Chapter 1:

A City of Rats

The Wolf Among Rats


The city streets are bustling as usual. Humans wander around from place to place
buying this and that with elves serving beneath them. Beautiful. The dirt shifts under
our poorly made boots and I turn to Ren. “Ready?” Bookmark here

“Always.” We pull up our masks and snatch some food off a stand. He grabbed some bread, and I snatched a sack of apples. Bookmark here

The stand owner called after us. “Hey! Get back here! Guards!” Bookmark here

We dash through the crowds who watch idly by as we steal some of their precious
food. Too lazy to stop us eh? Some men in armour chase after us, but the iron plates make them sluggish. We could dance circles around those lumbering brutes. The
guards are starting to surround us from either side of the street. We stop and turn
to each other for a moment. We nod, and dash in opposite directions for the small
alleyways.
These confined corridors are much better. No people, lots of places to
hide, many places to turn, and most of all deadends. They never expect the
deadends. I can hear their clanging suits behind me, and I turn left into a deadend.
Building up some speed, I run up the wall and jump towards a windowsill, then crawl up the side of the building unto the roof. They won’t bother to follow me up here.
They came rushing around the corner only to see a wall. I wish they didn’t have
those helmets so I could see their baffled faces. Yet another successful escape for
me. I make my way to the slums and wait on top of the meeting hall. He should be
here just about… Now. “You’re late.” Bookmark here

“Bread is harder to carry than apples.” Bookmark here

“Yeah yeah, whatever you say buddy.” Bookmark here

“Think they saw our faces?” Bookmark here

“Even if they did, which they didn’t, they’ll never be able to tell any of us apart.” Bookmark here

The sun is starting to set now. I hold up an apple. “To petty thievery.” Bookmark here

Ren takes an apple and does the same. “To petty thievery.” Bookmark here

Ren looks down at his half-eaten apple. “How long do you think these’ll last?”
He’s never been one to revel in the moment. He takes thievery a lot more heavily
than I do. I’m not sure why. This trash heap of a city has never done anything for us. Bookmark here

“If we ration it properly… A week at the very least. Unless you want to drop this off
and we can go snatch some more stuff?” Bookmark here

“They’re probably closing shop already. Although we could become burglars too if
you want.” Bookmark here

I think about that for a moment. “Nah, I don’t think we have the right equipment.” Bookmark here

“Or you’re just… Chicken!” A huge grin sprawled across his face. He knows I’m
anything but a coward! Bookmark here

I stand up in a flash. “Now listen here, you’re going to turn me into a murderer
soon!” Bookmark here

He falls back and flails his hands in front of him. “Whoa whoa whoa! How ‘bout
this? You’re a rat?” Bookmark here

“Only if we’re both rats.” Bookmark here

“Sure. We can all be rats. A city of rats!” Bookmark here

I raise my fist in triumph. “We’re rats! Now go feed your little mice before they get
worried.”
I toss him some apples and he hands me half of the bread and we head
off. I arrive at my little box of a house ready for whatever she throws at me. By
completely avoiding it. Just outside the front door, my weary mother greets me with a scowl and arms crossed. Bookmark here

“Did you-” Bookmark here

I stop her before she can finish. “Steal? Of course not. I just coerced the slimy human into giving this to me for free.” Bookmark here

Her scowl turns into a face of concern. “I’m glad you got food for us, but you have to be careful. What if you get caught? Or Ren?” Bookmark here

“Those buffoons could never catch us. They’re all too slow.” Bookmark here

“I hope that’s true. You’re keeping this a secret from the kids, right? They really look up to you, you know.” Bookmark here

“That much is obvious. Don’t worry. They won’t grow into thieves because they’ll
never have to. I’ll make sure they have bright futures.” Bookmark here

She walks over and hugs me. “Make sure all my precious children have bright
futures.” Bookmark here

I hate when she does this. She worries too much. I hug her back anyway. “Didn’t I say not to worry? Those kids could never live without me. Who would regale them with
the greatest stories?” Bookmark here

“I have good stories.” She sounds offended. Topic avoided. Bookmark here

Have. I make adventures every day. Much more danger. And a cooler storyteller.”
Before she can claim she’s cool again I flourish the sack of food and overpower her
next words. “Hey. Let’s go give those little mice a meal. Imagine their faces when
they see that they have dessert.”
I slip into the front door to hide the object that would inspire envy in the other elves. The legendary apple. Bookmark here

Her eyes widen and she quickly rushes in and closes the door, less any of our
neighbors see it. With a smirk I say “I’ve got lots more like it too.”
I open the sack for her to peer inside. When she sees the treasure trove I’ve
gathered, I can see her excitement grow and then transform into a mix of
worry and anger. But she doesn’t have time to say anything because I slipped into
the small bedroom with the kids.Bookmark here

I find my three little siblings. Ja’lith, my little brother and eldest of the three, teaching Aenwyn and Elanalue, the twin sisters, to read. They see me enter the room and
jump for joy. “Kar!”
They run over and cling to my legs. “Do you have any good stories from today?
Please?” Bookmark here

“Well alright. Since you asked so nicely.” I sat down on our bed and they gathered
around. Ja’lith closed his book and sat down across the room. I start telling a story
about Ren and I wandering outside Solaris’ walls and then we get chased by some
wolves. Of course, I added a girl in the picture, and I; being the valiant hero I am,
saved her from the mighty beasts. I close the story off with trusty sidekick, Ren and I defeating the big bad alpha wolf. I get the girl, like a true hero. Ja looks grossed out
by that. One day. One day he’ll understand. Finally, I end it with gathering some
apples from a tree, when mother walks in with the food. Bookmark here

The three children practically explode out of their clothes at the sight of the apple
slices. It's nice to see them so excited. Mother quickly and sternly states “You must
eat the apples after your dinner. You can have dessert once you’ve finished your
bread.”
By the time she said that, however, the bread was already gone and my
siblings were already begging for dessert. I chuckle at the sight, but what I’m really
happy about is my mother's smile. My plan worked. Thanks kids. After our special
dinner, the kids fall fast asleep and I’m left in the room with my mother. We whisper so we don’t wake them up. She tells me “Thank you Kar. You’re a really good brother and son.” Bookmark here

“Of course. They’ll grow into good people too. I’ll do everything I can to save them.” Bookmark here

“But I want you to have a chance too. You deserve it.” Bookmark here

“Maybe, but we don’t always get what we deserve. Otherwise, we would be living in
Langorithia with normal meals and a big house.” Bookmark here

“Don’t say that. We all still have a chance for that to happen. When they grow up and start working, we could save up money and make the trip there.” Bookmark here

“Yeah… Those’ll be the days.” That’ll take a long time. Mother doesn’t make enough money for food and the tax as it is and no place’ll hire me on account of my
troublesome appearance. Apparently, I have the face of someone looking for
trouble. ‘Mean eyes and a nasty lookin’ hands. I can tell you’ll bring unwanted
attention.’
That was what the last person said. An old lady running a shop of some kind, I can’t
remember what type. I was just supposed to move some boxes around, but she
thought I would bring criminals or something. I don’t have the best reputation but
I’m not a criminal… Against demi-humans. Hmm… Oh well, that’s just fine by me.
Taking food from the humans was much more profitable than working anyway. Bookmark here

I turned away, but I can still feel her hopeful eyes weighing down upon me. “Kar…” Bookmark here

As much as I would love to go into another ‘You have to be careful’ talk but I’d rather not wake the kids. I’m going to try and escape from this. “It’s really late. Think we
should get some sleep for tomorrow.” Bookmark here

She lets out a sigh and says “Sure. Goodnight Kar. I love you.” Bookmark here

“Goodnight mother. I love you too.” After I’m sure she’s asleep, I turn over to look at my family. I need to find a way for them to escape this city without having to wait 30 years for the kids to start working. Sometimes I think living longer than all the other
races isn’t really worth waiting so long to mature. I can’t let them live in this city for
that long. Well... I can't live in this city for that long. I’ll find our escape.Bookmark here

I’m the first to wake up in the morning. I think I’ll head over to Ren’s house, and we
can go hunting for some fine elven girls. I wonder if Frea’la still has that boyfriend?
Then I see armed soldiers. Covering the entire main street.Bookmark here

Bookmarked
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