Smiling warmly, Tonunda clasped the Guardsman’s shoulder.
Thank you for your concern, Kija, but I will be alright.
Kija’s shoulders dropped, along with his expression.
“Does the queen know?”
Tonunda nodded, then shook him affectionately.
You will be free from any blame, my friend.
“Well, then, have a pleasant evening, my king.”
Tonunda slapped his hand down on the lower cut of the nearest crenelation and vaulted over. Letting go, he fell, kicking away from the wall half way down to slow his fall. On contact with the market place paving stones, he rolled to his feet. The sensation of pins and needles coursed through his ankles and lower legs on the first few strides from the jarring fall.
Although he ran far from the wild land of his mountains he relished the freedom. No one wandered the market place, leaving him totally alone. Still, everything smelt so fresh and clean here; man made. He ran on, in search of new scents and sounds more akin to his upbringing.
A stocky Nusallean youth of 15 years roasted a piece of meat stolen from a butcher’s stall. It browned slowly over a small fire he made from broken furniture. His stomach growled the entire time, yet his hunger only called to him from a distance. Something far more pressing, plagued his thoughts.
Rats watched from the shadows, waiting to eat of the repast; an unrealistic hope, but they always ate from the scraps tossed aside.
The shadow of a cat shifted in the fire’s flickering light, standing on slanted lines. He already knew of the breach that cast the shadow. For now, he resided in the ruined remains of a bathhouse. Fire had burned a trail from one of the boilers, up the wall and created a sizeable hole in the roof. Before the blaze, the bathhouse did a struggling trade. Now; it closed down, awaiting the day a wealthy citizen would buy it for as little as possible. Until then, he would stay here, out of the worst of the elements.
Fat ceased to rise and bubble, dripping into the flames. It would burn if he didn’t remove the meat. The boy brought the meat to his lips, it’s aroma doing nothing to stimulate the watering of his mouth. He bit into the small haunch, and recoiled, its heat hurting his lips. Minutes he waited, holding it in the draft caused by the breach in the roof, then he ate.
He didn’t savour the juices as they made their way down his throat; only chewing mechanically. In order to live?
The last few nights, he huddled alone by the fire. Once he shared its heat with another. An elfin framed girl the same age as himself once slept, nestled into his side. For the last few months, the memory of how he met her played in his mind each night.
She originally slept in this very building. On the night he discovered it was vacant, he found her sitting cross legged by the fire.