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Zamir and Jalila drop to the ground, letting out audible breaths full of exhaustion. Weapons fall to their side, kicking up small clouds of dust as they settle in the sand below.
“Thanks for the help” Zamir says between breaths. His right arm extends for a hand shake. His palms dirty with blood stained sand.
“My pleasure” Jalila clasps Zarmir’s hand, giving off a loud clapping sound. When the adrenalin begins to wear off, she feels a soreness in her left arm and shoulder. She begins to massage it.
Tal makes his way to his brother who remains on the floor. He looks over Zarmir, his armor bloodied and scuffed from the battle. Although most of Zarmir’s wounds have closed, some of them have opened up again sending sharp burning pain through his body. Tal drops to his knees. He clasps his hands together in a prayer and whispers “may her light sooth and protect you”. His hands begin to glow as he waves his hands over Zarmir’s wounds. A soothing calm dulls the pain and Zarmir starts to feel better.
B.U.D’s clapping fills echoes over the empty arena. He walks over, his energy levels low but nothing he can’t handle. He examines the metal creature carefully and without much hesitation picks op one of the arms. “Can I have some of this for the Mother Ship?” His voice unaffected by the battle.
“Oh gosh” Jalila replies. Would it be canabalism? She thinks to herself as she begins to take off the heavier parts of her armor. Massaging the sore parts on her body.
“I don’t think its eatable B.U.D.” Tal adds, his hands still hovering over his brother.
Varus walks up behind the group. His fingers are wrapped around the arrow lodged into this shoulder. Quick movements cause a sharp pain to shoot through his shoulder. He shuffles forward slowly trying not to cause more pain. He is used to the pain. The myriad of scars that cover his body prove he is no stranger to it, yet he is also human and the reaction to pain is only natural. He does his best to hide it, no one notices.
“Well that was easy” he finally lets out “B.U.D. a little help please” he points to the arrow in his shoulder.
B.U.D. drops the metal arm and nods “of course”. A small cloud of black metallic specks flow from pours that appear on his shoulder. They hover over his head before they surround Varus. Instinct kicks in and Verus tenses under the B.U.D’s strange cloud. He tenses even more so as they start to cover his body. He relaxes as the pain in his shoulder starts to numb. Underneath the thick cloud he hears the sound of crunching wood. He feels the weight of the arrow begin to fade as the cloud gently tugs and pulls at his skin. The cloud disperses and B.U.D. reabsorbs the cloud. Varus looks at his shoulder, the arrow is gone and his shoulder is completely healed without a scar.
“Well aren’t you handy” Varus finally says, still astonished by his companions strange magic “Thanks”
“You’re welcome” B.U.D. replies “Does anyone else need any healing”
“I’m good” Jalila answers. She whispers a quite prayer as she massages her sore parts. Her hands glow and the pain and soreness starts to fade away.
“So what happens now?” Tal asks as the lights from his hands go out. He is completely drained now. His eyes start to grow heavy as he watches Toula who seems to be lost in thought.
“I’m not sure. I’ve never gotten this far. Most of my students either die or quit” she lets out a nervous laugh. Her left arm rubs at the back of her head. “Well officially, I am your new advisor. I will be giving you missions when they come in. But that is all I know for now”
The lack of information annoys the party. Toula’s lack of preparation doesn’t help. The group grows disheartened looking on to the person who was in charge of their career. The school’s bad reputation was no exaggeration. But the exhaustion weighs on them heavily and they lack the energy to protest. Instead they gather their gear.
“Can we leave?” Zarmir stands up gripping at his glaive.
“Yeah, class dismissed. I will contact when you get an assignment. Go get some rest” Toula turns to walk away, taking long deep gulps from her bottle.
Outside, the heat of the summer day starts to set in. There are more students out and about, talking and laughing as the party slowly makes their way back to their room. They spend the rest of the day resting and exploring the school waiting for their next assignment.
“I don’t like our new advisor” Zarmir says, not hiding any disdain he has towards her.
“I don’t know, I kind of like her” Jalila responds thinking of the strange drunk woman. She wasn’t uptight like the other teachers she has had since joining the military. Toula was the first adult who didn’t talk down to her or mention anything about her upbringing. “At least she’s not a snooty uptight instructor”
“She is a character” Tal chimes in. Unsure what exactly to think of her.
“She is unprofessional. Did you see the bottles?” Zarmir retorts, unbelieving that he was alone in his sentiment.
“Nobody’s perfect. We can’t judge her on her vices. She’s a teacher for a reason. Maybe she’s a good fighter?” Varus says as he moves his left arm in circles, unbelieving how good it felt after B.U.D’s little trick. It might have been better than it was before.
“Well I don’t see it. She is always unprepared. It is bad enough I have to be in this school, I would at least like to have someone who does their job.”
“Is that not how teachers are supposed to act?” B.U.D. asks, not seeing a problem with the strange woman who smells of booze.
“No B.U.D, they are at least supposed to know what is going on and that lady doesn’t know what day it is!” Zarmir adds growing more annoyed by the fact that he has to explain his disappointment.
“What day is it? Is it important to know what today is?” B.U.D struggles to understand the situation.
“It’s an expression B.U.D. He means to say that she doesn’t know anything.” Jalila chimes in. She didn’t think B.U.D was going to be this much work. “In any case, I don’t think we can do anything about her. We get what we get at this school. “
Zarmir continues his walk in frustrated silence. B.U.D. pulls out a glass bottle from his cloak pocket and takes a bite. Jalila lets out a soft sigh as B.U.D. slowly chews the glass. The party moves in silence except for the sound of crunching glass. The Party spends their day performing different tasks. Tal explores the school until he finds a nice place to play his lute. He works on new songs but mostly plays to relax himself. Zarmir finds a place in the woods where he can work out. He works until his muscles begin to give and continues to push himself until he can no longer move. Jalila spends her day cleaning her armor, polishing her shield specifically. She can see the dents of where the claws hit. She eventually ends up in the schools weight room. She works out until nightfall. B.U.D. walks explores the school’s grounds, eating interesting objects that he finds. He collects a lot of data for the mother ship. Varus spends some time praying to the Raven Queen when no one is looking. He spends the rest of his time trying to find any information about Captain Elaran. He finds none.
At night, the party gathers in their room. They share small exchanges of conversation that ultimately ends in an early night. B.U.D. is left in the his corner as everyone has long since retreated to their rooms. He watches the night fall over the mountains. He thinks about all the new things he ate today and hopes the Mother Ship is as pleased with his findings as he is. In a deep gravelly voice:
Hello residents of room 304, this is your courtesy wake up call. I have one announcement for you when you are all here present and ready
Doors open cautiously as the doors open to reveal a very confused B.U.D.
Was that you?
“Up here.” says a small stone gnome statue. He wears a pointy hat and his stone features animate as he talks. “Sorry to startle you, my name is Steve and I will be your point of contact with the school. I will give you announcements and send deliver any messages addressed to you”
B.U.D. begins to move forward, hand out ready to touch the talking stone gnome.
“Please don’t touch me” Steve snaps at B.U.D. “Anyways, you have a 9 am appointment with your advisor Toula. Please don’t be late. Bring whatever you would take on an adventure” with that the gnome’s eyes close. B.U.D. waves his hand in front of the gnomes face. It doesn’t react.
“I guess we have a mission” Tal breaks the silence as he gathers his things. B.U.D. continues to inch towards the curious statue. He wonders what kind of data it would send to the Mother ship.
Jalila watches and lets out a silent sigh. “B.U.D. don’t eat the thing” She shakes her head and walks to her room to get ready. B.U.D. stops and moves away, his eyes never leaving the small gnome statue.
The party once again stands outside of Toula’s office. The stench of stale liquor seeps into the hall. Again their knocking goes unanswered. A frustrated Zarmir walks through the door announcing “We’re here for our meeting”
A sleeping snoring Toula is slumped over her desk this time. Space has been made for a her head and a small perimeter of crumpled up paper that surrounds her. There are more scraps of paper mixed in with the bottles that are scattered around her desk. B.U.D. gets excited by the sight. Zarmir continues forward. A less than gentle shove to the shoulder brings an aggressive Toula from her slumber. Fists in the air, ready to strike at the intruders she looks around blankly. It takes her a minute to calm down before she lets out a yawn. “Sorry” she finally says “didn’t think you would come back. This is all new to me. You guys are early”
“It’s actually five minutes after” Zarmir says. He debates on whether or not he should leave the office and make an appeal to have anyone else be his instructor. How will he prove his family wrong with this person as his teacher?
“Right, well there was supposed to be someone else here but I guess I’ll start on what I got” Toula pulls out a small sheet of crumpled and dirty paper. She clears her throat and begins to read slowly. Each word read more unsure than the last.
” You made it! I am. glad. I congratulate you my students. This makes me feel good. I hope”
Before she is able to finish her thought Zarmir interrupts “It’s fine you don’t have to read anything. We get it”
“Yeah please stop” Jalila adds.
“Yeah I don’t really know what I’m doing here. You are the first to pass my test, I wasn’t prepared” she says. Zarmir lets out a small involuntary laugh.
“Really? The only ones? But that was so easy” Jalila adds smuggly
“It must mean you are worthy. I couldn’t tell by looking at ya, but I’m glad you didn’t die”
“Did you build that thing yourself?” Jalila asks
“The metal thing? Nah that wasn’t me. That was Terry. He makes all the shit around here. Odd fella but he knows how to make some fun toys”
Suddenly, there is a soft knock at the door. The door opens slowly. Headmaster Xanather walks in. His suit is freshly pressed. His wild hair reaching out in every direction almost like tentacle. His piercing yellow eyes seem to glow even in this properly lit room, Behind him, the door closes as he stands at the center of the group. He smiles and says “As you might already know, I am Headmaster Xanathar and I would like to take this moment to welcome you to my school. I am here to tell you that you are not here by accident. I have been following your careers very closely and I for one am impressed. You have a lot to learn and I am honored that you are here to learn it.”
Like we have a choice Zamir thinks to himself.
Headmaster Zanathar lets out a sneaky smile as he continues his lecture “We run things a little different here. Most students will have a normal class schedule and training to get them ready to join the ranks and fight for our great country. You and a select few have been chosen to perform some extracurriculars. You can think of it as a supplemental work study program. You well be sent out on various jobs, whether it be to escort politicians or fight monsters. There will be small bits of compensation but the real reward is the experience you will gain in the field. You have already proven yourself extraordinary students so I am sure you will do splendidly. The only rule is that you will be representing the school on these missions so act appropriately.
He pulls a small silver watch from his coat pocket. A beholder is engraved on the cover. Shock starts to wash over his face and before anyone has a chance to ask a question he lets out “Oh well I apologize for my rudeness but I simply must get going. Welcome to my school and good luck out there.” The door closes as he is out before he even finishes his sentence.
The party turns to Toula who is in mid gulp. She takes another drink before finally setting it down. “I’m sure you have questions, I don’t have answers” She opens a drawer and pulls out a map. “But I do have your first mission”
Pushes more bottles to the floor, the bounce creating a loud ruckus. With the map spread out on her desk she adds “There have been reports of animals savagely attacking people in the nearby village of Charis” her dirty finger moves and points at the small village’s name. “What we need you to do is go investigate and solve this little problem. Think you can handle it?”
“Yes but do we have any more information about the situation” Tal asks, a worried look on his face.
“No, that’s why you need to investigate. Can you handle a bunch of animals?”
“No problem!” Zarmir says as he flexes his slightly bigger arm “Nothing me and my glaive can’t handle”
“Can we have the map at least?” Tal asks as he studies the map.
“Yeah it’s yours. Leave when you’re ready. Report back to me when you’re done. Don’t die on me”
“Do we get any other help? Any potions or weapons? Maybe horses?” Varus chimes in from the corner of the room, Toula lets out a loud bellowing laugh. It shakes the bottles as the sound fills the room.
“Oh gods no. You seem to forget where you are. Unfortunately there aren’t many funds so you will have to be resourceful. I’m confident that you will manage just fine all the same” She winks, pulling the bottle of liquor to her mouth to take a swig.
A bit disappointed yet unsurprised by the answer, Varus pulls out a silver flask from his pocket. “Can I drink in here?”
Toula shrugs “I ain’t your mum”
Varus pops open his flasks, the scent of warm cognac mixes into the air. Toula’s nostrils start to flare, her mouth starts to water and after a big swallow lets out “What’s that you have there bud?”
“No I’m B.U.D. That’s Varus”
“Oh geez” Jalila says as he pats B.U.D on the shoulder. B.U.D. Pats her back not quite understanding the strange ritual.
“It’s a bit from my personal reserve, you want a swig?” Varus hands over the flask. Toula takes it gingerly and brings it to her nose for a sniff. It was fancy compared to the stuff she has been drinking so far. She takes a sip, the warm cognac washes down her throat.
“Wow!” she goes for another swig “this is good, what is it?”
“It doesn’t have a name, its just something I like to do for fun” he reaches for the flask and takes a long swig.
“Well if you ever get more, send some this way”
Varus smiles “that’s easy enough”
“Is there a place where we can buy potions and supplies” Zarmir asks
“Uh you can try the book store”
“It’s probably expensive never mind” Zarmir replies, already halfway out the door. The party leaves Toula’s office. They meet at the school gate, it’s a nice day. There are no clouds in the sky and a few birds fly overhead. With bags packed, weapons sharpened they take their first step on their journey to the village of Charis.
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