Continued from Part V.
Vinsent shook his head. “What about our survival?” he said. “There are too many people. If the land cannot support them all then we should look out for ourselves.”
Mallos turned his head as they heard a thundering of hooves approaching from behind them. A guardsman, dressed in muddy red stripes, riding a tired-looking horse, trotted towards them.
“Hail, Mallos the Trader,” said the guardsman. “And son, is it?”
“He’s my apprentice,” said Mallos. “From the middle parties.”
The guardsman looked Vinsent over carefully, a stern expression knitting his eyebrows. “I have come from uproute,” he said. “There was a report of a mule going missing four camps up. Hane Aratt says he suspects thievery.” The guardsman paused, glancing at the two mules that pulled Mallos’s cart and carried Vinsent’s panniers.
Mallos stood still, heart beating loudly, trying not to glare in Vinsent’s direction. “I am well known along the kārvān,” he said. “My reputation does proceed me. I am not a man who stands on the backs of others.”
“True enough, Mallos,” said the guardsman. “I apologise for the inference. If you do see anything, alert the guard, would you? Good day.” The guardsman tugged the reins of his steed, and headed off down the path.
Mallos could not bring himself to move until the guardsman had disappeared from sight. He turned to the boy, face red, hands shaking.
To be continued…