Shayrow Kyremour was five years old when he held a sword for the first time. It was his father’s blade, forged and folded—a sword that had, time and time again, supposedly slain evil.
So when he turned thirteen, it seemed obvious to him that he was to become a swordbearer the way his father and grandfather had been.
Everything came naturally to him; the blade felt like a part of him that had been missing up until then. He didn’t so much as consider switching classes before turning fifteen, loving every moment of his lessons with his sword in his hands.
He was top position in his class for nearly three years in a row—and Captain Yuuf’s favorite student.
But under the cover of the thriving town, tragedy struck a vein in the population.
While no vampires lived in Woei County, there was a healthy population of dhampyres in the area, although they rarely made themselves known.
Shayrow was sixth-generation. It took a vampire and a human to create a dhampyr child, but dhampyr children were always dhampyr.
He didn’t need to drink blood the way vampires did, but he did have to avoid letting sunlight get in his eyes. His canine teeth were sharpened to resemble the fangs that vampires had, his body was practically boneless, and he had no shadow.
Dhampyr or not, they weren’t ready for the strange disease that infected nearly a third of their population and killed nearly a fourth.
Trained apothecaries were few and far between in Yaruid, with the last count being twenty-one in the entire kingdom—which was one more than the three previous years.
Three of them were in Woei, and it wasn’t enough.
Shayrow lost both of his parents, as did dozens of others.
It was then that he realized his sword couldn’t defeat some enemies. There weren’t enough warriors to fight these invisible wars, no matter how infrequent they were.
The problem was that he was sixteen and could no longer switch classes. He would be a swordbearer whether he liked it or not.
But that didn’t stop him from trying to learn the ways of an apothecary.
When he had just turned seventeen, it was by sheer chance that he walked past a clearing where a sprite girl was talking with a friend—right as they said something about being in the apothecary class. The first girl had long, auburn hair and mallow-purple eyes while the other had a blond bob and jasmine-yellow eyes.
They both screamed when Shayrow approached them.
He didn’t even flinch. It was a reaction that he was used to wherever he stepped out from the shadows.
“Who are you?!” the first girl cried.
“What do you want?!” the second girl demanded.
Shayrow turned up his palms to show that he meant no harm.
“I simply have a question to ask,” he told the two sprites.
“Are you from Quregu?” the first girl inquired. Quregu was the county adjacent to Woei, where the dialect was slightly different.
“I lived near the border,” Shayrow answered.
“My name is Shayrow Kyremour,” he introduced himself, sweeping a bow.
The girls just stared in bewilderment.
“My question is—did you say that you enrolled in the apothecary class?”
“Kestek did,” the blonde immediately said, giving her friend a nudge towards Shayrow. “But she’s in the spellsinging class now.”
“Oh. I see.”
“Why you ask?” said the girl that was apparently named Kestek.
“I’m searching for a mentor,” Shayrow admitted. “You wouldn’t happen to know anyone else that I could reach out to, would you?”
Kestek gave a slight frown.
“You could try asking an ingredient merchant,” the blonde suggested. “They probably know loads of apothecary students, since they sell to them.”
“That’s brilliant—thank you.” Shayrow flashed an appreciative smile. “Sorry to bother you. I hope you have a pleasant rest of your day.”
And then he was off to the market in search of a merchant that sold ingredients for things such as salves and potions.
It didn’t take long to find one.
“Can I help you?” the merchant asked in a bored voice, giving Shayrow a tired look. He was maybe a few years older than Shayrow, dressed in greens of all different shades, all the way to the tips of his shoes and the fingers of his gloves. His hair was light brown and his pale face was angled and serious.
“Yes, I’m simply wondering if you can direct me to anyone in the apothecary class,” Shayrow quickly explained.
The merchant seemed mildly puzzled.
“Are you looking for someone in particular?” he asked.
“Anyone in the class will do.”
“Hm. Well, it’s gonna cost you a wood bit.”
Shayrow frowned, but he pulled a wood bit from his pocket and handed it over.
“There’s an elf girl that comes here frequently, although I think she’s studying alchemy as a whole,” the merchant said, spinning the wood bit between his gloved fingers. “She lives in the house in front of the new animal medic that set up shop in a treehouse, if you know where that is.”
“I don’t. Can you give me directions?”
The merchant smugly grinned.
“Sure, but I’ll need another wood bit.”
Shayrow exasperatedly sighed, but he forked over the bit.
Lucky for him, the merchant gave him verbal directions and also provided him with a crudely drawn map.
“Thank you for your business,” the merchant said as Shayrow headed off to find the elf girl that was studying alchemy.
He found the treehouse and shack with ease, but he wasn’t sure which house was the one in front.
So he decided to ask the occupant of the shack.
Right as he lifted a hand to knock on the door, it flew open and an elf girl nearly crashed right into him. She reeled back and stared at his feet.
Shayrow was caught off-guard. As far as he knew, elf boys were always shorter than elf girls, but this girl was at a height not even up to his shoulder. He had never seen a girl elf as short as that.
Granted, Shayrow was fairly tall, but that was generally how dhampyr builds were.
“Er, hullo,” he said. “Are you by chance the elf that’s studying alchemy around here?”
She kept on staring at his feet.
“Who are you?” someone else inside the shack asked in a somewhat heavy accent, stepping forward into view.
It was a boy that had finned ears, meaning he was probably part-Merrow. He had dark hair and hazel eyes, and his face was covered with freckles. He looked like he had no idea how to use a comb and had gotten dressed while blindfolded.
“My name is Shayrow Kyremour.” Shayrow swept a bow. “I’m looking for someone that can mentor me. I’m in the swordbearer class, but I wish to become an apothecary.”
The elf girl squeaked and clapped her hands to her mouth.
The boy’s eyebrows practically left his face.
“Er... Is something the matter?” Shayrow asked.
“You’d better come inside,” the boy said, beckoning for Shayrow to enter.
Shayrow ducked through the door, unhappily discovering that his hair brushed the ceiling if he stood up straight.
And then he jumped and nearly hit his head on the ceiling, startled beyond speaking as he saw the various animals clustered in the shack.
“Here—sit,” the boy told Shayrow, which he was all too happy to do. He sat and watched while the boy brought over two more chairs and sat at the table across from him, next to the elf girl.
“I’m Jelro, and this is Adif,” the boy said, gesturing to himself and then the elf girl. “This is one crazy coincidence.”
“How so?” Shayrow asked.
“Adif needs a mentor in sword fighting, and you need a mentor in alchemy to become an apothecary.” Jelro grinned.
“Why do you want to be an apothecary?” Adif wondered.
“There aren’t nearly enough of them,” Shayrow answered. “I want to help fight battles against disease and illness, and I can’t do that with a sword.”
“I like this guy,” Jelro stage-whispered to Adif, jabbing his thumb towards Shayrow.
“What is your class?” Shayrow asked him. “I don’t think I’ve seen you around The Academy.”
“Oh, I dropped out,” Jelro dismissively said.
Shayrow stared in bewilderment.
He dropped out? How does he expect to make jag? He’s basically thrown his life away!
“Then what in the world are you doing with yourself?” he asked.
“What do you mean?” Jelro gestured around himself. “I’m busy all day doing what I enjoy.”
The various animals in the room all made noise as if agreeing with Jelro.
Shayrow wasn’t sure how to respond. He didn’t agree with the decision to drop out of The Academy, but he understood the struggle of wanting to do something other than what a class required.
He decided to just stay out of it, since Jelro wasn’t the one he needed help from, anyway.
“Well,” Shayrow said, turning to look at the elf girl, “if I train you to wield a sword, will you mentor me in the ways of alchemy?”
“What’s the catch?” Adif suspiciously asked.
“There’s no catch,” Shayrow assured her. “It’s a fair trade in my eyes.”
“When will we train?” Adif tilted her head to the side. “Where? For how long? Just the two of us? Do we have supplies? Will there--”
Jelro elbowed her, halting her barrage of questions.
“You s’ould ask him for jag,” Jelro teased.
“Do you want payment? I would be happy to tip you.” Shayrow slipped a hand in his pocket.
“No, that’s not necessary!” Adif cried. “Really, I don’t need any jag!”
Shayrow twitched, his fingers finding more space than jag in his pocket.
“I’ve been robbed!” he exclaimed.
“What?” Jelro and Adif both said, looking confused.
“Half my tin bits are gone, as is a copper bit!” Shayrow frantically declared after combing through his pockets.
“Who would have robbed you?” Adif asked, clearly bewildered. “Who have you talked to today? When? Why? Did you--”
Jelro gave her a small shove to cut her off.
“Only a merchant and two sprite girls,” Shayrow said, thinking hard.
He hadn’t been close enough to the sprites to allow for them to loot his pockets, but the merchant…
“It had to be the merchant,” he concluded.
“What a rotten merchant!” Adif scowled. “Why would they steal?”
“You might know him,” Shayrow realized. “He said you come often to shop for ingredients. If I recall, he had brown hair and an angular face, round ears—so most likely a human… and he was dressed entirely in green.”
“I don’t think I’ve bought from any merchant looking like that.”
“Then who do you buy from all the time?” Shayrow inquired.
“I don’t think I’ve ever bought from the same merchant more than twice,” Adif apologetically admitted.
Shayrow tore a hand through his hair, unsure what to think.
“He’ll probably still be in the market if we hurry to confront him,” Jelro suggested.
“We?” Shayrow repeated, confused.
“Yeah, we’ll come with you,” Jelro said, standing up. “Strength in numbers, right?” He glanced around and said something to the animals—something that Shayrow couldn’t understand.
“Are you a silvertongue?”
“Yup.” Jelro proudly grinned.
“Huh.” Shayrow had to admit that things made a bit more sense now. Silvertongues were exceedingly rare, despite it being hereditary. They had been thought extinct in recent years, until a group of them showed up in Quregu.
Logically, if Jelro was part-Merrow, then maybe silvertongues weren’t quite as rare in underwater realms.
Either way, there were no classes in The Academy that fit the skill-set of a silvertongue. They could speak to any animal that had a language-like system of communicating—so they couldn’t talk to bees with their dancing.
The swan, which was a beautiful pen with only one wing, quietly crooned. Jelro crouched down next to her and said something back.
“S’e wants to know if s’e can come with,” Jelro said, glancing up at Shayrow and Adif.
“I have no objection to that,” Shayrow said.
The swan appreciatively nuzzled Jelro before coming over to Shayrow, checking him over.
“What a magnificent swan,” he murmured. “Does she have a name?”
The swan softly honked.
“Refi,” Jelro answered, smiling. “And s’e said thank you.”
Shayrow and Adif stood outside while waiting for Jelro to make sure that the animals wouldn’t set the shack on fire while he was gone. Then he came outside with Refi at his heels.
Curious as to Adif’s current knowledge on sword fighting, Shayrow asked her some questions, trying to determine her level of skill.
She knew more than he expected, which was a good thing. It meant he could dive right in with things to teach her without having to worry if she would understand.
On the other hand, he felt completely lost when Adif tried to ask him about his knowledge of alchemy. He barely knew any of the terms, and he sure didn’t know what most of the ingredients were that she mentioned.
He was all too grateful when they made it to the market, giving him a reason to end the questions for now as he went to confront the merchant at the booth he had visited.
But there was a different merchant in the booth.
Irked enough as it was, Shayrow stormed over to the booth and brought his hands down on the table with a forceful THUD.
The merchant glanced up at Shayrow, looking unimpressed.
“Let me guess,” he drawled, “you want to speak with my manager?”
~ ~ ~