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The thief bolted down the crowded walkway, closely trailed by the majority of the Welken guard. Leaping over stands and dodging through villagers came naturally to a quick paced young lad, though most would find such a thing annoying if they did not expect it in the first place.
The people of Welkly were only too glad to accommodate for the strange figure clad in no more than rags and a stolen cloak. While some stepped aside, others lifted crates or rolled barrels to let him pass, only to be sure they fell back in place when the guard attempted following in his exact footsteps.
The boy knew the maze of stands within the Welkly market place well, and when he bypassed the baker for the second time that day, he was sure to jump over the broom handle thrown in his path.
“Thief!” the baker cried when he scrambled towards an alleyway. “Someone stop him!”
The boy snickered, grabbing hold of the hand holds chipped away from the side of the Cathedral. Mountainous monstrosity of a building, the boy cleaved his way, fingers finding spaces between brick and mortar, slender legs nearly hanging in the air. Only using his arms, he took hold of the statue of an angel, dangling high above the streets.
He dared to turn his head to the figures below, one brown eye visible. He smiled.
“Sanctuary!” he called out.
He swung up to the wings of the statue, clawing his way over the ledge to perch against a tall stained glass window. The image depicted a woman, her long blonde tresses distorted and blowing in an invisible wind, hands outstretched, legs morphed in the gleaming gold of a scaled tail.
The boy turned to gaze at the stained image, the wind catching at his cloak and letting it billow out across his line of vision. His cowl fell back, and long brown hair fell to frame a supple neck, face soft and not that of any boy even in childhood.
A gentle laugh rang out through the breeze when the guard stopped beneath the new perch, imperceptible screams carrying to the strange lad before they began backing away. The baker had stumbled forward, red faced, fists shaking in the air. The thief merely waved, opposite hand reaching for the pocket of the cloak to produce a steaming loaf of bread.
“I thank you for your generous donation,” she called, biting into the butt.
“You rotten ol’ cretan! May the wrath of Lucara take your blasted soul to hell!”
The girl smiled, swallowing after chewing profusely with an open jaw. Her hand brought the bread towards her lips again when fingers wrapped around her wrist and jerked her arm backwards.
She leapt up, turning on the intruder, prepared to defend her meal, but paused.
“Well well well,” the boy holding her said, eying her prize with a speculative green gaze. His lips twitched in wry amusement. “What do we have here?”
The girl wrenched her arm back, clutching the bread to her chest. Her glare spoke danger and something else that had the boy laughing at the way she bit into the bread yet again with haste.
“None of your business,” she mumbled behind a full mouth.
He hummed, rolling his eyes. “You bringing trouble to my perch is plenty business to me.”
“You claim every perch as your own, ye down right git.”
He tsked, indicating the city before them, the port docking ships just visible at the very edge of sight, dark buildings long since marred with abuse, streets filled with people.
“My city, my perch. What is the difference?”
He smiled down at the girl, and she rolled her eyes, biting the bread yet again. She couldn’t get enough of the crisp crust scratching against the roof of her mouth.
“What do you want Bane?” she sighed, folding her arms over her chest.
The boy’s dark hair sifted in the wind, dirt on his cheeks giving his smile a roguish look. The girl’s nose wrinkled, and she ripped off a chunk of the fat loaf to offer him in turn.
“Much obliged,” he nodded.
“Arse,” she mumbled while watching him take a mouthful that could have swallowed the whole half of the bread.
“Oh come now, no need to be a stiff,” he said.
“I have plenty of reason. I am forced to give you my well earned share of the baker’s finest batch of the day, and you did what? Fondled another unsuspecting maiden in the street? This was difficult to obtain, and I haven’t eaten in nearly two days.”
“Quit yer complaining,” he said. “You share because I am your best friend.”
“My only friend,” she admitted. “But you are still an arse.”
His devilish grin was flecked with crumbs, and she cringed when his tongue caught a piece between his teeth.
“Now, Anne, we’ve had this discussion many times. I am not an arse.”
“Quite the contrary,” she let her shoulder rest against the fin of the siren behind her, patting the glass with a gentle had. “Old Lucara here says you may just be Captain of the arse armada.”
He gave her a dry look, clearly unamused. “The god of all that is these Six Shores will strike you down one day. Anne.”
“I do not care for Lucara, you know that,” she mumbled.
He looked at her pointedly. “You know how terrible that is, don’t you?”
Anne shrugged, throwing her bread between her hands. Wind blew her hair towards Bane, and she glanced down to see a piece of paper flutter in his pocket. She frowned, narrowed eyes fixing on his suddenly stoic expression when she reached to snatch the paper from his coat. He didn’t resist.
Her nimble fingers pried apart the folded paper, eyes scanning the writing before opening wide. She glared at him accusingly.
“An advance note?” she held the small piece of paper up to him.
His chin fell, a long sigh leaving his lips. His fingers ran through his too long hair, grimacing at the way she threw the paper back into his hand. He shoved it back into his pocket.
“You signed yourself up for a voyage,” she accused
“It’s not a big deal, Anne.”
“You bloody well know it is!” she cried, pushing at his shoulders. He stumbled. “You plan to leave me behind and sail away into the sunset, do you not?”
“That sounds a bit romantic,” he grumbled. “And no, I planned to give you the money from the advance. I thought it may help you and the others–”
She laughed without humor and grasped at the paper yet again. “You on board a ship is laughable. Thinking you would return is even more so. You promised to take care of me, and I promised the same for you. How do you expect us to do that if you throw our hard earned reputations away for this? And what makes you think the measly amount of money this captain offers will help support–”
She paused once she looked at the paper and read the amount offered to those who signed. She blinked, wondering how many loaves of bread she would avoid stealing with this amount of money. Enough to feed the children for a week she would bet. Who among the Six Shores could afford to pay so much for an advance note?
“Alright, so perhaps this would suffice for a while,” she said, eyes narrowing when she caught him smirking at her, “but it changes nothing.”
Bane shook his head, leaning back against the stained glass. His head hit it once, twice, then angled towards the girl at his side, her too small frame all he could focus on for a mere moment. He dug in his pocket and brought the note back to press into her hand. He deliberately closed her fingers around it to make his point clear.
“Perhaps it is time our reputations take a rest. I am sure you could command the troops well enough without me.”
Her expression grew cold, and her hand crumbled the paper despite his words and the amount it claimed to offer. “If you leave, you take me with you.”
“No, Anne,” he said curtly, fixing her with a sharp glance. “Women are not allowed to sail unless related to the captain. You know that.”
“And you know that would not matter if they did not know I was a woman,” she said.
He glared at her, moving to grasp her shoulders firmly. He knew she wouldn’t hesitate to throw him off the cathedral just for the touch, but he didn’t take notice to her flinch.
“You listen here, Wells,” he hissed. “If I find you have jeopardized yourself in any way, if I so much as see you with your bindings on near a ship--”
“You’ll what?” she challenged.
The two glared at one another, the older boy standing straight, jaw tight. She mirrored his stance, crossing her arms, brown hair flickering across her face when she spat at his feet. He looked to his bare toes, frowning at the dirt stained flesh, then to Anne again. His expression softened, and he touched her cheek with a gentle caress, hand warm.
Her lip trembled, but her eyes grew cold, hand smacking his away. “I will find my own voyage, then. If you so much as think of trying to stop me, I will kill you.”
In her mind she meant it, for despite their lasting friendship, she wanted survival. Staying in Welkly would be the death of her and Bane knew as much. But she knew that she couldn’t leave, not in her position.
She moved past him, dropping the remains of her bread at his feet. She did not feel the pains of hunger anymore. Perhaps he would find use for it; she didn’t care. She pulled her cowl back over her head, then pried a piece of the stained glass from it’s position.
Candle light greeted her once she stepped in the alcoves above the church, a welcome sight to her. Flames had always fascinated her. Now though, she only bypassed the illuminations, being sure to run across the beams high above the sacrificial alter. She turned to look back at the stained glass image, frowning when she saw no outline against the beating sunlight and the gleaming window.
Bane had gone, and she knew he wouldn’t come after her.
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