Why are Adventurer Guild Masters so bad at politics? Isn’t the answer obvious? A Guild Master has to keep Adventurers in line, so the minimum requirements to become a Guild Master is to be able to put down a C-Rank adventuring team by themselves and to be able to win a fight against most individual B-Rank Adventurers.
Which means that the minimum requirement for a Guild Master is to be an upper B-Rank Adventurer; which means that your average Guild Master is stronger than ninety percent of the entire world.
Which means that when you have a really big hammer, all of your problems start to look like nails.
-S-Rank Aventurer Dre the Massacre, talking to the King of Lam.
Rei’Reihammara Solily POV:
“Wait a second before you head off to meet your team.” The Guild Master Ivano asked me to talk to him after the crowd dispersed, and anything that this man asks is basically a command from heaven. Worse even, because Ivano was far more likely to smite you than the Gods were.
Evergold was a gold mining town sitting on what might very well be the largest and richest gold vein in the entire world. That meant that a lot of people would want to steal that gold for themselves, but it also meant that Kolaro - the country Evergold was situated in - could easily afford to hire the best. Ivano was a man who had a Class beyond Very Rare: the Epic Class, Pyroclast Mage.
The smoke from his pipe hung above his head, occasionally throwing off sparks. Rumor had it that he could kill a person simply by breathing his pipe smoke out on their face. In all out combat he was described as “disastrous,” or “calamitous.”
The former S-Rank Adventurer, Ivano the Apocalypse.
And for some reason, Hewka was mildly annoyed at him. At least, I think it was annoyance; the wyvern clearly wanted him to go away and bother someone else, but she also more clearly had no clue that she was looking at a man who could have roasted that Thunderbird with a casual wave.
“Please, please don’t try and knock his pipe away again,” I whisper to Hewka under my breath, trying to push calm through the bond. “For a creature with an Inspect-style Skill, you would think you’d know not to poke this sleeping Dragobear!”
“It's fine,” Ivano waved his hand and the smoke formed a dome around us, turning the world outside opaque. “As I said, the little gal can’t actually hurt me. It’d be like getting mad at a kid for doing something dumb. They are kids, of course they are going to do something dumb.”
“Thank you for that sir,” I felt some relief, but I was still a little bit wary. No, it was Hewka who was wary; she didn’t know that the smoke was a privacy screen and was nervous about it. I should get her out of here as soon as possible. “How can I help you then?”
“I had to do a pretty bit of magic to hide that gal’s Status,” Ivano admitted and I felt my eyes widen; he could interfere with a Status Check!? “My own fault for doing it in public like an idiot. I suppose it's true what they say: you learn something every day for your whole life and still die a fool. Or I will anyway, an Elf like you will be around a bit longer.”
I swallowed, ignoring his tangents for the moment and asked the obvious next question: “Why did you hide it? What was in Hewka’s Status?”
I needed to calm down. I could feel my anxiety flowing into Hewka, and that just made her more wary and then that wariness flowed back into me, making me more anxious! If I didn’t get a grip soon I’d probably start to panic and Hewka would try and attack a one man disaster. Even now, she was crouching down slightly, bending her legs in preparation to pounce forward.
She paused though when the smoke formed an image of her status again, but this time I noticed that it was longer…
“Cartography… Etiquette… Poetry?” I was surprised to see those Skills and a couple others were on the list now.
“Yeah, she’s smarter than she is letting on,” Ivano chuckled. “Doesn’t speak Common though and doesn’t have the Acting Skill, though I bet she will get it soon.”
“Wait, then is she…? I can’t imagine a Demihuman pretending to be a monster!”
Ivano sighed and then a ripple of magic struck Hewka and myself. Calming magic, clearly, as all my worries just melted away. Hewka calmed down too, with the bond between us becoming still.
“I just went and told everyone she was about as smart as a five year old, yeah?” He spoke as he puffed away on his pipe, the smoke from his mouth went to add to the privacy screen around us. “A monster that becomes a Demihuman retains their Demihuman intelligence when they Evolve into a monster again, but there is a little known extra bit of trivia here. If an intelligent monster Evolves into a Demihuman, they keep their intelligence from before and have to deal with the instincts of whatever body they are in, but if they Evolve again they take both their original intelligence and the Demihuman instincts with them into their new form.”
He took his pipe in his hand and gestured towards Hewka saying, “That wyvern right there? Probably has three different sets of instincts wrestling around inside it, one of which is a Draconoid’s that probably wants to eat us right now.”
I had been aware of that quirk of monster evolution, but I had never really thought about it. I had lived longer than most humans ever would, and even though my development was slower I still had picked up a lot of knowledge over the years. The real question was:
“So what does this all mean?”
“It means the wyvern is probably very intelligent, but can’t use it beyond immediate tasks.” A look of pity crossed his face as he looked at Hewka, “she probably isn’t even entirely sure why she is here or why she does anything. I can’t be sure how intelligent she is, but given the breadth of her Skills I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a person’s level of intelligence locked behind instincts that she cannot understand or control.”
“Now a lot of people have different ideas on what deserves ethical treatment and a lot of people don’t think that monsters - even if they are intelligent - deserve to be treated like people. I am not one of them, so I am going to ask you something:”
“Can you be this girl’s friend? Because I don’t think she is a beast to master, but a person in a difficult place.”
*30 minutes later*
After Ivano had stopped calming us, both Hewka and myself had our emotions slam into us like we had been struck by a giant. Or I did anyway, Hewka seemed oddly unbothered by the event - more curious than anything else - but my mind was thrown into utter chaos. While I had promised to look after Hewka, too much had happened to me today for me to handle it.
For now, we went to check on Tamlin who was at the main Temple Complex. I had to find a way to ask Hewka to wait, but Ivano was right - she was smarter than she was letting on. But I also could tell exactly what he meant by calling her a child trapped in her own head. If I paid attention to our bond I could see exactly how mercurial her emotions were.
Her feelings and desires shifted from moment to moment. Anger to amusement to introspection to annoyance to boredom to curiosity to happiness to confusion; Hewka could barely seem to keep her mind straight. Well, that wasn’t entirely true. I could feel a constant will behind it all, she wanted to be here for some reason but it took all of her Will to keep herself on track.
It… Was not a good idea to leave her by the Temple entrance, but I didn’t have a choice if I wanted to check on Tamlin. I need to know if he would live or die and frankly, I feared the worst. Although Chaurl could heal and was decent with his Alchemy, he was a far cry from a dedicated [Priestess] or [Alchemist]. He might not have been able to do enough to keep Tamlin alive through the journey here…
I tried to keep those worries to myself as I attempted to ask Hewka to wait, but she didn’t even need to be asked. Instead she just plopped down near the temple entrance. I pushed gratitude through the bond and went inside the building.
The main Temple Complex was much the same as it would be anywhere else, just a large hall with alcoves dedicated to various Gods and Goddesses. There were temples to individual deities, but only a larger city would have a temple to every one of them. Evergold has two other temples, one to Marrina the Goddess of Prosperity and Hamel the God of the Underground. Neither of them were very useful for healing, but luckily the main Temple Complex held a few [Priests] of Arlsan, the God of Life.
An [Acolyte] led me back through the temple to the infirmary where Tamlin laid in bed, still unconscious. Yet, he was looking a lot better - to my relief - with a [Priest] on one side of the bed and a [Healer] on the other. He no longer looked like a charred mess, although he hadn’t gotten his hair back.
A separate [Healer] pulled me aside saying, “please don’t disturb them while they are working. I know it is hard to be in the dark about someone you care for, but healing is no easy matter.”
“You are right…” I nodded before saying, “I just had to see if…”
If Tamlin was dead.
“You should get used to it, little Elf.” A stern voice from behind me spoke and the [Healer] stiffened, before hastily fumbling out an excuse and scurrying away. I turned to see an older woman with severe features and short cropped gray hair striding towards me. For all her apparent age, her back was straight, her steps steady and quick, and her eyes bright.
Too bright. The telltale mark of a [Priestess] of Alet, the Goddess of Truth, were their piercingly bright eyes. Even had the older woman not been wearing the robes, her eyes would have been an instant give away as to whom she had pledged her service and soul.
She stepped close to me and started inspecting me closely, her face completely neutral and yet still giving off a critical air of disapproval.
“Ca- Can I help you, Ma’am?” I stuttered, intensely uncomfortable under the scrutiny. It felt like she was peeling back my skin and spirit to study what lay underneath, and I knew that wasn’t actually too far from what was actually happening.
The many Gods and Goddesses granted their followers many different powers and abilities. Every Class has an ability that you are guaranteed to obtain when you take the Class. [Hunters] gained [Prey Sense], [Warriors] gained [Fortitude], and a [Mage] gained [Mana Guard]. [Acolytes] would obtain an ability based on the deity they worshipped. For example, Chaurl, as a worshipper of Jakkus, gained the ability [Ambition is Life] which allowed him to shore up his other Stats with his Willpower. He could survive - for a time - with his Health at zero, refusing to die while he had yet to accomplish his goals, or sprint and fight at zero Stamina, or lift more than his Strength should allow.
An [Acolyte] of Alet would also gain an incredibly powerful ability: [Eyes of Truth]. They could see lies and secrets, even abstract ones like self delusions, half truths, and obfuscation. Given enough time, they could even read the details of a person's secrets without them having to say a word. Nothing could be hidden from them.
But while the Gods grant incredible power, that power also comes with its downsides and restrictions. Chaurl, should his ambition ever falter or his goal seem too petty to Jakkus, would find himself weaker than before as his Skill sapped the very life from his body. If he lost his ambition, Chaurl would almost certainly die.
Alet on the other hand, for all her incredible power, had been cursed by the God of Secrets. She could see the truth, but never speak of it - save to her younger brother, Scalus, the God of Justice. The restriction also applied to her [Acolytes] and [Priestess], but that didn’t make that any less awkward to talk to them.
Who wanted to talk to someone who could ferret out every single thing you have wanted to hide? Of course, nothing made people more suspicious than someone running from a [Priestess] of Alet. After all, what did they need to hide that desperately?
“Hmmmmm,” she continued to look at me without saying anything.
It occurred to me that there was an obvious reason she was here. Ivano had asked me to keep a secret because Adventurers tended to be very wary of intelligent monsters, and I suppose a secret that is held by a Guild Master and former S-Rank Adventurer that might have a life hang in the balance would probably qualify as large enough to attract the [Priestess].
On the other hand, she might be able to help! It would go a long way to making people happy if Hewka could be declared safe by a [Priestess] of Alet! So I started to explain the situation and asked the [Priestess] to come with me and see Hewka.
Fortunately, Hewka had not wandered off while I was inside, she just seemed to be… humming? I turned to introduce Hewka to the [Priestess] and immediately knew something was wrong. The [Priestess] had stopped dead, staring at Hewka. A few seconds later, she started shaking and blood started to leak out from her glowing eyes before collapsing!
I slammed the door to the Temple back open, calling for another [Priest] or [Healer] as utter confusion poured through the bond.
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