Chapter 10: Getting Berned

How to be an Adventurer — 

Making a Party You Can Be Proud Of

-continued-

Do not judge people by their profession, but rather by their souls. Remember that the best people for your group do not always have hearts of gold, but rather, when push comes to shove, they know not just to do the right thing, but also what the right thing is. Too often, even the most noble of characters chooses left when he or she should have chosen right and the consequences are generally lethal.

***

As an observer from afar, you might expect their expedition to be eventful. You might observe from your omniscient perch and rub your hands in anticipation of danger and battle. The adventurer’s tome well notes that the land is filled with many more dangers than just wildlife. As the party marched forward through the hills of the Western Republic, Yenrab, Carric and even Tracy paged through the tome, its pages revealed more and more secrets as they continued on their way. The tome told them of a great many aberrations and mutations. It didn’t tell much about them individually, as was its nature, but it did refer them to a text. The History of the Gimmokian World—A Thesis upon the Cycles That Harm Us by Jerold Frey. Something to look for in the future to come.

Perhaps, without the tome at hand, they would have battled through the land. Perhaps, they would have been like so many novices of their calling are—adventurers eager for combat, felled early to bloodlust and a lack of tactical acumen, their bones lost forever in the wild borderlands of a less than settled nation. Or if Yenrab were not a skilled guide who had taken such trips many times, mayhaps they would have ended their quest speared through a dozen times by wooden spikes at the end of a dugout pit, the worms and insects making sure to use all of them out of respect to their gift of a meal.

Instead of bumbling through the wilderness like so many of their inexperienced ilk, the adventurers moved forward with caution and intelligent acumen. They hid when they needed to be hidden and ran when they needed to run. They hunted and trapped whenever the moment afforded it. Without battle and fear, the time was enjoyable.

One evening, though, they missed something. The sky shaded over and the shadows were long, each of them silent and lost in thought as they made their way towards the capital.

“What do we have here, then?” a voice mocked. “A few young tikes with decent gear and no mommy to protect them.”

The voice could have been coming from anywhere.

Yenrab was the first to speak as each of them investigated their surroundings. “Well, now, you know it isn’t polite to talk to strangers when, you know, they can’t see you.”

“I’m polite enough in the right setting. But not stupid enough to jump out and say hi to an orc and his minions. Ha,” the voice said in a firm and smug way.

“Well, smart guy, I’m Yenrab and these are my companions, Tracy Riley and Carric Smith.”

There was a long pause as the hidden man contemplated the new information.

“No way.”

“Yes way.”

The Yenrab?”

“In the flesh.”

“Yenrab the Animal Chief, Flee-er from Trolls and False Hope to Villagers?”

“Um, what?” Yenrab asked, his eyes wide and his mouth wide open.

“News travels fast, Mr. Yenrab. Still, you are a nice guy, or so the songs say. Is it true that you once smashed a big bad wolf’s head with your fist to tear out the little girl it had swallowed whole not long before? Oh and her grandmother?”

“Ha ha. Yeah, there’s a lot of hyperbole out there, but ya know, I have done good things for good people. You know who I am. Can you come out and talk now?” Yenrab seemed annoyed.

“I reckon maybe I can, bro. Tell you what, how about I don’t rob you and you help me get to Gennopolis? I’ve been working my way over to get to the underground and seeing as it really doesn’t concern you, maybe we might have a few braais, help each other out, strength in numbers, ya know what I’m saying?”

“What the heck is a braai? Isn’t that the thing that the upclass ladies wear?” Yenrab asked in consternation.

“It’s a barbecue, mate. Frying meat over an open fire. A braai is good eats; that’s what it is.”

Carric interrupted them, “Rogue, I’m not really sure if you are going to appreciate how we operate. I mean, we aren’t going to waylay any strangers and strip them for gold.”

A figure cloaked in midnight blue stepped out from behind some bushes.

“Don’t assume, friend bard. I may relieve the occasional traveler, but only when custom, foolishness, or the people demand it. I am Bern Sandros, apprentice assassin and child of such conditions as you can only imagine. I only take when I need it more than they do and as friends, I think perhaps I might share freely between us. And, of course, I will bow to the group’s will until such a time as we part.”

“Tracy, Yenrab, I dunno,” Carric frowned.

“I say we let him in.” Tracy was now well-breasted, bearded and with a considerable bulge in hir trousers. Hir face yawned at them all in disinterest. “I mean, if it comes down to it, we can take him. And who knows when we’ll need a good sword arm.”

Yenrab checked the darkly cloaked figure out and sighed. “Do you even have swords?”

The cloak was swiftly flung open, revealing two short and scythe-like blades and a body tightly banded in grayish-black leather, studded in places for extra protection. Then, just as quickly, it snapped shut.

“I am both handed,” Bern said, “as we say back where I am from. It tends to come in handy in this world. I am also quite the bowman and would appreciate having extra people around to keep watch as I hunt. The benefits are many, the harms few.” And a palm, covered by a leather glove matching the armor they’d seen just previously, flashed out to offer a handshake. “What do you say?” Bern asked. “It is, mate, to our own mutual benefit.”

Tracy intoned, “Yeah. Let him in.”

Yenrab shrugged. “Sure. Why not.”

Carric, Tracy thought, looks frustrated and ill at ease. I wonder if he is jealous, or simply careful. But it is good to take the man in. The adventurer’s tome has practically demanded it!

Carric nodded his assent, his face dark and scowling. Tracy frowned. I hope this doesn’t spell trouble for us later. 

“Just don’t come to me if things go bad, guys,” Carric grumbled in an angry huff.

Tracy nodded. Such a simple expression, a nod and yet so powerful.

Having a self-proclaimed assassin in the group wasn’t anything that Tracy had anticipated. It seemed odd. Though the man did extoll good virtues. Perhaps he was overthinking the job?

“Just one thing, Mr. Bern Sandros?” Tracy asked as his ids debated within.

“Yeah, mate?” Bern responded.

“If you are an apprentice assassin, where is your teacher?”

“Well, mate, I have already studied the arts. But I am not experienced enough yet for any guild to take me. So, I guess what I am saying is, maybe life is?”

“Not a bad answer,” growled Carric, “but not a good beginning either.”

***

In the weeks that followed Sandros turned out to be a good addition to the band. He proved to be skilled with his bow. He was also agile. The man used his abilities to scale trees to get his bearings and he sped the journey by adding additional tools to the guide kit within Yenrab’s pack. One morning, as Yenrab cooked their breakfast, he explained to them how he wasn’t an evil man. 

He had indeed participated in assassin training. It wasn’t really a manner of preference so much as one of nowhere else to turn. The man had been a street urchin and a good one at that. Picking pockets and stealing food were his speciality until he was with the assassins. They lived a good life, always dressed well-to-do and spending money freely in the alleys and ghettos of the city. He looked up to them. And when he came of age he wanted to become one.

“So you see, Carric, I became an assassin not because I like to kill things. I became one because I hated living in a place where things were always trying to kill me,” Bern finished with a self-satisfied smirk.

Tracy sat idly by, listening to the story as Yenrab swore at breakfast over a smoky and unkind fire. Tracy waved his uncovered feet through the dewy grass as he thought it all over. It was like the lesson of the books. The elder, with his long beard and mellow robes, would lead the children to a hut filled with novels and tomes. And he would ask them to choose one. The unlearned and unwise would pick cheery covers while the more mature students, having already learned this lesson, would first open them and page through them a little. Invariably, the happiest covers held the driest and most boring of texts.

His cover was a trained killer. Inside, Bern’s text was jolly to the point of being humorous. Perhaps it is too early to tell, warned his female id. It always is, affirmed the hir persona, its mixed male and female, still in charge of the body.

“So, Bern, what city are you from?” asked Tracy.

“Well, my life is not so much about where I am from, but rather about where I am going,” replied Bern. “Someday, I am going to be rich and powerful. But you want to know something?”

“What?” Tracy replied.

“I’m not going to forget where I came from or the people who helped me get there,” Bern deadpanned, staring ahead with cold, steely eyes. “I believe there is plenty for all if we just empower people and give them access.”

Carric shifted uncomfortably and sighed. “Not me,” he said, thinking back to the horrors of his own childhood and the bullies of his pampered past.

“I look around, see magic all over the place and I just think, hey, why are people still hungry? Why do they still get sick? You know, if that book can make us all adventurers, we can each land a big pile of treasure and mine, well, mine is going back to where I came from and I’ll give everyone something to keep them going. It’s a rough life starting from the bottom.”

Tracy nodded and smiled, feeling warmth spread through him as he did so. “If you ever want to talk about it, rest assured, I would keep any secret you told me.”

“Sounds great, man,” Bern said. “Or, er, woman?”

“Right now, I’m both,” Tracy explained in a patient and helpful way.

“Right. Well, I’ve got no problem with that. A bloke’s got to be what they’ve got to be,” Bern said in an offhand manner. He was losing interest and thinking about something else.

“I made eggs!” yelled a soot-streaked Yenrab. He had finally cracked the code of the damp wood and lighting a good cooking fire for morning victuals.

“What’s that over there?” Bern yelled. The companions all startled. Bern Sandros sprinted to be first in line.“Rogues,” Carric shook his head, his belly burbling. “Never trust them.”

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Published by Damien Lee Hanson

I am the founder of Damien Hanson Books. Come check out awesome authors right here at my website!

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