A Shimmer in the Shadows

Kade is a thief. He's not proud of it, but he has no choice now that his mother is dead and his father in prison. With three siblings to provide for, he has learned quickly to blend with the shadows, to leap from roof to roof, and to walk soundlessly.
He has no way of knowing that turn of events will lead him to see that many people are not who he thought them to be, and, most importantly, he is not who he thought himself to be.


I have been going back and forth on whether or not to publish my story, but I finally gave in and did it. :) I hope you enjoy this; I've enjoyed writing it so far! If you read, please comment and let me know what you liked and especially what I can change.
Thanks so much!
~CatsRabbits

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3. The Prisoner

 

 “Ah, here it is,” the jailkeeper grunted. He inserted a key into the lock, and pushed the door open. It made an ominous creak as it swung, revealing a stone-walled cell.

 “In you go, boy,” the jailkeeper said, grunting again as he prodded me in the back. I hesitated a moment too long for his liking, and he gave me a shove. I caught myself to avoid breaking my nose on the ground and jammed my finger in the process. I'd suffered worse than that before, but it hurt.

 “Thanks for that!” I yelled at the door as it slammed shut. “I really appreciated your hospitality!” The only reply was a jangle of keys turning in the lock. Groaning, I scooted back against the wall of my cell and looked around.

 The room was small and grimy, and I won't even try to describe the stench. There was one small, barred window, but it only made the room more cold and drafty. I could see foggy clouds of breath every time I exhaled.

 I was not alone; there were men seated on the floor and standing all along the walls. Some were tall, some short, but all were skinny, forlorn, and just as grimy as the cell itself...and they were all staring at me. I opened my mouth, but I had nothing to say. I'm not sure anything would have come out if I did. Looking at them made my throat tighten. Instead, I slouched over and closed my eyes.

 What had I done? My siblings were going to die, and it was entirely my fault.

 Really? Thievery? Of all the stupid, rash, foolish, ill-considered ideas you could have come up with!

 “You have the brain of a fledgling pigeon, Kade Griffin,” I told myself aloud.

 “Kade?”

 The voice was one I had not been expecting to hear ever again. I looked up, almost wondering if I'd been hearing things.

 But I hadn't.

 The man who had spoken was near the other end of the cell, and he took a few steps towards me. His clothes were ragged, his blond hair long and scraggly, his face wasted and bony, and there was a beard there that I had never seen before...but there was no mistaking that voice, that smile, those hazel, twinkling eyes which were filling with tears.

 “Dad?” I whispered.

 That broke the tension. He ran to me, and I jumped up and flew into his arms like a child.

 “Dad,” I said again, my face pressed into his shirt. He smelled bad—awful, actually, I'll admit—but I didn't care. I didn't even care that the whole cell was gaping at us. I never thought I'd call a person by that name again, or feel those gentle painter's hands pulling me into an embrace.

 “You're alive!” I said, almost laughing. “I thought I'd never see you again!”

 My father patted my back twice before leaning away, leaving his hands on my shoulders. He didn't have to stoop to look into my eyes.

 “Of course I'm alive. I had my children to live for." He looked me up and down. “Oh, Kade...you've gotten so tall.”

 I wondered why adults felt the need to bring this up. I suppose it was true, but...still.

 “Saige, Jax, Layna...” he continued reluctantly. “Are they...?”

 “Yes. They're all alive.”

 Dad sighed; I could tell he was exhaling a year of worry. “And how exactly did you end up in here?”

 I winced. How did I explain this one?

 “Well...I got a job as a stablehand...but, um...”

 “Please tell me you didn't do what I think you did.”

 “Well, I would, but I don't know what you think I did.” Maybe he would say it for me.

 “Kade. How did you get in prison?”

 Of course wouldn’t say it for me. After inhaling deeply, I looked down and mumbled, “I stole.”

 He raised an eyebrow.

 “A lot.”

 With a groan, my father let go of me, sat on the ground, and put his head in his hands.

 “Saige told me not to, but I—”

 “Then why didn’t you listen to her!?” my father, standing again.

 Now I did care that the whole cell was gaping at us. I tried to ignore them. “She tells me not to do everything! We weren’t getting enough money, and they were hungry, and I couldn’t watch them starve to death! I know it was unsafe, and wrong, and dishonest, and against everything you and Mother taught me, but I try to take things no one wants, I promise! Well, except for—”

 “Stop, Kade.”

 I realized my cheeks were wet with tears.

 “You could have looked for somewhere with a better pay.”

 “Anywhere else would asked about my family. I didn’t want to never see them again.”
 “So you risked their lives? You need to think before you go headlong into something like stealing! Stealing—of all the—arg, Kade!”

 I looked down, not wanting to see the disappointment in his face. “I hoped you’d come back before it went too far,” I whispered.

 There. I said it. I hadn’t ever admitted it to myself, but saying that out loud, I realized it was true. I had always known I wanted him back, but deep down, I had hoped—desperately—for his return.

Dad’s frustrated expression melted into total sadness. He placed his hand on my shoulder.

“I am so sorry. I wish—”

“Don’t wish. It won’t change anything. And don’t worry, either. We’ll get out of here.”

“You have grown so much, Kade, and not just in height. But you’re still just as reckless as you’ve always been. We are not going to break out of prison, if that’s what you’re saying.”

I backed away, feeling a swell of sudden anger. “You might not be, but I am not going to sit around in some filthy cell while my siblings are dying. I’m going to get back to them, because they need me.” After a moment, I added hopefully, “They need both of us. Please?”

My father shook his head. “I wish I had your confidence, son. I’m afraid it’s just not there anymore.”

I looked into his eyes: hazel like Saige and Jax's, but instead of youth and hope, they were full of sadness and fear.

“I’m leaving whether you come or not,” I said, quietly but fervidly. “And you can’t do anything to stop me.”

Ignoring his quiet protests, I turned away and sat back against the wall.

A few minutes later, the rays of the sun finally perished, leaving the cell barely lit by silver gleams of the moon that found their way through the tiny window. The bells, voices, and footsteps of Trade Day died as well, replaced by still, nighttime silence.

No matter how hard I tried to stop them, my thoughts kept turning back to the cave in the woods. Jax and Layna would be in their beds now, while Saige leaned against the rock just outside, watching, waiting, and worrying.

I tried to imagine that I was back home, that the snores of the men around me were the soft breathing of my siblings, but I couldn’t. The stone floor was not my mattress and blankets. The air was thick and foul, unlike the moist, earthy scent I was used to.

Although I’d grown to love the cave, a day ago I would have traded it for a real house in a heartbeat.

Now, I'd give all the coppers in the world to be there again, I thought miserably.

 

‘*’

 

The next day was as boring as a blank wall of smooth rock, which happened to be exactly what two of the walls in the cell looked like—I would know, I spent a lot of time looking at them while figuring out how to escape. The other prisoners hardly said a word, I avoided my father, and the only meal provided was a small bowl of mud-like broth and a miniscule piece of bark-like bread for each of the prisoners. After eating, I managed to entertain myself for a few minutes by twirling my bowl on one finger, but the guard came back and took the dishes from everyone.

I ended up staring out the narrow window in the back wall. The temperature had dropped overnight and snow had started to fall faster. It now covered the roads in a thin layer, a sheet that took the dim light from behind the clouds and reflected it, making the world outside seem brighter than usual.

A lawguard marched past, adding more boot-shaped patches of slush to the trail already in the snow. He had been pacing along the back of the jail, where the front guard couldn’t see. I’d watched this position change three times now, about once every half hour. I figured they had short shifts so no one was cold for too long. If the pattern was consistent, this lawguard’s shift should be ending sometime soon.

Sure enough, crunching footsteps came from around the building, and a familiar figure came in sight. Caddock.

I smiled. I’d be able to watch the young lawguard freeze in the snow, while I sat here...okay, freezing in a prison. My smile faded.

“Boivin! You're done!” Caddock called. He handed the other lawguard a slip of paper. “Go inside and warm up. You've earned it.”

Boivin looked at him and snatched the paper away. “Nice try, slipgrip.”

Caddock glared at Boivin's back as he walked away, laughing. Once the lawguard was out of sight, Caddock shoved his hands in his pockets and began shuffling along the trail of footprints, mumbling and kicking up clods of ice as he went.

When he passed by my window, I said on impulse, “Hey, Caddock! Those other lawguards don't like you much, do they?”

He stopped and glanced up.

“It makes sense, ‘cause I don't either,” I continued.

“Wouldn't expect you to,” he replied tersely, and started to walk again.

“You know, I wasn't really lying yesterday.”

Caddock halted again. “Yes, you were. Master Edlon knows what he's talking about.” He sounded uncertain, just as I hoped he would.

“Not this time.”

“I'm not supposed to talk to prisoners. Just leave me alone, please.” Without waiting for a reply, he resumed shuffling through the snow.

Sadly, watching him walk back and forth wasn't much more interesting than watching any other lawguard. Before long, I heard more crunching in the snow from around the corner.

But it wasn't another lawguard that approached Caddock. It was Saige. Her hair whipped about in the wind, and her face was crimson from running in the cold.

“Please, sir, can I speak to one of the prisoners? I mean, I think he's a prisoner—”

“Saige! What are you doing here?” I shouted.

She left Caddock slack-jawed behind her and ran up to the window with a gasp, grabbing at the bars. “Oh, you're alive! I was sure you were dead, you never came back and I was worried sick, Kade—”

“Hey, calm down. It'll be fine.” I touched her hand reassuringly. “Where are the others?”

“At the cave. I left Jax to watch over Layna. He can do it. But you...have...to...” She trailed off, staring over my shoulder.

My father had come to the window; now he pushed me aside slightly and looked out at Saige.

“Dad,” she said in quiet astonishment. “We thought—”

“I know,” he said, his voice quavering with emotion. “Oh, Saige...you’re even more beautiful than I remembered.”

Saige smiled wistfully and reached through the bars to hold Dad’s hand. “I’ve missed you,” she whispered. “You’re going to help Kade get out, right? And you’ll come home and everything will be okay?”

“Well, I—”

“I'll get out,” I interrupted. “Try not to worry. And please, go home. You're going to get in trouble.”

A couple lawguards seemed to take that as permission to come around the corner. “You! Get out of here!”

Saige looked at them, and then back at me and my father. “Wait, I—”

“Nope,” one of the lawguards grumbled. “Come on.” They pulled her away as tears spilled from her eyes.

“Kade!” she screamed.

“Everything will be okay!” I called as she disappeared from sight. “I  promise.”

Dad and I didn’t move until the sounds of scuffling were impossible to hear. He placed a hand on my shoulder.

“You still want my help?”

I started to nod slowly, but then what he’d said sank in. “Wait—you mean—”

“We’re breaking out,” he said decidedly.

I couldn’t stop a smile from spreading over my face. “Thanks, Dad.”

“And I’m helping.”

I glanced outside in surprise. Caddock looked in at us.

“You’re going to need me,” he added.

I examined his face. He looked slightly bewildered, but completely determined.

“Well.” I said finally. “Where should we start?”

 
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