The boy stepped from the hearth and vaulted, catching hold of the rafters, before lifting himself through the gap. Air seemed colder up on the roof, but then he expected that. He rounded a brick chimney, taking a few steps toward the edge. As he stared up, he felt more alone than ever, just him and the many stars in the heavens.
His attention turned to the street four stories below. Where only hours earlier it thrived with its denizens, it now lay vacant, giving him a sense of tranquility. He could have stared at the cobbled street for hours.
No! he scolded himself.
If he took time to savour the moment, he might never jump.
Tonunda’s skin burned with the descending chill. It exhilarated him as he ran along the roofs, eating up the miles across the city. Shingles, dead slabs of timber, felt good beneath his feet. His lungs expanded to nearly overflowing with every stride as he savoured his freedom.
He stopped every now and again by a smoking chimney to remove part of the chill. In those few precious moments each time, he learned so much more about his people than he would have from diplomatic visits. Scents came to him of cooking food. More savoury meals seemed to come from the more opulent houses. He also listened to snippets of conversations from the households. Families, whether rich or poorer, shared conversations of little import, such as he did with Andessa.
It is love they share, not the meal.
Only people who love others care to listen to trivialities. He ran to the edge of a high building, then stopped, panting at the edge. He could never leap the gap over the lane separating him from the next building. Diving, he caught hold of a clothesline spanning across the street, and dangled awkwardly, before hooking his legs over. Progressing slowly, he shimmied his way over to the next building. He clambered on top, brushing a shingle on the way, then snorted. Tonunda was brought up as a dog, not a cat. If he had, he would have climbed and ran without hindrance by any obstacle.
A glance down informed him he had kicked the shingle of a bath house. It rocked slightly on its iron hooks. He detected movement further along the cobbled lane. A selskirt walked alone, whilst a person lay huddled asleep in an alcove.
It pained him to see people still living in poverty in his city. He turned from the street, determined to do something to alleviate the situation on the morrow. Jogging up the gentle slope, a chimney bobbed into view, and a young man? He didn’t expect someone else up here.
The youth shuffled closer to the edge, looking over.
Tonunda barked. Stop!
“Go away stranger,” the youth warned.
His voice sounded younger than he looked.
Gritting his teeth, Tonunda broke into a sprint and halted just short of the boy. He gripped his arm and tried to lead him from the edge.