I don't know my own name. I think, maybe, I was born without one. I remember my whole life though, it's not like I just woke up a few days ago with no memories. I remember my childhood, I remember my mother and my siblings, I even remember our family dog, Ganthor. And I was alone in my namelessness. I can remember my siblings' names. Korin was my brother's. I remember him screaming “Ariona!” at my sister as she rode away laughing on his new bike. The memory still makes me smile. So my family consisted of Mother – my father was always away, on business as my mother and aunts would say – Korin, Ariona, Ganthor, and me. I was the only one without a name. No matter how hard I think or how many memories I sort through, I can never find my name.
Now though, my family is all dead. Mother died of infection – what infection exactly I don't know, we were never told. Ariona then married so Korin wouldn't have to support both her and myself. A year later she died of complications shortly after childbirth. The only ones left were Korin and myself. I was 13, barely old enough to work and barely big enough to be anything more than a paperboy. Korin was nineteen. He had recently signed on as a bounty hunter, so he wasn't home much. He knew it was dangerous, but the work paid well and he was a natural bow-man. One day though, he disappeared from a hunt. His party hadn't seen or heard anything, and his body was never recovered.
And so I was left alone. I had Ganthor, but he was an old dog, barely worth the company. He was just another mouth to feed, unable to catch his own dinner, and I could barely afford to keep myself fed enough to work.
I had no house. When Korin disappeared I left the shack we had called home; I knew I wouldn't be able to afford to keep it. I left with just the clothes on my back and the shoes on my feet. I left everything behind. I spent my days walking or working. Every now and then I would stumble across a ranch or a little town. I'd spend a few days there, sleeping in someone's barn or in an alley, doing odd jobs in return for food and pocket change. Ganthor always followed, picking scraps out of people's garbage or occasionally managing to catch a lazy vole. I roamed here and there, no destination in mind, just a different setting with different people to find different work. When people tired of me or had no more use for me, I moved on. It was by no means a decent life, but I survived.
* * *
Lillion is the biggest city on Valeri. It's the only city we have that you could compare to New York or London on Earth. It's huge, and in comparison to the rest of the planet, it's beautiful, even though it's still dusty and brown like everything else. Lillion was fairly high end. It was all buildings and streets, no grass or trees to be found. They didn't allow animals in the city, and in my travels I had found that city dwellers thought animals to be disgusting and scoffed at the idea of pets. I thought of Ganthor, who had finally collapsed of old age and exhaustion about a year after we left our hometown. I sighed, glad now that he wasn't with me so I didn't have to abandon him outside the city gates. I missed the companionship though.
I pushed the thought aside and strode toward the city. As a vagrant, my only knowledge was of farm work and hunting; I really didn't belong in a first-class city. I didn't know what I would do but I felt something calling me in. The hunter in me wanted to follow my instinct, but the frightened young man in me wanted to get back to the wilderness I had come to know so well.
I knew moving forward meant survival, so I squared my shoulders, adjusted the bow slung across my back, and stepped into Lillion.
* * *
It was finally night time. The dark would hide my patched and dirty clothes and the shadows would keep me from drawing attention to my bow. I couldn't hunt with it in the city, obviously, so the only purpose it served now was protection against the few other miscreants wandering in the alleyways. I had been there not even one day, and already I regretted the decision. People stared openly, giving me an embarrassingly wide berth walking by on the streets. I knew I looked rough, but I wasn't sickly nor a savage. Although, I supposed, to the entitled city folk, maybe a lean young man with a bow on his back looked in every way like a savage. I quickly learned that alleyways were deserted, and that the most efficient and least attention-provoking way to travel would be through these dark tunnels. I had come face to face with only one other beggar. I had turned the corner to find him crouched by the wall, fiddling with his hands close to his face – maybe eating something. When he saw me he reacted faster than I would have thought possible, jumping to his feet, yelling, before running at me. Reflexively, I grabbed my bow and notched an arrow, pulling the bowstring and taking aim all in one fluid motion. My bow was part of me. When he saw the weapon, he froze. The fear in his eyes was deeper than I could ever describe; it seemed like he was afraid of more than just the prospect of getting shot. He put his hands in the air and looked at the ground, mumbling all the while in a language I didn't understand. When I didn't shoot, he began to back away, until all at once turning and running down the alley. I lowered my bow and put the arrow back in my quiver, watching as he lurched away.