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.’


                   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.


                   Sorry tummy. Too tired to catch.


                   Carcette retreated to her alleyway. The alleyway 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 caught in her nails; bugs almost as small as a grain of wheat.



                   She sucked on her grime covered fingers. These creatures were 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.


                   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 kneeled on the ground and smeared ash on her face. She also to made sure to her eyes hungry. Newcomers always think that begging was a simple affair but there was more than just asking for donations – there was technique. Beggars needed to know where to sit and how to beg and children 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 something.


                   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’ 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, 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 barrel as wide a chest 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 the what she could; which was 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, clutching her greatest treasure 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 froze, then turned to see a clear escape route behind her.


                   She looked at the figure again and saw… a dog; A mangy mutt with a limp leg. The creature was just as skinny as she was and was missing a part of its ear. The dog sniffed the air and-


                   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 down and then at the mutt – it shot a hungry, starving look at her and she could sense a kindred spirit in the creature. She had wanted to save her food for another day when she needed it most. She had planned to wrap it up and keep it hidden in her pocket but she did have her share.


                   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 going, not looking back.




1 Comment
  • Delta
    Delta   ·  December 8
    Added part 2