First Interlude: Trials

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I look at the world around me, 
Celebrating it's vainglory and decadence, 
And I speak, a voice alone in the crowd,
"You fools, you know not what you do."

-Poem spoken by Rhaedrashah, one of the Kings of Elysion

***

Finn stared at the motley group of applicants as they clustered aimlessly around the entrance to the cave. Idly, he let his mind wander, observing the crowd, studying them all, but focusing on none.

Most of them were human. Nine, to be exact. One man, brawny and broad of shoulder, looked to be a blacksmith. Finn remembered one time, in the Straits, he had fought alongside a blacksmith. All he had told the man was to treat the enemy like a piece of hot, unwieldy steel.

That had been a messy battle.

There were three warriors, dressed in shabby combinations of plate and leather, covered in too many weapons. Finn glossed over them. In his seven and twenty years of life, he had seen plenty of those types. Sellswords. Finn didn't like them at all. Killed too many of them.

Two of them were dressed in plain clothes. They wouldn't survive long. At the very least, Finn always wore a metal cuirass, and in this case, he also wore some leather gauntlets. If they were here for money or a quick job, they were sorely mistaken.

One wore the standard issue of a Caeldari soldier. They weren't in Caeldar at the moment, but everyone recognized the armor, with that odd peaked helmet. Of course, there was one problem with him. Mainly, he was old. Very old. Maybe sixty. Experience is great, but one has to be able to use it, and not collapse from rheumatism.

The other two were thugs. Finn had seen them before, harassing people in the city. They were cowards, and a disgrace. They attacked monks! Nuns! They were shameless, and they made Finn want to kick them so hard they'd taste their lunches again.

"Alright then," Finn called out. "Please, form a line. I need to register your names. The Lady Corvain doesn't want to waste any time. And I don't either!" He pulled out a book. "You first." The old man stepped up, and recited his name. Finn payed attention, but those weren't the ones he was focused on.

The humans weren't the interesting ones. The non-humans were fascinating. Four species were represented in the five other applicants. One, female, wearing a cowl and a dark cloak, had a recurve bow strung over her shoulder, along with a short sword, and a set of knives, the kind issued by the Alberion Ranger Corps. Her face, or what little was exposed beyond the slit in her cowl, was charcoal black, with glowing cracks and fiery eyes. An Erinyan.

She waited in the back of the line. Finn recorded the name of the first two sellswords, and studied the rest

The most boisterous, of course, was the Kai'Draen. He went shirtless, and pantless for that matter, wearing only a wrapped-up loincloth -Finn remembered somewhere that they called it a dhoka- and footwraps. Idiot. He would get himself killed. The Kai'Draen, physically, was an impressive specimen, standing at eight feet tall, covered in bulging muscle. Though the numerous piercings that clicked together were a bit strange. He had a war axe and a war hammer.

"Hey! Focus! On me!" The third sellsword flicked Finn on the forehead.

"Sorry," he said. "Just..checking out the competition."

"Well you should be checking out me, then!" the third one boasted.

"Yeah, not really." Finn dabbed the quill in the small inkwell set up next to him. He balanced the book on his knee, and sat on a boulder.

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