'Just my son,' the man said. 'I don't have any silver or gems. I don't have anything.'
'Seems unlikely that you'd live well out there,' Eustin said, nodding toward the north and the snow-veiled mountains. 'So maybe it's best if you come back to the camp with us, eh?'
'Please. My sister and her husband. They live in one of the low towns. Up by the Radaani mines. We're going to stay with her,' the man said. He was a good liar, Sinja thought. 'I'm not a fighter, and my boy's no threat. We don't want any trouble.'
'Bad day for you, then,' Eustin said and gestured with his fingers. 'The cloak. Open it.'
Reluctantly, the man did. A sword hung at his hip. Eustin smiled.
'Not a fighter, eh? That's for scaring squirrels, then?'
'You can have it-'
'Got one, thanks,' Eustin said. 'Let's see this boy of yours.'
The man hesitated, his eyes darting to the riders, to Eustin. He was thinking of running for it - his little mule against six men on horseback. Sinja took a simple pose that advised against it, and the man looked down, then turned to the back of the little cart.
'Choti-kya,' he said. 'Come say h.e.l.lo to these good men.'
A bundle of brown waxed silk stirred in the back of the cart, rose up, and turned to face them. The boy's round face was shy and frightened, but also curious. His cheeks were red from the cold, as if someone had slapped him. As the small hands pushed out from his blankets and took a pose of greeting, Sinja sighed.
Danat. It was Kiyan's boy. So this man was Nayiit, and all Sinja's worst fears were unfolding right here before him.
One of Eustin's men stepped forward, looking through the cart. Danat s.h.i.+ed back from him, but the soldier paid the boy no particular attention.
'What do you think we should do with them, Captain Ajutani,' he asked. 'Kill 'em or send them on?'
Sinja kept his face blank as his mind worked at an answer. Eustin didn't trust him and never had. Sinja tried to judge what the man would do - follow his advice, or take the opposite. He suspected Eustin would oppose him simply because he could. So the right choice would be to recommend death for Danat and Nayiit. The gamble was higher stakes than he liked. Eustin looked over at him, his eyebrows raised. Sinja was taking too long in answering.
'I don't like killing children,' he said in Galtic.
'Wouldn't be the first time I've done it since we left Nantani. There was a whole school of them near Pathai. Kill the man, then? And leave the boy in a snowstorm? That seems cruel.'
Sinja shrugged and took a simple pose of apology.
'I hadn't known you were a great killer of children,' he said. 'We all make our reputations somehow. Do whatever you think best.'
Eustin scowled and the driver's face went pale. The man spoke Galtic, then. Sinja wasn't certain that was a good thing.
'Maybe I should
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