Swords From the West
England. Have you no kin there?"
    "Aye, so," Nial nodded. "One would have fed me, if I had tended his cattle. Another wanted me to carry cloth to the dyeing vat. I sold my horse and took ship."
    Tron frowned. So it was with these younglings who had grown up in the wars. They would have naught of honest service at a trade, nor would they abide content within the four walls of a room. Probably this Nial would never forget that he had once ridden with his hawks along the heights of the Promised Land, or had watched for foemen to darken the sheen of a river at night.
    "Here," he pointed out, "a man can do naught with a sword. The Tatars rule with a heavy hand, and they watch every shadow. Aye! The very horses are spies, carrying tales to them."
    Nial bethought him of the quarrel at the customs.
    "Still," he said, "a good blade serves well at times."
    Slowly Tron shook his head. He was thinking that he had need of a man he could trust, a man whose courage would be like unbending steel. He would need such a man in Sarai. And here was this homeless Nial without other friends. Bold enough to meet the test, and young enough, Tron suspected, to be loyal to the man who gave him aid. At least, the merchant could make trial of him.
    "I can give you service," he observed, "as far as Sarai, which is a caravan journey of three weeks. It will be your part to yield me armed protection at need and to go with me upon my ventures."
    "That is fair," Nial assented, "and I will do it."
    Tron pointed to the chests beside them.
    "They have double locks of good Milanese work. But they hold only wine and gear and claptrap for gifts. If thieves get them, 'twill be small loss. Make a show of guarding them, but watch this other thing."
    Rising, he looked up and down the gallery, then went back to thrust his hand among the quilts. He drew out a small sack of plain leather and untied the thong that bound it. After listening a moment he poured out into his hand a small stream of barley. Nial saw that in the barley lay loose jewels-tawny opals, blue turquoises inlaid with gold, and some small rubies.
    "I am a jewel merchant," Tron explained, watching him, "and I mean to sell these at Sarai. They are worth a year's tithe of a great city."
    Nial said nothing. He did not know what else the sack held, but the stones he had seen were not valuable in the Eastern market. Of course, Tron might have better stones hidden elsewhere.
    "This sack," the merchant explained, tying it up again, "is your charge. Carry or keep it where you will."
    "Aye, so," Nial assented.
    In Christendom a merchant could keep his trove in locked chests. Here, upon the caravan road, a good pair of eyes and a ready sword were the only safeguard. If they were to travel together, Tron must needs trust him.
    "Now," the merchant added, "abide here. I must look for horses to hire and a road follower to tend them. The Greek is too frightened to steal from me, but he is of no more value than a hare among wolves."
    When he had gone, Nial replaced the sack in the quilts and lay down, wrapping himself in his cloak. As the light grew dim he dozed, half hearing the pad of passing feet and the voices in the courtyard below. The Greek came with a brazier to heat the chamber, and the smell of charcoal mingled with the stench of mud and wet sheepskins.
    But Nial did not hear-because he came crouching, silent as a creeping cat-the man whose head was hidden under a white bearskin. Mardi Dobro squatted at the entrance of the stall, only his green eyes moving as he scanned every object, lingering upon the chests with their locks in full view.
    Deep in thought, Mardi Dobro left the house of the caravans. Although he peered into open doors and scanned the faces of passersby from habit, he paused at times to stare into the trodden snow and shake his shaggy head.
    "Kun bolkhu bagasan," he muttered once. "Does the foal show what the horse will be?"
    Then-for the sorcerer had as great an appetite for meat as for silver,

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