Little People: The Prologue

The boy had been there for nearly a week—just sitting outside the palace. Watching. It was as if he were waiting for someone, except no one ever came.

He didn’t look Atijan, with light brown skin and big, blue eyes. Perhaps he was Qurdoban, although how such a young boy had managed to buy his way across the OjiSea was beyond anyone’s comprehension.

It was nearly night when the girl with the wine-red hair finally came up to him. “Do you only ever sit?” she asked sharply. The boy didn’t look up. She kicked at his shins. “Do you live somewhere? Would you like me to walk you home or can you make it on your own?”

Slowly, he met her gaze with his own electric blue one. “I do not need your help,” he replied in passable Atijan.

“You do not need my help or you do not want my help?” He didn’t respond. “All right. Will you at least tell me where you live?”

“Is it important?”

“I would think so, yes.” Again, he was silent. “Why won’t you speak to me? I don’t bite.” The boy had recently learned that many people lie, but he wouldn’t tell her that he didn’t believe her. The girl sighed. “You should come with me.”


“You should come with me. Unless you’d prefer to live on this corner for the rest of your life.”

The boy’s eyes flared. “Where would you be taking me?” he said cautiously.

“The palace.”

His jaw set. He sprang to his feet and, although he gave off a defiant air, there was definite terror in his eyes. “You can’t lock me up,” he said, and his voice was tinged with panic. “I won’t go!”

“Why would I lock you up?” The girl smiled. “I thought that I could at least offer you a bath”—she looked him over with obvious distaste—“and some clean clothes. I’m sure we have something that would fit you.” The boy blinked, the only sign of his surprise. “What’s your name?”

“Kashmir,” he said after a moment’s silence. “Yinric.”