In all possible worlds, throughout all ages that ever existed, cats had always been natural predators, and Ruzzella was no exception.
She was of a very unique breed: catfolk. While her quadruped cousins were mere animals, catfolk were people, and as far as Ruzzella was concerned, the absolute pinnacle of what people could be. She could jump higher than anyone she knew, climb better than anyone she knew, and her reflexes allowed her to catch swimming fish by hand. (The claws she had on her hands also helped, but Ruzzella was quite certain that her reflexes did all the work.)
Today, though, she wasn't hunting for fish. She was hunting for different prey. Larger, stronger and much more dangerous prey. Prey that walked on two legs, like herself.
The prey she had in mind was human, almost yet not quite a grown man, and for the last half hour, that man had carried haybale after haybale into the barn where Ruzzella had been hiding. (Ruzzella had prided herself on the idea of lying in wait right here, on the upper floor of the barn, where no one would ever be expecting her.) She was hoping that she knew her prey well enough to be able to predict his actions. It couldn't be much longer until he dropped his guard, and that was when her time would come."
And if not... well, then she would have to strike anyway. (Patience had never been Ruzzella's greatest strength.)
However, it looked as though she wouldn't have to be hasty today. Just as Ruzzella felt her impatience growing, her target dropped what seemed to be the last haybale on his schedule, wiped some sweat off his forehead and sat down on the very haybale he had carried into the barn. Ruzzella smiled. Just as she had expected. He would sit down and take a rest. Perfect. Sitting targets were easy targets.
The young man on the haybale sat very still for a moment, and Ruzzella took that opportunity to get into the right position to pounce. Her furry hands and feet with the leathery palms made no sound on the wood. Just as she was about to prepare for jumping, the young man downstairs suddenly sat up and put his hand into his pocket. Ruzzella froze. Had he heard her?
Out of his pocket, he pulled... A flute. Just a small, wooden flute.
Up on her perch, Ruzzella had to concentrate in order to not let out a relieved sigh. So he hadn't heard her. Good. And even better, his attention would be quite occupied in the next few minutes, too. As she watched, the man put the flute to his lips and started playing a few notes. It wasn't a melody Ruzzella recognized, but then again, she didn't like music much. The high notes made her ears hurt, and a small flute like that made very high notes.
Ruzzella's ears twitched, which made her even more nervous. "Time to end this," she hissed.
She hadn't really wanted to say that out aloud, but the words had left her mouth before she had realized it, and the very same moment, she knew that she had made a mistake. The flute music stopped.
And cursing herself for her lack of concentration, Ruzzella pounced on the man before he could turn and see what that voice above him had been.
She crashed into him from behind, the momentum from her jump making them both roll on the floor of the barn and into one of the stacked haybale. The impact made the man give off a stifled shout. Ruzzella had wrapped her arms around her prey when she pounced on him, and now she was trying to do the same with her legs to secure a solid hold strong enough to bite his neck, as that was how cats killed their prey.
"Ha, gotcha!" she howled in triumph.
The young man, however, didn't make it easy for her. Even though the attack must have surprised him, when they both bumped into the haybale, he was already half on his feet again. "Get off me," he growled, grabbed Ruzzella by her shoulders and threw her over his head, into the hay.
Cats always landed on their feet, and so did Ruzzella. As she spun around to face her opponent, she hissed in anger.
"You!" shouted the man. "I should have known!"
Ruzzella bared her teeth in the most vicious smile she could muster. "Seyran! Today, you're going down!"
"I don't think so."
Ruzzella could have jumped Seyran again from her position, but she knew better than to try that when he was aware of her. Seyran could move uncannily fast, that much she had already found out, and if she was to beat him, she had to try a different approach. With a quick swipe of her claws, she cut one of the ropes that held the haybales together and started swinging it in her hand. Not much of a weapon, but she knew how to handle whips, and that gave her a nice advantage over an unarmed man. Seyran seemed to realize that as well, and his eyes started darting across the barn as he searched for a weapon too.
Ruzzella wasn't going to let him find one. With a forward flip, she quickly closed the distance between them and whipped the rope at Seyran. At worst, she would be giving him some painful bruises. At best, she would be able to entangle one of his arms or legs, and get another chance of getting up close.
Seyran was no fool, though, and as Ruzzella moved closer, he rolled to the side - towards the only object in reach which he could consider a weapon. As he jumped to his feet again, he grabbed that object.
Ruzzella stood surprised for a second, then laughed. “A stool?" she said, "you're going to fight me with a stool?"
Seyran nodded calmly. "Just watch me, " he answered. He took the stool by one of its legs and wedged it under his arm so that its three feet pointed towards Ruzzella.
The catfolk warrior grinned. "You have no idea how foolish you look."
"And you have no idea how foolish I'll make you look," Seyran retorted. "Come on, try and attack me!"
No one needed to tell that to Ruzzella twice.
With a quick cartwheel, she rolled to Seyran's side, lashing out with her makeshift rope-whip as she came to her feet again. Seyran parried the strike with the stool, closing in quickly. Ruzzella had no intention of getting poked by the legs of the stool, so she jumped backward, whipping at Seyran again, and again, and again. Her third strike hit, catching him in the side.
Ruzzella laughed in triumph. "First blood! Now you..."
But before she could finish her sentence, Ruzzella felt the barn wall in her back, and she knew she had made a grave mistake; She had allowed Seyran to press her into a position where she could no longer dodge from his attacks.
Seyran smiled coldly. "Now it's my turn!"
Without waiting any further, he thrust the stool towards Ruzzella, not in a wide arc but swiftly and forcefully. Had the blow connected, it would have knocked the wind out of her. But Ruzzella was catfolk, and she prided herself on her reflexes, and it was those reflexes that saved her as she dropped to the ground, pressed her feet against the wall and leaped forward, close to the ground and between Seyran's legs.
And she would have made it through his legs had he not - with one of his uncannily fast movements - grabbed her tail with his left hand.
"Yeow!" Ruzzella spun around, scratching at Seyran's legs, and Seyran knew better than to keep his grip on her tail. Instead, he hopped over her swiping claws, turned in mid-air and tried to grab her as he landed.
It almost worked. Ruzzella wasn't able to dodge, but she did manage to pull her feet to her body and get them between her and Seyran. She tried kicking him away, but Seyran twist to the side, and her feet slid off.
"Nyaaaargh!" she howled. "Hold still!"
"You'd like that," Seyran panted, "wouldn't you?"
The two rolled over the floor of the barn, wrestling, kicking and (in Ruzzella's case) clawing at one another, but neither could get a clear advantage. Until, all of a sudden, Seyran seemed to move like lightning. Then he was in Ruzzella's back, her arms caught in his, and he brought her to the ground with a knee in her back.
Ruzzella squirmed in pain. "Gnaaaar! Ow! Release me!"
"You have enough?" Seyran watched her closely, expecting a bluff.
"Ow!" Ruzzella turned as much as she could to look at him. "Yes! Yes! Let me go!"
Seyran immediately released his hold, and Ruzzella jumped to her feet, turning towards him. "That was cheating!" she complained.
"Cheating?" Seyran seemed surprised. "What do you mean?"
"Don't act dumb! You know there's only one way you can be faster than me."
"Wha-" Seyran's eyes widened. "Did I use my speed-up again?"
"Damn right you did!" Ruzzella snarled in anger. "I thought we said we wouldn't use our elementals!"
"I mean, had I used my fire-fur, this fight would have been over in a second, wouldn't it?"
Seyran looked to the side. "I'm sorry, Ruzzy," he said, "I didn't mean to. I really didn't mean to. It just, well, happened."
"Hrmph." Ruzzella wasn't convinced.
"Let's call it a draw, then, okay?"
At least that sounded less angry than her last snort. Seyran hoped to be able to work with that. "And really," he continued, "your initial ambush was fantastic! I had no idea you were even there until you suddenly landed on me!"
Ruzzella's stance began to soften. "Yeah, well..."
"And using a rope as a whip? Neat idea! I really have to keep that in mind."
Seyran's enthusiastic words quickly melted away the anger and frustration Ruzzella had felt upon her defeat. But it was always like that. She could never hold a grudge at him for more than a few minutes.
"You were pretty good too", she admitted. "Your moves aren't exactly what I'd call elegant, but even without your elemental, you're almost as agile as I am."
"That's because I'm getting plenty of exercise thanks to you." Seyran grinned wryly. "I'd train with the militia as you do, but you know Gyorgo. He'd never allow me to join before my rites of adulthood."
Ruzzella rolled her eyes. "Well, he's an idiot," she said. "Anyone can see you're warrior material. I'm glad Gort has never had any objections about letting me train with the militia."
"Gort's a dwarf," Seyran reminded her. "Their entire culture is based on becoming tough as nails. Of course he wants his daughter to become the best warrior she can. My old man, though..."
Ruzzella looked up. "Ah, speaking of which!"
"Gyorgo sent me to find you."
"Eh, what?" Seyran tilted his head to the side. "He told you to attack me?"
"Heh, you wish." Ruzzella had to laugh. "He wanted me to tell you to return straight to him when you're done with your chores here."
"Oh? Did he say why?"
Ruzzella shook her head. "I suppose he wants to talk to you?"
"Hm. " Seyran scratched his head. "Well then, in that case, I'd better..."
Seyran was just about to walk towards the exit of the barn when he stopped and turned back.
"Mh?" Ruzzella looked at him and raised an eyebrow. "You'd better...?"
"I'd better clean up first."
He then sighed and started picking up the straws, the tools that were lying all around the barn and everything else that had been thrown around during his fight with Ruzzella.
And Ruzzella, feeling more than a little guilty, helped him.
As Ruzzella put her boots back on, Seyran watched her, still wondering if he could have beaten her without accidentally summoning his elemental. Being catfolk, Ruzzella's movements were more graceful than those of any human, and when she was barefooted, she could move in almost perfect silence. Even though her body didn't look much different from that of a human young woman, she could twist and contort it very much like the cats whose ears and tails she shared. That, paired with a keen sense of balance and lightning-quick reflexes, made her a dangerous enemy. Seyran felt more than glad that he could call her a friend.
While tying up the last ribbon on her left boot, Ruzzella looked up at Seyran with her amber eyes, and Seyran suddenly felt the urge to look away, as though he had been staring too intensely.
"Something on my nose?" Ruzzella asked.
"Because you keep looking at it."
"Wha-" Seyran quickly looked away, feeling a little foolish. "No, nothing."
"Aha," grinned Ruzzella.
"I was just wondering how long it would take you to finally put those boots on."
Ruzzella raised an eyebrow. "Are you saying I'm slow, Seyran?"
Now it was Seyran's turn to grin."Heh. Slower than me today, Ruzzella."
"Because you cheated!" Ruzzella complained. "And don't call me by that name!"
"Why not, Ruzzella?"
"You know I hate it when you do that!"
"Oh, but don't you deserve it, Ruzzella?" Seyran continued teasing her. "I mean, you did lose the fight, didn't you, Ruzzella?"
"Call me Ruzzella again," she warned him, "only once again, and..."
"And you can just start cleaning up the barn again. Alone."
As she was standing before him with crossed arms, Seyran could see Ruzzella's ears had folded back. That was a pretty sure sign she was getting angry - seriously angry.
That wasn't what Seyran had intended. "Sorry, Ruzzy," he apologized. "I couldn't resist."
"Grm." Ruzzella definitely wasn't convinced.
"It's just..." What would improve her mood? Maybe this, Seyran thought. "You're usually better than me in pretty much everything."
"Not when you're wielding a weapon."
"Maybe," Seyran nodded, "but not when we just brawl. It- well, it just felt good to beat you at least once."
Ruzzella still didn't look very happy. "Grm."
Seyran held out one of his hands towards Ruzzella, who was still standing there with her arms crossed, looking to the side. But her ears slowly returned to their upright position, and eventually, she sighed, smiled and took Seyran's hand.
"You're really making it hard to hold a grudge against you. Friends."
Slightly nudging her in the shoulder with his other fist, Seyran turned towards the village. "Well, let's see what Gyorgo wants from me," he suggested.
Ruzzella nodded. "Yeah, let's go."
Vael wasn't a large village, but it was a rich one, and it showed. Most of the houses were built from stone, or at least had stone foundations, and almost all of them had a cellar. Many has multiple floors, some even featured small towers, and they showed the loving care their owners gave them. Even though the village was located in one of the rainier parts of Moentes (as the surrounding lush green hills proved), the buildings were devoid of the moss, mold or fungus one might expect.
A large fountain stood in the center of Vael, built centuries ago by, as the stories went, the dwarves who had founded the first settlement here. However, whether the stories were true or not, no one could really say. Of all the dwarves who allegedly founded the village, only one remained, and that was Gort, Ruzzella's adoptive father. And he didn't even live in the village but had his smithy at a farm north of it.
As Seyran and Ruzzella walked towards Vael, they saw someone move in the hills a little off to the side.
Ruzzella squinted her eyes. "Is that... Emrald?"
"Looks like him," Seyran agreed.
"What is he doing? Doesn't look like farmwork to me."
"Let's ask him!"
Seyran and Ruzzella left the path and walked over to the hulking figure in the distance. As they had suspected, it was Emrald, who was just picking up a large boulder from the ground.
Seyran raised his hand and waved towards his friend. "Hey, Emrald!"
Emrald turned towards the two and smiled. He would have waved back to them, but the boulders under his arms made that impossible. "Seyran. Ruzzy. What you doin' here?"
"What are you doing here?" Ruzzella asked. "I thought the sons of Izzrah were paying you to do some farm work."
Emrald shrugged as well as he could. "Well, one could say this here IS farm work," he explained.
"Or at least, it will be. As soon as I've pulled all the rocks from the ground, Izzrah's going to set up a new plot of farmland here."
"Aah," said Seyran. "That makes sense."
He meant it. Emrald was a goliath - a hulking, blue-skinned giant from a far-away country - and what would have been hard labor for most men was little more than a trifle to him. Each of the boulders he was currently carrying under his arms would have been too heavy for both Seyran and Ruzzella together to even move, let alone pick them up, but Emrald was perfectly suited to that task.
Emrald's eyes shifted between Seyran and Ruzzella. "So, are you going to the festival this year?"
"The festival?" Ruzzella tilted her head to the side.
"In Porta. It's only another week until it begins."
"Oh, that!" Ruzzella nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, I'm coming. You too?"
"I'd like to," Emrald said. "I hope to earn enough here so that I can afford it. Do you already have the money?"
"I'm saving every coin the militia pays me," Ruzzella grinned, "so yeah, I have the money."
Seyran didn't say anything but the look on his face spoke volumes. It was Emrald who noticed it first.
"My old man's never going to let me go," Seyran said in the most unenthusiastic voice he could muster.
"He'll definitely find another reason to keep me at home during that time." Anger started creeping into his voice. "He already did that last year. And the year before that."
"Oh, come on, Seyran," Ruzzella tried to cheer him up. "You're sixteen now. He's GOT to let you go!"
"He didn't even let me join the militia last year."
"Gyorgo is a careful man," Emrald mused, "and the council elder. If something happened to you..."
"Eiliya's on the council too," Ruzzella interrupted him, "and she's the closest thing to a mother you have left. But she doesn't mind YOU going, does she?"
Seyran knew his argument wasn't exactly fair. True, Emrald had been allowed to visit the festival two years ago, when he had only been fourteen, and both Ruzzella and Seyran had envied him for that. But even back then, Emrald was already a hulking giant standing six foot six, and there was little chance that someone would start a drunken brawl with him. Furthermore, between the three of them, Emrald had the serenest, gentlest personality, without Ruzzella's excitability and none of Seyran's competitive spirit. He was much less likely to get into trouble than his two friends.
It was this personality that stopped him from calling Seyran out now. "I'm certain Eiliya doesn't mind me going to the festival only because she always needs me to run some errands there," he said. "I mean, those exotic herbs she needs don't grow around here, and the festival attracts traders from far-away lands, and..."
"And Eiliya is less of a grouch than Gyorgo," stated Ruzzella quite matter-of-fact.
Emrald's disagreement was clearly visible on his face. "Gyorgo's not a grouch..."
"But he's an old man who worries too much," Seyran finished his sentence. "At least Eiliya is friendly to all."
"Gyorgo has never been unfriendly towards me," Emrald defended him.
Ruzzella crossed her arms, and her tail started twitching. "You hardly have anything to do with him," she said. "You should have heard him when I asked whether Seyran could join the militia!"
Emrald looked to the side. "Eiliya wouldn't like it if I joined the militia either."
"Well, Eiliya's an elf," Seyran reminded him, "and a druid, too. Everyone knows that elves hate violence, and Eiliya's even got to patch up people who get caught in the middle of it. Of course she wouldn't want you to join the militia. She doesn't want to have to patch you up one day."
"And you," said Emrald, "you think that it is different with Gyorgo and you?"
Seyran said nothing. Gyorgo wanted no harm to come to him; Emrald was right in that respect. And gruff as he might have spoken towards Ruzzella, Gyorgo had never shown anything but kindness for Seyran.
"Speaking of Gyorgo," Ruzzella remembered, "Seyran was just on his way to him."
Emrald looked at her. "Oh?"
"Gyorgo told me to fetch him because he wanted to talk to him."
"Ah, see?" Emrald smiled at Seyran. "Maybe it IS because of the festival."
Seyran rolled his eyes. "I doubt that."
"Well, no matter what it is," Ruzzella insisted, "I think you should at least ask him again. Or have you already?"
"My old main said I would be allowed to go after my Trial of Adulthood, and not a day earlier."
"But", said Emrald, "that means you only have to wait four more years at the most. Gyorgo cannot deny it to you once you're twenty. If he doesn't allow you to take it earlier."
Seyran knew Gyorgo too well to believe that. "Yeah. As if."
A moment of awkward silence lingered between the three friends until Ruzzella decided to break it. "In any case," she said, "we should be going. If we don't get back to Vael soon, Gyorgo will probably blame me for it."
"Oh. I didn't want that." Emrald looked to the ground. "Sorry I held you two up."
"Don't apologize, Emrald," Seyran said with a smile. "It was us who came to see you."
"Yeah, but it was I who mentioned the festival and..."
"It's okay. I'll get over it."
Seyran smiled. Emrald was really something - always taking the blame for other people's faults, always trying to avoid conflict, and still being one of the most sincere and honest people Seyran knew.
Ruzzella was already leaving. "See you, Emrald!"
"Goodbye, Ruzzy! Goodbye, Seyran!"
Vael was close now, and Seyran decided to cover the last few hundred yards of the distance running. No reason for him to take an eternity to respond to one of Gyorgo's summons, so he could at least give a bit of an effort now. Ruzzella easily matched his pace, and as they ran side by side, the green hills flew past them, and the first houses of the village appeared before them. It was early afternoon; the sun was still high in the sky, and the shadows were rather short. Hardly anyone was out in the street at that time; the market had already ended at noon, and people would not be returning from the fields or the mines until evening.
Seyran lived together with Gyorgo in one of the largest houses in Vael, right next to the ancient fountain. The building also served as the village council's meeting hall, whenever they gathered. Ruzzella and Seyran stopped before that house.
"You want to come in?" asked Seyran.
"Nah, I think I'll pass." Ruzzella looked towards the other side of the town. "Militia training has already begun, and I don't want to miss too much."
Seyran nodded. "Alright. Catch you later, then."
"Not if I catch you first."
"Heh. You wish."
Ruzzella winked at Seyran and turned to leave. Seyran watched her for another moment and then opened the door.
The house he and Gyorgo lived in was as opulent from the inside as it was from the outside. Gyorgo must have spent a good part of his life gathering the riches that decorated even the entrance hall. A large carpet of foreign manufacture covered the floor in plushy thickness, and paintings of far-away places and unknown people in noble attire hung from the walls. The room was lit by a chandelier, but instead of candles, bright glowing crystals provided the illumination. They were quite expensive and usually had to be replaced every few months, but Gyorgo somehow knew how to restore their light whenever it faded. Maybe all wizards had the skill to do that, but since Gyorgo was the only wizard Seyran had ever known, he could only guess.
Deeper inside the house, Gyorgo's voice could be heard. "Seyran? Is that you?"
From an adjacent room, Gyorgo entered the hall, dressed in his working robes. As often, he was holding his most favorite pipe in his hand, though it seemed to have gone out. "Good that you're here," he said. "You took quite long."
"Yeah, sorry about that," Seyran apologized. "I wasn't done with my chores when Ruzzy came. There was more to do than I thought."
"Hm hm." With his free hand, Gyorgo stroked his greying beard. There wasn't much hair left on his head, but his beard seemed to grow even thicker now that he had gone almost bald from age.
"So what do you need me for?" Seyran asked after a moment of silence had passed.
"I mean, why did you send for me?"
"Oh, yes, right, I did, didn't I?"
Gyorgo's eyes went to the side for a little while. Apparently, he had trouble remembering the reason for summoning Seyran. Recently, that happened more and more often However, Seyran knew that it wouldn't take him long to get himself together, and so it was this time.
"Ah yes, right," Gyorgo nodded. "This morning, I had a meeting with Gort and Eiliya."
"A council meeting?" Seyran's eyes widened in surprise. "You should have said! I would have helped you with..."
"It wasn't an official council meeting," Gyorgo explained. "Or rather, it was an official meeting, but none that concerned many people."
"It mostly concerned you."
That was unusual, in more than one way. The council meetings were usually rather large events for which the house had to be prepared properly. Normally, it was Seyran's task to help with that, and he always knew a few days beforehand so that he didn't make other arrangements, like helping with farm work like today. Also, council meetings were usually announced throughout Vael so that everybody who had an issue could come and present it before the council. There were rarely less than twenty people who had such an issue.
But this time, things seemed to have been different.
"You see, Seyran," explained Gyorgo, "you've recently made a bit of a name for yourself. You're a good and diligent worker, reliable and friendly, and most people speak well of you."
"I also can no longer overlook that all the work you do has made you strong and healthy of body. I still remember you as a boy of four, fragile as a little lark, but you've certainly grown since then. And sergeant-at-arms Mylock keeps telling me that apparently, the first time you held a glaive, you already used it more skillfully than most recruits after a year. So you do have great talent."
Seyran smiled and blushed a little. "Well..."
"And finally,"Gyorgo continued, "you're one of only three young people in all of Vael who have bonded with an elemental. That is highly unusual - most people with the affinity only learn to control their powers in much later years, and some never do. This is why I have decided to discuss your matter with the council, and we've come to an agreement.
"You're letting me join the militia?" Seyran's eyes widened in anticipation.
Seyran's heart sank. After Gyorgo's words, he thought the old man would have finally understood that the militia was the perfect place for him, but if it wasn't that...
"You're ready for your Trial of Adulthood," Gyorgo said instead.
"I- I am?"
"Indeed you are. I'm proud of you."
Immediately, Seyran's foul mood turned into joy. The Trial of Adulthood - not in four years when Gyorgo could no longer deny it to him but right now, when he himself felt he was ready for it...
"I'm going to have my Trial..."
"And so are your friends Emrald and Ruzzella," Gyorgo continued. "Emrald already shows all the character and dignity a full member of our village should have, and Ruzzella is the prodigy of the militia, so she definitely deserves a chance as well."
"The reason why I had to hold council with Gort and Eiliya is that I thought it would be a good idea to send the three of you together. And eventually, they agreed."
Seyran nodded. It wasn't unusual for young people of the same age to go on a Trial of Adulthood together - but unless someone was twenty, it was for the parents to decide the circumstances under which the Trial was held.
Gyorgo smiled as he saw the joy on Seyran's face. "Gort was immediately in it on the idea, but Eiliya was a little hesitant at first. She said that Emrald was too sweet and good-natured to be sent on his Trial already."
"Heh." Seyran had to chuckle.
"But considering that he already does the work of four adults, it wouldn't have been fair to deny him that right any longer. Eiliya eventually saw that as well."
Seyran waited for a reaction, but Gyorgo didn't seem to understand.
"So what's our Trial going to be, gramps?"
"Ah." Gyorgo smiled. "Of course you're curious about that, aren't you, Seyran?"
"Absolutely! I mean - it's the Trial of Adulthood! When I've passed it, I'm finally of age!"
"Which means you can finally visit the Porta festival, right?"
"Um..." Seyran was a little taken by surprise by that reply. He hadn't expected his old man to know his feelings about the festival. Gyorgo, though, seemed to look right through him.
"You've been nagging me to allow you to the festival for the last two years now. I may be old, but I do remember that."
"So here's a promise," Gyorgo said. "If you return from your Trial in time, I will take you to the festival myself, and cover all expenses you may have."
"How does that sound?"
Seyran was brimming with enthusiasm now. "Great! I mean- wow. Just... wow."
Gyorgo smiled. He seemed to be more than happy to see his adopted son that excited.
"So what is it I need to do?" Seyran wanted to know. "What's my Trial of Adulthood going to be?"
"Do you know the old temple in the Darkwoods?" Gyorgo asked.
Seyran nodded. "I've never been there, but I've heard of it. Around three days from here, right?"
"Indeed. No one worships the gods it was built to any longer, but we also don't want to risk their wrath, so twice a year, we send someone to deliver a small offering there."
"Ah, so that's what you need me for?" Seyran felt a little confused. "But I thought we had already made that offering a moon ago..."
"Indeed we have," Gyorgo nodded, "and thus, that is not what your task will be. No, the people who made the offering brought back news, and it is this news that you shall act upon."
"I... I don't understand..."
Seyran remembered vaguely that when the people Vael had sent to the temple a month ago had returned, they had immediately asked to speak to the council. But it hadn't seemed to have been a very important matter since the council had not made any declarations afterwards, and the people hadn't talked to anyone else either, so it had been almost forgotten already.
Gyorgo saw that he needed to elaborate a little further. "The people who went to the temple reported seeing a reptile inside. A large one."
"Apparently, the beast has wandered in sometime during the last half year, and it seems to have made its home inside the temple."
"So - it could be a threat to Vael?" Seyran asked with a look of concern on his face.
"It's not large enough to be a threat to the entire village," Gyorgo said, "but it could threaten the next people we send there to make our offerings. This is why we need to take action. Seyran, we're sending you, Ruzzella and Emrald to deal with that beast."
Seyran was back to amazement. "Wow..."
"Go to the temple, see whether it is still there, and if it is, hunt it down."
"Alright!" Seyran clenched his right fist. "What can you tell me about it?"
"It's a large reptile, black in color, and apparently very territorial. The people we sent said it was about the size of a horse."
Seyran nodded. That would have made it a medium-sized saurian. Nothing three strong hunters couldn't take down.
"It is reported to have a large horn on its head", Gyorgo continued. "As proof of your deed, bring back that horn."
"Understood!" Kill a saurian, return its horn. A great quest for a Trial of Adulthood, Seyran thought.
Gyorgo looked at his adopted son. "So, you're willing to do this?"
"Are you kidding?" Seyran laughed. "Of course I am! This is going to be great! And I'm really going to do this together with Ruzzy and Emrald?"
"Woo-hoo!" Seyran pumped his fist. "Man, I've GOT to tell them! They will be thrilled!"
He wanted to turn and leave immediately, but Gyorgo loudly cleared his throat. "No need to go, Seyran. Gort and Eiliya will tell them."
"You will want to pack up all you need for your journey. You're leaving tomorrow, at dawn." Gyorgo smiled. "And you don't even have a weapon of your own yet."
"So what do you say, shall we go for a little shopping together?"
Seyran felt quite stupid. "You're right, gramps," he agreed. "We should do that."
Gyorgo patted Seyran on the shoulder and went to fetch his moneybag.