When little Riddle opened his first book, he was greeted with the giant grins of mighty men and women draped with ragged clothes and bent armor. He saw sacks of gold and jewels, frightening monsters beheaded or caged. Weapons and maps, triumph and reward.
"I want to be like that," he thought. "I want to be an adventurer!" Riddle hopped up from a cozy little nook in his room to gaze at himself in the mirror. He imagined himself with a shortsword and dagger. He imagined sparkling armor encrusted with rubies. "How hard can it be?"
Slinging around a leather bag onto his back, Riddle stormed out of his little hut determined to be an adventurer. He packed his books for guidance, a leather water pouch, and several snacks from the kitchen. That was all he needed, he thought.
"I'll go to town," Riddle huffed, "Surely there is some exciting quest for me to read about."
--- Kettle Town ---
Riddle's town was very humble -- dirt roads, busy marketplaces, crop-filled carriages pulled by feemocks. Most buildings were little huts made out of rock, brick, or clay. There were one or two bars in the town, and one decent religious tower, but Riddle knew he had to go to the town's center - the market - to accept a quest. He had seen many rough townsfolk gather near the center where the "HELP WANTED" flyers were pinned. Sure enough, the bustling crowd parted just right for Riddle to see the board in its paper-filled glory.
He shifted the weight of his bag around on his shoulders and walked up to the board. There were a few rough-looking men and women ripping off and reading one of the posters, no doubt on their way to a brand new quest. They glanced over at Riddle, puffy white hair all a-mess and pale lips curled with determination as he stepped up to the board. He squinted to read some of the posters - they were a little too high up for his eyes. The explorers with their scars and scrutiny paused and stared in confusion.
"Hey, pup, what do you think you're doing?" The woman with her ashy red hair tousled in a year-old ponytail reached out a hand to tap on Riddle's shoulder. The young adventurer looked at her.
"I'm gonna go on a quest!" The woman's campaign chuckled slightly.
"Aren't you a little young for that?"
Riddle shrugged. "I think I'll be fine." A tiny hand reached up, pointing at one of the posters. "Hey, can you read one of those for me? I can pronounce some stuff, but I don't understand what it says."
The woman rolled her eyes. She glanced at a few of the posters, skimming over them until she found something that was more "suitable" for someone his age. She tore it off and said, "Here, this one says that there's a herd of feemocks roamin' around without a shepherd. Somewhere in the east pastures of Kettle Town."
Riddle took the paper and smiled ear to ear. "Thank you," he said, just as the woman and the rest of the adventurers left the board. They laughed a few seconds later. Surely not at Riddle.
--- East Kettle Pastures ---
"Hello, sir," Riddle said, greeting an elderly man on his porch who held a hand on his arching back. He leaned much of his weight on a sturdy wooden cane and had thick spectacles peeking out from his scraggly gray hair.
"Hmm? What's that? Who are you?"
"Git off my land, trespasser-- Y-y-you little ol' hootnginny--"
"But I thought you had a loose herd of feemocks." Riddle swayed to the left to avoid a wrinkly hand that stretched out to grab his face. The old man's thick glasses didn't help much with his vision, it seemed.
"Eh? Loose? Oh, darn, that's right! The shepherd! Where's that skinny little ba-"
"-ker. Skinny little baker, that feller is, I tell you what. I hire him to herd my feemock fellas for no darn good reason. He should stick to making stupid cakes!"
"You asked for help from the town, see?" Riddle held up the poster with the scrawled letters "HE L P P WA N TT ED" in shaky letters. The man raised a skinny hand to his face and wiggled his glasses to read.
"... Hmm..." The old man stared at the sheet. And stared. Riddle pursed his lips and pushed the sheet slowly forward until it nearly touched the old man's nose.
"Ah, yes," the man exclaimed. "Come with me, boy. Gosh, where were you a few darn good days ago? My herd about eaten my entire yard!"
** End of Ch1 Pt1 **