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Traveling through the wilderness outside the towns is a dangerous ordeal. Roads aren't maintained, there are no rest stops between cities, and monsters attacks are always a possibility. A lone traveler could probably make a few day trips without running into a monster, but anyone who travels on a regular basis has to be prepared for that eventuality. Still, communication and trade are essential to every city's survival. The couriers, bodyguards, and general problem-solvers who make a living through travel are collectively called adventurers.
Most adventurers are independent contractors, meaning they take jobs and payment directly from individual clients. Since adventurers are travelers, the best place to find one is the local inn; this has been standardized to the point that many inns double as post offices and community bulletin boards for their cities.
Less experienced adventurers, who haven't earned people's trust yet, tend to live from job to job. Between unruly clients and lack of consistent income, they can't afford to pick and choose their jobs; most will be equally happy to deliver mail or slay monsters as long as they get paid. Adventurers who specialize in a particular type of job are either highly qualified or highly eccentric - usually both.
Despite the difficult start and physical dangers, many people still dream of becoming adventurers. Not only are you afforded far more freedom than civilian life, adventurers who make it big really make it big. Many affluent noble and merchant families owe their start to an adventuring ancestor.
For most people, when it comes to adventurers, dungeon clearing is the first job that comes to mind.
Some areas of the world, called dungeons, spontaneously generate monsters. If left unchecked for too long, the monsters will eventually leave and start attacking nearby towns. Cities located near dungeons will regularly pay adventuring parties to venture into the dungeon and destroy the monsters within to avoid being overrun.
Even if there are no dungeons to be cleared, slaying monsters can be profitable. Monster parts can be cooked down into pure mana, which is always in high demand. There are clients who want specific monsters killed as well, whether due to a grudge, to prevent further trouble, or a variety of other reasons.
Some spirit worship traditions hold that a soul cannot rest until they are given a proper burial, so it is a great tragedy when someone dies in the wilderness and cannot be found. Corpse hunters are adventurers who search for corpses in the wilderness and sell them back to their hometowns for burial.
Although all adventurers face suspicion from civilians (see below), corpse hunters are widely considered the worst of the lot. Even the legitimate ones are seen as holding your family members' remains for ransom, not to mention the ones who consistently bring in suspiciously fresh corpses... It's a job many will refuse to take, regardless of the circumstances.
Since the average civilian rarely sets foot outside their hometown's walls, adventurers and normal people essentially live in separate worlds. This leads to a lot of contradictory perceptions, stereotypes, and rumours about the adventuring lifestyle. In reality, adventurers are a diverse bunch, and each rumour will be true for some and false for others.
To a civilian, adventurers who spend most of their time travelling the lawless wilds seem strange and unpredictable. They are often stereotyped as amoral criminals, cheerfully doing whatever will bring in the most money, and treated with suspicion. While many people do become adventurers because of their complicated relationship with the law, others resent this reputation and do whatever they can to rehabilitate it.
On the other hand, their distance from the average person makes it easy to romanticize their lifestyle. In fiction, adventurers symbolize freedom and discovery, and they're ubiquitous in popular genre fiction... though most depictions bear little resemblance to their actual day-to-day life.
There are all sorts of adventurers, with different goals and ideals. Most make an effort to be courteous to each other; after all, they often come across each other in the wilderness where murder is legal. Still, with a relatively small number of quirky individuals all rubbing shoulders in the same field, personal drama is inevitable. Over time, many adventurers sort themselves into cliques and only associate with their in-group.
Unlike schoolyard cliques, established adventurers have the power and influence to turn their personal drama into big deals. A surprising number of sour guild relationships started out as relationship drama that spun out of hand. Aspiring adventurers are advised to tread carefully, lest they violate an unspoken rule and earn the ire of hundreds of well-armed weirdos.
Although adventurers are necessary for society to function, the process of hiring one can be risky and troublesome for everyone involved. Many bandits and scammers call themselves adventurers to justify their arrival in a city, and some even do legitimate adventuring jobs to supplement their income on the side. It is often completely impossible to tell if the person you're hiring to deliver some mail will actually do it or just take your down payment and run off. Legitimate adventurers suffer from this too, often being forced to jump through hoops to collect payment for properly completed jobs because of a client's suspicion.
Guilds try to solve this problem by promising some level of accountability. Official guild members can register their jobs, then if either the adventurer or client breaks their agreement the other can report it to the guild. Guilds can expel members and bar clients from taking more guild jobs for large or repeated offenses, so experienced members of reputable guilds can be trusted to do your job quickly and properly (though they also tend to be much more expensive). For independent adventurers, guilds are also a great way to find travel companions who won't try to shank you or rope you into a smuggling ring.
Most guilds specialize in a specific kind of job: there are courier guilds, monster-hunting guilds, and so forth. An adventurer can join as many guilds as they want, but will have to pay their dues and meet their quotas separately for each one.
Some notable guilds include:
Active Region: worldwide
Guardian Blades is the closest thing to a general-purpose guild. Members can register any combat-related job with the guild - bodyguarding, dungeon clearing, even cartography or trade if you can make a good enough case to your guild representative. Its sheer size and member count make it a powerful political entity in its own right, and its members can cross borders for job purposes even during wartime.
During construction of the Ortesia railway, the Orlis government worked closely with the Guardian Blades to ensure the safety of their engineers. The guild retains right of first refusal on railway maintenance-related jobs to this day, and this right alone has attracted many new members.
Active region: Milluria
A guild specializing in mail and small package delivery. Sylphbird Express's members are all summoners, who cross the wilds alone on summoned mounts. Since summons require no food or rest, this is the fastest way to get a package from A to B, but it is also extremely perilous for the riders since they have no backup if they're cornered by a wild monster.
Sylphbird Express functions more like a company than most guilds; for long distance jobs, you can contact the guild directly, and they will plan a route and pay the individual delivery people. The usual guild infrastructure is still in place, though, so you're free to approach individual members for jobs.
Active region: north Ortesia & Valefar, occasionally others
A small guild that deals in maritime transport. Although they accept commerce jobs, they have a bigger focus on exploration and discovery. Several wealthy patrons sponsor them in their efforts to map the North and Outer Seas.
Although all of their paperwork is in order, the Leviathans have a shady reputation - it's rumoured that their members work closely with certain mage academies to dredge the sea for illegal artifacts.