| City of Bath, The Slums |
"Well, I'm sure glad we managed to get all of this stuff, aren't ye brother?" Dagger asked, adjusting his grip on the bags holding some of their groceries. Providing for such a large group was tough, but they managed as long as they spread their shopping needs out over a whole town.
"We got most of the stuff we were lookin' for, so I'm happy." Joker replied, showing his adopted brother a grin. They had volunteered to go to the farthest part of town to give the others a much needed rest. The bags were heavy, and he couldn't quite see where he was going.
"Well well, looks like we got us some carnies." A voice said. The two men couldn't say who was standing behind them, but the voice sounded like it belonged to a noble. A second, slightly lower voice joined in.
"And here we were thinking that we would be bored today." The carnival ring leader and the dagger throwing expert turned around. Joker glanced at Dagger while putting his bag down.
"'Ave ye got yer daggers with ye?" he asked his friend, looking at the two noblemen standing a few meters away from them. Their clothing style suggested they were from the same household. Dagger shook his head, flexing his fingers. It looked like it would turn into an old – fashioned fist fight.
That's when one of the guys pulled out a small gun. He grinned, showing off his perfect white teeth. "Now then… I wonder how we can get our fun best with these guys? I bet they won't mind giving us a free performance tonight, do you?"
"My, my…" a soft, feminine voice sounded from behind the men. "I guess you won't be needing this then?" the voice asked. The two nobles turned around, granting Joker and Dagger a look at the new person who had interrupted the moment.
The person who was standing in the light of the lantern held a wallet in her hands, shaking it around a bit. It was the same grey colour the costumes of the noblemen had. Her face was covered below a low cap, and the clothes she wore were tattered rags at best.
Still, the way she leant back against the lantern bode no good for the men she had just robbed.
"Hey, give that back, you little brat!" the man without the gun yelled at the newcomer. The girl scoffed, shoving the wallet in a back pocket.
She lifted the cap, revealing a delicate face and big round eyes. "Hey, that's Miss little brat to you, you good for nothing lowlife!" she yelled back at him. She pouted, cocking her head to the side.
"Since you're so mean, I think I'll be keeping this wallet to myself."
The girl ran off. Without hesitation the two noblemen ran after her. Joker and Dagger looked at one another, nodded, and ran behind the threesome, knowing the girl might need help. Every time they could see the men turning around corners, the girl's voice beckoning them closer.
'That girl is mad!' Joker thought to himself. When they turned around a corner again, they could see her standing against a wall, the men closing in on her. Instead of worrying, she grabbed a rope next to her. With one swift slash of a concealed knife, she slashed the other end of the rope and shot upwards.
Dagger stopped running. Joker didn't bother to ask. His prosthetic was probably giving him a rough time. Running like this surely didn't do it any good. He would catch up sooner or later.
"Wooooaaah!" her voice rang out. Arriving at the top, she gingerly looked for foothold. The man with the gun pointed towards a staircase. As they ran towards that, the girl continued to run across the rooftops. All the houses were built in the same flat roofed way in this part of town, so she didn't have any trouble finding foothold. Joker decided to continue from the ground. He noticed the girl was panting, but then again, so was he. After a minute or two they arrived at the end of the street. A river was flowing past the houses. As a showman Joker immediately noticed an escape route when there was one.
"Pssst!" Joker whispered, trying to get the girl's attention. Her head turned towards him, but her eyes were still covered beneath her cap. She nodded once, to show him he had her attention. He pointed towards the river, gesturing her to jump in there. She tapped a finger to her head. "Are you grazy?" she seemed to ask.
He pointed again to the river in a decisive manner. Before she could react, the noblemen had reached her. The guy with the gun pointed it at her. "Now, give us back the purse, and I won't shoot you, okay, little lady?" he sounded exasperated.
The other man leant on his knees, panting. "We're not letting her go, are we? I mean, we could have some fun with this girl!"
The man with the gun nodded. "Hear that girl? We're going to be nice to you and show you a good time. Isn't that great of us?"
The girl flipped the men the finger. They were closing in on her. Joker caught himself hoping that she would escape. He didn't doubt for a moment that the girl had pick pocketed the men to save him and Dagger.
She took a few steps to the men. Joker bit his lip when they started laughing. Then she turned around and ran to the edge. Putting a foot on the small iron railings, she launched herself to the water. The men cursed when they looked down at the water. Joker hid in the shadows, hoping that Dagger would soon show up.
"We're not jumping in there, are we?" the guy without the gun asked.
The other one grunted, putting his weapon away. "Of course we aren't. What's the point jumping in after a rat like that, even if she's got a pretty tail?"
|About two minutes later|
"'Ey girl, are ye in there?" Dagger called out into the dark water. Some splashes answered him, and the girl swam into the light.
"I'm still here. Do you guys have a rope or something?" she asked, paddling to stay in place.
Joker moaned. They'd forgotten all of their groceries. Including the supplies like ropes and stuff like that. They would have to get her out another way. He gave Dagger a hand, letting the man lower him down to the water a little bit. They were strong enough to pull it off. Still, easy was another story.
He groaned when the girl grabbed his hand, hoping his prosthetic wouldn't come off and let them dunk both in the water. She quickly added the other hand too, afraid to slip away and fall in the water again. "'Old on, we'll 'ave ye out before ye can say splash."
Dagger gave a final pull, hoisting the other two up on dry land. The girl landed on hands and knees, coughing and rubbing water from her face. Her cap slid off, revealing long, luscious locks of hair, shining in the light of the lantern posts. Still coughing she stood up, and started to wring some water out of her clothes.
"Now look at me… All wet… I hope I don't catch a cold." She said, wringing some water out of her hair. Her big eyes landed on Joker and Dagger. "Oh, you're the guys from the alleyway. Thanks for hauling me out of the water." She glared at the river. "I hate water." She murmured.
"Ah… without us, ye wouldn've been in there in the first place, right? Still, nearly scared me out of my skin seeing ye turn up all of a sudden." Dagger said, smiling.
Joker nodded. "I guess we do owe ye some thanks. Without ye, we would've ended up in a fight."
The girl grinned, and picked up her cap. Placing it on her head, she checked the back of her pants for the wallet. "Well, I'm glad we were able to help one another out then. Oh, didn't you guys have stuff with you when coming here?" she asked, looking at the men.
Joker looked away, not happy about forgetting their groceries like that. "Well, we kinda left 'em be'ind, seeing as how ye were in trouble and all."
"Real gents then, aren't you?" she said. She whistled, a loud and screeching sound that echoed around the silent streets. "Well, wait just a minute, I'll get you your stuff back." She promised.
And indeed, soon enough a couple of young street hoodlums had gathered around. One of them lifted up his cap in respect for the girl. "You whistled for us, Missus?" he asked, looking at the two strange men in suspicion.
"That I did, Roger. The grocery bags that were near the Fisher's street, do you guys have them?" she asked, looking at the young man.
"Ah… yes." He admitted. He was used to stealing for a living, and when seeing a good opportunity, he and his friends made off with the loot faster than their victim's could blink. "I s'pose you want us to return them to these men here?" he asked, catching on rather fast. His gang had the bags with them, and showed up with the stuff hurriedly. More than one had gotten a spanking from the girl for not listening to her, and they weren't volunteers for another one.
"That everything you lost?" she asked, looking at the two carnival folks. The men nodded, and she let out a relieved sigh. She patted Roger on the head, and flipped each of the boys a coin. The boys were always eager to help her out. She made sure that their rewards were sufficient to ensure it.
Joker looked at the slightly smaller girl. "Well, it was nice meeting ye. 'Ave a good night." She nodded, and bade them a goodnight too. Quicker than a shadow she and the boys were gone, leaving Joker and Dagger standing alone on the street.
"Well, that was a surprise." Dagger commented, trying to get a bigger grip on his bag. Joker nodded. Both of the men walked away, not giving much thought to the young girl or her thieving comrades. Little did they know they would be seeing her soon again.
|The Girl's Home|
"I'm home!" she yelled, opening and closing the door quickly, so the precious warmth wouldn't be wasted. A small shape scrambled up from the worn – out sofa, and dark brown eyes looked up at her. "You're late, big sis." The voice of her little brother sounded sleepy. He had once again been waiting until she came home before he went to sleep.
She smiled. "I am sorry. I ran into some trouble on the way home. On the bright side, big sis did manage to earn some money today." The little boy got up. His eighth birthday would be in a week, but he was already so much more mature than she was.
When he was close enough, he grabbed the ragged pants she was wearing, looking up at her with a serious face. "Enough to pay for medicine?" he asked, sounding worried.
She bent over, picking the boy up. "Enough for medicine." She said.
The boy frowned at her. "It's not good for a lady to not use full sentences."
She put him down in the sofa again, and threw a piece of wood on the fire. "True, but I'm not a lady anymore. I can say what I want how I want now." The boy kept frowning at her. She smiled, and sat next to him. "With the money I got today, there's enough to last for three days. And, since your birthday is coming up, why don't we go to the circus? It's in town for a while, but I don't know for how long. The sooner we go, the better, right?"
George looked up at her in that serious manner of his. "I'd rather that you save the money, sis. It's dangerous, going out like that for a girl. If you save it, you won't have to go out at night like that anymore."
She smiled, and sat next to him in the sofa. She pulled up the blankets to his chin as he snuggled closer to her. "George… I'll treat my little brother to the circus whenever I want. No more buts, okay? Big sis worked hard again today. Tomorrow it's our time for a break."
She realized her clothes were still damp, not to say soaked. With a sigh she got up. George was already drifting off into sleep. With a sigh she peeled the wet, old sweater from her body, soon followed by her shirt and pants. Taking out the money she had stolen from the noblemen, her gaze fell on George again. He had been coughing all day again.
She dropped down on one of the two chairs they possessed, holding her hands against her head, trying to relax. How much longer would they be able to hold on? How much longer, until the day came that she couldn't buy the medicine for the boy anymore simply by going out stealing?
Perhaps she could forget her worries the following day…
|Noah's Ark Circus|
"And how did you say you got your prosthetics all in messed up again?" the Doc asked as he adjusted Dagger's fake leg once more. Dagger let out a hiss when the prosthetic connected with fragile nerves, before swinging the leg around.
"Well, let's just say that we saved a young lass from a gruesome fate, right brother?" Dagger asked Joker. Joker tapped his hat with a finger, and nodded.
"That's exactly what 'appened." When Dagger stood up, Joker took his place in the doc's chair.
"Ah, is my arm fixed again, Doc?" he asked, trying to peer behind the man in the wheelchair, to see where his custom arm was.
Doc sighed, and reached behind him, pulling out the skeleton – like arm. "I wish you didn't insist on using this kind of arm." Doc sighed for the umpteenth time. Making the arm was a bother, compared to the limbs he made for the other troupe members.
Joker smiled, leaning on his healthy arm while the doctor removed the more normal prosthetic he had been using while waiting for his regular arm. Dagger sat next to him, and grinned. "Still, the girl we saved was pretty cute, don'tcha think, brother?"
Joker looked at him with a sly smile. "Are ye moving yer sights away from Beast then?" he asked in a teasing way.
Dagger paled, and started shaking his head ferociously. "No! Big sis it my one and only love! I'll never give up!"
Joker nodded, and moved the newly attached prosthetic. Pleased to see the fingers move, he got up and clapped Dagger on the back. "Well, better 'it the sack now. Tomorrow's another show, and we've got our work to do!"