The guildhall in Flindora was an impressive testament to the wealth and power of the guilds. The building stood proud in the centre of the grand plaza. Tall, intricately carved pillars accompanied steep, marble stairs. A decadent walkway leading up to an ornate bronzed doorway, recessed within a grandiose archway. A disgusting display of wealth, after all, only guild members were allowed access to the dungeons, and the dungeons supported the economy.
The Flindorian guild was considered a High-Guild, as they governed access to many dungeons, low and high tiered. To be a High-guild member meant access to the most dungeons, not just the hardest and most dangerous, but the most profitable of delves. Where the best gear dropped from the toughest monsters, and fame and fortune often walked hand in hand.
Havia had her father’s seal on the letter in her hand, obviously she hadn’t asked for it. It will probably take days before he found out she had crept into his office, written the letter of recommendation in his handwriting, and picked his desk drawers to gain access to his personal seal. Not that he would do anything about it. The family wouldn’t want to draw attention to their bad apple. Despite all the schooling, all the training, languages, accounting, politics, she still couldn’t, no, still wouldn’t follow her family blindly into a lifetime of serving those who deemed themselves better than everyone else. Politicians and bureaucrats, manipulators and sycophants who never did a hard day’s work in their lives. No, her father, the ambassador to the Elven crown, wouldn’t want to stain his name with accusations of petty thievery and fraud. He would just look down his nose the way he always did, mutter something about being a disappointment, and try to add yet more restrictions to her behaviour.
She shifted the daggers at her waist, adjusted the straps of her pack, and headed up the stairs towards the future she wanted.
“Fuck him, and the rest of those twats,” she said as she set off at a pace.
It was a lot of steps.
The large, bronze-plated doors swung inward silently as she eventually made her way into the guildhall. A large marble desk sat in a circular foyer, curved to reflect the swoop of the stairs reaching up behind, where the records rooms and guild officials were situated. This wasn’t her first visit; she had often come here to sit and watch adventurers coming and going from the halls. Most visited to level up, using the facilities of the guildhall to spend their hard-earned Ether. She knew how it worked. The guild granted access to the dungeons and took a cut of the loot from any delve. They also charged a fee for using the Font, where adventurers used ether, which they earned by killing monsters and defeating dungeon floors. Without an attunement from the guild an adventurer can’t earn ether. So, entering dungeons was pointless without a guild behind you. Ether made levelling up possible. Like how spell casters used mana, although with mana you had a limit to how much you held. Mana is the energy that spell casters channelled through their body and mind to use spells, mana was magic really. You didn’t need a guild to use magic, just natural affinity for mana and training.
Havia stood lost in thought, so close to achieving her goal, it was only natural for a fragment of doubt to creep in.
From off to the left a small group of adventurers walked out of a side corridor leading to this guild-house’s Font. They must have just spent their ether, the wave of chatter amongst them shook Havia from her reflections.
“I swear, it costs so much more ether each time to increase anything. I almost miss being a lower level.” One of them whinged, stretching his arms out wide and yawning.
“We’ve cleared two dungeons so far this month and I barely scraped by on that level up. At this rate we’ll be stuck doing tier three dungeons forever.”
It was true, Havia had researched all she could about the levelling up process. After each time you spent ether, the next time would take more ethereal energy to increase one of your stats. After spending enough ether you got a level up, a tweak to your skill set that gave you access to new, unique skills. The increase in cost every time made it harder and harder to get to the higher levels. It was a way of stopping adventurers from becoming too powerful. Eventually something bigger or faster would take you down, or a stupid mistake would cost you your life. Not many adventurers made it to the higher levels. And when they did, they often had enough wealth accrued to retire.
A cough from the desk bought Havia’s attention back to the here and now, the adventurers were long gone.
“Are you here to register?” A clerk asked, spectacles perched on the tip of his nose as he looked Havia up and down. It reminded her of her father, strike one for the clerk.
“Yes, I have a letter of recommendation.” She handed the sealed parchment over and the clerk examined the wax seal before placing it on the desk before him. He proceeded to fumbled around under the desk for a moment before placing a quill and parchment next to her letter.
“The registration fee is fifty gold with a notable recommendation, non-refundable. If you would be so kind.” He smiled, while Havia removed her coin pouch and counted out the gold. Fifty gold was a lot of money for a lot of people, the price was much higher without a recommendation, another reason why being an adventurer was appealing. The clerk swept the gold off the counter onto a tray, placing the quill and parchment to one side and picking up her letter.
“Please fill in your details and wait in the third room down to the left, I will deposit your payment and take your letter to be reviewed by a guild officer.” He glanced up the stairs, where a smartly dressed woman in green satins stood peering over the balustrade. She was watching the exchange with keen interest, which unsettled Havia slightly, but she had come too far now. Havia nodded in the woman’s direction, which seemed to entertain her even more as she slowly returned the polite gesture.
“Well then, once your referral is approved, we will proceed.” Something about the business-like nature made Havia want to punch the clerk in his face, but she knew he was just doing his job. He rang a small bell, and another clerk swiftly appeared to fill his seat at the desk as he turned to walk up the stairs. Realising Havia hadn’t moved, he pointed off down the left corridor.
“Third door, no one else is registering at the moment, you can fill in your details in there if you wish.” He proceeded up the stairs, Havia’s letter of recommendation perched atop the tray laden with her gold. The woman had disappeared and was soon far from Havia’s thoughts as she picked up the paperwork, heading down the corridor to find a small, tidy room where she was supposed to fill in her details.
A wooden bench followed the angles of rooms plain walls. Havia straddled it in an unladylike fashion that would have made her mother furious. Leaning forward to Fill out the form. They just wanted standard details, name, age, etc. Under profession she was about to write thief, but pondered if it was presumptuous of her. The font would assess her skills and allocate a class for her, she had trained as a thief already, surely that counted. She was nimble with her fingers and not too bad at acrobatics. She could pick locks and pockets, climb swiftly, and daggers were her preferred weapon. It seemed logical. She wrote undecided, instead. There was a chance the font would gauge her skill set differently, a fighter maybe, even a ranger of some sort. Presuming the class she would get might go against her on registration. Havia had one chance at joining this guild and she didn’t want anything to go against her.
She filled in her address and left the section for party members blank. She hadn’t formed a party yet, plenty of time for that later.
It didn’t take long before the clerk made his way back to her. He seemed aggrieved by something but smiled warmly as he waved his hand impatiently at her for the form. He scanned it and nodded, gesturing for her to follow him as he left the room.
“You’re lucky, it’s a quiet day and you just missed a party using the font. We can jump straight in.” The man smiled; all arrogance seemed to have been melted away. He still had her letter in his hand, but the seal had been broken, whoever had read it clearly saw no problem with it.
He led her further down the corridor and then into a large chamber. Again, the walls were lined with benches, but here in this much larger room the floor had been paved with a pattern of light and dark slabs, a spiral leading towards the centre, where a pedestal of black marble stood, this is what they called the Font.
“Most days you can’t move for adventurers trying to level up, or register.” The man said, his friendly demeanour an opposite to the officious manner he’d displayed outside.
“Sad to say we get a lot who are just not suitable to even attempt registration. Peasants looking for an easy meal ticket in the dungeons, deluded farmers with dreams of conquering a dungeon boss, to return home with bags of gold.” He tutted, eyes rolling as if he saw it every day, and he probably did. It would explain his gruff demeanour earlier. Havia decided she no longer disliked the man, just what he represented. The guilds were clearly as corrupt as every other institution. She’d find a way to make it work in her favour, and then maybe one day she could start her own guild. An honest guild, so anyone could try their luck in the dungeons.
“Here we are young lady, please place your hand on the font, it will do the rest.” She pulled up short as the man gestured to a circular indentation in the top of the simple pedestal. Hesitantly she placed her hand above it. Her nervousness suddenly apparent. What if it wouldn’t even let her register? She knew some people couldn’t enter dungeons, not everyone was suitable to use ether, the doubt gave her pause.
“Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt my dear” the man said, chuckling as he watched her hesitate. That does it, no patronising little dipshit was going to condescend to her.
She placed her hand down firmly in the circle. Taking a deep breath as a warmth spread along the palm of her hand and flowed up into her chest, a soft female voice spoke in her head.
“You have been found suitable.” She smiled, the clerk nodded, knowing that a negative registration would have been over in the blink of an eye.
“You are allocated the Thief skill set. Would you like to see your current statistics?” The voice was unemotional, factual. Not cold, but neither was it encouraging.
“Yes please, read my current statistics” Havia responded. The font glowed a bright blue beneath her palm, the black marble radiating warmth, for a moment her vision swam as if something was being held too close to her eyes. She shook her head to clear her vision, and before her a translucent parchment floated in the air. It moved as she moved her head, as if anchored to wherever her eyes looked. She read the details upon it.
THIEF, Level 1
Vigour = 9
Strength = 11
Dexterity = 13
Intelligence = 13
Mana = 11
Ether = 0
She took a moment to read the document as the voice spoke again.
“Due to existing abilities, you can upgrade the base Thief skill set to Journey man skill set. Would you like to proceed.”
Havia was caught off guard. That must mean her training as a thief was further along than she had guessed.
“Proceed” she said, the clerk nearby raised an eyebrow.
“You now have the Thief Journey-man skill set, there are five unknown skills available to you from this skill set, level up to unlock.”
She smiled, level one and yet she had the journey man skill set, which meant it should be easier and quicker for her to use skills associated with being a thief.
“Please return to spend Ether and level up. Good luck adventurer.” Something about the cold way the last line was delivered. It didn’t feel like encouragement, it was a challenge.
She lifted her hand from the circle, the ethereal page disappearing instantly, leaving her disorientated for a second.
“This concludes your registration, if you will follow me, please.” The clerk said, turning and leading her back out towards the foyer.
As they returned three city guard walked in through the bronze doors.
“Our business is concluded young lady, I’m afraid business with your father has not.” The clerk nodded to the three guards as they stood either side of Havia.
“My apologies, the Guild officer deemed it necessary to advise the ambassador of your actions.” Havia glanced above his shoulder to the top of the stairs, where the lady in green was again stood, watching.
“Of course, once you had paid the fee I couldn’t in good conscience deny your attempt.” The woman atop the stairs did seem frustrated, and the clerk smiled as he bowed slightly. She concluded that she liked him, at least a little bit now. She returned his smile as she considered making a run for it, but what was her father going to do? A slap on the wrist was the height of his punishments, he couldn’t undo the registration.
“Thank you, I’ll be seeing you soon.” She bowed to the clerk before allowing the guards to escort her from the guild house.