Coffee Break read – A Popular Hobby

“Have you known Avilon long?”
The Vavasor seemed not to notice the intense interest which underlay her casually phrased question.
“Since the Alfor Fair – although we met in less than sociable circumstances. Qabal Vyazin paid fifty-thousand reynar for him – left him to rot for the best part of a half-moon then gave him to me to look after.”
“He was your slave?”
“Hardly. Qabal doesn’t part with a fifty-thousand reynar investment that easily. A keeper is not the same thing as an owner.”
“Then you must have liked Avilon a lot to take him with you when you left the Warlord,” Aisha observed thoughtfully.
The Vavasor looked uncomfortable for a moment.
“Sore point – I wasn’t thinking too clearly right then and if I had been given the choice I’d not have opted to drag a Kashlihk fighting-slave across the countryside whilst playing tag with Qabal Vyazin for my life. Fortunately, although I thought it far from fortunate at the time, the gods intervened in the person of that famed humanitarian and liberator of slaves, Durban Chola.”
“Durban Chola?” Aisha echoed with amazement. “What in the world would Durban Chola want with Avilon?”
“Ah, I see you know the selfless man,” the Vavasor sounded ironic.
“Well enough to know that there isn’t a bone in his body that is selfless nor one that isn’t as devious as a sneak-thief. I’ve had a few dealings with him in the past.”
“That I would like to have seen,” the Vavasor said reverently. “The thought of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object springs to mind.”
It was a compliment and he delivered it with a gallant smile that almost made Aisha forget she was an old woman with a son and two daughters grown and five other children buried.
“We drove a hard bargain between us,” she agreed, but was unwilling to be diverted from her objective. “So why did he want Avilon?”
The Vavasor shrugged.
“Who knows? Spite, perhaps. But it has been exercising my brain for the past fifteen days on and off.”
“Has Avilon no idea to it?”
“If he knows he’s not said so – not to me at any rate.”
“He seems to care for you, a lot.”
The Vavasor glanced at her slightly puzzled.
“Who does? Durban?”
“No. Avilon. He hardly left your side when you were ill.” Almost immediately Aisha regretted her words as a tangible cloud settled between them.
“I didn’t know that,” he said softly and then, in a strange tone. “I am afraid that the Kashlihk has made something of a habit of saving my neck.” Then he smiled suddenly. “It seems a popular hobby for people. At this rate, I will be indebted to half of Temsevar before the year’s out.”

From Transgressor Trilogy: The Fated Sky a Fortune’s Fools book by E.M. Swift-Hook.

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