Fall: 17 years at the Monastery, three months after the duel, Day of the Range
Sunar sat with his sake, enjoying the presence of his family and friends as the sun set over the far saddle between peaks. No, scratch that, my family, all of them: There may be no blood between me and anyone here, but I would spill my lifeblood for any of them without hesitation. He opened his mind and heart, intent on burning this moment in his memory forever.
Meesha sighed and laid her head against his shoulder as they all sat, quietly, together, and watched the setting sun until the moment came to an end. He could not put his finger on it, could not find a division between in the moment and not in it, but as the shadows grew long she stirred beside him and the others began to gather their things.
Everyone made their way to the vehicles and began to pile in. Sunar hung back to kiss Meesha before he took to the air, but his dad spoke up, “Son, I need you to pace the cars, not fly back at speed. You and I have some business to take care of in town.”
Sunar nodded, then turned back to Meesha. She gave him a peck on the cheek, a rare all-dimples grin, and scampered over to the car with a wave and a smile. Everyone piled into the vehicles, despite the tight fit. No one relished the idea of jogging home in the dark under a new moon.
He watched the cars turn around and begin to make their way across the valley, then bounded into the air and took to his wings. Flying slowly took effort, particularly at night when the air remained so still and gave him no currents to work with. Still, he would not have found it terribly taxing if not for the hard day’s manual labor he’d put in. We keep ourselves in good shape, but that was a hard day.
He had to cut back-and-forth across the path of the cars as they made their way over the grass field. They probably could have jogged back faster, even in this failing light. Still, the night air is crisp, and I have always liked the way it glides across my wings. Something about cutting through the night sky always made him feel like he was flying through silk.
It took about half an hour for the cars to make their way across the grass in the dark, and then he and his dad were on the dirt road headed towards town. As soon as they pulled away from the Temple his dad began to speak, “I am proud of you, son, and of all the things you have accomplished. It pains me and your mother that you will be leaving the temple, but that is often the way of things in this world. We know that the experiences and challenges out there will help you grow in ways you can’t here.”
“Thanks, Dad. It is not just the Challenges I am going out there for, though. I learned something when I had to deal with that drow a few months ago: there are things for me to do Out There. I can make a difference in the Empire, somehow. It may be a small difference, it may just be a few people I help along the way, or it may be something larger. I don’t know. I only know that I won’t find out here in the Temple. I came from here, though, and a piece of me will always be here, with you and mom and Sierra.”
His dad nodded, “I know it will, son, and I expect you to write them regularly!” His dad gave him a wry grin. “A note to me on occasion would also be appreciated, of course.”
A calm silence settled over them for a few moments, then Sunar narrowed his eyes and looked at his dad. “You’re doing it again.”
Dad gave him his best false-innocent look. “Doing what?”
“Thinking about the day I was dropped on the Temple doorstep.”
“Yes and no. I was also contemplating all of the years between then and now. I never could have imagined, on that day when your mother’s heart added you to our family, the twists and turns you would bring to our life. It has been quite the ride, son.”
His dad looked at him with amusement, and he rolled his eyes dramatically. His dad continued, “I wouldn’t change a bit of it, of course. I have to admit I learned a lot along the way. What we are doing now isn’t about any of that, though. It is time I tell you a bit about my past before I came to the temple. You know I didn’t grow up in the temple like your mother did, but we have never discussed my life before that time.
“My youth was uneventful, really. I went to school, then college. Got my degree, but wanted more, and had some debt to deal with, so I enlisted with the Duchies’ military. Did my time there, got out, didn’t want to ride a desk, and wanted to make it big, so I signed up with a small ‘mercenary’ band. By small I mean there were six of them, but they did well. High-risk high-reward combat assignments. I’m not going to lie to you, son, we had a good time, and partied hard between jobs that would make your hair… er… scales stand on end.
“We specialized in monster removal: Displacer beasts, Chaos Critters, Otyugh, crazed Lycans of several types, a couple of kraken, even cleared out a nest of illithid once. A few, particularly the Lycans, we brought in alive, but mostly we were just clearing them out of places they shouldn’t have been. Finally the big score came in: a Select Imperial Bounty on a Lich.
“Don’t look at me son, I am well aware that turning oneself into a Lich is not in and of itself illegal in the Empire, but this one had done some things to earn an official Dead or Alive bounty. The contract alone was enough to set us all up for life, and it included exclusive rights to whatever plunder we could find, minus certain particular items. I’m not going to go into the details of that fight with you, but it was hard.
“Seven of us against him and his minions, in some temple he’d raised from whatever world he found it on and taken out into the Black. By the time the dust settled we’d all been wounded, with two unconscious and kept alive only because of the potions we had with us, but we’d done it.
“After that I’d had my fill of fighting and then some. I’d been contemplating finding something less hazardous to do for a while. We divided the treasure between us and went our separate ways. The Cleric took some time off and formed a new company, but the rest found other things to do.
“I took my fortune and learned investment, but that took very little of my time; I was basically idle rich. I still craved the rush, however, and turned to extreme sports. You name it, I tried it. Sky diving from orbit, rock climbing, super-deep diving, racing nearly every vehicle imaginable, and – of course – snow skiing. But, I’ve told you the story of nearly running your mother over on the slopes enough times.”
Sunar nodded, “Thank you for telling me, but I am not sure I understand how all of that has anything to do with a trip into the village in the evening?”
“Well, it has to do with that fortune and those investments I mentioned. When I fell in love with your mother and decided to come live here, I did not take any kind of vow of poverty. I worked with Master Ikthan and incorporated a lot of my investments with those of the Temple, and took over the finances.
“I have always kept a fair bit of money aside, of course, for when your mother or I wished to use it. As for what all this has to do with our current errand: we are going to the Bank to set you up with your Imperial Citizen’s bank account.”
Sunar looked out the window and back at his dad with his brows furled, “The bank? This late? I mean, I know it is a branch of the Central Imperial Bank, but they are closed at this hour.”
“I have an arrangement with Goodman Jinthor. Really, he has an arrangement with nearly everyone who lives in the village. He doesn’t mind coming in at odd hours to take care of business privately, so long as you make an appointment and don’t abuse the privilege.
“There are a lot of reasons for you to have an account, but the most important one for now is so that I can provide you with some starting funds and a small monthly stipend. It won’t let you live in idle luxury, but it will be enough to make sure you don’t go hungry and can rent a room when you need it.”
Sunar sat there speechless. His dad ran the Temple’s finances, and was independently wealthy besides? You never know how much you don’t know, indeed.
Mr. Jinthor greeted them with a warm smile and escorted them to a desk. “Well, Mi’Lord Sunar Dawnsflight. It is finally time to make you a proper Imperial citizen and get your account open. Excellent! I will admit I have been looking forward to this: it isn’t every day I get to open an account for a noble.
“Now, there are the basic formalities to attend to, including your oath of citizenship.”
Sunar nodded and started to stand, but Jinthor waved him down, “No need to stand on ceremony, Mi’Lord.”
He shifted uncomfortably in his seat, “Please, just call me Sunar. The name has always served me well enough.” He turned and smiled at his dad, who seemed to take it as a compliment.
Jinthor nodded and his smile widened, “As you will. As I said, no need to get all ceremonial about it. I am sure you understand the basics of the oath: follow the law as best you can, obey lawful directions from those above your station if the need arises, basic stuff. If you will simply press your thumb to the screen in front of you, and then sign, that will do.”
Sunar looked at the screen to find it displayed the handful of lines which made up the citizen’s oath, along with the extra lines regarding Noble Obligation for his rank 0 status. I end up a born-zero, after all that. He laughed to himself and pressed his thumb to the pad. A small tingle ran up his arm and he lifted his eyes in alarm.
Jinthor’s eyes widened and his eyebrows raised, “You felt that? Quite surprising. I didn’t know they had started teaching magic up at the Temple. Most folks – even monks – don’t notice that.”
Dad spoke up, “We haven’t started teaching magic, at least not generally, other than what might be called such that is inherent to our meditations. Sunar is, well, what he is, and has some sensitivity to energies.”
Jinthor nodded and put on an apologetic expression, “Of course, of course, how crass of me, I do apologize. As for the energy that you felt, don’t concern yourself. That is a magically-active pad which was taking a few hundred identity metrics, so that we can always make sure that you –and only you- are really you when you go to access your account.
“The profile it just created will be stored on the bank servers, and be usable for authentication all across the Empire. Now, here is your credstick, which you can use for transactions. It contains a lesser version of those same authentication routines which just scanned you, to make sure that only you can use it. Still, it is not as robust as the scanners we have in our offices, so I suggest that –rather than keeping it tied directly to your account- you set it to contain however many credits you feel comfortable having on you. Your money is fully insured, of course. Even if someone manages to both take your credit stick and hack it your money will be restored to you, up to a point, but it can take time to restore your account if it is completely emptied. Anyway, the choice is up to you. There, all set! Your father came by yesterday and arranged for you to have your regular deposits from his account, as well as a one-time deposit. Aaand… done. If you look at your credstick, it should instantly update with the total?”
Sunar fiddled with the small, pen-like device for a moment, then it displayed a number which made his eyes go wide. It then displayed another number with the word ‘Pending’ next to it. He looked to his dad, who held up a hand.
They sat and chatted for a few moments with Jinthor, then made their goodbyes. Sunar still felt a little light headed at all the money now at his disposal.
He tried to find a way to ask his questions without sounding ungrateful, but his dad spoke instead, “It is not nearly as much money as you think, my son, neither that initial deposit nor the stipend, though some do get by on less.
“You have never had to use money for more than the occasional extravagance you wanted, or to buy a meal here in town. Trust me when I tell you that you will have to husband it well or you may find yourself wanting.”
Sunar nodded, “I will have a lot to learn in a short time, it seems.”
His dad looked at him with a strange, but slightly amused, expression, “You have no idea, my son, but I believe you will do fine.”