Today, of all days, was a day for Jeremy Nimbus to be happy about. At the young age of 24, he would become a commissioner for the Magic Council. It was the talk of the small Skylian village that he called home; his father had told him to enjoy a day of fame and glory.
“Son,” his father had said, hand firmly on his progeny’s shoulder, “it’s your right as a wizard to reap the benefits of your line of work. Your mother and I are very proud of you; we both served as soldiers of the Magic Council back in our day, and now it’s your turn to keep the common folk safe and obedient!”
His father’s position of mayor allowed the family to have a small monument constructed in the town square to commemorate this day. His parents were immensely happy with him; Jeremy should’ve been proud as well.
Jeremy couldn’t keep his mind off of the fact that today also marked the six year anniversary of his brother’s disownment and subsequent disappearance. Connor was never able to conjure a magic circle; despite his father’s best efforts to instruct him. His father saw his brother as weak, an embarrassment to the family, and his mother wasn’t much better.
The only keepsake that Jeremy had of his brother was a small locket that their grandfather had left to Connor when he passed. Of course, his brother had disappeared 2 weeks before the will was read, so Jeremy kept it; hoping that he’d one day be able to give it to his brother.
But now it was starting to look like that day may never come.
Connor stared deep into the smoldering embers of his dying campfire as if trying to relight it with sheer willpower. He had the passion, the anger, so why couldn’t he use magic? It had been six long years since he left his northern home at the age of twelve; he survived on the streets of Summer Hold as a thief and beggar. Later, he found a rusty knife in a back alley and decided to become a bounty hunter.
Bounty hunting didn’t pay well if you were working alone, and he often went hungry. As a result, he was gaunt, lean, and short. People rarely hired him because of his fragile looks, which only worsened the issue. He had shaggy light brown hair that flew with the wind on blustery days, and it often took forever to dry out after he traveled long distances in the rain of the south-east.
Still, it was better than staying back home. At least he was given a semblance of respect when he brought the head of a dark wizard to a Magic Council outpost. Ideally, you brought your target back alive, but Connor didn’t believe in mercy. Mercy was for those who deserved it, and dark wizards didn’t deserve his pity. Besides, he couldn’t force a dark wizard to come with him across long distances. Even if he beat them to a bloody pulp first, they’d probably find a way to escape the moment he let his guard down.
Connor sighed, the campfire had gone out during his self-reflection. He needed to keep moving anyways. He’d heard about an unusually high amount of criminal activity in the Bronze Grasslands, and he was planning on making some money off of the dark wizards there. Specifically, off of their heads. Hey, he might even be able to buy a proper weapon after all’s said and done!
He chuckled ruefully at his own naivety. Even if he had the money, you can’t buy a weapon if you have no last name; people assume you’re a criminal. Still, at least he’d finally be able to eat good for once.
Lost in his own ponderings, Connor failed to realize that the ground he was standing on started giving way. By the time he noticed, he was already falling into the maw of the chasm that had opened up beneath him.
When he came to, Connor found himself inside a vast underground tomb. The bricks encasing the subterranean resting ground were old and faded. This place clearly hadn’t been touched in decades; maybe even centuries.
In the center of the tomb lay a sarcophagus carved from marble and dark granite. It had an inscription on the surface that was written in arcane script; a language that Connor couldn’t read. Regardless, there was one other thing on top of the sarcophagus’ lid.
It was an odd-looking longsword that had a circular hole around the size of a small orange carved into the crossguard. As he unsheathed the sword, Connor noticed a series of runes that ran along the flat of the sword’s blade; he assumed they meant something in arcane script, but he wasn’t sure.
Taking a few practice swings, he discovered that the sword was surprisingly well-balanced, and it was also completely free of rust. Almost as if-
“Find what you were looking for amongst the dead?” A low voice sounded from behind him.
Connor swung around to see an old man standing a few meters behind him. The man wore crimson plate mail and a dark red tricorn had. He was also blindfolded.
“Who are you?” Connor asked with his sword raised.
“Heh heh!” the man wheezed, “Right to the point, eh? You remind me of myself when I was younger. To answer your question: my name is Rorik O’Leary, and you’ve stumbled into my tomb.”
“Your… Tomb?” Connor asked, confused. The man in front of him seemed healthy enough, if a little on the old side. Though, now that he was looking at the man, Connor could see a white sheen surrounding him that seemed to shimmer with otherworldly light.
“Aye, you’re speaking to a dead man, lad.” Rorik laughed, “Y’know, this reminds me of an encounter I had when I was alive. Good times…”
“I don’t recognize your accent… where exactly are you from?” Connor asked, perplexed at the ghost standing in front of him.
“I’m from the fifth sea.” Rorik replied, “Though, you probably don’t know what that is, eh? Right! Quick history lesson!”
“A long time ago, Magius didn’t exist. In its place, there were loads of islands on a vast open sea. This sea was split into seven parts, and numerous factions battled for control over the seas. You had the Arcane Government: a semi-corrupted government that longed for peace, and then you had the One Shot Pirates: a group of, well, pirates. There were other factions, but they really don’t matter. I fought pretty much all of them, and that’s how I made my fortune. 'Course, it wasn’t really about the money. It was about: a) opening the AG’s eyes to their own corruption, and b) beating the hell out of the One Shots.” Rorik explained.
“Okay… so why did you come to Magius?”
Rorik took a deep breath despite not having lungs, “Well y’see, there was a great calamity that ravaged the seven seas during my conquest of the second sea. I don’t know what caused it, but the head of the Magic Council probably does; you should ask them sometime! Anyways, islands sank, people died, an ancient undead wizard created a continent on one of the less ravaged parts of the seas, and boom! You’ve got yourself a new living space. 'Course, I never really got to see my eventual goal through. Although, I did finish off the AG while they were still reeling from the calamity, and the One Shots eventually became the Alalean empire; so there wasn’t much of a need for me to deal with them. That may sound like I completed my goals, but my priorities shifted in a different direction towards the end of my life…”
“What was your eventual goal?”
“To bring the world together of course! Lemme tell you, the Castelians and the Alaleans had SO MANY wars after they settled on Magius; you’d think they hated each other or something!” Rorik’s face changed from humorous to somber, “Of course, I failed. I managed to stop the wars, but I just couldn’t keep Magius together, and time eventually forgot my name after I pushed myself too hard and died. A shame my dream was never realized.”
“Hmph, Magius has bigger problems than the blood feud between the Alaleans and Castelians.” Connor said dismissively, “The Magic Council keeps it stable, but it’ll come crashing down like a house of cards soon enough.”
“Oh? Do you want to see the last haven of humanity fall apart around you?” Rorik asked.
“Well… no.” Connor admitted.
“Then why don’t you do something?”
It was Connor’s turn to laugh, “You’re a powerful wizard, right? Surely, you can sense how weak I am. I can’t even form a single magic circle, so how exactly can I, a non-wizard, make a meaningful change?”
“Hm,” Rorik stroked his grey beard, “well, you’re assuming that power comes from magic, and while magic certainly makes attaining power easier, it isn’t the only way. Second, power usually isn’t required if you play your cards right. Thirdly… I may be able to awaken your inner potential.”
Connor’s interest was piqued at that last comment, “Awaken my inner potential?”
Rorik grimaced, “Well… yes. I swore to never do it again after what happened the last time, and… well, let’s just say that times have changed, and I really can’t afford to sit by and watch Magius tear itself apart any longer. So yes, I will awaken your inner strength on the one condition that you use it to make the world a better place.”
Connor thought about this for a moment, “I’ll try, but I’m really only good at bounty hunting.”
“Heh heh! That’s all I ask, and don’t sell yourself short! You’re capable of a lot more than you think.” Rorik held out his hand and a white flame appeared in the center of his palm, “Anyways, this is gonna hurt like hell, so brace yourself!”
“Wait, wha-” Connor was cut off as the white flame shot into his chest.
Pain racked his body as the flame burned his heart and soul. It felt like small tunnels of flame were being burned through his flesh and bones. Connor opened his mouth to scream, but all that came out was a jet of white fire.
“Don’t worry!” Rorik said, “This is supposed to happen… I think. It’s been awhile, but I’m sure the flame knows what its doing. Oh! I know how I can make it better!”
Rorik pulled out a small notebook, seemingly unaware or disinterested in Connor’s suffering, “Ah, here it is! So this rune goes there… and then you cross that line… got it!”
The ghostly figure began drawing some sort of symbol in the air. With each stroke of his finger Connor felt a sharp burning pain cut through his chest, as if someone was carving a symbol onto his heart with a hot knife. The pain began to intensify with each passing moment; every beat of his heart sent wave of searing pain throughout every fiber of his being.
“Oh… that’s not good.” Rorik muttered, clearly seeing something wrong with the procedure, “I’m sure I can fix it though.”
If Connor could speak, he would let loose a flurry of passionate insults that would make a sailor blush and a sailor’s mother ashamed of a sailor, but since he couldn’t, he had to settle with falling to his hands and knees as his vision swam and darkened.
“Uh oh. Looks like you’re loosing consciousness!” Connor could faintly make out Rorik’s words over the blood roaring in his ears, “Actually, that might be a-”
The rest of the ghost’s sentence trailed off as Connor’s body shut itself down to spare him from the agony of his potential being forcibly awoken by an ancient conqueror of the seven seas.
The hill that overlooked Culumnus town was Jeremy’s favourite place to sit and relax. After a long afternoon of celebration, he finally got a chance to sit by himself and enjoy the frigid air of the tundra in peace.
Jeremy found comfort in cold climates, and he knew that Connor had shared a love for the frigid atmosphere when he was still around. Though, Jeremy could always stay out longer than his brother since he could call upon his fire magic to warm himself up.
Sighing, Jeremy took a swig of his favourite whiskey. Usually he’d prepare a drink with ice, frost pear juice, and a warm fire at home, but today was a drink-from-the-bottle day.
He’d reached the peak of what he could achieve. Jeremy had hit his limit a long time ago, and he doubted that there was any hidden power left in him. It was unlikely that he’d climb any further in the ranks of the Magic Council, and it was equally unlikely that a commissioner would ever be sent out on fieldwork. He supposed that an office job in a major city would pay well, but he had also grown to love fieldwork. Nothing beat the feeling of tracking down criminals and bringing them to justice.
Jeremy took another swig.
Another reason he liked fieldwork so much was that it allowed him to travel throughout Magius. He hoped that he’d be able to find his brother on his travels, but he never did, and now he probably wouldn’t have the chance ever again.
He sighed as this fact began to sink in. This was one of his brother’s favourite spots to sit and relax, so it was fitting that his final goodbye would be here. A last drink in his brother’s name before Jeremy was stuck behind an office desk for the rest of his life.
Jeremy began pouring a generous amount of whiskey onto the frigid earth, “Drink up, brother.” he said solemnly, “I’ll see you in the next life.”
Connor awoke in the darkness of the tomb an unknown amount of time later. His chest hurt like hell, and he struggled to get on his feet. When he was finally up and about, he noticed a small piece of paper laying on the top of Rorik’s sarcophagus. Picking it up, he realized that it was a note. The piece of paper read:
Sorry about that! I got a bit carried away there… but hey! You’re alive! More than I can say for myself. Anyways, you should have an easier time with your bounty hunting business from now on. I shifted a few things around in your system and added a few things of my own. You probably won’t notice the difference for awhile, but rest assured, you’ll have a much easier time in the long run now.
P.S: You can keep the sword. You’ll never be able to use its full power without killing yourself, but a sword’s a sword!
“Shifted a few… the hell is this guy on?” Connor muttered to himself, “Well, at least he gave me a proper weapon. That’s worth his ramblings by itself.”
The note was right, Connor didn’t feel any stronger. In fact, he actually felt weaker due to the aching in his chest. Regardless, he was still planning on making some money off of the criminals in the Bronze Grasslands, and this sword would drastically increase his profits.
As he climbed his way out of the tomb, Connor found himself smiling for the first time in years. He had a big payday coming up, a fancy new weapon, and, for the first time in his life, a path to walk.