Once again, Friday snippets roll around. When you're on vacation, your schedule goes wonky. Oh, well. At least I'm not working. At my job, that is. *sigh* Why do we try to do everything over vacation that we've put off for months?
This material is first draft. Please do not quote or repost anywhere. Thanks.
We haven't seen Tasha since the party. Thought we'd check in with her.
Tasha and her father, along with Ang their shadowman (bodyguard) are going to jewelers to buy Tasha a gift. Along the way, they see strongarms evicting a family and taking their goods. This bothers them, Tasha the most. Note: Their mode of transportation is a two wheeler with a seat, pulled by a person called a roadman.
The sound of running feet caught their attention. Just ahead of two strongarms, the boy who had been standing with his family ran for all he was worth, clutching a cloth sling full of something. The boy might have outran the strongarms, but his foot slid out from underneath him and he dropped to one knee. The sling loosened and dumped a loaf of bread and some vegetables into the street.
The strongarms caught up with him.
“I’ll teach you to mess with us!” one of them snarled as he raised his club.
“Papa!” Tasha cried out, horrified.
“Hold!” Iano said, voice ringing.
The two strongarms turned unfriendly eyes to the group.
“What business is this of yours?” the one who had raised the club said with belligerance.
From somewhere under his clothing, Ang produced a long knife and pushed Tasha behind him. She peered around him.
The second strongarm held up a hand. “No need for trouble here,” he said, cautious. “The scum owes money, that’s all. He’s trying to steal some of the property the creditors have claimed.”
“That not true!” the kneeling boy said in a heavily-accented voice. “They take all! All! Leave us nothing!”
Iano gave a significant glance at the food spilling from the boy’s sling. “Have the creditors stooped to taking the foodstuff as well?” he asked with irony. “At most, what is it worth? A copper?”
The first strongarm flushed and hefted his club. “It’s to help pay the debt! It would be best if you didn’t interfere!” And, as Ang crouched into a knife-fighting stance, added, “Sir.”
The second strongarm caught at his companion’s arm. “What do you propose, sir? Surely you’re not asking us to let the boy go free.”
“No, obviously, appealing to your better nature is not going to work.” Iano reached inside his jacket and pulled out his purse and extracted a copper. He tossed the copper to the second strongarm who deftly caught it. “What I am asking you to do is to allow the boy his food, that’s all.”
The second strongarm pulled at his companion’s arm and said something in a low voice. “All right,” he finally said in a louder voice. “We’ll take a copper in exchange for the boy keeping the goods.”
“One thing,” Iano said. “If I find that you keep the copper and still take the boy’s food later, I will bring up this issue in Council. Do we understand each other?”
Sudden fright in his face at mention of Council, the second strongarm nodded vigorously and pulled the first one away. “Yes, sir. No problem, sir,” he told Iano, then directed his attention to his companion. “Come on, you idiot, he’s Family.”
The strongarms trotted away. Ang relaxed, and his knife disappeared. Tasha followed her father as he crossed to the boy’s side, Ang close behind.
The boy scrambled back and clutched for the food.
“Don’t be afraid, boy. The food is yours,” Iano said. “Do you feel like telling me who you are and what happened?”
Tasha retrieved the loaf of bread from the street and handed it to the boy. He took the loaf and thrust it inside the sling. He stood, hugging the sling to his chest. She smiled at him and he blinked at her, then tried to smile in return.
“I am called Silmer. We come to Camdia to make better life.” The boy’s tone turned bitter. “My da lose his money. Someone take it. We sell most everything we bring from Chenawa just to eat. We try to find work but we don’t make much. We not able to pay for lodgings some weeks. The owner say we pay all we owe in two days, or he take what we have to pay for it. My da can’t pay in two days. The strongarms come and take all! Everything! More than money we owe! I took food so my family have something to eat.”
A muscle worked in Iano’s jaw. He still carried his purse. He reached in and drew out a gold coin. He held the coin out to Silmer. “Here. Buy your family food.”
Silmer stared at the coin in wonder, then his face closed and he shook his head. “We can’t pay back. I can’t take.”
“Consider it a loan until you can pay back,” Iano said, a new note of respect in his voice. He pressed the coin into the boy’s reluctant hand.
Silmer looked at all of them, his eyes blinking rapidly, his throat muscles working up and down with his emotions. “I thank you,” he said at last, voice husky. “My family thanks you. We pay back with interest.”
“Don’t worry about that,” Iano said. “Pay back the gold coin when you can. If the strongarms give you more trouble, let me know. I am Lord Nepara. I won’t be hard to find.”
“Thank you! Thank you!” With a big smile on his face, Silmer turned and ran back the way he had come.
“Papa, that was wonderful!” Tasha said, her eyes shining.
Her father looked down at her, smiling, but a little wrinkle in his brow did not smooth. “I’m glad you thought so.”
Iano motioned to the roadman, who turned the two-wheeler. Tasha climbed into the seat without help. Her father climbed in and settled beside her. The roadman leaned into the harness and the two-wheeler lurched forward. Ang once again fell into step at the back.
“I can’t help them all, Tasha,” Iano said in a sober voice. “I can help those that enter my area of influence, but I can’t help everyone. That is the way the world is. I don’t like it, and I will do what I can when I can to help change that, but that’s as much as I can humanly do.”
Tasha digested this in silence for some time.
“I guess that’s all right, Papa. Your ‘area of influence’ is pretty big, isn’t it?”
Iano looked down at her, and smiled. “Maybe it is at that, my little reformer.”