Continued from Part XII. Start at Part I.
Jakob launched himself from the tree branch onto the head of the nearest bandit. The man crumpled to the floor with merely a whisper, but Jakob dropped his knife when he hit the floor. Jakob scrambled to his feet, but the second bandit advanced towards him, while the third kept at Krin. Jakob shrank back from the attack, shielding his head, wondering if he would survive. Then a white and brown blur streaked across the road, and Hexa flew upwards towards the bandit, sinking her claws into his arm, letting fly a vicious growl, then a torrent of terrific barks.
The third bandit dropped his club and fled. The second fell unceremoniously to the floor with a cry of agony and terror as red spread along his sleeve. The first bandit picked himself off the floor, grabbed the second, cast one more look at the dog’s jaws, then dragged his companion away as fast as he could.
Jakob rose slowly out of the dust, rubbing bruises and finding rips in his clothes. Hexa came to him, panting heavily, standing close, protectively. He knelt, kissed her between the ears, rubbed under her chin.
Maxu Krin was leaning heavily on his cart. His face was covered in bright red cuts, one eye was swollen, and an ear black and blue. He looked up as Jakob walked over, and held out a hand to grasp his rescuer by the shoulder. Jakob felt as if a mask had been lifted. This man he had so despised for the past few days was more deserving of sympathy, perhaps of pity. More than the physical violence he had received, there was something in Krin’s eyes. A haunted look, perhaps, of the man who has nothing to flee for. A judgment of value that Jakob found unfamiliar. It was the treasure that had done this to Krin, he was not a wealthy power broker so much as a prisoner of his own fortune.
Krin held out his hand, and it in sparkled the largest piece of lemfasite that Jakob had ever seen.
“Take it,” croaked Krin. “Please. A reward.”
In the back of Jakob’s mind, a voice laughed at being offered what should have been his own as payment. But that voice no longer held sway over his actions.
Jakob smiled. “No thank you. I think you have more need of it than I. Goodbye, and good luck with your path, Maxu Krin.”
He turned, and he walked, dog by his side. He headed for the vanguard, and his father, once more.
Note to readers: This has been the longest story on the blog so far, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. It’s been interesting to remain with the characters, developing over nearly a fortnight. But for now we’ll leave this story here. Tomorrow brings a new world. Perhaps one day we’ll return to Life Along the Kārvān.