Note: Post for Tim's B-Rank examination..
Tim invited his old co-workers for a drink. It was a long ride from the guildhall to Hargeon, but if it meant seeing the old crew again was worth it. They were sitting by one of the docks with the usual setup: a small round wooden table over a corner beside smaller crates from a day’s disembarking operations, more than half a dozen workers were sitting in different positions comfortable to them. Assorted bottles of spirits and a hodgepodge of finger-food were plated over the table.
There was a month’s worth of catching up to do. Tim was the main topic the entire evening, and it wasn’t just because he was now a member of a mage’s guild. It was because he hadn’t even tried paying a visit after a month on his new job.
“Shit, I know mages do a lot of weird stuff.” One of them, a full bearded man who was over his fifties, handed Tim a plate of burnt ends. “But an honest to goodness God asking you to kill someone?”
Tim took a swig off a rhum bottle as he muttered a half-hearted “Yeah” to the question. His voice betrayed an exhausted tone to it. Tim stuffed his mouth with the meat dish before the rest of them noticed.
One of the other workers, a blonde man in his mid-thirties, was swinging around Tim’s sword. “And all you got out of it was this thing?”
“It’s a damn good blade.” Another worker butted in; a scar ran across his face. Four others began groaning. “What?”
“Oh, gods.” “If you start going on about swords again, I swear…” “I’ll slit my throat with Tim’s blade, don’t you tempt me.”
“Bunch of nancy boys, I swear.” Scar-face shook his head, ignoring the others. “It’s be a damn while, Tim. But I know a good sword when I see one. You’ve got a keeper there.”
Tim smiled at his assessment, raising the bottle up at him. Scar-face gestured the same with his own bottle and drank some for himself. The cold night air was calming, Tim could feel his nightlike blotches swirling around as they talked. This was how his nights for the past decade would play out, most of the time. They would complain about problems (mostly about work), brag about recent fortune that blew their way or just talk idly about anything that came to mind.
“I missed this.” Tim muttered absentmindedly.
Full-beard snorted. “Getting sappy on us all of a sudden, kid?”
“Shut up, old timer.” Tim spat. “I meant the food.”
“Keep telling yourself that.” He guffawed. “I’d tell the old lady that though, bet she’d get ecstatic hearing from you again.”
“Would you? Bet she’d give me some for the road.” Tim savored the meat’s juices, chewing it purposefully. “How ‘bout junior, by the way? Couldn’t come?”
“What, you forgot already? It’s his birthday.” Blondie answered for Full-beard, the man was too busy gulping down his bottle to speak.
“Why’d you think I brought her food here?” Full-beard laughed.
Tim quirked his brow. “Because you know I love her cooking more than you?”
Full-beard snorted, the rest didn’t argue. His wife was one of the best cooks in town, excluding the ones who make folks pay rent’s worth anyway.
The crew took their time talking. It was like Tim never left. The young man was enjoying his evening. But as blondie lit up a cigar right beside Tim made him freeze. Tim only saw the burning building around him on his job a week or so ago as the flame danced around the matchstick. The lingering thought of not being in control was sting weighing on him. His job to protect Quanny village was the first job Tim had taken where he needed to actually do something mage-like. And it was a catastrophic disaster.
The thought suddenly ate Tim’s mind the entire time and it didn’t take too long before his co-workers noticed. It took a bit of probing…
“If you don’t tell us, I’ll ban you from the old lady’s cooking.” …and a great deal of bargaining from Full-beard for Tim to finally talk.
He started talking about it to his co-workers. The village and how he practically turned into a monster.
“Damn.” Blondie summed their thoughts well.
“Did it happen again since then?” Scar-face asked. “I thought the quack taught you to keep it in check.”
By quack, they meant Dr. Schwartz. Tim shook his head.
“Six years!” He roared. To his co-workers’ credit, for people he just told he lost control and turned into a monster, they didn’t budge when Tim actually showed a little aggression. “All that’s gone the drain. And I had the gall to try purifying a relative.”
“Yeah, my nightlike skin’s a curse. Technically.” Tim clarified.
“…stands to reason it’ll work.” One finished for him.
“You found a relative who turned into a full-blown ink monster?”
Tim looked at them. ‘Damn’ was all they could say.
“You know what’s even more idiotic?” Tim laughed at himself. They kept silent, waiting for Tim to finish. Or was it to let him vent? Either way, Tim appreciated it in the back of his mind. “I was taught some magic I thought would purify someone with our curse. It was even called Divine magic.”
“Like holy magic?”
Tim snorted. “You’d think from listening to the name, right?”
They didn’t answer. Tim continued. “When I actually tried using it on someone who transformed, it wasn’t blessed magic. Far from it! It was corrupted magic!”
Tim looked at the rim of his bottle, slowly tilting it as he spoke. “Should’ve just stayed here, none of that would’ve happened if I just kept to myself-” The young man practically drowned his words before he could finish talking.
Tim muttered one last confession. “I thought I could start doing something that didn’t involve running like a coward.”
“You put your foot forward.” Scar-face muttered.
“Yeah, but the ends justify the means.” Tim sighed. “What’s my attempt good for if I just end up burning a village down or killing someone I was supposed to purify?”
“Not doing anything would’ve left a festering little regret in your soul.” Blondie grunted, slapping Tim on the back. Tim winced, but looked at his co-worker as Blondie spoke. “We read about Quanny in the papers. It said a mage protected it. That was you?”
“You gonna say something sappy like: ‘but they appreciated you in the end!’” Tim scoffed.
That managed to get a laugh out of them. Blondie, especially, gently smacked the back of Tim’s head with a bottle. “I’m saying you did your job, genius. The village was saved.”
Tim couldn’t say anything to that.
“That corrupted magic part is a load of bull and a half, though.” Scar-face added. “What, can’t Gods look up some magic blueprint before sending it your way?”
Tim laughed. “Magic blueprint?”
“Screw you.” Scar-face stuffed his face with more food.
It didn’t take long for the mood to turn somber again. Tim heard a sigh from one of them. “Didn’t think being a mage would be a pain.” He heard one say offhandedly.
“True.” Blondie huffed. “We listen to passerby mages and think it’s a dream job…”
“It kinda is.” Tim said. “I definitely don’t have any money problems since joining.”
“Also true.” Blondie hummed. “You’re the one giving the rounds, for once.”
They gave a unified cheer. Tim shrugged, but he couldn’t help give a small grin.
“It takes all kinds.” Someone said. “Even mages get shit on by the world, huh.”
A chorus of ‘yeah’ resonated around as they lazed into the night.
“What’re you gonna do then?” Full-beard finally asked after a while. The rest didn’t even give a follow-up, all of them turned to him. The young man took a swig off the bottle. “You didn’t even visit the boss. She’ll be asking for you, you know.”
“That’s…” The young man couldn’t answer. “I don’t think I can look Edna in the eye for now.”
With the things he revealed to him about his life when he joined Silver Wolf, meeting Edna and Dr. Schwartz was the last thing he wanted to do. Especially when he had such a catastrophic month already. But…
“I want to keep this up… this mage thing.” Tim didn’t even think such a sentence would leave his lips. “I’ll screw things some more, a whole lot more. But-”
“You can at least try.” Blondie finished for him. Tim nodded. “That’s all you can hope to do.”
Tim gave a soft ‘yeah’ at that.
“Hear hear!” “I’ll drink to that!” “Yeah!”
One after another of Tim’s co-workers slurred, raising their bottles. Drinking only needed the most miniscule of realizations for people ending up raising a glass, or bottle, cheering to your resolve. It was a foolhardy way of reaffirming your convictions.
“To little Tim still being a mage?” One suggested.
“To keep trying being one.” Tim corrected, smiling at them.
They bellowed, laughing as they let the world know their fellow was not staying down.