SotF: Street Rat

  •  ‘Five coins,’ Valnir said, dancing the coin in his stained fingers. ‘It’s five coins now. Times are tough, we’ve more of your kind than ever and what’s more – they’re willing to pay for more.’

     

                   Carcette looked at the alley behind him. A feast for those who could pay: fresh garbage from the tavern! Animals guts and bones, stems and skins of vegetables all unspoiled from rot and flies. One of the feasters even found a half-eaten trencher, still dripping with gravy and lard. Carcette salivated.

     

                   She looked at Valnir and rubbed her stomach.

     

                   ‘Don’t give me that look.’ Valnir scowled. ‘Your friends can do it? Why can’t you?’

     

                   Carcette dropped to her knees and prostrated herself.

     

                   ‘Get off your knees, whore child!’ He shoved her with his foot. ‘Think it’s all about you? I have to pay the tavernkeep to stop them from calling in the guards. You don’t get a free meal; you work like everyone else, you lazy brat!’

     

                   She did work or at least tried to find work but no workhouses would hire her. Infested they called her; Carcette never did knew what did they meant by that. She turned to begging and begged she did, the hardest she’d ever done in her life. Unfortunately, her best spots were taken and she’d gotten away before they lamed her leg.

     

                   Valnir flipped the coin in the air and caught it.

     

                   ‘Five coins. Five coins or you don’t get to eat here.’ Valnir slipped her coin into his pocket.

     

                   Carcette reached forward and earned a clout to the ear.

     

                   Valnir was kind today, Carcette thought rubbing her cheek. He didn’t hit as hard as he usually did.

     

                   ‘Away with you.’

     

                   Carcette scurried away, back to the slums of Riften she calls home. She sat on the side on one of her streets, her hand out to the passing crowd. She sat there for hours and by dusk, she collected no alms. No one was feeling generous today.

     

                   She didn’t blame them, perhaps they just needed to coin for something else right now.

     

                   She hugged her knees, her were arms getting stiff. She ought to beg through the night, she told herself. Maybe just maybe, luck might just be on her-

     

                   She shook herself awake.

                  

                   She couldn’t last the night, she was too tired, too hungry, too drained. The coin Valnir took, she found lying in the gutter. She had hoped that it had been enough, it was enough the last time she saw him. She hoped.

     

                   A rat scurried past her feet, tauntingly. Her stomach rumbled again.

     

                   So sorry tummy. Too tired to catch.

     

                   Carcette retreated to her alleyway. It was empty, no doubt the others were still begging. Dusk was too early for most to sleep. She climbed in her favourite corner – a small mound of soft dirt squeezed between some forgotten crates.

     

                   Her body itched as she laid down, cold stones pressing against her back. She scratched her head and felt something wriggling in between her nails; bugs almost as small as a grain of wheat.

     

                   I would like porridge.

     

                   She sucked on her grime covered fingers, her first meal in almost a week.

     

    ---==○==---

    Carcette woke to a searing pain in her belly.

                  

                   She stretched out her hands, waving them wildly to ward off her attacker. Only there was no attacker – she was alone again in the alleyway.

     

                   Her stomach growled.

     

                   Carcette let out a sigh of relief and looked to the sky. The day was still young but she had overslept again. She began her routine as she always did; search the taverns and fisheries for food. No luck, the others who were there earlier probably picked the places clean. She did spot a cat, a grey tabby licking away at a fish but it was too rotten.

     

                   She shuddered. The last time she’d eaten something like that, she couldn’t stop vomiting for a few days.

     

                   Her breakfast complete, Carcette returned to her work: Begging.

     

                   She started by smearing dirt and ash on her face but not around the eyes. No for the eyes, she found a puddle to make tears drip down her cheeks. Newcomers always think that begging was a simple affair but there was more than just asking for coin – there was technique. Newcomers always think that begging was a simple affair but there was more than just asking for coin – there was technique. The good beggar needed to know how and where to beg, and children above all, made for excellent beggars.

     

                   First, children were small and less threatening than the grownups. Second, children also invoke a greater sense of pity amongst the passing crowds although it did not always guarantee coin – most are content with giving only a concerned and sad look before turning away, it was at least better than getting hit.

     

                   Finally, children were especially good at drawing attention. Crying, screams, pleads, singings – if a beggar caught attention their chances on earning coin improved and children had the tendency to draw attention. There was just one problem though.

                  

                   Carcette couldn’t bring herself to speak.

     

                   Whenever she tried to, her voice simply choked, like when swallowing a mouthful of chicken when her throat was dry. She wasn’t sure why she couldn’t and when the voice didn’t choke, it only came out as a pathetic yelp, no louder than a mouse squeaking.

     

                   It was just past midday when she gave up and rose, feeling a wave of nausea and dizziness. On her way to her next spot, something caught her nose’s attention and Carcette couldn’t resist.

     

                   Her incessant sniffing had carried her to a bread shop and there; piles of bread arranged in the front, unattended. Her mouth watered. She could see smoking hot baguettes, ficelles, and brioches. Smacking her lips, she could taste the buttery croissants and brioches. She blinked and imaged how filling it would be to feast upon a loaf of black bread.

     

                   She inched closer, arm reaching out. No one would miss one, right?

                   ‘Can I help you?’ a voice called out, curt. Carcette jumped, darting her eyes left and right only for an orc to lurch from the shop. The orc was a tubby one; scar-covered arms as big as trunks and a chest as wide a barrel whose sweat stained tunic barely held together from his massive form. He towered over her. He was easily twice no, three times her size.

     

                   The stood with his fists resting on his waist and his gut sticking up, looking down on her.

     

                   ‘I said,’ the baker’s voice low and menacing. ‘Can I help you?’

     

                   Carcette felt her knees giving way but her stomach commander otherwise. The urchin pointed at table and then rubbed her belly.

     

                   ‘If you want one,’ he said. ‘Then you’ll have to pay. I don’t suppose you have any coin on you?’

     

                   Carcette shook her head.

     

                   ‘As I thought.’ He bared his tusks. ‘Get out of here.’

     

                   The urchin frowned and rubbed her belly again. This time, her stomach replied with a rumble.

     

                   ‘A mouthful of crumbs. The leftover crusts. Stale bread from before.’ Words she wanted to say but the words choked again in her throat.

                  

                   She widened her hungry eyes and when the baker only growled in response, Carcette snatched what she could; the smallest bun and ran.

     

                   ‘Get back here you, brat!’ the baker roared, only catching air. ‘That’s right, scram boy! Show your face again and I’ll have the guards hang you by the ankles!’

     

                   Carcette’s heart thumped, her greatest treasure pressed close to her chest. She kept running until the sound of the baker and the beautiful aromas of fresh bread was long gone. She huddled in an alley and immediately and ravenously, devoured the bun tearing it apart with her teeth.

     

                   She stopped when she heard a rustling and the urchin hid the remainder of her treasure under her shirt. A figure emerged from a heap of refuse and Carcette eyed it with suspicion. When it approached her, she swallowed and froze.

     

                   Out of the shadows came… a dog. Not one of those big, strong hounds that marched with the guards but a mangy mutt with a limp leg. The creature was as skinny as she was and was missing a part of its ear. The dog sniffed the air.

     

                   Carcette slowly raised her meal and the dog’s eyes tracked it.

     

                   I am sorry doggy but this is mine.

     

                   The mutt approached, whimpering.

     

                   No, this one is mine! She thought, shielding her scrap with her body.

     

                   She waved her hand, trying to shoo the dog but it whimpered again.

     

                   I… You look hungry too. She held the pinch of bread in her hand. When was the last time you ate anything?

     

                   She looked at her scrap and then at the mutt – it shot a hungry, starving look at her and she sensed a kindred spirit in the creature. Maybe, just maybe…

     

                   Carcette bit her lip as he extended her arm. The dog flinched and Carcette raised a hand and shushed the animal.

     

                   Here doggy, for you. She smiled.

     

                   The dog sniffed… and snapped at her hand. Carcette dropped the scrap and bolted from the alleyway, panting. She tripped, scraping a knee but she picked herself up and kept running, not looking back.

     

    ---==○==---

    Seven coins. A full seven.

     

                   It was a long day but seven was more than enough to buy a meal. Two even if she were prudent.

     

                   Carcette smiled.

     

                   Folk were usually more generous right before Market Day even if there were more guards. Rodmar had once told her that was because the city folk believed it was good luck to be generous before Market Day.

     

                   Rodmar taught her many things, like how to beg and how to steal. He even let her sleep in the alley with his friends although he didn’t like playing with her. Carcette didn’t mind, he at least didn’t hit or yell at her very often.

     

                   A meal or two? The question floated in the back of her mind. If she returned to Valnir, she’d eat like a Jarl! But Valnir was so expensive and she wanted to give Rodmar some coin to thank him.

     

                   She stopped and looked down an alley. The orc baker was selling a bag of bread crusts to a beggar. Maybe she could trade for a few herself?

     

                   No. Carcette left quickly, the baker might’ve recognised her face and still be angry about that other day. Her stomach grumbled but she endured, she had to. Most shops were closed at this hour and the ones that didn’t would shoo her before she got close.

     

                   Wait for the morrow’, she thought as she made the coins dance in her hands. Wait tummy, just wait! Breads and sweets, beef and fish, all tomo-

     

                   She bumped into something and the sounds of glass tumbling and coins clanking rang in her head. Carcette dared not spare a glance, she immediately scrambled to pick up her coins and run. She reached out and–

     

                   A booted heel stepped on her wrist. She squealed but didn’t let go. This was all she had. This was the most she ever had. The boot pressed harder that she was sure her wrist would break before she felt a large hand digging into her ragged her and pulled her off the ground.

     

                   ‘What’s this?’ her attacker said. Carcette recoiled when she recognised the tattoos on his arm.

     

                   Hoggvir.

     

                   Carcette grew limp, her body instinctively knew it was of no use. Hoggvir was twice her height and far stronger than she. What was worse; he reeked of ale again.

     

                   ‘Look,’ he slurred, pointing at a bottle by a puddle. ‘Look at what you’ve done!’ he continued, throwing her to the ground. His foot followed to her back, pinning her to the rough stone and the wretched dirt.

     

                   Carcette struggled, her attempted to croak out a cry for help, a plea; anything but all she could manage was a little squeak. Her squeak grew a little louder when the foot dug in deeper and harder until all the air had left her lungs.

     

                   ‘Stupid whorechild!’ he said, finally lifting his foot only to deliver a kick to her stomach. Carcette coughed and retched but nothing came out. Then he kicked her again and again. Carcette curled herself into a ball but Hoggvir wouldn’t stop.

     

                   Her heart raced. Carcette gritted her teeth and felt a wave of numbness washing over her body. This sometimes happened when she was hurt. She didn’t know why but it made the cuts and bruises go away.

     

                   ‘You stupid!’ He kicked her.

     

                   ‘Useless!’ He kicked her again.

     

                   ‘Whorechild!’ Carcette tasted blood.

     

                   Carcette closed her eyes and whimpered, waiting for the next blow which never came. When she found the courage to open her eyes, she saw Hoggvir on the ground. In his fury, the man must of have slipped.

     

                   Now was her chance. Carcette scurried away, not in any particular direction, just away. She only needed to-

     

                   Hoggvir caught her leg and he was angry. Very angry. His face was red, his muscles tense, and his eyes screamed murder.

     

                   Without thinking, Carcette threw whatever she could reach at him and it worked. She scampered to her feet, caring not where she ran to. Left and right, over and under, the slums of Riften was a warren for even people like her.

     

                   She pulled herself into an empty corner and pressed herself against the bricks. She rubbed her hands against herself, the pain was still there though the cuts were gone. However, she felt something was missing.

     

                   Carcette’s eyes widened when she felt something cold hidden in the folds of her shirt.

     

                   A single coin.

     

                   She leaned into the wall and held the coin to her chest, closing her eyes and waiting for the embrace of sleep.

     

                   She didn’t have the strength to even cry.

     

    ---==○==---

    Today was Market Day!

     

                   Merchants and farmers, hunters and blacksmiths from all of the Rift gather here in Riften to sell their goods. The city folk, from the humble craftsmen to the nobles of the Vivekan District have gathered in the market square to have their pick of the goods.

     

                   More people of course meant more coin pouches and Rodmar had a plan. It was simple as always – the urchins would run through the crowds together, making as much of a distraction as they could. The best part was, they kept whatever they could cut or picked.

     

                   Carcette however would rather steal from the vendors directly. She cared not for the gold – her eyes were on the good. Roasted boar, candied plums; delights she had never tasted before, not even scraps. She nearly fainted when she saw a vendor fry a piece of bread.

     

                   No. These vendors knew to keep an eye out for children. No, what she needed to do was pick someone who was not of this place. Some clueless traveller from a far-off land…

     

                   There. Her mark was a strange one, a man in queer robes with a bounce in every step. Carcette joined in the next wave of urchins as they pushed and shoved their way through the crowd.

     

                   Her heart thumped, her eyes focused on his hefty purse. That was it, all she needed to do was grab-

     

                   With blinding speed, the man spun and caught her hands…

     

    ************************

Comments

2 Comments   |   Mr. Edd likes this.
  • Delta
    Delta   ·  April 29
    Added the final parts.
  • Delta
    Delta   ·  December 8, 2019
    Added part 2