Dragon Sword

A blind swordswoman in China seeks revenge on the cunning and deadly Manchu general who killed her parents.


18. the boy



Zu hears the rough voices, speaking in a Mongolian dialect, raised in dispute, the indignant haggling. She puts her hand out and strokes the mule, feels along its bristling neck, touches the wet muzzle. It's the same mule. The boy cries out again and is silenced by a blow to the head.


Zu walks forward grazing the packed earth with her cane. She goes toward the sound of the blow.


She hears a trader shaking coins out of a cloth bag. The haggling is done. The three men, the bandits, are counting their money. They already had the bear pelts, the traps, the horses and the mule, and now they have a little extra gold in exchange for the little boy. They'll go to a brothel. The slave trader takes hold of the rope and pulls the boy, twisting against it, a few steps closer to him.


Zu stops. She listens and breathes in deeply through her nostrils and realizes that there are more than three bandits -- that the dirty, sweaty, metallic, garlicky smell of the three men bartering away the little boy to a slave trader is shared by other men standing nearby in a group under the awning of a wine-shop, at least ten and maybe fifteen bandits in all.


She senses that all are looking at her, the blind woman.


She walks up to the boy and, reaching down, touches first his head -- the fair, soft, tousled hair of the other day is now caked in dust, sweat and drying blood -- then runs her fingertips down to where the rope binds his arms tightly at his sides. He must have put up a fight. The boy burbles, that horrible scream. 

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