.”
“Oh, yeah, I can see how that might be difficult,” Kyle replied with a wince. Most people wouldn’t know about the war that was about to begin yet so Galdon had to figure out a way of explaining the situation without telling the parents anything that might cause a panic.
“I also have my own orders on there,” Galdon admitted with a sigh. “I had hoped I might not need to take part in this war at my age, but I guess that I was wrong.”
“So, we’re going to see you in action then General Vulcan?” Kyle asked raising an eyebrow at Galdon who snorted in irritation.
“Not if I can help it,” the old man replied. “If I learned anything in the siege the other month it was that I’m definitely too old to be in the thick of things like I used to be. No, I suspect that I’ll try and just use my magic to control the battlefield and yet you younger folks deal with the actual fighting.”
“Sounds like a plan to me,” Kyle chuckled. “Try not to work me too hard if I end up under your command won’t you.”
“No promises Champion of Nemesis,” Galdon replied in a tone of voice that brooked no argument. “If you join the army than I promise that you will be worked to the bone. That’s what you signed up for when you became a Divine Champion, especially a Divine Champion of the goddess of vengeance. You’re just too powerful for your Level in comparison to other people and you take every advantage that you can get in war. The stakes are too high to do anything else.”
“That’s fair,” Kyle sighed sadly after a few seconds. “I guess that I never really thought about the consequences of my choice.”
“No, you did not,” Fi agreed. “Not that I blame you. It wasn’t like you were in a good frame of mind.”
“Don’t get me wrong here Kyle; I’m not saying it was a bad choice,” Galdon told his former student. “But I do wish that Nemesis had asked you when you were in a better frame of mind.”
“I don’t think that she could,” Kyle disagreed which made Galdon frown slightly. “I kind of get the feeling that you can only become a Divine Champion when you’re in the right frame of mind.”
“And you think that the right frame of mind for becoming Nemesis’ Divine Champion was a vengeful and angry one,” Galdon mused. “That does make a certain amount of sense.”
The three fell into a thoughtful silence as they considered Kyle’s words. Even Kyle wasn’t quite sure why he thought that this was the case, but he just couldn’t shake the feeling that he was right.
“Alright,” Galdon said eventually. “I guess you had better get on your way. I hope that your career as an Adventurer is a long and exciting one. Just not too exciting right?”
“Right,” Kyle chuckled as a smile broke over his face. He had wanted to be an Adventurer for years and despite the events that had led up to him graduating from the Adventurer’s School he couldn’t help but be excited.
Galdon smiled seeing the fire that he had seen in Kyle’s eyes the first time they had met return, even slightly.
“Well then off you go,” the old man chuckled. “Make your parents proud!”
“Yes sir!” Kyle responded before surprising Galdon with a hug. “You stay safe too.”
Galdon awkwardly patted Kyle on the back as he felt tears begin to form in the corners of his eyes. In that moment he would’ve given anything for Jerald and Emma could’ve been here to see this. Pushing Kyle away gently Galdon smiled up at the young man whose eyes were also watering.
“If you ever need help call me, you already have my Communications Orb registered on your own,” Galdon told him as he suddenly realised that he was probably one of the closest things that the young man had to a family now. His grandparents on both sides had perished in the last war with the Empire and Jerald and Emma had both been only children.
“I will, thanks Galdon,” Kyle nodded. “I’ll be seeing you around.”