Act One: Adrian - Chapter 1
My home was obliterated within seconds, with screams of terror and the smell of burning smoke etched permanently into my memory. People ran as a last ditch effort but was swallowed by the growing swarm, disappearing behind a wall of smoke.
The swarm, they swallowed and turned my hometown into one of painful and scattered memories.
Objects of all different sizes shook side by side in my pockets, crashing into each other, releasing a charming metallic ring. I glanced up towards the walls with a shaky grin. Those pale, concrete walls have kept the concrete fortress fail proof, fending off the beasts, yet keeping us trapped inside. Ever since I was a little boy I dreamed of the outside world, the world that was just beyond reach, just waiting to be explored. I could already see my ID card shining brightly under the summer sun.
A light tap on my shoulder made my head jerk towards the hand.
“Hey, why the long face?” A familiar face greeted me.
Her pointy ears and pale skin made her stand out in the crowd, after all, an Elf isn’t the most common sight in the town.
A pair of green, glistening eyes stared deeply into my soul.
“Ha,” Alain laughed mockingly, glancing at my stiff posture with a touch of pity, “Is this how seekers look now? So pale that you might be better off in a hospital then the application centre if I do say so myself.”
Before I could start on the vast contrast between our colour of skin, she gave me a hard slap on the back.
“Fix your posture, and make yourself more… unslumpy.”
And before I could squeeze in another word of protest, she chuckled and swiftly dashed away, leaving behind a stinging mark on my back. I sighed and slowly shuffled into the domineering application centre.
Beads of sweat rolled down my forehead as the centre started to fill. Applicants of all various sizes, genders, colours and even races stood around with the same angst expression that I wore. A few faces were familiar. The butcher’s son lent against the pillar, rubbing his blistered hands in anxiety, a waft of herbs signalled that Harome is near, she always has a lingering medicinal smell stuck to her clothes.
“God,” I silently let out a small sigh, “what have I gotten myself into.”
I didn’t have long to contemplate about my choices as the bell rang and the applicants shuffled into line. I had dreamt of this life-changing moment since I was a small boy, feeding myself delusions of life on the edge, a life where I would take my last breath protecting my citizens, a life where it could fulfil my inner desire for strength and adventure.
My daydream was soon broken by a thunderous voice which boomed across the room.
My eyes darted around the room in search of the source, settling on a small figure who stood on a shaky table.
“TODAY YOU MAGGOTS WILL START YOUR JOURNEY OF BECOMING HEROES,”
The voice’s source came from a halfling, his face puffed red with excitement and his hands waved around like a crazed monster.
“EVERY SINGLE PERSON HERE, REGARDLESS OF RACE OR GENDER, ARE SIMPLE, COMMON ROCKS, UNWORTHY OF ATTENTION. BUT BY THE WILL OF DEMETER, YOU SHALL BE SHATTERED BEYOND RECOGNITION, AND WITHIN SUCH COMMON ROCKS, GEMS WILL EMERGE. THESE GEMS WILL BECOME…”
Almost the entire body mouthed the last line.
“HEROES, HEROES THAT WILL UPHOLD THY GLORIOUS LAND.”
A loud cheer came from the crowd, almost deafening my ears.
I felt my blood boil with excitement.
“This,” I told myself, “this, is the life I wanted.”
I took a step onto the stage as the door slammed open.
Gusts of dust greeted me as the heavy door into the arena lifted, slowly casting light onto the now smirking attendants. Mixed feelings twisted and turned like snakes as the crowd came into view. The instant the cheers reached my ears, a rush of adrenaline filled my body. Now more confident in my abilities than ever, I marched onto the stage for the selection games to begin.
The selection games are a tradition in any town within the continent of Tunisia, it’s quite simple, whoever is strongest shall prevail and receive a spot in the adventurers guild. Whoever fails the entrance exam can only become a lowly mercenary, unable to venture into the outside world and explore to their heart’s content. Instead, they are stuck between fighting civil wars and clearing minor monsters from towns for cash. But if you succeed and become a seeker, a title only given to people who have devoted their lives to seeking new adventures and treasures, the path ahead suddenly becomes endless. Not only do you get funding from the royalty and venture outside the city walls, seekers receive an ID card which digitalises one’s skills and abilities into “grades” and “levels”. This simple card fetches for millions of gold coins on the black market and the simple ownership of one shall provide you with enough respect even the capital shall recognise a peasants existence.
The thought of receiving an ID card made me determined.
“Mom,” I silently mumbled, “I swear I will make our lives better.”