“You’re tha mewlin’, crook-pated clotpole who thaw she could cry her way into the Uni’, in’t you?”
It was dawn, now, and Krin Rosess had just been woken up by a hand on her shoulder, too close to her neck to be universally friendly. A boy sat squatted next to her, his grin missing three teeth and his hair concealed by a wool cap that was tugged to cover his ears. A knife-point tickled her neck, and when she tried to recoil away the boy’s firm fingertips dug into her shoulder. Too frightened by the greeting to scream, the red-haired woman only whimpered.
“Carefoo, girlie. Wouldn’ want mai hand t’–” The knife-point dipped forwards just enough to scratch Krin’s neck. She inhaled, sharply, not willing to shift her body underneath the blanket the guardsman had shoved into her hands before returning to his post.
“So I seent you had a purse unner there, an’ I heard th’ coins clackin’. I got good ears, yah?” The fingers on her shoulder left and moved for the blanket that still covered her; next to Krin the brazier that she had fallen asleep next to was only simmering ashes by now, but she could still feel the faintest memories of heat from it. She edged her hand to her hip, where the handle of her dagger had dug into her belly all night long. “Thinkin’ I’ll have it, yup.”
Clumsily, the boy tried to pull the blanket off of Krin, to throw it aside while still keeping the knife close to her throat. He was obviously ill-practiced at this, and the girl suddenly remembered the guardsman saying that she would be safe, here, that the beggars and miscreants were kept away from Willow Lane.
When the blanket was pulled away, Krin was the first to move. She squirmed out from under the knifepoint and a hand quickly grabbed for his; she was faster, and he was pointedly un-prepared for her resistance. There was a scramble, and at the end of it the Lithmori youth had the boy pinned underneath an elbow, and her dagger danced right infront of his eyes. She’d rapped his knuckles, and the knife he owned was out across the cobblestones here in the alleyway.
“Scream and I’ll give you a real reason to scream, you little fly-bitten lout!” Krin’s voice was low but menacing, and a fire played in her eyes: did the boy think she would be an easy prey, that she could not protect herself? Oh Lunare was he wrong, and Krin felt blood pumping heavily in her heart: it was excillerating.
Underneath her, the boy simpered. “I yield, I yield,” he said, his dirty accent entirely gone. “Please don’t hurt me.” The request earned a scowl, and a darker look besides, and Krin grabbed at the boy’s own purse, which was held right at his waistline in plain sight. It was heavy, and in it she thought she felt gold: some merchant’s brat, then, if she had anything to guess. Her mind felt muted but all she could think of was the guardsman from the eve before laughing at her poor clothng and telling her she would never be inside the University.
“You’re stupid, and I’m taking this because of it.” A look of panic stretched across the boy’s face. “I don’t care what you tell them,” she said, her tone edgy and mad. By the end of the day she was certain there would be a poster out for her arrest. She dipped the dagger closer. “You tell them what I look like, though, and I’ll find you in your sleep.” The boy couldn’t be older than thirteen, she guessed, and must pass his mornings running around the alleys pretending to be a thief.
“Don’t think I don’t know.” And it was as easy as that.