Short Story: Jason’s Invitation

A short story, or I guess just a scene, from the early life of Jason. In the book Prince of Herongarde, Jason is on the verge of 16, the age at which young men may attain the Mark of Herongarde. This scene happens ten years earlier, when Jason first enters training.

—–

“My Lord Trey. It is an honor to see you this day!” exclaimed Gastin, looking up from his forge. He set aside his tools and wiped his hands with an oily rag. “How may I serve you.”

“I bring tidings from His Majesty and Lord Gilbert,” said Trey with a smile. He cocked his head and looked over Gastin’s shoulder, catching a glimpse of a boy’s blonde hair disappearing behind the stone wall behind the forge. Trey grinned. “I have something for Jason as well,” Trey said a little louder. “It is unfortunate he is not here.”

“What?” cried a tiny voice from beyond the wall. “Something for me?” The boy ran out from behind the wall and bounded toward Trey. “What is it? What is it?”

“Ho, Jason,” said Gastin, stopping the boy before he ran into Trey. “Contain yourself.”

“But Daddy!” cried Jason.

“Well, hello there Jason,” smiled Trey, kneeling down to get to eye level with the six year old boy. “I’m so glad you are here after all!” Trey winked at Gastin, who grinned back.

Jason wiggled past his father and put his arms around Trey’s neck. “I’m so happy to see you, Lord Trey! Did you know? I’m six now!”

“Really? Well, you do look that much bigger.” Trey hoisted Jason into his arms and straightened up. “Why, you’re almost as tall as me!”

“No!” cried Jason. “You’ve picked me up!”

Trey looked down. “Oh. Well I guess I have.”

Gastin chuckled. “He is getting bigger, my Lord. He tells me he wants to hammer so he can build up the strength in his arm.”

“Well, hammering is a good way to improve your strength,” said Trey. “Has it been working?”

Jason flexed his arm. “See my big muscle?”

“Well, look at that,” said Trey, squeezing the boy’s tiny arm. “You could about knock me out.”

“Like this?” said Jason. He mock punched Trey in the jaw. Trey bobbed around as if the boy had knocked him silly.

“Oh, Jason! You must contain your strength!” Trey teased.

Jason giggled and hugged Trey. “You’re silly. I love you.”

“You’re a good boy Jason,” said Trey, rubbing Jason’s back. “And I do bring something for you. And news.” Trey set Jason down.

“What news then, my Lord?” asked Gastin.

“His Majesty and Lord Gilbert, as well as Markus, myself and others, wish to extend a welcome to Jason, to enter training and perhaps one day bear this Mark.”

Gastin clapped his hand over his mouth. His eyes wetted with tears. “Truly, my Lord?”

“Your service to his Majesty has been great over the years, Gastin. That your child might wish to join the ranks of His Majesty’s elite guard honors us as well. He is a good boy, and will grow to be a good, noble man, as his father.”

“This is an unbelievable honor, my Lord,” said Gastin.

“What is it, Father?” said Jason, confused by his fathers emotions.

Trey squatted down and looked the boy in the eye. “Do you want to learn to use the sword, and become a warrior just like me?”

Jason grinned. “Yes. Yes I do!”

“You want to bear this Mark one day?” Trey lifted his right sleeve, uncovering the Herongarde crest tattooed on his forearm.

“Yes.” Jason nodded enthusiastically.

“It won’t be easy, Jason. You’d have to go and live at the castle, with the other boys who are training.”

Jason’s smile faded. “What about Mother and Father?”

“Well, they would stay here. But you’d see them. Sometimes. But you’ll be working very hard. You’ll hardly have time to miss them.”

“What about Lissa?”

“Your sister will stay with your parents. She’ll be fine. You’ll get to see her too.”

“What if I get scared? What if I get hurt?” Jason’s fair skin grew paler, making his freckles show more clearly. “What if there are attacks?” His eyes moistened. “What about my toys?”

Trey smiled broadly. “You’ll be fine. I’ll be there. Lord Gilbert will take good care of you. You’ll be safe. As for toys, you may bring some. But you must share with the other boys.”

“What if I can’t do it?”

“There’s no shame, Jason. But don’t worry. I’m sure you can do it.”

Jason’s lip quivered.

“When I was your age, I was every bit as frightened. I wanted to do it, but I didn’t see how I could ever be as big and as strong as Mark-bearers like my father, or Markus, or Gilbert. But I did it, aye? You will too. I’ll be right there with you, aye?”

Jason smiled weakly. Trey looked up. Jason’s mother, Candice, had joined Gastin. The infant Lissa was tight in Candice’s arms. Trey stood up and met Candice’s wide-eyed stare.

“The offer is made. There is a place for him at Court. A day or two for preparations should be sufficient. I hope to see him soon.” Trey looked back down at the freckled boy. “You one day will be a warrior. We will see you soon, aye?”

Jason grinned. “Aye, my Lord.”

Candice emitted a sob. Trey turned to her. “Be proud, and know that we will take the best of care of him.”

“Yes, my Lord,” murmured Gastin. “We are deeply moved.”

Trey ruffled the hair on Jason’s head. “Well, I must be off. I have other duties for his Majesty.” Trey bowed smartly and turned to leave. “Oh, wait! I have something for Jason,” he said, turning back. Trey pulled a small velvet pouch from his own coin purse. “Here, Jason.”

Jason took the package and opened it. Inside was a small pendant bearing the crest of Herongarde hung on a leather cord. “Wow,” he whispered. “Thank you.”

“Wear it, then, so that all may know of your training,” said Trey. Trey nodded to Gastin and Candice. “Good day to you both.” He strode off to his other errands.

Candice and Gastin embraced, being cautious to not crush their infant daughter. They parted, Candice sobbing and Gastin wiping his eyes. He knelt to his young son, who was bouncing with excitement. “I am so deeply proud of you, Jason. Come, let us pack for you, aye?”

“Yes!” Jason ran through the shop toward their home, excited to start his new adventure.

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