Burkhardt stood before Minister Erhard, he knew why he had been called, he had heard the rumors as did everyone else. Erhard sat in the small throne that he grew out of Mother Tree 100 years ago when he had killed the seven. Burkhardt didn't think much of his ancestors, they were obviously foolish and had bitten off more than they could chew with their attempt to curtail the democracy of the clan. He felt no animosity towards the man and even respected him. He looked upon his visage, he had allowed streaks of grey to grow in because he liked the look and it was tied in a ponytail behind his head. Though he was sitting, he was still taller than Burkhardt, his shirtless form would be towering over him if he stood. Burkhardt dressed like he did when he trained, he wore white robes, tied off at the wrist and waist, blue trousers, tied tight to his calves, and bare feet. He carried his sword at his side, a kriegsmesser contained in a spelled leather scabbard. A bow on his back, unstrung the wood and the string spelled. Erhard stroked his beard and blew up on a nonexistent lock of hair on his forehead, "Ok, so, we have all heard the rumors." He said, looking at the sizable crowd they had gathered including several of his children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren and great great grandchildren, "The nearby kingdom of Teutonia is incentivising mages to join them for the army they are amassing. Normally, even if they were, that would be none of our concern. However, several among our number have gone missing while visiting Teutonia, so I am forced to call for action. Burkhardt, you are to travel to Teutonia, ascertain whether the rumors are true, and find any mages there. If you find any that are captured or have been killed, bring them, or their bodies back here, at whatever the cost, call for back-up only if absolutely necessary. However, if they are there of their own free will, simply come back and report that and we need not look into it any further." He said, "When will you be leaving?" He asked. "I'm going to need the cobbler to make me some spelled hobnailed boots, but after I obtain them, immediately." He said, turning on his heel to address the cobbler. One of Erhard's grandchildren ran out of the crowd to speak to him, "Grandfather, are you sure it's best to send him? He isn't nearly as powerful of many amongst our number, yourself included, we literally have more than a 1000 mages more powerful than him. Surely if it goes wrong, it would be better for it to be someone else?" She asked. Erhard nodded, "True, he does not have nearly the volume of magic power myself, or any of my progeny have. But he has the right kind of magic skills and other skills for if this goes wrong. Imagine if you will, an orchard, peaches, plums and more, and an axe. Which would you rather have in the summer?" He asked. "The orchard." She said softly. "Winter? Spring? Fall?" He asked. "The Orchard." She said, patiently waiting for him to continue. "And why would you want the orchard?" He asked her. "Well, in the summer, it would bear fruit for us to gather and store to use throughout the year, in the fall we would collect the deadfall to burn in the winter, while using the trees as a shelter from the wind, and in the spring, the blooms would be useful for many reasons." She said. "If bad men come to attack your orchard, are you going to pick up the deadfall or the axe to fight them off?" He asked. "Of course the axe, sir." She said softly. Erhard nodded, "We are all like trees in the orchard, Ericka, we have many benefits, and we can even use our abilities offensively, but that is not what they are meant for. An axe is a tool, it is a tool for harm in one way or another. Burkhardt is an axe." He explained. "But sir, if we are the trees, and he is the axe, doesn't that mean he can cut us down?" She asked. Erhard nodded, "You were paying attention." He said with a smile, "I could have chosen any weapon I wanted, a sword, a spear, a bow, a club, I chose an axe. Do you know why that is?" He asked. Her eyes grew wide, "No, you can't be saying-" "Ah, but I am. He could cut down you, me, any of us. He is exactly the type of mage Teutonia would want to recruit, which is why he is the best for this job." He explained. ************************** Burkhardt walked into the cobbler tree, knocking on the counter, "Cobbler, I'm being sent to Teutonia, I need hobnailed boots, enchanted to be silent." He shouted into the store. Ivo came out from the back room, wearing a leather apron and trousers, "Oh, hello Burkhardt, investigating the rumors are we?" He asked, putting on leather gloves and waving his hands, leather and thread flying overhead, sewing together in the proper shape, hobnails joining them with steel plates that he struggled to cut into the right shape and form into another sheet, "I'm gonna miss you, how are we going to replenish our supply of fine steel?" He asked with a chuckle. "You'll manage." He said with a smile, "We have other steelmakers." He added softly. "Well, while you're there, can you buy some silver for me?" He asked, pulling out a satchel of gold and setting it on the counter. "Well, I will be keeping half of what you gave me the gold for." He said, holding out his hand for the gold. He narrowed his eyes at Burkhardt, "You're lucky this is pretty much worthless to us." He said, tossing the bag to Burkhardt, "I expect at least twice the weight in silver as I'm giving you in gold." He said as Burkhardt pocketed the bag. "All right, I'll give you half of the silver or twice the weight of the bag, whichever is more." He said. Ivo nodded and set the finished boots on the counter and closed his eyes, waving his hands over them, "All right, they're not completely silent. You can sneak up on a deer in a forest, but I don't know how will it will perform on cobblestone roads." He said, holding out the boots for him with a pair of thick socks. Burkhardt took the socks, brushing the dirt off his feet as he put them on, putting on the boots right after, marvelling at the softness, "Oh yeah, that's great. I haven't worn boots since-" "Since you became an adult. I know, my mom made them." He said. Burkhardt nodded and waved, leaving the tree with his gold and with Ivo's. He began to walk out of their grove into the rest of the forest, heading north. ********************************************* He entered Teutonia and went a few miles within before finding a decent sized town with an inn. It had been several days since he last ate and he wanted food, and wine, since the locals didn't know how to keep their water clean. He sat down at the bar in the inn, "How much for a hot meal, some wine and a room for the night?" He asked. "A silver for the meal, a silver for the wine and three silvers for the room." she said, sizing him up by the look of his clothes. He pulled a gold piece out of his pocket, "I'd like my change in as much silver as you have." He said, "You can keep the copper if you hurry with my food and drink." She nodded vigorously as she ran off to grab his food and he looked around for any mages. Most everyone in the tavern had a strange look about them to his eyes, no magical aura, he took that for the obvious, not mages. Soon enough the innkeeper was back with four silvers and her food, "I've heard that the kingdom is recruiting mages for the army here." He said loudly, "Know where I can sign up?" He asked. The innkeeper shook her head and hurried back off.