Chapter Cover

AUX 1 : Tessa Vivuk - Character Sheet (End of Ch. 30)

AUX 2 : Tolan Morndelen - Character Sheet (End of Ch. 30)

AUX 3 : H̵̱̎͌͜e̶̘̥͙͑̀̈́̈́i̷̺̤̊̋͘ ̸͍͍̠̲͂͛̃̀Z̷̳̑͋̏͘h̴̠͖͚͆̑̔͐a̶̪͎͎͐́͠ó̵̢̒͌ ̸̫̤̮͊̉͂̊-̴͖̿͝ ̵̢͚̌̒̈́͜C̶̢͇̞̣̾́h̸̖̖̦̪̑̔̉̋ã̶͇̲̯̣̽r̶͕̄̍͜ä̴͚͕͓́̾̃̎c̵̣͎͕̈́̔͐͘ͅẗ̸̤́e̶̦̝͓͇̿r̷̦̝̯̐ ̵̠̝͎̬́S̴͕̘̱̃̀̾h̴̛̗̬͜͝e̵̝̞̓̈́̽͛ę̵̞̪̆̈t̵̮͕̦̓

AUX 4 : T̶̬͍̳̳̫͐ơ̵̧̨̜͒͛̒r̸̢͖̥̤̝̟̂̈́͊́̓͝g̷͉̺̹̫͉̥͆̊̓̅r̴̛̺̪̳͖̔̎̿̕͜á̴̖̫ķ̵̨̮͎͎̼͛̈́̀̌̔̈́ ̵̼̱̙͑̑̈́͝͝-̸͓̝͌͝ ̶̨̢͕̦̞̩̿C̶̡̰̗̫̰͙̉͝h̶̛͍͉̞̘͍̣͊̃ä̴̪̍̊͒̂r̵̡̛̻̹̫͈̳̀̐̆̚͝à̶̖̺c̶̤̜͙̗̤̬̊͋̈ṭ̷̣̎̃̎̇͛͝è̴͚̮͜ͅͅr̶͖̦̣̺̝̪͗ ̴͇̳̗̳̾̔S̴̙̞̻͇͘ḥ̵̝͉̘͌́͛̿͋e̷̢̦̰̼̍e̴̩̓͌̑̔t̵̻̗͈͍̩̉̈́

Chapter 0 : The Hero and the Dragon

Chapter 1 : Dreams From Propaganda

Chapter 2 : Running Blind

Chapter 3 : Unmet Requisites

Chapter 4 : Not a Coincidence

Chapter 5 : Kneel to Fate

Chapter 6 : Saved and Sabotaged

Chapter 7 : Apprentice of Bastards

Chapter 8 : New Lessons to be Learned

Chapter 9 : Drilling in the Basics

Chapter 10 : Fanatic Extermination Preparation

Chapter 11 : A Few Moments Before Chaos

Chapter 12 : Never Wanted This

Chapter 13 : A Little Bit of Green

Chapter 14 : The Resistance

Chapter 15 : In Through the Front Door

Chapter 16 : Conversation Between Villains

Chapter 17 : Seeing What's to Come

Chapter 18 : Spark Amongst Flames

Chapter 19 : Everything Starts with a Big Bang

Chapter 20 : The Gun Goes Off

Chapter 21 : Miniboss Meeting

Chapter 22 : The Starting Light

Chapter 23 : A Convenient Opportunity

Chapter 24 : Unapologetically Breaking a Promise

Chapter 25 : No Rest for the Wicked

Chapter 26 : But It Was Me...

Chapter 27 : Second Verse Same as the First

Chapter 28 : Ritual

Chapter 29 : That Lesson Paid Off

Chapter 30 : 30. The End of the First Story

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Chapter No2:Running Blind

Tessa groaned into her pillow as sunlight hit her in the face through the gaps in the blinds covering her window. Forced to wake up, she sat up in bed. The wooden bed frame creaking and complaining underneath her. Yawning, she scratched the side of her head while finding a fresh mess of tangles in her long, blonde hair. Smacking her lips and frowning, she stretched her arms over her head. Time to get up, I guess, she thought. Moving the blanket covering her legs to the side, she got out of bed. Yawning again, she opened her eyes and looked for any signs of her roommate. The bed opposite to hers was a mess of clothes, blankets, pillows, bow strings, leather cord, rarely opened books, and a half-eaten plate of fruit, nuts, and jerky. Looks like Sylvie’s already up and about. Tessa went to her dresser and grabbed some fresh undergarments and checked how she looked in a full-length mirror that was built into her closet’s door. Got a bit to fix before the ceremony. Might as well start now. Entering her room’s bathroom and shutting the door behind her, Tessa began freshening up for the day. Today’s the day I graduate from Unity Academy, and then I begin my journey to become a Hero. It’s been ten years since the wyverns attacked Tessa’s hometown, Solis. And in that time, she’s pursued her dream of being a Hero as actively as she can. After things had settled in Solis following the attack, the young girl’s curiosity about Heroes was insatiable. She investigated everything from legends to documented records relating to Heroes, even learning what she could about the different classes there were. Tessa held favoritism towards the magic swordsman who saved her and how he fought, but didn’t know what her natural talents were. Soon enough, Aenir came. And on the first Cliroeday, Ral and Lucette took her to Solis’s temple dedicated to the Great Six. It was there that several clerics of the Great Six gauged everything from her physical abilities to her magical ones. This is due to how, in this world, the gods bless everyone with a random talent that aligns with one of the principal powers of the world. Someone who has a pull towards the element of fire, but doesn’t enjoy fighting, may become a chef or blacksmith. Another blessed with great strength may start as a soldier and end as a lumberjack or artist. While not all blessings are equal, the gods desired to give even the frailest a chance at surviving. And how each person uses their gifts is up to them. After the clerics completed their examinations, they shared the results with Tessa and her parents. Unfortunately, Tessa did not receive any physical gifts from the Great Six. It was discouraging to learn she wouldn’t truly be able to be like the Hero who’d saved her, but then the clerics told her of her magical capabilities. She has a pull towards the weak pull towards the water and earth elements, but it would require significant time and training to use either effectively. Things didn’t look good for Tessa as the results deemed her unfit to wield both weapons and magic. However, there was one last hope that Tessa was holding out on. And before hearing it, she prayed that at least this would be in her favor. Thankfully, it was. The clerics revealed Tessa had a strong connection with the element of light, and great potential as a fellow cleric of the Great Six. Tessa was ecstatic at hearing this, as clerics often were healers and supporters, meaning she could become just like the lady who healed the injured when the wyverns attacked. With a way forward available to her, she poured every ounce of energy into becoming a cleric of the Great Six. Specifically Aeon, leader of the Great Six and god of light and justice. Through her faith in him, Tessa would become a hero. But as a child, she had much to learn and practice. So if there was ever a waking moment she didn’t spend helping her mother around the house, Tessa would run to the temple and develop her talent. Focusing her studies on healing and support in hopes she could become a Hero who helps others regardless of who they are. Even resolving herself to never anyone, no matter what. She’d be a Hero who always finds a way for everyone to survive, enemy or not. As the years passed and Tessa continued her training, Ral and Lucette weren’t exactly ecstatic about Tessa wanting to be a Hero. Instead, they wished for her to live a more peaceful life, but they could never dissuade her from chasing her dreamsthe dream she was chasing. Giving in to their daughter’s wishes, they would do everything they could to support her. Eventually, Tessa had firmly established a foundation for using miracles. But knowing she would need more than just the basics, she set her sights on Unity Academy. A school where many past Heroes started their journeys. Studying and practicing as much as she could to pass, she took the exam and passed and was admitted as an honor student. Tessas had to leave home to attend, but the excitement of taking that one step closer to being a Hero helped even out having to say goodbye to her parents for now. During her attendance, Tessa trained even harder and built up from the foundation she’d made. She deepened her understanding of miracles, along with her faith in Aeon. But there was one snag she constantly hit. Tessa would regularly be up late at night studying and practicing her miracles until only a few hours before dawn, often to the annoyance of her roommate. She would spend countless hours practicing every miracle she learned in class. But even with this, her growth was slow when compared with her peers. Tessa was never top of her class, nor ever yielded impressive results, but was always consistent. While her miracles were always just above average in power, their reliability and effectiveness was difficult for anyone else to mimic. Even when exhausted, they would last considerably longer than most of her peers’. Her classmates saw little value in her, but that didn’t prevent others from viewing Tessa differently. Sylvie saw her lack of variability and dedication to the basics as incredible, and the two became close friends. Soon after that, a small circle of friends gathered around her. But now it was time to graduate. She’d studied, practiced, and learned everything she could here. Safely becoming stronger behind the academy’s walls, and it was time to move on to the next step of her journey. Tessa already had everything planned out in her head. After the graduation ceremony, she would hop aboard a merchant caravan headed to the Hero’s Guild Headquarters in FaethunFaethun; the location of the Heroes’ Guild main headquarters. The only real thing she couldn’t findfigure out prior to paying for the ride was how she could never find any solid documentation on how to join the Heroes’ Guild. When she wasn’t studying or practicing miracles, relaxing with her friends, or sleeping, Tessa would try to learn more about the Heroes’ Guild. The names of Heroes were easy to find, along with their legends, but anything more and she’d hit a brick wall. And in the time leading up to graduation, there were murmurs speculating who might become a Hero. Usually revolving around those at the top of each division and class. It did sting a bit that Tessa never heard her name, nor could she argue against the rumors. But she would become a Hero, no matter what it tookakes. Maybe she’d even get some of them to eat their own words. Opening the bathroom door and stepping out, Tessa opened her closet and took out a box. Placing it on her bedside, she opened it and took out a formal gown and vestments. It’s finally time to leave. The memories she made over the past couple of years sprinted through her head. She’d learned much here, but it was time to stop being a student and become a Hero. Then there was a knock at the door. It was Sylvie. “You good to go? I don’t want to have to drag you out of bed one last time!” “I-I’m awake Sylvie, just getting ready!” There was a long pause before Sylvie responded. “You better be, or I’m pinching your cheeks until they’re red again. I’ll be waiting in the lobby.” “Okay! I’ll be down in a minute!” Sylvie’s footsteps as she walked away were soft. Muted by a carpet in the hallway. Tessa took in a deep breath and let it go. It was sinking in that this was the end of her time here. The last time she’d be able to call this place her home. The last time she’d be sharing a room with Sylvie like this. But time waits for no one. Slipping on her robe and vestments, she felt weirdly regal. They had a warm and silky feel. The robe was solid white, shimmering in the sunlight, and had green trim with Aeon’s symbol emblazoned on her chest, shoulders, and back. The vestments were much the same, only with tassels hanging from the ends. The last thing in the box was a crown made of metal olive leaves painted gold. Adorning her head with it, she then grabbed her staff and took one last look in the mirror. She took in how she looked, wanting to make this a memory she’d never forget. And even if she wasn’t the most special student in the school, right now she felt special just looking at herself. One day, thought Tessa, I’ll be just as great as the ones at the top today. I swear it. Moving to the door, Tessa turned the handle and left. Descending the stairs one flight at a time, she met with Sylvie in the lobby on the ground floor. “Sorry I took so long.” “That’s alright, Tess.” Sylvie's ears are long and elven, and her skin is the color of almonds. Her hair is caramel colored and cut to be medium-long with side-swept bangs, and accessorized with a red flower with white and red feathers tucked behind it. Her eyes are the color of ripe strawberries, complementing her red ceremonial robes. The red robes have white trim and the symbol for the rangers embroidered in the same way Aeon’s is on Tessa’s robes. In her left hand is an intricate longbow made from birch, hand carved and sent by her family. “Ready to go?” Sylvie was always eager to get things over with, but Tessa enjoyed her impatient nature. “Yes. Let’s go.” * * * * * Tessa and Sylvie ran full speed from their dorm to the Academy’s great hall while most of the other students were already with their divisions and about to enter the building. But as they get closer, Tessa quickly runs out of steam. She stumbles and stops with both hands on her knees, gasping for air. Meanwhile Sylvie is running in place beside her, not even breaking a sweat. Sylvie chuckles, “Oh, come on now, Tess! We didn’t run that far, you know.” “Why are . . . you such . . . an exercise nut?” “Well, I’m going to go meet up with the other rangers.” Sylvie ran off, calling to Tessa from over her shoulder. “See you after the ceremony, ‘kay?” Tessa stammered, “Y-yeah . . .o-okay.” Finally catching her breath, Tessa met up with the other clerics. To an outsider, they all looked roughly the same. The main visible difference being the different symbols of the Great Six on their robes. Aeon was by far the most represented, but there were also clerics of Myrin, Firlorn, and Hassir. A few even represented Valgor. However, the time for fraternizing was over and it was time to graduate. Merging into four lines, the individual classes formed their divisions outside the doors to the great hall. Paladins and clerics formed the first division. Fighters, rangers, and rogues made up the second division. Wizards made up the third. And scholar students organized into the fourth. And with the students ready to go, the doors to the great hall creaked open. Shoulder to shoulder, the four lines marched into the building before disseminating and sitting in pews to form rows upon rows of students. Eventually finding her own seat, Tessa sometimes forgot just how many students there were, as graduates quickly filled the room to the brim. Once every student was inside the great hall, the doors closed. Near immediately, the students chatted amongst themselves and it turned from quiet to raucous in just a couple of seconds. Taking the stage, the Academy’s Headmistress raised her hands. And with the clenching of her fists, the windows’ curtains drew themselves and the students fell silent in the darkness. The headmistress cleared her throat. “Good morning to you all.” The students responded in kind. “And good morning to you, Headmistress.” She chuckled, “Ever the polite ones, aren’t you? But today is the day that must end. For after you receive your diplomas, you will never again be a student of Unity Academy. I’m sure you’ve all made memories and learned everything you could, but now we say our goodbyes and go our separate ways. This is the end of one journey and the beginning of the next. Perhaps some of you may even be the next brilliant scholar or prestigious Hero in the papers. Only time will tell. Now! Let us begin!” All the students roared with cheer as the Headmistress stepped back into the darkness while a separate member of the staff continued the ceremony for her. “When you hear your name called, please come to the stage.” And thus, the graduation began. Four at a time, they called students up to the stage. Going down the list alphabetically by last name, they called forth one student from every division at a time. All four students would receive their diplomas and a handshake from the respective head professor of their division before turning to the crowd and bowing before leaving. Tessa knew it would be awhile, her last name being “Vivuk”, but eventually it was her turn. “Tessa Vivuk!” Getting up, she made her way through the pews and walked to the main stage. Her heart racing with each step she took up the stairs. Tessa wished her parents could be here, but they were both caught in the middle of their work. They sent letters of congratulation, however, but the next time she’d meet them was when she held her head high as a fully fledged Hero. Now standing before the Miracle division’s head professor, she graciously accepted her diploma. She didn’t expect him to compliment her, though. “You’ve worked hard Tessa. I hope to one day see your name in the papers as a new Hero.” He outstretched his hand and looked her in the eyes. It was rare that he complimented anyone, including the top students, but she accepted the handshake. Her hand gently grasped his . “Th-thank you, Professor. I-I’ll do my best!” With a smile, he dismissed her to bow to the crowd and be on her way. The clapping was nearly deafening, only just barely pierced by Sylvie calling out Tessa’s name from the seating, and Tessa returned to her place amongst the other clerics. Leaning back against the wood, she let out a sigh of relief now that it was all over. No more tests to evaluate her abilities. No more late night studying just to keep up with everyone else. There’d never again be a need to do some last minute cramming. And as it settled in, Tessa stared up at the great hall’s ceiling. The names of the students fading into a haze of words as she relaxed. But then something happened that she didn’t expect. The Headmistress returned to the stage after the last of the students received their diplomas. “Thank you all for your patience, and congratulations to all of you! But things aren’t over just yet.” A murmur floated about the students, and Tessa snapped out of her daze as no one seemed to know what was going on. What else is there, Headmistress? “Among you are those that have performed above and beyond the expectations we set in place since the first day of your first year. And we believe those students deserve to be recognized on their last day here at Unity Academy. When you hear your name called, please return to the stage to receive a personal gift from me.” Every student had their head on a swivel, talking in hushed voices while trying to figure out what the Headmistress was up to. Some theorized about what the gift would be, while others pondered who would receive it. All the while, Tessa wondered if she was one of the special ones. The Head Professor did compliment me, but does that mean I’m one of the Headmistress’s chosen? I don’t think I did anything praiseworthy, did I? Or were they watching students in secret? Then, did I do something impressive and never realize it? Maybe . . . And while everyone was still trying to figure things out, the Headmistress started calling names. “Amber Ashton!” What voices were still chittering fell silent as the aforementioned student stood up. “Y-yes!” Amber stood at attention and then rushed to the stage as a spotlight fell upon her. She was a rather average looking student of the War division. Only carrying a two-handed longsword on her back. “Congratulations, child. Now, hold out your sword.” Uncertain of what would happen, Amber cautiously drew her sword and held it out to the Headmistress with both hands. The Headmistress’s eyes started glowing, turning a vibrant red, as she held her hands out over the sword. Next, her fingertips turned the same color, and she glided them over Amber’s weapon. Inscribing runes into it as flames burst from each one completed. Once the Headmistress’s fingers reached the tip of the sword, the magic faded from her fingers and eyes as she addressed Amber again. “Now, why don’t you show your new gift to your peers.” The Headmistress moved slightly to the side of the stage, leaving Amber in the center. “O-okay, if you say so, Headmistress . . .” Amber took a fighting stance, holding her sword in both hands, and swung it as if she were at the Academy’s training grounds. And while she seemed to get caught up in the motions, the students watched wide-eyed as waves of fire and gouts of flame extended from the sword. And after Amber finished her demonstration, the Headmistress returned to center stage. “As you can see, I have enchanted your classmate’s weapon as a final parting gift. This is due in part to how your teachers have all kept a close eye on you. In Ms. Ashton's case, she has shown greater skill and prowess with her weapon than any other in her class. Now let us continue!” After Amber left the stage, the Headmistress called students one at a time to return to the stage. However, everyone in the audience was a silent but buzzing hive of speculation. Staying quiet, everyone was now desperately speculating who would get a gift from the Headmistress as it could genuinely be anyone. In class, Amber wasn’t much more than a quiet kid who didn’t like standing out. But if the teachers kept their eyes on everyone in secret, who else was a needle in this haystack? It also didn’t help that the Headmistress wasn’t keeping to any kind of order. She called students seemingly at random, keeping everyone on their toes. Because of this, Tessa’s mind raced as she thought over every bit of training and studying she could remember. Hoping there was at least one thing that would allow her to be given one of the Headmistress’s enchantments. I’ve worked so hard, so there has to be something. Right? Maybe all my studying or practice got noticed? Come on, Tessa. Think! There has to be something. Any enchantment from the Headmistress would make being a Hero so much easier. Maybe I’ll get some kind of boon to my healing or something. But as Tessa recalled her days at school, combing over everything she could think of, the Headmistress called for the last student. “And for the last gift…” The students sat at the edge of their seats, everyone praying it was one of them. Each one secretly hoping it wasn’t the person next to them, just him or herself. No one else. “Sylvie Greenwood!” Heads turned in the audience as everyone looked for Sylvie. However, upon hearing her name, it startled her awake. Hitting her head on the wooden back of the pew, she looked around to figure out what was going on. She’d only planned on sleeping through the rest of the ceremony. The Headmistress addressed Sylvie directly. “Sylvie Greenwood, please come to the stage one more time if you wouldn’t mind.” “U-um, yes . . . ma’am.” Sylvie walked to the stage, ignorant of the people in the audience staring jealous daggers into her back. And thus, the Headmistress awarded the last of the enchantments. “For your accomplishment of being the best ranger in your entire division, I would like for you to hold out your bow to receive your reward.” Sylvie did as she was told, but looked confused the entire time. She watched as the Headmistress carved the runes into her bow, then took hold of it and examined it for any changes to the exterior other than the runes. Even giving it a demonstration at the Headmistress’s bequest, Sylvie still didn’t seem to understand the magnitude of the Headmistress’s gift. “Th-thank you. Headmistress” “You are welcome, child.” Sylvie gave a gratuitous bow to the Headmistress and ran to her place amongst the other rangers. However, Tessa wished she could’ve been on that stage. She wished the Headmistress had given her an enchantment. I wish it was me and not Sylvie. Tessa shook her head at the thought of being jealous of Sylvie, even hitting both of her cheeks with the palms of her hands to snap her out of it. It stung deep within her, but it was worse to be envious of her best friend. I shouldn’t dwell on today, regardless of what happens. Today is the start of my journey as a Hero. And if the positions were reversed, Sylvie would congratulate me until the sun set. Maybe, some day, I’ll receive a treasure for my hard work as a Hero from a royal family and be gifted something that dwarfs Sylvie’s. Yeah. That’s what’ll happen! And maybe that’ll even be the day I become a Hero among Heroes! With the last of the gifts given, the Headmistress addressed the students one more time. “Now, you’ve all worked long and hard to get here. Many of you braved challenges you had never faced before, but now it is time that all of us here must say goodbye. Goodbye to not just Unity Academy, but to your teachers, clubs, homes, and more that you found here. You are no longer students of Unity Academy, and can never again be students here. It is time to close the book, and open the next. Never forget what you learned here and use your knowledge as a foundation to start your next journey with your best foot forward!” The Headmistress paused for a moment as the students all stood up from the wooden benches. “Now! You of the 97th graduating class of Unity Academy. Dismissed!” The large wooden doors that guarded the entrance to the Great Hall swung outward as a fresh breeze of morning air flowed in to greet the recent graduates. And remembering what today is, they rushed outside to greet their new beginning with overwhelming happiness. Cheering loudly. Leaving with the rush of graduates, Tessa wandered about Unity Academy’s large plaza looking for Sylvie. She said to meet up after the ceremony, so where is she? Sylvie called out to Tessa. “Hey! Tess! Over here!” Sylvie stood beside the fountain at the plaza’s center. One hand on her hip and the other raised high in the air to signal her location. Spotting her, Tessa ran over to Sylvie. But for taking so long, Sylvie teased Tessa. “You sure took your time, didn’t ya’ Tessa?” “Sorry, it was difficult to find you with everyone rushing out at the same time.” “Don’t worry about it. At least now we can finally leave behind our student lives!” Sylvie stretched her back, the enchanted bow on her back as she popped a couple of joints. Tessa couldn’t help staring at it, her envy leaking into her mind slightly. Why did Sylvie get her bow enchanted? She mostly lazed around the room and was often late to her classes. I spent countless nights staying up well past dawn practicing my miracles and still attended every class. Why did she get rewarded for barely trying?! Snapping out of her envious thoughts, Tessa took a breath in and dismissed them. This was a day of celebration, and she is a cleric of Aeon. She should be happy for Sylvie, not jealous. And as Tessa’s thoughts distracted her, Sylvie was smiling from ear to ear; just glad to be done. “No more having to worry about tests or quizzes or memorizing abstract formulas that won’t mean anything out in the field.” Tessa agreed, “That’s true, but if we fail out in the real world, the consequences could be worse than a failing grade.” “Ugh, don’t remind me.” Sylvie never was one for studying and examinations. “Speaking of the real world. What are you gonna do now, Tessa? You headed for a temple of Aeon or somethin’?” “No, I’ve had enough studying to last a lifetime. I’m actually hopping aboard one of the merchant caravans headed to Faethun to join the Heroes’ Guild.” “The ‘Heroes’ Guild’ eh?” Sylvie rubbed her chin out of concern, but let it go. “Well then! I’ll be waitin’ to hear about your adventures with bated breath!” “What about you, Sylvie? With your skills, you could attend officer school and easily become a high-ranking ranger.” “Nah, I’m headed back to Venris. Gotta check in with my family first and then gonna join the Silverleaves. Always wanted to be a scout for the elvish homelands.” The two smiled and laughed to themselves. They were going very different ways, so now was the time to enjoy each other’s company as best they could. “Oi! What be ye two talkin’ aboot o’er there?!” A Scholar division student ran over to Tessa and Sylvie. He was a dwarf with a fully grown beard and braids bound with metal. The smell of soot and iron was all over him and immediately noticeable once he got within a meter. Sylvie smirked, “Looks like Mr. Banter got his diploma too.” “It’s Banfer! Banfer! Nae ‘Banter’ ye chil’ si’ed chicke’ nugget!.” “What was that, you boulder roller?!” Sylvie lifted the dwarf up into the air by the collar. “Good morning to you Aavron.” “An’ good morn ta ye Tessa.” Aavron smiled at Tessa before turning his attention back to Sylvie “Now let me down ye growth stunted saplin’!” Tessa laughed to herself as Aavron and Sylvie went at each other. The two never got alonge, but Tessa kept them from going off the deep end. “I think he’s had enough for today Sylvie, think you could let him off the hook? It is our last day at school.” Sylvie shot an annoyed look at Tessa. Then looked disgusted. And finally, she resigned to Tessa’s rationality and let Aavron go. “Fine . . .” Aavron hit the ground with a heavy thud, but he hopped back up to his feet as if nothing had happened and dusted himself off. “Anyway, what were ye two talkin’ aboot jus’ now?” Tessa explained, “Sylvie was telling me about how she was going to join the Silverleaves back in Venris.” “Heh, di’n’t know they let small children become soldiers in Venris. Maybe I shou’ tell me niece.” Sylvie blushed angrily from ear to ear while Aavron laughed heartily. “I’ve told you I’m still growing, dammit! Forty-seven is young for an elf, ya’ damned metal mutt!” Aavron scoffed, “Wha’e’er ye say, seedlin’.” Sylvie huffed, “And Tessa was reminding me of how she’s going to be a Hero once she leaves.” “A Hero, eh? I’ll be keepin’ me ears open ta hear any good news aboot ye Tessa, bein’ a Hero ain’ easy.” Sylvie poked fun at Tessa. “Might even get to see her as the centerpiece of some fancy parade. Would be fun to brag to my fellow Leaves how I know the great Saint Tessa.” Tessa blushed from ear to ear. “Oh, stop you two. I’ll make sure to always remember my friends from Unity Academy. Maybe if I make it high enough, I’ll be able to invite you both over to celebrate!” Sylvie got a cocky grin and wrapped her arm around the back of Tessa’s neck. Then poked Tessa’s face teasingly. “You better!” The three of them laughed to themselves for a while, but then the Academy’s clock chimed off. Seeing the time, Tessa panicked as the merchant caravan she paid for would have to depart soon. "Oh crap! I gotta go!” “‘En get going! Nae need to waste more time wit us!” “For once, I agree with picky here. Get a move on or I’m gonna have to send you some screaming mandrakes!” Tessa ran to the dorm room to pick up some things, looking over her shoulder and waving back at her friends. “I’ll write! To both of you!” “Good luck wit’ tha Heroes’ Guild Tessa!” “You better be a Hero when we meet next, Tess!” Switching her attention to the caravan, Tessa ran to her shared room and grabbed her satchel and money. Then, making her way to the merchants, she climbed aboard the first available wagon. A few other students from the Academy were also boarding, but it wasn’t long before a whistle blew. The wooden wheels creaked and the horses’ hooves tacked on the cobblestone road. Tessa stared out of the back of the wagon until she couldn’t even see the last bits of the Academy. Slowly, it all disappeared behind stone walls. And eventually, all Tessa could see were the spires reaching up into the sky. But soon enough, she couldn’t even see those as grassy hills slowly hid everything behind them. Tessa stretched a bit before taking off her crown of leaves and letting her staff rest on the floor of the wagon. She was both happy and sad as she left, thoughts of how she wouldn’t be able to see Sylvie or Aavron for a long time settled in and brought tears to her eyes. Brushing them away, as this was only “goodbye” for now, she thought about how she was on her way to becoming a Hero. Knowing it’ll be a little while before she arrives in Faethun, Tessa takes a nap to catch-up on her sleep. Thinking the entire time about how long it would take to become a Hero. Her mind dreaming up all kinds of ways she might have to prove herself as she drifted off to sleep. No matter what it took, she would join the Heroes’ Guild. One way or another. It wouldn’t take too long to be a Hero . . . Would it?