“Were they thinking they would have to walk out?”

somewhere in the Hindu Kush, summer 1323

They had had considerable difficulty in finding exactly the right village to help them. Many were too small, without enough men. Others weren’t poor enough, having staked out the only arable land in a day’s walk and therefore capable of feeding themselves and their families without resorting to too much robbery. Some were simply apathetic from hunger suffered for too long, disinterested by malnutrition to any exertion.

She had begun to think that the fierce reputation of the Afghan hill tribes had been greatly exaggerated when they happened upon Aab, a small village at the confluence of two trickles of water contaminated by the effluent from the lapis mine at the head of one of them. “The mine is played out, young miss,” Firas said, “and they are wondering if they should abandon their village to look for another.”

A slow smile had spread across Johanna’s face. “Were they thinking they would have to walk out?”

“They were, young miss, until I explained matters to them, and suggested our plan.”


“And the village elders would be pleased to assist us,” Firas had said demurely.

“And us? Will they leave us alone afterward?”

Dana here — Which of course would always be the question in the journey west in those days. The reason caravans existed was always and ever security, as in safety in numbers. Even then thieves and cutthroats would attack sections of caravans and make off with the spoils, food, water, merchandise, camels. People. Every traveler back in the day risked being captured and sold into slavery. Courage, yes, but I think there must have been just a trace of foolhardiness in everyone on the Road back in the day.

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