The man squinted as the midday sun reflected off of the metal pots. He stood on a dusty road, alone except for the trader who stood just behind the market table. The man’s eyes scoured the pots, examining each one in thorough detail. He was silent, and his hand stayed on his short, unkempt beard. The man finally reached over with his other hand to select one of the pots in the back row. He smiled to the trader, and held out a small pouch of coin.
The trader looked at the pot, and then at the coin. “Are you serious?” The trader was a stout man with a balding head. His naturally gruff face was now scrunched even more towards the man. “You spent hours looking at my wares, and you pick out a single pot? You could afford a lot more with that much coin, ya’ know.”
The man’s smile faded, but only for a second. “Just the pot, my good man.”
The trader laughed and shook his head. “It’s not even that great of a pot! It’s solid and a great material, mind you, but definitely not the best I could offer.”
“I have looked over your pots, sir,” the man said. He gestured out to the trader’s wares, and then put his hand back to his chin. “And this pot is the only one I will buy.”
The trader looked over the puzzling man from head to toe. He was dressed in worn leather boots, which seemed like they would have gone for good price if not for the wear and tear. He had a dusty purple jacket, despite the warmth of the day. His belt was bare, and he had no pack or satchel. Aside from his messy facial hair, he had long brown locks that fell down almost to his shoulders. The man’s hands were covered by white leather gloves.
“Listen, you’re one of those adventurers, aren’t you?” the trader said. “You don’t look like the trading type, and no one comes this far west except for those adventurer folk.”
The man frowned. “You mean to tell me that there are other’s going on this quest?”
“Son, this is the Always Quest we’re talking about!” the trader said. “The King is promising to use his power to grant any wish you could think of! His Majesty’s magic is the most powerful in the entire kingdom! Who wouldn’t want to go on the Always Quest?”
The man nodded slowly. “Tell me more.”
“Are you kidding me? All sorts of people are going on this quest! Mercenaries, royalty, knights, thieves, you name it. The king basically invited the whole kingdom to go into the undiscovered west.”
“So you’re going as well?”
It took the trader a few moments to process what the man had said. “Me? Go on the Always Quest? A humble trader such as myself? You realize that no ones goes down the west road for a reason. Who knows what kind of monsters or magic is along the way. I wouldn’t last a week!” The trader looked the man over again. “And neither will you, if all you’ve got is a pot and some fancy gloves.”
“The pot is all I need,” the man said. He gave another smile, and then pushed the small bag of coin closer towards the trader.
“What’s your name?” the trader said.
The man chuckled. “The name’s Guy.”
“Guy… what? What was your father’s title?”
The man turned around and began to walk away, hoisting the small pot over his shoulder. “Just Guy.”
“You know, if you need this gold for later,” the trader said. “Those fancy gloves could do as well. You can’t get too much trading on the west road. You may need that coin later, and those gloves don’t look that bad.”
The man stopped, but did not turn around.
“The gloves stay on,” Guy said. “For now, at least. The gloves must stay on.”
“Suit yourself, then.”
Guy heard the trader mumble to himself as he walked away. “Won’t last a week. Not a bloomin’ week.” He disregarded what the trader said, though. He figured it was a plot to lower his confidence, all so that the trader could stealthily ambush him later and get to the furthest parts of the west before he could.
The man in the purple vest walked up to the town’s west exit. It was an old, rusted gate, having almost never been used. Guy pushed the gate open, and it let out a loud screech like some unholy creature had just been slain. Guy liked to think that this was the first monster the he had vanquished upon his quest. This thought made Guy all the more determined, and he walked out onto the overgrown, stone road.
“Well, west,” he said. “Here I come.”
Guy pulled back on his white gloves to make sure they were comfortably over his hands, and he took his first step onto the west road. His worn, leather boots patted quietly down with each step, echoing softly in the valley surrounding him. Guy heard something, though. Something was following him.
“Already?” Guy kept his voice quiet, but continued to talk to himself. “That trader moves fast. I’ll have to take him on before he makes his move. Sneaky old man.”
Guy started to whistle, and innocently put his hands behind his back. His steps on the stone road became slower, hoping to force the old man into making a quick decision. The small footsteps behind him, sure enough, got closer. Closer than Guy was comfortable with. He swung around, whipping the pot out in front of him. “Stop there, trader the traitor! I won’t be stopped this early on in my quest!”
There, at his feet, was a small black cat. It was staring up at him with large, green eyes.
Guy lowered the pot.
“Hello there, friend,” Guy said. “You are not, in fact, the trader.”
The cat meowed again. It licked its whiskers and then leaped up onto Guy’s shoulder.
“Friendly fellow, aren’t you?” Guy said. “Well, I suppose you can tag along. I’d rather quest by myself, but the traveling company might be nice. You’ll need a name, though.”
Guy thought to himself, rubbing his chin. “You’re name will be cat, and we shall go to the west together.”
The cat meowed again. “Thank you!” Guy said. “I think, anyway. We’ll have to work on that language barrier if you want to come with me though.”
The black cat hung onto Guy’s shoulder as the man took long, exaggerated steps down the road. The cat, and the man, looked out towards the west and wondered just what the undiscovered land would hold for them. Guy knew his wish. He held it in his mind as he walked, and it drove him forward. He couldn’t fail. Not this time. He had to be the one to discover the ancient city, or… well, he didn’t know what would happen if he would fail. The kingdom had to fall. There was no other way, and he had to be the one to do it.