“Daniel Chai. Miner. I’m here to join the Adventurer’s Guild.” Answering the guard’s questions, Daniel looks across the 10-foot wooden wall that separates the dungeon town of Karlak from the wilderness behind him before letting his placid brown gaze rest upon the guard and his pike once more.
The fair-haired guard, clad in a simple leather tunic and wool pants, stares at Daniel, waving his hand to summon Daniel’s status screen to confirm the truth of his words. The guard reads over the information before he gestures for Daniel and his employer to enter. With a flick of the wagon’s reins, Atrieus, who has sat beside Daniel during and undergone the process just moments ago himself, sets the wagon rolling.
“I turn off to the right here, boy. You okay with being paid now?” Atrieus grunts at Daniel, a hand absently coming up to scratch at his matted beard.
For a moment, Daniel is irritated but he quickly dismisses the emotion. At twenty-one, Daniel is well past the age when the term boy is appropriate, but as Atrieus has watched him grow up working the mines since he was an actual child, another thousand protests at the term are unlikely to change the old man’s mind. Instead, Daniel just answers politely, “That’s fine. Thank you.”
“Damn waste, boy. You sure you want to do this?” Atrieus growls out, digging through the bag at his feet to pull out a small coin-laden cloth purse to hand over to Daniel.
In answering, Daniel just shakes his head, accepting his wages and waving goodbye to his temporary employer as he hops down from the ore-laden wagon. Daniel has no desire to retread that conversation either, one that has happened in many forms these past few weeks of travel. Reaching behind before the wagon leaves, he grabs his backpack and his only weapon, a 20-
pound sledgehammer. Heavy as it is, Daniel carries it with little effort, muscles from years spent working the mines flexing.
After parting with Atrieus, Daniel starts off to the town center and the Adventurer’s Guild, enjoying the feel of the brisk late autumn air. Home to barely more than a few thousand people, Karlak is a small town with only a single Beginner’s Dungeon of ten floors. Like most dungeon towns, Karlak has grown out of the need to serve the Adventurers who bring in the majority of the town’s income, and so, the entire town splays outwards from the Guild and the Dungeon entrance.
As Daniel walks deeper into town, buildings shift from simple wood to stone, prosperity showcased in architecture and materials. Around him, townsfolk weave through traffic with casual ease, most dressed in plain woolen tunics and dresses. For a town, Karlak is quite uniform in its race profile, only on occasion does Daniel spot a figure that is not human, with Beastkin the most common minority. The growth of the town has stabilized in the last few years, its presence near the contested border between Brad and the Orc nations a significant dampening factor in immigration. On the other hand, the Dungeon that provides the main source of income for the town has been around for over twenty years, and is well-mapped with a well-known and well-balanced mix of monsters, ensuring a constant stream of new hopeful Adventurers.
The latest of these hopefuls walks down the street, drawing more than a few glances his way. All new Adventurers are a potential source of income for the town, and many of the townsfolk are making quick assessments of the likelihood of his survival. His impressive musculature is a point in his favor but most quickly downgrade his chances of being a true earner. Hair so brown that it is almost black, the broad-shouldered newcomer is only 5’8” tall and human,
his stature and race creating a significant disadvantage that the youngster will need to overcome.
That smells good… Daniel twists his head, searching for the aroma’s origin as his stomach wakes to remind him that his last meal was early that morning.
Spotting the roadside stall that has awakened his hunger, he picks up his pace before a sickening crunch followed by a chorus of screams draws his attention.
Just behind him, a child lies on the ground, his body damaged after being hit by a speeding cart. An errant wind, a loosely held flower and a hurried attempt to catch his gift are all that was required for this tragedy to happen.
Unable to stop, the cart’s wheels have first pushed and then rolled over the child. The child’s caretaker finishes her dash out from the alleyway, a moment of distraction now twisting her face with shock and regret.
Daniel is moving without conscious thought; his worldly goods dropped behind him as he dashes to the small, crushed body. His eyes narrow as he draws upon a portion of his Gift and assesses the damage as he touches the slightly twitching body.
Shattered collarbone, crushed ribcage and heart, severe bleeding in chest cavity and stomach. Hairline cracks in the spine, a minor concussion, and a broken arm. The damage jumps out to him as he touches the child, information pouring through his mind as he catalogs and instinctively understands both the natural state of the child’s body and the damage done.
Information continues to flow, though he dismisses most of it from his mind.
A slightly lower quantity of blood than normal, previous damage to the tendon in his ankle still a week away from healing, improper placement of the hip socket….
Even as the information comes to him, Daniel speaks familiar words, “I’m a healer. Please let me do what I can.”
From the viewpoint of the child’s caretaker, what Daniel does next is nothing short of miraculous. The child’s caretaker is an experienced Adventurer and is well-versed in the forms of healing magic available in the world. Nothing short of a Greater Blessing by a senior priest could have saved her nephew, and yet the stranger, without uttering a single word or calling on a God, is healing her nephew before her eyes. Bones knit, lungs inflate, and the bleeding stops within minutes. All there is to indicate that anything is even happening is the gentlest of glows coming from Daniel’s hands which surround his small patient. As the glow fades, the boy’s eyes open and he draws his first conscious breath before proceeding to scream and cry into his aunt’s arms.
Clutching her nephew and rocking the child, the blonde-haired Adventurer looks over to Daniel who’s slumped over, breathing heavily, and mouths her gratitude. Daniel just nods weakly, slowly regaining a sense of himself after the use of his Gift. As always, there is a price to pay. This time, only a half-a-day of his past - memories and lessons learnt during a fight with an overgrown badger that blocked the ore-wagons way and conversations with Atrieus - are sacrificed to his Gift.
Around Daniel, the watching crowd and the cart driver gawk at the miraculous healing; the gossip mill among the townsfolk will have new grist tonight. A good Samaritan carries over Daniel’s dropped items, patting him on his back in congratulations before he leaves to finish his own errands for the day. The Samaritan’s actions break the spell, with others crowding around and thanking Daniel and murmuring congratulations and consolations to the blonde-haired Adventurer, who still clutches her nephew to her chest.
Eventually, the child calms, and the crowd disperses as Daniel’s attempts to make them leave finally make a dent. Work done, he stands with a groan and
bends to pick up his pack and hammer but is stopped from leaving by a hand on his arm.
“Thank you.” Her voice is soft, cultured and feminine, a sharp contrast to her bearing and appearance. Short-cut yellow hair, an aquiline nose, and piercing blue eyes rest upon a face that many would call striking. The adventurer holds herself with a martial air, a hand unconsciously resting on her sword hilt, the shape of her toned and firm body easily seen under the loose cut blouse she wears. “My name is Mary Lavie, and this is Charles.”
“Daniel Chai.” He smiles at the boy, impulsively reaching out to ruffle the child’s hair, “You’ll watch yourself running out into the road next time, right?”
The boy nods slightly, his face hidden in Mary’s pants. He peeks out with his own pair of blue eyes around her pant leg before burying his face once more. In the child’s mind, he will still feel the breaking and the healing, a stark contrast of experiences that will, thankfully, fade in the coming hours.
As Daniel sways slightly, the Gift always taking a little of his own strength to fuel, Mary queries, “Are you okay?”
“Yes. Just a little tired and hungry. I’ll be fine after a meal.”
A smile brightens Mary’s face, and she gestures down the road, “My sister runs the Spinning Top, just down this way. She’ll want to thank you too.”
For a moment, Daniel considers refusing, but he reconsiders quickly, remembering the weight of his purse. Even the payment from Atrieus is insufficient to truly fatten it out, especially with his expected expenses in the next few days. He nods gratefully in acceptance and Mary smiles, her blue eyes sparkling at his acceptance.