The House of Wolves

Just another dead man

In the city of Corvachia, three primary markets exist. The Merchants Market, for the elite in Bayronds square to trade the most lavish and exotic of materials, the Ravens Market, for weapons and poisons and other mysterious substances, and the Commoners Market, for those forced to live in between the two ends of the city. The Commoners Market provides basic living materials and is very simplistic in nature, perfect for the small majority of individuals not rich enough to live in Bayronds Square, but who have enough to prevent them from needing to go to the Ravens Market.

There are also those who don have enough to sustain themselves in a stable manner, but whom also choose to not make their money in the underground, and instead keep themselves going on the meager jobs that can be found in the dwelling areas of the commonsfolk. Most of these individuals are children who settle in the alleyways and form small communities there to survive. The abundance of these groups has grown to the point that most alleys have their own designated name and their own assigned residents.

Oftentimes, the eldest who live in these communities will alternate duties, some going to the Commoners Market to buy food and new clothing, some watching the younger ones, a few completing jobs around the city. Being as the commoners market is a relatively harmless place, usually one person is sent at a time to make purchases, however two came in that day.

One was a tall, lanky, dark haired boy with a distinctly oval shaped face and hooded brown eyes. Following him was a girl who went up to his collarbone, who had dirty blonde hair and two sharp Monolid eyes, also with brown irises.

”Where do you think Aurelia could have gone too? ” said the girl, noticeable concern emerging on our face. The boy turned and wrapped the girl into a hug, followed by a brief peck on the lips.

”Well…she isn here now, meaning we have to clean up her shit and get food for the kids. ” he scowled while saying that, clearly vexed.

”Oh don be like that. Im sure she has her reasons. ”

”Really? Alder is gone as well! They could very well have just up and abandoned us! ”

”I don think they would do that. ”

”Whatever. Lets just get the food, and sit down somewhere. I wanted to spend some time with you, you know. Thats why I asked you to come. ” He pulled the girl into another kiss.

The two then branched off to different ends of the market. The boy went to go purchase fruits and vegetables at the leftmost corner. This was the most mild mannered and docile section, but only in relative terms. The entire area was abuzz with stalls screams at each other and frustrated haggling, the fruit section was no different. It had just had slightly more efficiency. In turn, lots of gossip circulated, being as most of the stalls at this end were run by middle aged women.

”Did you hear about Martha? Apparently she got together with Fionas husband! Can you believe that? ” cried one woman, who was cutting canteloupes with abnormal vigor.

”Of course I do! I always said that woman was bad news, seeing how she lives to that filthy underground. She lives alone too! As if anyone like that could ever be normal. ” another woman cried, before she adopted a sweet smile and offered some watermelons to ongoing customers.

”Aren the people in the underground commoners too? They aren too different than us you know. ” quipped a more soft spoken lady, one who dealt out smaller fruits like apples and oranges.

”Just because they
e commoners doesn mean we
e the same. We have stable lives, whilst most of the women there are whores! ” shouted the watermelon lady.

”Still…they must have exciting lives. Getting to be with a different partner each day, not having to worry about kids or boring jobs like these. Man I wi-Oh watch out dear! ”

The boy, Gale, jumped as soon as he realized he was being talked too, just in time to avoid a horses carriage galloping past him. It was a very rudimentary thing, carried by an abnormally fat horse and driven by a very angry looking owner. As soon as his heart settled however, he couldn help but think to himself, is that what they view as exciting? Cheating on their husbands? he couldn share the sentiment obviously, however it struck a particular chord in him which he couldn explain.

No, you don have time for such things. Just buy the fruit and leave. he thought to himself determinedly, before spreading out the widest grin he could muster and pretending as if he had heard nothing. This sociable persona was very useful here, when all the stalls were owned by mothers. Dissatisfied mothers, clearly, but mothers never the same who couldn help but feel something towards a simple minded boy just trying to buy food.

On the other end, was where all the meats were. Roasted pigs and chickens hung by strings from the tops of stalls, grease often spurted onto peoples faces due to the intensity of the chopping, children got nightmares from the sheer rage expressed by the butchers as they eviscerated meat. There was one butcher in particular who Eneri was very fond of. He was a soft spoken man despite his enormous frame, and who was gentle except when it came to his job. She liked his earnest nature.

He had his own full on shop, with paned windows and polished oak doors. When she stepped inside, he was cutting through a pig viciously, eyes alight and veins bulging. He did it with so much force she feared he might go through the forerib and split the cutting board. But of course he applied just enough to prevent his knife from doing so. The moment he saw Eneri the rage in his expression quelled and he put on a soft grin.

”What can I do for you young lady! ”

Eneri sauntered over to the counter and said, ”Ill take a pot of mutton please. ”

”Mutton, eh? Chopped I take it. ”

”Yes please! ”

He turned and went into a meat cellar, returning a minute later with a pot filled with finely sliced goat meat so savory its juices practically melted into the pot. Eneris mouth watered just by looking at it.

”Looks good, doesn it? ” Eneri nodded fervently, prompting a chuckle out of him. ”You know when I cut this meat I accidentally ended up slicing a piece of my finger off. ”

”Wait what? ”

The man just guffawed even louder. ”I know, crazy right? But I remember, when making this pot right here I chopped the end of my index off. ” he set down the pot and raised his right hand to show an index finger that was no more than a stub.

”W-well, how do you know it was this meat specifically? ”

”I remember every meat in this cellar, and how I cut it. I only dare to forget when its shipped off. Its just become a habit of mine, seeing as how I spent so long in this business. ”

”So…do you remember why you cut it off? ”

”Why? There was no why, at least not one that makes sense. If I had to describe it, when I was cutting the meat it felt like I was a part of it. Ive just spent so long chopping apart other animals to feed my family, that I forgot I was one of them. And that day I just saw flesh and thought welp gotta chop it off. I didn realize it was my own still the blood started gushing out. It didn get on the meat though if you
e worried. ”

”Im not worried about the meat! Is your finger okay! ” Eneri questioned.

”Oh its fine. Besides, youd be hard pressed to find a butcher not missing a finger or two. Thats just how we are. When you spend a couple of decades slicing up corpses there are times when you see a person and confuse them for one too. ”

Eneri shuddered. ”You
e not gonna cut me up accidentally are you? ” The old man just bellowed and patted Eneris shoulder with his greasy hands. For the first time Eneri felt compelled to leave the shop.

Later, after the twos hands were completely full, they converged at a staircase sandwiched in between two stalls. It led to an empty house, so they figured they would just sit and talk.

”Gods, Im really starting to wonder where Aurelia and Alder are… ” Eneri muttered, her head cupped in her hands. Gale said nothing, instead staring off into the distance. ”Hey? Are you okay? ” Eneri questioned.

”Y-yeah ” Gale stammered, trying to cover up his contemplation. Eneri clearly didn believe him, so he decided to continue. ”I don know…its just, I don really miss them, you know? ” Eneri urged him to go on. ”Its strange, because weve known them for so long so youd think Id feel more passionate about this. But Im just kind of apathetic. I guess its because neither of us really knew them. In fact, none of us really know anything about each other, even you and me. We just befriended them because they were there and I just considered them my friends because they were in the little bubble of space we live in…but now that they might be gone forever or that they could have abandoned us, I don care all that much. ”

The two shared an awkward silence after that, until Eneri tried to cut the silence with humour. ”You would care if I left though, wouldn you? ” she asked jokingly. But he simply hung his head in silence. ”Hey, you don have to be ashamed about how you feel. Its not as if its something you can control. ”

He didn respond, instead pulling her into kiss. They held this one this time, practically drinking each other up. It took them at least twenty seconds to come apart.

”Wow…that might be the third best kiss Ive had. ”

”Third? What are your first two? ” Gale asked. Eneri didn respond at first, choosing to snuggle up closer and placed her head on Gales shoulder.

”Well…the first is our first, and the second is my first. ”

”You had one before me? Who was it? ”

”Aurelia. ”

Gales jaw dropped. ”You kissed? ” Eneri merely chuckled in response to her lovers amazement.

”Well, it was not exactly a kiss. Er, thats not true, it definitely was. But I don believe there was any romantic intent behind it. We were both sleepy and she just stumbled onto me and it happened. She was half asleep while doing it, so I don know if the intent was there or not. ”

”Goddammit! Thats whats always pissed me off most about Aurelia. She always moves on impulse and never wants to ask anyone elses permission, unless they
e Alder. ”

”Well, obviously, hes her brother. But still thats an interesting opinion. Personally thats my favorite thing about her. In fact its probably why she makes more money than us. ”

”Or the fact that she works in the Ravens Market. ”

”You don know that! ” Eneri exclaimed adamantly.

”Its highly likely. She has the personality for it anyways. ”

”What kind of personality is that? ”

”The freelancing kind. Shes always usually doing her own thing and getting into trouble, kind of like Martha Wylkotz. ”

”Whats so wrong about her? ”

”She cheated with Mrs. Fionas husband! Don you know that? ”

Eneri sprang up, nearly knocking over the ingredients they had set aside. ”Thats impossible! They love each other, don they? Mrs. Fionas always talking about him! Who even told you that? ”

”Well…the ladies at the fruit stalls. ” Gale said sheepishly. Eneris shoulders slumped and she rolled her eyes.

e always gossipping about something or the other. Its hardly worth listening to. ”

”I wouldn put it past Martha honestly. I told you, she has that kind of personality. Most of the women near there do! Don you know many brothels they have? ”

Eneri slapped her in disbelief. ”Its hardly their fault though! They do it to survive! Thats simply how those places are designed. The women involved hardly do it of their own will. ”

”Well, I suppose… ”

”Think of it this way. Say you have a gear, one too big for a winch and too small for a waterwheel, but it fits just right in a clock. You can blame the gear for not fitting anywhere else, because the clock is the only place it can work in. ” Gale shook his head in shame, but Eneri wasn finished. ”Besides even if those rumours were true, you also have to blame Mrs. Fionas husband. ”

e right… ” silence once again opened up in between the two. Just then, a chariot rolled by, the same one which had nearly hit Gale. He brought it up as a means to reignite the conversation.

”That chariot almost killed me you know! Earlier I mean, in the fruit stalls. ” Eneri didn say anything, so he continued rambling. ”I don blame the horse honestly. It feels like its trapped in a little bubble. It doesn know anything besides whats straight in front of it, its not allowed to run or express itself, and it spends all its time carrying other people and their shit. ”

Eneri raised her brow. ”Well I think horses are majestic creatures. ” She immediately returned to her pout after that. But Gale scooted closer and placed his hand on our shoulder.

”I agree, but not here. They can really be majestic if they can run. Instead they
e just cooped up, completely ignorant of everything around them. Like dead men walking. They don have true friends to make their lives better. ”

”They have their owner. They have the other horses in the stables. ”

Now it was Gales turn to be exasperated. ”The other horses are just the same. If they have any friendship its just because they
e all stuffed into the same tiny box. They don know where the horse next to them comes from, or how fast the horse across from them can run, or anything like that. Also, the owner? Considering how they get treated here I would pay to find a horse who genuinely cared about its owner. ”

Eneri giggled. She tried to stay mad at Gales apathy from before, however his passion about this random tangent amused her.

He picked up on that and decided to keep going.

”Besides, for all their beauty, with enough whips or swords you can kill them easily. ”

”What does that have to do with anything? ” Eneri cried, irritated once again by what her lover was saying. He simply shrugged in response.

”Its true. They don have anywhere to run, and if the people whose things they carry decide to hurt them, theres nothing they can do about it. Its just a sad existence. ” he paused, letting Eneri mull his words over a bit. ”Thats why Id rather be a crow or a raven. ”

”Why would you want to be a crow? ”

”Well first of all, crows can be killed with swords or spears, they
e too fast and too light. Second, they get to take whatever they want- ”

”I thought thats what you hated most about Aurelia? ”

Gale bit his lower lip, surprised to be called out on his hypocrisy. ”Well, to be completely honest, Its more than Im just envious of it. I hate it and admire it at the same time. And if I had the choice, Id certainly rather be a crow than be a horse. ”

”But don crows have hierarchies? Its not as if your completely free even if you become one. ” Eneri commented.

”Well, Im more free than if I were a horse. The only weight crows have to carry is their feathers, and those feathers help them to fly. Besides, even if crows have hierarchies and all that, they
e different from horses because they
e actually intelligent. ”

”What do you mean? ”

”Well think about it. The crows get to feed on the horses, and the bugs, and whatever they can take for themselves. Horses just eat grass thats fed to them by their captors. ”

”Still, the best crows can do is feed on small things and dead things. When a bigger crow or a bigger bird comes along they can do anything about it. So why would you want to be a crow? ”

”Because this is Corvachia, obviously. Out here a crow is the best you can be. ”

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