A little snippet of Kai-stern gen: home is where the heart lies.
There's a small market pitched outside the town. It's just a narrow strip of tiny, crowded stalls, but Kai-stern stops there and picks up a few things for the road home. Dried meat, pressed and packed in butcher's paper. Buttons. A new bandana. Nothing fragile or delicate, everyday requirements that could be stowed away in his swag. He'd learned quickly that souvenirs were useless sentimentalities. He'd had to, when everything he needed had had to fit in a bag over his shoulder. In the beginning he'd wanted tangible mementos, just a little something to prove he'd been there. He'd learned to do without a lot of things then.
Sour candy for Rath, a worked silver belt buckle for Tetheus, dangling earrings for Lykouleon. A brooch for Raseleane, local wine for Ruwalk. A long peacock's quill for Alfeegi, the box wrapped in gold paper.
Silly, stupid things, eating up space in his carry-all and weighing him down, but perhaps worth the smiles they'd bring.
If his old friends could see him now, they'd say the comfort of gold in his pocket had made him soft. He didn't drive a bargain quite so hard these days, when the next day's meal didn't depend on cutting coppers at every corner. Refused to sleep under the bushes when he could get a soft bed at an inn. He didn't wander so far or so wide anymore, the sharp edge of curiosity softened by duty. They'd say he'd stood there and let Draqueen tie their strings to him: silk they may have been, but they still chafed at times. He'd said once, fuelled by alcoholic bravado, that he'd never let anyone tie him down. He was going to see every inch of land by foot, and then by horse to see if it looked any different, and then he'd go over the sea and discover what lay hidden by the waves, and he didn't need anyone to slow him down.
The shopkeeper gave him his change, counting two coppers and a silver penny into his hand and he dropped them back into his purse, clink-clink-clink. With this much money in his pocket, and a further letter-of-rights, grudgingly granted by Alfeegi, hidden in his bag, he could have been shacked up on the other side of the country by now. He'd never seen so far north, where it was said the bears were white instead of brown and the mountains wore snowy caps all year round.
The tall peaks of Draqueen's towers shimmered in the sunset haze when he took to the road again. Only a few days away now. He kneed his mount, and the darna, sensing its stable was close, quickened its step.
Three months was a long time. He wondered how tall Rath was now.