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 Post subject: Guilder Story
 Post Posted: Mon Oct 26, 2009 5:54 pm 
Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:31 pm
Posts: 28
It's easy to go through your memories and find faults. Too easy. It's easier still to find them a hazy blur, useless and nostalgic.

Looking back, one thing sticks out in my mind about my young self. It wasn't that I was stronger than most (though I was). It wasn't that I was faster than most, or that I had that particular brand of insanity that urges one to take on the Trials. Plenty of young people had those qualities, and more besides.

What was singular about me was how very deluded I was.

I believed, wholly and entirely, in the benevolence of our God, Ar. I believed that our Island, Irra, was the only island in the sea. I believed that the Guild of Heroes was a benevolent servant of the nations of Irra, and would protect us from any foe. I believed that the problems which faced our Land, among which I numbered the fearist organization All Fall Down and the savage Vodren of the North, were trifling things, easily warded away by my betters. Most of all, I believed that other men, a majority if not all, shared my feelings.

I was not first in the Trials. That was Bodric. Nor second, that was Kera. Thus, when Gaulish came to my house on the morning after I was initially confused as to what could be going on. I'd imbibed rather heavily the night before, consoling myself for a failure that was frankly devastating. I'd dreamed of the Trials for 6 years, trained and struggled for them. The thought that I'd lost them was intolerable. I'd chosen to wash it away with strong spirits.

I was not awakened when he rapped on my door, nor when he blasted it from its hinges. I awoke when he entered the chamber I shared with my younger brother, for whatever perverse reason. I rose from my place of rest with bleary eyes and a mounting confusion.

The Guild's Recruiter was unlike I'd imagined. In my mind it was always a Party, or at least a Guilder. Heck, in my most fervent fantasy's it was Eagle Party themselves, swooping down to enjoin my aid against some dire foe. I certainly didn't picture a Goon.

Gaulish has ever been an arresting figure. To a Clod (and frankly, I can say without shame that that's what I was) he's utterly terrifying. No doubt that's why he has this job. All my life I'd been surrounded by my fellow haulists, then my fellow Aspirants at the camp. By my peers, in other words. By those who looked, sounded and acted vaguely like me. Gaulish in my room was my first Unwinnable.

He loomed over me, his back unstooped by haulist slump and his hands unlined by labor. He wored a dark grey robe, utterly unlike the colorful cloth we marked our shifts with. In the aftermath of his exertions against my portal, he crackled and sparked with energy. Most of all there was the sheer Substance of him. This man was a battalion of one, an Eminence. It looked like the world faded around him, in danger of simply floating away and leaving him standing in a profound void.

I can't recall precisely my first words to him, but his response to me was the standard boilerplate. I'd won the Trials and did I want to accompany him to the Guild's headquarters. Frankly, I don't think there was ever any doubt. I muttered and hawwed a bit before assenting, and started to pack up my meagre belongings.

I think I'd always pictured "going to the Guild" as a hike, or slog. Mostly I'd imagined the faces watching me, my comrades gazing in awe as I joined the Immortals. I certainly thought I'd get a chance to say goodbye. What actually happened was that as soon as I'd gotten "Yes" out he gripped me and we ported. I got the brief chance to resist his magic, but waived it in utter confusion and terror. Our surroundings shifted and blurred, and I was displaced.

It's easy to forget how alarming porting is to one unaccustomed to instantaneously changing location. I'd gone about on my own two feet for my whole life. In all that time, I have no idea whether I travelled as far as I did in that first port. I guess I must have, Bastion isn't that far away from Riker village, but at the time I had literally no idea what was going on. From the comfort and privacy of my own dwelling I'd been whisked to a blank stone room with only one exit corridor.

The only constant was the least comforting. Gaullish had come too, and his icy grip on my shoulder propelled me into the hall. Despite the fact that he came up to my shoulder, despite his uncalloused hands and second chin, Gaullish moved me like the speck I was, imparting motion as much by sheer presence as by any physical force.

We travelled down the lavishly decorated hallways (and I'll digress here to point out that the way we've got Bastion setup is totally counterproductive. Any of the furnishings in it costs more than the poor recruits have ever seen in their lives. It's supposed to be awe inspiring, I get that, but would it kill us to have someone coordinate it? I swear, the jumbled mass of masterfully crafted things that fill any given hall would buy a city, but the way they are arranged would make a decorator die of shame. More isn't always better.) and into an office I'd grow very accustomed to.

There was a dwarf behind the desk, and a pair of scales on it. Gurros, as he introduced himself, wasn't the first dwarf I'd ever met. I wasn't quite that provincial. There was an itinerant tin merchant who came through from time to time who was of the First People. I wasn't alarmed by his race. I'm kind of proud of that.

Anyway, he and Gaullish played it Raven/Eagle, and had me agree to everything that they always have noobs agree to. (Honestly we could probably skip this part. By the time we've grabbed someone and warped them to our fortress they are going to agree to anything we tell them to. I'm not sure why the whole 'willing consent' bit is still considered so vital). I vowed to work as a Guilder, swore I'd learn what that entailed (Ha!) and pledged my undying fealty to every high ideal under the sun.

I'd gotten my bearings a bit, perversely stabilized by the massive shift in location. Where the impossile in my room had flustered me beyond all reason, the impossible in an impossible location seeme to fit. In Bastion, it was me, and not Gaullish or Gurros, who looked out of place. Being out of place, however, was something with which I'd had long practice. Thus, I was mostly cognizant of what I was pledging to, and (and I wish to emphasize this point) wholeheartedly meant every word I pledged.

I would be a hero of the people. I would emparty and defeat evil. I would do all things noble and great. I pledged it all, swore and vowed and tried not to think that mighty magics were no doubt being exerted to bind me infallibly to this course.

I was going to be a Hero. I was going to be a Guilder. It never crossed my mind that the two might be mutually exclusive.

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     Post subject: Re: Guilder Story
     Post Posted: Tue Oct 27, 2009 5:08 pm 
    Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:31 pm
    Posts: 28
    The conversation which followed my swearing in is etched deep into my memory. It stands out, for some reason. I think it might have been the heightened state of my emotions, or perhaps a property of the room itself (I've never bothered to check on that place since I got clearance to), but I can recall every detail.

    Gaullish: Welcome to the Guild, Endak.
    Me: Thank you, Sir.
    Gurros: Sir?
    Me: Err...Guilder?
    Gurros: We aren't Guilders, we are goons, the property of the Guild.
    Me: Oh, I'm sor-
    Gaullish: Thus, in a way, we are YOUR property.
    Gurros: But not directly.
    Me: Uh, right?
    Gaullish: Goons serve the Guild at large, though each of us has a particular master.
    Gurros: We are not to be called Sir, by a Guilder.
    Me: Yes s...Yes.
    Gurros: Anyway, welcome to the Guild. Here's your Guild ring, don't lose it.
    *Gurros hands Endak a ring, almost cartoonishly large and adorned with a circle of 10 small gems.
    Me; Oh, I thought I wasn't to get a Guild ring until...
    Gaullish: No, you get them right away.
    Gurros: They are critical, they are the means by which we track your progress. Right now yours has no gems lit up. That means you are 0 star, a Guilder in training.
    Gaullish: Really, 1 star and 2 stars still really mean a Guilder in training.
    *Endak puts the ring on. It pulses once, then is still and inert, a ring like any other.
    Me: Got it.
    Gurros: When you complete a mission, you receive a star rating of that mission's rank, unless you already have a better one. So if you completed a 3 star mission, you'd be a 3 star Guilder.
    Me: I understand
    Gaullish: Well, actually, 4 and 5 stars don't necessarily indicate an experienced....
    Gurros: Anyway, you've got your ring, it's time to meet your party.

    I've just figured out why I recalled that conversation so well. The people I met next are my party, the severed fractions of my own wayward soul. No one I've met, before or since, impacted my existence half so deeply as the least influential one of them. For better or for worse, when you judge me, let them share any reward or blame, for I'm as much their creation as the greater Guild's, and I'd like to think that the same is true of them.

    No, I know it is. We are five, and we are one, and the one is by far the more important. There have been many vital days in my life. The day I learned to speak. The day I learned to walk. The day I got my Haullist's license. The night I slew Prandin in fire above Dalatar. Taking part in the resurrection of Wolf Party.

    The day I met my party, the birth of Jackal, wasn't merely more essential than any of them, it was more critical than their sum.

    It was also the day I died, both figuratively and literally.

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     Post subject: Re: Guilder Story
     Post Posted: Thu Oct 29, 2009 6:05 pm 
    Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:31 pm
    Posts: 28
    In my fantasies, in my fevered dreams of the Guild, when you got past the abstract cheering and glory, I was always the tank.

    I took it for granted. I'm a big guy. My Trial of Strength was by far my best showing. I'm certainly no Caster. I just kind of assumed that I'd be the Tank. Besides, the Tank is the guy everyone focuses on, when you think of a party you think of its Tank. Ask any kid to draw Leopard Party, and they'll sketch the distinctive figure of Tarkt Vim. It's just how it is.

    The second I layed eyes on Jark, I realized I was mistaken. I had the body of a farmer, toughened and toned by my training and the Trials, but fundamentally that of a natural born creature, optimized for living. Jark was utterly different. I later found out he'd done little but lift weights and train his natural might for his basically his whole life. He didn't even have parents, just 2 rich people who'd bought talented kids until they got one that looked like he might be what they were looking for. Not all the monsters are things we get to slay.

    Anyway, Jark was human, but there his resemblance to me ended. I'm 6 hands, closer to 6 than 6 and a half anyway. Jark brushed 7, and he didn't seem to have anything resembling a neck. He also had apparently invented entirely new muscles, they bulged and writhed in his skin whenever he moved, it looked (and, no offense, looks, it's sort of freakish) like snakes were moving under desert sand. He was callused and scarred from his resilience training. It sort of looked like he'd been sanded.

    There was also his posture, and general way of doing things. Jark was forceful in all things, to a fault. He didn't shake hands, he grappled your palm. He didn't pick things up, he seized them. There was an almost obscene urgency to his motions, they were precisely trained reflex actions, distorted and perverted by an excess of might. I once saw him destroy a pair of boots cliking his heels.

    Anyway, the second I saw him I resigned myself to Light slot status, which was still incorrect.

    Our light slot was Ramb Tain, an elf.

    You've probably heard that we don't get along, and nowadays we don't, but nothing crazy went down on our first meeting. Ramb looks about average for an elf, a little shorter than most and thin like all his kind. The first time I saw him he was working a sore shoulder, sort of nursing it as though it was sore or wrenched. I figured he'd tried to shake hands with the behemoth next to him.

    Ramb's general "thing", what you'd say on noticing him if you weren't just to say "elf", or "elf guilder", is that he's a twitchy little dude. His head, his eyes, always in motion, back and forth, up and down. Independently, his hands move. I later learned that putting his joints through their range of motion isn't something he does when he's sore, it's something he does, period. He's actually stillest when he's fighting something.

    Kanda pretty much fits what you'd expect for a Guild caster. She was a human female, about my height and age, dressed in a wizard's robe. I noticed that she'd left the hood down, and was wearing a sort of skullcap thing, but I didn't know enough at that time to make anything of it. Her expression did strike me though.

    Kanda just looked miserable. On what should be the happiest day of her life, she had a mournful frown on, as though at any moment they would hand down the verdict and condemn her family to forced labor or something. Just this gloomy, solemn, staring face. Her expression, her posture, they were familiar to me. I'd labored alongside plenty of indentures and conscripts. She looked like that, a desolate and subdued creature.

    My party were (let's face it, are) a bunch of misfits, but the guy who takes the cake is our healer, Majra. He's a Vodren.

    Think what that would be like, a young Haulist meeting a Vodren for the first a member of his new Party! I had heard of them only as the northern nightmares, the savage lizard folk of a thousand tales. If I were asked to draw a picture of the Guild's arch foe, I'd probably have sketched a crude bipedal lizard.

    You got to remember, I knew 'nothing' of the north. I didn't know of the tyrant Barrus, or the rebellion, or the Guild's delicate balancing act with the Three Stars alliance. All I knew was that the Vodren lived in the north...and, apparently, in the Guild of Heroes as well.

    Under the circumstances, I think I took it well. It had nothing to do with my demise, anyway.

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     Post subject: Re: Guilder Story
     Post Posted: Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:17 pm 
    Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:31 pm
    Posts: 28
    It took me a second to realise I was the leader.

    Everyone knows that that's what the fifth slot does, but I'd been so certain, so unthinkingly convinced, that I was headed for Tank that it took me a second to readjust to the idea that I would be not merely a Guilder, but a Party Leader. I had literally never imagined it, at least in my waking mind. There had been dreams...

    Reeling from the shock of Majra's race and my unexpected position, I nearly missed it when Gaullish started speaking. You'll note I say nearly. For a group of Clods like us, it would be impossible to actually miss the words of someone with such Substance.

    Gaullish: Welcome, once again. We've spoken individually, but this is the first time I've addressed you collectively. Welcome to the Guild of Heroes.

    He paused a moment as though expecting applause, or maybe an interruption. If so, he was disappointed. We remained still and quiet, except for Ramb, who continued his habitual twitching. The rest of us were as still as the statues that stood in the halls.

    Gaullish: Let me get some misconceptions out of the way. The Guild of Heroes is slightly misnamed...We aren't an assembly of Heroes, we are an assembly of Parties of Heroes. Can you work out what I mean by that?

    I felt an odd tonal disconnect. His words were kindly and congratulatory, but there was a faint air of condescension about him, something that said "You are a thing of sand, soon to be blown to the wind. I shall remain." It was instinctive rebellion at this, at much as anything else, that drove me to raise my voice.

    Endak: Our first loyalty is to be to our party, to our comrades. We remain true to those on the lines with us, and leave to the Guild at large the Party coordination. We are to be Heroes, not drones or Goons.

    I winced when I said it. Talking of Goons to a Goon felt instinctively rude, and he was so much more powerful than us. For an instant I trembled, sure that I'd ended everything with one slightly wry comment. It passed unnoticed, however.

    Gaullish: That's precisely correct, Endak. Each Guilder's loyalty is first to his Party, then to his Guild, and then to the folk of Irra. Clear this hierarchy in your mind. Confusing it will be...dangerous.

    He paused a moment before continueing.

    Gaullish: You all have some idea what a Guilder, or Guild Party, does. Let me clarify for you. A Guild party completes the mission that are assigned to it. It does so in the manner described by the Guild, and in a timeline specified by the Guild. The Guild's missions are given to it by the nations of Irra. In this way, we serve the people, for from them we come and by them we are renewed.

    Jark spoke up, his voice exactly as one would think, a deep and ominous growl.

    Jark: Who hands out these missions?

    Gaullish smiled and responded. He spoke without any particular change in inflection, but I somehow got the idea that he was speaking slowly and clearly for the benefit of our brutish tank. I just automatically presumed Jark was stupid.

    Gaullish: For your first three ranks, a man named Gurros, who 2 of you have already met. Thereafter...well, worry about that when it comes. That's enough questions for now. Are you ready for your orientation?

    I think our first truly unified act was the collective realization that wasn't really a question.

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     Post subject: Re: Guilder Story
     Post Posted: Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:53 pm 
    Joined: Wed Oct 14, 2009 3:31 pm
    Posts: 28
    Gaullish waved his hands and spoke words that I can't remember. Its not that the memory has faded, its that I am unable to comprehend magic words at all. Wizards talk and I hear them, but even a second afterward I couldn't recite it back. I understand its like that for most of us. Presumably its different for those who cast spells themselves.

    The effect of all of this was to fill the air with a greenish smog. It didn't boil out from his robes, or a vial or anything, it was just there one second. It appeared the way a ported person appears, already in place and without displacing the air and making a wind or anything. It smelled of, well, it smelled like itself. It smelled like the Guild's famous Killing Mist.

    It was as lethally toxic back then as it is today, so of course we all started to choke. All of us but Gaullish. Nowadays I know he wasn't specially protected or anything, he's just imbibed so much life that it takes a lot to down him. None of us had done anything similar. We staggered about gasping and thrashing.

    Jark had the not so bright idea of attacking Gaullish, charged up and smashed him in the face. I guess he'd started holding his breath the instant the mist came down. Gaullish dropped in his tracks, taken totally by surprise. I fell across him, vomiting blood and something else that ought to have stayed inside. From the corner of my eye I saw the room's door open and someone come in.

    And then I died. No shock that, I mean, Killing Mist on some random haulist? I'm a bit proud I wasn't dead before I hit the ground. I've asked my party members and the rest of them went down in pretty short order too. Kanda, I think, was dead before me, while Jark dropped just as Gaullish started to get up. Ramb and Maj just kind of sank down onto the ground, dying with a bit of dignity.

    You don't have any sense of time passing while dead, or at least not that you hold onto when you come back, but a little later I got the usual query "Will you consent to be resurrected by Vesta of the Guild of Heroes". My reply was entirely in the affirmative.

    A moment later I woke up again, same room, but with no horrifying death smoke. An woman, unremarkable in her attire and general comeliness, was moving in a businesslike fashion from my body to Jark's body. Gaullish didn't have a mark on his face, so the healer must have attended to him before starting to bring us back.

    I'd like to emphasize that this was a resurrection, not a simple raising of the dead. My body was still lying on the ground. My new form was just like the old, so far as I could tell, but seeing myself lying sprawled on the floor gave me the shakes something fierce. It would be a long time before I lost that initial fear of death, and my own corpse featured prominently in my nightmares.

    The initiation ritual is something I've questioned, and the idea behind it seems to be that it makes the new recruits realize that they are starting new lives in the service of all Irra, as Guilders. Personally I think its just a reminder of how easily the Guild can put an end to anything that aggravates them.

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