In The Desert City

It was a hot 90 degrees as the morning sun rose higher over Rasta, the city of the east oasis in the Talcan desert and it was only going to get hotter. Dardin walked over the pavestones gingerly, wishing he had the money for shoes. He tried to step in the cool shadows of buildings, but the crowded marketplace often forced him to leave the shade.

People clutched tighter to their purses when they saw him moving through the crowd. They often frowned on him and tried to shove him aside. Though he was a low man on the totem pole of life, he refused to beg. That meant stealing was the only way to go.

He saw a person not as carefully guarded over their large bag. It was full of fruits, apples, oranges, bananas, and breads as well. He slipped beside them, faking his way past the rich snobs who growled and threw fists at him, to reach gingerly and quickly for an apple and a roll.

He then ducked down an alley to a tiny alcove between dumpsters and near the street level. He ate in relative peace. It had been an easy morning, no guards chasing him, no fist fight, and a decent breakfast.

The only problem with eating alone is the time it affords you to think. The thoughts he shoved to the back of his mind often sprang to the front when he was calm and silent.

Sadie. How he missed her! She had raised him until last year. He called her Mom for years, and she was the only mother he knew, but she never let him believe that she was his real mother. She told him all about the woman who birthed him. How she loved his father, how she loved bananas as much as he did, and how she loved horses. She had died in childbirth, though valiantly.

It had been a time of war in the oasis. A neighboring kingdom wanted to conquer the land. Soldiers had snuck into the oasis that night. All the women and children that could had left. The able men stayed behind to fight. Sadie sat up all night with her laboring friend. Dardin's mother had to be quiet or the soldiers would find them. Sometime in the early morning they could hear the sounds of war cries and smell burning thatch. The soldiers began looting homes and killing anything that moved. The pains came harder in the early morning too. When Dardin was born, his mother could not hold back her scream any longer. The door was smashed open, and a spear thrust through her before Sadie had time to tell her she had a beautiful baby boy. Her last word was Dardin.

Dardin was his father. He was supposedly killed in the war. His body was never found however. Dardin used to think he'd come home one day, just walk in the door and start living with him. But he never did.

Sadie never told him how she escaped with her life. She always had tears in her eyes and would take a shuddering breath when she told the tale. Dardin could see in her eyes that there was something more to the story she thought best to keep from him.

He was grateful she took him in. Orphans were often either left to die, or sent to the streets. No one would take care of them. They stole, they hid, they starved, and if they died, no one bothered to bury them, just threw them out in the dump. It was hard enough to take care of your own, let alone someone else's. But Sadie had a heart of gold!

Dardin wiped tears from his cheeks he didn't realize he'd shed. Silly tears. He was grown now. 17. A man. He'd have been married by now if he'd lived with his parents. Even Sadie had been thinking about it before she died. But Dardin simply didn't have anything to offer a woman, so none were interested.

After Sadie's death, he'd sold her few valuables and tried to apprentice himself. But none would take him for so little money. He'd landed on the streets and taken to stealing or eatign from dumpsters. Soon though, he'd pawn something valuable, something he would find, not have to steal, and he'd have enough money to start a trade!

Dardin dusted himself off and went to the dump. He poked around there every day in search of something accidentally thrown away. He'd found a few silver utensils, but they were worth little when not part of a set. He found a necklace once, too. But he got a terrible deal out of it from a stingy pawn shop owner. He'd learned his lesson, though.

The dump was way outside of town. Only the garbage workers ever visited it. It was a long hot walk. Dardin trudged through the heat, thankfully too hot to think.

The dump was especially smelly today. Dardin found the newest piles and began poking around. Something shiny caught his eye. A piece of stained glass. Useless. He dug deeper, the sweat running in rivulets down his spine. Nothing. Frustrated, he turned to leave. His foot kicked something metallic. It flew ahead of him and glinted in the sun. Hopeful, he sprinted after it.

The End

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