As Dorian inspected the last of his caravans the stink of horse already climbed into his nose to stay. It made him smile. Terrible as the smell was it meant he was about to embark on another trip to Port Town. From there he’d get beautiful pots, and exotic spices that made him a fortune. The guards milled around kicking up dirt, their postures stiff. “Impatient?” Dorian asked, knowing it was true.
Guard Captain Carn gave a quick slash of his head. “Aye, as usual. Don’t trouble yourself, Caravan Master. Youth is always in a hurry.” The man’s casual pose dropped as his hand moved to his weapon. “Who’s that?”
Dorian turned to see a man ambling up with an overloaded donkey. Neither man nor donkey moved very fast. “Calm yourself. I’ll talk to him. Probably someone looking to tack till we get where they need to go.” Before Carn could stop him Dorian hurried toward the figure.
The figure was an old man with a lined face, slightly filmed over eyes, and worn clothes. The donkey was healthy besides the fact it had pots, pans, and packages stacked on it. Dorian held out his palms flat in greeting. “Hail, what can I do for you?”
The old man stopped and wiped his brow with a cloth. “Sorry to trouble you, Caravan Master, but I was wondering if I could travel with you to Greel. I’m too old be traveling the roads there with all the bandit attacks.” The old man shifted, his eyes round with tears. “My daughter is expecting her first born.”
The problem tugged a little at Dorian’s heart. His daughter had given birth herself recently. “I’m sorry, I can’t. Everyone who comes has to contribute, part of the contract. And, it wouldn’t be fair to give you an easy ride while the rest worked.”
The man nodded. “I understand. But, I came to offer services in exchange.”
“Oh?” Dorian felt surprise at the offer. “What are your skills?”
“I’m a cook. I have cooked for caravans for many years. I brought my own spices, and cookware.” He waved at the poor donkey. “All I ask is to either take the supplies off the poor thing, or let me ride caravan. Can’t walk that far.”
Dorian thought it over. They didn’t have a cook most of the time he normally roped one of the drivers into cooking. “Our food cart has room for both you and your supplies. I can’t pay you, though.”
The man’s face broke much like the sun on a cloudy day. “That’s fine sir, just fine. Maisy will be so happy to be freed of all my things.” He patted the donkey. “My daughter Sara will be happy too.”
He couldn’t help it, Dorian smiled in return. “Have any other skills I should know about?” The question was one he always asked of anyone he employed.
“Oh yes, I’m a storyteller,” the man said.