Summer: 17 years at the Monastery
Gravel crunched beneath Sunar’s feet as he walked the streets of town. He greeted many of the town’s residents with a nod or a tilt of his staff, enjoying an easy familiarity with the people, the quiet of the town in summer, and the sun on his scales. Lenar patrolled as well, somewhere, but none of the other monks stirred from the Temple today. The town did not really need them at this time of year, but they always kept someone on patrol – for appearance’s sake if nothing else. The citizens of the town seemed to feel more at ease with ‘their’ monks around.
His route took him near his favorite pub, and he allowed his nose to lead him to the door. He manipulated the middle of his staff as he opened the door, retracting the metal pole so that it fit in his pocket. Many of the locals, with little to do during the summer, had also gathered for lunch. Lona, the owner of the pub, spotted him and gave a cheery wave, then cocked her head as if asking if he wanted his usual. He offered a small smile in return, and nodded, then looked for a place to sit. He started towards an empty table to the side, but several men waved him over to sit with them.
They smiled broadly as he sat, a few clapping him on the shoulder or reaching out to shake his hand. Jeb, the owner of the ice-skate rental down at the lake, spoke first: “Sunar, good to see you! Always a pleasure! I’m glad you’re here. Want to say thank you, again, for your help with those unruly boys a couple of months ago. That late in the spring the ice can get thin, and I was afraid they might fall through. Watching you swoop down and pull them both up in the air was a hoot!”
Jeb handed him a tankard of mead, and raised his own in toast, “To Sunar, who has helped every one of us out of one scrape or another over the last few years.”
Every mug and tankard in the house raised into the air, and Sunar brought his up as well while trying to keep his blush under control and his smile in place. I have simply done my job while I was in town. These people pay us to keep order. I do not understand the gratitude. Is that why it makes me uncomfortable? He looked around at the smiling faces as he took a drink from the mug. The sweet liquid made it easier for him to smile in return. It doesn’t matter, I guess. The expression of it, and my appearance of acceptance, seems to bring them some happiness.
He felt genuine warmth gather in his smile, and radiate down through his body as he gazed at the assembled townsfolk. These are good people, and have always treated me with kindness and acceptance. I need to return their gratitude, rather than feel uncomfortable because of it. “Thank you, all of you. Here is to Jeb, and all of you, who make this such a great place!”
He raised his tankard in the air, and was met with a hearty chorus of agreement. Everyone drank his toast, then turned back to their respective tables and the low murmur of conversation filled the room. The men he’d joined began to talk shop, mostly telling stories of crazy things tourists had done or demanded.
They asked him a question every now and then, making an effort to include him, and he answered with a smile, a few words, a quick story, or a wry grin, but didn’t put himself forward. He felt content to simply listen.
His steak arrived soon enough, and he listened while he ate. When he he reached into his coin pouch to pay for his meal Lona happened by. She gave him a stern look and spoke in tones of mock-severity, “What do you think you’re doing? You know your money’s no good here! Oh, don’t you look at me like that. You’ve prevented enough trouble makers from breaking my chairs to pay for a lifetime of meals. You are fine to pay when you are on a day off, but I know you are patrolling today, so don’t you dare!”
She finished with a smile and a wink, and he nodded his gratitude. Several patrons raised their drinks to him as he left, and he favored them with waves and small smiles. His steps felt light as he exited back into the warm summer’s air, and he found he had no desire to let the smile fall.