Hero the Escape
Chapter 6: Two Years

Copyright© 2019 by Shaddoth

My reprieve ended two weeks later when a small fishing boat sailed straight at my little island. I noticed when it was under three kilos away while framing the window on the east facing. Up until then, no one had else had even come close. My location seemed to be outside of normal fishing lanes.

Two men and two women, the men both had deep dark tans from extended exposure to sunlight on open water; of the soon to be arriving women; one was familiar and one not. Justiciar Dana Hershim asked permission to land.

“What left do you have to do, Hermit?” She asked after a greeting.

“Storage boxes. The smoker, I just finished but getting wood is an issue.” She pointedly looked at the two mammoth trees a hundred meters away drying in the sun. “Hey, don’t look at me like that. Moving all that wood is a lot of work.” That wasn’t something she could gainsay. “Besides they are soaked and need to dry out before I can do much with either of them.”

“Who is your associate?” Although Dana wasn’t wearing her tabard, it still was an official visit.

“I am Kathryn Emmels. I represent Empress Amanda and the Griffin Empire.” The perfect complexioned, middle aged brunette, bowed with a fist to her heart.

A gods’ forsaken diplomat...

An all too simple introduction from a professional liar. This one seemed to have spent some time with Dana before coming out, from the casualness she exhibited in my presence. “Hi. They call me Hermit. Hint, hint.” Lady Emmels laughed lightly, understanding my not so subtle humor. A seemingly genuine one, too. “I’d offer a place to sit but I only have two chairs.”

“That’s alright. We will try and not take up much of your time, Master Hermit. I would like to purchase the equipment, that the Griffin Knights left here last time they visited if at all possible.”

“That stuff? Yes, I still have it. It’s in a cedar chest taking up space. What will you offer for it?”

“Justiciar Hershim recommended a large emerald. It isn’t as large as the one you lost, but it is the best one I could find on short notice.” Lady Emmels handed me a medium-high quality uncut emerald. “Would this be a fair trade, Master Hermit?”

“More than fine. Most of the items they left behind, were of inferior quality anyway. Did you bring a storage item Lady Emmels?” At her assurance, I led my visitors inside to the cedar chest. “It’s all in that one, I had no use for any of it.”

Dana gathered the equipment obviously checking off a mental list, at least to me it was obvious. Lady Emmels took in the interior in a thorough sweep. I would wager, a week later she would still be able to make a precise render of the layout of noteworthy items and placements.

“Sorry, I don’t have a fire on or I would have offered tea.”

“That’s alright, we did come unannounced.” Waving it off with a friendly gesture, the noble, possibly a high one like a Marquess or Duchess, graciously smiled in a relaxed manner.

“Since you came all the way here, I imagine that you have something on your mind. Otherwise Dana could have come here at any time and requested a similar transaction.”

“I heard you were vacationing for two years. Any plans on what you intend to do after?” The professional Liar, lightly asked, but the meaning behind it spoke volumes. Not that I read diplomatic-ese well. My usual way of dealing with them for the last dozen years or so was a quick death, before they could open their mouths.

“Not a clue. The past few years have been a little troublesome. A rest is in order.” Marnie would be sooo proud of that line... Marnie ... I consciously halted my falling mood.

“Contact Justiciar Hershim if you need anything. When you feel like rejoining civilization come visit me.” A sincere offer but one that she didn’t believe I would accept.

“Thank you for the courtesy Lady Emmels. For now, I need to be free of attachments.”

“I won’t say I understand. Be well Hermit.” She formally bowed to me and led Dana to the waiting fishing boat, once Dana assured both of us that the loot was all accounted for.

“Lady Emmels.” She stopped and turned waiting my response. “Your daughter Katlyn is too dependent on rank; she needs to learn to think for herself. Good luck with that.” The similarity was all too evident. There were some very odd happenings in that empire of theirs.

A concerned expression, genuine again, showed. “I am finding that out. Thank you. Children are troublesome.”

“I wouldn’t know.” I murmured, as they boarded the three man fishing boat.

A duchess, probably, she might have been a princess, came all the way here just to feel me out. One of her daughters, a young mage, was a mere Lieutenant in a frontier city. Not all was as it seemed.


The two Empire officials waited until they entered Justiciar Dana’s office and wards activated, before speaking. Dana poured each a glass of wine and ignored the small sandwiches that Karen prepared earlier.

“He’s definitely a noble. A protracted war which he personally fought in for years. Strange but I get the feeling that his side won. But if he did win why is he here and not there. Where ever there is?” Duchess Emmels, posed.

“Even if his side won the war. He personally could have lost. Or lost everything that mattered to him.” Replied Dana.

“He doesn’t seem to be the type to abandon his obligation of rebuilding.”

“No, he doesn’t, does he? Unless he was betrayed. Probably by his ruler and lost his title. That could cause him to flee.”

“If he is as powerful as you say why would he let that stand? Nothing left to fight for? Or ... just tired of fighting in general and didn’t feel it was worth the gain?” Duchess Emmels thought long and hard in the quiet Justiciar’s office. The Hermit was an interesting and dangerous puzzle to the third ranked noble in the empire. And she loved puzzles. “If he is so against fighting why attack Helga? Her pelvis and spine were shattered.”

“They all lived. It took restraint on his part to do that. Besides she said or did something that angered him. I still don’t understand what that is though. I did warn them not to disturb him. He knew that I did. But I had left the island before the first blow was struck. He knew an event would happen. I wanted to ask what really happened, but at this point I’m unsure of my standing with the man.”

“I interviewed all five. They all say the same thing. He attacked when she knocked the hourglass out of his hand. None of them saw the attack, just him move and Helga went flying. Emily wasn’t even watching him. Her gaze followed you. I wasn’t happy that she didn’t fight. Looking back, I think it was the right move.”

“How did he take out four Griffin Knights in less than a minute with a staff? And as a mage at that. Was it a spell or a series of spells?” Duchess Emmels pondered aloud while sipping the slightly inferior white wine, giving the issue some thought.

“Skill. According to Captain Gregory, he had a stun spell on his staff but their armor is highly resistant to magical stuns. He admitted that they were overwhelmed in seconds, even paired up against the Hermit.”

“Lord of the Forest. I’ve never heard of such a creature. You’re sure he is not a druid?”

“Positive, My Lady.” Deep in thought Dana continued. “We are assuming he has been at war for years, right? Say he has been on the front lines for two years. To survive he would have to be very lucky, regardless of the skill level. Five constant years would be unimaginable. Is it possible he was there longer than that? If so, his accomplishments would be Heroic.”

“A Hero. That would be truly worrisome. It would also explain his resistance of providing a name.” The two stared at each other both coming to the same conclusion.

“Hero.” They said together, swearing.

“I have to inform the Empress.”

“Lady Emmels. He did mention a boon if left alone for two years. We could make use of that as long as it was not too extravagant.”

“That might work. I will suggest that to the Empress. What were his conditions?”

“‘No one bother him for two years and he will offer a boon. If not, no boon.’” She quoted while raking her brain. Dana missed something and held up a hand to stall the duchess.

Recounting the wording, Justiciar Dana offered, “He said ‘you’. The boon was specifically offered to me.”

“Is it transferable?”

“Might be. Or I could request it on behalf of someone else. But it would have to be somewhere that would not cause conflict or cause undue stress. Too many will try and use him or hinder him. If he lashes out the damage would be massive.”

“If worse came to worst, how does one stop a Hero with no attachments?”

“He seems reluctant to kill. If he only attacks those that attack him...”

“I am extending the writ of exclusion. Ten kilos. Centered on his island. No one may approach besides his merchant Palos. Encourage him to continue his trade. A new administrator will be here in a month. Countess Analise and her family have been removed. See to it that the merchant adds weatherproof stackable chests to his next delivery. And expedite it.”

“Yes, My Lady.” Justiciar Hershim stood when her superior did, before she left, Dana asked, “Did you hear what he said as we left?” She pinched the bridge of her nose to keep the headache from forming.

I wouldn’t know.“ Duchess Emmels responded, as she exited the office while making plans.

Dana called out to her aid. “Summon the Guild leaders. I want them all here in thirty minutes. No exceptions.”


Weeks past with no distractions. After too many days indulging myself, I started getting back in the habit of daily workouts. Mostly stretches and swimming laps around the isle. The herb garden was coming along well, Palos stopped by with some new books and maps in a cedar chest. He told me that two sets of three were ordered for me by Justiciar Hershim if I wanted them. Since it was on my list anyway, I accepted but insisted on paying for them.

Together we flushed out what I should need for the following year with him leaving in good spirits upon the boat he rented. Unfortunately, he could only get a small wall mirror in a garish painted frame. I’d live with it until I found a better one later. I still hadn’t figured out my exact age, the mirror should help pinpoint it from my memories.

Fifteen, if that... what the hell? How did this happen? At worst, I had expected twenty to twenty five. The Phoenix egg I used... wait... the old mage said something about the old ones using it to get their youth back. So thirty six to fifteen wouldn’t have been out of the realm of possibilities. All my scars and accumulated damage had disappeared as if they were never there to begin with. Hell, long before I hit my teens, I had scars from the insane training that all my family went through. Even the slice from my traitorous sister at the base of my neck disappeared.

By the time of her sneak attack, the betrayals had mounted so high that I never even asked why, before killing her. Leeanne ... she never understood what it meant to be the one targeted by all. Just wanted the accolades. Not that I ever got any after the first couple years. Just their curses, envy and resentment.

Nothing I could do about it now. Back to making my dugout canoe ... at first it wasn’t the most stable thing in the world. Then I remembered the gnomes of the south used two poles, one front and one behind the main seat hanging off one side and attached to a large curved branch which ran parallel with the canoe body running in the water. I bet the addition would increase stability even if it slowed it, not that I cared about speed. I worked on the canoe addition until satisfied. Mostly I used it for recreation or trips to the nearby coast when I went foraging. The lake was too large for me to cross reasonably without magic, and building a larger sailboat was beyond my knowledge.

Seasons passed with only a single monthly visitor. When winter started to rear its white head, I instructed Polus to wait south of the river by my original camp and I would meet him there. The sporadic floating frozen floes of ice were too dangerous for him, even with his developing body from my recommended training, cold water quickly sapped strength of even the best. It seemed he found a good weapons master to guide him on the right path. A single shortened broad sword that the master recommended would benefit him in the long run. Even if he never used it, his body would grow stronger.

I did leave the isle occasionally to explore the mountains and uninhabited plains north of them. I stayed clear of the other occupied isle in my journeys.

An orc tribe settled at the mouth of an inlet to the far west but seemed more interested in farming and hunting than the lake itself. Three hundred and fifty orcs in total. I did stop by to trade a few times. They didn’t build boats nor did they fish in the lake, just spearfished the cold river that fed the lake. A net full of large fresh lake fish in exchange for baskets and furs was enjoyed by both sides. I did warn them about the warlike humans on the other side of the lake and the goblin tribe to the north, but they weren’t worried. Humans were too far away to concern them and goblins too timid. It wasn’t until the third visit at the last vestiges of winter that they pulled out a flask of ice brandy to share. I learned that they were aging the strong spirits and found it ready to be consumed. The brandy was a bit more than a little harsh but had a smooth, strong apple flavor that made it more than worth the wait.

Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough brandy to trade. I did ask for them to make me a cask or two that I would take back and store for a few years until mellowing enough to consume. In exchange, I taught their shaman three different Ward spells. His low mana limit would only allow him to set one per day. Since he exhausted his mana regularly along with learning a new skill, his abilities would increase. A great benefit for the tribe and the generations to follow.

The goblin tribe north of them didn’t allow me near enough to trade or converse, so I left them be. I observed them from a distance and noted huge poles they used along the shoreline with yellow floating balls attached that they would fling into the lake to catch fish.

An older goblin would go down the row of kids and launch one at a time and hand it off to a child to slowly draw the line in, fish or not. The head fisherman would go back up the line and repeat for hours. The whole production felt odd to me for some reason I couldn’t grasp. Since they hadn’t wanted to deal with me, I returned home, I never learned their reasoning behind the strange method of fishing.

Once every couple weeks, I would journey out to different areas around the lake just exploring for a few days at a time. If I met with someone, I would trade and talk. It seemed that I still needed people, regardless of how much I tried to convince myself I wanted to be alone.

All in all, my life for the first time since diapers was peaceful.

The second winter was much harsher than the first. Higher winds and even a few large ice flows to go along with lower temperatures. Not that I minded all that much. Maybe just a little. *Grin. Chopping wood with high winds and low temperatures in the semi frozen rain was no fun at all, and weather magic was not one of my specialties. At least non warfare types.

The second winter while spending more time with the orcs, I taught Shaman Krell how to contact Low Earth Spirits and Low Earth Elementals. He wanted to marry me off to his granddaughter after that, but I declined. Orcs weren’t to my taste but I did accept a white stag fur, as a friendship gift. The amethysts would be hard to acquire for the small tribe but not impossible. Krell would ask other bands and clans to search for them for him, the stout old Shaman also started apprenticing a dozen other young orcs, some, I thought were from outside of his village.

I parted saying, I wouldn’t be back anytime soon. It was time for me to travel. I liked that orc tribe. They all were hard working, without taking life too seriously. Good people.

The day I left, Krell took me aside and told me ‘the gods are watching me’.

“No, my friend. Those are humans with magic to see far places and people. They are those who watch me.”

“We watch for them. If they come, we will send them back.” The usually jovial shaman firmly stated.

“Why should the lion care if the sparrows flock in the tree unless they poop on them. Then is the time to care.” He grinned in understanding. “If that happens you cut down their tree so they can’t hide there and chase away their food so they have to go elsewhere to eat.”

“Sure you don’t want Krenaa? She will be a good mate.”

“I’m sure my friend. I’m too young.”

*Snort!

Yeah well, I didn’t believe that one either. “I am going to travel for a while.” Saluting the tribe with a raised fist, “Take care.” I shouted to the gathered tribe as I entered my summoned water Elemental returning home.


“Twelve? The Empress agreed to all of them? Isn’t that a bit much?” Justiciar Dana asked.

“They will arrive here within ten days, Justiciar Hershim.” Replied the Imperial Messenger.

“Have they been told what is expected of them?”

“Just that he is a foreign Master who is doing the kingdom a favor. Each were specifically chosen and approved by the council. Also, they were told that if they succeeded, they would get a generous reward from the Queen herself.”

“Succeed in what though? Were they given a task or goal?” Dana felt another headache forming from the Hermit’s presence.

“I am unaware of that information Justiciar Hershim.” Replied the staid Imperial Messenger.

She didn’t expect an honest response anyway, “Lovely. Duchess Kathryn must know that he will see us sending a dozen young noble ladies to train, as a pretense.” Dana looked over the list and recognized all of the names, though one stood above the others. Cara. She even sent Her own niece. This was turning out to be an even greater disaster.

“They will be residing at the Administrator’s Keep and will stay there for the training period. The Administrator has been informed. Is there anything else Justiciar?”

“Nothing else. Thank you, Messenger.” Dana waited until the Imperial Messenger left the building before banging her head on the desk. Twice. Twelve girls between fourteen and sixteen all second or third daughters of high houses. All well into apprentice training in their professions and none had ever left the protection of their Houses ... And she wants me to ask him to train them... how can this end well ... beyond that, how can I get him to accept the request?


Polus just left again. The city residence was set and stocked for the spring. Ebony City was guarded fairly tightly, according to Polus, he recommended that I should enter by air at night. He gave me a good map of Ebony with directions and a key to my apartment.

I activated the Barrier and left via wind Elemental that night. Heh, the poor diviner would get quite a shock tomorrow when he scrys here. It was a clear night but as high as we went no one could discern us from a bird. From the air, Ebony City laid out like it was a planned city, probably two hundred years ago, maybe less. Each city quarter were easily discerned. From the air, the keep to the east, was the darkest part of the whole area. Except a few lights from windows only the gate and walls had any lights lit from the outside and those were far between.

A small frontier port city of five thousand had less night traffic than expected. All the fishing boats were in harbor and except for regular lamps along major streets, I didn’t see any torches. The merchant apartments that Polus owned were easy to find. He found for me an upper corner unit with a balcony. The single key would work on either the balcony door or the nominal front one, that way I could enter quietly and unobserved. No one would expect someone to fly down in the middle of the night to enter their own residence.

The two bedroom apartment enjoyed a study; converted bedroom, a dry cold kitchen and a mid sized master bedroom. I felt it definitely was a dedicated bachelor flat. That was fine for cold meals and secure living for most tradesmen with a bonus of a built in water closet. The building’s water source was from a well on the property that the residents shared with other nearby apartments. Services included an overnight waste collection, not that I expected to ever stay in the city long.

City...

I hadn’t lived in a city in years. This would be an ... odd experience.

Polus arranged for a couple sets of clothes that would make me look like a merchant’s journeyman. I did spend some time engraving a few wards that night before going to sleep.


Location: Rose city mage guild divination room. Time: one hour after sunrise.

Farsight. KABOOM! The crystal ball before the young mage exploded sending glass shrapnel in every direction, the poor apprentice that cast the Scry spell had his eyes seared permanently from the blinding backlash. He had been assigned the task of scrying the same island every morning for the last year and make notes regarding the sole inhabitant. If the inhabitant left the island, he was to report it to his master and someone else was delegated to follow the mage. The apprentice diviner would then have personal time to access the library with the points accumulated from his Guild assigned Tasks.

Crying in pain in the corner of the room, he called for help. The apprentices in all the nearby rooms came running, but couldn’t enter since his room was Warded. No one was allowed to know what the young apprentice’s assignment was each and every morning. Thirty minutes later with his hands and face a bloody mess, after the hall was cleared the door was opened by his Master. Taking a look at the carnage, the Master winced upon seeing his appearance.

“Poor Ducky. Someone Trapped your Crystal. Hold my hand and follow me. I will bring a priestess to heal you.” The Master asked one of his colleagues to ward the door and have a couple journeymen guard it. He would find out what happened after he took care of his apprentice. And those responsible.

It wouldn’t be until the evening when another crystal exploded with the exact same results, that they understood that the crystal wasn’t trapped but the Target itself had an unknown trap spell on the location. The Insidious Detonation ward which specifically targeted remote viewing was not known on this world, even if they did know of the spell, its power level was above any but the strongest masters to cast.

He Knew and was not pleased.

Master Vard was one of the few that knew the identity of the Target since he was personally assigned by the Guildmaster for this assignment. Archmage Yolanda was out of the Tower on another of her wild hunts. Little could he personally could do, but Send a Message and hope she responded as quickly as possible. The care and handling of the Target were above his Rank. The Low Master Mage was left to worry and remain silent until he heard back from their leader.


The following day, I strolled around the city familiarizing myself with the newer preplanned Frontier city. Stone structures were few and far between. Later, I found out that only the official buildings, temples and a few mansions were made of stone. The nearest quarry was too far to be of much use and the expense of transporting stone was too high for most.

Also, Ebony City was cleaner than I expected, the military presence, which was significant in their numbers, felt passive and the citizens didn’t seem upset by their presence. They must be benign, I thought.

After spending the day wandering and listening to the commoners and common merchants, I was pleased that the inhabitants were more relaxed than most cities on my former world. The increased military presence was not here to suppress the townsfolk. Which led to some disturbing questions and conclusions on my part.

After and early dinner, I unconsciously ended up in front of the Adventurer’s Guild. *Sigh. In the beginning, this was the only haven I had. Like all the rest, at the end it too became hostile to us. To Me. But that too had been unavoidable, the council had been replaced by corrupted Nobles.

“Hey kid you going in?” Asked a mid twenties woman in light leather with a wand and a bow. A quick glance showed a torn ear that had been healed too late and a sturdy frame.

“Yeah, it’s time. Thanks.” I replied and entered. Inside, was a small receptionist’s counter straight ahead with two doors to the left; probably stairs up and down. The whole right side was laid out like a tavern. Large tables and sturdy stools occupied with just a few members in attendance, chatting boisterously. No one noticeably drinking heavily, clearly it was more of a social gathering.

... I had missed this. I lost myself in memories of comrades and Companions long gone. Marnie, Jakob, Grib, Brut, Holy, Anne, Sto and Stu...

I didn’t even notice the hall quiet down. Not even sure how long I stood there, eyes blurred with tears.

Pulling myself together, I wiped my tears with the back of my hand, noticing the mug in front of me and a concerned mage across from me. We sat at a table away from the others.

“Are you sure you are ready for this? Being an Adventurer is not for everyone.” The nice Adventurer offered her honest opinion seeing my distressed reaction from just entering.

“Thanks. Just, too many lost friends.”

“Were your parent’s Adventurers?” Her hard voice softened.

“The best. But they died too.” I didn’t even notice my slip.

“If you need advice or anything ask for Brenda. Everyone knows me around here.”

“Thanks, Ma’am.” A ghost of a smile flashed.

“Ma’am! You little shit, here I went and was nice to you and you call me old.”

The table closest to us heard her and started heckling her with choruses of Ma’ams. “See what you did, kid they are all laughing at me.”

“No Ma’am they are laughing with you. They know better to than laugh at you.” She gave me a faux dirty look and stomped over to berate her associates and friends.

I felt all the eyes in the place follow me as I approached the receptionist desk, even with the teasing and catcalling between tables. One of the men even asked if I was her kid which ended up with him falling backwards unexpectedly with a loud crash, followed by laughter.

“I’d like to register for the Guild, please. Private viewing, and yes I know it’s extra.” I said to the generously built receptionist.

“One min hun, I need to get Mari.” ‘OK.’ The blonde plump receptionist entered the closest door, leaving it open and disappeared upstairs, returning shortly after telling me to go on up. I thanked her and ascended closing the door behind me.

The top floor was an open square and I wasn’t given directions. I spread my awareness and found a strong entity behind me, invisible. “Which way Guildmaster?”

After a brief consideration, I heard a ‘follow me’. I did.

In the rear of the building, a door opened and I entered closing it behind me. She dispelled the invisibility after sitting down. “Marci said you wanted a private application? There is an extra fee with that.”

“I am aware.” I placed the gold on the desk. Polus informed me of the price earlier, which was the same as the one in my former world. She took out a gold filmed Plaque and had me cut my finger dripping three drops of blood on it before placing my index finger on the three inch square metal sheet. A rainbow of colors flashed in succession from the small metallic plate, the lightshow stopping as quickly as it started. I was more than mildly interested in what it said, this time. The last one broke when Baal Destroyed my Name. Those things never break.

Taking it from me, the graying brunette looked up in shock. “That can’t be right. Seems you have a broken Plaque, we have to try it again.” She pulled out a new Plaque.

“Guildmaster, before you do that, why don’t you let me have a look at it.” She hesitated and showed it to me while holding on to it, curiosity etched on her expressive features.


Name:

Age: Young.

Race: Human (ish)

Class: War Elementalist

Rank: Yes

Crimes: None

Blessings: NONE Possible.

Curses: NONE Possible.

Skills: Survival-S

Talents: Survival-S

Titles: None.


I rolled my eyes at the absurdity. “Interesting. Looks like Janus, still has a sense of humor.” Void Cursed God of Adventurers...

“You are the Hermit, aren’t you?”

“They call me that.”

She took a deep breath and leaned back staring at the reclaimed Plaque. “This is absurd. No name listed. No age listed just a description, what the hell is ‘-ish’ after your race? War Elementalist. Something else I never heard of. And for rank it just says ‘yes’, don’t even get me started on that. Crimes of none is at least normal.

“But really no possible blessings or curses! Ever!?? On top of that, the only skills and talents listed are Survival at S-rank! It doesn’t even list weapon mastery or magic mastery. This is absurd!”

“Don’t blame me. If you don’t like the results talk to your God.” I defended.

Guildmaster Mari was not in a happy mood this afternoon, “I can’t give you this. It’s not even a real Plaque. Masking everything besides the name and crimes is normal for the Members, but how do I let it go without a name?” Frustration abounded from her.

“Did your God fill out the Plaque, Guildmaster?” I questioned with a bit of force.

“Yes Damnit. But...”

“No buts, He filled it out so you have to accept me unless you wish to go against His Will.”

“F•©k!”

I reached across the desk and took it back from her. “I’d like to test for B Rank please.” She let my plaque go, unresisting.

“Why only ‘B’?”

“I have no desire for anything more.” I responded calmly.

“Only being a ‘B’ will cause problems.” She complained.

“Problems for you, possibly. If I ranked higher, then the problems would become mine. I don’t want that.”

“Fine. I will set a test date and let you know when. You have a place in the city I take it.”

“Yes. 15-A Silver street. I am relying on your Oath Guildmaster with regards to my Plaque. If there is not anything else may I leave?”

“Go.” I left and heard something crash against the wall by her door after I closed it. Whatever it was, it was definitely broken now.

I did have to admit though. My Plaque was absurd. Stupid Gods and their jokes. On the way down she swore in anger for thirty seconds straight. I had to calm her, so that opening the door didn’t let the sound out. Plus, I felt bad so I went back up, not sure if it was the right thing to do, but I didn’t want to leave the middle aged Guildmaster on bad terms. The Guild normally was a force for good.

I knocked on her door. “What is it?”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know it would be this bad. And your God really exacerbated the Status on the Plaque, much more than he had to. Sorry.”

“There isn’t even a name on it. Aarrgh.”

I stepped in trying to calm the guild representative. “I don’t have a name anymore and I have no clue how to get a new one. I am not even sure if I want one.” I partially explained.

“How did you lose your name?”

“A God Destroyed it.”

“A. God. Destroyed. Your. Name!” She cried in horror.

“Yes.”

She laughed in despair. “That’s even more absurd than your Plaque. It’s so absurd that it actually makes sense. I still don’t know what to do about it.”

“That’s why they pay you the big gold, Guildmaster.” She snorted, giving me a dirty look.

“Thank you for explaining. You didn’t have to. It also explains much regarding you. It’s why no one can find any information on you.” I shrugged, letting her think what she wanted. I wasn’t about to tell her I was from a different world.

“Can you at least tell me what a ‘War Elementalist’ is?”

“Mari. Pray you never have to find out.” I said with more menace that I had intended.

“oh...”

“Take care, Guildmaster.” I left.

“Hermit?” She called as I turned. ‘yes?’ “If you need help, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

“Thank you.” Adventurer Guildmasters as a whole were too good for the their own good.

I masked the stats on the Plaque, exited the door to the main floor and approached Brenda. “Ma’am, will you do the honor of escorting me to dinner. I am new in town and could use a good meal.” The people around her, both men and women started poking even more fun at the mage’s expense.

“Ignore those peasants.” While accepting my offered hand, she gave her companions a haughty look but spoiled it with a stuck out tongue. Hoots and cheers of ‘treat him well’, ‘don’t wear him out too soon’ and the like followed us out the door.

“I am not familiar with the city so will leave the choice in your hands, somewhere good preferably.” Saying she knew of a place, Brenda led the way. The restaurant was in the City Quarter.

“You never did tell me your name.”

“I don’t have one.” I replied on the way.

She didn’t believe me but didn’t press the issue. “What do I call you then kid?”

“I have been called Hermit of late. That works for now. Not sure what I can do about it.” I shrugged while walking shoulder to shoulder with my impromptu dinner companion.

“Aren’t you a bit young to be a hermit?”

“Hermits have an age restriction?” I smiled at the absurdity of my age. I looked sixteen or so now, still way too young for my thirty nine.

“Guess not.” She led me to the ‘Lady’s Basket’, I think she meant it as a joke but I had no issues with it.

“This is fine.” I held the door for my companion and gestured for her to lead.

Inside, a matronly woman with a little too much makeup and a stylish dress greeted us. I, who was dressed as a journeyman merchant and Brenda as a hardened Adventurer, caused a look of concern to flash across her eyes, but I met those weighing eyes and nodded slightly. Acknowledging that I understood and had no issues with the prices. The hostess, possibly the owner, hesitated before changing her expression, welcoming us warmly.

Brenda, a little nervous, was unsure, believing her joke backfired. Places like this were beyond her usual means, not that she couldn’t cover the price of a meal, but I offered to pay when inviting the caring adventurer out. She was worried about embarrassing me with my lack of coin.

“Dinner for two please.” I requested. The matron personally led us to a corner table and informed us that Jenny would be our server tonight.

“Jokes on me. I admit it. We should go.”

“No need. I will take care of the expenses. I promise, money is not an issue and it’s not every day one joins the Guild. Just enjoy.” She didn’t look confident but decided to trust me.

“What brought you to Ebony to adventure?”

“I only have one friend and he is in this city, so couldn’t think of a better place.”

“You only have one friend; I find that hard to believe.”

“Well, I have someone who might be a friend ... just not sure if she can let me be hers.” I shrugged deprecatingly.

“Oooh, a love interest?”

“Politics. Besides she is older than both of us together.”

Brenda looked more than a little intrigued but was prevented from following up by the arrival of Jenny, our server. After asking Brenda her preference in ale or wine. We listened to the meal recommendations and ordered. The interrogation continued until I stopped it by handing over my Plaque. Cautioning her to not make a sound as she read it. Name class and crime were the only categories visible.

“You really have no name. How did that happen? And what is with your class; War Elementalist? What kind of class is that?” Unlike Mari’s reactions. Brenda was more curious than upset.

“The rest of my Plaque is just as messed up. Your God is playing around again. Stupid sod.”

She looked around in a bit of panic. “Defaming a God is not wise.”

“Pish. Are you willing to wager that if He did this to your Plaque you would say worse? At length? Repeatedly?” I laughed at her expression. “You should see yourself right now.”

“That’s not funny.” Calming down, after the arrival of our ale and appetizers, she continued with the interrogation. “War Elementalist, what is that?”

“You know what an Elementalist is; People that summon Elementals. You know what war is. Just think them together in the ugliest way possible.”

“Oh...”

I reached across and stabbed her Prawn in garlic butter and ate it. “Since you aren’t eating that I take it you won’t mind if I do.”

“Hey. That’s mine.”

I grinned. It had a nuttier tasted than I was used to but was still good.

At that exact time, a familiar face entered the dining area and glanced around with slumping shoulders. Squaring them she headed straight at our table. “Evening Justiciar. Fancy meeting you here.” Looked like she earned a few more gray hairs in the last two years. Poor woman. “This is a friend I met today. Brenda, Justiciar Hershim.”

“Brenda, a B rank adventurer if I remember correctly. It’s a pleasure to meet an accomplished Guild member.” Dana politely replied. She was wearing casual attire for the first time. Granted, most of our meetings were official on her side.

“Thank you Justiciar. The pleasure is mine. I am sure.” Brenda replied as politely as she could in the circumstances. Though she did look worried.

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