"Boy!" A voice, brimming with uncertainty and touched with concern, echoed through his ears. He could hear the sound of boots on gravel as he stood in the road, keeping up the wounded pretence as the elderly carriage driver hurried to his side.
"Boy?" he repeated, more gently. Raven felt almost sorry for the old fool as he twisted suddenly around, slamming the hilt of his knife against the man's head.
He'd wake up.
Holding his knife out before him, Raven advanced on the carriage itself, trying to look threatening as he flung open the door.
"Jewels! Riches!" he demanded, facing the couple inside.
For a long second, neither of them could form words, so Raven brandished the knife. "Now!" he hissed. "Unless you want to die?"
The woman acted first, tentatively holding out a pouch of coins in trembling fingers. Raven made a point of sighing impatiently.
"Out," he snapped, and the two scrambled from the carriage, apparently desperate to leave his company. Quickly, Raven searched the carriage, finding several pouches of coins and shoving them hastily into his bag. Just before he left, a wooden box caught his eye. It was intricately decorated, and, when he pulled open the lid - rubies.
A grin found its way onto his face for the first time since Odmar and Fox and Raven had been born, and he leapt from the carriage - still grinning - to slice at the harness securing the horse to the carriage. Horrified, the couple watched, when suddenly a cry of, "Thief!" forced him to spin around.
The carriage driver.
Groggily, the man pushed himself to his feet, and Raven caught sight of the rapier at his waist.
A wave of exhilaration swept through him in an overwhelming surge of joy, and he darted, laughing, from the three of them, waving both box and knife in the air. The carriage driver tried to keep up, but Raven was filled with a sudden burst of energy, and he was soon gone.
No, he decided, looking once more tat the box of stolen jewels. He was a thief.
Raven finally paused when he was certain they wouldn't catch up. If he'd managed to steal the horse, it would have been so much easier, but he supposed it wouldn't matter that much, since he had a box full of rubies.
Oben had never particularly liked gems - a minor trait that had remained the same, even after Oben had gradually changed into Raven. But these rubies were different - they reminded him strangely of blood, and yet of beauty. That seemed exactly what he wanted to search for, what a thief would want to search for: beauty and danger. Raven decided there and the that he would not sell the rubies.
He then decided that he was more like the jewels than the common scavenger bird. Rubies were hardy, glorious, and they reminded him of danger. What better name?
"Rubin," he said, and grinned, admiring the gems once more. "Rubin," Rubin repeated. He liked the way it rolled from his tongue - this exciting new word that he had adopted from the ancient tongue of his village.
That language was taught, but it would perish with the dying villages. And yet Rubin's name alone would survive, just like him.
"Rubin," he laughed, the third time. A gleam of excitement entered his green eyes, and laughter rolled from his lips.
Rubin. It was perfect.
The second person he robbed was an old man with a sickness and a limp. By all law of humanity, Rubin should have pitied him, but those thoughts were not of a survivor. Were not of a monster.
Rubin saw the horse, and he saw the thievery. It was as simple as that.
The moment the animal trotted past, Rubin launched himself at the reins, grabbing them and jerking the horse to a stop.
"Get off, or die," he said. "I've got a knife. Choose carefully."
The man looked at him doubtfully. "You're just a child."
Rubin narrowed his eyes. Was he being underestimated?
"Now, or I'll cut your throat," he growled, unsheathing the knife. "And don't think I won't."
The man spluttered, wheezing, and looked at Rubin imploringly. He was afraid now, now that Rubin had a knife.
"Please, I'll never make it to-"
"I know you won't make it to safety. You're sick, and you're old. You wouldn't make it anyway," Rubin cut in. "Now, off my horse."
The man looked too afraid to move, so Rubin dragged him from the saddle, throwing him to the ground. Landing with a feeble cry of pain, the man could do nothing as Rubin swung himself into the saddle, spurring the horse onwards.
Rubin's victim didn't even make it till the monsters arrived.
Rubin curled up within the fur-lined cloak after filling his stomach with food from the village and the horse's saddlebags. His new companion was secured safely to a nearby tree, resting for their journey to Disan's capital tomorrow. There, he would find safety, money, more food. Thievery might be illegal, but it was the only way he could go. Besides, he was beginning to enjoy the thrill.
For the first time since Oben, Rubin was not freezing, starving or parched when he went to sleep.