Chapter 1: In Which We Learn About the Noble Art of Quest Keeping
My father recently completed his 250th quest. A rather distinguished record in our noble profession! Me, I’m fairly new to the family business. I started training when I was 12, when my father needed a new apprentice, because Baneful, his apprentice at the time, forgot to follow the rules. Baneful wanted to be the hero, not the helper. That’s not how it works.
My name is Dephrane Alesnee of the Alesnee Clan of the Rocktin Outcrops. I live in a land of magic and believe me, it is not nearly as alluring and mysterious as it seems. It’s just magic and really, it’s more of a nuisance than anything else. With all this magic, there are a lot of would-be heroes trying to save the day – and doing a terrible job!
My father’s great, great, great, great uncle smartly realized that this rampant ineptitude presented a rather lucrative business opportunity that no one had cornered. And so, my family became practitioners in the art of quest keeping, guiding the heroes and chosen ones to their destinies, and seeing that they got there in one piece.
It’s almost impossible to live in a land with magic and not have chosen ones being born left and right, and prophecies being foretold all the time. In other words, business is good.
Prophecies are the foundations of all quests, and every case is pretty much the same. There’s usually a prophecy, a chosen one, a magic object and a mission to save the world from peril most cantankerous. Yes, Peril. Constant… unending… peril! One of the hardest lessons to accept is that the world always has been, and always will be in a constant state of peril. Whether or not one quest is completed successfully, there will always be fifty doomsday prophecies biding their time on the sidelines waiting to be fulfilled.
Being the child of a Quest Keeper, it is naturally assumed that you will go into the family business. My childhood was filled with grueling training sessions, and when I wasn’t learning weaponry or self-defense I was memorizing the sacred “Quest Keeper Guide to all things Magic and Mystical”, which my father perpetually quotes from. My mother is an elf, at least I believe she is given the story of my birth.
My father was sitting at home one night, it was a full moon and he was deciding which client to take on when there was a knock at the door. Three knocks to be exact, no more and no less. And when he opened the door, a beautiful elf from the Fall Country stood there with me, just a newborn, sleeping soundly in the crook of his arm.
“From my lady,” the elf said and passed me to my gaping father.
Among my belongings, a necklace carved from white wood and a small square stone, was a letter.
“Ours” it read “Yours to care for, raise her well, she will be important”.
My father took me in his arms, rolled his eyes and said “Sure”. He tells me this story all the time. With a little smile, he says “And that’s why we follow the guidelines. Especially rule number 3, which is?”
“Never fall in love,” I say. I know my father loves me. It’s not like I was some weird burden he couldn’t deal with. He was just surprised.
And sometimes he looks at me and says “It’s not that you’re not special, or that you won’t be important, but not everyone is a chosen one, some people are just ordinary. And you are ordinary. Doesn’t make you any less. Those elves though, just trying to force prophecies left and right.”
But, once in a while, I take out that square stone and feel it my hands and wish for something a little more than helping heroes and skulking around the edges of destiny. Only sometimes, and the longing gets less as I get older. I’ve become a highly sought out keeper, and for the most part, I’m content. The job pays well, and it’s more interesting than your average baker, candlestick maker, or spell caster job.
“Dephrane, come here!” My father’s high timbre and hoarse voice calls from the kitchen. I hurry downstairs.
“Yes, what is it?” I ask, trotting down the last two steps.
“You have a new client,” He says and hands me our brief interest card. The card we send out to heroes, royal families, and pass out at markets and inns.
The card was filled out with “Prince Gorth” as the name, “Of the Headlands” for the address, “at the Hogslick Inn” for method of contact, “To save my Princess” under quest, and “A dragon” for the villain. The date was left blank, presumably as soon as possible.
“Father! Seriously? You know how much I loathe love quests and dragons,” I said as a re-read the card.
“I know, but my ankle is still acting up, can’t go,” my father said. He had injured it during his last quest. The mighty Fremgen the fearful, a black knight cursed to wander the earth in search of souls to consume was fighting my father’s client, the Fearless Lord Charmancer. The fearful vs. the fearless, the irony was not lost on me. My father was screaming from the side of the battle, coaching Charmancer when he tripped on a rock and twisted his ankle. Charmancer eventually defeated Fremgen and had to carry my father back home.
“Fine,” I huffed.
I packed my bag and started out the door.
“Wait there” Father said as he stopped me at the door with some paperwork.
“Every single time with these insurance policies” I looked over the life insurance policy that needed updating.
“You know the drill. It’s rule number 68.”
“Keep up your policy, I know.” I said.
People don’t realize how grueling it is to be a quest keeper, it’s not all adventures and rescues and thrill rides. There is a heavy amount of paperwork, receipt making, receipt saving, report writing, and filing. Oh, the tedious filing. I never understood why we couldn’t hire someone to do all the paperwork and keep our appointments but my father had one thing to say about that.
“Family business, it stays in the family.”
I reread the life insurance policy, going over the most important details. Where my share of the family wealth would go. Where my belongings would go. Where I would be buried and how I would be buried.
I crossed out “buried on Temple Mount in family plot” and wrote “Cremation and water send off, a small ceremony in the Woodland Fall Country, one small stone of remembrance, if married, belongings to husband and family, if single belongings are paternal families to deal with.”
“D, one of these days you’re going to let me bury you as I see fit.” My father said looking over the final crossed t’s and p’s.
“By Baneful’s ring you will, If you bury me on that sad, deserted mount I will haunt you forever,” I replied.
Maybe it was grim, talking about death so casually. But it was all I knew. Our line of business was messy, incredibly messy and dangerous. As much as we tried not to get too personally involved in the missions and stayed out of the danger zone, there were very few old quest keepers. The casualty rate was high, and that was why it was so important to make sure your affairs were in order before every quest.
Before departing on a quest, when the morning sun was just rising over the Outcrops villages, my father would take me aside and tell me that he loved me, he wished me well, and he knew I would grow up strong and be just fine. Every single time. And I didn’t think anything of it. I never paced back and forth fearing for my father’s demise. It was all I knew.
I gave my father a quick nod, grabbed my bags and headed for Hogslick Inn.
Follow the rest of the Adventures Of A Quest Keeper story as I release New Chapters on Wattpad!