While the manner in which the party was constructed was a bit odd – really, who thought it best to put up a scribbled sign in the village square to find companions for an adventure? – it at least provided me with an out. An out of the village, an out of the rut my life had become, an out to find somewhere in the world where I could grow.
It was a motley crew at best, a haphazard assortment just waiting to implode at worst. I stood in the threshold of the meeting room, the borrowed storage place of the village’s tavern, and glanced around. There were a trio of broad-shouldered men, somewhat on the shorter side, with brilliant beards and large hands holding onto axes and hammers. The dwarves were speaking amongst themselves, but not bothered by anyone else hearing if their volume was anything to judge by. I wondered why dwarves were so far from their cavern homes, sure that they usually lived in the north.
A man was in the corner, staying so silent and standing so far into the shadows that I nearly missed seeing him. His arms were crossed, the visible fingers fidgeting as much as the hat upon his head was twitching. I talked myself out of marching over and snatching the hat away to see what lay beneath, my curiosity wavering at the sight of the pointed daggers at the man’s waist. I was sure the blades were not just for show.
A red-orange light zipped by my ear on the way into the room, sparkles of the same color marking a trail as it flew along, until it settled atop of a bare spot on the shelf tacked to the western wall. Before my eyes, the light grew into a glow before shaping a child just sitting there with her legs swinging below her seat. Her skin was dark, a sharp contrast to the mass of hair and wide eyes that had matched her sparkles. She gazed around the room with an excited grin, unable to keep a giggle here or there from slipping out.
A slender figure, at least part elf with the point of the ears, the angled eyes, the lean arm muscles, lounged on the solitary chair in the room. The strap of a quiver crossed over the figure’s chest while a bow of curved metal leaned against the chair. Those eyes caught mine as they roamed around the room. Briefly, we gave each other a nod, seemingly understanding that we were two of the most sensible of the gathered lot.
“Are you responding to the ad from the square as well?”
I brought my attention to the young man in front of me, his face smooth, lightly tanned, barely looking as if he had ever been out of the village let alone the world. Still, he appeared to be taking this rather seriously, as there was no hint of mirth around him. No upward turns of the lip, no gleams of wanderlust in his dark eyes, no flush on his cheeks from anticipation.
I nodded in response and, when he asked for my name and skills, I flipped open to the appropriate page of my book of common phrases.
He frowned as he glanced at it long enough to comprehend the words that not only answered his question but also explained that I was born without a voice. “A Runekeeper? How can you be a Runekeeper if you cannot speak?”
He was blunt, I would give him that. He was also lucky I had been dealing with that kind of question all my life.
With years of practice, I snapped my common phrase book shut, slipped it into its sleeve hanging on the left side of my belt, and brought out the book of thin paper from my right holster. A stick of coal helped me write my rune on a strip of paper before I ripped the parchment from the book’s binding and smacked the paper, coal marks facedown, against the wooden frame of the door.
Slowly, ivy vines sprouted from the paper, much to the cooing delight of the fairy, encompassing the parchment until it was dissolved completely from the rune’s workings. Greenery sprouted around the frame until the wood was merely the flowerbed for the ivy.
When the young man pulled his gaze away from the ivy, it was to see my common phrase book opened once more to the page that told him, “I’ve adapted.”
He gave one chuckle, his lips settling into a crooked grin as he said, “Welcome to the team.”