Chapter 1.1

Day One

The fortress was old and had already seen it’s fair share of use. It wasn’t unusually significant, there were only three buildings on either side of the gate. But it was packed with people. The large, wooden, double doored gate opened up to a large square. Facing the square was the actual castle. Aldren had already walked around the fort during the day and knew that behind the castle there was a large ritual circle and a walled garden with another building next to it. On one side of the square, there was a big tavern with a couple of tables outside. The other side of the square held three more buildings.

In his simple clothing of brown pants and green shirt, with a cloak against the chill of the night, he stood at the edge of the Main Square. With his back to the tavern, he overlooked the square. Multiple fires gave it light in the falling evening. A crowd had been gathering inside the fort all day. They filled the square, murmuring and walking this way and that. Aldren watched everyone and waited for things to come. Like everyone, he was curious why Fearless Company had opened its doors to new members. How would they gain membership? What adventures would they have?

“Someone’s coming.” The only familiar voice here said to him. He looked to his sister Lily on his left and then in the direction she was pointing. They both had brown hair. Though while hers was pulled back in a tail for practicality, he kept his own short after the advice his Alchemy teacher had given him. “Long hair can easily end up in brews or fire. Always keep it short.” He used to say. Besides their hair, they were similar enough as well that it wasn’t hard to figure out that they were siblings. They were both reasonably tall, for instance. Lily was only slightly shorter than him, and they were both in good form, though for different reasons. His has come from the many walks in the forest for herbs and ingredients and working in his parents’ tavern. His sister, on the other hand, loved to train with the militia.

A High Elf with caramel skin, black dreadlocks and the commanding presence of a natural leader, walked into the square from the direction of the castle. The darkness of the night made it difficult to accurately see what he was wearing, but his clothes only emphasised his status as the leader even more. Right behind him was a mixed group of Elves who, all in their own way, also commanded respect. The Elves walked into the centre of the square where people instantly made room for them.

Hearing the leather creak as his sister walked, Aldren followed her example. Together they walked closer. Aldren saw that the High Elven leader waited for everyone to quiet down. He looked around him with as friendly a smile as Aldren had ever seen.

“Welcome everyone!” He said in a loud enough voice that those in the back heard it.

“My name is Sachi Urira, and I am the leader of Fearless Company. I am joined in my mission to help where help is needed by my best friends. Mnemeth Beirie is one of the best Elven fighters. Malon Valkrana is one of the highest-ranking priests of Utpine. Jhanandra Balhorn is the first Wood Elf to master Air. Eloymaia Panan is one of the most passionate Druids the Wood Elves have ever had. Theoduin Sarneiros is a very gifted healer. Aien Xiltris is the most curious Alchemist I have ever seen, and Devdan Mormaer is the High Elf with more connections than our beloved Queen.” As he named them, each stepped forward and waved their greeting to the crowd.

Mnemeth was so pale she might be mistaken for a Vampire, but her dominating demeanour ruled that out immediately. She was as tall as Sachi, but although she was skinny, she stood with the stance of the trained fighter. Her red hair was tied down in a braid and hung well over her breasts, but she still seemed to have a crown of curly hair around her face. She was all business and only nodded.

Malon, the next to step forward, may have been equally tall, but the comparison ended there. Where she was pale, he was tanned. Where she was dominating, he was contemplative. His dark brown, wavy hair was lighter in places. Aldren couldn’t see clearly, but there seemed to be a drawing in his neck. He smiled almost dreamily and waved shortly.

Jhanandra was slender and tan. The fires around the square reflected from his bald head. He had the focused feel of someone completely in control of himself and his emotions. He also nodded, but decidedly more friendly.

Eloymaia looked almost more like a brawler than someone in tune with nature. He stood with the energy of someone waiting to pounce. His red hair, cut short to his skull, glinted in the firelight. But the broad smile he gave them was filled with unexpected warmth.

Theoduin was the only short person in the group. If it wasn’t for his Elven ears and fit, though slender, physique he would surely have been seen as a Dwarf travelling with this group. As it was, he was merely the shortest Elf in the group. His creamy skin was accentuated by his short, brown hair. He gave Aldren the distinct impression that though he could heal you expertly, you might not always like how he did so. His wave consisted of him shortly raising his hand, moving it once and then he resumed his pose with his hands behind his back again.

Aien was a quintessential alchemist who seemed to have recently burned off his eyebrows. Though his hair was grey, he still had the naïve feeling of the young about him and, next to Sachi, was the friendliest person in the group. He actually waved.

Devdan did not have the characteristic build of a wealthy, and usually portly, merchant. Quite the opposite, he was frail and bald. But despite that, he had the demeanour of someone who expects to be recognised and given respect while remaining charming and affable. He smiled broadly, but lacked Eloymaia’s genuine warmth, and waved almost royally.

Having introduced everyone, Sachi Urira retook the limelight and commanded everyone’s attention back to him.

“Thank you so much that you have travelled here and wish to join Fearless Company. When we started travelling around, we had only this small group. We tried to help everyone, but with such a small group we, unfortunately, were not able to get everywhere. This fort was given to us as thanks for help given. At first, we did not really know what to do with it. Then we were reminded that now we could branch out our small group and be able to help even more people. We travelled around to let everyone know that our doors would soon open for new members and you are the very first to listen to this call! Thank you for that! Thank you for your trust in our mission and your willingness to add to it.”

The warm and friendly welcome and introduction worked to release the tension that hung in the square. Aldren heard people shifting as they relaxed their postures to listen more calmly.

“We built our group from the best of our disciplines, and likewise, we will only accept the best out of you.” He continued, and Aldren noticed the relaxation evaporate. Questions seemed to float around the crowd unspoken.

What does he mean with the best?

How many people will they take?

How are they going to find the best?

The High Elf showed his complete awareness of these questions when he said, “Tomorrow we will tell you what the testing entails exactly. Know that we will test you according to your skills. We will test your mind, your skills and your heart to find those who are best suited to our mission and what we stand for. But that is for tomorrow! Tonight is for celebration, relaxation, and getting to know each other! Drinks and snacks from our home country will be served at the tavern and in a short while musicians will play music fit for dancing. Use tonight to get to know each other, from tomorrow onwards you will be working closely together. The masters are available for questions and to find others of like-minded skills. Relax, enjoy yourselves, but be ready because tomorrow at 11 o’clock the testing will begin.” He finished, and the masters clapped.

Together with everyone else Aldren took his cue from them. He turned his head to his sister. “There’s going to be music, I’m guessing that after that starts, I won’t see much of you.” He said. His sister grinned.

“You won’t get rid of me that easily, I’ll just drag you along for a dance partner. Anyway, the music won’t start just yet. Do you want to go ask questions and meet other alchemists?” She asked and answered her own question before he even had time to open his mouth. “You want to ask questions and meet other alchemists. Come on, the masters are still over there.”

She immediately set off toward the masters and Aldren hurried to catch up and not lose her in the crowd.

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