As each member of his team settled in for the night, August turned and dimmed the lantern beside his bedroll. He stared up at the dark, mulling over this new path. It would not help his family if he ran away. The Queen would continue her cruel rule over Varis—over Medra. She did nothing to protect her people except lock them behind a wall. People starved and roamed the streets homeless, yet the Queen took no pity on them; she would send her guards out to arrest those trying to survive in a dying city and mostly over petty crimes. He knew the system well, even if it did not start that way.
August was not born a street rat. He did not grow up knowing how to pick a lock, or how to always keep spare rocks in his pockets for counterweights when snitching. It was out of an unfortunate circumstance, he was forced to become something different.
Even though his family was not well-off, he was always loved. They struggled to get by; his mother’s medical condition made it too hard on her to find a job, which left his father’s small earnings from cleaning gears at the clock tower in the Lower District as their only means of support. They continued to manage to always have food on the table—August later learned it all came from his father stealing from local stalls, or the fields nearby; never once starving, but also never entirely full. August was still happy though, happy to be together with his family, his brothers. That image of happiness shattered the day before his seventh birthday. It was the day he watched his father hang for his crimes against the crown.
His family was broken from that day on. Where August once ran around with other neighborhood kids, wooden sword in hand, he was found after in the fields on the outskirts of town, slashing at trees with the sword as angry tears ran down his face. He thought of nothing but the Queen’s attendant giving the signal as the platform gave away under his father’s feet.
As stomachs started growling in earnest, his mother went out in search of a job. No one would accept her, but Madame Barnett owner of Fiona’s Flower—the local brothel. As she sat in front of her vanity, after that first night, hands shaking as she scrubbed the powder from her face, August vowed to do whatever it took so that his mother never had to go back there. It was shortly after he had turned seven, that he had caught word of the raids against the Crown.
They were small groups of townsfolk from the Lower District—a few groups well organized, while others worked sporadically and sometimes alone. Their plan being to steal anything they could that belonged to the Queen. They never touched the belongings of those living in the Lower District, knowing that they were the ones suffering. It was these raids that lit a spark within August. He wanted to be a part of them, to get his chance to fight against the authority, but he was constantly turned down because of his age and how dangerous it was. Many did not return from the raids, each one of them knew the risks of committing such treason against the Crown.
Even though he was turned away, August thought of his mother, of her shaking hands, of the sobs at night he would pretend to not hear—for he did not want her having to worry about him—he began training. This only fueled August further, as he honed in his craft of pick-pocketing and slipping through shadows unnoticed. It was seven years later that he would try to pull off the ultimate stunt against the Queen and that was to steal from the Royal Treasury.
August pulled the blanket up to his neck. It was time for him to start fighting back against the Queen and her son. Instead of running away, instead of playing as the Prince’s pawn, August would become the dagger that would end it all. Then, maybe, he could face his mother again, and been the brother the twins deserved. To do that, he had to first survive and complete this mission.