The streets of New Orleans were dark and full of eerie shadows cast by dim moonlight and twinkly streetlights. It was very late at night, and in the French Quarter, most of the homes were dark and quiet, the residents asleep in their beds hours ago. For one small boy however, it seeemed as if the night was never going to end as he raced through the shadowy streets trying to lose his pursuers. He was a child of the Assassins Guild, and the men following him were trained members of the Guild. losing them in a chase through the streets was not an easy task.
Beads of sweat appeared on the little boy's forehead, dampening his unruly dark hair as he ran through the shadows, his white sneakers making a soft pounding on the streets. He was breathing hard and felt as if he couldn't get air into his frightened lungs. The only thing he was aware of as he ran was the people behind him. His father, older brother and their three companions had been abusing him on a near-daily basis ever since his mother died when he was three, and every once in awhile the boy decided to make a run for freedom. It never worked, but he kept trying in desperation, pain and fear.
In spite of wearing blue jeans and a red t-shirt, the boy was fairly adept at remaining unnoticed in the shadows. To the untrained eye, of course. But to his pursuers and the people who were observing this chase from other nearby shadows and alleys, catching a glimpse of the frightened boy was easy. He turned a corner and ran into an alley, slamming on his brakes as he realized it was a dead end. He turned and backed against the wooden wall at the end of the alley, trying to catch his breath as he watched his assailants walking menacingly closer and closer to him. He cowered against the wall, trembling fiercely. He was remembering that his treatment was always worse after they caught him trying to escape them.
The boy's father, a tall, dark-haired man wearing jeans and a long-sleeve shirt, motioned for his companions to remain where they were as he approached his young son. Catching them all by surprise, the boy made another break for it just as his father was in arms-reach of him. He dashed out of the alley as fast as his small, tired legs could carry him. Every few steps he glanced over his shoulder as he ran, hearing the angry shouts of his followers coming behind him. It was while he was checking back to see how close they were that he ran smack into the chase's little audience.
Realizing he had somehow led the chase into the Thieves Guild territory, the boy scrambled back away from the assembled thieves in fear, unsure of which group of people he'd prefer to be faced with. He looked up at the group, his dark blue eyes wide with fear, his body shaking, his breathing coming in short, panicked spurts. He saw a potential means of escape in another alley right beside them, but that didn't ease his desperation any.
Hearing a sound behind him, the boy whirled around, eyes widening, his panic rising even faster. He saw his attackers coming, but knew they couldn't see him. With a quick glance back at the thieves, the boy fled into the dark alley to hide behind a large box. He would have gone completely away as far as he could, but, like the alley he had been in before, this one was also a dead-end. He jumped in fright, almost knocking over his cover and giving his position away to his father, when he heard a noise behind him and suddenly felt someone directly behind him. He panicked and would have screamed, but a strong hand suddenly clapped down over his mouth, silencing him.
The terrified boy, breathing hard through his nose, looked up and saw one of the thieves was behind him. When the thief saw the boy had turned, he put a finger up to his own mouth, telling the boy that if he agreed to be quiet, he'd take his hand away. The child nodded and the thief kept his word, removing his hand from the boy's mouth. The boy kept quiet, watching with the thief as the other thieves directed the assassins out of their territory, explaining that the child had taken off in the other direction when he saw them. Once the assassins were gone, the obvious leader of the thieves, the one the boy had ran into, motioned for them to come out of the alley.
The thief who was behind him stood and looked down at the child, his brown eyes sympathetic. He reached out his hand for the boy to take. The child hesitated, having been raised to distrust the thieves, but he was very tired and they had saved his life, for the time being, so he stood and timidly took the thief's hand.
The thieves took the boy back to one of their many haunts beneath the streets of the city, a dark but homey place with hundreds of flickering candles lining the otherwise dingy walls. Once there, the little boy saw a face he recognized and his eyes lit up with relief and a sense of safety. The kind-looking black lady smiled warmly at the child from her seat, her long silver earrings catching the light from the candles and sending delightful beams of colored lights around the room. Her hair was tied back with a yellow and red ribbon that matched the dress she was wearing exactly.
With one welcoming movement, the lady held her hands out to the child, beckoning him to come to her. He willingly did so, knowing that the gentle woman was loyal to both the thieves and his own family. She pulled him into her loving arms and cradled him in her lap like the small child he was. The thieves gathered around on various seats, and listened as she sang a beautiful lullaby to the boy. He was sleeping soundly and peacefully in minutes.
It had not gone unnoticed to any of the thieves that the little boy's arms and neck were covered in bruises, burns, cuts and scars of varying degrees. The leader questioned the woman about the injuries, and they passed the rest of the night in the candlelit hideaway listening to her tell them the story of the young assassin-in-training she held in her arms; a small abused boy whose body and soul were covered with more bruises and scars than they could see.
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