Short story 2: Unusual visitors

It was a hot day, and I was sweating in my armor. Urtin and I was on duty, guarding the gate. The day was getting old, and I was blessing each passing minute in my mind as the temperature slowly fell towards a more acceptable level. It was never fun guarding the city warden’s gate, but in warm days of burning sun it was almost unbearable. Urtin was feeling it too, I was sure of it. But we rarely spoke of such matters, we were His Grace’s soldiers and we would endure all kinds of weather in his service, be it rain or shine.

There was some commotion down at the market place, it look as if some travelers with horses were in a hurry to cross the crowd. It is never easy to hurry across a crowd in Barsas, and a stranger should be careful to upset the local traders and dealers, they had short tempers and long knives. I looked at the strangers trying to figure out what kind of people they may be. It looked to be a man and two boys with horses and a pony, and they seemed to be headed this way. One of the boys was about the same age as my son. What could be the meaning of this?

I thought back to this morning, at breakfast. My wife and I had been arguing about our son’s future. I told her that he is old enough to start aspiring as a soldier. It has been a good life for me and I can teach him the ways and help him become a good fighter. But my wife didn’t want any of it, she claims it’s too dangerous and that he’s too young. I think it’s clear that she is simply afraid. But at the age of fifteen, he is clearly old enough to start his training. What will the other men say about me if I don’t bring my son into a vocation at his age? They will all think me a coward and a useless father. And what about my son’s friends? They will think him to be weak and lazy unless he starts doing something really useful besides helping out at home. My wife don’t understand such matters, unfortunately. She only thinks of the day when I was gravely wounded some years ago and fears that such a thing could happen to our son as well. But I’d rather die in the service than being a coward, doing some useless work. A soldier’s life was honorable, if dangerous.

The strangers had reached the bottom of the steps, and the stable boy lead their horses to the stables. They were ascending towards us, looking determined. They were clad in traveling garments, and in a fashion that was clearly not from this city. As they came closer, I noticed that the oldest of them was young, although he was clearly a grown man. The others were boys, but one of them leaving his childhood days, the other more of a child still. As if we were commanded, Urtin and I lowered our halberds and blocked their way.
“What is your business with the warden?” I asked.
The man replied:
“I have an urgent message from Burno.”
Burno? That tiny village some distance to the south? What would they want with the city warden?
“And these two? What is their business?”
It seemed unlikely that the warden would have time for a man and two young boys.
“They are with me,” he replied.
“You must wait here,” I commanded, before I shouted to the sergeant inside the gate. The sergeant vanished for a while and then he came back.
“It’s all right,” he said, “they are welcome.”
Urtin and I withdrew our halberds and allowed the unusual visitors to enter.

I made up my mind. I would not allow my son to become a rootless vagabond like these three. He would start his training as a soldier next week.

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