Last week was the first day of the rest of Matilda Lyte’s life. This week, it’s the first day of Amara Valda’s life. Which is good, because
Copyright 2021-2022 J.B. Norman
Later that very day, Amara Valda walks through the streets of Porthaven enshrouded in a thoughtful silence. Luckily, she has her foremost friend and companion close at hand.
Kat Darkstone has been in the adventuring business much longer than Amara has, so Amara trusts she can gain some valuable insights from her more experienced friend.
“You know, Katherine,” Amara says glumly. “This adventuring career is not what I expected.”
“Yeah?” Kat replies.
“And I’ll have you know that this is all your fault, Katherine,” Amara declares.
“What did I do?” Katherine protests.
“How could I listen to all your wild tales of adventure and not follow suit?” Amara asks. “You made it all sound so glamourous. So romantic.”
Kat gives her a sceptical look. “You must not have been paying attention,” she says. “What’s romantic about almost getting eaten alive?”
“It’s the principle of the thing, Katherine!” Amara insists. “When I got my Adventuring Licence, I expected to start adventuring.”
She throws her hands up in exasperation.
“Do you know how many adventures I’ve had? None! Do you know how many Guild Authority general meetings and town halls I’ve been to?”
Kat silently shrugs.
“Neither do I,” Amara concedes. “I haven’t been counting. But, still. Too many. Frankly, it’s ridiculous.”
She heaves a ragged sigh.
“What am I doing wrong, Katherine?”
“Everybody has to start somewhere, Amara,” Kat assures her. “It takes time to get things done with the Guild Authority. You don’t just become a top adventurer overnight.”
“I’ve barely become an adventurer at all!” Amara exclaims. “I can’t even get the time of day from the Guild Authority, and all the other adventurers just turn up their noses at me and ignore the new girl.”
“What about freelancing?” Kat asks. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a guild, or taken a job through the Guild Authority yet. Most of my work has been with Dunstana, or for the University thanks to Scarlet and my uncle. Or the pirates my dad knows from the Brotherhood. I just have to fill out some extra paperwork each time.”
“That might work,” Amara says. “But how exactly does one freelance?”
“Get your name out there,” Kat says. “Talk to people. Ask around. Put up some —”
“Posters,” Amara declares, hurrying to a nearby wall. “Katherine!” she calls. “What do you know about this Lyte Brigade?”
“I heard they got disbanded,” Kat says. “Somebody must be trying to get the guild reinstated.”
Amara nods resolutely.
“I shall help them!” she declares.
“Are, uh, are you sure, Amara?” Kat asks. “I don’t know if a guild that hasn’t even been authorised yet is the best place to start.”
“Noblesse oblige,” Amara answers simply. “The good people of the Lyte Brigade are in need of help. I am able to help them. Therefore, I must.”
“This is a pretty big decision. Maybe you should sleep on it first,” Kat offers.
“Bah!” Amara says. “My mind is made up. Just think of what being able to count a Valda as one of its members will do for the Lyte Brigade’s reputation! Come along, Katherine, we’re off to the —”
She searches the poster for an address. She frowns when she finds it.
“Why is the guild operating out of an inn?”
“Hey,” Kat offers. “At least we can stop in for lunch, too.”
“Yes,” Amara answers stiffly. “Thank you, Katherine.”
Amara is soon standing at the threshold of the first day of the rest of her life. Which has her standing on the very literal threshold of the guild offices of the Lyte Brigade.
That the offices are located inside a rather unassuming inn does not inspire confidence, and Amara feels even her iron resolve beginning to falter in the face of such an inauspicious beginning.
“Noblesse oblige,” she reminds herself.
“Are you sure about this?” Kat asks.
“Yes, Katherine. I’m sure,” Amara answers. “I have to see this through.”
Kat nods. “I’ll be around if you need me,” she says.
“I’ll be fine, Katherine,” Amara assures her companion.
Amara takes a deep breath and opens the door. Kat immediately bolts for the bar, where she hops onto one of the stools and orders three servings of the biggest thing on the menu.
Nolan looks up as the door opens and a very pretty Elf girl with fancy clothes, pale golden hair, and a necklace with a bright green emerald hanging from it, steps into the inn. As she approaches, Nolan tries to make himself look like he hasn’t been staring.
He pretends to find himself fascinated by his copy of More Habits for the Utmost Efficient, acting entirely unbothered by the fact that he is holding it upside down.
“Greetings,” the Elf says politely as she approaches Nolan. “I am looking for the Captain of the Lyte Brigade. Could you kindly direct me to him?”
“He’s me,” Nolan answers, momentarily musing that he probably should do something to make his rank more obvious.
A look of surprise — and possibly disappointment, Nolan realises — flashes across the Elf’s face. She’s still pretty, though, even when she hates him.
“Oh,” she answers, narrowing her eyes thoughtfully as she scrutinises Nolan’s face. “You’re, ah, rather younger than I expected.”
“Can I help you?” Nolan asks.
“I am Amara Valda,” the Elf says. “I wish to register as a member of your guild.”
“There’s a form you need to fill out,” Nolan says. He learned his lesson from his previous quest for his wayward clipboard, so he has taken to keeping several copies of the guild forms in his shirt pocket.
He unfolds one of the forms, smooths it out on the table and slides it across to Amara.
“Do you have any previous experience in a guild?” Nolan asks.
Amara shakes her head. “I’m afraid not,” she answers. “Mostly, I’ve lived vicariously through Katherine.”
“I figured. You, uh, don’t seem like the adventuring type,” Nolan says.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Amara asks indignantly, suddenly seeming ten feet tall in her fury.
“I just meant that your clothes look really fancy and expensive,” Nolan answers meekly, cowering behind his book. “I’d hate for them to get ruined.”
“Well, yes, that would be a tragedy,” Amara agrees. “Which is precisely why I’ve bought several more suitable adventuring outfits.”
She starts to glower again, which makes Nolan instinctively shrink again.
“Who’s Katherine?” Nolan asks.
“She is my oldest and dearest friend,” Amara answers. “She is right over there.”
She points to the bar, where a black-haired Gardian girl is single-handedly conquering three fish-on-a-stick party platters.
“She happens to be quite the accomplished adventurer herself. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like my forms, please.”
Nolan holds out the form for her.
“Thank you,” Amara says tersely, snatching the form away from him, followed by snatching his pen, too. She fills out her forms in silence, occasionally looking up to give him another look of stern disapproval.
When she finishes filling out the forms, she hands them back to him. “So,” she asks. “When do we start?”
“Actually,” Nolan says meekly. “We still need one more recruit before the guild can be fully reinstated. So, uh, if you happen to know people interested in joining a guild, I could really use some help.”
“Of course I know people,” Amara answers proudly. “The Valdi know anyone and everyone worth knowing in this city.”
“And do any of them want to join a guild?” Nolan asks hopefully. He’s so close now. If Amara can find them just one more person, the Lyte Brigade is back in business.
“I’ll ask around,” Amara answers. “In the meantime, I must know. Why is our guild operating out of a tavern?”
“It’s a long story,” Nolan murmurs.
Come back next week for the next chapter of Forward, the Lyte Brigade.
And, yes, I’m aware that fish in the header image isn’t on a stick, so don’t bother pointing that out. I only have so many choices drawing from free stock photos.
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