At the age of ten, Aran was already a prolific thief. Her fingers were deft, and her wisp-like body was still slender enough for her to squeeze through any window in the entire city. She opened her eyes and growled quietly in annoyance. More dreams of her parents. She could no longer even make out their faces in the hazy world of dreams, nor did she care to. Both of them were dead. Memories of the dead served no use on the streets. She frowned as she noticed her intended target was worthless now– he already bought his fare with those hundreds of pretty gold coins, and he was on the ship bound across the Saldecla Channel. For a moment, she thought about following him. She wouldn’t be noticed until they left, and Kingdom law forbade captains from throwing stowaways overboard.
Aran quickly threw that idea away. She would be found by the thief lords there and shipped back in a tidy coffin, or perhaps handed to the authorities for encroaching. They might also torture her, to see if the local lord was trying to gain more power. She rubbed her forehead. Politics were stupid.
She quickly decided that she had to at least get something for her efforts, and pick-pocketed the ticket seller for what she thought was surely the price of a ticket. The man didn’t even notice his lighter pockets, and she left him behind quickly. There was no pursuit, and she heard no outcry. She tilted her head after she rounded a corner. Was she really that good? She must be, she decided.
Aran stuffed her hands into her pockets, then began to walk around the market square nearest the docks. The smell of fish quickly covered her own, and she wiped her nose onto her sleeve. She hated the oily, greasy smell of fresh fish, and the rotting smell of the fish that waited too long to be sold. The journey back to Father’s was going to be long, given how much she had stolen.
She found a secluded alley and clambered up a drain pipe to take the high road over the rooftops. At the top, she looked up to find a black-clad young man with a bright smile.
“There you are, Aran. The Lord Boss wanted me to remind you to go in through the sewers, not the high road. High road is being watched too much lately, and you have bad feet for it.” The man chuckled. “Come on, I’ll make sure you can swim into the entrance alive.”
“Aw hell, Rafi! I’ve been getting better!” The girl quickly lowered her voice as the usually gentle-faced man shot her a look filled with poison daggers. She stared at him a few moments, then nodded and whispered an agreement.
Rafi’s warm smile returned, and he leaned forward to pick her up. Her small body fit perfectly under his cloak as he carried her along the rooftops. His bare feet made no sound on the dark-colored stone, even with her additional weight.
Aran looked up at Rafi’s face as he carried her. She clearly remembered a year ago, when he arrived at Father’s, demanding entrance. They said he was from Icesog, that his boots gave it away. Instead of work boots or riding boots, he wore very high boots that went all the way to his thighs. She imagined they were waxed, too. He never complained about wet toes when he waded through water.
She sighed and nestled into Rafi’s arms. He technically should have become the Lord Boss of the night shift that day– he killed the previous, after all. She still couldn’t understand why he would kill a Lord Boss, and then not take his place.
No, Rafi just wanted a job as a raven– one of the caretakers to the various child-thieves. Rafi was hers, now, and with his silent feet, even she couldn’t hear him. She paused, then looked down. If he knew they were going to the sewers, why wasn’t he wearing his boots? She stared down at his bare feet. They were pitted and ugly, so unlike his pretty whore’s face. Suspicion slowly formed in her gut, as cold as when she ate bread stolen from a baker’s trash in the winter.
“Did you lose your boots, Rafi?” she asked after a few moments.
“No, I was doing work on my own, and you forgot to let me know that you were going out to do business.”
“You don’t wear your boots when you’re on your own?”
“They’re heavy boots, Aran.” He chuckled quietly, then pointed to a manhole down an alley way. “Down there’s the entrance for the day. I’ll watch the alley.”
The girl sighed. “Alright. Don’t tell the Lord Boss that I was stealing without permission, will you? I’ll give you a cut.” she pleaded, her brown eyes wide as she gazed up at him. She was trying desperately to imitate a dog scared to be beaten.
The man blinked, then shook his head. “I won’t tell, if you buy some food for yourself with the money. Your ribs are showing too much for anyone to think you’re anything but a thief.”
The girl shamelessly lifted her shirt as he set her on the ground near the metal lid to the sewers. Her ribs were rather visible, weren’t they? She narrowed her eyes and nodded. “I will.” she agreed. “Go with me tomorrow before the sun sets. The shopkeepers aren’t very nice when I go on my own.”
Rafi laughed and lifted the heavy disc. “Just get in. I’ll meet you in fishtown two hours before the sun goes down.” he promised.
A grateful grin graced Aran’s face as she scrambled down the rusted ladder inside. She paused. The Lord Boss would want to know that this ladder was so rusted. It felt like it was very deeply pitted. She hurried down just in time for it to fall with a loud splash into the water. Her eyes widened in the darkness, and she hurried to find something to light her path. The normal hidden lantern was missing, as was anything she could use to make light. She closed her eyes and began to make her way through the sewers by feel. The walls felt slimy on her fingers, and she felt rats brush against her bare feet. A piece of glass left a shallow cut as she stepped on it.
As she finally arrived at Father’s, she was dirty, smelly, and her feet were bloody. None of the other usual faces were present, save the Lord Boss of the night.
Her lump rose again. “Where is everyone?” she asked.
The Lord Boss looked up and frowned. “You shouldn’t be here. Hide before the guards arrive!” he urged as he shoved her into a sack of beans, then piled more on top of her. His movements were rushed, as though he was in a panic.
Aran’s eyes widened. Guards were coming to Father’s? She became very still as she waited. True enough, she heard boots approach.
The Lord Boss pretended to be a homeless man, cared for by the thieves, and the guards arrested him. During the search, they found various secret entrances, but not Aran. They loaded up all of the hidden foodstuffs and treasures, and carried them up. Aran’s bag was among them.
The last thing she heard before the sound of wagon wheels deafened her was the sound of a stabbing and a masculine shout of pain.