Continued from Part IV.
Vinsent and Mallos travelled together for many days, leading their mules behind them. They passed through three encampments along the kārvān. At each, they were surrounded by the camp’s inhabitants, eager to buy Mallos’ wares and trade what they had grown or found. At each successive camp, Mallos lowered the prices. Each time, Vinsent looked on with some shock.
“What did you expect me to do, child?” said Mallos, as they heaped baskets of misshapen fruit and firewood onto his cart. “Do you understand what these people are faced with?”
“What do you mean?” said Vinsent. “You’re giving away your profits.”
“My job,” said Mallos, “trading along the kārvān, is not like trading between towns. These are desperate people, and while progress may seem slow to you, we are fleeing from terrible danger.” Mallos hooked the cart up to his mule, fastened his shoes and gestured for Vinsent to do the same. “There are many thousands of people who live along the line. Do you know why they are so spread out?”
Vinsent shook his head.
“We are not a rich people any more,” said Mallos, as they led their mules back onto the road. “We must live off the land. Have you been paying attention to the land as we walk past?” He waved to the fields either side of the road. “Bare orchards, son. Fields picked clean by those who have gone ahead. The further back along the path we go, the poorer the people will get, they must survive only on what has not been used by those who have gone ahead. What I do, what you should do, is bring as much as possible down the line.” He paused, looking over to see if the boy was listening. Vinsent met his gaze with rapt attention. “This isn’t about profit,” said Mallos. “It’s about survival.”
To be continued…