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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1. The Thief

 

 Stale, freezing wind blew my hood off my head, onto my shoulders. Silently, I pulled it back up as I stepped out of the shadows. My bare feet made no sound on the frigid cobblestone of an abandoned road in a silent, sleeping town. I clutched a rough sack, inside which I had stuffed an apple and two overcooked bread loaves. Any more would have been too dangerous. The smell of the bread was tempting, but I couldn't eat it now. I had to get it back to my—

 A clomping startled me back into the gloom against the wall. I steadied my breathing, watching the alley from where the noise came—footsteps. A man strode out; from here I could tell that he was wearing the stiff, buttoned uniform of a town lawguard (law protectors in the country of Eridale. Not what a thief wants to encounter.) and was smaller than average height. His boots must have been too large: they were insecure on his feet and clunking abnormally.

 I tried not to tremble as I pressed myself closer to the wall. Don’t look this way; don’t look this way, I thought fervently, my eyes frozen wide open in terror. Of course, I had to jinx it. The man turned and looked straight towards me. Instinctively, I darted away from him, my hood falling back onto my shoulders. I could hear the sound of his boots clumping, and the sound of my feet slapping as I fled.

 “Hey! Get back here, boy!” he shouted at me. I had no intention to do as he said, and I kept running for my life. Probably literally.

 As soon as I reached a corner, I whipped the apple from my bag and tossed it down the alleyway. It hit a cart of goods that had been left overnight, causing an avalanche of dishes. Hopefully, my pursuer would think I’d knocked them down bodily. Swiftly, I pulled myself onto the closest roof and lay on my stomach, watching the lawguard. My plan worked; he continued to run past the crashing pots and pans, disappearing into the freezing mist of the night, those heavy boots clump-clumping until they faded away. I waited a few moments, and then decided it would be better to stay on the roofs. Trying to go on the ground had been stupid anyway. I treaded lightly so I wouldn't wake anyone who may have been sleeping inside the houses below me, but I also moved quickly. Another close call might not have had so lucky a turnout.

 Leaping from roof to roof, I finally reached the outskirts of the town. I hung from the eaves and lowered myself to the ground, which now had no paving stones and was only a skinny dirt path leading into the trees. I didn't walk on it, because even my shallow footprints would be easy to track. Instead, I stepped lightly in the fallen leaves on the side of the path, being careful not to turn churn up fresh earth or break any twigs.

 The trees grew denser as I walked, pressing in, blocking out all the moonshine. In the distance, flickering through foliage, I could see a single light. I abandoned my caution and broke into a sprint, weaving through the trees until I could touch the wall of vines from where light seeped out. Pulling the plants aside, I stepped into a cave.

 Warmth, radiating from a welcoming fire, began to flood the cold from my body. We really had been lucky in finding this place. It was well hidden, and closebut not too closeto the town. The inside was a good size for a cave, and the main cavern branched off into a few "rooms:" one for me, one for Saige, and one for my two youngest siblings, Jax and Layna. There were other tunnels that they would explore sometimes, but Saige never let them very far.

 “Kade!” A little girl latched onto my leg.

 “Hi, Layna,” I said, ruffling her blond hair. It was silky and clean; Saige always made sure of that. It had become a habit of mine to mess it up just to watch her be bothered and brush it again.

 Layna looked up at me with a gap-toothed grin.

 "Guess what?" she exclaimed. "Saige took us to swim again and I swimmed all by myself! Under the water!"

 I lifted her into the air, swinging her in a celebratory circle. "You are quite the slow learner, aren't you!" I said with a laugh. When I set her on the ground again, she frowned, slightly confused.

 "No, I'm not slow. I've only gone swimming twice."

 I smiled and tousled her hair again, "I know, silly. Great job!"

 Layna's grin returned as she wrapped back around my leg and coughed.

 “Cover your mouth, Layna,” Saige scolded gently, and then she turned her attention to me. “What took you so long?”

 I didn't really look related to my oldest younger sister. Her hair was a light red-blond, like copper and gold melted together. I had dark hair, as close to black as brown can get. My eyes the were the same dark color, while hers were a beautiful hazel. She was quite short and had a pale, freckled, youthful face, a constant frown being the only thing that made her look her age. I was tan and had always been very tall.

 Also in great contrast to me, Saige was constantly worried about everything. She almost passed out when I showed her how I jump across the rooftops. Once, when I landed wrong after jumping off a roof and spraining my ankle, she wouldn't let me out of bed for a week. At least.

 Actually, I should be fair and mention that I’m exaggerating. She isn’t that bad, but it’s fun to tease her. Still, I don't think she'd let me out to get food if she wasn't already so worried about the little ones starving to death. At least that was a rational fear.

 “The baker didn’t leave his shop until later than usual,” I told her, answering her earlier question. That was true, but I left out the part about the lawguard. It would only make her worry more.

 “I’m hungry,” said Jax, my little brother.

 “Jax, patience,” Saige told him. I  opened my sack and pulled out the two overcooked copperloves of bread. I tried to steal food that wouldn't be missed too badly. I felt less guilty that way, and it was safer.

 “Yummy, yummy, yummy…” Layna chanted, letting go of my leg and jumping up and down. It made her start coughing again.

 I broke the loaves roughly in half and gave a piece to each of my siblings, keeping the smallest one for myself. It tasted wonderful after not eating all day, and I chewed slowly.

 “What are you supposed to say?” Saige reprimanded, looking at the younger two.

 “Thank you,” they told me, monotonously and in perfect unison.

 “You’re welcome,” I said, and Jax took a huge bite of his bread.  

 “Thanks, Kade.” Saige whispered. She gave me a gentle hug and pocketed some of her piece, keeping the rest to eat slowly.

 “I’m still hungry,” Jax complained, coming towards us. He had finished his portion already. I started to hand him the rest of my piece, but Saige beat me to it, taking the scrap from her pocket. I opened my mouth to protest, but Jax wolfed it down immediately.

 It hurt me to see them like this, always so hungry. I felt like I needed to breathe for a moment, and asked Saige if she could handle putting the little ones to bed by herself.

 She smiled. "Go on, Kade. They're half asleep already."

 I nodded and stepped back out of the cave.

 It was still freezing out here; the wind was whistling through the trees and causing their branches to creak and groan. Owls hooted and crickets chirped sofly. The stars and moon weren't bright enough to penetrate down to the forest floor, and Saige must have blown the lantern out as soon as I left, because there was no more light from our cave. I suppose the night might be eerie to some people, but I'd never had that problem. I loved to sit out here when it was dark, listening to the sounds of the night, ruminating and trying to make my head as clear as the air around it. However, I wasn’t sure if I'd be able to do that tonight. Not with so much on my mind.

 My poor siblings...sometimes I thought I'd never be able to provide everything they needed. Layna’s cough had been quickly worsening for the past few days. I would have found some medicine for her, but I didn't know what kind to get, and if I asked for a healer’s advice, it would have cost a lot of money. We'd been setting aside as much as we could, but the earnings were slow. Poor Saige had to grow up so fast since Mother had died, and even faster after my father was arrested; she was only thirteen, but she often acted old enough to be a mother. Jax was always hungry, although that wasn't much of a surprise; he'd been like that since the day he was born nine years ago. Unfortunately, now the hunger was much more real.

 I’d had to adapt to a life of crime to feed them—hardly anyone would hire a scrawny youth who'd been raised by a painter. No useful talents there. It cost a lot of money to buy anything in a big city like Gyrbourne, and my small job as a stablehand was not enough to buy all the food I would need. Even if I could have found a better job, word of my parentless siblings would surely get out. At least as a stablehand no one cared about my personal life. As an apprentice or a higher-ranking servant, I'd be asked more questions and we’d be separated: Saige and I to be apprenticed to trademasters, and Jax and Layna to families who could take care of them—different families, most likely. I’d thought about migrating to a smaller town, where things were cheaper, but I wasn’t sure any of us could make the journey.

 I wished things weren’t so hard, but wishing was pointless. I wished a lot of things. I wished my mother hadn’t died, I wished my father could have paid our taxes, in fact, I wished the idiotic lawmakers hadn’t raised the taxes too high for anyone to pay while they sat around feasting in their elegant castles. I wished things could be better again. But that wasn't going to help anything, where we were then was where we were staying. The only problem was that if I was caught, I didn't know what would happen to my siblings.

 I must have fallen asleep at some point, because I found myself waking up to Saige gently tapping my shoulder, whispering to come inside before my eyes froze shut.

 
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