A flavorful aroma wafted through the air suggesting something tasty was being made. I looked down at my coin purse only to see a single bronze coin. This was hardly any money, even for an orphan boy. I hovered around the food stalls. I wouldn’t mind working in a kitchen. I liked to cook and really needed money at the moment.
I methodically went around to each individual food stall to ask if I could work for them. The words they used in their response varied but the answers they gave me were all the same. From politely telling me to leave to cussing me out and banging their fists, every chef in the city didn’t want me near their kitchen. I only had two stalls left to visit and my hope was dwindling. I hoped Crom had been more successful than me.
I headed for the beaten down stall. The wood had started to rot at the bottom of the poles that held cloth tarp from touching the ground. The tarp was a dull brown color that was successful at dissuading customers from eating at the establishment. If anyone in the city needed some help, it was the people working here. I had envisioned working at a nicer place but I was desperate for a job.
“How can I help you?” grumbled the stern man sitting behind the counter. He was unkempt for a business owner, especially one living in such a large city. A wispy grey beard barely latched onto his chin, it looked as if at any moment it would just float off. Dark circles surrounded his bloodshot eyes. I could tell he hadn’t gotten a proper night rest in a long time.
“I’m looking for a job. I was wondering if you needed any employment for cooking or serving.”
“No. We aren’t taking any new employees at this time. Don’t bother coming back. Even if I needed to hire someone, I don’t think I’d hire you.”
“I’ll do anything. I just need to make enough money to get by.”
I slowly made my way out of the stall.
“WAIT BOY. You said you’d be willing to do anything?”
I turned my head to face the sickly looking stall owner. Excitement quickly replaced the feeling of dread that grew after each rejection.
“I’ve run out of a type of wild mole meat that most in the city find a delicacy. They can be found in the sewers under the city. My names Darran by the way,” said Darran while shaking my hand.
For a split second I thought I predatory grin on Darren’s face. I blinked and it was gone.
“That sounds great. I’ll get your meat by tomorrow night’” I responded nonchalantly. I skipped out the door to tell Crom about my good fortune.
“How did you do?” Crom asked. I knew he saw the smile I was trying so hard to hide.
“I got a job of hunting some small moles for a food stall,” my grin now on full display. I wasn’t even trying to hide my excitement.
“What job did you manage to get? I asked Crom. Even after spending multiple months with him, I had learned very little about him. I had assumed he just couldn’t tell me but after talking with Ragnar it was obvious he was intentionally keeping numerous secrets from me.
“I managed to land a job as an advisor for the West Districts city planner.”
“You got what! How’d you manage that.” I asked. I wouldn’t let him evade this question. I really wanted to know how he had gotten such a high profile job in under a day.
“My magic heavily relies on engineering so I have a lot of experience in the field. I only had to show him some of my skill to get the position.”
I had categorized mages as little more than spellslingers. It surprised me that Crom had other pursuits that other people found useful. Maybe wizards weren’t as obsessive about their magic as I thought.
Crom had been given a modest room as well as five silver in advance from his job. The room felt cramped between the two of us but I had little money of my own.
The orange glow of the sun signified it was time to start my day. I traveled to the large sewer system that spit out anything and everything undesirable from the city. The foul odor wafting from the toxic river caused me to hesitate. I ignored the burning sensation in my nostrils, paving my way into the disgusting abyss.
I faint green glow illuminated the sewers. Rats scrambled along the floor desperately looting a rotting heap of meat. The flies had discovered it first and had already begun decomposing the now paste-like meat. This clearly wasn’t the most pleasant place to work. I had forgotten to ask what I would be paid per mole yesterday so I was naturally worried these vermin would be worthless.
The back of a large bear-like creature was hunched in the distance. I had witnessed many large creatures but nothing like this, nothing this imposing. It was frightening. I had to find some way to work my way around the large furred beast without getting eaten. I had a job I needed to finish.
I crawled along the edge of the sewer floor. I tried to be as quiet but even the smallest sounds echoed throughout the cavern. I hid behind heaps of trash as I encircled the beast. As I peered at it’s face, I could see a weird pink snout protruding from its face.
I shuddered when I realized what the behemoth was. It wasn’t a bear. No, it was my task. Had I known the moles were gigantic I wouldn’t have taken this task.
My small measly knife was more suited to scrape butter than murder giant moles. I looked at my knife and the mole.
I sprinted towards the monster while pointed the tip of my dagger at its face. The giant mole stood motionless as if I wasn’t in front of it. I figured this had to do with the moles poor eyesight.
“RRAAAWWWRRR!” bellowed the beast. It swung its large claws at me. I activated my obsidian shell just before the claws reached my soft defenseless skin. I felt like a rag doll when I was tossed across the room. An audible thunk could be heard when I bounced off the hard stone wall.
The collision with the wall had left me bruised and battered, although I hadn’t broken any bones. Frankly, I was surprised to be alive. I looked over to see the mole doing whatever moles do. Obviously I wasn’t worth any more attention to this giant creature.
I suspected that Darran hadn’t expected me to come out of the sewers alive. With Crom’s backing I could surely find a better job in the city but I wanted to show the miser not to mess with me. I know Crom told me not to use my powers within the city but I was itching to learn them and no one would see me in the sewers. This would be good practice.
I crawled out of the sewers. If anyone had seen me exit, they would have seen a person who had hit rock bottom. My raggedy clothes barely stayed on my scratched up body. I was covered in a goopy sewer liquid that worked like glue. Trash stuck to my body.
Looks of disgust could be seen on the faces of the people that passed by me. I was convinced I saw someone turn over to vomit as my stench carried over to him. I quickly navigated my way back to Crom’s apartment.
I opened the door and found Crom lounging in a chair with a paper and pen in his hand.
“You’re back early.” Crom stated. He sounded curious more than anything.
“Yeah, everything is going well. Caught some moles. I just wanted to clean up before I headed out,” I mumbled.
“Can I borrow a few silver?” I asked. Crom reached into his pouch and pulled out several silver for me.
I stared intently at the small shiny coins in my hands. This was the most money I’d ever had and now it was thrown into my hands as if it was nothing.
When I looked up Crom was already focused on whatever was written on a sheet of paper sitting on top of his modest wooden desk. I shrugged and started my hunt for a fresh pair of clothes.
It didn’t take me long to tidy up. I had bought new clothes and took a much needed shower. My cleanliness would be fleeting but it was nice while it lasted.
If I was going to fight the mole I needed to make some preparations. I couldn’t just rely on my magic to kill the beast.
Rows of stalls stood before me. They were different from the food stallsI had witnessed yesterday. They were larger to accommodate the anvils and furnaces the smiths used to forge weapons.
Even with several silver I wouldn’t be able to buy the best gear. Maybe not even the mediocre gear but I was certain I could find something long and sharp, something that could pierce the moles hide.
I walked into a shop that specializes in forging swords. Not the fancy kind that Lords like but ones more suited for mercenaries. A large burly man smiled at me as I entered the store. This sharply contrasted how the merchants had viewed me. I wasn’t sure whether this smith was just a nice person or my cleanliness made me more likeable.
Warmth exuded from the glowing coals that softened the heavy iron. The rhythmic banging of hammers suggested that this smiths’ apprentices were kept busy while he dealt with customers looking to buy his wears. Weapons filled buckets, hung from the ceiling, and were scattered sporadically on the dry dirt floor. I wondered how often workers accidentally injured themselves by stepping on sharp metal on the ground.
I could tell from his calloused hands and muscle covered arms that smithing was a taxing job. The smith exuded passion so I could tell that he loved shaping iron into tools of destruction. I barely knew anything about this smith but I was certain that we would get along. I hoped he wouldn’t mind the barrage of questions that were going to come his way. I needed to make sure I got the right weapon, one I could use for the foreseeable future.
“I need a sharp weapon that’s very durable. I’m wondering what I can get for this.” I said after promptly dropping every bronze and silver I owned on to his table.
The large man broke out into boisterous laughter.
“You couldn’t afford my apprentice’s weapons with that. I like your ambition though.” smiled the charismatic man.
I slightly frowned. Nothing was going to plan. I made a mental note to ask Crom what I was doing wrong later. At this point, I doubted my misfortune was due to bad luck.
“Is there anyway you’d let me walk away with one of your pieces?”
“No, I’m afraid not. My weapons are my livelihood.”
I rested my head on the counter and groaned. I didn’t understand this city but I could have guessed that was how the smith was going to respond. I was just annoyed by the many roadblocks I had faced in the last couple of days. I could rely on Crom but that didn’t feel good. I never wanted to be a leech.
“I’ll tell you what.” bellowed the big man. “I like you kid. You’re not the brightest but you’ve got passion.”
“I’m smart.” I responded defensively although I didn’t feel all that smart, not after all my plans came to a crashing halt.
“My oldest apprentice broke his hand a few days ago and I can’t work the bellows by myself. I’ll lend you one of my mishaps if you can keep the forge hot all night.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“Don’t thank me. If you don’t bring my sword back the next day, I want you on my bellows for a week to pay me back.”
“That won’t happen,” I promised even though I wasn’t sure if I’d lose it fighting the mole. I didn’t want the smith to rethink his offer.
“My names Obran.” said the mountain of a man. He stuck his hand out and I clasped it. The deal was made.