Ferra sat on the edge of the roof wondering exactly what sort of mess she was in. Normally Ferra did not place much stock in wondering. Much better to do, to act, then sit and waste time thinking. But all her doing hadn’t got anything done, aside from getting her hungry, moneyless, miles from home and possibly even farther from finding Aren. So she was left wondering if perhaps she’d made a mistake somewhere along the path.
The sun was going down on her third day in Westport, the sky aflame over the ocean. Ferra set her sword over her knees and began cleaning it with the edge of her tunic. The shining metal didn’t need the attention, but the familiar chore made her feel better. She would have to trade the blade soon, hopefully to someone who actually knew the whereabouts of her wayward cousin. Thus far Westport’s citizens had taken her money and the little else she’d bartered in exchange her empty leads and lies. The cruelty of this place stung, as would giving up her sword.
There was no sound or sign that she was being observed. Only a prickle of instinct, like cold over skin, gave her warning. Ferra twisted to look, confident with her sword so close. There was a boy. Wiry and possibly growing into tall, he looked at her from under a hood, half crouched behind the peak of the roof. He didn’t have a weapon in hand, but he moved like that could change quickly.
Ferra didn’t move. He wasn’t going to attack her, flee perhaps but not fight. “Hello.” She said. This was odd, you weren’t supposed to climb on roofs even if you were as good at it as Ferra was. The boy waited several seconds before answering, still mostly hidden by the crest of the rooftop. “Hi.”
“Is this your roof?”
“Not exactly.” He moved, pulling himself over the lip of the roof’s crest to perch there.
‘Not exactly’ meant it wasn’t his and she could continue sitting. Ferra twisted more to get a better look, setting the sword at her side.
He tensed at the movement. “How do you run with that thing?” He asked.
“I haven’t been running. Mostly sitting.” She paused for a beat, peering at him in the low light. “Is that why you are up here, running?”
He nodded and the cowl fell back revealing messy brown hair. “Its easier to run here then down there, you can get almost anywhere faster and…” She saw the flash of teeth. “No one ever looks up.”
That was true. There was a reason she’d chosen such a vantage away from the press of people. Ferra stood and slid her sword into its sheath. The boy watched the motion with darting eyes. “Are you leaving?” He asked.
Ferra though the question sounded a little sad. “Should I?” Whether this was his roof or not, she didn’t want to get in the way of whatever business he had up here. He was already nicer than any of the people she’d met since leaving the troupe.
“You don’t have to. I could show you the ways over the roofs.” The boy moved closer down the slope of the roof. “Its fun.” It would solve one issue with the overcrowded city, the boy was the only person she’d seen on the thatch, rotted beams and tiles of the lower district rooftops. And it did sound fun. Like something she’d do back home with Aren.
Ferra felt a pang of homesickness. “I don’t have anything to trade.”
The boy shrugged. “Don’t need anything for it.”
Ferra nodded. “You see a lot of stuff up here right?” The boy gave an affirmative.Dashing over the rooftops sounded far better than anything had in the last week, but she was here for a reason. “I am looking for someone. Have you seen a boy with hair like mine? He’s older, sixteen and talks a lot.”
The boy considered shifting his weight. “When was he in the city?”
“Three weeks ago, maybe four.” She leaned forward a little bit. “He’s missing. I need to find him.”
The boy nodded, “There’s something I remember. I don’t know if he’s your friend, but about a month ago there was a-ah fight. There are a lot of fights dockside, but there was a teenager with hair like yours. And he wouldn’t stop talking, then yelling and throwing stuff. I remember because that was when the pirates had docked here. It was them pirates he was fighting, they knocked him out and carried him onto their ship.”
Ferra felt her chest tighten and the world spun. “Oh.”
She closed her eyes for a moment and breathed through her nose. It kept you calm before a fight, when you were scared. It helped a little now. “He was alive?” She asked.
The boy nodded. “They wouldn’t take a dead body on the ship. Doesn’t make sense. Are you-umm you okay?” He’d taken a hesitant step towards her.
“No. I dont feel well.” She sat down hard, her legs oddly weak. Ferra hoped it was the hunger or the exhaustion. She felt like curling up into a ball and hiding. She could go home and get help. But in that time a host of things could happen to Aren, especially among pirates. The air shifted and a waterskin was half offered, half pressed into her hands.
“Drink some. I know the ships name, if that’ll help.” She didn’t know why he sounded concerned, he didn’t know her or Aren. “I have to find him.” It was the only thing she could say. Unless she could grow wings or sprout gills chasing a ship into the ocean was impossible. But going back would waste to much time, and what if they still wouldn’t listen?
Ferra sipped the water. It helped, the shock fading and replaced by the heavy feeling she would be gone from home much longer than she thought, at least as long as it took for the ship to come back. She looked up the strange helpful boy remembering her manners. “Thank you, you’ve been much nicer than everyone else.”
“Not many people come up here.” He shrugged again and dug something out of his pocket, tearing the small bread loaf in two. He handed her a piece. “And I don’t really get to talk–”
His eyes widened as Ferra proceeded to devour and then nearly choke on the bread. “You really are hungry.”
Ferra felt this was an obvious statement but was busy trying to breath and eat at the same time.
“We can go get more.” He straitened to look at the setting sun, rocking back on his heels. “The baker’s isn’t far, just over a few streets.”
Ferra made sure she’d gotten the last of any crumbs and stood. “I don’t have any money.”
“That’s okay. Come on.” He turned and began picking his way over the beams set over the alleyways.
Ferra frowned but followed. One normally required coin to get food. “Are you a thief then?”
“No,” Was the quick answer a beat later he sighed, “I steal stuff though, so I guess maybe. When you’re hungry enough to inhale food, you steal. Otherwise you won’t be able to steal and soon you’ll be dead.” there was a flatness to his voice as if he’d seen it happen.
That wasn’t an option. Ferra needed to be alive and strong when the ship came back. She had considered stealing when the hunger pains had begun, but she’d never done it before. In her understanding theft was like any other skill, it took practice to be any good. “I don’t want to lose a hand. I need both.”
His grin was quick, “Only the slow ones lose a hand, and you don’t look slow.”
For the first time she smiled. “I’m not.”
Thank you to The Gate in the Wood for their help with this scene.