CHAPTER THREE: Crossing the Rabbit's Path (11)

“I have returned,” he stated blissfully as he guided the pony toward the pair of dwarves huddled together conspiratorially, “and I will take the boy! That is . . . for the feather of course.” He could already sense the sweet jingling of gold coins clinking together in a bulging, overly-stuffed money pouch.

“But,” Grom began, “but . . .” He floundered as an evident lack of excuses filled the places in his mind where reason should’ve been.

“You said it yourself – you want to be an adventurer. Now’s your chance, boy!” Bornen gently slugged him encouragingly upon the shoulder.

“Are you sure about this, Papa? I mean . . . what if you get hurt more, or what if you run into trouble?”

“If I run into trouble,” he retorted confidently, “that trouble will be trembling the next time it hears the mention of my name.” Then Bornen, with the assistance of his grandson, relaxed into the saddle once he was able to remount the pony. “Ee-ugh! Say,” he remarked to Denthis, “Where will you be taking him exactly?”

“I’m traveling in the direction of Barrow Falls. There’s a branch of the guild I’m registered with in the city. I think it might be expanding its number of applicants this coming season, now that I recall. The ‘Unbroken Shield’ is the faction’s title; it’s a chapter of the Shield Alliance, which I’m a proud member of,” and as he was talking he gestured strangely, as if he was giving them an awkward salute.

“That’s well enough,” said a rather satisfied Bornen, “it all sounds like it will be good for him. I’ll send word . . . s-somehow, Grom. Ezmyr has his magic. When I have found him, I’ll contact you.” Suddenly he was struggling to hold back rising tears. This wasn’t the way he was expecting to part from Grom, but what little choice he had. “Just remember,” he added, desperately wishing to deposit some final pearls of wisdom into the banks of the boy’s mind, “keep your head down and your chin up, my boy.”

Grom fumbled with the riddle as an expression of stupor gradually surfaced on his face. “R-right,” he eventually agreed with a bit of reluctance, “I’ll do that.” Then he said with melancholy, “I suppose this is good-bye for now, Papa. I’m anxious, and I don’t want to leave your side, but if you say it’s for the best then I’ll go.”

Bornen nodded, “You’re not a child anymore. Do it,” he challenged with a jesting wink, “if you think you have what it takes to be an adventurer.”

His youthful glance shifted to Denthis. “You swear you’ll take me to get registered? To-to be an official adventurer?”

The man smiled as he politely snatched up a gray feather from Bornen’s grasp. “I give you my word, Grom. I’ll take you there, but,” he concluded firmly, “the rest is up to you.”

The End

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