“Stay safe Lia, if anything else promise me you’ll protect
yourself...” Watching her I could see the weakness in her face, and I knew in
that moment that she was struggling with herself, she was going to leave me.
I didn't even need to hear her say it, my previous owner had given me that same
look before turning aside forever. The pain that came with that was enough to
loosen my tongue, if anything I owed her the comfort of my promise, no matter
what she was doing, now I knew that she did care for me. I owed her for the
sheltered life she had given me, for the home away from the wailing pleas that
filled the pound, even now I was in her debt . I didn’t know where I’d go at
that moment, but it wouldn’t be back there, never there. “I promise, for you
I’ll stay safe.”
Looking back, I’m not sure you could say that
I kept my promise. At the time I hadn’t meant for it to be a lie, but the methods
I put into practice might account for a lie all the same. With out her I was
alone in the world, my owner gone with in one fatal second, leaving me to keep
myself safe. One lonely red Zafara among dozens of Meridell peasants, and yet
words bound me. I would find a way to survive, if only for her memory.
Starting out wasn’t easy, and for many days
I did not venture far from my home. Fear of the world, and loss still bound
me to the cabin I called home. Necessity eventually drove me away, biting hunger
replacing all other urges. I needed food to live, and there was none in this
barren dwelling. Even then I wasn’t sure I could leave, that I wanted to leave.
Perhaps if I stayed things would still work out, a child’s hope, but I had no
others. It wasn’t until the rain started that I knew I had to go. The roof of
the cabin leaked, and in the soaking rain shivers were added to hunger, it was
enough to drive me away. Though I would return once in the years to follow,
to a square of logs; a foundation, torn apart by weather and winds.
Walking through the pouring rains I wasn’t sure
I’d make it to the town at all. Water soaked my tattered cloak, dripping through
to my fine red hair. By the end of the journey I was plastered in dampness,
droplets imbedded in my thick red coat. I didn’t care, the town was alive. Dazzling
lights filled the windows of the homes, laughter and voices filled the air.
Stumbling down one of the dirt lined streets I realized I was hungry in a way
I’d never been before, hungry for love and companionship. Even filling my ears
with sound was enough, and I let myself drift on the lull of strangers’ whispers,
so lulled was I that I didn’t notice what I was walking into.
I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise
to me, but it did. Up until that point the street I had been traveling was emptied,
devoid of owner, pet, or anything more than distant sounds. It was a sudden
collision, a knocking together of arms, paws, legs, even tails in my case. Memory
always dims at this point, though I do know a sharp pain in the back of my head
was the sensation that woke me. The rain may have helped, though as my vision
cleared I became more aware of who it was I had run into.
If you’re expecting me to tell you it was some
merchant, a noble even, perhaps the King himself, then you’re going to be disappointed.
The Lupe lying on the pavement was nothing of the sort, a modest blue creature
slightly ruffled by his own fall. A sharp-eyed beast though, and that’s what
I remember about him. Offering a hand I pulled him to his feet, stammering apologies
as quickly as my dazed mind could form the words. He brushed them off, shooting
me a glare of contempt. I didn’t blame him, knowing full well that I must look
a fair mess, covered in rain and dirt as I was. “Watch where you’re going.”
He had a gruff voice, layered with annoyance. If he gave me time to reply, I’ve
forgotten what it was I said. Doubtless more mumbled apologies, that doesn’t
matter. What does matter is what I saw glittering on the ground where he had
fallen, a single gleaming coin.
In the scheme of things I doubt that coin could
have had any value to the Lupe, he probably didn’t even miss it until long after
our encounter. If he did know of it I doubt he could have connected it to me,
a stumbling mess of a Zafara Of course, it’s always the small things that change
your life. In this case that single coin changed my life more than any King
or noble ever could have, because that single, dulled copper circle was a beginning.
At no point did the thought of returning the
coin cross my mind. He had dropped it, left it here with out any care for its
value. What did I care that it might have been his last resource? It was mine
now by the right of having found it. Taking it in my paws I hid it, folding
my cloak close about the hand that clutched that precious piece of metal. The
glory of the conspirator filled me, the thrill of hiding something even as simple
as this. It was power, a sort of desperate glory of owning something other than
my memories and my pain. The use I put that coin to? A stale loaf of bread,
eaten in the shadowed recesses of an alleyway. Once again, that wasn’t the important
thing. Although my action was far from true theft it exhilarated me, for once
I had provided for myself. No matter the method, the morals I had cast behind
me, this was a way to keep myself safe.
What followed was a day that memory will never
dim, if the coin had been a beginning then this was certainly an ending of sorts.
Irrevocable actions that set down my path, not the one I had intended but the
one I should have foreseen. Having spent the night in the same alley, I had
devoured my ill-gotten nourishment. I awoke with the cold chill of stones sunken
deep under my bones. No amount of stretching could dispel that chill, the dull
ache pressing against my spirits. Gone was the energy of last night, gone the
glory of possession. Once again I had nothing, no more than the ratty cloak
that even now hung in little better than tatters. It was the first ray of wan
sunlight that truly spurred my mind; the decision a simple thing. Inspired by
that thrill of the evening before, it wasn’t greed that possessed me, but need.
A powerful need, I had to have something of my own.
All this swirled through my mind as I stepped
back into the open streets. Very few people were about in the early morning
light, most of the vendors having packed up the night before and not yet returned.
There were a handful of people though, mostly plain-faced Kacheeks, streaked
in the grime of their trades, mingled with a dozen or so shopkeepers awaiting
the crowds. The scene suited my purposes though, the fewer witnesses the less
who would be able to link me to the crime. For it was a crime I planned to commit,
no matter what words I used to justify it to myself.
Finding a target proved to be a difficult manner,
everyone seeming as likely a victim as the next. I would have to be quick whoever
I did pick, there would be little time for me to flee once the rousing alarm
of shouts went up. Still, even the idea of capture did not prevent me from making
a final selection. No, my life meant nothing if I had nothing myself.
I actually managed to stroll in casually, my
mind might have expected danger but inexperience blinded me from all but knowing
there would be consequences. I could not see the effects beyond owning, of taking.
Reaching out a single paw I grabbed for a passing pocket, locking my fingers
around the contents. What felt like eternities passed in seconds, my fingers
closing on two hard-edged coins. A grin crept across my face, victory and ecstasy
the only things I felt. Still clutching to the coins I stepped aside, grinning
right into the angry face of my victim.
The dreaded call startled me, wiping the grin
from my face. Terror beat in place of thrills, jarring my throat into knots,
and quickening my heart beat. Breaking into a run I moved as quickly as I could,
dodging and ducking my way into the alleys. Still the sound of pursuers raced
after me, kicking up dirt as they gave chase. The walls of the city were a welcome
site, freedom beckoning to me from the shaded woods. Willing myself on I cleared
the stone walls, leaving behind all but one shout. A trifle of a thing, one
shouted order to someone I have never seen, and probably never will. The words
were simple, but things like that always are.
“You have to stop that Zafara Rogue.” Hearing
this my grin returned, I would keep my promise. I would look after myself, even
make a name for myself if I could. Holding those coins I made a new vow, to
live up to that shouted title. Oh yes, for a name was something to own, something
that would last longer than anything else I could ever take.