Continued from Part II.
Mallos lifted the third sack of potatoes onto the back of his cart, and turned to see a boy standing a few feet away. Mallos ignored him and lifted the fourth sack. Still the boy stared, then spoke.
“You are a merchant,” said the boy. “You’re taking produce down the kārvān, are you?”
Mallos straightened his back and wiped the sweat from his brow. “What do you want, boy?” he said. “Do you need to buy something for your mama?”
“No,” said the child. “I need a job.”
Mallos laughed and threw the fourth sack onto the cart. “What’s your name, son?”
“Go play with your friends, Vinsent,” said Mallos.
“I need to go to the rearguard,” said Vinsent.
Mallos merely glared at him. “Go. Away.”
The child continued to watch him work, wearing a sullen expression. After a few more minutes the boy took a step forward and tried to pick up one of the sacks. Mallos smacked his hand away immediately.
“I mean it, Vinsent!” snarled Mallos, raising his voice so sharply that the boy jumped. “Get lost! I have a lot of work to do!”
The boy ran.
– – –
The next day, the boy returned as the sun was coming up. There was a spring in his step, and he was leading a mule with large panniers slung on either side. Mallos gaped in amazement as the kid approaching and handed him three gold coins.
“That’s for your trouble,” said the boy.
Mallos stared at the coins “What trouble?” he said.
“I lifted the coins from your pouch while you were working, yesterday,” said Vinsent. “Here they are again, in full.”
“You malicious thief!” yelled Mallos, grabbing the coins. This time his anger seemed to have no effect on the boy, who merely shrugged.
“Did you even notice something was missing?” came the reply. “I have made quite a profit, and bought myself a mule.”
“How?” said Mallos.
Vinsent shrugged again. “Barter. Haggling. It’s not so hard.”
Mallos caught his breath, then laughed at the top of his lungs, causing a group of birds to take flight from a nearby tree.
“Alright boy… Vinsent…” said Mallos. “You wanna work for me?”
Vinsent looked at his mule, then at Mallos, then back to the mule.
“I don’t need your job,” Vinsent said. “What I do need is a guide – someone to help me get to my uncle in the rearguard. How about you work for me?”
To be continued…