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The Street Urchin



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Tue Dec 20, 2011 3:01 am
greenjay says...



The Street Urchin

He was the dirtiest of the urchins, but an intelligent gleam brightened his eyes. The boy had ripped his leggings on one misadventure or another, but they shone like silk, a material too costly for the attire of a shopkeeper’s child, and his skin was too pale for him to be one of the traveling merchant’s offspring. He crouched in the street now, digging a shiny object from the dirt and rubbing it clean as he held it close to one eye. One of the orphans shouted urgently from the field, but the child ignored him as well at the clattering of approaching hooves. At the last moment, he threw himself backward, landing on his hands and springing back to his feet as the coach driver cursed him with the fluency of a nobleman’s servant. The boy watched the carriage pass and started curiously after it when he glanced back toward the other boys. He stopped, and his eyes met mine.

“Big Drunk is coming up the street!” he shouted to the boys, and they immediately leapt up from their tussling and scrambled into an alleyway. The dirty boy smiled and padded toward me on his knee-high boots. These had also been fine once but now were muddied and splotched with stains, like the loose shirt he wore.

He stopped a few paces in front of me and watched me through narrowed lids, his mouth twitching and his fingers drumming interminably against his thighs.

“You’re an elf,” he said and sat on the ground. I smiled.

“And you are a boy.”

A frown crossed his face, and he began to pick at a tuft of grass at his feet. His fingers were dirty but the skin was smooth; his hands seemed unworn though he looked near twelve.

“I’m nearly a man now.” He emphasized his words but without offense or pride. His eyes focused on the ground for a moment before rising up to meet mine and then slipping to the case on my back. “What’s in the bag?”

I slipped my thumb under the shoulder strap and lowered the case to the ground. From within the down padding, I removed a tear-shaped lyre and strummed a chord. The boy smiled with large, clean teeth.

“You’re a bard! Play me a song.”

“Only if you first tell me your name and the name of this city.”

The boy brushed the straw-hued hair from his eyes cocked his head.

“I am Jaemel, and this is Folin.”

“As I thought...” I murmured with closed eyes. I began to pick softly, but not before placing a small flute firmly between my teeth. From my tattered memory I weaved an ancient tune that flowed like the wind between the trees and echoed like the call of a voice from the mountains: come home! The song ended wishfully unresolved, and I opened my eyes to see the child on his feet watching me. I had lost myself momentarily in the thoughts of that distant home I had once called mine. Where was it now? Where had it gone?

But the sun here was warm. I had always liked the south and its salty ocean scent.

“What is your name?” asked the boy.

“I am Raelin,” I said with a slight smile. He brushed the hair out of his eyes again.

“Where did you get that headband?”

I untied the bright braided chord from behind my head and handed it to him. I was not used to the feel of the hair against my face, as he must have been.

“I made it from the remains of an ornamental saddle of sorts. Have you ever heard tales of the giant, tusked beast with a nose that waves like a sapling before a summer gale?”

Jaemel glanced up from stroking the three feathers woven into band’s side.

“An elephant? I saw one at the carnival once.”

His eyes lowered to the ground, and he shifted his weight to his right foot.

“I have been to a lot of carnivals. I prefer seeing elephants to reading about them in those dusty old books.”

I watched him for a moment, and he continued to stare at the ground and shuffle. Jaemel had obviously run away from home, if only temporarily, and the thought of it worried me. Had I run away from home or only explored too far? I had taken a century to return, but how were I to have known that they would be forced to move? I had been worlds away at the time, in a country of which even I had not previously known.

“Here,” I said to the boy, taking a leather strip from my pack and wrapping it thrice around his head and unruly straw hair. I snipped off the excess with my hunting knife--which his eyes followed from the sheath and back again--and then weaved the leather into a single braided strand.

“Switch?” I asked. He nodded and handed mine back. I tied the brightly hued band around my head as I watched him struggle with the ties on his. He succeeded a moment later and arranged his hair, smiling slightly as he did. His lips broadened into a grin.

“Do I look like an elf?” he asked, drawing a chuckle from my lips.

“You could pass--if you cleaned yourself up some, that is.”

He only grinned more.

“You’re dirty yourself! And you’d be dirty if you’d been where I’ve been.”

The boy’s brow and lips twisted suddenly into a scowl.

“If I showed you where I’ve been, would you take me with you to see where people ride elephants?”

I do not think my surprise showed, for my memories quickly overcame the shock. The stormy spirit of adventure plagued the youth of all races, it seemed, and as an elf, I had the distinct disadvantage of never growing old. I had haunted this earth for four millennia now and had left all but my name behind over and over again. In coming with me, what would this child leave behind?

Another horse rattled by on the road, but then clattered to jingling halt with a shout from its rider. Both of us looked to see a glowering man rise in the stirrups and beckon stiffly toward them.

“By the gods, Jaemel!” he shouted through his teeth. “Your mother and father grow impatient of your foolery.”

“That beast is not my father,” muttered the boy, but he shuffled toward the rider anyway. The grating voice brooked no disagreement.

The man eyed me momentarily with his thin lips curled, but then turned his glare upon Jaemel as the boy dragged on his cloak to mount the tall stallion. With a yell and a kick, he set the horse bounding off once more. The boy rose off the charger’s rump and then clung fast to the man’s cloak. Jaemel looked back at me where I sat at the edge of the trees. I raised a hand in blessing, and he watched me till the horse clattered around a twist in the road.
Last edited by greenjay on Sun Jan 15, 2012 3:54 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Sat Dec 31, 2011 1:00 am
captaindomdude says...



An thouroughly interesting work! I really enjoyed the interaction between the two characters, and how mysterious everything was. Excellent job, I would like to see other adventures with these characters.
"If beauty could be done without the pain, well I'd rather never see life's beauty again"-Modest Mouse.

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Wed Jan 04, 2012 5:39 am
Jenthura says...



One thing that confused me was how you introduced the dirtiness of the boy's clothes in the beginning, obviously showing us that he had been on the streets for some time. Yet, when the man came, it was as though he had only been gone a day. The man who came to fetch him should be all, "We finally found you! Your parents are gonna kill you, little mister!" Or something along those lines. What you've written put me in the mood of, "Can I go play in the streets, Mom?" "Okay, but be back by dinner."
You dig?
Anyways, this exchange confused me too:

He only grinned more.

“You’re dirty yourself! And you’d be dirty if you’d been where I’ve been.”

The boy’s brow and lips twisted suddenly into a scowl.

“If I showed you where I’ve been, would you take me with you to see where people ride elephants?”


Since you have no dialogue identifiers, I didn't know who was saying what.

Anyways, it's a pretty decent flash, very short, very intriguing.
Keep it up!
Jenth
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Sun Jan 15, 2012 3:56 am
greenjay says...



Thank you both for the suggestions! I appreciate the input, and I made some touchups accordingly. I think Jaemel's exit is a clearer now thanks to your note Jenthura. As for more adventures, captain, they will come!
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