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|Subject: The Three Travellers by Edward D. Hoch Page 3 of 6 Wed Jun 10, 2009 10:28 am
Then he felt the presence of someone towering over him, and saw it was the figure of Nevar. His right hand rested on the sword at his waist. "I would have words with you, Gaspar."
"What troubles you?"
"My only daughter Thantia, a virgin not yet twenty, tells me you gave her a gold coin today."
"Only because I feared the broken water jug was my fault."
"No stranger approaches Thantia! You will leave Ziza this night!"
"We leave in the morning," Gaspar said quietly.
Nevar drew his sword, and Gaspar waited no longer. He flung himself at the big man and they tumbled towards the fire as the game-players scattered. Gaspar pulled Nevar's sword from his grip.
Then Thantia broke from the crowd, running to her father.
"This stranger did me no harm!" she cried out.
"Silence, daughter!" Nevar reached for a piece of burning firewood and hurled it at Gaspar, but it went wide of its mark and landed on a low straw roof nearby.
"The stable!" someone shouted, and Gaspar saw it was the herdsman Ramoth hurrying to rescue the horses. The others helped to quench the flames with water from the well, but not before a quantity of feed and supplies had been destroyed.
Then Gaspar and Melchior went in search of fat Balthazar, who had disappeared during the commotion. They found him behind the row of tents, playing the Egyptian stone game with a half dozen desert-riders. He had a small pile of gold coins before him.
"This must cease!" Gaspar commanded.
The nomads ran at his words, and Balthazar struggled to his feet. "It was merely a game."
"Our task is far more important than mere gaming," Gaspar reminded him, and the fat man looked sheepish. "While you idled I was near killed by the swordsman Nevar."
"A trouble-maker," Balthazar agreed. "I will not rest easy until Ziza is behind us on our journey."
Then as they passed the burned stable on the way to their tent, old Dibon approached them saying, "This ruin is your fault, Gaspar. Yours and Nevar's."
"That is true, old man. We will stay here tomorrow and help rebuild the stable."
Dibon bowed his head. "A generous offer. We thank you."
Continue Christmas mystery short story
But when they were alone, Balthazar complained, "This will delay us an entire day!"
"We will travel a distance by night, as you wished."