“One, two, three, four! Four of you! Fine, I’ll deal with this once we are back in Rising. For now, you all stay with Var. Fine mess you’re in, all of you! Babysitters, that’s what my men are being reduced to!” Darius stormed off, leaving the four boys with Var and the surrounding crowd of soldiers.
That morning, Darius had every basket, every supply case, and every cart checked from top to bottom. It was only a matter of time before Va’il, Kelin, and Pete were discovered. Though captured, in a sense, they each knew to keep quiet when being interrogated by Darius. Darius, for his part, didn’t particularly know what to do with any of the stowaways. He decided to place them all with Var and attend to the kids later, assuming that he would remember. Personally, he didn’t think he would be able to think about them at all for the next few days, considering the important mission ahead of them. All the thought he could muster in regards to them was that he hoped nothing terrible would befall them once they entered the dangerous territory ahead.
Var turned out to be a better caretaker than the boys were expecting. Var had met Va’il before, and the two shared a look of recognition. Var didn’t mention that to Darius, and simply accepted the boys into his care without a word. By noon, the expedition was ready to leave Dindalnor, which they did as quickly as possible. Darius wasted no time in continuing his mission.
“It’s been a while,” Va’il said as they walked.
“Yes boy, sure has. Hard to forget you,” Var replied.
“He is quite strange, right, that makes him stick in your mind whether or not you want him to,” Zeick said while laughing, though he was the only one.
“Ignoring the fool, mind an introduction, Va’il?” Kelin looked up at the creature who was more than a few heads taller than him.
“Ah, Var,” Va’il said, “he walked me home a few years ago, you remember, back when we had visited Lake Tershi, when we were all in the same class. Met Mum for just a second, but she said that she thought the world was coming to an end when he knocked. He isn’t carrying it now, but he has a spear so large, just enormous. Course, I still don’t know why that alone would mean he’s the one that the commander wants looking after us. Var, does your commander look down on you or something, to have to deal with kids like us, after all?”
“You’re all quite forthright, just about right for your age,” Var said. “Commander has a good amount of respect for me, methinks, it’s because of my duties in the city that he chose me for this. I’m commissioned to watch another certain person, who happens to be around your age as well. So I have experience, you’d say.” Var laughed as the boys looked at him with doubtful eyes.
“A certain person? Nobility?” Kelin asked.
“Yes, a noble,” Var said.
“A child, at that. Younger, older than us?” Kelin asked.
“She’s a little bit older, but not by much, I suppose I can tell that much,” Var replied after some thought.
“‘She,’ so you watch a girl?” Kelin kept pressing Var for answers, who realized he shouldn’t be answering these questions. But he did anyways.
“Yes, been watching a noble’s daughter for three years now. But why does that interest you common folk so much?” Var asked, puzzled.
“Common?” Kelin and Zeick exclaimed in unison.
“We aren’t common!” Kelin said. “Sure, Va’il is, but we’re noble children! This even happened those years ago at Lake Tershi, being told by a certain high-noble girl that none of ‘us commoners’ had seen her, for our protection even. Since when have I ever been a commoner? Must I be insulted for a second time in my life?” Kelin spoke with a touch of dignity and arrogance, both of which seemed real to Var. Va’il laughed to himself.
“My apologies, I’m not too familiar with other children of all the nobles, forgive me,” Var said. The large bearan stopped walking and bent down on one knee. The sight was too much for Kelin, who started to laugh.
“No no, forgive me, I don’t mean to make a fuss over it, I’m just getting you worked up. You should get up, be dignified. I may be a noble, but it doesn’t mean much to me. You haven’t insulted me, unlike the high-noble I just mentioned. I was forgotten, and then called a commoner, by someone I had met before. Your comments are purely innocent.” Kelin smiled at the bearan, who stood to his full size again, and returned the smile. They kept walking, just barely keeping up with the rest of the procession.
“No offense taken,” Var said, “by either of us, then. Really, the day-to-day suffering I endure at the hands of the noble child I watch had given me quite a bit of patience with children. She’s impulsive, whimsical, and bored; therefore, my job is not easy. This excursion has been a vacation, compared to watching a high-noble’s child.” Var spoke without considering the words he spoke.
“You watch the female child of a high-noble who is just a little older than us, Var?” Kelin asked. His tone was flat.
“Um, yes, that’s correct,” Var replied, though he was becoming very worried.
“I see.” Kelin didn’t speak about the matter again. The conversation he had with Var didn’t register with Va’il in the least, since Va’il had no understanding whatsoever about nobility. Pete and Zeick hadn’t paid much attention to it, but neither of them would have realized the important part of the conversation at all. Kelin did not reveal to any of his cohorts or Var that only a few of the nobility in Rising were of the highest class, about a dozen families in total. Among them, there weren’t too many young children. Kelin had met most of those children in the past. He opened a book he had kept with him, opened to the middle, and started reading. No one could hear him whisper “Melonscone” under his breath, behind the pages of the book. Nor could anyone realize he was smiling and laughing to himself at the irony of it all.