Riqel, Hopewell Kingdom
Sarah was getting ready to start her workday as a clerk at Riqel’s Adventurer’s Guild. While the Guild building itself was open to adventurers 24 hours a day, the clerks were only available during the day.
Riqel, only being three days east of Moshel, didn’t experience too many powerful monsters, but they did have a problem with bandits. Especially nowadays, when it seems like public order was falling apart, but you wouldn’t hear any of that in the Guild, not unless you wanted the enforcers to visit.
The enforcers were a group of middling strength adventurers that the Guilds hired to ensure that the Guild’s rules were followed. Naturally, the Guild being a government-owned and backed organization, something that Sarah didn’t know when she started working there, negative talk about the countries was frowned upon, and certain to attract the attention of the enforcers.
Sarah disliked these policies that had been implemented in the last three years. She originally started working at the Guild because she admired the free-spirited adventurers. While she knew she wasn’t cut out to be one herself, she wanted to support them.
While the Guild never outright said it, a combination of the rules of the Guild and messengers from the kingdom caused Sarah to realize that the Adventurer’s Guild wasn’t an organization created to support the adventurers, but an attempt to control, or at least appease, them.
Sarah understood from a young age that the adventurers weren’t the heroes of stories. She knew they didn’t hunt dangerous monsters, or eliminate bandits out of the kindness of their hearts, that most of the reason they did those things was because they were being paid or they thought it was interesting and fun. While that might have broken the hearts of most children, it just made Sarah admire them more.
When she heard people complaining about how adventurers only cared about money, she couldn’t help but ask, “Doesn’t that just mean that they’re not so different from the rest of us?” The ones she were talking to would always say that she was just a kid, and she didn’t understand, but when she started working at the Guild at 16, she still thought that way. ‘If they care about money as much as anyone else, then they care about other people the same, perhaps even more. Really the only difference I can see is that they’re braver than most people.’
When she learned of the true nature of the Guild a year after she started working there, she became furious, and she almost raised a commotion over it, if not for the intervention of a party that she had grown close to. They had asked her what was bothering her, and she asked them why hadn’t they realized that the Guild was only a way to control them. They all burst out laughing, saying that every adventurer knew within their first month, they let it be because the countries couldn’t control them. It was just better to let them think the adventurers were under control because the Guilds were the best places to find jobs, gather information, meet with friends, and train rookies. Sarah was told to watch the adventurers closely, and she would see.
As she watched them she realized they really were fine as things were. She even laughed when she thought that part of the reason the adventurers were always in such a good mood while in the Guild because they knew they couldn’t be controlled, and were laughing at the Guild about it.
But only a month after that, the new policies came in. First the enforcers, younger adventurers that disliked the rules their older seniors were teaching them. They thought that being an adventurer meant doing whatever you pleased, no matter who you hurt. Now, under the protection of the government, they acted as they wanted, raping and mugging whoever crossed their paths. They were no better than bandits, backed by the country.
Then the Guild issued extermination requests for certain veterans to the enforcers, citing that they had gone crazy. These veterans wouldn’t normally be killed by weaker adventurers, but they attacked in large groups.
Most veterans were angry about this, but the enforcers were backed by the country, and they didn’t seem to want to do anything outright against them. But they still voiced their displeasure. The more vocal of them had extermination orders placed for them, and it became apparent what was happening. They quickly had to silence their anger, or they wouldn’t be able to teach the rookies the way to be adventurers.
Even that was taken from them though. First of all, came the decree that all non-humans other than High Alvs were to be enslaved, and treated little better than animals. Then the enforcers, started claiming the roles of the rookies’ mentors, teaching them their version of being adventurers, and poisoning them against the older veterans.
Now, three years after these policies were put in place, the Adventurer’s Guild was a different place. The only reason Sarah hadn’t been raped yet was because the veteran party that she was always close to had protected her and “claimed” her. They, and some others, had avoided the purge by some luck and excellent acting. And the only reason she still worked there was so she could help them if there ever came a time.
As she was preparing for the adventurers to start coming in and claiming requests, some of the adventurers took advantage of the bar for breakfast, she noticed two children walking through the door. A boy and a girl, siblings, fair skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes. No older than 10. Dressed very well for the area. Servants to some lord? ‘Now, I wonder why they’re here.’ thought Sarah.
Sarah then noticed that some of the enforcers were staring at the girl hungrily, and she was reminded that some of them had twisted perversions. As one of those types started walking up to the kids, someone was quicker.
“Now, what could you kids be doing in here?” Bron, the acting head of the Tyrannical Boars, the adventurers that were protecting Sarah, asked the children.
The boy spoke up in a cheerful voice, “We’re running an errand for our master. We’re the apprentices of a Traveling Mage. He asked us to deliver this request to the clerk with specific instructions.”
“Is that so? Well, allow us to show you up to the desk.” Replied Bron, as the Boars formed up around the children in a protective circle, causing all of the enforcers to scowl at them, not just the ones who wanted the girl.
As they approached, Sarah smiled. “What can I do for you today?”
The girl held up a paper, and placed it on the desk. “Our master would like for you to place this on the sympathetic request board, please.”
Sarah looked at the paper. It was a simple request. Translate the language written on the paper. The person who can translate it needs to write it down in front of a Guild employee, and then have it placed back on the sympathetic request board with their name and location written on it. It didn’t really have a high reward, but it was just a translation request, so that was to be expected.
The sympathetic request board was rarely used. Once a paper was pinned to it, it would automatically appear on every board that it’s connected to. The reason governments didn’t use these for secret communications was because it was easy to make a new connection, and the messages were intercepted. The only reason the Guilds had them was so wanted posters and bounties could easily be sent to every city and village in all the countries.
Sarah thought it was odd, but Traveling Mages were usually more than a little eccentric. She chuckled as she glanced at Herin, a Wolfman and one of the Boars standing at the desk, thinking that she was no stranger to eccentric. It was then that she noticed that the Boars were all staring at the paper as if they had seen a ghost, and the kids were looking at the Boars with smug expressions on their faces.
“Hey, kids? You said that your master sent you with this?” Herin asked, as if he were confirming the greatest thing he’d ever heard.
“Yes. He did.” was the boy’s reply.
“Hey, boys? You alright? Do you recognize the language?” Sarah asked, beginning to get worried.
Bron jumped, as if he were startled. “No. No. We don’t recognize it. You should put it up Sarah.”
“Okay. I don’t see any problems with it. Lets put it up here, and there. Now it’s all across Drinaris.” Sarah said as she carried out the task.
As she turned back to the children, she saw that they both had smiles on their faces. Their smiles reminded her of cats she’d seen who had just caught a bird.
“Thank you, Miss. We’ll return to our master now.” said the girl.
“You’re welcome. And who’re you calling ‘Miss’? I’m only 20, you know.” Sarah scolded playfully, finding their happiness contagious, even if she didn’t know why they were so happy.
Bron spoke up then, “Let us provide you an escort, it would be a shame if something were to happen to you.”
Sarah glanced at him strangely. ‘That’s out of character for him. Sure he’s kind, but he doesn’t usually go that far. And why is his expression almost desperate?’
Sarah wasn’t the only one studying him. The kids were looking at the Boars, as if considering whether or not they were trustworthy. The boy raised his fist and rapped out a quick rhythm on the desk, still watching the adventurers. As the Guild was still quiet, and everyone’s attention was focused on the desk, the sound of the boy’s knocking was heard by everyone. All of the veterans currently in the building looked at him in various states of shock.
Bron quickly raised his own fist and knocked on the desk as well, with a similar, but different pattern. The kids smiled and said in unison, “Sure, we’d love that.”
Bron quickly looked at his party, “Greyar, Mason. Take the kids to their master. After that, meet us at the inn. We’ll leave from there.”
“You got it.”
As the two Humans answered, Sarah got the impression that they were overjoyed to be doing this. ‘What’s going on? They don’t usually act like this.’ She thought to herself.
As the four were leaving, one of the enforcers had managed to sneak behind the girl. As he grabbed her, he said, “You won’t be heading back to your master just yet, not ’til I’ve shown you a good time.”
Laughing, his friends at their table said, “And if he has a problem with it, tell him to take it up with the kingdom!”
Sarah screamed, “Stop!”
At the same time, Bron shouted, “You fool! Are you trying to have this village burned to the ground?”
The girl just calmly said, “Crmall’s.”
Immediately, the girl’s necklace glowed a deep violet, and the adventurer began screaming as black flames jumped from the necklace’s pendant to him.
Everyone gaped as the enforcer ran around the room, finally collapsing on the floor, trying to beat the flames out, screaming all the while. It was quickly apparent that the flames were only burning him, and nothing else.
He was conscious the entire time the flames burned him, his screams only ending when he died. It only took a minute, a relatively quick death, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was one of the cruelest deaths that could be inflicted upon someone.
The girl was the first one to speak into the horrified silence that followed. “Hmm. So that’s what Master meant when he said it would protect me.” That was all that she said, as indifferent an observation as possible.
Sarah’s only thoughts were, ‘She didn’t know that would happen? So the reason she was so calm was because she had that much faith in her master’s words and possessions?’
The dead man’s party finally got over their shock. They stood up and their leader started yelling. “You! What did you do?!”
The boy then cut in, “I believe Master said that necklace causes fire from the 9th Hell to burn whoever is threatening the wearer to ash, their body and soul.” He was calm as he spoke to the angry adventurers.
Sarah noticed that he had a small glass ball in his hands. ‘What’s that going to do?! Blow up the building?!’
Luckily, they never found out, as the enforcers noticed the ball as well and had the same thought. “We’re backed by Hopewell Kingdom, brat! Surely, your master knows the consequences of angering the kingdom! If you apologize now, we’ll let you go, and forget this every happened!”
“When you say ‘consequences’, do you mean sending soldiers and ‘enforcers’ so he can slaughter them all to make a point?” the girl asked sweetly.
Everyone in the room shuddered. They all got the feeling that this ‘master’ of theirs could certainly do just that.
Bron finally cut in. “Enough. I think we’ve seen that this Mage is not to be trifled with. Your man was in the wrong anyways. He should’ve known better than to try anything on a Mage’s apprentice.”
The men flinched, reminded that it was their friend’s fault. Everyone knows that Mages protect their apprentices and slaves, if only to prevent their secrets from falling into the hands of others. To do what he did was stupidity beyond belief, and no country would seek reparations for something like this.
After that, everyone watched as the children were escorted out by the two adventurers, happily asking about what they did in their party.
Sarah sighed in relief and leaned back against her desk. She hadn’t been that worried about a fight in the Guild since the days before the enforcers started throwing their weight around. The uncertainty about how a fight would turn out, and what surprises would be used. It was kinda nostalgic actually. Reminded her of the old days.
Herin nudged Bron, and nodded towards Sarah.
“Alright, I know.” Bron said in response. He turned to Sarah. “Sarah, listen, we’re going to be leaving the country in a couple days, as soon as we wrap up some unfinished business. You said you were planning on quitting, right? Why don’t you come with us?”
Sarah stared at him in shock. “This is the first I’m hearing of this. But yes, I would love to come with you. It’s just…” she trailed off, thinking about protecting the other veterans as best she could.
Bron chuckled, “Oh, I think they’ll be fine.” he said with a smile on his face.
Sarah decided to trust him, because he had never said anything like that when the topic came up. ‘Besides,’ she thought as she glanced at Herin, ‘I’m not going to be like those stupid women who fall in love with an adventurer and stays home pining for him while he goes off gods know where.’
“Alright, I’ll come. Just let me go tell the Guild Master.” she answered, walking to the Guild Master’s office.
It would be some weeks before she learned that, on that morning, she had done what she always wished to do by putting that request on the sympathetic request board. Helping all of the adventurers.
For she couldn’t have known that the writing on the request was really the coded script that veteran adventurers used to secretly communicate with each other. Or that it was orders from their most illustrious member.
‘To all adventurers that follow The Code. The Treaty is broken. They have declared war on us, and our way of life. Abandon the Hubs. Two full moons from now, meet at Demon’s Point with whichever younglings you feel you can trust. Should any bar your way, do what is necessary to remove them. The Black Knight of Chaos’
All across the Alvan country, Sonadis, the Human countries, and the Dwarven country, Ungerheimr, the translation request appeared on all of the sympathetic request boards. All of the adventurers saw it, and as they examined it, there were three main reactions.
The first was from the adventurers who’ve joined in the last three years. They either haven’t had a chance to learn the script yet, or they weren’t able to due to no veterans to teach them. They just thought it was what it appeared to be. An eccentric man wanting to find the translation of some scribbles. Or someone wanting to have some fun at the expense of others’ time, some joked.
The second was from the adventurers that knew the script but had abandoned the Code. As they saw the name of the one who issued the order, their hearts very nearly stopped. They all knew that name. If He was calling the adventurers to war, the world was going to burn. These adventurers immediately made plans to run. They knew that none of the others who side with him will hold back anymore, because with the understanding between adventurers and countries to leave each other alone officially broken, the Guilds would never be used by them again, so there was no reason not to rampage as much as they liked to vent off their three years of frustration and anger as they leave. Their only chance of survival is to leave, and go into hiding. Not one of them considered warning the countries, because there was nothing they could do about it, and it would just cause more anger against those who are fleeing, the last thing they could afford in their opinion.
The third response was from those adventurers who had stayed true to the Code. They were gripped by both resounding joy, and a little sadness. They remembered when the Guilds were the adventurers safe havens. Sure, the countries had tried to use them to control them, but the adventurers never had any hard feelings about that. They understood completely the fear of having powerful entities near you, and the desire to control them. But then, the countries forgot why they treated the adventurers so delicately. And while Ungerheimr never implemented those laws, they never tried to help the adventurers. Whether Ungerheimr suffers for that will be up to the Knight. Either way, the Treaty with the Dwarves needs to be renegotiated. These adventurers prepared to leave immediately. Even if they arrive too soon, they didn’t care.
Soon, all of the Guilds were empty, or empty enough for it to not matter. And that is how King Bjorn Ungerheim found the Guild in his capital Angheim.
He was there because he had woken up to find an urgent message waiting for him.
He had sent agents to Hopewell Kingdom to try and free an adventurer, his uncle on his mother’s side, Bergan Ungholdt. The message that he had received stated that the night they were planning on moving, two people, a Dok Alv and a Succubus disguised as a Human, freed Bergan and a Catwoman adventurer. The four of them then proceeded to kill both adventurers’ parties. The only names of the two they know is what is most likely their aliases, ‘Teron’ and ‘Martha’. And even though they were right outside the window of the adventurer’s home, they couldn’t hear anything. Not even the screams and thumps of the dying. It’s suspected that a magic to prevent sounds from leaking out was used, as well as magic to seal the building shut.
The four left the building with the remains of the adventurers strewn everywhere, and writing on the wall, in a language the agents couldn’t decipher. They had written the writing down and sent it to Angheim for the scholars to decipher.
After hours of studying only to realize that the words were in no known language, then a few more just trying to find a way to decipher it, Dungan finally came up with a potential solution.
“It was left where those adventurers were killed, right? Wouldn’t it make sense for it to have some meaning to adventurers?”
After several seconds of everyone staring at him, Bjorn exploded, “Why didn’t you fools think of that?! What in the 9 Hells am I paying you for, if you can’t come up with something so simple?! Out! GET OUT!” He promptly had them escorted from the castle, and prepared to go to the Adventurer’s Guild.
When he arrived, he found it devoid of adventurers. He approached the desk. When the clerk attempted to pay her respects, he quickly growled out that he didn’t have time for that, and he needed to see the Guild Master immediately.
As she ran to retrieve him, Dungan looked around. When he saw the request board, he nearly choked on his own saliva in his rush to get Bjorn’s attention. “Your Highness! This request! It has similar writing to what the rescue team found!”
“What?!” Bjorn yelled as the Guild Master ran into the room, trying to kneel and speak at the same time.
“Your Highness! Welcome! What brings you to my Guild?”
The Guild Master raised his head to find the King’s fist grab him by the collar, and drag him to Bjorn’s enraged face. “You. Had. Better. Have. A. Good. Explanation. For. This.”
As the Guild Master spluttered and panicked, Dungan tried to calm his friend down. “Bjorn! He can’t answer you if he’s dead!”
As Bjorn let go of the Guild Master, Dungan muttered, “Gods damn it all. You always fly off the handle when it comes to your uncle.” He understood, though. Both he and Bjorn idolized Bergan Ungholdt.
As the Guild Master finally got his breath back, he asked, “Y-Your Highness, what is the problem?”
Bjorn shoved the report from Hopewell in the Guild Master’s face, then pointed at the request board. “Explain.”
As he saw the report, the Guild Master went pale. When he looked at the request, his jaw nearly dropped to the floor. “Your Highness, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what these say. They are written in a coded script that the adventurers created to communicate with one another. The fact that I even know of its existence and still draw breath is a miracle.”
That calmed Bjorn down. “What do you mean?”
The Guild Master met Bjorn’s eyes. “You know about the relationship between the adventurers and the Guilds, correct, Your Highness? That peaceful relationship only persists because we don’t dig into the adventurers’ business more than we need to. If they feel that the Guild is endangering their freedom, they will not hesitate to remove the threat. They tolerate us because we provide a safe place to find jobs and sell their finds. The only things that they care for more than money is their freedom and their families.”
Bjorn and Dungan thought about that. As they remembered Bergan, they realized he was right. Bergan would definitely remove someone he viewed as a threat.
At that time, the door opened, and a party of adventurers entered. They must’ve just come back from a subjugation request, judging from the bloody bag in the Human’s hands.
As the adventurers looked around the room, their leader, a Werefox by the name of Urel, stepped forward. “Your Highness, it is a pleasure. I realize that you may have emptied the Guild for your meeting, but we have a Giant’s head, and we’d really prefer not to stand out in the sun with it. So if you would pardon us for our rudeness, we’ll quickly finish our business, and get out of your way.”
Bjorn looked to the Guild Master. “I’m correct in assuming that if they can kill a Giant, they know it?” At the Guild Master’s nod, Bjorn turned back to the Foxman. “I’m willing to forgive you, but only if you agree to tell me what this says.”
As Urel took the report, he read it over. “Where did you find this?”
“Hopewell Kingdom. A Succubus, a Dok Alv, a Dwarf, and a Werecat killed two parties of adventurers, then left that on the wall. At least two of the four are known adventurers. And those two belonged to the parties that were killed.”
“Hmm. You realize what you’re asking me correct? Revealing our code to an outsider. The only reason I haven’t knocked you out and left yet is because I’m curious about where this is coming from. What is the events of Hopewell to do with you?”
“The Dwarf’s my uncle. I need to know.”
Nodding, Urel answered. “It says ‘They committed the unforgivable’. It’s talking about the most important edict of The Code. Never betray your family. Those adventurers betrayed their party members. When someone breaks a rule of The Code, it’s the duty of all adventurers in the area to investigate, and administer punishment. Unfortunately, in the last three years, we haven’t been able to do that because of the meddling of the Human and Alvan countries.”
Dungan put in, “You know, you adventurers are supposed to be following the rules us countries set down.”
The Human snorted, “You mean the slavery mandate? That right there is why the countries have no right to control us. Besides, why should we be ruled by people who are weaker than us? The first time a powerful adventurer decides to go wild, none of your people could put them down. You won’t be able to create a powerful enough incentive to comply with those rules. We need to be the ones who decide our rules, or it’ll be locked up in useless bureaucracy.”
Suddenly, one of the other adventurers cut in. “Urel, the board!”
“Hmm? Oh.” Urel’s eyes widened as he saw the translation request. “Sorry, Your Highness, but we must be going. Jonathan, drop the head. Let’s go, boys.”
“Right,” came the reply from the Human.
“Wait! What does that message say?” Bjorn yelled. Judging from the adventurers’ reactions, and the fact that they’re leaving the bounty on the Giant, he got a very unpleasant feeling about the contents of that message.
Urel turned back. “Congratulations, Your Highness. Your Human and High Alvar friends have finally pushed us too far. The Black Knight of Chaos himself sent a message to every Adventurers Guild to inform all those still loyal to The Code that the countries have broken the Treaty. Now that it’s official, we’re cutting ties to discuss the next step. But considering that the first thing he said after being missing for three years, is a declaration of war, I don’t think it looks good. I’d bet someone tried to kill him, and he’s getting ready to get what is due to him.”
With that, the adventurers left.
In the silence that followed, Bjorn looked at the Guild Master. “What can you tell me of this ‘Black Knight of Chaos’.”
The Guild Master’s face had gone paler than earlier after hearing that name. “Your Highness. Do you remember an adventurer party named The Black Knights?” At Bjorn’s nod, he continued. “They were, and still are the strongest adventurers to ever live. They led the other adventurers. The adventurers gave each member a nickname, and they became similar to titles. The one given the title ‘Chaos’ was the only Dok Alv of the group. He was called that because, no matter how numerous the enemy, he cut through them all, leaving a trail of chaos and destruction in his wake. They disappeared three years ago. If someone really did try to kill them, and even just one survived, they wouldn’t have any problems gathering their old allies and creating an army of only a couple dozen, enough to burn any country to ash. And if that army consists of every adventurer who still follows The Code…” His voice faded, but he didn’t need to finish. Bjorn and Dungan realized that this Chaos could most certainly live up to his name.