The crowd had split in two. One half had left to sit at the tavern and await the music, the other half had converged on the masters and were waiting for their turn to ask questions. While walking Lily asked, “Do you have a particular master you want to ask your questions to? Sachi Urira said nothing about one being in charge of the testing procedure.”
Aldren shrugged. “I have no idea. I hope it won’t be the fighter or the healer.”
As they came closer, the leader started speaking, “You are tested according to your skill, and they will be your master. Tomorrow morning you are to register for the tin rank with the appropriate master and they will explain the exact way of testing to you. They are also the ones to judge who will or won’t join Fearless this intake.”
Closer to the leader he saw green eyes alive with interest and fun, a broad nose and a rounded jaw. His clothing was all in light colours; light brown pants, a cream shirt and a buttonless light grey jacket which fell to the bottom of his pants with a white diamond emblem embroidered on one side.
Before he could overthink his question, he asked, “What does the tin rank entail exactly? And what other ranks are there?”
Within seconds the eyes of the leader had found him, and he smiled, one that reached his eyes and made crinkles appear next to them. “The tin rank is for aspiring members. Once you have proven your usefulness to Fearless Company, you will be raised to bronze and become a full member. As an aspiring member, you have to undergo tests and follow the commands of Fearless leaders, mostly the masters but on occasion myself. The masters all have a gold rank. I have the diamond rank. There’s also the silver rank where members of Fearless lead expeditions in our name to give help where this is necessary. This will also all be explained tomorrow and what is required to be raised to bronze.” He said and pointed to the diamond on his jacket when he mentioned his rank.
“Thank you for the explanation. What did you mean we are to be tested according to our skills and with the appropriate master?” He asked the next question on his mind.
“You are to be tested according to which skills you will mostly be using or are best at. Those who consider themselves fighters will be tested by Mnemeth Beirie and judged whether they are right for Fearless. Those who consider themselves mostly priests are tested by Malon Valkrana. And so on, and so on. The only exception to this rule are the crafters. Unfortunately, we are not lucky to have a master crafter in our ranks. However, we are confident that our master merchant Devdan Mormaer is more than capable of judging them and of finding further teachers for them.”
“So as I am trained as an alchemist, I would be judged by master Aien Xiltris.”
“Correct. As you will mostly be working with other alchemists, it is wise to take tonight to get to know each other. Not to scope out the competition, mind you, as there is no competition. Everyone is to be judged on their own merits and whether we feel they are or are not right for Fearless Company. The only competition is with yourself. If you are looking for master Aien, he headed to the tavern with the other alchemists who had already found him. I am sure you will find him there.”
Feeling expertly dismissed Aldren smiled. “Thank you for taking the time to explain.” He said.
“Not at all. I understand that this is all very confusing. As leaders of Fearless, we must explain this so you might better understand us, follow our directions, and ultimately, follow along with our mission. To explain is only the simplest form of help.” The leader of Fearless answered and then nodded at Aldren before moving his eyes to people standing behind him waiting their turn to ask questions. Aldren nodded back and then returned to Lily.
“Could you hear?” He asked her.
She shook her head. “No, I wasn’t standing close enough. Did you get the information you needed? I saw master Aien walk off to the tavern just when we arrived.”
“Yeah, that’s where I’m headed next. We’re to use tonight to get to know the other people in our groups which are based on our prime skill. Master Aien is apparently sitting at the tavern with the other alchemists who had gone to him now, so that’s where I’m headed. Do you want to come with and meet them as well or do you want to go meet the other fighters?” He asked her as he set off back towards the tavern.
“Will you be all right with the alchemists?” She asked.
Underneath it, Kevin clearly heard the implied question ‘Are you able to do this on your own or do you want me to be there with you to help you play?’
He took a deep breath and then nodded. “It’s a just a meet and greet, right? I won’t have to prove my alchemy skills tonight.” He said.
“Alright. In that case, I’ll walk with you to the alchemists and then I’ll go scope out the other fighters. It looks like Master Beirie will be a pain in the ass, so having some friends will prove useful. I will be close by if you need me though.”
Again there was a hidden message ‘Come and get me if you don’t know how to go on with the game.’ He nodded and then gave her a small shove against her shoulder. “I am supposed to be the big brother here. Don’t worry it will probably be fine, I have met other people before. And in case it doesn’t I’ll know to come to look for you.” He said and then in a much softer voice, “Thanks, I appreciate it.”
She nodded and let the matter drop.
When they came closer to the tavern, they immediately spotted Master Aien and the alchemists as they sat at one of the tables outside overlooking the square. Master Aien sat with his back to the tavern. Next to him sat a blond, disgruntled looking Hagraven wearing a dark yellow apron dress with bronze brooches over a light purple dress. The opposite side of the table held an Elf wearing a light yellow blouse and a brown cape, a Vampire with dark red hair caught in a low ponytail wearing leather pants, a cream shirt, and a dark blue coat and vest, and an Orc with bronze skin wearing green ragged clothing, a brown cape and a grey woollen cap.
“Is there room for one more?” Aldren asked as they arrived.
Everyone at the table turned to look at him. Not quite knowing what to do he raised his hand. “Hi, Aldren Smith, reporting for the alchemists.” He said and noticed his sister turning her head to look at him and then shaking her head.
She also raised her hand, “Hi, I’m Lily Smith and don’t mind everything that comes out of his mouth. I’m supposed to join the fighters though, but I wanted to introduce myself.” She said and smiled at the group.
Master Aien smiled at them. “Of course, of course, you’re more than welcome to join us Aldren. Lily, you’re also welcome to sit with us, there will be more than enough time to meet the rest of the fighters later if you’d rather stay with us for a bit tonight.” He said.
Lily smiled back, “No, that’s alright. My brother is in good hands, so he doesn’t need me to embarrass him.” She said.
He walked to the other side of the Hagraven woman and sat down next to her, Lily waved shortly and then set off to find the fighters. Aldren saw that on the table were several small bowls filled with different nuts.
Master Aien looked at the other side of the table. “I believe that Sharmune was telling us about himself.” He said.
The Vampire nodded. “Yes, as I had lost my train of thought with Aldren joining us, I will start over. My name is Sharmune, I come from Glimmerton, one of the seaside villages in Kint. I have always had a special connection to the surrounding nature, so I not only studied Alchemy but also Druidism. I am rather wild for a Vampire I guess you could say. When news of the Fearless intake reached our village, the elders and my family suggested that I might attend. So after I reached my majority at 20, they sent me off to Fearless.” He said and finished with a big grin on his face.
“That sounds like you might not agree in having to come to Fearless.” Master Aien said.
“I did say it like that, didn’t I? It was actually a mutual agreement. I have so much curiosity in me that the elders and teachers in Glimmerton couldn’t give me enough to learn, to try, to figure out… I was always experimenting with things, which didn’t always work out in the best way. There is so much to learn about the world. I never thought I would stay in Glimmerton for the rest of my life. I always thought that at some point I would leave, start travelling and learn more about the world. That point came sooner than I had in mind, however. I don’t want to join Fearless out of a need for safety, but rather more because I want to learn about the world and help keep it peaceful for the sake of nature.” Sharmune said.
Master Aien smiled, “Don’t worry, this isn’t part of the testing. You’re not being judged on what you say here. But let’s move on to this side of the table. Tell us something about yourself.” He said to the woman sitting next to him.
She looked around the table defiantly. Up close Aldren saw that she wasn’t very young anymore and certainly past her prime.
“I am Ottkatla. I have been my village’s alchemist for years, but they think I have been cursed and they treated me like an outcast unless they needed help. When a traveller who needed help came to my house and told me about Fearless I thought, these Elves are so civilised they must accept me and then I can help without being an outcast.” She said and with a glare for everyone daring to say otherwise she leaned forward and grabbed some nuts from a bowl on the table and started eating them.
Master Aien smiled encouragingly at Ottkatla and then looked at the rest. “Please, help yourself. Elven drinks will also be served, I suspect they’ll come around soon with glasses. Ottkatla seems to like the toasted hazelnuts, but there are also other nuts. They will be serving Elven teas and fruit juice. I am afraid that we couldn’t get our hands on some Elven mead for tonight.” He said and grabbed a small handful from a bowl of nuts, after having eaten some he looked around the table. “Who wants to go next?”
Sharmune leaned forward on the table and calmly began to sample the nuts from the different bowls. “These are really good. I’d love to know where you got these from.” He said to Master Aien while Aldren, the Elf and the Orc looked at each other trying to decide who would go next.
The Elf started twisting a strand of her dark brown hair and gave the group an almost smile. “I am Calarel Presvyre. I have studied alchemy under my town elders as I had an aptitude for it. I would have been chosen to be part of the small group selected to branch off from our village, but I had already always done my duty. When the news came of Fearless, I asked my town elders for permission to travel the world and join Fearless. I felt too restless to stay with the same people for the rest of my life, I wanted to take the opportunity to explore and use my knowledge for more than the annual fertility ceremony. Thankfully the village elders saw my unrest and my passion and allowed me to leave.” She said.
A server from the tavern came by their table with some drinks, she smiled at them. “Hello, would you like something to drink? I have different flavours of tea, apple juice and grape juice.” She said.
“Could you give me some tea, please?” Master Aien said.
Ottkatla looked up from the bowl of hazelnuts to the server and said, “Can I have some grape juice?”
Aldren smiled at the server, “I’d also like to try some tea.”
“Can I have some water?” The Orc asked.
Sharmune and Calarel started to speak at the same time and then stopped. Sharmune indicated with his hand that Calarel should go first.
“I’ll have some tea, thank you.”
“I think I’ll go for some grape juice too,” Sharmune said.
The server placed a throwaway plate with different teabags on the table. “These are the teas you can choose from.” She said, “I will come back shortly with your drinks.”
“I’ll go next, then. I already introduced myself, so as I said I’m Aldren Smith. I’m here with my sister Lily. Our parents own a small tavern in Bournesse a small village near the Capitol. We had frequent visitors who were travelling to the Capitol, and I regularly heard remarks about food from their home countries. I was inquisitive about the food from all the different countries and grabbed any chance to learn about them. After Lily had another fight with our parents about wanting to join the militia, she told me of her plans to travel to the Elves and study fighting with them. I decided to come with her and study Elven food there. On the night before we left some travellers came into the tavern who talked about Fearless. We then figured that Fearless might actually be a better place for us as we both wanted to do something good. She wanted to learn to fight to better protect the innocent, and I wanted to learn about the different foods to better understand the different cultures and maybe open up a place where everyone could come and gather peacefully.” He said.
“I can certainly understand that it gives a lot of stress when your parents don’t understand or don’t approve of your actions and dreams,” Aien said and turned his head expectantly to the Orc.
“That leaves you to introduce yourself.” He said.
“Yes. I am Durzol. Like Ottkatla I had to leave my village because they made living there hard for me. I am Orc, but I do not fight. I am short. Women do not want to marry Orc like me. They call me names. Finally, I hear of Fearless, I come here, more acceptance for not fighting and being short.” He said.
Ottkatla glared at Durzol. “An Orc that doesn’t fight? You’re a disgrace.” She said.