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“I owe you my life,” says Nez, shivering.

“I’ve already got it.” Luck rubs the pain out of his arms. “Thanks anyway.”

Nez thinks he understands. “I’m your man then,” he says. “Your bondsman, your loyal servant–”

“I don’t think you take my point,” says Luck coldly. “Every murder costs a life. A certain man killed; he’ll die to pay for it. My killing him, in turn, will cost the life I just saved. Now go away.”

Luck walks. Nez stands and stares. Blot breaks away and scurries back to him.

“Plus,” she says, “you owe me five knots for helping.”


“Too far to walk back to the city now.” Luck keeps his head low as they look over the ridge. “I can’t believe you survived the trip once…”

“I hid on a river barge.” Blot’s face is blue with blackberries. “It didn’t hurt, then, as long as we were going south.”

“Neither of us belonged there anyway,” says Luck. “And I know there are people on this side of the river, no matter what they say. Other people, other cities.”

“You believe those baby stories?” Blot’s scorn is older than she is.

“I believe,” says Luck, “in a place called Hope.”


When Luck wakes up, Blot’s standing outside the bars of the wagon.

“Are you,” he shakes his head. “What are you doing here?”

“You tell me.”

“I don’t have any more bread.”

“You pushed me away,” she says. Luck notices that she’s trembling; she looks exhausted. Her boots are too big, stolen. She must have been following the caravan for days. “With one finger and now I burn, I can’t rest until I’m near you. What did you do?”

“I didn’t,” he says. “I…” He stops, because he sees it now: on her forehead, his fingerprint, worked in new pink scar.


“My name’s Blot,” says the child. “Give me some of that.”

She’s clearly starving; Luck took her at first for four years old, but now he sees her growth’s been stunted. She’s probably only two years younger than he. Luck hesitates anyway, annoyed. “And what if I don’t?”

“I’ll bite,” she says simply, and grimaces. It’s not a threat, just a display of wares: she’s missing some teeth, and the remainders are a wreck. That bite means infection, maybe death.

Grudgingly, he breaks off a chunk of the corn bread and tosses it away. Blot has it before it hits dirt.