Valeros Penchez - Chapter 3

Valeros put his elbows on the bar, leaned his face in his hands and began massaging his forehead. He thought, “When will I learn to just slow down?”

Rodmear looked up between mouthfuls and said, “You okay?”

A heavy sigh escaped Valeros. He looked at Rodmear and managed a grin. “I’ll be fine.”

“Good,” the guardsman said and took a pull from his mug. “We’re goin’ to need to be leavin’ soon to make it by sundown.” He continued to wolf down his meal.

Valeros slowly stood up, “I’ll be back in a minute and then we can get this carnival on the road,” and walked across the room and out the front door.

He found the child right where Abstalar had told him to go, sitting on the bench out front of the tavern. The child was sitting forward with his hands on each side of his knees, gripping the front edge of the bench and watching his swinging feet. He was a slender kid with strawberry blonde hair and bright blue eyes. The child looked bored.

Valeros strode over to stand in front of the child with his fists on his hips, “What’s your name kid?”

The child’s feet instantly stopped and he slowly looked up, taking in Valeros until he looked up at his face; his eyes were wide and his mouth hung open. Valeros could see nervousness in the child’s eyes and he was taken aback by the reaction. Then it hit him. Though Valeros was not overly large for a mercenary, he must have looked huge and ominous to the child, towering over him and virtually bristling with weapons. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, forcing himself to relax the way his father had taught him, what seemed like a lifetime ago. The thought of his father triggered a memory of how he would speak to Valeros as a young boy when he was anxious or frightened. Valeros opened his eyes, squatted down, balancing easily on his toes while sitting on his heels to get down to the same level as the child. He smiled at him and held out his hand, “My name is Valeros, what’s yours?”

The child relaxed a little and tentatively reached out to shake Valeros’ hand, “J…Jerel…. S…Sir.”

“Jerel. That’s a good name, I like it.” Still shaking the child’s hand, “Did Father Zantus mention anything to you about me before he left?”

“O..Only that a man would be out in a bit to take me home.” The child managed a sheepish grin.

“Well, Jerel,” Valeros said still smiling and standing up, “I’m that man, and I AM going to take you home. Come on inside with me and we’ll gather up a few things and be on our way.” Valeros started for the door and looked back over his shoulder to see the child still sitting there and looking at him. Another image of his father flashed across Valeros’ mind. He cocked his head and reached backwards towards the boy holding his palm out towards him. Jerel hopped down from the bench, walked over, took his hand and the two went back into the Rusty Dragon.

As they walked across the common room towards the bar, Valeros leaned down a little and gently said, “Jerel, there is a friend of mine I want you to meet who is going to help me take you home.” They walked up to Rodmear as he was finishing up his stew, “This is Rodmear, he’s a City Guardsman.”

Rodmear turned on his stool, looked at the child and instantly smiled warmly at him. “And who is this strappin’ young lad you have there?” He said, reaching out and tousling the child’s hair.

“This is Jerel, Farmer Ghent’s son,” Valeros replied.

Rodmear fixed Valeros with surprised gaze, “Really? I didn’t even know Ghent had a son.”

“He doesn’t,” Valeros replied, voice dripping with sarcasm. “I figured every farmer needed one so I just went out into the street and selected one.”

Rodmear rolled his eyes at Valeros and then turned to Jerel beaming, “Well it’s a damn good choice! He’ll work out just fine.” His hand flashed, poking Jerel in the ribs, tickling him. The child squirmed and giggled, completely at ease.

Valeros shook his head thinking, “how DOES he do that? Everyone he meets likes him instantly.” It had always taken Valeros time and effort for people to really relax around him. He felt like he needed to prove himself first. “Alright you two, we should probably get going. I figure if we give it a steady ride, we’ll make it to the farm easily before nightfall. Rodmear, why don’t you go round up your gear and we’ll meet you at the stables? I’ll pick up some rations on the way there, just in case.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Rodmear got up and headed toward the door, tousling Jerel’s hair one more time as he passed. He slapped shoulders and shook hands as he worked his way to the door, “See ya later, Hank. Good luck, Callum,” and so on. Just before he went out the door, pointed to a few guardsmen sitting at a corner table, “you boys be careful out there tonight and try not to fall off the wall!” Laughter filled the room; then he was gone.

Always a spectacle Rodmear was. Valeros gave the child’s shoulder a gentle squeeze, “Come on, Jerel”. They made their way to the back stairs and up to Jerel’s room.

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Valeros Penchez - Chapter 3

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