THIRTY-THREE TALES OF WAR XXVI: THE SMUGGLER
Civil war rages in the black-blooded nation of Kandrisev. Its citizens grow restless. They demand their voices be heard. These are their stories laid out in thirty-three tales of war.
“ALRIGHT, you’re free.” The Smuggler pulled the rope away from around the neck of what appeared to be a large grain sack.
A young girl scrambled out, gasping for fresh air. He chuckled despite her indignant glare. Once she climbed down from the cart, he pointed her east.
“That way’s the way to Sarona, if you really understand what it’ll take you to get there. Bears, wild hillwalkers, Rosehearts, wolves, spirits, maybe a couple Laurels if you’re ‘specially unlucky…” he tilted his head. “Seems like a bit much to handle for someone your age.”
“I can handle it,” she firmly stated. “If you could do me one final courtesy and just tell me—”
“Lady, I said it before and I’ll say it again that I cannot, will not, should not tell you who bought your seat. It’d put you, them, me, and the whole operation in real danger. Gettin’ out of Igna, let alone Zoldonmesk, ain’t exactly a small-stones gig. And even if you did know, so what? You gonna try to find ‘em? Bring ‘em across?”
“Thank them,” she said. “And...maybe.”
The Smuggler guffawed. “Well, let me tell you that your mystery benefactor ain’t hurtin’ to help themself. They’re capable of stayin’ safe a good while longer all by their lonesome.”
“But if I could just—”
“Listen.” The Smuggler made a point of looking down the road one way, then the other. “You’re nobody now. No-bo-dy. Woe be upon you if you ever, ever say your real name. In fact, better think of a new one. New name, new past, new trade, new hometown. The Sakcha family’ll look high and low to find you and drag you back into their lair. Cut your hair. Change your face if you can stomach a scar or broken nose. Work in wide fields or dense forests. Do whatever you have to do to stay out of sight, mind, and mouths. Scores of my associates have ended up in Zoldoni mines. Those were the ones that didn’t do what I just advised. Not a single damn one of ‘em has been seen ever again.”
The girl held in a breath, looked down, and shook her fist three times as if she had touched something too hot. “So it wasn’t my father,” she muttered.”
“No. I can tell you that much.”
The girl looked him in the eye. “Alright then. Thank you for your help.”
The Smuggler watched her walk until she was a tiny dot on the horizon. He climbed up the side of his hillwalker to sit in the saddle. Perched so high on a massive, hairy beast, he could see all the surrounding hilltops. After scanning them for signs they had been seen, he yanked on the horn-reins. Better to not stick around. There were other deliveries to make.