We headed out without very much fanfare. There were a few wives and children seeing off the party, but for the most part, adventurers leaving on an adventure mean very little. Our party was a scout part with a possibility for rescue. The haughty noble had left yesterday, not even waiting for any kind of approval or plan before running off to the dungeon. Perhaps he was afraid I’d beat him to it.
Well, I didn’t really care too much. He could have the hero thing if he wanted. However, I was a bit curious, so I walked beside the hulking guild leader.
“I must ask, guild leader, why did you decide to make me a hero? You barely know me. For all intent and purposes, I could be just as bad as this noble.”
The guild leader shot me a look and smiled. “You’re earnest. I like that. Since you’ve been such a good sport about all of this, I’ll be honest. We selected you as a hero exactly because of Lord Tibult.”
“You knew he was coming?”
“Him… or someone like him. Nobles use towns like us to quickly earn some credentials. As I said, a hero status goes a long way in the Capital. However, nobles like him also look down on the citizens of the towns they hero and can be very tyrannical. You noticed those animalkins by his side?”
“They were slaves, right?”
“Yes…” The man frowned. “This is a human majority country, and in the Capital, you wouldn’t see a single animalkin that isn’t a slave. Most animalkins were only brought into this country as slaves in the first place, although some are emancipated.”
“Then, the people in Chalm?”
“Most of the animalkins were once slaves or were the children of slaves. Chalm was founded as a free city. Although we sit under the Capital’s shadow, we’re a city that welcomes animalkin. We often help free slaves. There is a law in this country that if anyone is willing to pay the price to free a slave, then the slave will be set free, presuming they desire it. A lot of our additional income goes to freeing slaves, especially abused ones. You can imagine what a man like Tibult would do as a hero.”
“Isn’t a hero just an honorary title?”
“It is… when you’re a stranger without any background. However, when you’re a noble with the Capital behind you, the hero can be whatever you want it to be. That is the problem.” He sighed. “Tibult would assuredly take over the town, and then the Mayor would be all but a name. We’ve heard the same happening to a dozen other towns.”
“So, how do I fit in?”
“If Tibult sets and fulfills the conditions for being the town hero, then we cannot reject him. If we offend nobles, our town isn’t so big that we can defend ourselves. It could even possibly bring notice of the royal guards. However, if we already have a town hero, then that is no longer the case. Having you gave us an excuse to reject any noble that comes along without offending them too badly. With the dungeon and our lack of a hero, we knew it was only a matter of time. However, we thought you’d have a while to sit down and get used to the title before that happened. Well, just announcing we have a hero would be enough to keep most nobles from wasting the trip.”
“What about me? What if my background is more extraordinary than I let on?”
“We did look into you.” The guild leader chuckled. “Wherever you come from, it isn’t this country. That said, you’re a healer, boy. You’re useful to us… but there is something better about you than being useful.”
I grimaced, already guessing what he meant. “I can’t fight back.”
The guild leader’s eyes flashed. “Exactly. You’re no threat to us. As you said, you can be the hero unless we find someone better. And if we find someone better and you don’t want to leave, it’d take little effort to remove you.”
My smile turned a little sickly. Sometimes it was better not knowing a thing.