Yes, I can be a little bit stalker sometimes. But only for the greater good. Oh, I guess I’d have to be more specific - all for my greater good.
“Aldrynte,” I said as I quickly stepped next to her. “It seems we’re going the same way. May I join you?”
Of course, it was a total lie. But sometimes we have to lie when we want to get something very badly.
A smirk appeared on Aldrynte’s face, but just a slight one. I could see her face turn slightly towards me, her pointy dragon eyes looking at me, examining me. Perhaps the interest wasn’t one-sided. “Sure,” she said. “Where’s your stop?”
“There’s one… place… where I’m staying. I’m new around here, so I can’t remember the name,” I said, smiling. I was begging her not to dive in to catch my lie.
“Sure,” she said, looking in front of us. But the smirk at the edge of her mouth almost told me that she didn’t need to ask any more questions to see through the lie.
“I never expected to meet a dragon. I’ve heard of… your kind. But only very few can say that they have seen your kind. And here I am, talking to one,” I said, examining her. Every instinct told me to look away, to be that little boy I really am. But since I was already deep in shit, I promised to go out all the way. At least I can pretend that I’m great.
“You know, dragons have this special power,” Aldrynte began, which got my immediate attention. “We can detect how powerful someone is or might be. This is how we’ve ranked all the previous heroes, and how capable they are.”
“Oh yeah?” I said, smiling, trying hard to hide my gathering sweat. She knew. She fucking had to know.
“Yeah. And you’re the interesting one. I don’t detect anything from you. Absolute zero. Nothing. Even normal citizen has more than you. But you - nothing,” she said, shaking her head slowly.
“That’s interesting,” I said, one of my hand raised to scrub my neck.
“It is. That usually means one of the two. Either you’re weaker than anyone I’ve ever met,” she began, her eyes looking sharply at mine.
“Or you’re so strong that I cannot measure you. You’re so strong that you can hide your presence or your power,” she said, eyeing me suspiciously.
“And what do you think I am?” I asked.
“I think you’re definitely hiding something,” she said, a slight smile appearing at the very edge. “Perhaps in time, I’ll find out. But either way, it’s none of my business.”
I couldn’t help but smirk. Perhaps the fact that dragons were only overseers was my saving grace. “I guess we are both interested in each other. You know, I’ve always wondered why people won’t recognize you with your eyes?”
Aldrynte smiled. “What eyes?” she asked. As she did so, she merely blinked. Her eyes were suddenly normal human eyes, slightly more red than brown. Surprisingly enough, I prefered her normal eyes a lot more. There was this mystery.
“Now that’s intriguing. Why don’t you keep it up most of the time?”
“Because I can’t help but like when you’re staring at my eyes,” she said. I couldn’t help but blush. “But don’t get it in a wrong they. When you’re someone special, and you need to hide it all the time, it’s nice to occasionally show something off. Plus, I can be selective who sees my real eyes and who doesn’t,” she continued. With a sharp blink once more, her eyes were back to normal.
I nodded. “I understand that,” I said. But for me it was reverse. I only wish I could be the one people saw me as. Just once.
“Let me guess, you wish that you weren’t a hero? Or you wish you could have a day off as a normal person?” Aldrynte said, trying to read my mind.
“Why would you think that?” I asked, faking a surprise.
“Because that’s what special people sometimes wish. However, you don’t get to choose. The moment you arrived at that outpost with the Demon King’s head, your life was changed,” she said, looking at me. “Tell me, Hero. Do you regret it?”
I couldn’t help but sigh. “To be honest, I don’t know. There are parts that I do regret. But at the same time, I feel that I have never been more alive than now. So even if I’m going to die tomorrow, I think I’m fine. I think I’m okay with that.”
Aldrynte stared back at me, a bit surprised. “I didn’t expect such answer. Perhaps that’s your biggest strength. Nobody would’ve had guts to just go and talk with fire giants. But you did. Even during that meeting, you were calm. That makes me wonder if you’re just a cheat, or perhaps you’re really something.
“That’s harsh,” I said, laughing fakely.
Aldrynte face leaned towards me. “I’m a fire dragon. My words are meant to be a bit spicy, a bit hot, a bit burning,” she said. Even though it seemed impossible, I still felt her hot breath touching my neck. It was as hot steam touched my skin.
“I have to admit, it’s turning me a bit on,” I said, looking back at her.
She couldn’t help herself but laugh, I followed. After a while, she stopped, looking at me. “You’re surprising me, Hero. In a good way.”
As I was about to open my mouth, I noticed us standing in front of a large fancier house. It was at the edge of Kirkwall, but it definitely felt more like a rich people’s region. “That’s your stop?” I asked.
I chucked. “No offense, I don’t know much about dragons. I thought maybe you’ll turn and fly somewhere away,” I muttered, looking at her.
“We aren’t savages, you know. There are some of us who like the ancient way, who like to keep their true form, or perhaps they can’t turn into humans as I can. Most young ones can’t. But most of us live in different places, looking exactly like any other human, or dwarf, or elf, or who knows what.”
I couldn’t help but shine. It was something I had always wondered but didn’t know. Or well, before I met Aldrynte, at least.
Aldrynte giggled as she saw my face. “Don’t tell anyone. I’m only telling this because you’re the hero,” she said, smiling, taking a few steps towards the building. “Want to join me?” she asked the golden words. I was hoping for that question.
I gave her a nod, following her. “What’s this place?” I asked. She leaned against me and put her hands around my arm. I couldn’t help but smirk, and enjoy her touch. The more I was with her, the more attached I felt. Perhaps it was just my weird fetish towards the dragons. Perhaps it was the dragon’s power to charm me. Or perhaps I really did like Aldrynte. It was too early to know. But I only felt the need to be with her, as long as I could.
Aldrynte couldn’t help but stop for a moment, examining me. “You really don’t know? Right. Of course. You never were adventurer, were you? A Hero, who was never adventurer and skipped it all,” she said, chuckling. “Look at it carefully. What do you think this place is?”
I stopped next to her and examined the building. It was a beautiful large building, built of the finest wood - creyewood to be more exact, or Elfwood by the commoner’s tongue - but painted to the color of white. At the entrance, it was filled with white platinum decorations. The entrance alone was fancier than anything I had ever seen. Perhaps one could compare the entrance and the building’s design with some of the prettiest churches. But even then they could lose the fight. After all, that building was a truly special building.
“I know this place,” I muttered. Of course, I knew that place very well. It was in every hero book I’ve read. It always was the dream of every adventurer. They all wished to be in there, at least once.
“The Platinum Theatre,” I muttered, looking finally at her sharp eyes. “Of course. The greatest hall in this world. Place where the richest, most famous gather. Place where only the platinum adventurers or other important people are allowed to enter. And if someone gets platinum ranking, this is the place where the ceremony is being held,” I explained to Aldrynte, almost like she had never seen it before and needed an introduction. But she couldn’t help but giggle.
“Are you sure you weren’t adventurer before?” she asked.
“I was a bookworm. I read a lot about this place, or about adventurers. But I never became one, until now,” I explained. “That’s your place?”
She gave me a nod. “Come. I’ll show you, maybe introduce you to some people,” she said, giving me a wink.
“I would appreciate that,” I muttered.
She tightened her hand around my arm once more and began walking towards the entrance. I couldn’t help but casually follow her, walking next to her.
As we reached the entrance, a man in a platinum armor took a few steps towards us, stopping us. “Ah, Aly. Welcome back, my lady!” He gave a slight bow, looking at me afterward. “And you are…?”
“Fred, please. Take a sharp look. I’m sure you’ll recognize,” Aldrynte said, smirking. I stayed serious, looking at the guy.
“I-I’m not sure. I’m sorry. If he’s a new platinum adventurer, he needs to have a ceremony first. I can’t-”
“Kid,” I said, looking at him. “This is my first time entering this place,” I said, looking at the guy. I knew very well that he was a platinum adventurer, but I over-ranked him, probably hard. “Don’t make this uncomfortable,” I added.
“He’s the hero,” Aldrynte said, chuckling.
Fred’s face turned red as he realized what he had done. “I-I-I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, Hero!”
I sighed. “Let’s just go in, Aldrynte,” I said. We both continued walking as Fred kept bowing down towards us.
“You’re mean,” Aldrynte said, chuckling.
“I need to keep up my image,” I said, sighing.
“Fred is a really cool guy. You should get to know him. If he really wants, he really can stop you entering, you know. Not that he would do that.”
I smiled. “In time. Everything in its own time,” I said.
We walked through the main entrance, entering to a rather large room, more impressive than the entrance.
It could be easily filled with people if there was a big event. At both sides were hallways, leading somewhere. This large room was decorated not only by gorgeous creyewood furniture, but also by platinum signs, which glimmered in an enchanting way. It was to these signs that the Platinum Theatre owed its name. Two large stairways, rooting left and right of the reception, arcing to meet at the top. Making your way up the stairs, you'd find large opened doors which lead to the main hall.
“I’ll be honest, I’m a bit speechless,” I muttered as I looked around the room. It even had platinum chandeliers, and full of portraits and statues of different era’s heroes, or other very known people.
“There’s a reason why they want this place to feel truly special. Your picture, and maybe even statue, will be put here as well,” Aldrynte said, eyeing me multiple times, slightly amused by my reaction.
As we walked towards the reception, there was an elf who was sitting and writing something. But as soon as we eyed him, he raised his eyes as well, examining us and standing up. He walked out of the reception to meet us slightly before it.
We all stopped, elf eyeing both of us. “My lady,” he said, taking Aldrynte’s free hand and giving it a kiss. “Hero,” he added, doing a slight bow. “Welcome to The Platinum Theater. I’m honored to finally meet and welcome you here for the first time. You may call me Elwin. I’m always here if you ever need me or my services.”
I was pleased. I was truly pleased. And being next to Aldrynte, I felt that alien feeling I had barely felt before - I was superior, I was important.
“Hello Elwin,” I said, giving him a nod. But that was as far as I went, letting Aldrynte take the lead.
“Elwin, is there anything happening right now?” Aldrynte asked.
Elwin smiled, pleased. “There’s always something happening, my lady. But would you want to perform tonight? You’ll always have a spot if you only ask,” he said, smiling.
Aldrynte sighed. “So nothing special, I got it. I’m with a guest today, so I’ll pass. Maybe tomorrow. I can’t make our guest’s first-time visit uncomfortable, am I right?”
“Of course, my lady,” Elwin said, doing a slight bow.
“Oh, is he here tonight?” Aldrynte asked, a visible smile on her face. It made me intrigued and wonder who she meant or asked about.
“Right now, no. But I’ve heard that he might arrive soon. Do you want me to tell him…?”
“No. If he comes and notices us, he’ll say hi,” Aldrynte responded, smiling. “Come, let me show you the main feature of this building,” she said, pulling me away towards the left side of the stairs. Elwin bowed one last time and walked back to reception.
“You’re quite known, and you’re a performer?” I said, smiling.
“Nothing special,” she said. It was obvious that she was being shy. “We all need to have some hobbies.”
We followed the stairway, the red carpet at the center of it. As we raised higher and higher, I could now see how the tiny details were built inside the carpet, full of golden strings. And even each newel had a design of its own, telling the history of adventurers and heroes. At least until the half-way when the designs stopped, and it was just a bland stone newel.
“Is that where we are right now with our history?” I muttered.
“Yes. You’ll create at least the next one. But it’s up to you. So think carefully how you want it designed, and for how long,” Aldrynte said chuckling once more.
“Pft,” I voiced, looking away. “Now I feel pressured.”
As we reached the top of the stairs, we could hear music and small talk reaching our ears. And when we walked through the doorway, it was almost as a magical barrier that tried to quiet the sounds down were removed. Everything became lively.
It was a massive room. There were at least 5 floors at every side - except stage’s side, of course - filled with chairs and tables. At the center of the room was filled with more circular tables with comfortable chairs circling them. While most tables were empty, there were plenty of people everywhere, filling occasional tables.
At the exact opposite side of the entrance was the stage, currently owned by a female human singer and a pianist elf. They were performing a piece of slow music. The more obvious fans were at the front, listening to them, almost like in a dream state. Others were scattered around, talking, some only occasionally listening.
“Welcome to The Platinum Theater, I guess,” Aldrynte said, head resting on my shoulder, but just for a moment.
“Damn. That’s… fancy… I guess?” I muttered.
“Before we continue, here’s one thing,” Aldrynte started, her face serious. “To make sure that we keep things easy and follow the system, I have a proposal. If I introduce you to someone, I’ll tell them that you’re my patron.”
“Is that how it works?” I muttered.
“Yes. Usually, platinum adventurers become a patron to one or two performers. The performers usually promote their adventurers in their songs. The best songs often leave this building as well, starting to live the life of their own,” she explained, gasping air before continuing. “Would you become my patreon? For tonight?” She gave me a wink.
It was obvious that she was using me. If the current hero was her patreon, it would mean a lot. Even I understood that. It wasn’t just adventurers getting the good performers, but the other way around as well. Or perhaps it was more about the other way. If the artist got a higher ranking patron, or at least someone famous, it would be a huge deal for the artist. It decided a lot of income as well.
But I didn’t care. “Sure,” I said without a second thought. She was important for me in so many ways, and getting her favor would only be a good thing.
She smiled, gave me a slight nod and walked forward, making me follow. I could feel how many eyes caught us, immediately. Most of them stared at me. But I knew that stare. It was jealousy. And most people probably didn’t know who I was, not yet.
“Are you sure that you’re nobody important?” I whispered as I followed her.
Aldrynte laughed. “Don’t worry. Even I know that I’m pretty. So it’s only natural for them to stare,” she said.
We walked to the spiral that leads to the next floor. But before that there was a tough looking dwarf, looking at us. Immediately, he removed a rope that was blocking our way, giving us a slight bow on the way. After a slight nod, we followed the stairs up.
“Do they always bow so much?” I asked.
Aldrynte shook her head. “It’s you, silly. It’s you who they’re bowing to. It’s a tradition for this place to bow down to hero as a highest ranking adventurer. Together with some other important people,” she said.
“Damn,” I muttered, feeling a slight ego boost.
As we reached the top of the stairs, we could see how many seats filled with different races, but they all were in fancy suits. It was also easy to differentiate platinum adventurers from just stupidly rich people.
“Aly!” a slightly louder voice echoed throughout the room as an older man stood up, looking at us. “Join us!” he said, waving his hand. The table was filled with the other three men and one dwarf.
Aly gave me a slight smile as we walked to the table.
“Thion,” Aldrynte said.
“Oh-oh-oh. Are my drunken eyes deceiving me, or I don’t know the person next to you?” Thion asked, leaning slightly towards me, examining me. It almost felt like he was deciding if I was good enough for her.
“Thion, this is Hero, our current hero, and my tonight’s patron,” Aldrynte said.
Those were those slight moments when I thought of sharing my true name, even though I knew it wouldn’t work. “Actually, my name-”
“Hero?” Thion interrupted with his loud voice, as I expected. I already knew that I had to find some kind of witch to break the curse. “Oh my. I feel honored,” he said, trying to do a slight bow, but doing it awkwardly. “I’m proud of you Aly. You can’t have a better Patron,” he said, grinning. “I guess you won’t be joining us?” he asked. Others were slowly shaking their hands and heads, showing off that it was an obvious bad idea. Thion was simply too drunk.
“I’m sorry Thion. Not today,” she said, smiling.
“It’s fine. I’m just an old drunk. Oh. I’m Thion Keenbeard. I’m a mid-tier platinum adventurer. I’ve heard many stories about you, hero. I hope one day we’ll talk about them,” he said, giving another awkward bow.
“I’m sure we will,” I said, trying to give as sweet smile as possible.
As we walked away, I couldn’t help but release a long sigh.
“I’ll be damned. Hero, and nervous?” Aldrynte whispered.
I looked at her, sighing once more. “I’m still only a human, in a new place, next to a dra… beautiful woman, meeting other adventurers who only wish they could take my status. Damn straight, I’m nervous.”
Aldrynte chuckled. “Want to sit here?” she said, head pointing towards a free table, away from others. Even the stage was clearly visible from that table.
“Not going even more up?”
“We could. But they are filled with important and great people. We’ll be stopped many times by many. But honestly, I don’t want to tire you too much. We can at least take a short rest, don’t you agree?” she said.
I looked at her, then looked at the table, and smiled. “Yes please.”
I walked to the chair, pulled it away and helped Aldrynte to take her seat, sitting at the other side. Of course, the chair was overly comfortable.
“Do they offer a place to sleep here as well?” I asked.
“They do, but not to everyone. You could definitely get one if you only asked. They might even give you one of their best for free.”
“For free?” I said, smirking.
“You staying here is already paying all the pills. You’re famous. Believe it or not, but the stories about you are already spreading. Not many heroes have gone to face demons, just to come back without a single slash and telling that they are not evil.”
I sighed. “I’m not sure if it’s a good thing,” I muttered.
“Me neither. But since it’s not in our control, there’s no point to worry, is there?”
I gave her a slight nod. “Thank you. For taking me here and… well, everything.”
Aldrynte laughed. “Don’t think I’m not getting anything out of it,” she said.
“I guess you enjoy the attention that you’re receiving right now?” I muttered.
“Oh, there will be many who will be begging me to introduce you to them later,” Aldrynte said, grinning. “And I’m your first patronage here. That’s special,” she said.
“I haven’t even given you a single coin,” I said.
“And I don’t want any. Patron isn’t always about the coin, Hero. It’s about the image, it’s all about who’s my patron. I earn more than enough to feed myself and buy everything I want, even without any patrons.”
I smirked. “Interesting. You know that you’re abusing your position right?” I said, winking.
She smiled. “But it’s a win-win, don’t you think?”
I leaned back, looking at her. “It’s definitely a win-win,” I nodded. “If I’m patron, I’ll see more of your face, right?”
Aldrynte leaned forward, her slightly sharper tongue went over her lips. “For sure.”
“You’re a tease,” I said.
Aldrynte laughed. “I told you - I know that I’m pretty.”
I shook my head. “It’s not all about prettiness. It’s that you’re interesting and funny. You’re mysterious. And I love mystery.”
She leaned back, touching the back of the chair. For the first time, it almost felt like she was blushing, or at least she was speechless. “You certainly know how to talk,” she said.
The time passed, and I began to understand how the stage system worked. It was a free stage. Most artists could go there for free, while others lesser known had to pay for even being there, hoping to get attention or to find their own patron. It was usually the artist’s patron who paid all their future performances.
There were occasional songs about performer’s patron. But occasionally also non-related songs. Sometimes there were songs about past heroes, while others were just beautiful performances. Aldrynte couldn’t help but giggle at some point.
“What?” I muttered, looking back at her.
“You haven’t noticed yet, have you?”
“Noticed what?” I asked, looking at her.
“For a while now, the stage and the hall has been filled with more people or performers. They are trying to impress you. The talk that you’re somewhere here have reached everyone’s ears,” she said.
To be fair, I did notice that, but I simply didn’t care enough. “I must be a very fresh hero for them not to create any new songs about me,” I muttered.
“Songwriting isn’t that easy, silly. Especially the good ones,” Aldrynte said, leaning slightly back and looking at the current singer.
But I there was something else bugging me, a question that I wanted to ask. “Tell me, are you ever afraid of being who you are?” I asked, looking at the woman in front of me. She moved her gaze back to me, her pointy dragon eyes staring at mine.
“That came out of nowhere,” Aldrynte said. There was a slight silence, as a violin echoed through the hall, trying to get my attention. Sadly for the performer, all my attention was given to her, at least for tonight. “All the time. Surprising, isn’t it? Dragons are supposed to be fearless beings. But in the end, we are like everyone else. We also have emotions, feelings, fears.”
I looked at her, examining her. My finger was softly tapping against the table. I smirked. “A bit. But it makes me happier than surprised. I don’t think I’ll be able to please the council. They are asking too much from me,” I said out my thoughts, slowly moving my gaze away.
“Of course, not. Nobody ever will. This council is half dead. The only thing that’s keeping this council together, this alliance together, is the contract.”
“Why won’t they break the contract then?”
“They can’t,” Aldrynte said as we looked at each other once more. “They have tried in past. Dwarves, Elves, and even orcs - to be more precise. Only humans and dragons haven’t tried to break it. Humans because they are quite happy what they got out of the contract.
“Their ancestors were smart. One does not simply break the contract without consequences,” she said, elbows leaning against the table, and her head rested against her hands.
“That’s interesting. What does the contracts say?”
Aldrynte gave me her twisted smile. She enjoyed that. “That’s the scary part. Nobody knows. Nobody knows the contents of the contract breaking. When ancestors decided that part of the contract, they never told their descendants what happens when they break it. I can only assume that it was also part of the contract.
“But once they do break it, the fun part is that the punishment isn’t instant. It starts small, getting worse every day. First, it’s one unlucky day for their race. Then the unluck becomes a daily occurrence. Sickness spreads, accidents happen. At first, it seems like they are lucky, barely avoiding the damage, but then the seemingly huge luck begins to disappear. Then even bigger things begin to happen. Until it reaches a point where it’s just not worth it.
“Dwarves were the race that reached furthest. Their refusal to follow the contract began after the wall requested some more precious gems and stones for the wall. But the dwarves didn’t want to comply. After 49 days, they finally provided everything the wall had requested. Of course, they did after a mysterious earthquake happened in their kingdom, a quarter of dwarves died, and a hole appeared at the bottom of one of the treasury, eating up every single coin and gem, just to close up by the end of the earthquake. They haven’t found the treasure till this very day. And they tried to find it.”
I gasped. “That sounds impossible,” I muttered.
“They thought the same. But after that, after losing a huge part of their population and treasury, dwarves have never tried to ignore the contract again. Of course, the ruler who ignored the contract is still called ‘The Cursed Ruler’.”
“I’ve read about him,” I said, smirking. “He promised a lot before he became the ruler, making him desirable choice. They say that after the earthquake, they forcefully removed him from the throne. But I never knew about treasury disappearance.”
Aldrynte smirked. “Most of it is a secret that was only reported to the council.”
“This might be a bit rude thing to ask, but how long have you been the dragon’s representative?”
“Before me, there has been nine. That’s all you get.”
I nodded. “Fair enough,” I said. That’s all I really wanted to know either way. “And yet none of the nine didn’t think of breaking the contract?”
“Thought? I bet they have. I have. But we are smarter than that. It’s more about playing around the contract. For example, I don’t have to be the representative for my entire life. At one point, I’ll switch out and let the next one take over. It has more become a tradition of proving ourselves to be wise”
I couldn’t help but sigh. “Well, I hope you won’t switch yourself out that soon,” I said.
“It would suck to lose such a pretty representative,” I muttered.
She smiled. “Please.”
“I do please.”
She laughed, once more. But before she could open her mouth, her eyes gazed past me. Someone was approaching. Perhaps the person she had asked about before.
“Elbert,” Aldrynte said. I peeked over my shoulder, examining the person she was looking at. A taller man approached. For my surprise, he didn’t wear the fanciest clothes, but there was that aura that told me he was someone important. He had long brown, or maybe even slightly red, hair, but filled with occasional gray hair that showed the signs of a bit older age. He did have a black cane that he leaned against as he walked.
“Aldrynte!” the man said, walking to the empty side of the table. “And you must be the hero everyone’s talking about,” the man said, looking at me.
I gave him a slight nod.
“Join us! You got a minute or two, don’t you?”
Elbert smiled. “I can always make a minute or two to my daughter,” he said, pulling the chair back with his cane and taking a seat. Meanwhile, I could feel how sweat started to work itself up. It wasn’t that hard to connect the dots. If he was Aldrynte’s father, it only could mean one thing. My only question was, why did she call him first Elbert, not the father. Perhaps it was just a dragon’s tradition. Or perhaps it was because she was more shouting than saying?
“How was the council?” Elbert asked.
“Annoying, as always. Things haven’t changed much since you left,” Aldrynte said, grinning. “I bet they are still more afraid of the fact that you’re my father than I’m a dragon,” she said, silently.
Elbert began laughing, loudly. “And you decided to bring our new hero here, already,” he said, looking at me.
“Well, he took a keen interest in me, as I took of him,” Aldrynte explained, looking at me. Her tongue went over her lips once more.
“Hey, I’m not food, alright?” I said quickly. Just the fact that I was sitting behind a table with two dragons got my adrenaline pumping.
Elbert began laughing once more. “She’s pretty, isn’t she?”
“Stunningly pretty,” I admitted, cheeks going slightly red as well.
“I like honesty. It’s interesting that we dragons have historically taken interest in heroes. I think because at least they’ve proven themselves to be capable, at least compared to those in the council who earned their spot just because they won a birth lottery,” Elbert explained, raising his hand to a passing waitress. “Finest wine, please,” he said, turning his gaze back at me. “I still remember the previous hero. It was a pleasure to work with him. He always knew how to humor me. Too bad Aldrynte never showed any interest in him.”
“There he goes again. I was just a kid back then. It was over a hundred years ago, father,” Aldrynte said, cheeks slightly red. “Now that he’s just the owner of this establishment, he likes to do this nostalgia talk a lot,” Aldrynte told me, sighing.
“I’m getting old,” Elbert said, laughing. “Not that I will die soon. I still live at least thrice as long as you,” Elbert said, grinning.
“Thank you. I feel a lot better now,” I said, sarcastically. “Aren’t you afraid that nearby people might overhear-”
Elbert laughed once more, breaking my talk. I definitely saw where Aldrynte got her smile and laughter from. “They won’t. Slight magic and they might hear, but they won’t understand. I like our new hero. You want a room here? I can give you one of the best rooms,” he said after a short pause. “Almost every hero has been living here. So it only makes sense for you to live here as well.”
It was a tempting offer. Too tempting. “Maybe soon, but for now I have to decline,” I said, smiling.
“That’s interesting. Why?”
“I can’t do my job if I have to see your daughter’s beautiful smile every day,” I said. Aldrynte couldn’t help but look away and blush, slightly.
“The best way to win my favor is to compliment my daughter. A right step, a correct way. Good job. I can give you a room next to hers,” Elbert whispered, winking one of his eyes as he leaned slightly forward.
“I can still hear you,” Aldrynte said, sighing, cheeks still slightly red.
“Seems great, but I prefer to get a simple room in adventurer’s guild, for now,” I explained.
“But wouldn’t you want to make alliances with platinum adventurers?” Aldrynte asked, looking at me. Elbert didn’t say anything, almost as he already understood what I was going for.
“That’s true. But maybe only five percent of adventurers are platinum. I can’t play favorites here. And I don’t want the other adventurers to think that I’m not giving them any attention. I don’t want to feel like an unreachable hero. I also think that platinum adventurers are hardest to convince to do something I need in the short run. And I really need adventurer’s help. In the end, platinum adventurers will do exactly what they want. So if someone is interested in me, they’ll find me, and they’ll help me. I will see them here either way.”
Elbert smirked. “You certainly have brains. That’s good. That’s what we need. Well, you’ll always have a place here. You only have to ask. Just because you might spend most of your time at adventurer’s guild or elsewhere, doesn’t mean you can’t sleep here.”
I nodded. “And I thank you for that.”
“Father, can I talk to you later?” Aldrynte said as she looked at Elbert.
“Of course, always, my child,” Elbert responded, nodding.
“It’s good timing. To be honest, I think I should go. The day is starting to reach its end, and I’m very tired,” I said, trying to keep up my smile.
“I bet. Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it. They always have,” Elbert said, hand reaching out and giving me a strong pat on the back. For Elbert’s look, he certainly was a lot stronger than expected.
“Thank you, Aldrynte, for the tour and… everything. I’ll be definitely back,” I said, standing up and throwing my last look at the stage. “Feel free to tell people that I’m your official patron if you want.”
Aldrynte smiled. “I just might do that.”
I walked away. “I’m surprised. I never expected to see such interest from you-” I heard the last few words from Elbert, before the magic turned words into a mumble, soon disappearing altogether.
There it was. It was yet another large building, made of normal wood -for once. A huge text of Adventurer’s guild was decorating the front side. Occasional people entered and left the building. And there I was, leaning against the nearby wall, breathing the cold night’s air. After a few more gasps, I walked towards the entrance, entering the guild.
It was a straightforward design, as I had expected. Almost right after the door, there was a reception. At one side of it was a huge wall, filled with different quests, requests, notices and many other. At the other side was extended large dining room or a bar, filled with simple tables and chairs. There were many adventurers either eating or drinking - mostly drinking - and talking about their adventures. At the furthest side of the dining room was a stairway leading to upstairs, filled with corridors and rooms with beds.
“Hello. How can I help you?” a woman asked me, smiling.
With my tired eyes, I stepped to the reception, looking at the woman, examining her for a moment. “I’d like a room.”
There was a long pause. “You’re a new one here?” she asked.
“It’s that obvious?” I asked, trying to keep up the smile.
“Yes. Usually, when adventurer asks something, they need to provide their badge. We usually do not serve non-adventurers,” she explained calmly. It felt a bit awkward since it was probably everywhere like that, yet I didn’t know.
“Yes, of course. I’m sorry,” I said, pushing my hand into my pocket and removing my hero’s badge, putting it on the table.
The woman’s eyes widened.
“Please, don’t make a huge deal out of this. Think of me as any other adventurer. I don’t want to get everyone’s attention or special privileges. For now, I only need some sleep,” I said.
The woman gave me an understanding nod. “We’ll prepare the best room-”
“Give me the most basic one that most adventurer’s get,” I interrupted her. “Please?”
The woman was surprised. “Of course,” she said, leaning slightly down and grabbing a key, placing it on the counter in front of me.
“How much?” I asked.
“It’s on house. Always,” she said. “One of the few Hero’s privileges.”
I nodded. “Thank you. Please do not disturb my room until I come down myself for the food,” I said just in case.
“Of course. Sleep well!” she said, examining me.
I nodded, took the key and walked through the dining hall. As expected, not many noticed me. And those few who did didn’t recognize me. The fact that I had removed my fanciest armor beforehand helped a lot. It was mostly my fancy armor that made me recognizable.
As soon as I entered my own room, and locked it, I released a long sigh, letting myself fall onto the bed. It was still a bit more comfortable than I had hoped. That woman still gave me a bit better room. It was fine, but I had hoped to get a slight feeling of home. I missed that creaky bed frame and that uncomfortable pillow that my head used to rest on.
I wondered if I ever saw my home again. But I was thankful for surviving one more day. It was a crazy day. I still couldn’t process the fact that I was supposed to go and fight against the true demon king. How was I even supposed to beat him?
But that was the future me’s problem.
And it didn’t take long for the sleep to finally take me away. The dreams took over my consciousness, reminding me of one of those stories I thought up when I was only a kid.
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- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
You can read my stuff and shorts at reddit.com/r/Elven
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