It's easy to go through your memories and find faults. Too easy. It's easier still to find them a hazy blur, useless and nostalgic.
Looking back, one thing sticks out in my mind about my young self. It wasn't that I was stronger than most (though I was). It wasn't that I was faster than most, or that I had that particular brand of insanity that urges one to take on the Trials. Plenty of young people had those qualities, and more besides.
What was singular about me was how very deluded I was.
I believed, wholly and entirely, in the benevolence of our God, Ar. I believed that our Island, Irra, was the only island in the sea. I believed that the Guild of Heroes was a benevolent servant of the nations of Irra, and would protect us from any foe. I believed that the problems which faced our Land, among which I numbered the fearist organization All Fall Down and the savage Vodren of the North, were trifling things, easily warded away by my betters. Most of all, I believed that other men, a majority if not all, shared my feelings.
I was not first in the Trials. That was Bodric. Nor second, that was Kera. Thus, when Gaulish came to my house on the morning after I was initially confused as to what could be going on. I'd imbibed rather heavily the night before, consoling myself for a failure that was frankly devastating. I'd dreamed of the Trials for 6 years, trained and struggled for them. The thought that I'd lost them was intolerable. I'd chosen to wash it away with strong spirits.
I was not awakened when he rapped on my door, nor when he blasted it from its hinges. I awoke when he entered the chamber I shared with my younger brother, for whatever perverse reason. I rose from my place of rest with bleary eyes and a mounting confusion.
The Guild's Recruiter was unlike I'd imagined. In my mind it was always a Party, or at least a Guilder. Heck, in my most fervent fantasy's it was Eagle Party themselves, swooping down to enjoin my aid against some dire foe. I certainly didn't picture a Goon.
Gaulish has ever been an arresting figure. To a Clod (and frankly, I can say without shame that that's what I was) he's utterly terrifying. No doubt that's why he has this job. All my life I'd been surrounded by my fellow haulists, then my fellow Aspirants at the camp. By my peers, in other words. By those who looked, sounded and acted vaguely like me. Gaulish in my room was my first Unwinnable.
He loomed over me, his back unstooped by haulist slump and his hands unlined by labor. He wored a dark grey robe, utterly unlike the colorful cloth we marked our shifts with. In the aftermath of his exertions against my portal, he crackled and sparked with energy. Most of all there was the sheer Substance of him. This man was a battalion of one, an Eminence. It looked like the world faded around him, in danger of simply floating away and leaving him standing in a profound void.
I can't recall precisely my first words to him, but his response to me was the standard boilerplate. I'd won the Trials and did I want to accompany him to the Guild's headquarters. Frankly, I don't think there was ever any doubt. I muttered and hawwed a bit before assenting, and started to pack up my meagre belongings.
I think I'd always pictured "going to the Guild" as a hike, or slog. Mostly I'd imagined the faces watching me, my comrades gazing in awe as I joined the Immortals. I certainly thought I'd get a chance to say goodbye. What actually happened was that as soon as I'd gotten "Yes" out he gripped me and we ported. I got the brief chance to resist his magic, but waived it in utter confusion and terror. Our surroundings shifted and blurred, and I was displaced.
It's easy to forget how alarming porting is to one unaccustomed to instantaneously changing location. I'd gone about on my own two feet for my whole life. In all that time, I have no idea whether I travelled as far as I did in that first port. I guess I must have, Bastion isn't that far away from Riker village, but at the time I had literally no idea what was going on. From the comfort and privacy of my own dwelling I'd been whisked to a blank stone room with only one exit corridor.
The only constant was the least comforting. Gaullish had come too, and his icy grip on my shoulder propelled me into the hall. Despite the fact that he came up to my shoulder, despite his uncalloused hands and second chin, Gaullish moved me like the speck I was, imparting motion as much by sheer presence as by any physical force.
We travelled down the lavishly decorated hallways (and I'll digress here to point out that the way we've got Bastion setup is totally counterproductive. Any of the furnishings in it costs more than the poor recruits have ever seen in their lives. It's supposed to be awe inspiring, I get that, but would it kill us to have someone coordinate it? I swear, the jumbled mass of masterfully crafted things that fill any given hall would buy a city, but the way they are arranged would make a decorator die of shame. More isn't always better.) and into an office I'd grow very accustomed to.
There was a dwarf behind the desk, and a pair of scales on it. Gurros, as he introduced himself, wasn't the first dwarf I'd ever met. I wasn't quite that provincial. There was an itinerant tin merchant who came through from time to time who was of the First People. I wasn't alarmed by his race. I'm kind of proud of that.
Anyway, he and Gaullish played it Raven/Eagle, and had me agree to everything that they always have noobs agree to. (Honestly we could probably skip this part. By the time we've grabbed someone and warped them to our fortress they are going to agree to anything we tell them to. I'm not sure why the whole 'willing consent' bit is still considered so vital). I vowed to work as a Guilder, swore I'd learn what that entailed (Ha!) and pledged my undying fealty to every high ideal under the sun.
I'd gotten my bearings a bit, perversely stabilized by the massive shift in location. Where the impossile in my room had flustered me beyond all reason, the impossible in an impossible location seeme to fit. In Bastion, it was me, and not Gaullish or Gurros, who looked out of place. Being out of place, however, was something with which I'd had long practice. Thus, I was mostly cognizant of what I was pledging to, and (and I wish to emphasize this point) wholeheartedly meant every word I pledged.
I would be a hero of the people. I would emparty and defeat evil. I would do all things noble and great. I pledged it all, swore and vowed and tried not to think that mighty magics were no doubt being exerted to bind me infallibly to this course.
I was going to be a Hero. I was going to be a Guilder. It never crossed my mind that the two might be mutually exclusive.