Valeros Penchez - Chapter 1

Tando and Valeros had just come off a job routing a few goblins that had been creating havoc in the countryside when they were hired by four other mercenaries to guard a large caravan of pilgrims through some dangerous country. While on the road, the other mercenaries turned out to be cruel men who taunted the pilgrims and constantly tried to isolate and violate the women. The two friends often found themselves between the other mercenaries and pilgrims as tensions ran high. Here Valeros’ mind was better than his sword as he repeatedly reminded the mercenaries of the better rewards in getting the pilgrims to their destinations in one piece.

“The dead don’t pay,” Valeros kept reminding them. He and Tando decided they had enough of this band of ruffians and would take their leave of them once they reached their goal and were paid.

After finally getting everyone safely to town, the head mercenary, Jinkar, went to collect their pay. Tando sent Valeros to stable their mounts and told him to meet them at the tavern. But when Valeros arrived at the tavern, he found group of people standing around the front of an alley next to the tavern. When he pushed his way through the crowd to see if he could help, he saw Tando lying on the ground, on his side, with two people trying to help him. Valeros rushed to his friend and he could tell that the old mercenary had received a grave wound to the lower back. His mind was a mixture of fear, grief and rage.

Tando was conscience and looked up at Valeros. A playful smile creased his face. “I must be getting senile, boy. I let them convince me to come out to be paid so others couldn’t see the money exchanging.” A spasm of pain racked Tando but the smile returned. “Can’t believe I let one of them sneak up behind me. He paid for it in the end, though.” Tando looked into the alley and as Valeros followed his gaze, he was entranced by the decapitated head of one of the mercenaries. A surprised look was still frozen on the mercenary’s face and his body was slumped across the alley against the wall.

“Not exactly how I pictured the end.” Tando tried to laugh but gasped instead, bringing Valero back to his friend. He immediately moved to pick up Tando saying, “Not yet, Old Man. Let’s get you to a cleric.” But Tando put a hand up to Valeros’ chest and said quietly “No, I’m done for, boy” with the grin never leaving his face. Another spasm of pain rocked Tando and his body shuddered. The grief began to overcome Valeros and tears welled up in the young fighter’s eyes and roll down his cheeks.

Tando beckoned Valeros closer and he leaned down close to hear the words of the man who had become more than a friend. Tando reached up and put a firm hand on Valeros’ shoulder and whispered, “fear not, you are ready…. my son.” Valeros felt that firm grip slacken, then the hand slipped from his shoulder and Tando was gone; a smile still upon his face.

The rage then overwhelmed Valeros’ grief. He stood, threw his head back, looking at the sky and a primal scream erupted from deep within him. His longsword flashed into his hand and the crowd fell back from him. He looked down at Tando one last time, his chest heaving. The “boy” was gone. In his place stood the warrior… and the battle was not yet done.

A sneer broke upon Valeros’ face and he leapt over Tando’s body running full speed down the street, his scale armor rattling with every stride. His rage was like an invisible wall moving ahead of him in the street. All cleared a path for the racing warrior. Though his emotions were dominated by rage, his mind was crystal clear. He knew where Jinkar and the other two mercenaries would be. They had all been seen entering town together and new suspicion would fall upon them. The mercenaries would have to leave in a hurry; and for that they would need horses.

Valeros rounded the corner to the stable just as the last mercenary was riding through the gate. Valeros never broke stride and leapt for the man, tackling him from the saddle. The mercenary, taken by surprise, landed hard. Valeros rolled as he landed and came up, sword in hand. The mercenary came up to one knee, drew his weapon and leaned on it, trying to catch his breath. Valeros stepped toward the mercenary, almost growling as he said “Yield or I will cut you down like the rabid dog you are!”

Jinkar and his companion reined in and began to turn and come back toward the stable just in time to see the mercenary lung at Valeros’ groin with his sword. Valeros leapt up spinning away from the thrust; and while it missed its target, the blade slipped under the bottom of the scale mail, gashing Valeros’ thigh. But Valeros was past caring, he had taken his longsword fluidly in two hands as he spun and used his momentum to gracefully bring his blade around and down onto the back of the off-balance mercenary’s exposed neck. The blade sliced through tissue and vertibrae with a sickening crack. The mercenary’s body fell to the ground, sword clattering and his head rolling away.

Valeros landed facing Jinkar and the other mercenary. He pointed at them with this longsword and roared, “You shall pay for the murder of Tando! Yield or Die!”

The vision was too much for the mercenaries; they turned their horses towards the city gate and fled at full gallop, overrunning anyone who got in their path. Valeros started to give chase but the deep gash in his thigh caused his leg to buckle. As he fell, watching the retreating backs of his enemy, the adrenaline and rage drained away. Valeros lay on the ground, breath heaving, through clenched teeth he kept repeating, “He will be avenged.” …The grief returned.

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Valeros Penchez - Chapter 1

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