Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Zeruhn Report (Spring, 898)

The entrance to the Zeruhn mines was at the extreme western edge of the city. The area around the mine's mouth was full of Humes and Galka in mining gear, all milling about. There were several entrances into the side of the mountain, but I was guessing that the largest shaft was the one I was looking for.

As I crossed the open area, a large Galka wearing filthy mining gear stepped in front of me, with his hand up, palm facing out.

"What are you doing here, Hume?" he said in a rough tone. "You don't look much like the mining type to me."

"I'm here to see Makarim," I said, willing my voice not to shake. "On official business," I added, hoping it would allow me to get on my merry way.

"Official," scoffed the Galka, waving his hand dismissively. "You Humes all talk so big." He smirked, looking around at his fellow miners, who all seemed to smirk back. "You know somethin'? This city'd be nothin' without the power of the Galka. Who do you think carved out this forsaken mountain?"

"I wouldn't know anything about that," I said evasively, attempting to step to the right and around the Galka blocking my path. Unfortunately, he stepped right along with me, and continued his tirade.

"Yer damn right you don't know. You don't look like you know much." He laughed loudly, obviously pleased with his own sad joke. "Let me tell you something, Hume," he continued. "It's us Galka who built this city, and we never got a word of thanks from the Humes." He almost spat out the last word. "And now y'think you can just walk into our mines. On your official business."

"I've got a message for him, is all," I said with a shrug, thinking madly to find a way out of this confrontation. "If you could just let me by-" I broke off suddenly, and made a sudden step to the left, attempting to spin around the Galka and make a dash for the mine.

Lucky for me, he wasn't expecting that maneuver. I broke free, and began running for the mines entrance, thanking fate that I hadn't had a heavy lunch today.

"Yeah, you keep on running!" came the shout from behind me, presumably from the same large Galka. He sounded winded, as if he wasn't used at all to having to move quickly.

I made it easily up the slope, ignoring the stares of the two Galkas standing outside the mine entrance. I was sure they had seen the entire confrontation below, but they didn't say a word as I passed between them and into the mine.

The tunnel was actually pretty roomy, despite everything I'd always heard about mines. I suppose they had to make it large enough for the Galka to move around without any problems. There were torches along the wall, but they were pretty far between. I didn't mind much, because it gave me the chance to test out my new ring.

I help up my hand, and as if on cue, my ring began emitting a soft light. It grew until it encompassed my whole body, and extended into a sphere. I could see well for about ten feet, and had dimmer visibility for another ten feet after that. It would certainly make walking around easier, and hopefully wouldn't make me an easy target for anything out in the darkness.

I shrugged, realizing there was little I could do about it, and kept walking through the tunnel, which quickly took a turn to the left, and then back to the right.

After a couple more small turns, I reached a crossroads. I stopped, and looked around for some kind of clue which path to take. I was about to try the right-most passage when I spotted a Galka standing by the gate straight ahead.

"Excuse me," I said, walking closer to him, "I'm looking for Makarim. Do you know where I could find him?"

The Galka turned, and looked me over briefly. "Makarim?" he asked, one corner of his mouth curling up in a smirk. "Probably down in the west leg. I heard Dodoi found some darksteel down there." He chuckled, shaking his head, and turned back toward the gate.

"Thank you," I said, and turned away, before I realized I still had no idea where exactly that was. "I'm sorry," I interjected, turning back towards the Galka. "Which tunnel is that down? I'm new to-"

He cut me off with a wave of his hand and chuckled again, saying, "Down the tunnel to your left, then take a right turn. Cut across the big chamber, hanging right, and Makarim should be in that tunnel. If not, just ask one of the miners down there. They should be able to help you out."

"Thank you," I said again, with a short nod of my head. I turned, and headed down the indicated passage, hoping I wouldn't get too lost. It led steadily deeper into the earth, and took a sharp turn to the left about fifty feet in. I proceeded slowly, taking my time to make sure I kept steady footing on the smooth rock passage.

At the foot of the slope, a passage broke off to the right. I paused a moment, trying to recall the exact directions from the Galka. "I know there was a right turn in there somewhere," I muttered to myself, turning between the two passages. After a short moment, I shrugged, and continued on the main path.

Surprisingly, it led to a dead end after just a little ways in. I turned to go back to the split, when something glimmering in the corner of the passage caught my eye. I walked forward, and crouched down to examine it more closely.

A sudden rush of movement behind me nearly knocked me to the ground, as a tall, segmented worm rose out of the stone floor. It turned what I assumed was its head, a writhing mass of feelers, toward me, and made a loud hissing noise.

I drew back, not taking my eyes off the worm. I had thought the mines worms to be non-aggressive, but I might have made the mistake of invading this one's nest. I braced myself, and pulled my staff off my back. I certainly couldn't get around this worm, so I would have to go through it.

I charged forward, swinging my staff hard as I closed into range with the worm. The contact made a horrible squishing noise, and the worm's hiss rose into a high-pitched shriek. It swung its body around, and then, faster than I had imagined it could move, it swung its mass of feelers toward me.

I tried to ward off the blow, but the worm slithered around my worthless parry and raked its feelers down the front of my tunic. They left a mass of thick gel, and the skin underneath suddenly starting burning.

I shouted from the pain, and brought my staff back into position. I swung again, this time aiming a little higher on the worm's body. I swung true once again, the staff connecting with its "head", just below the mass of feelers.

The worm shrieked again, its movements visibly slowing down from the bludgeoning it was taking. It made another swipe, aiming its feelers at my head this time, but I was able to deflect it with a quick blow from my staff.

I stepped forward, and choked up on the staff, taking a short, powerful swing for the same spot just under the worm's feelers. The blow struck true, and the worm let out one final shriek before collapsing onto the stone floor.

I propped my staff against the wall, and took a moment to examine my tunic. Other than being smeared with a thick gel and not smelling the greatest, it was fine. I pulled it up quickly to check the skin underneath.

The skin on my torso was an angry, irritated red color. The pain had actually faded to a sharp tingle after the fight, but touching the skin was still painful. I sighed, and pulled the tunic back down over my torso.

"I suppose I should see what that shiny thing in the corner was," I muttered to myself, grabbing my staff from the wall. I walked over to the same spot again, crouched down, and began brushing dirt away from whatever had caught my attention in the first place.

After a moment, I had uncovered a large rock shot through with bright silver veins. I slipped it into my pack, making a mental note to bring it over to Fatimah in the guild to see what it was worth.

I straightened up, and turned from the dead end, re-tracing my steps back to the passage that branched off. "I knew there was a right turn somewhere in there," I muttered to myself as I followed that tunnel.

It quickly opened up into a huge cavern. I could see several Galkas and a few Humes along the walls, mostly wielding pickaxes. Luckily the cavern was big enough that the noise wasn't overwhelming. I picked one of the Humes who wasn't chipping away at the wall, and walked towards him.

"Excuse me," I called when I got close enough, "I'm looking for Makarim. Do you know where I could find him?"

He started a bit, then a slow smile rose to his face. "Makarim?" he asked, looking me over. "What do you need with the overseer?" He looked on the verge of laughter. Why did everyone have the same reaction when I asked for Makarim?

"I have a message for him from Musketeer Rashid," I said with a smile. "I'm led to believe it's important, and I'm having a hard time getting straight answers from people here." I shrugged, and added, "I guess we'd better hope no one asks me for a detailed report. I'd hate to get anyone in trouble."

I actually wouldn't hate it at all. If this was the way these miners routinely treated people, they deserved whatever would end up coming to them.

The miner nodded his head, the smile slowly fading from his features. "Makarim's down that passage," he said, pointing west, "and hug the left wall. Should be at the end of the tunnel." He fell silent, turning back to the closest miner. From his reaction, I judged the conversation had reached its end.

"Thanks," I muttered, and set out to find Makarim and pick up his report. I was ready for this assignment to be over.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

You've got Mail!(Spring, 898)

I stopped by home for a bit, mainly to deposit my store of unused fire crystals and to get some food. I pushed open the door, and walked through the semi-dim interior.

"Master!" came the cry as Moguri turned from the fireplace and flitted toward me. "You got a package while you were gone! It has the official seal of the Republic on it!" I saw that he was holding a small brown package in his paws, and I stepped toward him to receive it.

"Thank you, Moguri," I said with a smile. "Do you know who dropped this off for me?" I inspected the package quickly, but found no markings aside from the seal.

"Some huge Galka in armor," he replied. "I think he said his name was Invincible..something. He was awful gruff and just asked that I give the package to you."

"Well, thank you," I said with a short chuckle. I began working the package open, trying to get at the contents. "Do you know what's in here?" I asked Moguri after a moment with little success.

"Usually a letter and a ring," he answered, surprising me. "It's kind of a welcoming present for the new residents of Bastok."

"I see," I said, finally worrying the package open and pulling the contents out. As Moguri had predicted, it was a short letter and a ring of silver and gold. I read the letter quickly:

Dear Aspen,

Let me be the first to welcome you to the fair city of Bastok. I trust you will find your life here very rewarding, provided you are willing to put the effort into the city. She always takes care of her own.
If you have not yet done so, I urge you to see one of the Iron Musketeers
about undertaking missions for the Republic of Bastok. We must all do our part to enhance the prosperity of the Republic.

The enclosed ring is enchanted for you only. It will provide a small bonus to your health and quickness, as well as lighting your way in the dark. We hope it will aid you greatly in your travels.
Again, I welcome you to Bastok and wish you the best in our city.

-Invincible Shield, former 3rd division Legatus

I took another long look at the enclosed ring, admiring the detail. It was a small spiral formed of half gold and half silver, with a tiny, silvery stone embedded in each end. I slipped it onto my finger, flexing a bit to ensure it fit right.

I'll admit, I didn't really feel any different with the ring on, but Invincible Shield did say it was only a minor enchantment. Still, I suppose I felt a little more secure for wearing it.

"Missions for the Republic.." I muttered, scanning through the note again. "That's what I was going to do next." I looked up to find Moguri hovering between me and the fireplace, with an anxious look on his face.

"Do you have anything that I could eat for lunch, Moguri?" I asked, suddenly aware again of how hungry I was. "I spent a long morning at the goldsmiths' guild, and I worked up a little bit of an appetite." I laughed, and walked over to the cubby near the door, digging the fire crystals out of my pouch as I walked.

"I have a small sandwich you could eat," he said after a moment. "It's not much, but it should provide you with enough energy to make it through the day."

I nodded my head, turning back to him with a smile. "That sounds great, Moguri," I said encouragingly. "I made a small profit today, but I have to hold onto it until I can make a little more."

"I understand," he said with a nod. "But we're going to need more money to buy food, you know. These pantries don't fill themselves."

"I know," I said with a smile. "Soon we'll have a nice, big grocery budget. Then you can buy whatever you like for dinner." I chuckled, moving towards the lone chair in the room. I was about to dispose of the package wrapping, when something else caught my eye inside.

"What's this?" I wondered aloud, pulling the small piece of paper from the envelope. It was marked 'Adventurers' Coupon'. On the reverse side, it said, 'Redeemable for 50 (fifty) gil from any Bastok gate guard.'

"Well, that's something," I said with a smile. "Not too much, but fifty gil is fifty gil." I chuckled, and slipped the coupon into my pouch. I sat on the chair, turning my head just in time to see Moguri coming towards me, holding a small meat sandwich and a small clay cup of water.

"Here you are," he said, bobbing his head quickly. "Like I said, it's not much, but it should work for a lunch, Kupo?" He was bobbing his whole body nervously, almost like he was waiting for my approval.

"It looks fine," I said, watching him closely. "You don't have to be so nervous around me, Moguri. I'm really an easy Hume to please." I chuckled, and took a bite of the sandwich. While the bread was a little coarse, it still had a very nice flavor. The meat in particular was quite well prepared, sliced thick and juicy.

I finished the small sandwich quickly, cleaning the crumbs off my hands. "That was delicious," I said to Moguri with a smile. "Hit the spot, as they say." I chuckled again, and finished off the cool cup of water. I stood quickly, not wanting to waste any more of the day.

"Any idea when you'll be home again, Master?" asked Moguri, looking at me expectantly. "I can have dinner ready if I only know what time to expect you."

"Moguri," I began, shaking my head slowly, "please call me Aspen. You don't have to keep calling me 'master'. It makes me feel like you're a slave or something." I laughed to try and bring some humour into the situation, thinking perhaps he wouldn't feel so bad about it.

"If..if that's what you want...Aspen," he said, making it sound difficult to get out. It probably was, to be honest. He'd likely spent his entire life referring to people as 'master', and I didn't think it was a habit that would be broken overnight.

"It is," I said firmly, nodding my head. "And thank you for the lunch. I'm off to seek more work." I smiled, walking toward the door and pulling it open. I made sure to grab my staff before I left. You just never know when you might need a good, stout stick.

"Take care, Mas..Aspen," Moguri said, waving his small paw at me. "See you when you get home."

I nodded to him, and pulled the door closed behind me, and began heading for the Mines district. I figured I would find Rashid again and trade this coupon in for some gil, and then ask him for a nice, easy mission.

When I got back to the main gate of the Bastok Mines, Rashid had a line about ten people deep. I gave up on getting to actually talk to him, and walked over to one of the other gate guards, a massive Galka in sturdy metal armor.

"Greetings, adventurer," he boomed out as I drew closer. "It's a lovely afternoon! What can Crying Wind do for you today?"

I was slightly taken aback, but managed to retain my ability to speak.

"My name is Aspen," I said with a smile. "I have this coupon for you, Crying Wind." I pulled the coupon out of my pouch, and held it out to him with a smile.

"Another new adventurer!" he proclaimed, seeming delighted with the notion. "If we keep gaining them at this rate, we'll be the strongest nation in no time! Awash in adventurers!" He let out a deep, booming laugh, and then reached into his pouch to hand me a small sack of gil. "Here you are," he said, "fifty gil, as promised."

"Thank you," I said with a smile, depositing the sack into my own pouch. "I was also told that you offer missions to citizens. Do you have anything available right now?"

"That would actually be Musketeer Rashid's duty," he replied with a fearsome grin. "I can offer you a Republic Signet, though. It can magically keep track of your activities, and lets you take part in the conquest for the Republic." He paused a moment, then added, "You also can trade in your conquest points for free items and equipment. You can't go wrong."

I nodded, saying, "Sounds like a nice thing to have. I'll accept a Signet." I wasn't familiar with the idea behind conquest, but trading in points for free items sounded pretty good.

Crying Wind nodded, and then raised his hand over my head, and muttered a few syllables under his breath. I saw a small nimbus of light appear before me, and then vanish quickly. I felt maybe a little different, like someone was watching me.

"There you are," he said with another grin. "Now you're taking part in the Republic conquest. Make sure to do us proud out there." He laughed, and clapped a hand on my shoulder in an almost-staggering blow.

"Thanks," I said, making a conscious effort not to rub my now-sore shoulder. "So..I'll just go and talk to Musketeer Rashid, then." I turned toward Rashid's post, noticing the line by him had at least shrunk a little bit.

It actually didn't take long before the line moved and I was able to speak with Rashid again.

"Good afternoon, Rashid," I said with a smile. "I'm back to see if you have any small missions available for me. I got a letter from Invincible Shield that convinced me to try and help the Republic."

"So I see," he replied dryly, and took a moment to consult a sheet of paper. "Well, I have one that just requires a short trip into the Zeruhn mines to receive a report from the overseer, Makarim. Once you obtain that, take it to the guard at the President's office, Sir Naji." He paused, and then added, "That would be through the Metalworks district, up on the top floor." He nodded his head, and then asked, "Do you wish to accept this mission?"

I considered a moment, then nodded my head. "I accept this mission, Rashid," I said with another smile. "So..get a report from overseer Makarim in the mines, and bring it to Sir Naji in the Metalworks? That's it?" It seemed simple, but I was determined not to screw it up.

Rashid nodded back, saying, "Exactly. Make sure you come back and see me when you finish. Unfortunately, this job does not carry a gil reward, but it will allow me to issue you assignments that do." He shrugged, and added, "We all have to start somewhere." He laughed, a short, somewhat harsh sound.

"Thank you," I said with another smile. "I'll take care of this right away." I turned, and began heading toward the west, where the mines entrance was located.

"Good luck," called Rashid, and raised a hand to me as I turned back to look. I raised my own hand in reply, and set off to fulfill my first mission for the Republic of Bastok.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Recruit (Spring, 898)

I spent the next couple hours concentrating intensely on copper ingots. I picked it up pretty easily after the test, especially with a little private tutelage from Fatimah.

"Keep the shape of the copper ingot foremost in your mind," she offered after one successful synth. "You were struggling near the end there; you almost lost it."

"Can you read my mind?" I asked jokingly, laughing a little to myself.

"No," she replied with a smirk, "I can see your concentration wavering in the crystal's energy. If it wavers too much, that's when you lose control and your synthesis fails." She shrugged, then added, "You're progressing well, but you just need to maintain a little more focus to minimize any synthesis failures."

I nodded my head, and took a fresh set of materials in hand, vowing silently to keep my concentration solely on this next synth. After a short moment of preparation, I released the crystal's power in the now-familiar way.

"Very nice," came the praise from Fatimah, sounding faint in the roar of the flames. I continued to hold my concentration on the desired final form of a copper ingot, noticing that it actually was getting a lot easier as my confidence grew.

The flames roared higher, culminating in the final burst of energy that could only mean a successful synthesis. I set the very warm ingot aside to cool. In a few moments, I would be able to examine it for any flaws.

"Your concentration was spot on that time," said Fatimah. "You've picked up on this ingot synthesis very quickly, Aspen. Maybe we'll have to challenge you a little bit more." She laughed softly, and picked up the ingot I had just set aside, apparently heedless of the heat.

"Not bad at all," she said after a moment's appraisal. "Your edges are more clearly defined that the last few. Not that it makes much difference in an ingot, but it will make them stack nicely in the storeroom."

I nodded, happy to be getting the praise of the head of the guild. "I think I'm just about done for the day," I said with a smile. "I'm just about out of fire crystals, and I'm starting to get a bit hungry." I looked to the stack of completed ingots, silently trying to figure out how much gil I had earned that day.

"You should have no problem getting a nice lunch with the gil you'll make today," said Fatimah with another soft laugh. "I see eight copper ingots here..I mean, nine," she amended, placing the one she was still holding on top of the stack. "You can sell these to the guild with Teerth, or you can pay for the materials and take them to the auction house." She paused, then added, "Although I'll warn you, the auction house will only accept them singly or in a stack of twelve."

"So if I make three more, I could sell them more easily?" I was intrigued by the idea of selling them on the auction house, but that meant I would have to come up with some gil to pay Teerth for the ores. "Or maybe I'll just sell with Teerth," I added hastily, thinking of my poor, aching supply of gil.

"Most newer recruits do," she said with a laugh. "When you build up a little stash of gil, it becomes easier to just buy the materials and sell them yourself. Or use them for crafting other things."

I nodded, and began picking up the small ingots of copper. "Thank you for all the help today," I said with a smile. "I think I'm beginning to see why some get so addicted to synthesis. It's actually a lot of fun." I laughed, and scooped the last ingot up into the pile.

"As long as you can maintain that attitude, you'll go far," she replied with a lovely smile. "It's these crafters who can't see the wonder in each synth that burn out and turn it into a horrible chore." She shrugged, then added, "Just go slowly, and your skills will increase with time. It's not a race to the top."

I nodded, considering the advice carefully. I wanted to become an accomplished craftsman, this was true. But to try and rush through it would certainly end up taking a lot of the enjoyment out of it. I didn't want this to become just another drudging job.

"Thank you again," I said with a nod toward Fatimah. "I'll try to come back tomorrow and make more ingots. Will I see you then?" I blushed faintly, hoping she wouldn't notice the color in my cheeks.

"If I'm not, you can seek instruction from any of your new colleagues," she offered with a smile. "Wulfnoth is one of my best, as is Ulrike. You can find them in the room across from the shop," she said with a wave of her hand. "And if I'm here, I'll provide some instruction, of course."

I nodded again, and stepped for the shop counter, saying, "Thank you again, Fatimah."

She smirked, replying, "What are you thanking me for? You're the one supplying the talent." She laughed again, and disappeared around the corner towards her desk. I laughed as well, shaking my head as I walked toward the shop counter.

I began placing my ingots on the counter. lining them up for Teerth's inspection. He looked at me, and smiled that fearsome grin of his.

"Fatimah liked the look of you, aye?" he asked, before letting out a deep laugh. "Decided to give you a chance in her guild. And it looks like you ain't done half bad." He laughed again, picking up a few of the ingots for inspection.

"Thank you," I said, mustering a smile. "Fatimah told me I could sell these to the guild through you. Pocket some earnings, so to speak." I laughed, but I think it came out more like a nervous chuckle.

"Indeed," Teerth replied with a smile. "Let's've got nine ingots to sell, minus the cost of the ores.." He trailed off, looking down at a piece of paper which, no doubt, had the current prices on it. "You did lose a couple of ores in the beginning," he said with a smile, "which we'll have to count in there."

"Of course," I said with a returned smile. It didn't look nearly as ferocious as his, though.

"I can give you sixty gil apiece for the ingots," he said after a moment's thought. "It's a slightly better price than normal, but we can use the extra stock..and you could certainly use the extra gil." He laughed again, the booming sound filling the room.

Why did people keep commenting that I needed the gil?

"So after expenses, that comes up hundred and forty-one gil in your favor." He smiled, and reached into a cash drawer on the other side of the counter, and began counting out the gil quickly.

I nodded my head, pleased with the results of a day's labor. I made a mental note to myself to check out how much the ingots would sell for on the auction house, be it individually or as a group of twelve.

"Here you are," Teerth's deep voice interrupted me, as he handed me a small pouch of gil. "You can count it if you want, but we ain't in the habit of cheating our new recruits." He laughed loudly again, and I nodded my head.

"No," I said with a grin, "I trust you. I'll be back another day, Teerth. Thank you for all the help." I turned from the counter, and walked towards the door of the guild.

It wasn't a lot of gil, but it was a fair amount for someone just starting out. I was pretty sure that it wouldn't have even covered the crystals I used, though. Maybe tomorrow I would look into buying the materials myself and selling the ingots on the auction house.

I headed back up the stairs and looped around the fountain, heading toward home. Maybe this afternoon I could see if the gate guards needed any small missions done.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Craft Work (Spring, 898)

I stood there for what felt like a very long time, just looking down at the materials that Fatimah had placed in front of me. I mean, I knew the basics of crystal synthesis inside and out, but it didn't help that I had never worked with fire before.

It also didn't help that I had the head of the goldsmithing guild watching my every move.

"Just relax," Fatimah said, giving me an easy smile. "Keep the image of the end result in your mind, and access the power of the crystal. As long as you keep your concentration on the finished product, the crystal should do all the work for you."

I nodded my head, and turned my gaze over to the ingot sitting on the desk, taking a brief moment to study it closely. When I was satisfied with the mental image, I nodded my head again, stepped closer to the desk, and took the small chunks of red stone in one hand and the fire crystal in the other.

I closed my eyes, letting the image of the copper ingot fill my mind. I felt a sudden rush of heat in my left hand, where the crystal was.

"Now," came the voice of Fatimah, "let the crystal release its power, but slowly. You're the one in charge." She giggled, a soft sound like small, tinkling bells.

I complied mentally, slowly allowing the crystal's power to seep out toward the components. The heat in my left hand began growing in small increments, and I began to feel echoes of that heat from the rocks in my other hand.

"Very nice," offered Fatimah, from what seemed like miles away.

I didn't reply, but tried instead to keep the image of the finished ingot foremost in my mind. It was difficult with the heat of the crystal flaring up in my palm, and I think I began to sweat from the effort.

Suddenly, there was a loud pop from my hand, and the heat in my hands flared once more before dying out. I opened my eyes slowly, and looked down at my hands.

Instead of a bright ingot of copper, I now held only two red rocks and a handful of ashes. The synth was a failure!

"I'm..I'm sorry," I stammered, looking over to Fatimah. I knew that my cheeks were flushed from embarassment. I had just blown a synth in front of a room full of professional goldsmiths.

Fatimah nodded her head, and said, "What's there to be sorry about, Aspen? You had wonderful control over your energy, especially for a first synthesis. Frankly, I would have been more surprised if you had gotten it right on your first try." She giggled again, the sound cheering me up a little.

"I see," I said, trying to recover from my failure. "Why didn't you tell me that from the beginning?"

"If you knew you weren't supposed to succeed, there's no way you would have been successful. It would have been a complete and utter failure." She paused a moment, then added, "You were doing fine up until the very end. You must have let yourself get distracted somehow."

"I suppose," I said with a nod. "So does this mean.." I trailed off, looking to Fatimah for some kind of explanation.

"Of course," she said with a smile. "I would be happy to have you in the goldsmithing guild, Aspen. It seems like you've got a lot of potential."

I smiled, my enthusiasm returning quickly. "Thank you, Fatimah," I said with a short bow of my head. "I would be happy to be the new recruit."

"Well, we can put you to work synthing ingots for a while," she replied. "Once you've gotten comfortable with that, we'll try some other formulae. You can set your own working hours, and we'll pay you based on what you make, subtracting the material costs." She paused, then added, "Of course, if you make something nice and want to sell it on the auction house, you're free to do that. You just have to cover the full material cost."

I nodded, then asked, "What about crystals? Do I have to bring my own, or can I buy them from the guild?" I only had a couple crystals to my name, and didn't think that would get me through many synths.

Fatimah laughed, saying, "You should bring your own. We can't discount the prices at all, so you can usually get a better deal on the auction house. Of course, you could always try to hunt them down yourself outside." She shrugged briefly, and then added, "Was there anything else you needed to know?"

"I don't think so," I said with a smile. "I'm eager to start working. Can I put in any time today?" I was eager to start, if only because my gil pouch was getting a little empty.

"If you like," she replied with a short nod. "Oh, before I forget," she added, opening another drawer in her desk and rummaging around inside. After a moment, she produced a large cluster of glowing red fire crystals, and put them on the desk.

"These are for you," she said with a large smile. "Consider them a congratulatory present. Welcome to the goldsmith guild, Aspen."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Will Work for Gil! (Spring, 898)

I entered Bastok's Market district through a nondescript gate, and proceeded down a somewhat narrow street. I was immediately aware of the number of other people in the confines of the avenue. People were lined up along the sides and against walls, trying to sell their wares out of small bazaars.

It made progress a little slow, mainly because any steps close to any of these merchants was taken as an interest in whatever they were selling. I heard more sales pitches in that short span of road than I think I'd heard in my entire life thus far.

I wove my way carefully through the labyrinth of vendors, carefully shaking my head and looking away whenever one of them addressed me. Eventually, I reached the short flight of stairs leading up to what looked like a main rotunda area. I could see the top of what looked like a pretty massive fountain in the center.

I walked up the stairs and crossed the plaza on the north side, keeping just enough of my gaze off the fountain to avoid the various bazaars and pedestrians in the area.

"Hey, you!" I heard from somewhere off to my right. "You need to make some quick gil?"

I turned toward the voice, seeing a blonde Hume waving me over. I nodded my head, and crossed over to where he was leaning against the wall.

"That's what I thought," he said with a wry smile. "Every one's out to make their fortune these days. But I'm one who delivers. My name is Foss, and I'd like you to hear my proposition."

I nodded again, saying, "I'll listen to your offer, Foss. I'm Aspen" I was cautious, but willing to hear him out. Especially after noting all the new things I would need to furnish my home. If he was honest about it, it might turn out to be a good deal.

"Here's the thing," he said, his voice dropping a bit. "In the time of the crystal war, they used buckets for hauling minerals from the mines to the Metalworks."

I nodded, wondering why I was getting the impromptu history lesson.

"Eventually," he went on, "the buckets would break or warp and become useless. The workers would pitch them over the side, into the gulf." He indicated somewhat westerly with his arm. "Most of them are still there."

I nodded, with him so far. "And what does this have to do with me making gil?"

"Well," he said with a smile, "I'm a..collector of sorts, you could say. And I'm willing to pay for any of these buckets you bring me. I'll give you sixty gil per bucket, with no limit on how many." He nodded his head with a smile, then added, "I'll also tell any of my friends about you if they're offering work."

I considered a brief moment, then nodded my head. "Alright, Foss," I said with a smile, "if I find any of these buckets, I'll trade them to you for sixty gil apiece. Any advice on how I might get ahold of them?"

He chuckled, scratching his chin briefly. "I'll tell you what I do know," he said with a grin. "Sometimes anglers bring them up by mistake when they think they have a massive fish. Must be a pretty amusing sight." He chuckled again, and then added, "Best place to try would be off the edge of Firewater Circle here into the gulf."

"I'll keep that in mind," I said with a nod. "By the way, can you tell me where the Goldsmith guild is?"

He nodded, with another short chuckle. "I guess you really are new here. I know how to pick 'em out." He pointed eastward, saying, "Head back the way you came, and take the smaller staircase to the right. Follow along the aqueduct, and it'll be on the left side."

I nodded with a smile, and said, "Thank you. Until we meet again, Foss."

I began walking back around the edge of the fountain, hearing Foss begin calling other people out of the crowd as I left. I wasn't in any hurry to begin fishing, but at least it could be a source of income if nothing else paid off.

I followed Foss' directions, and found the Goldsmith guild with no trouble at all. It was a low-profile building situated along the stone aqueduct. It was surrounded by some wealthy-looking homes and a shop specializing in musical instruments. I took a moment to look around, and then pushed the door open and went in.

A large Hume man stood behind the counter, and turned toward me as I walked in.

"Welcome to the Bastok Goldsmith's guild," he said with a wide smile. To be honest, it looked a little frightening on him. "You look a bit lost, friend. is there anything I can help you with?"

"I was hoping to speak to someone about employment," I answered with a smile that belied my nervousness. "I might be interested in signing up for the guild."

The man let out a massive, booming laugh, and said, "We always welcome new recruits to our ranks. My name's Teerth, and I run the shop with Visala, here." He waved one large hand to indicate a quiet Hume woman standing beside him. To be honest, Teerth had commanded my attention so much I hadn't even noticed her standing there.

"Pleased to meet you," I said, with a nod toward both of them. "Who would I talk to about possibly securing some employment?"

"That would be Fatimah," came the quiet reply from Visala. "She normally handles the new recruits." She smiled, and added, "She's through the door to your left, probably at her desk with her lenses. Best of luck."

I nodded, saying, "Thank you both. With a little luck, you'll be seeing me again soon."

I entered the right-side room, keeping my eyes open for anyone matching Visala's description. Sure enough, against the wall there was a short Hume woman peering into a lens device. I walked up to her desk, and stood there for a moment, unsure of whether to interrupt or not.

"Well?" she said after I had stood there a while. "What can I do for you? You're obviously new here." She didn't look up from her lens at all while addressing me, which put me off a little bit.

"Umm, hello," I said, mentally berating myself for being so nervous. "My name is Aspen, and I'm interested in signing up for the guild here." I smiled, then added, "I'm new to Bastok, and looking for a way to help make ends meet."

"I see.." Fatimah said, and finally raised her gaze to meet mine. "I'm Fatimah, and I run this place." She paused to look me over, then added, "You certainly do look like you're new in town. Are you signed with any other guilds yet? I'm quite the jealous guildmistress."

"No," I said with a weak smile, "This was my first stop. Your guild's reputation precedes it."

"That's good to hear," she said, finally giving me a smile. She was actually an attractive woman, once she got her face out of her lenses. "Can you do any kind of synthesis at all?"

I nodded, saying, "I used to make arrowheads for my brother back home. I haven't done much beyond that, to be honest. Nothing with metals, yet."

"I see," she said with a nod. I thought maybe I sensed a little disappointment in her tone, but she was a tough woman to read. "I'd be interested in trying you out, Aspen." She reached under her desk, and pulled out a handful of small, reddish rocks and placed them on the desk.

"I'd like you to try and form these into an ingot of copper for me," she said with a smile. She reached into the desk again, and pulled out some glowing fire crystals and a small copper ingot, then added, "You can use these fire crystals, and here's what the finished product should look like."

I looked down at the materials on the desk top, and nodded my head. Inside, I was panicking a little. I'd never done any synthesis with fire before, and had never worked with metals, either. This could end up going really badly for me.

"Well," said Fatimah after a moment, "show us what you've got, Aspen."

Friday, May 1, 2009

Rise & Shine! (Spring, 898)

I awoke the next morning with one firm plan in my head: to find steady work.

Unfortunately, a night in that worn-out cot had left me with a stiff neck like never before. After a little bit of stretching, I felt almost as good as new. I went into the privy, and washed up in a large basin of cool water, then went to my pack to pull out something to wear.

Instead of the slightly rough weave of my tunic, my hand encountered nothing but air. I panicked a little, pushing my hand deeper into the pack to try and find my clothing. Finally, I dumped it out, paying no mind to my personal belongings bouncing everywhere.

No clothing fell out. I didn't even have a pair of slacks to wear.

"Moguri!" I called, trying not to sound angry or panicked. There was no response at first, until I called a few more times. Finally, he appeared, poking his head around the arch of the doorway.

"Good morning, master!" he chirped, sounding in very good spirits this morning. "What can I do for you?"

"Did my clothes?" I asked, trying not to let myself blush. "I can't find them in my pack."

"Of course," he replied, making it sound the most natural think in the world. "As your house-Moogle, it's my duty to manage your wardrobe. I took the liberty of cleaning and organizing all your clothing and some of your things." He paused briefly, then added, "I didn't get to all of it last night, but I'll finish up while you find work today."

It was impossible to stay even a little upset at his earnestness, so I nodded my head and sighed inwardly. "Think you could hand me my blue tunic and black slacks?" I asked, holding my arm out to receive the garments. I heard him flutter off to the other room.

A moment later, I felt the weight of the clothes pressed into my hand. "Thank you," I said, and began dressing myself. When I was presentable, I took a long look at myself in the mirror, determined to make a good impression on any possible employer.

What I saw astounded me. Moguri had done more than clean and hang my clothes; he had somehow found the time to redo all the sloppy stitching and patchwork. My clothing looked better than it had since before I acquired it.

"You found the time to do all this?" I asked incredulously, turning towards Moguri. "But when did you sleep? This had to have taken hours." I fingered the tunic, marvelling at the nearly invisible mending job.

"Kupo!" Moguri nodded in acknowledgement. "I did this last night, while you slept. I bet you didn't know Moogles were so good with needle and thread!" He laughed, a light sound like the tinkling of small bells. "We Moogles don't need a lot of sleep. I'll rest some today while you're gone."

"Thank you," I said quietly, still admiring the newly re-made tunic. "Hopefully, this should help me to find employment." I smiled, and finished straightening my clothes out, making myself look presentable.

"If you're done preening yourself, I made you a sweet cake for breakfast, Kupo! It should give you all the energy you'll need to find work." He produced a plate from who knows where, with an enormous glazed bun on it. My mouth started watering immediately, and I reached into my pouch for my travel utensils.

"It smells delicious," I said, nodding my appreciation. "Thank you so much." I smiled at Moguri, reaching over to take the plate from him. Apparently, having a house-Moogle comes with some special benefits.

The bun was at least as good as it looked, and it wasn't long before I was cleaning the last sticky remnants from my fingers. I pulled the door open, and turned back to Moguri.

"Thanks again," I said with a smile. "I'll be home in a few hours. Try not to have too much fun without me." I chuckled briefly, and Moguri dipped a bit in the air as I pulled the door shut behind me.

I decided to try the Market district first, as that was where the Goldsmiths' guild was located. Also, there were all sorts of merchants in the area. Maybe one of them would be able to help me find some sort of paying work.

"Here we go," I thought, as I took my first steps into Bastok's Markets district.