Amidst the middling midday hustle of a run-down rural marketplace, a pair of hungry eyes focused longingly on a rack of fresh-caught fish on display.
Set in a face caked in mud and grime, the sharp violet stare of the scrawny teenage girl scarcely wavered for a moment. Her mind was filled of daydreams about how it might feel to have a belly full of fish. Indeed, a belly full of anything would have been wondrous, but she was rather weary of gnawing on bark and leaves for sustenance. The fish called to her, and her stomach answered the summons with relentless rumbling that made her countenance twist in discomfort.
Swallowing hard, the girl got to her feet and stepped around wandering shoppers to approach the fisherman’s stand. As she went, she glanced occasionally at people very intent on avoiding eye contact with her. Even the fisherman did his best to ignore her as she drew close to his stand, offering her attention only when it looked as though she might dare to touch his fish with her unclean hands.
“Oi!” shouted the fisherman, and the girl recoiled. “You step on back, y’hear? I’ll not have you dirtyin’ me stock.”
“P…Please,” whimpered the urchin. “One?”
The fisherman scoffed. “You got coin, girl?”
“Get me some coin, and you get a fish. Otherwise, get away!”
He shooed her off, but the girl didn’t budge. She swallowed hard once more, then reached for one of the hanging specimens. “Please,” she uttered again. “Just a little?” The fisherman only glared, then rounded his stand to grip her wrist.
“Touch my fish, and this hand comes with me!” he threatened. The girl whined and whimpered, grasping weakly at the fisherman’s waist as he jerked her about before shoving her to the ground. He glowered down at her while she pushed away from him with fear in her eyes. Confident that he’d made his point quite clear, he returned to the other side of the stand. The girl turned about and scampered away.
Alas, the fisherman proved not to be quite done with her after all, for when he brushed himself off to clear his clothing of her filth, he realized with mounting fury that a vital possession was suddenly missing from his person. A wave of virulent rage washed over his features, and he stormed after the urchin girl. Catching her by the shoulder, he spun her about and delivered a fierce punch to the center of her face.
The girl let out a pained yelp and crumpled to the ground in a heap: a heap that the fisherman then searched until he retrieved a small pouch full of his hard-earned coin. Securing it to his belt anew, he stared daggers at the quivering thief.
“I deny you a handout, so you steal from me?” he seethed. “Typical orphan filth. Find yourself a trade or find a nice little pit t’ go rot in. I see you near my stand again, ‘n Lord LeBaron’s guard’ll hear of it!”
He spat on the girl as a final insult before finally leaving her there in the dirt. She lay there clutching her bruised face in her hands, unwilling to move until he was far away lest she somehow incur his wrath again.
Or so she might have had him believe.
Indeed, she took some time to rest there, doing her best to staunch the flow of blood dripping from her nose. She tore off a bit of her ragged shirt and pressed it against her nostrils, but she withdrew it quickly when the pain proved too great. She noticed then with eyes widened in shock that the spilled blood had begun to shine with ethereal golden light.
Taken aback, she forgot herself for a moment and looked around to see if anyone else noticed the oddity. Her eyes glazed over; no such luck. She remained as invisible as ever to the several strangers who took care to step around or over her without paying her any mind. There was no one who looked upon her as she finally stirred. There was no one who offered her a helping hand.
But vitally, there was no one who noticed as she reached into her rags and produced six silver coins she’d secreted away in anticipation of the fisherman’s fierce reprisal.
Though wisdom dictated that she should take her prize far away to secure sustenance for herself, it was spite that held greater sway in her bitter heart. Thus did she choose to brush aside the matter of her gleaming blood. She rose from the dirt to confidently walk the path back through the market. She sought to wander near the fisherman’s stand, and in no time at all, she had.
There was a small part of her that took exception to her choice to engage in thieving, for it was that very crime that had gotten her own father executed. He hadn’t done it, of course. No, he’d been far too bumbling and lukewarm a man to ever pull off a grab. Far too bumbling to prove his own innocence after he’d been spotted in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Certainly, it didn’t help that the oh-so-great Lord LeBaron was rather quick to send criminals and fools alike to the gallows. Seeing her father hang had hardened her, and now, she was left to become by necessity the criminal he’d been too weak to be.
Dishonorable? Certainly. But as she slapped her six silvers down on the stand opposite the fisherman’s display--as she filled her belly of the small shank of rabbit her ill-gotten gains had afforded her--she could not move herself to guilt.
Instead, she reveled in her spite, her violet eyes filled of malice as she focused them on the fisherman and his stand while she gorged herself like the savage she’d become. And when she caught his eye and saw in his gaze recognition of the means by which she’d earned her meal, she flashed a wicked, messy grin.