Valerian stood still, allowing Avery to fasten the pieces of his armour. He watched as the manservant fussed about but said nothing. He understood why the man was acting this way. Strapping’s didn’t allow or make accommodation for servants of recruits. Today, master and valet would part ways. That hit Valerian harder than he would have liked. He’d known it was coming. They’d even discussed it yesterday after he got done with his grandfather but now that the moment was on them, Valerian found himself strangely reluctant.
He and Avery had never been separated for more than a day. The man had accompanied him everywhere his entire life. He had been his childminder, valet, bodyguard and practically anything Valerian had ever need him to be. Thinking about the fact that he was not going to be seeing the man again for at least a year was… not something Valerian had prepared for. He had, of course, imagined it happening several times but the reality of it was…different.
Avery straightened himself and patted his mantle down for the fifth time. This action allowed Valerian to catch the sad but almost proud look on the middle-aged man’s face and the uncharacteristic wetness in his eyes. Clearly, he was not the only one finding it difficult coming to terms with was to come. Valerian turned away, training his gaze on the full-length mirror in front of him. As far as he was concerned, he saw nothing.
“You’ve got everything?”
“Yes Avery!” an exasperated Valerian answered.
“Did you remember to take the books you wanted from the library?”
“Okay”, the valet accepted. “Is your purse still at your side?”
Valerian ignored him this time, choosing not to answer the question. Avery continued anyway.
“You have a starting balance of two thousand, five hundred silver florins. That is half the sum of the allowance given by the clan. I also varied your currency to make it easier for you to make purchases. So your purse actually contains twenty gold sovereigns, a thousand silver florins and a further ten thousand bronze marks. The remainder is accessible through your bank card. Adding that to your current bank balance should mean you have close to a hundred sovereigns saved in your account”, the valet explained.
“Remember, young master. It is twenty bronze marks to a silver florin and fifty silver florins to a gold sovereign. Food and general items so long as they are not made from rare materials should be priced in bronze marks as well as anything that is not from a renowned or ranked establishment. Silver florins should cover everything else but do try to keep the sum of your purchases to five sovereigns a month”, he cautioned.
“The sovereigns themselves are there for security. Nothing you should be buying will be priced in them as that would put the items far out of the range of even second-tier cultivators. Standard essence stones cost between a florin and five marks to two florins but attributed ones can run up to five. Low-grade essence artefacts and one use items no matter how good will never be worth more than seventy florins. Elite ones will cost up to three times as much”, he added not seeing the annoyed look Valerian was sending him.
“Try not to spend more than ten florins on standard medicines if you can help it. The good ones for your tier can be told from the materials used and the rank of the maker. They can cost up to fifty if you go for a speciality pill or elixir. That reminds me. Always check accreditation for the places you visit and don’t trust anyone who comes up to you offering a quick deal or cheap alternatives”, he continued.
Avery!” Valerian called warningly.
“Always haggle in the marketplace but do not do so in aristocratic establishments. It is expected in the former but considered disgraceful in the latter. You can, however, use marketplace rules when conducting personal deals or…”
“AVERY!”, Valerian yelled. “I know how to use money!”
“Of course you do, young master”, Avery quickly said, realising he may have gone over some line. “It’s just that I have always controlled the purse and had been able to check your purchases. I just don’t want anyone to cheat you, young master. Now, if you find yourself …”
Valerian grumbled darkly and left the room, his faithful servant hot on his heels with more advice.
The coach that was to take him away was late.
‘Guess the famed military precision Vorm spoke of doesn’t start until I actually get into the school’, Valerian mused to himself.
The fact that it was late was bad enough but the delay in departure had had other consequences. His family were all milling around the foreyard of the manor. Only, things were a bit strange. The awkwardness and the tension the day before was different. Better even, in Valerian’s opinion.
They were tense about his leaving and about saying their goodbyes. However, today, the goodbyes had already been sent and the advice and gifts given. Even the last minute things had been dealt with. Unfortunately, the coach which should have taken him away was still not in. Valerian prayed it come soon before someone dropped by and asked the ‘You’re still here?’ question.
Maybe the spirits were with him that day or maybe the rites from the night before had turned the eye of the Heavens towards him but just then Valerian’s keen ears caught the clopping of horseshoes. The sound drew closer and louder till everyone caught onto it as well. Together, they went as a group to the gate to see who it was that had come to take him away.
A standard Steelborn coach greeted them. The armoured coachman stepped off, greeted and introduced himself.
“The patriarch has asked that I take Valerian with me to Blackford. The coach to Strappings will leave from there tomorrow morning”, he said, informing them of what they already knew.
The announcement set everything off again. Everyone remembered something they’d forgotten to say. Avery remembered that he hadn’t actually packed the added snacks Valerian had asked for. The bustle was back, one last time. Extricating himself from his well-wishers, Valerian went ahead and sat in the coach and waited to leave. Adjusting himself in his seat, he made sure not to sit on the pouch hanging from his waist. It was new, for him anyway, and he didn’t want to damage it.
The night before
“I don’t have much to give but I think you’ll like this”, Avery said, taking a leather pouch from his spatial ring.
“Before your father left, he gave this to me. It’s nothing special, just a plain bag of holding with a few nonstandard security features but I knew you’d want it so I kept it. Master Valiant wore it everywhere. There was a time we believed it might hold secrets as to where or why he left but alas…” he added sadly.
“It doesn’t contain much, at least not anymore. Your father left it to be used for your upkeep but your grandparents would hear nothing of it at first. When the costs of your treatments rose two years ago though, they were finally forced to dip into it. The money was put in an account for when you come of age and the artefacts are in the manor vault. As for the cultivation resources, I’m afraid you’ve used most of them. I kept the satchel because…ah I’ve already said that haven’t I?”
Valerian ran his hands over the leather marvelling at how it still shone after all this while. Avery’s gift to him may not have been as extravagant like some of the others he received but it was just as touching. The mage’s pouch his father had worn now sat on his own hip. It was a connection to the man he’d never known. The man who left his family and home and never returned. Valerian knew from reading between the lines that he was probably dead or worse. Funny, his grandparents actually hoped for the latter. That way there was hope, however small, that they could one day find him.
Valerian looked back at the home he was leaving behind feeling shadow crawl over his own. Would he be the same? He’d chosen this path despite the dangers involved. Surely, his father had also believed he could handle whatever it was that dragged him from home. He had likely been proven wrong. Valerian shook the shadow off, casting the self-doubt and fear away. He looked at Sela flying high over the manor, watching him leave. His family was here. Everything he loved was here. He’d be back! No matter what it took.