Ralph’s fate had been decided. Adventurers were volatile people, so if there had been solely the incident between us he would have gotten off with a slap on the wrist- guildmaster’s brother or not. In the grand scheme of things, adventurers got into personal fights all the time. If an fight got truly serious, people might need to pay for magical healing but it usually stopped there if it was just a fight.
However, it wasn’t just that incident. The accusations against Ralph started with a number of other small fights, but also many other things. There were some instances of theft and pressuring people to give him or his party quest rewards. Accusations piled up, including him forcing himself on young women and a number of disappearances. Many of the crimes could not be proved, but enough were proved for his sentence to be executed many times over. He’d apparently continued his string of crimes for years, though mostly well hidden. Even in our case, he’s approached with a friendly demeanor. All of his crimes were against those who wouldn’t or couldn’t stand up for themselves… until they could rally together.
I wasn’t exactly sure what the sentence was, but I went to watch. I didn’t have a large grudge against him, but the idea of what he might have done to Kantrilla and I and what he had done to others was enough for me to feel a sense of righteous anger. He was on a raised platform, chained with his arms behind his back- was this an execution? I wouldn’t put it beyond the scope of his crimes, but I didn’t see a guillotine or a way to hang him, or anything else indicating that.
Finally, Timmy- it was still weird to think he was actually called that- and Marcia walked up onto the platform. The guildmaster read from a scroll. I thought his voice could have projected through the area at normal volume, but he put in the effort to make it do so even more. “Ralph Weiss, of the Ekralas adventurer guild, you have been found guilty of a myriad of crimes, including but not limited to twenty instances of theft from fellow guild members as well as fifteen counts of deceptive quest completion. For these and other crimes, you will be deleveled and expelled from the guild.”
“You- you can’t do this! I’m your brother!”
That stopped the guildmaster briefly, followed by a loud wailing. I could see huge splashes of water hit the platform as tears streamed down his face, “I know.” Then he grabbed his mouth, after which Marcia pulled out a bottle. Ralph was made to swallow it, and then I saw one of the strangest things I had seen to date.
The man deflated, visibly. His muscles shrunk, and his complexion changed completely, turning a pale white. Then he collapsed onto the platform.
“Why did he collapse?” I asked someone nearby. I understood the idea of deleveling, but he should still be able to stand, shouldn’t he?
“The deleveling, of course. Besides just taking away levels, it makes you as weak as a child. Actually, it makes all your attributes like that. It’s temporary, so he could recover to normal minus the points from level up with some effort- a bit weaker, since he wouldn’t have a class to support his attributes. That is, if that was his only punishment. He’s likely to be executed as well, but the guild only personally oversees expulsion and deleveling. Everything else is left up to the local laws.”
I breathed out heavily. Deleveling potions looked extremely unpleasant. Mostly, it was the idea of being weak again that was so distasteful. Not that I had to worry about it, since I didn’t plan to commit any crimes, but I still sympathized a little bit.
Sitting around for a day doing nothing wasn’t really a great fiscal policy for an adventurer who got paid by the job, but I wasn’t really feeling up to doing much of anything. Somehow, the incident had affected me more than bandits or assassins. Dealing with someone who was just corrupt was a more unpleasant reminder that humans weren’t all good, even if they weren’t labeled with something specific.
It was also worse to realize that he was a person that people cared about… or at least one person. His brother, the guildmaster, really seemed to have cared about him and was disappointed and saddened by the choices he made and the consequences he wrought. I had the feeling he wouldn’t want to see me, even though things were technically a bit better around the guild now.
The day after the sentencing Kantrilla and I finally felt up for searching for other party members. It could have been my personal bias, but I thought the guild felt more lively. One thing was more concrete, and that was the number of parties of around our level looking for people had gone up significantly. That could have been a coincidence as well, but it was at least a real metric.
Since there were plenty of options, we took our time looking through them. We had mostly come here with the intention of exploring the goblin dungeon, but we didn’t restrict our search to just parties interested in that. We could join any party with people of the same rank, but the most important thing was fitting in. Having the right combination of roles was important, healers, magic users, and front line fighters being the most critical parts- but personalities fitting together was probably more important. It would be best to have people of around our age if possible. We wouldn’t necessarily stay in the same party forever, but many of the best parties grew stronger together instead of being cobbled together from different strong people. At least, that was what I had been told. If I was asked to name any of the strong parties or the strongest adventurers in the world, I would be at a loss. I’d heard some of their names come up in conversation, but I didn’t really have the amount of knowledge about them people might expect. In the end, Kantrilla and I picked out three parties that sounded like a good fit, and arranged to meet with them. The idea struck me as being something like a job interview… which I supposed it was. It was just that the job was killing monsters and not a desk job.