Rowen shivered as he felt the cold wind blowing across his neck. “Brr,” he shuddered, “the weather is really starting to get chilly now.”
Milly giggled as she skipped next to Rowen, “You think this is cold? This is just the start of it. This country has really short springs and falls, but has very long winters and summers. Just wait for the snow to fall, you’ll be crying for fur clothes!”
Rowen eyed the cheerful Milly next to him, “So, how many snows have you gone through here before?”
“None,” Milly admitted, “This town started at the end of the last winter, and my father and I moved here during the spring. The city had some snow, but I stayed indoors most of the time.”
“Great, so you know as much as I do,” Rowen sighed.
The two of them were on their way to the Adventurer Guild for their morning lessons. However, upon arriving at the guild, the two found the counters deprived of people and the few adventurers present were too moody to talk to them. It was like a shadow hung over the entire building.
“Children, over here,” Ganus called from the corridor. He beckoned them to follow him to the classroom, and closed the door after they entered.
“Master Ganus, is everything alright?” Rowen asked.
Ganus shook his head, “It’s nothing either of you can help with. However, we will be skipping meditation and theory today in favor of teaching you both a few magic professions. Also, you’ll need to leave for home as soon as I’m done also; the streets are becoming less safe.”
“Why, what’s happened?” Milly pressed.
Ganus sighed, “Children, there is nothing you can do now accept listen and learn. Are you not interested in learning about what you can become after mastering the basics of magic?”
He waited until children stopped talking. “Now,” Ganus switched to his teaching voice, “What magic professions can you name?”
Milly raised her hand, “I know of the alchemists, witches, enchanters, and mages. Those are the common magic users in town who visit the tavern.” Rowen nodded along with her answers.
Ganus nodded, “Correct; mages are the most common type of magic user because they can use any type of magic. Many become mages initially before they specialize in a single type of magic. For example: a mage who uses fire magic becomes a fire mage and eventually specializes into a pyromancer. Alchemists, witches, and enchanters are advanced magical jobs, but some had their start as mages specializing in nature, dark, and earth magic. Here in the southern part of the continent, magic users are regarded highly and are always treated with respect regardless of experience level.”
Rowen raised his hand, “Sir, does this mean the north is very different from us? I’ve never heard of this before.”
Ganus chuckled, “Well, I don’t find this surprising; it’s a rather pointed topic. A few hundreds back, there was a split between the countries on the continent due to a single question. As a result of this civil conflict, humans split between those who worshiped the gods, who moved south, and those who did not, who moved north. Without the concern over the views of the gods, the northern countries became more focused on magical technology while we southern countries focused on improving our spellcraft. While the other races did not join the conflict, they did choose a side and allied to the group of humans they agreed with.”
“What was the question?” Milly asked.
Ganus grinned wryly before holding his hand out in front of him, “Are the gods the real source of mana and magic? This one question broke the unity of humanity. It’s the reason why there exists so much tension between the clergy and the guilds, as the two organizations were traditionally on opposing sides of this conflict. Nowadays however there has been peace; enough that some of the greatest minds have worked together to form marvelous new things. The mage ranks are a good example. Which reminds me, what are the ranks a mage can achieve Rowen?”
“Novice Mage, Adept Mage, Journeyman Mage, Master Mage, Grandmaster Mage, Magus, and Saint,” Claire whispered in Rowen’s head.
“I knew that,” Rowen retorted inwardly as he repeated the list to Ganus.
“Correct,” Ganus announced, “However, how does one know what rank they are currently at?”
Rowen and Milly exchanged a confused look. “Um, someone tells them they are?” Milly ventured, “They take a test given by more experienced magic users?”
“In a way, that is correct,” Master Ganus agreed, “In the old days, mages would be ranked according to their strongest spell and the amount of spells they could cast before running out of mana. However, you both remember the device Master Mary used to check your affinities correct? About 70 years ago, the technomancers of the north, using magic theory created in the south, were able to create a device that measures the mana found within the body. The device is able to take the various attributes of the body and assign comparable, numeric values to them. Your level of intelligence, or how strong you are; these are both good examples. The machine can even name the profession path the individual has embarked on and can even give recommendations on what said individual has to do to advance to the next level.”
“That’s incredible!” Rowen gasped, “I have never heard of such a wondrous device! Can we use it?”
Ganus cleared his throat, “Unfortunately, no.”
“Why not?” Milly asked grumpily.
“The easy answer,” Ganus sighed, “is that the machine is incredibly expensive and fragile once set up. After 70 years of constant work, the creators have only managed to lessen the size of the device from a house to half of a room. Creating one requires various rare minerals, like a dungeon heart crystal. This country has only been able to afford the smaller devices that can only read magic affinity, though only large organizations can afford it like the adventurer’s guild.”
Rowen twitched as he felt Doc’s panicked feelings ring through his head, “So, would our dungeon be targeted for such a thing?”
“I won’t bore you with the specifics, but that would not happen,” Ganus confirmed, “Besides, we are trapped here anyway. Back to what I was saying before; your choice of study determines your profession. The main part of today’s lesson is to teach you about what enemy mages you will likely face in the days to come. From first-hand experience, the enemy has warlocks, witches, and elemental-focused mages. You both know about the last two so I won’t talk about them.”
“Warlocks will be your biggest concern,” he continued, “They are a branch of summoning magic, under the school of control magic. They specialize in the use of demons from alternate planes of existence; the stronger the warlock the more and/or stronger demons they can summon. Warlocks by themselves are not very scary; without their magic they can be killed like any normal human. However, warlocks have an innate skill that allows them the ability to fuse with one of their summoned demons at the cost of their soul. As you have probably guessed, warlocks are no allowed into the three heavens and normally turn into demons themselves when they die. From what you know, what kind of demons do you think warlocks turn into?”
“Demons of sin, like greed or wrath,” Rowen guessed.
“Correct. Animal or monster demon creatures are natural beings in the hells like our world’s monsters and animals. Native demons are divided into tribes and are all referred to as ranked or commanders with their power levels broken into ranks. Sin demons are the only demons that exist from fallen persons of the mortal races, not just humans. Sin demons are normally broken into seven general categories: greed, gluttony, pride, lust, wrath, sloth, and envy. There a few other categories as well, but thankfully those are rarer because every one of these demons are incredibly powerful; like melancholy, ignorance, fear, and doubt. What is the type of demon that is not a true demon?”
“Corruption,” Milly and Rowen said together.
“Yes; corruption demons are not true demons and are hated by every type. I will not make you memorize every type of demon, there are too many, but today’s homework is to learn about the general abilities of the seven sin demons. I want to hear from both of you their strengths, powers, and weaknesses because the warlocks that fuse with them will have the same abilities. Now, the typical warlock will cast . . .”
“That was so long,” Rowen complained as the two of them left the Adventurer Guild, “Who knew learning about just one magic profession would be so complicated. I fear we’ll have to do this all over again when we learn what jobs suit us.”
Milly giggled, “Don’t we both already know what we are going to be? You’re going to be a necromancer and I’m going to be some kind of priest thing.”
“I don’t think there is any such thing as a ‘priest thing’ job,” Rowen scoffed at her.
“You know what I mean,” Milly rolled her eyes, “It’s not like I can announce it on the streets.”
“Well, it’s not like anyone is listening,” Rowen observed, “In fact, where is everyone? It should be the lunch rush, but the streets are empty.”
Milly cocked her head and raised a hand to her ear, “I hear something over toward the noble quarter; sounds like a lot of people I think.”
“Well, we got out early today, let’s go check out what’s going on before heading back to the tavern,” Rowen suggested.
“Good idea,” Milly agreed.
The two hurried along the streets toward the noble district gate. The gate was surrounded by angry townsfolk, many who were recognizable to Rowen and Milly. The new guards from Duran were doing their best to hold the people back, but were struggling against the mob.
“Wow, everyone seems to be really upset,” Milly raised her hand to her forehead to shield her eyes from the sun, “Funny, I don’t see any of the refugees in this crowd.”
“Must be a local problem then,” Rowen reasoned, “We’d better ask someone what’s going on.”
Milly stared around until she caught sight of people she was familiar with.
“Hey Uncles!” she shouted and waved, “Mr. Henry, over here!”
Milly led Rowen over to three normal customers of the tavern: Henry, Johan, and Hamish. The three men relaxed at the sight of the friendly Milly and smiled at her.
“If it isn’t the little mistress of the tavern; what are you doing here?” Hamish chuckled.
Milly giggled cutely, causing Rowen to roll his eyes in the background, “We were on our way home from school when we heard all this noise. Mr. Hamish, what’s going on?”
At her question, the three men grimaced and spat on the ground as a group.
“Oh, pardon our manners miss,” Henry apologized, “It’s just that this situation leaves a bad taste in the mouth.” Johan nodded in agreement.
“It’s the blasted army,” Hamish growled, “They went and conscripted all the adventurers and sent them off on some ‘secret mission’. Complete hogwash and blasphemy I tell you! This town lives off the adventurers, and now they’re all gone. Whose supposed to dive into the dungeon and do the odd jobs around the town now? Sure as heck ain’t the soldiers; they be too busy ‘guardin’ and the like. Everyone here either relies on adventurers or cares for one, and we want answers!”
Milly and Rowen exchanged a look of shock. For the first time ever, the town held no adventurers.
“Daddy’s gonna have no customers!” Milly said in horror.
The three miners nodded, “You’re right little miss,” Henry said in affirmation, “We miners can’t mine without the protection of the adventurers; can’t risk finding an ooze. We’ll be saving our money and trying to find more construction work for now, so we’ll be eating at the tavern less for awhile.”
“That . . . I’ll let daddy know,” Milly said sadly. The three men said their goodbyes and rejoined the yelling mob. Milly and Rowen wandered back into the streets toward Tent City.
“Why would the army send every adventurer away at a time like this?” Rowen wondered aloud, “It just doesn’t make any sense. Adventurers are the lifeblood of this town; they do all the jobs we need. Not only that, but they guard the town. What could be so important?”
Milly punched a wall in frustration, “Yeah! My father and I have worked hard to run the tavern, but we won’t be able to stay open if all the adventurers are gone. We still have debts to pay off!”
“MY ADVENTURERS! NO!” Doc screamed in Rowen’s mind, causing him to wince and clutch his head in pain.
“You alright Rowen?” Milly asked quickly as she turned to check on him.
Rowen winced, “Uh, yeah. Just a little . . . temper tantrum in my . . . head. Nothing bad.”
Milly took a quick look around to make sure no one was nearby. “Is it your friend?” she whispered quietly, “Is it mad about the adventurers being gone?”
Rowen twitched violently at another scream in his head before grimacing, “Oh yeah, its mad alright. I . . . Milly what are you looking at?”
Milly stared at something behind Rowen, her mouth open in shock. Her finger shakily rose and pointed over Rowen’s shoulder. Rowen turned his head, confused, before also freezing in place.
Hovering in the air in front of the two children, a purple, petal dress wearing figure grinned cheekily.
“So, no more adventurers right?” Claire said with a bit of glee, “That means we can finally begin the investigation! Rowen, come on! We have a murderer to find!”