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ticklefarte

A lesson on adventures

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It was late afternoon when Will Sharr entered the Purple Axe. It was an active inn, filled with residents that were simply enjoying their meals and each other. Judging by the time, the nightlife wouldn't start for a little while, so this would likely be the mood for as long as he intended to stay. Fortunately, he was seated quickly and, as soon as he sat, he set a battered crossbow down on the table and put his head in his hands. 

It was hard to pin down his thoughts. 

They came together then blew apart, driven by the wind of his memories. He could close his eyes to force some order, but the moment he was distracted was the moment everything went to shit. Will sucked in a breath, running his hands through his hair. It was all so raw. The wizard Mone and the damnable ring. 

When would Professor Cutler get here? He'd been told to head over to the Purple Axe and here he sat, one denizen amongst a dozen that were being served their lunch. I'm hungry...and not poor anymore. Actually, maybe I should order something. He raised an arm to flag a server down. The woman nodded to show that she'd seen him, then made a confused face when Will winced in pain.

His arm still ached from the tattoo the Cutter had given him. It was a Glizer spell sleeve, whatever that meant. As far as he understood, it would give him an edge that he sorely needed. Indeed, Will was a human in a world of magic. If he wanted to continue down this path...if he wanted to build a career of extraordinary adventure, he would need to become extraordinary to keep up. He flexed the arm, watching the markings ripple in response. What could he do with it? How did it even work-

Serill, fading to nothingness, ripped apart by Pierre. He winced as the memory shot through. Donovan suddenly just being there. How? Gods, what had happened to Mone? The ring? How does someone contain them?

"...have a warm selection of meats and beer on tap." 

Will blinked and looked up at the waitress, who regarded him with a smile. Maybe she was used to strange customers. He looked past her at the half-orc innkeeper that seemed to be running things. He'd looked at Will with a kind gaze too. He must've given off the air of someone who needed sympathy. Or a hug, he thought with a grin.  

"Ah, I'm Will Sharr," he said finally, sliding his eyes back to the waitress. "Nice to meet you. I'll just take chicken and water. I'm kinda simple." 

"And that is appreciated, Mr. Sharr."

She left soon after that, leaving Will with his thoughts. He wished she hadn't. 

@supernal

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Donovan shouldered his way through the tavern's swinging doors, then through the milling crowd, pausing long enough to spot Will and then it was more shoulders and even a few sidesteps until Donovan reached the man's table and claimed his seat.

"Hey man." Donovan patted Will on the shoulder to jar him out of his own thoughts. The waitress recognized Donovan, his Everyman's attire a common sight across all of the Purple Axe establishments, and the custom make of the sword the young man hung off the back of his chair unmistakable. Donovan held up two fingers and pointed at Will, doubling his order, then turned his attention back to the man.

"You're looking a little beat. The tattoo keep you up all night? Nah I'm just joking, sorry. I know it's because of everything you went through. Seems like forever ago but also right around the corner, right? Let me start off by telling you . . . it's going to get better, whether you like it or not. The fact that it gets better may make things worse, you might feel like you shouldn't be having warm meals and sleeping in soft beds, or that you aren't worthy of little pleasures, or even big ones.

"It's normal to feel that way, and it's also wrong. It took me years of nightmares and living life like an idiot to compensate for that guilt before I was able to wrap my head around that. You have to walk the path yourself, I know, but if my suffering can contribute anything at all to your journey, let it be that."

The waitress returned with their orders. Donovan gave her a smile, easy, clean, encouraging, not a trace of the melancholy which steeped his tone seconds before. The most confusing aspect of his smile was its complete authenticity. When she walked off, Donovan continued as if uninterrupted.

"Mone was insane. He played a dirty trick on you, on a lot of people before you, on everyone in the district who went to sleep at night without worrying what he was getting up to in his little tower, little fiefdom. That's over with now because of you. The gold keeps me going, the weapons make me better at it, but that's the reason I stay in it. Better you than anyone else because you were there, and you put an end to it, and now Mone is facing trial and whatever comes off that."

Donovan reached across the table and held his hand out.

"So from one thinking, feeling creature to another, thank you for a job well done."

After bumping fists (Donovan didn't shake hands before eating) Donovan turned his attention to the meal.

"I bet you still have questions though. I know I would. So?"

Edited by supernal

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Will sighed and nodded his head as the professor tried his best to comfort him. It was working, surprisingly. It seemed that the words of someone who understood what he was going through went a long way. 

After fist bumping the man, he rubbed his eyes. Some of the questions he had couldn't be answered by Donovan Cutler. Namely, the story of Kaori and where she'd ended up. That was a mystery that he'd carry with himself for quite awhile, he expected. Still, there were certainly things that he could ask. 

"What happened to Pierre? When we were talking I got the impression that he wouldn't settle for anything less than a dead Mone." He paused to drink his water. "And speaking of Mone, what's going on with him? How do people even go about jailing a wizard like him? And the ring, what was it? Why waste so many lives for it?" 

Will took a bite out of the chicken, chewing angrily. Cutler didn't know what he'd started. This was a different Will than he'd met. He wanted answers to justify the losses. To calm the storm. Not everything is justifiable. He grunted at the invasive thought and swallowed. 

 

Edited by ticklefarte

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"Can I get a baked potato with this?" Donovan asked of the waitress as she passed their table, the chicken in his mouth shoved into one cheek so he could articulate clearly. Donovan finished chewing, sipped at his water to clear his palate, then began cutting his chicken cutlet into discrete units that he could fork into his mouth throughout the upcoming conversation.

"That sort of thing isn't up to Pierre, not anymore than it was up to Mone to throw away lives that weren't his. Maybe if they had met in the Wilds, no witnesses, that sort of thing, but you know. Social contract, all that.

"One wizard isn't very much to deal with when you've got a whole coalition, though don't get me wrong, Mone is no joke when it comes to the spells. I'm not a cop or a lawyer so I don't know tons of what happens to someone like Mone but I know a little. I know Empire is going to want to get the facts first. Maybe Mone is just a self-serving bastard who thought he was above the law. Wouldn't be the first. What if he was cursed though? Or possessed? What if all of those experiments he was running, the fumes ate away at the little pockets of his brain that gave him decent reasoning? Those are the kind of things Empire asks, and answers, to their own satisfaction.

"There's an outside chance that Mone winds up dead at the end of all of it anyway. The way things work out sometimes, he could wind up sharing a cell with a family member of someone he threw away, or he could prove impossible to rehab and the state inters him or executes him. Wouldn't be the first . . . as for Pierre, he filed a motion to claim Mone's tower and lab as damages in a class action. He wants to liquidate the estate to pay the family of the victims, and then claim the property to start up his own tower.

"Think he's going to break the cycle?"

It was a simple question but brutal, the same way a hammer was just heavy metal stuck to the end of a stick but it could break knees. It was the kind of question, posed but not deeply explored, for him to deal with on his own, that he would find himself facing again and again on the road of Adventure. Donovan's wry, slightly sad smile as he finished his meal confirmed this life wasn't all glitz and glamour.

"Let's take a walk, it helps digestion."

Donovan was happy to settle both of their bills.

Once they were outside and onto the pavement, Donovan touched on the subject he didn't feel comfortable exploring among dozens of strangers.

"I don't want to obscure the point with a lot of jargon. The ring was basically a giant bomb. What I was told is that Mone had ambitions to crown himself king, and blowing a hole in the continent was what he thought would make a good first step. Absolute lunacy, man, but I suppose that's the point. Reasonable people don't even start on that road."

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A man stands up to a god.

The two clash and the one who was lesser becomes...greater. 

In that ascent, does something change? What would Pierre become, with all of that power? What would he become in that dread tower? 

Will's eyes widened as he imagined the cycle of power. Unending, as cycles were expected to be, and terrible to behold. In a few years would he hear of another mad wizard in Tower Quarter? Would that story end like this one, or worse? Suddenly the food in his mouth tasted bland. He finished a few bites and pushed the plate away, frowning as his thoughts threatened to take him. 

Donovan got up and he hardly reacted, though a second later Will found himself leaving money on the table, grabbing his crossbow, and following. He offered a weak smile to the waitress, knowing that the tip he'd left would likely make her day. If Donovan wanted to pay the bill he'd cover the rest.

The city was warm, today, and he hadn't exactly dressed for it. He squinted as a shaft of sunlight caught him in the eye, bright and disorienting. Cursing, Will lowered his head and lengthened his stride to catch up to the young professor. The street wasn't very crowded, but up ahead he could see a crowd amassing. It was either a performance or trouble, he wasn't certain. If he strained, he thought he could hear the rhythmic pounding of a drum. 

"So," he began between breaths, "Luke and I were in those pipes searching for a bomb. Thank the gods that the thing wasn't volatile. Those mushrooms got lucky." 

They neared the crowd, which consisted mostly of children and a few adults. Will was a good head taller than most and he used that advantage, peering over to see what was happening in the center. The drums were loud now. They were clear and resonant and stirring up a flame in his soul. He wanted to dance like the kids were doing. Wanted to chant along with them. He caught sight of the source and let out a laugh.

That's not quite what I expected. 

It was two young street urchins and a mangy dog. One child was on the drums, while the other two were doing tricks for their growing audience, though that wasn't really the alarming part. Someone was casting spells. The boy? The girl? The dog? A bright light flew between them as they danced and leapt and twirled in some intricate performance. It traced the path of their motion, carving out colorful spirals that left a mark on his vision. The sunlight seemed to be blocked by the buildings in this area, casting a shadow that allowed the magic to glow in its full radiance. 

Coins were strewn on the street. Will saw that they paled in comparison to what had made it into their bowl. He watched the show for a few moments, losing Donovan in the process. When he finally moved on, he found the adventurer and apologized. "Hopefully they get out of the way before night hits, huh? Those kids, with that kind of money? Easy targets." 

He started walking, taking the lead. "Something about magic always interests me. Those kinds of demonstrations, you know? I think they're meant to do that." His eyes fell to the tattoo on his arm. He held it in front of him, hoping to read the ink. "What is this going to do for me, Donovan? Are you going to teach me, or should I figure it out on my own?" 

Will paused, continuing after a moment of silence. "The world," he mused with a wry smile, "is not what I thought it was. I've had to learn that lesson a lot, but I keep forgetting. I'll bounce back soon enough, so if you're worried that I'll end everything, don't. I'm not as naive as I pretend.  Is that why we're here? Is the clinic worried about a lawsuit? I know what I signed up for. You guys don't need to worry." Funnily enough, the entire point was that he hadn't known what he'd signed up for, but hopefully his message was clear. 

Edited by ticklefarte

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"Those kids, with that kind of money? Easy targets . . . the world is not what I thought it was."
"Things aren't always what they seem, right?"

Donovan bridged the themes Will toyed with.  

Magicians who were maniacs. Strangers, which time and pressure revealed instead to be friends.

"Some of it was honest money. Some of it was illusion, a suggestion to the crowd it was okay to spend your money here because other people already have. Those kids are probably a little harder than they have any right to be in a sane world. The funny part is they're as likely to be, I dunno, runaway royalty, parasite puppets, or ghosts.

"Or, you know. Not exactly the same chances but I'm saying. There's a chance."

"Is the clinic worried about a lawsuit?"

Donovan laughed at that. A chuckle at first, but the passage of time saw his delight deepen and mature rather than wither away, and that chuckle was soon full-throated laughter. Without a word of warning, Donovan took off. He dove into a headlong sprint due north, and he was fast, now a rapidly shrinking image in the distance.

It was an invitation to give chase.

Up to this point Will would not have been offered much opportunity or incentive test his body's limits, not since concluding his journey into Mone's plumbing, not since his report to the registry or since getting part of Donovan's tattoo etched into the flesh of his shoulder and arm. Now he was being given exactly that, so he could better see what's changed.

Longer, lighter, faster strides whisked Will down the walk at a notably faster clip. Something pushed on him from behind, and the air in front of him seemed eager to part and get out of his way, reducing drag on his forward motion.  

When Will caught up with his professor, the Swap Market was in sight only five blocks further north; Donovan looked fresh as a daisy and Will's own breathing was only slightly labored.

"All of that paperwork at the beginning of the clinic took care of any legal concerns the Academy might have. I'm here because I'm concerned. Because I want to help make for a better kind of adventurer, and you don't do that sort of thing just working people through a meat grinder and hoping they figure it out. I want to make sure you succeed, basically, because when its done the right way for the right reasons, every one of your wins is a win for me, and for the whole world.

"So. What you've got inked into your skin is a sympathetic link to a remote locus whose domain is elemental air. Depending on what you grew up reading, what theories and frameworks you've been exposed to, you might recognize it better if I say 'a wind rune'. You've got sort of an autonomic function that makes you faster, which you just experienced. You work at it and you get better at it, like anything else. The two things I'll show you how to do personally are how to featherfall and how to spin cut.

"It'll take time, but I think it'll be worth it. If you want to move on though, there's nothing wrong with that, and you can probably figure it out on your own too. If you wanted."

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