by Kaye Jeffreys -
Reece moved his goggles down from his forehead to cover his eyes and searched the horizon again. "The wind is picking up. Soon we won't be able to see. Do they know we are here?"
"Yes." Dad crouched down and rested his hand on the ground.
"What if they don't come?"
"We don't go back up to the Rims until we make the offering. Don't worry. They're here." Dad stood and brushed dust off his hands. "More than usual."
"Is it because we were late with the offering?"
"More likely because of the nomad you saved from the spider."
"Come with me and keep your mouth shut."
Reece followed Dad down the hill to the meeting rock.
Several dozen mounted nomads crested the opposite hill and stopped.
A single bug with two riders broke away from the rest and descended to meet them. They reached the rock first and dismounted.
Dad put up his hand in silent greeting. The rider, Senjab, did the same. His smaller passanger stood behind him to the side, her head bowed and face covered with a veil.
"Is all well?" Dad asked.
"All is not well." Senjab pointed at Reece. "Your son touched my daughter." He motioned back toward the girl behind him.
"Dad, I didn't--"
Dad put up his finger.
Reece shut his mouth, bit his lip, and breathed hard through his nose. Why did he stop to help a nomad?
"This is a serious charge." Dad spoke loud over the wind but remained calm.
"Sanja has become a shame to her people and must be cast from us."
Sanja, so that was her name, the little liar. She stood, head bowed and speechless. The wind whipped her garments about her.
"What can be done to resolve this?" Dad clasped his hands behind his back, stepped back with one foot, and turned so that he didn't face Senjab square on but at an angle.
"She must join your people through marriage to your son."
Reece's lip escaped his teeth. "Dad!"
Dad held up his finger again and gave Reece a sharp look.
Reece put his hands on his head and turned his back to them. Stupid Nomads and their stupid, stupid laws. He should have left her to be spider food. An immediate sinking feeling hit as his insides rejected the thought. He took a deep breath. He had done the right thing and could have done nothing else. He would rather face the consequences of doing a good deed than disappoint the One who loves all.
Dad said in his even tone, "Will you receive our gift and may we continue to mine Mt. Olympus?"
"Things between us will not change if you also take Sanja because your son has shamed her."
Reece turned back around and stared at Senjab. Were the streamed accusations really necessary?
Senjab ignored Reece's glare.
Dad nodded once. "We will take Sanja to live with us."
"Then it is done." Senjab gave a shallow bow.
Dad handed Senjab the pouch of cut diamonds.
Senjab mounted his bug and rode away, never looking back at the daughter he left behind like camp debris. Sanja gave no visible sign that she had been discarded by her father. She stood rigid against the wind, all expression hidden by her veil. Maybe her people falsely accused her like they did Reece.
"Sanja." Dad's voice was gentle towards the girl, even over the fierce wind. "Come with us." He turned and walked back to their multirider.
Reece walked along side his father still needing to make his case, not just for himself, but for the thrown-away, little girl that followed them. "Dad, I didn't touch her. Nor did she touch me."
"We will discuss this later." Dad didn't scold, but his words were firm. "Right now we have to get out of this wind."