Feira leaned against the front door of her and Torrin’s little home, and let out a heavy breath. She had wanted to run home right away to tell Torrin the good news, but after leaving the lower quarter of the city and the ruffians who, she was assured, would never bother her again, the young woman had better ideas.
It was an incredibly exhausting. As mean as she was, Auntie also was not always the brightest. Sneaking into her father and Aunt Raewiel’s flat after the two had left for work that morning, Feira had taken back the money her Aunt had hidden in the safe place Feira had always used. Her brother had reminded her that the money, technically, belonged to him. Then she had taken the money Torrin had saved, and every penny from her own savings. Her bones rattling beneath her skin, Feira had told herself she would make the appointment on time and give the lender his money as well as a piece of her mind. She would do it for her and Torrin. She would do it for her mother. If the man with the crooked nose said she looked like her, then Feira had decided that she should start acting more like her.
Hair tied back in the hopes of attracting less attention, Feira found and followed the man from her nightmares down to where the streets were lined with filth, and where the buildings had been rather hastily mashed together. Through the scent of waste and kitchen fires and pedestrians who needed baths oh so badly she could smell it. However impossibly faint, she could smell the opium in the air and wafting off the man leading the way through the crowds. It made her sick, and angry, and she clutched the old satchel ever tighter to her chest.
Waiting in the mouth of the alley seemed to take forever. She did not know where she was, only how she had gotten there. The man with the crooked nose spoke little, only murmuring about the Blood’s Way to the young man with the scared knuckles. Trying not to look like a deer that had been cornered, she found herself wishing she was elbow deep in laundry, in the library talking books and poetry with Lord Claur, or better yet, far out into the bay snuggled against Lhain on his little boat….. But those were the best of places, and anywhere would have been better than here.
She had just realized that she had forgotten to breathe when the rough looking young man returned. Rather angrily, he told the man with the crooked nose that the debt was of no interest to the boss, and that her money was no good there. She must have indeed looked like a frightened deer for the older man, appearing somehow relieved, stepped between her and the younger man and told her to go. What was done was done, and she would never see them again.
Feira did not need to be told twice. Shrinking away, she hurried down the street, feeling as if there were eyes everywhere that were watching her. Not stopping till she reached the brighter streets above, Feira found a corner away from the early afternoon sun and cried. It was not long until the girl wiped her eyes, and stood, then leaned weakly against the shadowed wall and cried some more. She did not understand. Not any of it. But, she would not question such turn of fortunes. Perhaps it had been Torrin, or Emeleth… or even Lady Cirieldis. Yes, Ciri could do anything.
Clinging to the brand new saddle with one arm, Feira rummaged through her apron pockets in the dark for her house key. She would tell Torrin, and eat something — that was what she had forgotten to do all day… Then sleep. By Emeleth, she felt as if she could sleep for days. Setting the saddle on an inside chair, Feira closed the door behind her.
“Where is it?”
A sickening chill ran from her head to her toes. “What are you doing here?” she asked, turning to face her Aunt Raewiel.
“That does not answer my question,” replied the large woman as she advanced a pace.
Just one shout. One shout and the guards will take her away… Hopefully forever. Feira drew a deep breath and lifted her chin defiantly. “I have no idea what you are talking about.”
In a flash Raewiel stode over and grabbed a fist full of soft golden hair to keep Feira from escaping. “You lieing little bitch! I know it was you!”
Feira yelped in pain and shot a small fist out to catch the awful woman in the gut. “Let me go! I do not have anything of yours!” Then she smelled it. Oh no —
Raewiel grunted from the punch, then slapped her across the face. “You stole it! Where is the money? Only you know about that hiding spot! I want every penny back!”
Feira saw stars. “I-I don’t ha-ave it! I swear.”
“What do you mean you don’t have it,” Raewiel hissed, shaking her by her hair .
Grabbing desperately for Aunt Raewiel’s hand, Feira grit her teeth as the corners of her vision blurred with tears. “I mean it’s gone.” She grinned, possibly the most wicked grin she had ever given in her life. “I gave it away. All of it.”
Raewiel blinked, staggered by the loss of that much coin. Then she snarled and struck Feira again. “You thief! You worthless whore. You’ll pay for that! That was mine!”
Fighing back in vain, Feira gasped for breaths, trying to swallow the sudden rush of panic that gripped her chest as another slap made the room spin. “I-It was n-not y-y-yours! The lo-oan was under Torrin-n’s n-name!”
Growling, Raewiel wound back to strike another blow when a flash of steel could be seen, pressing against the large woman’s neck.
“Hit her again, and it will be the last thing you ever do,” Torrin snarled in the dark.
Raewiel’s grip on Feira loosened as the sharpened edge tapped against her fat throat, drawing blood. “… You wouldn’t dare.”
“I would,” Torrin responded without hesitation, his voice trembling in anger. “Only I wouldn’t kill you. I’d leave you for the justice Lord’s guards.”
Even in the dark of the room Feira could see Raewiel pale. The woman opened her mouth to speak, but was interrupted as Torrin continued, moving so as to force the woman towards the door.
“Get out of my house. If I ever see you again I will kill you. If you ever raise a hand against her again I will kill you. Is that understood?”
Torrin motioned to the door. Raewiel opened it and stepped out. “I did not hear you.”
Raewiel put a hand to her throat, glaring back at the young man. “Yes. I understand.”
Torrin slammed the door shut, and locked it. Tossing his dagger to the side he turned to catch Feira up in a tight, protective hug as she began sobbing against his chest. “I’m so sorry, Faerie,” he murmured, petting her head. “I should have been here earlier.”
All Feira could do was shake her head.
“Let me see. Let me see your face.”
Feira let him lead her over to the light of the hearth, clinging to his arm. “I-I’m glad you came h-home,” she sputtered between sobs.
“What happened? Did you pay it?” he asked as he gently checked her cheeks.
Sniffling, Feira shook her head and wiped at her eyes. “They turned me away. Said the debt was marked off.”
Torrin frowned down at her. “People like that do not just mark off a debt, Feira. Especially them…. What did they do to you?”
Feira shook her head quickly, eyes growing wide. “Nothing! The thug that came out to tell me looked righ peeved, too. Told me my money was no good and that I’d never see them again.”
Torrin clearly did not like it, but nodded reluctantly. “What happened to the money?”
Feira put the cool back of her hand against her right cheek. “Took out what Raewiel owed us from the past then gave the rest to the temple… Oh,” she added, motioning to the forgotten saddle, “and I bought you a birthday present. Your money is in the saddle bag.”
Smiling, Torrin looked touched, and kissed the top of her head. “You’re the greatest, Faerie. Now go rest. I’ll bring you supper… And what say you and me go out after our shifts? My treat.”
Nodding, Feira turned to go, but quickly pivoted, hugging her brother tightly. Just one more. Feira didn’t know how to properly thank him, but this seemed the closest she could get.