Jock gave Wulff a slight thump and pointed at a man in the crowd. Judging his clothing he was a rich merchant from the Rabost province. Had he come here laden with precious goods for trade, or had he travelled lightly and quickly to Zasul to get one of the much desired licenses from the Prodnik?
It mattered little to Jock and Wulff. Their whole focus lay on the fat purse he wore at his belt and the little girl he had with him. The couple was standing in the crowd in front of a puppet theatre, waiting for the play to begin.
Wulff nodded and started pushing through the crowd. Recklessly he pushed and thumped as if he weren't a skinny boy but a guard in full armour. Already people were complaining, pushed back and mayhem grew and finally the little girl fell and scuffed her knees on the hard cobblestones.
Immediately the merchant took his hand off his fat purse to attend to his daughter and as soon as he had let it go, Jock cut it off and vanished in the crowd.
They met again in the old warehouse. The purse was heavy, and made from a leather so fine that Jock had never seen the like, adorned with a strange golden fur. Jock emptied it onto the floor. They'd never had such luck before, never seen that much money. Most of the coins were pure gold. They were rich beyond their wildest dreams, but strangely neither Jock nor Wulff paid the heap on the floor much attention. Their focus was completely on the strange purse.
"I take that, you keep the rest", snapped Wulff and pulled the purse right out of Jock's hands. He wanted to protest, to fight, but what could he do? Wulff was not only two years older than him, but also a head taller and twice as heavy as himself. There was a reason why the small Jock was the actual thief of the team. He watched Wulff as he left the warehouse. He was strangely aware of the fact that this was the end of their friendship.
Shrugging his shoulders he packed the money which now seemed much more appealing to him. He carefully divided the coins into little packets, wrapped in cloth so they would not tingle and hid them on his body, but again and again his thoughts travelled back to Wulff and that damned leather purse. Still grumpy he bought a fried pancake which would usually have made him drool with delight and ate it while he wandered over the market.
Suddenly there was a turmoil at the other end of the market and the thief in him led Jock there automatically. But what he saw let his blood run cold and erased any thought of thieving from his mind. The very moment he arrived, the guards were pulling back Wulff from a bloody mess that might have been a little boy, but worse than that was the look of Wulff. Between his teeth he had lumps of bloody flesh and he fought like a madman. The Captain of the guards took his belongings from him and for a tiny moment Jock glimpsed the leather purse which vanished unseen in the pockets of the Captain. Jock was quite sure that it wouldn't reach the Prodnik as the law demanded.
Maybe, he thought, maybe it was time to leave Zasul. The Guilds of the Free City didn't ask where thier fees came from as long as they were paid. Jock was clever and canny. Maybe he could become a goldsmith, or a writer. No, probably not a writer, he decided as he headed towards the caravan-market. Parchment was too much like leather.
When the girl fell, Eidan immediately tended to her. The moment she hit the cobbles the smell of her blood reached his nose and almost drove him crazy. Yes, maybe tonight. Probably tonight. Poor thing. He'd bought her from a peasant a few days ago. She'd starve there anyway come winter, he said to himself. He'd given her pretty cloths and good food. He wanted to take her to the puppet-theatre. He hadn't asked her name.
Suddenly it was gone. The greed, the hunger, the madness. He took the crying child into his arms. "Shooo, don't cry, it will stop soon and then everything will be allright". And then again, more to himself, "everything will be allright".
He looked at her and wiped away her tears. "How would you like if we went home, the two of us. No, not the tavern, really home, to Rabost. My wife has always wanted a little daughter and your new brothers will spoil you beyond belief. We'll leave early tomorrow and what do you think about travelling via Zeikul? They breed the best ponies in all of Z'amad and you'll learn riding on the way home. When we come home you will be such a good rider that you can go on the hunt already!"
And most importantly, that way didn't lead past the five tiny graves filled with child bones of which only he knew where to find them.