Dungeons of the Abyss and the Unchosen Heroes
Before the first light of dawn, before the morning mist had settled, six figures could be seen already up and about. After the fight in the tavern the night prior with the members of the Bright Aegis, a large and powerful clan that one ought to avoid antagonizing, there needed to be a change of plans. Instead of leaving at dawn, the Henrietta Company decided that it would probably be for the best to skip town before the first light.
Traveling the muddy path out of town, they went past the altar of Ceratias, the Goddess of Fate and Guidance. Normally, Auguste would have kneeled down for a brief prayer, but today they were in a hurry and so they went right passed it.
"Is that fine, Auguste?" Elaine asked him.
"It's fine, she wouldn't begrudge me for something so petty."
"If you say so."
"Shush," said Gladiolus, suddenly with a finger on his lips.
Immediately, every single one of them stopped moving and opened their ears. There was a single set of footsteps along with heavy breathing. Soon, emerging from the morning fog, a middle-aged man emerged. He wore a gray robe tainted with dust and dirt and a blue sash wrapped around his waist.
"Good... Good... I caught up," he said, his chest and belly heaved up and down as he struggled to draw breath.
"Joseph? You need something?" Auguste stepped forward.
"Who, me? Just to bid farewell," he said with sweat dripping down his cheeks. "You'll have to excuse the other two though. Tristan can't exactly make it and Feris stayed behind to look after him."
"Well, it's good to see you, I guess. So... uh... Goodbye."
"Hah!" Joseph laughed, "Not big on speeches, are you? Neither am I."
"Then get it over with," said Morganna. "We're in a hurry."
"Sorry to say it, but she's right," Elaine added. "I hope you'll stay well though."
"Don't kick the bucket too soon, yer hear, old man," said Henrietta.
"May we meet again, mystic," Gladiolus said with a small bow.
"Y-yeah, hope we'll see you soon," Finn blurted out after urgings from Elaine.
"You kids stay safe too, alright," said Joseph, "Not that it's too viable in our profession. And I guess a couple of you are probably older than me. Anyways, that aside, I actually brought a farewell gift. I was preparing it since Auguste told me where you were going."
Joseph reached into his robes and pulled out a white envelope with a wax seal, looking like something you'd have with you on official business. He handed it over to Auguste.
"Just a letter of recommendation of a sort. You're heading to Iotas Tria, right? Well, the Scholars of the Abyss aren't the only ones setting up shop there, and as it happens, an old friend of mine has a shop there as well. If you ever need help, look him up and hand him the letter. He owes me a favor you see, so I'm sure he would at least find you a place to stay."
"Well, that's very nice of you, Joseph."
"It's very nice of you to save my ass down at the Dungeon too."
Joseph laughed as if he had said something funny. As far as Auguste could tell, he was a jolly man. Hopefully, he'll have a long and jolly life ahead of him.
After bidding farewell to Joseph one last time, the Henrietta Company set forth towards their next destination, not quite realizing what fate has in store for them. Then again, few truly do.
End of Chapter 17