Chapter 5: Heightened Search and Wall
“How many?” I was actually training Tyor, Enucia, and Yulik on how to steal well.
“Three guards,” Tyor replied, really confident in his answer.
“Wrong. You see two guards and a guard captain,” I corrected him, destroying all that confidence he built up. I only recognized him as the guard-captain because he was the guard-captain that was following me that day. Plus he had fancy armor. The more I looked at the guards, I realized that I knew all three of those guards were chasing me that day. “Where is the target?”
“Over there,” Enucia pointed out the produce stalls.
“Seriously? Just over there? I guess if it’s just over there, you wouldn’t have to know that the guards are specifically in front of that stand. How are we going to get past them?” I asked.
“Kill them,” Yulik offered.
I stared at Yulik. “Wow. Okay, I’ll humor you. How?”
“Stab them?” Yulik shrugged.
“With what?” I waited.
“This,” Yulik brought out a small little dagger. Both Tyor and Enucia scuttled away from him.
“You want to get through their armor with that knife? Okay, fine. Then what? What about the other two?”
“They’re trained guards, you crazy bastard. The best way to steal with them around is to avoid them completely. We wait until they’re far enough away ”
“Makes sense.” Tyor nodded.
“Why aren’t they moving?” Enucia asked me after a while.
“Hunh. If they aren’t moving, the next best thing is to get them away. I’ll distract them. Tyor, get bread. Yulik, steal some cheese. Enucia, melons. I’ll distract them long enough. Please don’t turn this into a different lesson,” I said as I fluffed out my red hair. After a bit, I kinda liked it. It looked pretty. If only it didn’t make me stand out even more.
“And that will be a lesson on what?” Tyor in asked.
“How to run if you get caught,” I said right before running right into the middle of the market, accidentally bumping into the guards. When they turned around, they all stopped to stare at me.
“You guys want a second chance to screw up?” I sneered at them. They looked at each other, then to the guard-captain. The guard-captain just stared at me. “C’mon, don’t you to? I mean, we had so much fun last time.”
“Who is she?”
“What is happening?”
“What is she doing?”
“What is with that hair?”
“Do we know her?”The customers of the market asked each other.
“You survived?” The guard-captain asked finally.
“Maybe.” I shrugged. “Or I’m a spirit come to haunt you guys to oblivion.” The guard-captain and the other guards stepped back. “I could be the guilt you feel for killing an innocent girl and now I’m here to mentally torture you.”
“What should we do?” one of the guards asked the guard-captain.
“Or I actually survived, which means that the Spirits are giving you a second chance at redemption. I mean, the Fire Seeker must’ve been pretty pissed off when he must’ve learned that I was skewered like a piece of meat on a kabob and then burnt down in a house fire. Your guys’ only order was to bring in all the girls alive and you guys just killed me, or so you thought, and I survived miraculously, thus giving you a second chance.” I kept talking to give the three more time to actually steal. Thankfully I grabbed everyone’s attention. I mean, one girl intimidating all those guards.
“What should we do, captain?” one of the guards asked again.
“We should make sure that she’s actually alive,” the captain moved towards me. I immediately moved back.
“You really believe that I would just let you do that so easily? I mean, last time you did that, you tried to take me away. That made me die, so no.” I started to casually walked away from them, bringing them towards me. They were ready to break out into a sprint after me.
“THIEF!” a grocer shouted as he chased Enucia down an alleyway. Tyor and Yulik both scattered while Enucia was chased. I raced over to the low budget liquor salesman to push over the barrels, causing more chaos than before. I then took off in the opposite direction of the guards.
“She’s the main target!” the guard-captain shouted.
“Yes, sir!” the guards shouted before running after me.
“I can’t catch a break,” I groaned as I ran away from the guards once again. I immediately ducked into the alleys. Two guards on my tail were better than. . . a lot. I managed to twist through the alleyways before the hole in my side started to twinge with a sharp pain. It wasn’t the usual dull pain, it felt as if there was a much smaller spear sticking through my side.
I couldn’t run anymore, but thankfully the guards weren’t fast enough and always crashed into walls whenever I turned a corner. I clutched my side, blood staining the cloth. I really didn’t want to make the trip to the river. It wasn’t really far, but it was still an annoying trip to make.
The guards turned the wrong way and I was able to start heading ‘home’. I didn’t want to run anymore, but it was dangerous to walk with those guards still running around as if they were chickens without heads. If they were like that, they were definitely going to run into me eventually.
Loving life right then was really hard.
I got back to my alleyway, and the three alleyway children were all kneeling, and their heads bowed. My wound stopped bleeding for the time, but blood was still dripping down my side, making the tree of them bow their heads down even more. If they could sink into the ground right then and there, they would’ve.
We stayed silent until Enucia shouted, “I’m so sorry!”
“But we got the food, that’s gotta count for something, right?” Tyor looked up at me. I stared at him, making his head bow down again.
“If she didn’t make a scene, we’d be out and scot-free,” Yulik started to play the blame-game.
“I said I’m sorry,” Enucia cried helplessly.
“Obviously not sorry enough!” Yulik shouted.
“Guys!” Tyor shouted.
“Shut up,” I groaned. “This is on all of you. Enucia, you didn’t blend with the crowd. If someone stands out, merchants and vendors are going to keep an eye on them. Tyor and Yulik, you didn’t even try to help her out. C’mon. Low blow guys. Low blow. If it were you guys, would you like if Enucia just up and left you? No. That would suck. You guys are going to be the ones stealing until the heat about me dies down, okay?”
“You want us to do what?” Yulik asked.
“Blend. Make sure that you don’t stand out. Be ready to help bail them out or trick the guards. Hell, get a red wig and pretend to be me and get that chase going. I don’t care how you do it, but you can’t do the same things that you did today, understood?” I looked at all of them.
“YES MA’AM!” they all yelled like soldiers.
“Now get the other orphans their breakfast or I’ll have to listen to Haroj yell at me,” I said.
“YES MA’AM!” They repeated as they followed me to the concentrated area of alleyway children.
“How was it?” Haroj asked me as he munched on his rations for breakfast.
“I’m pissed off that I started to bleed again. If I can’t run for that amount of time, I definitely shouldn’t even attempt to steal in the meantime,” I said as I munched on the apples that the kids brought in from the orchard.
“It’ll be better once you become an adult and make enough money for all of us,” Haroj said.
“Ah, yes. Because I’m the kind of person that could definitely hold down a job. And which occupation would it be?”
“That’s for you to find out,” Haroj said.
“Then I’ll take up tyrant of the country,” I said.
“Be more realistic!” Haroj shouted at me.
“Why don’t you? Why don’t you get a job and care for them?” I tried to push responsibility onto Haroj.
“Because it’ll be too late for me,” Haroj said.
“No it won’t.”
“It will. When I’m an adult, they practically will be too!” Haroj said.
“Key word being ‘Practically’.”
“You’re taking responsibility,” Haroj said, as if that was final.
“I don’t wanna,” I said quietly.
“You have to,” Haroj said as if it were final. I glared at Haroj as he sat haughtily inside my ‘house’ as he was doing absolutely nothing. I got up from my hammock and stomped over to Haroj, the kids moving out of the way as I did so. I kicked Haroj as hard as I could in the arm, causing him to fly forwards. “WHAT THE HELL KAIRA?!”
“Who the hell are you to tell me what I’m doing with my life? Why do you think I’ll listen to you? Where do you get off on telling me what to do?! WHO THE HELL ARE YOU?!” I shouted at him. He laid on the ground, covering himself from me. “Why do I have to take responsibility when you don’t have to do anything?! I’m hungry and tired too! You literally do nothing but order me around! I am literally bleeding from my side where a spear went through! I have guards on the lookout for me because I survived the spear and burning inside a house fire! Do something by yourself for once!” I shouted before running out of the house.
I could barely think. I just kept stewing on the fact that Haroj was trying to make me his bitch. Why was all the responsibility on me? I couldn’t get a job. Not only the fact that I was a woman, but I was street rat. Street rats never got jobs. Never. We usually died of starvation or something like that before we could. If I did get a job, it would be a slave. I wouldn’t get paid in coin. I would be paid in food, clothing and shelter, but at the cost of my freedom.
Is that what Haroj wanted me to be? A caged dog? Why did I have to be the one to lose my freedom? Why did all of it lean on me? Why couldn’t he help? Why did I have to do it alone? I wandered around the alleyways aimlessly, alone with my thoughts. I didn’t even care that the guards could come to get me. I just couldn’t go back to my ‘house’. Not when Haroj is there, ready to boss me around, take control of my life for me? Not while I had two feet and was still able to walk.
Everyone was silent as I walked back into my ‘house’. It was well past sun down. The older kids kept the younger kids back as I walked back towards my hammock and swung in it. There was a silence that hung over everyone as I swung back and forth.
“Kaira,” Haroj walked up to the hammock. I glared at him. What did he want? He pushed on the hammock, making it flip upside down. I fell flat onto the ground, my side absolutely screaming in pain. Without even thinking, I immediately lunged at Haroj. We tumbled and rolled for a little bit, each taking turns punching each other in the face. We clawed and bit each other. We had to be torn apart by the older kids before things could actually start to settle down. “You’re a real bitch sometimes, y’know that. I do nothing? Get real. Look at you. You’re the one who never does anything! I’m the one who keeps the kids in some sort of shelter. I organized all of this!” Haroj kept on screaming the same things at me, but not trying to break free from the kids’ grips.
It started out as a chuckle, then turned into a maniac’s laughter. It definitely shut him up. “I should’ve stayed dead,” I shook my head. “At least when I was dead, things were peaceful.”
“Maybe you should’ve,” Haroj growled. “Would’ve done us a favor. You never do anything for us anyway.”
The kids that held me suddenly screamed and let go of me, causing everyone to stare at them and then to me, suddenly free.
“I’m tired,” I sighed.
“I’m tired of you,” Haroj growled at me. He easily pulled himself out of the kids’ grips and backed away from me.
“You’re tired of me? I’m tired of you. I’m tired of the guards. I’m tired of the Seeker. I’m tired of this world. I’m tired of it all. I want all of it to burn and start anew,” I soon lost control of my own mouth. I wasn’t sure where those words were coming from, but I didn’t argue against it.
“Kaira?” Tyor called out.
“I’m tired of people taking advantage of me. I’m tired of people thinking they can just take without giving. I’m exhausted,” I continued. My voice was sounding odd, but I assumed it was from the blood loss. I didn’t hear Haroj’s retort because I didn’t care and because I blacked out.
The next couple days were filled with people avoiding me. No one was allowed to be within three steps of me according to Haroj. Yet, they all still crashed at my ‘house’. Maybe if I fought Haroj some more, he’d make his own ‘house’ or whatever. Enucia would be the one to take the stab and check up on my wound, making sure it didn’t open up again.
That day didn’t start off great. We had the first earthquake in a long time that morning. Everything was shaking, the kids were screaming and everything was threatening to come down. I was flung out of the hammock, which wasn’t the best for my side. But as soon as it started, it stopped. Something bubbled inside my gut once the earthquake stopped, something that pulled me out of my ‘house’. My feet started walking before my brain could comprehend what I was doing. There was a thunderclap the moment I stepped outside. Rain started to pour down. It was out of season, but I didn’t question it. Tyor and Enucia had to pull me back inside so they could look at my side. But something drew me towards the outside. It felt as if someone were physically pulling me. Enucia and Tyor had Yulik and a couple other kids sit on my legs and arms so I wouldn’t move as they checked my side. The pull stopped as soon as it started, just like the earthquake.
“Hey, Kaira! You want to play pretend?” a group of kids asked me after the sun came up and life began as usual. I looked at them, mildly surprised that they’d be disobeying Haroj right in front of his ugly face. He looked at the girls as if they were stabbing him, or sticking a spear right through his side. The latter is not a pleasant experience, let me tell you.
“Let’s play like we’re people in the courts!” One suggested while other chorused what they were saying.
“But they’re always so boring. Let’s play guards!” Another girl said. The other section of the group agreed with her. I didn’t know why; guards were sucky people. I mean, they do stick a spear right through your side.
“You guys are making my ears bleed. How about this? We’ll have a setting in the courts. . .” I suggested. I heard cheers and groans. “. . .and there will be guards protecting the royalty.” I finished what I was about to say. Finally everyone was happy. Well, except for Haroj, but that guy is not happy.
“You’ll be the Lady of the Land,” the girl who suggested court life nominated.
“No. She should be the ruler of the guards,” the head soldier girl said.
“How about I am the Lady of Guards?” I tried to cut the argument in the bud.
“Yeah!” Everyone chorused. “Close your eyes!” They sing-songed to me. I closed my eyes, not knowing what else to do. I held out my hands and a ton of smaller ones grabbed it, and started to pull me. I felt them take me through a series of twists and turns through the alleyways.
“Where the hell are we going?” I asked.
“You’ll see!” They giggled.
“You guys are way too happy about this,” I mumbled. We passed a busy street, and by the sounds of it, it was the Main Fire Way, and Fire Seeker was still doing his search. I couldn’t help but smirk and think on how useless he was at his job. Then I started to wonder if all the other girls got home safely. Where they still held captive at wherever the Fire Seeker kept them? What about the guys? Were they still there?
“We’re here! Open your eyes!” The girls chorused. I felt cloth brush against my face. The light of the sun that burned red in my eyelids suddenly turned black.
“Fine,” I said. I opened my eyes, and saw a part of an alleyway that was similar to my own ‘house’. When I pushed passed the front wall of cloth, I was greeted with a very interesting assortment of furniture and toys. It looked more like an actual house than my own. “Where the hell did you get all of this stuff?”
“That house that burned down left these in an alleyway!” one of the guys explained. That would explain the black bits on them.
“And then there were all these places just throwing these things out! So we took them!” Another girl said as she pushed a chair into the middle. “This is your throne.”
“Okay, then. Let’s get this show on the road,” I clapped my hands together.
“What the hell is this?” Haroj asked as he opened the girl’s area. He stared at the raggedy dress I had put over my clothes and the parchment crown I had upon my head. He stared at the girls that wore scarves as dresses over their clothes and some wore tin over their clothes. We all stopped in what we were doing and stared back at him.
“Guards, attack the intruder,” I pointed to Haroj.
“Yes, Lady of Guards!” They all yelled. The soldier girls grabbed whatever they could and started to throw them at Haroj.
“Hey! Quit it!” Haroj said as things started to hit him.
“Kill the intruder!” They yelled.
“Don’t kill him,” I said.
“Really?” They all stopped throwing.
“Kaira. . .” Haroj said, somewhat touched.
“Just maim him,” I smirked.
“’Maim?’” The kids looked at me, wondering the meaning of their order.
“Wound,” I simplified.
“Oh. YAH!” They started to attack Haroj again.
I giggled as Haroj started to crouch down and the kids started to hit him with more toys. That made me feel just a little better.
“Make them stop!” Haroj said.
“Hmmmmmmm. . . . . . . . . ” I purposely let the thoughts come slowly into my brain.
“KAIRA!!!” Haroj yelled.
“Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. . . . . . . . . . . .” I drew out the hum as Haroj was being beaten by tiny children hands.
“YOU BITCH!” Haroj shouted at me.
“Really? Again? Again with the ‘you bitch’ comment? Do you come up with nothing original? It’s almost as if you don’t want me to call them off. You’re into some weird stuff, Haroj,” I chuckled.
“UGH! FINE! PLEASE!”
“So, you do know manners. Funny. Hold your fire,” I placed my hand up. The girls stood up obediently and stepped away from Haroj. “It appears that the intruder wants to surrender. Let us hear what he wants.”
“Kaira. From the post we have on old-lady-with-ten-cats-alley, Fire Seeker has caught wind of you,” Haroj informed me.
“Aw, my favorite alley. This intruder has brought me vital information. His death has been postponed,” I said.
“Thank you. Anyway, I don’t think he knows where you are. Just stay low!” Haroj yelled.
“The outsider has asked of me to stay hidden. Guards!” I called out. All the girls with tin over their clothes stood straight and stiff.
“YES MA’AM!” They awaited their orders like true soldiers.
“You are to make sure that the Fire Seeker does not come to my palace,” I ordered.
“YES MA’AM!” They repeated themselves.
“And you might want to see this,” Haroj said.
“Why the hell should I follow you?” I raised an eyebrow. “You just told me to stay out of sight.”
“Because you need to see this,” Haroj insisted.
“Why should I? All you’re going to do is just yell at me some more because I ‘did’ something wrong in your eyes.”
“Would you just come with me?! Dammit! Why do you have to make everything so hard?!”
“Because I’m still pissed off at you.”
“Be angry at me after I show you this! Okay?!”
“No. I’m hidden here. If I go out, you might actually get your wish and I could be dead. Wouldn’t that be nice?” I growled. Haroj suddenly stopped his angry face and it actually showed signs of pain. “What is it? You said yourself that I should’ve stayed dead.”
“Fine. I’m sorry. I don’t want you dead. I was just angry.”
“You’re always angry.”
“Can we go now?”
“. . . I shall go with this outsider and observe this wall. But, I must go in a disguise. So, I must take off this royal ware, and crown. I entrust it to you,” I took off the costume, the girls started to fold it up and put it away.
“Wait, put something over. . . that,” Haroj motioned towards my hair. “It’s really weird.”
“What? This?” I whipped my head violently in Haroj’s general direction so my hair would cover my entire face. “I don’t see the problem.”
“Really? I never noticed.” I played with the hair that was on my face before I pushed it back. I grabbed one of the scarves on the ground and tied it around my head, effectively covering my hair. “Bye guys!”
“Bye, your majesty!” They called out before I left the little girls to play on their own.
“Now, what’s up? What is so important that you made me disobey yourself?” I asked Haroj as we ran through the alleyways
“You’ll see. You haven’t been to the outside wall in a while, right?” Haroj asked me. He looked past the corner to check for any guards. He motioned me to hide behind a wall.
“When I woke up, I guess. But I didn’t pay close attention to it,” I said. I pressed my back up against the wall as I heard a fleet of guards march by.
“You have to see this,” Haroj said. He motioned me to continue forward. We ran across the street into another alleyway, and continued running toward the outside wall. “But you have to see it from a high angle,” Haroj said, pointing to the roofs.
“Ugh. I already have a bad feeling about this,” I groaned. I grabbed the nearest windowsill and hoisted myself up. I kept jumping to the next windowsill until I was able to touch the edge of the roof. I pulled myself onto the roof, and waited for Haroj to come up. Haroj got up onto the roof and pointed. I looked to where he was pointing and I felt my stomach drop to my feet. I looked out to where I used to see the rolling green hills with the winding path leading right into the capital, but all I saw were gray stones piled on each other uniformly. Somebody took the wall we had before and decided to add a ridiculous amount onto it.
“See what I mean?” Haroj asked.
“No. Explain please,” I said.
“They’re making sure you don’t escape whatsoever. Look,” Haroj pointed to the wall.
“But how did they get it up so high so fast?” I asked.
“Damn Lord of Earth decided to help. That was the ‘earthquake’ this morning,” Haroj spoke with more venom than he usually did. “The whole building the wall so high is ridiculous; you couldn’t climb the first one. So, why make it so ridiculously tall? It’s so dumb. And because the Fire Seeker was so worried about the recent influx of people, it got larger. He literally pushed the wall back. He can control all the Spirit forsaken rocks in the entire world and he uses his power for a wall? What the hell is wrong with Elemental Lords? If there’s something worse than regular nobles, it those damn Elemental Lords. They waste so much time doing stupid crap like this. They’re so stupid.”
I felt something throb inside my chest. I stared at the wall as it loomed over me. It felt it was going to crash down on me any second. It seemed a little too much trouble for one orphan. “Aren’t I dead to them? Why are they so focused on me?” I asked.
“Fire Seeker is a stubborn ass. He never saw your body, so he never believed that you died.”
“I was stabbed and put in a fire!” I shouted.
“And yet. . .” Haroj motioned to all of me.
“That’s besides the point. You didn’t believe I was alive, I thought I was dead! Why should they believe that I didn’t die?!”
“Fire Seeker is so dumb, he’s smart, I don’t know!”
“I guess I really have to hide out now. Good thing he doesn’t know what I look like,” I chuckled weakly.
“I do now,” A voice said from behind us called out.