More “Sovereign of Shadow” goodness. This is a little further along in the story than my previous samples, and will end up in either chapter 2 or 3.
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Kieran drew in a deep breath, feeling the cloth covering his face pull in against his lips for a moment before blowing it away. The hood over his head fluttered in the constant breeze that blew along the tops of the buildings. He prowled along the edges of the roof like a cat, keeping his eyes on the network of dirt roads and rotting alleys that marked the beginning of The Dregs.
Most of the access to the Outer Circle from the Dregs had been barricaded, but there were still a few openings that allowed people through. The barricades were temporary while they completed construction on wall that would section off each part of Midcity – a blatant reminder of the rigid class structure of the city.
Walls and barricades wouldn’t stop Kieran though. For the past few nights, he’d been seeking any activity that might lead him to Galan. Though he had to admit that he wasn’t sure what he would do once he found him. Someone had to get Galan’s group off the streets – they were violent and corrupt, and gave thieves everywhere a bad name.
Though the profession itself might have had something to do with that.
The roads were empty; guards didn’t bother much with this area of the city. Anyone walking alone in the middle of the night this close to The Dregs deserved to be robbed.
If all they did was steal, Kieran wouldn’t care. Instead, they beat and raped. They used desperate children with no home or family to lure in their targets.
Kieran neared the end of his third round of the city. Another eventless night. Either Galan was laying low, or he was being extremely careful about his activity.
Perhaps it was time to head back home for the evening. He didn’t have a real plan, anyway. He couldn’t take on Galan and the Theives’ Guild with hatred alone. He altered his course, heading in the direction of his ruined tower when something at the far end of the street below caught his eye.
A woman? Kieran hurried to catch up. Surely no one would be that stupid. No one who knew the inner workings of Midcity, anyway. She had to be a traveler, likely passing through the city. The poor woman seemed oblivious to her surroundings; the fact that she was out alone at night spoke volumes. Her slippers clacked on the cobblestone, and she didn’t seem to be in any hurry. She held her chin up high. Her clothing style and decorative hat suggested she had some money. What would a woman of her stature be doing out this far? He needed to catch up to her.
Or… Kieran stopped. He pursed his lips and watched her. A pretty, wealthy woman like that would catch Galan’s attention.
Though he didn’t want to see the young woman get hurt, he decided to leave her be. He kept her in his sight while scanning the streets.
He didn’t have to wait long. As the woman rounded a corner that put her even closer to The Dregs, something darted across the street and took cover in a patch of shadow.
Kieran crouched down, poking one eye over the edge. Nothing stirred for a long time. What had he seen? He stayed there motionless, eyes fixated on the dark patch near a door where he’d thought he’d seen the movement.
Maybe he was just tired. Though he didn’t really believe that. The one thing he trusted more than anything else was his instincts. He waited, watching.
There. Out of the blackened doorway darted a thin, lanky figure. Whoever it was, they were trying to stay hidden in the shadows, trailing the woman.
Looks like a kid. He narrowed his eyes and followed. Kieran waited until she was further down the road, then padded to the corner of the building. He leapt lightly onto an unlit lamppost, his boots rasping softly as he slid to the ground.
It had to be Galan. They moved fast; it was like they knew the woman would be there. He remembered his own time with the Theives’ Guild, being sent out alone in the middle of the night as bait.
Kieran sped ahead of the girl, keeping one street between them. He poked his head out of an alleyway in front of the woman just as the child caught up to her. He could see now that it was a young girl, no older than Raili.
The girl’s steps switched from discrete to clumsy. She panted and widened her eyes. “Help me! Please Lady, help!”
The woman spun around with a gasp, pressing her fingertips to the top of her chest. “Kernu’s horn, child. You frightened the wits out of me.”
From Belamros, by the sound of ‘er voice. Maybe she’ll jus send the kid away.
“My br-brother,” the girl wailed. “He’s sick. P-please, help!”
Kieran ground his teeth together. The same bloody story I used. You’d think by now he’d come up with somethin’ better.
The woman planted her fists on her hips. “I certainly do not know what you expect me to do. I am no healer.”
“Please!” The girl shrieked, tears flowing effortlessly down her cheeks. She fell to her knees, sobbing. “He’s all I got. My b-brother. He’s gonna d-d-die.”
“Oh, dear.” The woman bent at the waist and patted the girl on the shoulder. “All right then. Take me to him. We will find someone along the way to assist. Perhaps a member of the law.”
That wasn’t likely. Galan picked his locations well. Kieran stepped out of the shadows. “Stop.”
They both jumped at the sudden noise, the girl drawing a tiny rusted dagger from her belt and crouching low.
The older woman eyed him suspiciously, her fists returning to her rounded hips. “And who are you? Her brother? You do not look ill.”
“Don’t follow her,” Kieran said. He addressed the woman, ignoring the kid trying to circle around him. “She’s gonna lure ya into a trap.”
“I highly doubt that. She’s just a child.” The older woman wagged a finger in the air. “You, on the other hand. I do not like the look of you. Don’t dare think to rob me, you hear? I’ve been trained in Fire.” A pitiful flame sputtered to life above her outstretched palm, it’s measly light flickering on the brick walls.
Kieran shook his head slowly, recognizing the imitation of magic for what it was. He took a step forward. “There’s a group of men waitin’ in a dark street for ya. Waitin’ ta rob and beat ya.”
The woman’s fire faltered and winked out. Her eyes were wide as she stared up at him. Her whisper barely reached his ears. “Are you with them?”
Kieran opened his mouth to answer, but a meager snarl interrupted him from behind. He twisted to the side and grabbed hold of the skeletal wrist that had thrust a rusty dagger at him.
The girl squealed, pushing at him with her free hand, kicking at his legs.
Kieran glared at the girl. “Tell ‘er.”
The girl’s face went white and she stopped struggling. Her eyes flicked to the woman and back. She only nodded.
The woman gasped, covering her mouth. “Disgusting child! Who do you think you are? How dare you try t-”
“Enough,” Kieran growled. He stepped forward to loom over the woman, pulling the girl along behind him. “Get. Off. The street.”
The woman looked shaken, but managed a small bob of her head. “T-thank you.” She glared at the girl before hiking up her skirt and running off toward the Outer Circle.
The little girl whimpered.
Kieran glared at her. “You wit Galan?”
She gave him a jerky nod. “I’m s-sorry. I didn’t know what else ta d-do, I don’t have-”
“Quiet.” Kieran took the dagger from her hand. “You got a family?”
She shook her head, and her bottom lip quivered. “J-jus me.”
He thought she might start bawling at any moment. “Show me where they’re hidin’. Then get outta Midcity. I’ll give ya five gold crowns. Find a better life than this.”
The girl’s dark eyes were wide as saucers, covered with a watery sheen of tears ready to spill over. “W-why?”
“Don’t ask questions. That’s the deal, take it or not.”
She took a deep, shuddering breath and nodded, sniffling and wiping at her nose.
Kieran let her lead him closer to Galan’s hiding spot, where he and the Thieves’ Guild would be waiting for the girl to bring them the older woman. She pointed to a shadowy area along the outer wall of the town. As Kieran had expected, they encountered no guards along the way.
Kieran opened one of his many hidden pouches and fished out five fat gold crowns. The girl’s eyes gleamed and she grinned. She’d probably never seen that much money in her life. He emptied the coins into her tiny hands. “Disappear.”
She immediately stashed them away in a pocket, then lunged at Kieran and squeezed him in a brief hug. “Thank you.” With that, she scurried off in the opposite direction.