Connor watched the flames of his campfire dance as he took a moment to rest in a nearby cave. It was pouring rain outside. The Bronze Grasslands weren’t watered by the gods too much, but when the dry plains were blessed with a watery downfall it was a sight to behold. What was once a vast, arid savanna of wide open fields and sweltering plateaus was now a cloudy, cold, and beautiful biome filled with small floods and large puddles.
The temperature didn’t bother him much. In fact, it comforted him somewhat. Connor’s body wasn’t used to extreme heat, but he found that the chilling rain was much like the baleful blizzards of his homeland.
It had been quite awhile since Connor had last thought about Culumnus town; he’d always wanted to visit his homeland again. Frost pears were in season right now, and it had been so long since he’d last had one of those delectable tundra treats. Maybe he’d take a small vacation after he was done exploiting the criminals in the grasslands; he certainly had the coin to take a few weeks off.
As Connor had predicted, the huge crime rate increase was the result of a large concentration of criminals seeking refuge in the Bronze Grasslands, and though he still got paid less for bringing back corpses, the sheer number of bounties that he was cashing in day-to-day had made him enough money to live comfortably for the next few weeks, and that was only in three days of work. He planned to work until the crime rate fell back to normal levels, and then he’d take a vacation.
Of course, a large part of his success had to be attributed to the sword that Rorik gave him. Though he still didn’t know what the runes on the blade meant, he understood that it was a lethal weapon, and it drastically increased Connor’s performance in combat.
However, there was still one thing that bothered him about the blade. Upon giving him the sword, Rorik had mentioned that Connor wouldn’t be able to use its ‘full power’ without killing himself. Was the sword magical? Perhaps he’d have someone examine the weapon and find out… but that was for another time. For now, he just needed to focus on getting some sleep. No sense in bounty hunting while deprived of a good night’s rest.
Jeremy took a deep breath as he walked up the steps leading to his new workplace. The complex was built on top of a massive subterranean prison that held some of the more dangerous convicts while they awaited execution. It’s location in the Saveran Wastes made it perfect as both a military institution and a research lab; where soldiers were trained and scientists performed hazardous experiments.
The desert heat was hell on Jeremy. His body was accustomed to the colder climates of the north, not the sweltering heat of central Magius. Still, he imagined that it’d be a bit cooler inside.
The stairs lead to a massive marble courtyard. Jeremy was supposed to meet somebody here, but he didn’t see anyone waiting for him; the only people he saw were trainees being instructed on the basics of magic channeling. New recruits were often sent to a military facility in order to be properly educated on how to conjure magic circles. Most were already taught by family members or private instructors, but it was always important for recruits to have their methods examined to ensure that their technique wasn’t horrendously inefficient.
Jeremy sighed as he sat down on a nearby bench and watched the recruits train. Their technique was fine, but he could see room for improvement. A lot of them put far too much power into their channeling; a mistake that would tire them out quickly in the heat of combat. Still, Jeremy had seen worse.
“Excuse me?” A voice sounded from behind him, “Are you Jeremy Nimbus?”
Jeremy turned to see a female soldier walking towards him. Though she wore the uniform of a captain, he noted that she wore a long metal armbrace that completely covered her left arm. An unusual addition to the enchanted cloth that most captains wore.
“Yes ma’am.” Jeremy replied as he got up from the bench, “Would you happen to be the captain in charge of my orientation?”
“Yep,” she said, “the name’s Rose. I recently got promoted, and they’re giving my office to you, so I’ll show you around before I head out on my first mission.”
“Sounds good.” Jeremy replied, “Where are we going first?”
“Well… You’ve already seen the training yard, the gallows are located past that archway there,” She said, gesturing to the massive opening along the north wall of the training area, “the captains’ barracks are to the west, and the soldiers’ barracks are to the east. The steps you came up from are, obviously, to the south.”
“Captains’ barracks and soldiers’ barracks… Where do the commissioner quarters reside?” Jeremy inquired.
“Ah, right. For all intents and purposes, commissioners will stay in the captain’s barracks. However, there is a sublevel below the captains’ area where the commissioners are housed.” Rose explained, “The door to the west leads to a lounge with stairs leading up to the captains’ area and stairs leading down to the commissioners’ area, but your office is located past the gallows. Follow me, I’ll take you there.”
As Jeremy walked through the gallows, he noticed that many of the hanging platforms had a thick layer of dust on them. It seemed that nobody had been hanged here for awhile. There were three large doors on the western, eastern, and northern walls leading inside the complex proper. Rose lead him through the eastern door.
“This is the entrance to the commissioners’ office space,” she explained, “laboratories are through the door to the west, and the administration offices are through the door to the north. There are two administrators who are in charge of managing the complex: Major Daniel, and Doctor Gem. Both are considered to be majors by rank. Though Gem isn’t technically part of the military, you are expected to treat her as such regardless. Is that clear?”
“Good, you have no idea how many new recruits make that mistake… Your office number is #45. I’ll show you the way.” She said, opening the door and motioning for Jeremy to follow.
The inside of the complex was remarkably cooler than outside. The hallway floors were decorated with a plain green carpet and the walls of the compound were lined with stained glass windows that depicted the symbols of various magics; the windows appeared to shine with otherworldly light when the scorching desert sun refracted through the coloured glass. It was a sight to behold, assuming the observer was interested in such things.
“As a commissioner, you are responsible for managing small forces of scouts and soldiers.” Rose explained as they walked through the hallways, “You are also responsible for collecting the scouts’ reports and summarizing them for the majors. As you know, all teams of scouts are to fill out a monthly report; you are to rewrite these reports into a single comprehensive document. Understood?”
“Good… Ah, here it is.” She said as they came to an office door with the number 45 neatly painted onto its window, “There should be a document on your desk explaining your role further. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask another commissioner. The Magic Council is strong because we help one another, and that rule applies to the higher-ups too.”
“Understood. Thank you for the tour, captain.” Jeremy said as he saluted his superior.
“No problem, good luck in your new position.” She replied, “Well, I’d better be off now, see ya around.”
“And you as well.” Jeremy said, unlocking the door to his office using the key that he’d been given before arrival.
Jeremy took a deep breath, and walked inside his new office. It was 4x3 meters with a large L-shaped desk dominating a corner of the room. A fan on the opposite side of the room from the desk kept the temperature refreshingly cool. The room also contained various filing cabinets and a decorative plant pot containing some sort of fern.
Sitting down in his chair, Jeremy discovered that it was quite comfortable. His desk had a plethora of drawers containing office supplies and spare sheets of paper for the green typewriter that he was to write reports with. He also noticed that, as Rose had told him, there was a document on his desk titled: Commissioner Position Outline.
Since he had nothing else to do, and because it seemed like a good place to start, Jeremy gave it a read:
This document is meant to give you an overview on the responsibilities of your new position in the Magic Council. It is by no means a complete guide on a commissioner’s role in the organization; you will be given proper instruction on your role during your first week of service.
A commissioner will typically be in charge of managing and organizing anywhere from 8-20 squads of scouts/soldiers. The number of squads under your command is determined by your experience and skill in troop management. You will typically work from your office, and send orders to your troops in the field via courier or telegram. However, there may be times in which you must lead your squads personally in the event that a captain is unavailable for the assignment.
You will also be responsible for collecting monthly reports from your troops and rewriting these documents into a single comprehensive field report. This report should be delivered to your commanding officer on a regular basis as determined by said officer. The following is a list of notable anomalies that should be included in your monthly report if the squads under your command report them:
1.) Abnormal increase or decrease in criminal activity: Your troops will report a list of known crimes committed in their area during the month in which they were stationed there. You must compare this list of crimes with the average crime rate of that area in the past and record any differences in criminal activity on your report. Since crime rate is always reported by troops in the field, your monthly report should always include a record of the crime rate in each of your squads’ areas.
2.) Presence of powerful dark wizards: Your troops should never engage with a foe stronger than them. They will send an emergency message to you if they come into contact with a notorious criminal. YOU MUST REPORT THESE SIGHTINGS TO YOUR COMMANDING OFFICER ASAP AND RELOCATE NEARBY SQUADS TO SECURE AND PROTECT LOCAL CIVILIANS.
3.) Presence of bounty hunters: Bounty hunters are a great help to the Magic Council. However, they can sometimes get in the way of delicate missions if they are not properly informed. Reporting bounty hunters’ presence in an area can help your superiors make a decision on how to proceed with a planned operation.
4.) Arcanium weapons and other dangerous objects: Arcanium weapons are extremely dangerous, and are considered to be contraband. It’s hard for non-wizards to recognize arcanium since they can’t sense the metal’s magic energy. All merchants found to be in the possession of arcanium arms or armour must be interrogated by you to determine where they acquired the item in question. The arcanium equipment must be confiscated and delivered to your commanding officer ASAP.
A more in-depth guide to your position will be delivered to you upon completion of your first week. In the event of any discrepancy, your updated document will take priority.
“Arcanium weapons…” Jeremy muttered under his breath. He had heard stories about arcanium. Supposedly, it was a metal that wizards could channel their energy through without the use of a magic circle. Meaning that they used less energy when using arcanium as a casting focus. Many staffs and tomes did the same, but less effectively than the mythical metal of the old world.
Jeremy wasn’t a weapons expert. In fact, he’d barely held a sword in all his life, but he’d always dreamed of wielding an arcanium weapon. The thought of channeling his energy through a sword, lighting it ablaze as he cut down any who stood against his squad… It was a fantasy of his.
Of course, arcanium weapons were rare, and they were only given out to top-ranking members of the Magic Council. They were also only given to people who had actual experience in wielding weapons, so a magic-focused combatant like Jeremy would get a staff at most.
Although… He had heard rumours that arcanium weapons weren’t always as rare as they are in this era. Supposedly, there was a time in which most adept wizards held at least one arcanium weapon, but these were all rumours, and Jeremy doubted that there were any people left alive from that age to confirm the validity of such stories.
“Well,” Jeremy muttered as he opened a filing cabinet attached to his desk, “might as well look over a few records while I wait for my trainer…”
The bubbling pot exuded a pleasant savory scent as Connor added various ingredients and spices to the meal. Fish stew was one of his favourite recipes, and it just so happened that the bandit camp whose occupants he’d just slaughtered had a decent supply of dried fish. Fresh fish was better, of course, but what could you do?
“Hm,” Connor grunted as he tasted the broth, “could use some lime… Oh well, it’ll do.”
As he sat down to enjoy his meal, Connor began wondering if the storm was ever going to end. He had to set up a tarp over the cooking pot so that he could start a fire, and the rain made it hard to see and hear his quarry. The rain was a nice atmosphere, but it sure was inconvenient at times.
The corpses of the fort’s previous inhabitants were lined up against one side of the wooden wall surrounding the compound. Connor would decapitate them and take their heads to the nearest outpost later on, but for now he could enjoy his soup in pea-
The sound of a twig breaking caught Connor’s attention. He’d almost missed it amongst the sound of the rain, but his senses were sharper than most.
He slowly rose to his feet; now that he was listening, he could hear slow, careful footsteps in the rain just outside the compound. He carefully unsheathed his blade; making sure that the intruder didn’t realize that he knew they were there.
Unfortunately, the intruder clearly realized that something was wrong. Their footsteps stopped just outside of the camp’s entrance. Connor could practically hear the intruder’s heart beating faster as they began wondering if they still had the upper hand.
Connor sighed, “I know you’re there.” he called out, “Show yourself if you’re a friend, but if you’re not, then I’d suggest running.”
There was a slight pause. He heard an incantation being muttered as his assailant rounded the corner. The Magic Council scout had called a plasma magic circle to her palm and was pointing it directly at him. A burst of plasma shot out, but Connor was able to slash it out of the air with a flick of his blade.
“Gods!” Connor cursed as the scout prepared another spell, “What the hell was that for?!”
“Whaddya mean what was- wait, you’re not a bandit!” The scout exclaimed, her spell dying out as she dismissed the magic circle.
“How observant of you; got any other insights you’d like to share?” Connor asked sarcastically as he lowered his weapon.
“Yeah, you shouldn’t be here.” She replied, “This place is a warzone; it’s dangerous for civilians to be out here. Plus, this camp belongs to a group of bandits! They could be back any min- OH MY GODS, ARE THOSE BODIES?!”
“Yes,” Connor calmly answered, “those are human remains. Also, I’m not a civilian, I’m a bounty hunter.”
The scout cursed, “Where’s the rest of your group?”
“I work alone, pal.” Connor replied, “The closest things that I have to allies are my longsword, and a stiletto knife that I picked up off of one of those corpses.”
“There is no way that you did this alone and without the use of magic.” She countered, “There are five bodies lined up against that wall, and I doubt that one bounty hunter could manage to kill five bandits at once.”
“Well… I took two of them out stealthily, and faced the rest head-on.” Connor admitted, “You can examine the wounds for yourself if you’d like.”
The scout took one look at the corpses, grimaced, and shook her head.
“…No offense,” Connor said, “but you seem pretty new to all this.”
“Wha- I’m not new!” she protested, “I’m just… Not experienced.”
“Ah, let me guess: you’ve spent a few months in a training facility and now you think that you’ve learned everything.” Connor sighed as he sheathed his sword, "Look, this line of work isn’t pretty, and you’ll see a lot worse in the future
The scout looked at the bodies once more. Connor could see the disgust and unease in her eyes as she asked: “How do people tolerate it then?”.
Connor thought about this for awhile, “It depends on who you are.” he finally answered, “Some people dissociate themselves from their work; they do what needs to be done, and that’s that. Others never learn to cope, and either go insane or they look for a different line of work. Me? I stopped feeling empathy for criminals a long time ago; especially dark wizards. They’ve given up their humanity, so I hunt them like animals.”
“That’s… A bit extreme, don’t you think?” The scout asked.
Connor shrugged as he sat back down by the campfire, “Maybe, maybe not. I don’t bother with philosophy or ethics much. I see a bad person, I remove said person from the earth, and the world’s a better place. That’s my line of thought, at least. Yours may differ, and that’s fine with me.”
Sighing, he added: “Look, its probably been a long day for you. Feel free to rest by the fire if you’d like. There’s still some stew in the pot if you’re hungry.”
The scout snapped to attention at the mention of food, “What type of stew is it?” she inquired.
Connor chuckled, “Dried fish and bell pepper. Dig in.”