Ean watched the last of the archers disappear off the rooftops.
Kaim stood quiet beside him.
Ean waited for a full minute while the crowd chattered about their fearsome visitor, oblivious to the maneuvers.
He prayed again for wisdom, for help, for peace. Reminded himself that someone much bigger was in control.
Kaim stayed silent.
At least Trin seemed to have Danya in hand.
Ean sighed deep and long.
“Just say it. You’ve said it already, but say it again.”
Kaim twitched, a nervous tic that reached his mouth and one eartip.
“She’s still dangerous.”
“But now she’s our guest, not a fugitive.”
“She’s a garagran.”
“I don’t see how that makes her not our guest.”
“Yes you do. Garagrans can’t be trusted. They are laced with evil magic.”
“And yet they still transform into alleji from time to time, and most of them are quite capable of obeying laws,” Ean said.
“You really think they obey the laws they make?”
Ean examined his friend, trying to figure out exactly what he was thinking.
“Ean,” Kaim said. “If she decides to attack, hundreds could die.”
Ean held up his hand for Kaim to stop talking.
“Are you seeing the same woman I am?”
“Of course I am.”
“No. I don’t think you are. That is not a murderous garagran, Kaim. That is a terrified young woman who stole because she was hungry. I can see it and Trin can see it. Why can’t you?”
“Garagran do not get terrified. They are the deadliest creature on Eddenloe by far.”
“They are deadly when they are transformed. Yet people still kill them, even then.”
Kaim glanced over at Danya. Ean looked too and saw that she was talking to the boy who had hit her when she stole the cow. Ean tried to remember his name but couldn’t. Trin was standing between them and had her “official business” face on, complete with regal stance and neutral but confident expression.
Isayh was also there. Presumably he had done the introductions.
The boy was a small matter, but Ean needed to be there when Danya spoke to the owner.
Still, he wondered what the boy was saying to her with such animation.
“She could have killed him, Ean.”
Kaim. He had to deal with Kaim.
Deal with. Like his best friend was an obstacle rather than a person.
Argh. Machinery was so much easier to deal with.
“Go home, Kaim. I need someone who can see clearly helping me here tonight, and you aren’t.”
Kaim looked like Ean had stabbed him. He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. Then he tried to speak again, but Ean shook his head.
“I don’t need any more argument. When you get back to Dawn’s Glory, give a full, accurate, report to my father. Emphasize that Danya has been peaceful the entire time since we caught up with her and that she agreed to apologize and submit to oversight.Tell him I will send my full recommendation tomorrow, once I’ve had a chance to see how she interacts with normal humans and talk with her more.”
Kaim shut his mouth and gave a half bow, but the hurt was still in his eyes.
“I’ll do as you say, your highness.”
He left with his back straight and his wings held close and stiff.
Ean sighed again and looked back to Danya. She was still talking with the boy, and looked… flustered. Isayh was smiling openly and Trin was trying not to. He wanted to hear what they were talking about even more, but no. He had to find the owner. The way the night was going the man would still be angry.
He looked for one of the tixeries, or any of his soldiers, but there were none looking his way. He started toward a nearby gar, but was stopped by a polite throat clearing behind him.
“Prince Ean,” a high male voice said.
Ean turned and saw the owner of the voice, a tall, broad Lilta with graying hair. His expression showed both confidence and respect, while his garments, a more practical version of the knee-length, sashed robe and wide-legged pants favored by Salshiran nobility and upperclass merchants, indicated that he either ranked high in the village or had a very high opinion of himself.
Ean recognized him as the owner of the cow and head of one of the three families that owned the village corrals. The largest of those families. And the richest.
The man immediately bowed in perfect fashion.
“Elder Birlintet,” Ean said. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”
“Your Highness,” the man replied. “I am most honored that you came to deal with our little problem yourself. Your father’s wisdom and magnanimity obviously continues in his children.”
“Kai’s glory, Elder, but thank you. The peace of my family’s kingdom is never a little problem to me.”
“Of course, your Highness.”
“You received my offer?”
“I believe your soldier brought it straight to me, your Highness. It is indeed a generous compensation, and for any of my lesser cattle I would gladly accept, but this cow was a daughter of Dalto Makengard, a bull owned by the kentinshir tribes living in the delta regions of Illintiris. I imported her at great expense to improve our lines, and it took considerable negotiation in person just to acquire the one daughter. I cannot afford to make another such trip, and I doubt the kentinshir’s will sell me another.”
Yasaw, Ean prayed, did she have to eat the rarest cow in the kingdom? Illintiris is on the other side of the continent! Help!
“My whole family invested in acquiring this cow, and we all feel her loss as a great blow to our future plans. Additionally, my great-grandchildren raised her from a young calf, and as she was never to be eaten they became quite close to her. Her official name was Makendot Steltira, but they called her Daisy. Considering all that, I must insist that you punish this thief.”
Ean rolled the situation over in his head as fast as he could, feeling his thoughts moving like the wheels on the steam-train but still seeming too slow. He had to stall for time or look like an idiot.
“I can certainly understand how great a blow this is to your family, Elder Birlintet. Your cow was indeed far more valuable than I initially understood. However, are you certain that there is not some price you will find satisfactory?”
“Justice must be done, your Highness. The whole village is hopeful that you will deliver that now that you are here.”
“Indeed. But under the law the only punishment that can be required for theft of a material possession, and your cow is still considered a material possession, however valuable and cared for, is monetary.”
“Yes, your Highness. However, that only applies to unarmed, unconfronted theft, or larceny. This was aggravated theft, or robbery, conducted with a rather excessive amount of force.”
“No one was injured.”
“Even so, a garagran cannot be considered anything other than armed. This was robbery, and should be punished as such.”
Ean stared at the man, feeling backed into a corner. The man was right according to the law. Robbery was a different class of crime from larceny, and could be punished corporally in addition to any fine.
Had to be punished corporally if the victim insisted on it.
If… the victim…
Under the law, the victim of a robbery was only the one who was actually physically threatened. Owners of stolen property not present at the time were only considered victims of larceny.
“Very well, Elder Birlintet. I agree that this was indeed a robbery. Therefore, let’s go ask the victim of the robbery what he wants.”