Chapter Four

A day like any other, except was sunnier than most.

Storm awoke to the sound of someone approaching. She had slept badly, having not eaten since the morning the day before, the hunger gnawed her. 

She sprang up, seeing the shopkeeper coming to open up, she had been resting in his doorway. Not that she had been doing anything but trying to get some peace.

‘Oi you, scav!’ he shouted as she ran off. ‘I’ll call the guard! If I catch you again!’

Before she turned the corner into another lane, she hitched up her skirt and showed him the pale globes of her buttocks.

‘Why you…’ he began, but by then she had already hurried off.


Storm made sure she was not followed, and then yawned and put her hands to her empty belly. She desperately needed something to eat, so the day’s struggle began again. Things had been bad enough before the blockade of Alamata by the Empire, now this was ten times worse. The price of food had soared, she had seen a loaf of bread sold for a silver piece.

Storm made for the main square of the city to see if any food scraps were being given away by the abbey. There were folk about, but not the crowds there would be later.

The huge edifice of the abbey church loomed darkly against the pale sky, cast a massive shadow over the square in the early morning sun. The front was richly carved with the life-size statues of prophets and martyrs, gaudily painted and gilded with glinting gold. 

Storm had been into the church a few times, remembered an impressive cavernous building adorned with much more greedy gold. Rarely had she ever just sat and stared and smelled, but she had in that building. Breath-taking! The air was heady with incense and the whole place felt so serene. She was overawed. 

Not that she had been made welcome. One of the monks had followed her around to make sure she was not trying to thieve the candlesticks, or anything. He had spoken to the abbey guard, and they had ejected her twice and then threatened her with a beating if she returned. 

For once she had not been up to anything so she felt righteous indignation. She remembered a priest once saying that all people were welcomed into the Xenic faith, no matter what their circumstances. This did not, apparently, extend to Storm.

The food scraps were not, of course, dispensed outside the front of the church — there the poor and destitute might have had to be observed in all their squalor by the wealthy and well to do — but at one of the many ancillary buildings, tucked away around a corner. 

And by the time she got there, there was already a large crowd of beggars, miscreants, paupers, cripples and street children. Storm sighed. She could fight as well, if not better, than most, but there were so many people. And the scraps that were given away were barely edible, not even being fit for pigs.

Nevertheless Storm forced her way to near the front and awaited the monks. A moment of anticipation as the slot opened, and then two baskets were shoved out. They were half full, containing burnt or mouldy bread, half-rotten vegetables and rancid fish heads and bones. 

Storm was desperate and grabbed what she could. Experience had taught that you had to consume everything immediately or it would be stolen. She shovelled what she could into her mouth. Even in her famished state, much of it made her gag.

Then in what seemed an instant all the food was all gone, the crowd started to disperse. Storm had got a few mouthfuls, certainly not enough to sustain her, even for the morning. Returning to the square, and already finding it much busier, she planned her morning in her quest for decent food.

She was thirsty, however, eager to wash away the taste of the rank food. There were public drinking fountains dotted throughout the city, so she waited at one. 

Many people were before her but, when it came to her turn, she was thrown out of the way. A large man loomed above her. He was the bodyguard to a rich burgess, a fat man with a round face and much gold around his podgy neck.

‘I don’t want you polluting my water, dirty scav,’ the rich burgess slavered at Storm, grinning over her.

The rich burgess took Storm’s place.

Storm got to her feet and dusted herself off, meekly joined the queue. 

The rich burgess stooped to drink and opened his mouth. Storm stood right behind him, put one hand behind his head and rammed his face into the stone basin. His teeth were broken, his lips mangled. He screamed in pain and fury, wheeled around, lashing out, his bodyguard flung himself at Storm. 

But she neatly eluded him and darted off into the crowds, without looking back. She soon lost herself in the warren of alleys and lanes. 

Taking some care, checking carefully in case she was being hunted, she went to another nearby fountain, this time drank her fill and then washed her face, then the rest of her body as well as she could beneath her dress, although without soap. Feeling fresher, she wandered away, letting the morning sun dry her off.

Her first port of call was Hensingga, who sold fruit in the market in the square adjoining the abbey. There were many stalls and booths, supplying most anything that was available in the Daldric Isles or, indeed, the Fenigruin Empire, despite the blockade. Prices had not really shot up for anything except food, nor were there any shortages as yet. 

Storm suspected, while many would have agreed with her, that the high price of food was simply profiteering.

Hensingga was a man in his fifties or sixties, hard-nosed but not unkind, married with a large family. His stall was well stocked with all kinds of fruit and vegetables and roots and herbs, was always busy with customers. He was known to be generous, and he would give away surplus produce beyond its best. Nor did he expect anything in return, not even a grope and a fumble in the quiet of an alleyway.

In this he was unusual. 

Most inhabitants of the White City of Alamata regarded the beggars and street folk at best as rats or vermin. 

They were constantly moved on and harassed by the city guard. Storm did her best to avoid the guard. She knew she was a healthy and good-looking girl, in comparison to most of the street girls, and she had been already been beaten and abused. She had no wish to repeat that. And next time, they had told her, they would brand her face.

Hensingga sighed when he saw her approach, as he always did with the approach of any of his regulars.

‘Come to scrounge again?’ he said with a curl of his lip. ‘I suppose you have nothing better to do than rob an honest man?’

‘No, mister,’ said Storm, her eyes down but expectant, nonetheless. ‘I mean, huh, yes mister.’

He sighed again, a long and hard sigh that came out of the depth of his being. From underneath his stall he took out a large bag full of some round things. Storm’s eyes widened, as if she was to be presented with a pouch of gold.

He hesitated for effect, then gave her the bag, so she took it, nodded perceptibly in his direction, which is all that he ever got in the way of thanks, and then she fled from the square. 

Hensingga shook his head in despair, but he actually quite liked the thin street girl with the strange luminous green eyes.

‘It’s just onions,’ he called after her.

She hardly heard him, hurried directly to the Duke’s Park, one of only two wide green spaces in the whole of the city. The park was a pleasant, tranquil place, the air clean and fresh. And seclusion was what she wanted, somewhere she could eat free from molestation. 

There was a stone bench where she usually sat, but she checked out the area, ensured she was in the clear. All was good that glorious morning. So, once seated, the chill of the stone against her buttocks, she fell upon the bag. 

For a moment she thought all she had was onions, which were quite acceptable in themselves, except they put some would-be customers off, but underneath she found eight or so peaches. They were overly ripe and bruised in places, but Storm did not care. 

In a few minutes she had devoured six of them, keeping the other two and the onions for later. The peach stones lay in a row on the bench like the heads of slain enemies. She stretched back on the bench contentedly, belched and relaxed. So far the morning had not gone too badly.

The park was reasonably busy now, mostly with couples or women taking their children out into the green space or playing with them on the grass. Most visitors were clean, tidy and well dressed. 

A man and a prosperous young woman were walking around the park. The man was an officer in the Alamata navy in an impressive uniform, his cutlass had a bejewelled scabbard and hilt with a large gem in the pommel. His helmet, adorned with feathers, was under one arm, while on his other arm was his female companion, a small and pale and delicate creature with a flawless complexion. The proud young woman was dressed in a long white skirt and dark blue jacket and wore jewellery glinting with flashing blue stones. 

One of those earrings, though Storm, could have kept her fed for a month. Storm hated rich people. The wealthy were mean and hard and uncaring.

As they passed Storm, the proud young woman turned and regarded the thin street girl on the bench, looking her down and up. The young woman’s face was lovely, but the expression was sneering. The two girls were perhaps the same age, eighteen years or so, but there the resemblance ceased.

For Storm was clad in an old stained dress of dark purple, once of good quality but now threadbare and frayed, slightly on the large side, having been inherited from a dead woman Storm had found throttled. Juice from the peaches was dribbled down her front. Storm wore no shoes, her feet were bare and filthy. Her hair was dishevelled and matted, and she was grubby with an ingrained dirt that no amount of washing could dislodge. Storm knew this because she had tried repeatedly. Her long arms and legs were slender but sinewy. Storm was a striking girl with high cheek bones, a little harsh and angular perhaps, but attractive despite the years on the streets.

Then the proud young woman looked into Storm’s eyes, caught her breath, turning her gaze hastily away, almost tripping over her skirts. Storm had a penetrating stare, her eyes were green and flared out at times like uncovered lamps in the depth of night. Her stare, filled with a malice that belied her slight frame, was turned on the fair, proud young woman. The girl was now holding the arm of the officer in the Alamata navy rather tighter than before.

The two hurried away without comment, Storm watched them for a while. In her youth, she had been foolish enough to try to attack or rob such couples, but she always ended up in unnecessary and unwanted trouble. 

Nevertheless, Storm would like to have cut up the lovely girl’s pale face, seen if she made such a pretty sneer with her blood spurting everywhere. Her long dagger with the curved blade was concealed beneath her dress. She imagined drawing its ragged edge over those marble white cheeks. 

But she let it go, let the fantasy drift away like one of the wispy clouds floating across the sky. And instead, just enjoyed sitting there with her stomach not empty.

An hour or so later she left the park and headed back into the crowds, keeping her stash of peaches and onions next to her heart. Storm had a taste for meat, or something savoury anyway, but that cost money, in this climate of uncertainty, perhaps even as much as a silver piece. She decided to turn a trick. 

In Alamata, most of the working ladies and laddies gathered in the lanes and streets around the harbour, so Storm headed there. Many of the regulars recognised her and greeted her, while some turned away and even found a new place from where to do business. Storm was well known and many of the pimps feared to tangle, or found it less trouble to leave her be, even if she took business away.

Storm elicited a fair amount of interest, but she found her mark and went for it, a slightly greying older gentleman, tubby but expensively dressed, red about the cheeks. All sorts could be found around the docks, but to her he was perfect. She smiled at him as he approached, turned those luminous eyes on him, she knew he was caught.

He was breathless and his voice shook as they exchanged pleasantries, Storm took her time, wanting him as fired up as possible. They agreed a price of one silver piece, and she took him behind one of the warehouses and into the midst of some packing cases, still in no hurry. She took his hand and put it on her breast and fondled his groin.

‘Three silver pieces,’ she told him, ‘and I will make it the best you have ever had.’

He nodded in agreement, hardly able to speak with excitement, paid over the coins.

Storm took him professionally and swiftly, hitching up her skirt and letting him touch her where he chose. She had him out of his breeks in a flash, he moaned as she held him. He tried to kiss her on the mouth, but she avoided his lips, nothing went into or near her mouth. 

Leaning back onto a packing crate, she pulled him over her and then directed him inside her. He gasped. She wrapped her legs around him and took him as he thrust into her, took him as if she actually wanted it. His breathing became more and more laboured as she grasped his hips hard between her legs, and then he was moaning and quivering inside her, then the act was over. 

She lay back for a moment as he panted, and then he was finished. She eased him off her, stood up and adjusted her own clothing, and then helped him dress. He was very red faced. It had only taken a few minutes.

‘That was good,’ she said truthfully, meaning the brevity of the act, she derived no pleasure other than her mouth watering at the thought of some tasty pastry or pie she could now buy.

He nodded, almost in a daze, and drifted off.

Storm skipped away from the docks and back into the city, in search of that excellent baker, now she had the money. Her heart was pounding as she ran through the streets, but she then had to wait her turn behind the other customers. 

She hoped that a new batch of pies would be just ready. The last customer seemed to take an age, determined to pass the time of day with musings on the weather and when the Fenigruin army would finally attack. Storm was just about jumping up and down before he left. And then she could not decide: pie or pastry?

Then it was her turn. Her mind was suddenly made up. She bought two of his beef bridies, hot out of the oven, made with fluffy puff pastry. The baker sold her them for one silver piece, he also gave her an apple pastry for nothing, so flattered had he been by her obvious delight in his baking. 

Storm could not wait to eat them, had barely got out of the door of the shop before she started nibbling at the edges. The pastry was almost too hot to handle and she burnt her mouth as she bit into it and rich gravy bubbled out, scalding but salty and meaty as she chewed a piece of tender beef. The meat melted in her mouth, she ran it round her mouth with her tongue. Delicious, but she did not rush, she savoured every nibble, every drop of gravy, every piece of meat and onion, every flaky and dry piece of pastry from around the edges, every soft and moist piece of pastry from the bottom. Each swallow was an ecstasy.

‘Filthy scav,’ said somebody from close by, but Storm was too engrossed to care.

A substantial pastry and after days of poor fare was more than welcome. She ate slowly but persistently, licking and nibbling and chewing, without ever taking a break, without even stopping to take a breath. 

After five minutes of sheer joy, the pastry was no more, even the last corner. She licked her fingers, licked every last crumb from her hands. Time had ceased to have any meaning, a second could have passed, or a month.

She looked around and was aware again of the street and the people, she was only a few feet from the shop.

Now she had a dilemma, whether to eat the other meat pastry or the apple one. It felt like she had already had a feast today. She decided on the fruit.

The pastry was once again excellent and the apple was both sweet and tart, soft but with enough bite. Like the meat pastry, absolutely excellent, for a while she again lost herself.


The sun was high in the sky when she had finished the last flakes, Storm was set up for the day. She had the meat pastry and the onions and the peaches for her evening feast, so she needed nothing else.

Storm had no friends in all the world, with one exception. She had found, from an early age, that friends were a burden she could not afford, they were inconvenient and tiresome and slowed you up, they would get ill and die when you began to care. So Storm had remained unencumbered. There were people whom she regarded without hostility, such as Hensingga or the baker who sold her the pastries, and who she would not exploit or rob unless she was desperate. 

And there was everyone else, who were fair game, given the opportunity and a decent chance of escape.

The one exception was the young tavern girl who had befriended her. She was called Dryffe, and she was a few years younger than Storm. Storm was not of course her first given name, Storm was a nickname bestowed on her by Dryffe. Storm now thought of herself as Storm, but for a long time she had been called Blinny.

Dryffe worked in one of the taverns, the Black Horse, on the east side of the city. She was not a prostitute as such, but she was paid little by the innkeeper, Dimgald, and supplemented her income in whatsoever manner she could, including both dancing in the common room and entertaining customers in their rooms. 

Storm, having sufficient food for the rest of the day, decided to go and see her friend. At this hour, Dryffe would be resting but that did not matter. Storm had to be discreet entering the tavern, however, as she was far from popular.

Storm slipped into the Black Horse when a delivery was being made, under the archway into the courtyard. She found an open door, sneaked her way to Dryffe’s chamber, which was in a low wing to the rear of the tavern. The chamber was cramped with only room for a cot and a tiny table and little else. At least it had a window, which opened into a small internal courtyard overgrown with weeds.

Storm slunk into the room, found Dryffe asleep on the narrow bed. Storm put her pastry and peaches and onions carefully out of the way as if they were jewels, slipped into the bed with her friend. Dryffe woke up slightly, mumbled something, then fell asleep again. 

Dryffe had had a busy night.


The afternoon was old, and the sun was westering when they both awoke and then lay together, although cramped.

‘Storm,’ said Dryffe sleepily, opening one eye reluctantly. She had been drooling onto her friend’s neck and she wiped away the goo. She smiled. ‘When did you come in?’

‘After lunch,’ said Storm. ‘Nobody spotted me.’

Dryffe sat up and yawned.

‘Tough night, huh?’ said Storm.

‘Yup,’ agreed Dryffe, ‘I was up until dawn. Made a nice bit, though.’

‘I will go if you like,’ said Storm, and made to rise.

‘No,’ said Dryffe, touching her arm, ‘you’re all right. But I need to get up soon anyway. How have you got on?’

‘Good, I did an old john at the docks,’ said Storm.

‘So you’ve eaten?’

‘Yeah, very good today, huh?’ said Storm. ‘I still have a meat pastry. We can share.’

Dryffe had not eaten that day, so they shared the pastry and Dryffe found what appeared to be an empty skin of wine. There was enough left, however, for a mug each after a lot of squeezing. The wine was sour but they did not care. Storm gave her one of her peaches, keeping the onions for later.

When they had finished, they lay on the cot well content, arm in arm.

The time slipped away.

A little later, as the full gloom of evening started to descend, Storm said: ‘I better go.’

‘See you soon,’ said her friend and grasped her shoulder. ‘Take care.’

Storm slipped out with the same wariness she had sneaked in, found her way to the entrance without being seen. 

Taking a look around, she went out into the courtyard and then walked boldly through the archway and into the street. She was aware there were some people coming towards her, but she kept her head down and went on walking. Passing them she swept on.

She was mindful that, behind her, the men had stopped. Looking over her shoulder she saw a man peering around at her, he had four companions. His mouth was mangled and caked with dried blood and his two front teeth were missing. The rich burgess from the drinking fountain that morning. 

He had recognised her.

‘Huh?’ swore Storm and ran as fast as she could, tearing along the street away from them.

‘That’s the scav bitch there!’ cried the burgess and leapt after her, followed by his friends and bodyguard.

Storm ran around a corner, into a lane and tore down it. She turned into another alley. Hearing them behind her, she dared not look back. There were people up ahead. The chasing group was screaming for them to stop her. Instead, the people stood aside to let her past.

The pursuit continued. Difficult to tell, but they might have been closing on her. She redoubled her efforts, forced herself onwards. There was another alley. She turned into it but ran headlong into two men. One of them was knocked to the ground, she tripped over him.

‘Sorry, miss,’ said the man.

Storm scrabbled to her feet, leapt off again. 

Her pursuers were nearly on her. 

It took several strides to get going. There was another alley, on her left. She made to go down it, but at the last moment side stepped and continued on straight. One of the men caught his heel and went sprawling. But there were still at least three after her.

She did not falter, she had no illusions what would happen to her. She broke to her right into a wider street, where there were more people. On she sped, on they came after her. 

But they were now falling behind. Storm pulled ahead, she was younger and fitter and her need spurred her on. Ahead of her was the square with the abbey church. There were more people and many ways to escape.

The men were still shouting. The commotion attracted a patrol of city guard, ten or so men.

‘Oh fuck!’ muttered Storm. She swerved away from them, ran towards the gates.

The patrol saw the chasing group pointing and gesticulating, they started after Storm themselves. They were fresh and they quickly gained on her. Enheartened, the other men also redoubled their speed. 

They tried to cut her off, limiting where she could go. The patrol, too, was split into three, fanning out behind her. She was being forced into the main way that ran to the gate. 

The problem was that when she got to the gate there was nowhere else. The gates were shut and there were many sentries. They had already seen her coming and were loosening their swords.

She had to get back into the alleys, hoping she could avoid them in the maze of lanes. Feinting to the right, she then broke to her left, sprinting down an alley. Turning right again, she backtracked, praying that none of them had come that way. 

But they were still behind her. A guard, hidden in a doorway, sprang at her. She instinctively ducked. He sailed over her back. She ran on. Behind her there was swearing.

She turned another corner, then another. She took a look to her left. One group of city guards was running parallel to her. At the next junction, she gazed to the right. More guards there. No good! They were going to cut her off, they were behind her and on both sides. Soon they would be in front, too. 

In the middle of the block she slithered to a halt. There was a pend with an open gate through to a courtyard. She ran down that and into the yard, surrounded on all sides by tall buildings. Rattling a door, she found it bolted, so was a second entrance, a third. All fastened, tight.

She was trapped. 

The ground-floor windows all had interlocking bars.

Footsteps rushed towards her. 

She was trapped.

Looking upwards, she saw an open window on the first floor. There was a trellis, up which grew a creeper. Jumping high, she grabbed hold of the creeper and scrabbled up. Part of the trellis came away in her hands. The creeper’s stems broke, leaves tumbled down. 

More footsteps and cries. She struggled on.

‘Shoot the scav bitch!’ said a voice.

There was a whoop, then a shower of sparks near her head. A crossbow bolt spun away from her.

Storm hauled herself up to the window, spun across and grabbed hold of the window ledge. 

Another whoop, then a shooting pain at the side of her waist. She clambered in through the window. Another bolt shattered the window frame by her hand.

She fell to the floor, quickly regained her breath. 

Hammering on a door was coming from below her, with desperate shouting. Examining her side, she found blood, but the bolt had only grazed her. The wound was not serious, the bolt had just torn her dress.

The room was a bedchamber, nobody else was in it. Springing over to the door, she flung it open and leapt into a corridor. Looking both ways, she saw a stair and ran along to it, she began to ascend the stairs in twos. There was turmoil below.

‘Intruders!’ screamed a voice. ‘Search the building!’

Storm continued upwards without hesitating, her plan was to get up to the roof. 

The stair ran out, she went to a window and looked up. The eaves of the roof were above the window, out of reach. There was no way out.

She turned back. There must be another stair, she thought. But where? A door opened. Storm whirled around. A black girl, a slave, recoiled.

‘Who are you?’ whispered the slave.

Noises came from the floor below.

‘They are coming for me, huh?’ said Storm. ‘I need to get on to the roof.’

The black girl nodded, peered about to make sure nobody saw her. She then took Storm through a door, into a smaller stair, which led upwards to the slave quarters in the attic. 

There was a narrow corridor at the top. The black girl led her into a dormitory with ragged blankets laid out on the floor, then to a small dormer window. Together they opened it. A squeeze but Storm wormed her way through.

‘Good luck,’ said the slave.

‘You too, huh?’ said Storm.

Then the black girl was gone.

Storm scrabbled up the slated roof to a chimney stack. Here she reviewed her options. Up on the rooftops was still light, whereas down below the alleys and the closes were shrouded in shadows. She had no time, but any mistake could prove fatal. 

She chose to climb down the roof on the lane side and then leap across to the next building. Risky, she could fall to her death. 

If she was caught, however, at best she knew that they would hurt her and brand her and probably ruin what looks she had and that would be death too, only slower.

She let herself slide down the other side of the roof, on her stomach. Underneath her she could hear trouble coming. There was a clatter as a window was thrown back. She could hear someone else climb out, and then another.

Her feet reached the gutter. She carefully turned round onto her back. Above her, coming over the roof ridge, were two guards. 

The leap to the next building was not too far, about six or so feet. She could not delay. She braced her feet against the gutter, bent her legs, sprang forwards. 

The guards almost had her.

The gutter beneath her gave way, and fell, clattering against the outer wall of the building. Her arms flailed forward, as she half jumped, half fell. 

She grabbed hold of the gutter on the other side. She did not look down to the alley below her. Luckily the gutter was not rusted and held. 

Storm was strong and she managed to pull herself up and on to the roof. She ran, stooped, up the slates to the roof ridge, and then down the other side. There was whoop and a bolt from a crossbow ricocheted off a chimney pot, its flight scoring her cheek as it shrieked by.

There was cursing behind her, but they made no attempt to follow her.

She came to a skylight, fastened tight. She heaved a slate off and shattered the glass. 

Undoing the window, she slammed it back and leapt down into the room below. Another dormitory. The slaves were huddled against the far wall of the room.

‘How do I get out?’ said Storm.

‘Down there,’ said one of the slaves. ‘The doors are open.’

She nodded. ‘Show me, huh?’ 

One of the black men took her to a small stair and pointed. 

She bounded down the steps and then descended the main stair. She passed one or two people or slaves but did not stop to find out. 

Calls of astonishment and alarm stalked her. 

At the foot of the stair, she saw the open door. Flinging herself through, she came into an internal courtyard. There was a wall and an archway through into another street. She sprinted for it, but then slithered to a halt. She poked her head around, searching the lane. It appeared she had escaped for now.

Without further delay, she turned into the lane and walked quickly away, did not run or look back, towards the harbour.

She was not discovered. 

One range of buildings passed and then another, she knew not to peer behind her. There was still no pursuit. 

‘Careful, Storm,’ she chided herself, ‘careful.’ Too easy! Far too easy, huh? Were they playing it clever? Something seemed wrong, too quiet. They were on to her!

She suddenly sprang forward, just as two men leapt out of the shadows. She was off again. This time she stayed comfortably ahead of them. Their exertions had taken much out of them, she was hardly fresh but then she had more to lose.

She swore again.

As she ran past, she saw another patrol. As soon as they saw that she was being pursued by the city guard, they started off after her too. 

They were fresh, they paced each other. Now Storm was being quickly overtaken. She redoubled her efforts. Her breathing started to become laboured. Despite her fear her legs ached.

Now she was approaching the harbour area. Slatterns and their customers hung around, but she saw no hope there. The pursuit was too close behind for her to turn down into one of the closes. Her only hope was to run straight and fast and without stopping.

Her final spurt of speed left the chasers in her wake, the first edge had been taken off their speed. She ran across the wharf and the sea broke against the harbour wall. 

A long wooden pier stretched before her and she carried on. Her head was lolling and she panted, but still she kept on. The pursuit was closer again. In a moment they would catch her.

Ships and mariners and cargo whizzed past. The pier end approached. She kept on. Her pursuers slithered to a halt, but she ran forward, made one huge bound off the end of the jetty and splashed into the sea.

She surfaced, flailing her arms and legs.

‘Help!’ she cried. ‘Help! I can’t swim!’

The guard watched her, chests heaving, but did nothing to help. One of them loaded a crossbow, took careful aim and then with a whoop fired it at her. 

Storm gave out a cry, shrieked for help. She went under the water, came up again one last time shrieking, and then disappeared beneath the waves.

‘Did you get her?’ asked the officer.

‘I am not sure,’ said the crossbowman. ‘It went close. But I’m not sure.’

They were too far away, and the sinking sun glinted red off the water so that they could not see if there was any blood.

The rich burgess hurried up then.

‘Did you get the scav bitch?’ he said, panting.

‘Yeah,’ said the officer of the guard. His face was shiny with sweat. ‘She’s gone. Harnakos, she led us a chase. What did she do?’ Then he saw the burgess’s face, the swollen lips and broken teeth. ‘Oh, I see, now. How did that happen?’

‘An unprovoked attack!’ said the rich burgess, sounding defensive. ‘She put my face into a drinking fountain without warning.’

The officer nodded, thinking there was probably more to the incident than that, but in the end what did that matter? The death of a no-account street girl was not going to concern anyone. But, boy, had she led them a merry dance.

The officer turned away, and then looked back out over the silver rippling dark water. He wondered for a moment, and then smiled slightly.


Storm was actually below his feet, underneath the jetty, holding on to one of legs. She was, of course, an excellent swimmer. 

Waiting until they had gone, waiting until full night, she swam out from the pier and came round in a half circle beyond the lights of the harbour. She found a quiet piece of beach and hauled herself up on the shingle. There she lay in the dark, listening. Everything felt right, this time, she was certain that she had escaped.

She walked some way up the beach and sheltered underneath the seawall. She was dripping wet. 

Checking underneath her dress, she found she still had her dagger, two onions and two silver pieces. Her heavy dress was sodden but the night was pleasantly warm. The graze on her waist was nothing but an irritating scratch, although it had hurt when she went into the sea. She waited there, waited for two hours or so, doing nothing but eating the onions and listening.


Finally, she climbed the wall and padded soggily back into the harbour area, taking care that she was not being followed. As far as she could tell, she was in the clear. She breathed more easily.

She walked along a lane, relieved that she had escaped. Soon she would need to find somewhere to dry herself off and spend the night.

Towards her came a well-dressed mother with two children. One, an infant, was in the woman’s arms, the other, a small brightly clad girl of around five years old, was skipping along, a few paces behind her mother. 

She was a pretty wee girl with a warm nature, full of life and happiness and exuberance, without a care in the world. 

Storm let the mother past, but as the wee girl bounded up Storm cuffed her around the head. 

The child fell to the ground, stunned and skinning her knees on the cobbles, and then burst into floods of tears. Her mother ran back to the wailing child and took her in her arms, and then hurried away. 

Storm marched on.

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