The streets of Calpheon teemed with life, packed to bursting with people going about their daily chores. Buying, selling, bartering, money flowed from hand to hand, the oil that kept the world running. It was a pickpocket’s dream.
The smaller children careened though the crowds pretending they were playing a particularly raucous game of Sardines, and Sloan watched from the shadows with envy. She missed those days � the laughter, the excitement, the thrill of a full purse in her hands. The fear of getting caught sharpened each moment to a honed edge. It was the only time in her short life that she had felt truly alive.
But two summers ago she had grown so quickly the others started calling her Weed. She was no longer small enough to play the part of the child but was considered too young to start whoring (for which she was grateful), too small for gooning, not nearly old or experienced enough for second-story work. So she got the boring jobs, like paying off the local merchant guilds to look the other way, or settling disputes among the younger children. She was so bored that she began to wonder if whoring was really as bad as it looked. One look at the empty souls that had had the misfortune to have that life told her it probably was.
�There is another option.�
Sloan whirled, eyes wide. Who�how�
A soft laugh. �I�m not reading your mind. Well, I am, in a way. Your thoughts are betrayed with every move you make. You want something�more.�
�What? Who are you?�
�Not important. What is important is that I can show you a new life. One of import, of meaning. We shall teach you to be the greatest version of you that you can imagine.�
She saw him. Or her – the voice was pitched so it could be either, and the shadowed figure gave nothing away about the person, save that they were probably human.
�Yes you do. Do you really want to spend the rest of your life pilfering paltry trinkets? It�s okay, you can admit it.�
�So. When you are finished playing these silly street games, find me at the Lone Stallion. Show this to the innkeeper and your new life will begin.�
Before she could say more, the figure was gone, leaving only a small iron ring spinning on the ground. Sloan hesitated, then bent and picked it up. It felt heavier than it looked. She gripped it in her palm as she turned back to her assigned duty.