Disclaimer: As much as I hate to admit it, la famille Sorel and the Watcher are the property of Namco. I'm just borrowing them for a while.
The rumbling in Amy's stomach told her that another day without food would not be acceptable. It was time to go hunting. Of course, the day her stomach decided to rebel had to be the bleakest yet this month.
To say she hated it all would be an understatement, if she could will herself to do something as pointless as hating existence, a thing not under her control.
The wars were pointless. The faiths were pointless. The damned city was pointless. Why do anything anymore? Scavenging and stealing food so that she could live long enough to scavenge and steal more. There was no alternative but starvation and death, and that she could easily despise.
Amy carefully inspected the street, making her way towards one of the alleyways. No one there for company except a large raven having better luck than she. Rotten vegetables were going to be hard to find, and the farmers weren't bringing anything into town today, so that meant even less to steal. Even ancient meat wasn't above being sold, and catching and killing rats and cats took too long for too little reward. Besides, anything that let itself be caught wanted to die, which meant weakness, disease. The idiots who didn't heed that advice removed themselves from contention, at least letting the smarter ones get more untainted food.
Of course, there was begging, a chance to scrape enough to honestly obtain vegetables unmarked by blight, for a loaf of bread. Amy's stomach growled, demanding action. No begging, she told herself. No begging.
Begging brought in few rewards, unless you looked small enough and pretty enough. Or, if you waited until you filled up, several courses of action could be taken for money. But that was several years away, or at least until she looked older. And, seeing how what had been prime fodder for a night of whoring now competed for the bounty of the streets, there was no real money in that line of work. The nobles and the bourgeoisie, Catholic and Huguenot, were now too busy fighting each other to think of entertainment or of such things as charity.
The raven found a rind of something and choked it down greedily. Lucky bastard, being able to cover more ground, eat less to get its fill, and he could leave if he wished. If she tried something stupid like that, there would be another corpse on the road. You couldn't leave alone.
The bird picked up its head and let out a loud cry.
There was sharp breathing, then the sound of fabric rustling. A man--or, at least it sounded like one--covered completely by a black cloak and hood was charging for them. The raven had taken flight already, but it was impossible for Amy to move out of the way in time.
The figure draped in black ran towards her, slammed her aside, and rounded the corner into the alley. The dead-end alley. Before Amy could get up and pick an appropriate curse to shout at the idiot, she heard more footsteps. His pursuers, the local guards. And with them, other soldiers, with strange uniforms. Outsiders? They were looking for Black Cloak, of course, but what had he done to anger both those outsiders and this city's sorry excuse for upholders of the law?
Amy's head looked up, startled. This soldier had a different accent. These outsiders had been chasing Black Cloak for a while. Better to play stupid. They didn't know her. "Me, sir?"
He looked annoyed. "Who passed here?"
Amy continued the game. She heard faint scraping from behind, coming from the alley. What the hell was Black Cloak doing? An answer… an answer… "Someone passed. Tall. In Black."
The scraping stopped. So, he either smartened up or overheard and got terrified. Amy decided it was the latter. Now, would she teach the idiot a lesson by saving his sorry hide or possibly gain some kind of reward by aiding in his capture? Black Cloak did shove her aside to save his own skin; it was only right she do the same. Then again, they had a common enemy, who was obviously too stupid to realize where he was. The move to make was obvious, even if it meant another competitor for food. Amy pointed down the street. "The man went that way."
The guard eyed her for a moment. Amy prayed that he believed her. She also prayed that he wouldn't shoot her regardless of the information. He headed in the direction she had pointed out, signaling for the rest of the search party to follow. One of them, a bit older-looking than the rest, paused near her long enough to toss her a coin. Amy snatched it up and examined it. A copper. Stingy bastards.
Once the group had moved on out of earshot, she turned into the alley, ready to root out what she had saved. Black Cloak was easy enough to find; he was behind the rotten slats of wood that had attempted to bar the world out of the alley. Idiot. The thing looked like it had the pox. Holes everywhere! Black Cloak was lucky the guards didn't notice. But then, they were idiots, too.
"Why… why did you do that?" Black Cloak was looking at her strangely. It was almost like he was in front of a saint or something. He didn't believe what she had done. Amy wanted to shake him, tell him that he was condemned either way, but she didn't.
His accent was the same as that soldier's, but more fluid, more in control of itself. It was hoarse; he probably was getting over some sickness, but still it was rich, it commanded. This man was noblesse. He had to be. A wandering nobleman who was most likely stripped of his titles and lands but still had enough sense to find a way out before he was killed. At his hip was the source of the scraping, a sheathed rapier. In order to have gotten this far, he had to know how to use it. He could survive, perhaps even provide…
And he was waiting for an answer.
Amy chose her words carefully. She would be honest, but not too honest. "It is a war here. It is us and them. We who are able can help others against them." That, she added to herself, and you're lucky I distrust them while I don't feel the same way about you.
It looked like a good answer. Black Cloak looked near ready to burst out in laughter or tears, she couldn't tell which. "I…" He shook his head with a smile. Amy thought she heard the word "fool" from him, but she wasn't sure. "Thank you. I now have a great debt to repay."
Well, perhaps he wasn't such an idiot after all.