(I'm trying to do a chapter or two of Perin followed by a chapter or two of Alexander. I promise that they are not as long as chapter 1.)
Perin peeked inside of the house where the bread smell was coming from. The bread baker had just set out two loaves to cool, but she was still home. He could hear her moving around inside. He stayed beneath the window and waited. About an hour later, the woman walked outside, leaving the window open and the bread on her table. Perin listened again for other occupants, but he heard nothing. Using his good arm, he pulled himself through the window. The smell of the fresh bread was maddening. He did not realize how hungry he was until that moment. First, however, he needed other things. His clothes were soaked and bloody; his broken arm needed a sling; and his body needed something to stop the pain that was returning abruptly.
He passed through an open door in front of him and found a short hallway with three doors. Gradually he inched down the hall, listening intently for anything that would indicate that he was not alone. The first door opened into a bedroom. It contained a large bed and a wooden chest. Perin went to the chest, hoping that a man lived in this house. He was right. Quickly, he pulled out a new set of clothes and new shoes. There was no sense in changing until he cleaned himself up, though, so he gathered the clothes into a bundle and continued searching. There was one closed door to his right, and one doorway arch to his left. Behind the closed door he found a wash basin and another chest. Here, he found what he needed. Bandages and herbal medicines filled the chest.
Perin pulled off his pants and shoes and began cleaning off his wounds. He examined his leg, half expecting it to still be cut open, but it was healed. The slice across his torso was not bleeding anymore, but it was not healed like his leg. Perin thought of Nico – what would happen to him when Tyler realized that Perin was not dead? Well, he thought, at least I should be able to hide here for a while. I think I could blend in. I could at least try, since he risked his life to save mine. No doubt Tyler had made Nico go after Perin.Tyler knew that the two of them were close, and since Perin was now a traitor somehow, Nico would be guilty by association.Tyler’s hope was that, through killing Perin, Nico’s spirit would break. He would no longer be attached to anyone but Tyler. Perin knew that Tyler operated that way.Tyler, however, did not realize that Nico’s spirit had already broken long ago. Perin doubted that Nico felt anything anymore. He had seemed so… detached. Perin felt sad for his old friend. Concentrate on your current situation.
He went to a nearby window to use the light to examine his broken arm. He felt the bones, even though it hurt horribly. He had to know how badly he was hurt if he was going to survive without being too terribly obvious. Unfortunately there was something broken in every segment of his left arm, all the way up to his shoulder and including a few ribs. The bones were still lined up, so all he would have to do is let them heal… and deal with the pain. He rifled through the chest again. On the bottom of the chest was a clear bottle. The label told him that it was pain medication; however, it was a new kind of medicine that had to be injected. He had never used a syringe – they were a relatively new invention, and he had no knowledge of the medical field anyway – but he needed the medicine. He had watched a battlefield nurse do it before, it couldn’t be that difficult. He followed his memory and was soon jabbing the clear liquid-filled needle under his skin. His arm began to go numb as a wave of warmth spread up and through his torso. Perin smiled at himself. There, see? Not that difficult at all.
Perin slipped on the shirt he had found and then used some of the longer bandages to make a sling for his arm. He put on the rest of the clothes as quickly as he could. He had already lingered for too long. Gathering up his old clothes, he went back to the bread.
The kitchen area was simply a large fireplace with cooking utensils in front of it. In the center of the room was a small table with some old chairs. There were two long loaves on the table, along with a small bowl of sugar lumps. He took a loaf and some of the sugar, hastily chewing it as he made his way out of the window. Perin left his clothes in a pile in the back of the alley. He slid the rest of the loaf into his sling, and then slipped into the streets, moving with the crowds of people.
He passed several small shops, a blacksmith, and the like. He noticed that every so often a street would branch off, leading to rows of houses. Some of the shops and houses were made of stone, some of wood, and even some of metal. It reminded him of Pons before Tyler had changed it.Tyler had entered Pons when Perin was four years old. For five years after that,Tyler had made Pons a spectacular place to live. But then, streets began to fall into disrepair. People began to go hungry for days at a time. Women were abused and tortured. The army attacked Sulci and Nox and anything else that Tyler wanted. The city suffered under his insatiable greed. The black stone tower that had once united the city now loomed over them, the symbol of their exploitation. Perin would always feel a small amount of guilt knowing that he had contributed to it.
Perin glanced up. The city sat at the base of a mountain chain, the wall extending directly out of the mountains. The river which had provided him with an entrance snaked down along the right side, ending in a small lake that Perin could see beyond the houses. A wide dirt road led from the gate, past the shops, and up a steep hill. On top of the hill sat three buildings made of white stone. In the center was the building with the stained glass, flanked by two equally large buildings. Perin raised his eyebrows. This city was breathtaking.
Something shimmering brightly caught his eye. A large troop of what were obviously soldiers were walking quickly up the hill, their metal objects reflecting the sun and blinding everyone around them. Perin did not understand what they were doing, until he saw what was in the middle of their group. A woman, dressed all in red and with long, red hair, was being ushered along. Oh, it’s an escort. She’s someone important, then. The woman turned, just for a second, and spotted him. Their eyes locked, but she was pushed forward and out of his view.
The woman, however, was the only person to notice him. The active city did not care that he was there. He wandered for a few hours, trying to get his bearings and also to find all of the possible escape routes. At about mid day he stopped under a tree and ate the rest of his loaf. The warm sun made him feel tired. The excitement of the previous days, however many days it was, was finally catching up with him. He needed to find a safe place to rest. First, though, he needed more food. The loaf had clearly not been enough, as his stomach still felt empty. He got to his feet and began wondering again. He spotted a cone-shaped tent not far from where he was. As he walked past, a delicious smell came past him. He decided that this would be his next meal. No one was around, and it would be easy to get in and out quickly.
Perin slipped under the edge of the tent quickly. He wished very much that he had two arms – one broken arm made sneaking around much more difficult. The inside of the tent was dark, but Perin could make out a stack of jars with animal parts in them. He swallowed. Don’t look at that. You’re here for the food. In the center of the tent was a small fire with a large pot on top. It was boiling a dark colored soup. Perin did not care what was in the soup; he just wanted it very badly. A ladle was sitting next to the pot. Perin reached for it, when the flap to the tent opened. He froze. He had no where to hide.
An old woman dressed in all black and with bright pink hair entered and saw him immediately. She did not scream or make any fuss about him being in her tent. Instead, she just stared down at him. Perin stared back. “What are you doing here, boy?” she asked. “You want that soup?” Perin did not answer. “Well, go on and take it.” Perin narrowed his eyes at her. “I made it for little street urchins like yourself anyway. Go on, take it and get out of here.” She handed him a bowl. Perin began getting himself some of the soup. She didn’t have to tell him twice.
“You make food for the less fortunate?”
“That’s what I said. If I didn’t then no one else would either.” Perin continued, feeling her eyes on him. “You’re new here, aren’t you?”
“What?” He felt his heart going faster.
“To the poor community, I mean. We know who belongs where. What happened? Thesel take your job?”
“Umm, yeah,” Perin mumbled.
“You’re not the only one. He does that quite often.” She held open the tent flap. “Well, go on, get. If he knew I was handing out things my head would be on a spike.”
“Thanks,” Perin said quietly as he left with his soup. Now he could concentrate on finding shelter. There was a small grove of fruit trees behind him. Their branches and leaves made a very thick canopy. He could rest up there and not be bothered. The problem was climbing a tree with only one arm. One of the trees, an apple tree, had thick branches that were low to the ground. Climbing up was not as difficult in that tree; he had a lot more footholds. Once he was near the top, he leaned back on some branches, resting his injured arm across his body. An apple dangled right above his head. He had not had an apple in a very long time – fruits, and all plants in general, were very rare in Pons. They usually just ate meat (sometimes only raw meat) and some course grains. Apples were a rare treat even for Tyler’s closest associates. Perin considered saving the apple for later, but then, seeing that there were many around him, he let himself have it. He smiled. He had done well. He was clean, bandaged, fed, and safe, for now.