Tessa groaned into her pillow as the sun shined through the blinds covering the window, being forced awake by the warm but blinding light as she slowly sat up in her bed. The wooden bedframe let out a slow and loud creak as Tessa sat up and scratched the side of her head, her blonde hair in a mess of tangles. Stretching her arms over her head, Tessa got out of bed and let out a long, tired yawn.
Taking a look around, she wanted to see if her roommate Sylvie was still around, “Seems Sylvie’s already up and about.” Grabbing some clothes from her dresser, Tessa looked at herself in the mirror for a moment, “Got a bit to fix before the ceremony.”
Making her way to their shared bathroom, Tessa began to get ready for today’s ceremony as it was time for her to graduate from Unity Academy. It’d been ten years since the wyvern assault on Tessa’s hometown, and now it was finally time that she directly pursued her dream of being a Hero.
In the short time after the monsters’ invasion, Tessa became curious about all of the different kinds of Heroes that existed. As a child, she only knew of the universally strong Heroes that existed in the many fairy tales her parents read to Tessa before bed. But seeing one Hero use a sword, another use miracles, and a third casting powerful magic made her wonder if there was even more out there. Tessa favored the swordsman’s style for saving her, but when she tried to use a sword she had no natural talent for it. Tessa even tried wielding a shield, bow, ax, and other melee or ranged weapons, but she was never able to use them just right.
Tessa also tried to find out what her magical aptitude was, but the results weren’t in her favor. She had a faint pull towards water and earth magic, but it wasn’t strong enough to be worth training in. Even Tessa’s examiner believed that even if Tessa were to train in magic, she wouldn’t make much progress for a long time. It wasn’t good news for Tessa, and knowing that she was neither suitable for weapons nor magic challenged her dream of being a Hero, but the examiner had one last idea.
In this world, everyone is born with a natural talent that aligns with the powers of the world. While not all talents are equal in power, they give everyone a headstart on their own journeys. Someone who finds themselves to have a connection to fire magic, but doesn’t like fighting, might become a renowned baker. Whereas someone who is physically strong and able to swing an ax could become a lumberer and wood carving artisan instead of a soldier. The gods desired to give even the frailest of people a chance at surviving.
Tessa was brought to her city’s temple by the examiner and there Tess found she was favored by Aeon, God of Light, and had a much stronger natural talent for miracles of healing and blessings of the Light. Tessa was sad that she wouldn’t be able to be the same kind of Hero that’d saved her from a wyvern, but it did make her happy that she shared the same gift as the lady who’d healed her mother and many of the guards and citizens.
Now that Tessa knew which way would be the best route for her, she poured every ounce of energy she could into becoming a cleric of Aeon. If she had a moment to spare, she dedicated it to learning and practicing the basics of miracles and blessings. Even though Tessa had a natural gift, it was only slightly above average, and it would be several years before she was ready to heal anyone in the midst of battle. And while Tessa’s parents preferred to see her pursuing a less dangerous way of life, they were never able to dissuade her. Eventually, they gave in and supported her as best they could. Over time Tessa grasped the basics of miracles and soon was able to test into Unity Academy as an honor student in the miracle division. She had to leave home to pursue her dream, but Tessa was excitedly looking forward to taking that one more step closer to being a Hero.
At Unity Academy, students like Tessa learned how to use their natural talents, building a foundation out of what they had and growing from there. It was there that Tessa gained a deeper understanding of how miracles worked and interacted with the Gods. Through deepening her faith in Aeon, Tessa was further empowered by Aeon. But just as it was for Tessa as a child, her first lessons towards becoming a cleric of Aeon weren’t easy. Often she’d be up studying and practicing her miracles and blessings late into the night, usually to the annoyance of her roommate Sylvie. Tessa avidly practiced her basics, and while she was making progress, it was barely giving favorable results. While her peers learned things much easier, the bits of progress she did gain in those late nights allowed Tessa to keep pace with her classmates.
Tessa was never top of the class, nor did she ever seem to yield particularly impressive results, but she always provided very consistent results. While only just above average in strength, her miracles and blessings always had the same reliability and effectiveness. Even when Tessa was exhausted, they lasted longer than most of her peers’. Sometimes Tessa would see one of her classmates perform an impressively effective miracle and gain favor with Aeon, but Tessa’s consistency put her on a nearly equally impressive level. Most of her classmates didn’t see all that much value in her as Tessa never seemed to practice what new and flashy miracle they’d just been taught. Still, people like Sylvie saw her lack of variability and dedicated studying of the basics incredible. It wasn’t long before a small circle of friends gathered around her.
But now, it was the end of Tessa’s student life. She’d studied and practiced all she could while here, safely becoming stronger behind the school’s walls, and it was time to move on to the next journey. In her head, Tessa had already planned out her route. After the graduation ceremony, she’d hop aboard the next merchant-wagon-caravan headed to Faethun, home to the centralized headquarters of all Heroes. Unfortunately, Tessa hadn’t had much time to research Heroes or any events unfolding outside the school due to her studying, but every now and then, she’d hear the different cliques talking about them. Every now and then there’d be a rumor about a graduate from years long passed becoming a Hero, or Tessa would hear news about a Hero driving back a horde of demons back into the Circles of Hell in the passing time between lessons. Murmurs speculating if someone from their respective division might become a Hero, or who among the top of each division would become a Hero became more frequent towards graduation day. Unfortunately, Tessa was never considered. It stung a bit but the people who were always considered were also always performing significantly higher than her and it was hard to argue against seeing one of them as a Hero in the future.
After getting freshened up, Tessa became lost in her thoughts as she stared at the formal gown and vestments she’d been given, stuck in place as she recalled all of her time at Unity Academy.
Giving a knock on the door, Sylvie checked in on Tessa, “Hey, you good to go? Don’t want to have to drag you out of bed again from studying all night.”
“H-huh? Oh! Yes, I’ll be out in just a moment, Sylvie! Was just a lost in thought, is all.”
“Just glad you’re awake; I’ll be waiting downstairs for ya’!”
Tessa took a deep breath, this was the end of her time here, and the last time she’d be able to call this place her home. The last time she’d be sharing a room with Sylvie like this. It was a sad and heavy feeling, and it all felt like the last ten years had gone by in a flash.
Taking hold of her robe and vestments, Tessa could feel how regal they were. Slipping them on, they had a warm and silky feel. The main robe was a solid white that shimmered in the sunlight with green and gold trim, with tassels that hung from the ends. Tessa took out the last two things she had to have with her before she could head to the Great Hall, a crown of olive leaves, and the Staff of Aeon the Academy had given Tessa as a send-off gift. Most students had to wear a more normal cap, but this made her stand out as a high-performing student. These two things made her feel just a little bit special in the eyes of the school.
Tessa dawned the crown and held her staff, leaving her shared dorm room for the last time. Descending the stairs, she met up with Sylvie on the ground floor, not wanting to waste a moment more. Spotting her friend, Tessa couldn’t help but look at Sylvie’s green robe with red and white trim and a red vestment with white trim. Sylvie held a bow her elven family had sent her along with a hairpin made out of a red flower and the white and red feathers of a bird of prey adorned behind it.
“Ready to go, Tessa?”
Tessa paused for a moment but was good to go, “Yes, let’s go.”
The two left the building, with Sylvie running ahead eagerly and Tessa trying to keep up as they met up with their respective divisions.