Golden skin that held a sheen of sweat and grime. Thick, chestnut hair matted with mud. Skin that clung too tightly to the skeleton frame of an underfed boy. The streets were a harsh place.
The morning sun rose and brought with it the oppressive heat of the city, a heat almost as harsh as the fists of the city guards.
Their punches hurt when their hands were bare, even more so when they were adorned with gauntlets of glimmering steel. The boy hated the city guards.
Nobody looked at the boy as he sat on the side of the street with his back against the wall of a derelict house. He sat in the same mud that made him look grubby but he didn't care.
Clothed only in a rough spun tunic that had rips and holes here and there, and pants that looked ready to fall off his hips, it was no secret that this boy was a street rat.
His feet were black with dirt but toughened with exposure to the harsh ground, so much so he barely felt the stones beneath his steps anymore.
His stomach rumbled and his head pounded; dehydration and starvation were two concepts he battled with daily, weekly, and monthly. Each day he woke was both a blessing and a curse.
One more day he had to fight to stay alive. Limbs that were too weak to be functional somehow managed to push him to his feet as dark eyes moved from left to right.
The people of this city barely looked at him, the guards that rose atop their horses did not care to look down at the people they supposedly protected.
It would be a waste of their time to look down at the orphaned boy who had forgotten his own name.
Cutting through the streets the boy felt like a ghost, nobody gave him any attention and a gaze never lingered on him if it had deigned to acknowledge him in the first place.
This boy was nothing but a survivor, he did not live his life like the men and women of this city did.
They had market stalls to attend to, families to work and feed for, a King to march into battle for. The boy had none of this. The boy did not even have an existence here.
The most attention he got was off drunkards stumbling out of taverns looking for some fun at the end of their night.
They looked for something weak and vulnerable to assert an emboldened sense of masculinity upon that they in fact did not possess,so acquired the illusion of one through beating what little lives managed to be below theirs.
Houses built of rotting wood pressed close to one another, towering above the boy as he cut between side streets and down deeply darkened alleys, the roofs of the houses blocking out the rising sun.
Finally, the boy had found the tavern that he commonly stole from because of its easy access; a small window only he could fit through near the floor that would allow him access into the storage room below.
Taking a precautionary measure to circle the block at least once to ensure that there were no patrols, the boy returned to this access point and crouched down.
Shaking fingers opened the window and pushed it inwards before letting his body follow suit, easing his way down on his stomach and going feet first for safety reasons.
THUD. His feet had slapped the cobbled stone below and the boy had hissed through his teeth with the pain that shot through his ankles. At first, that fall had never bothered him.
But the more weight he lost, the weaker his bones become, the more pain flared at even the most simple of motions. The boy stopped and listened but he was met only with a heavy silence.
The patrons had gone for the night leaving the owner and his wife to retire to their bed to sleep before they re-opened later in the evening. This was the perfect time for him to strike.
Barrels were packed around the room, lining the walls at least three deep as well as large sacks filled to the brim.
The fruits and vegetables that were kept down here were questionable at best, and the meat always had a funny smell to it.
The God's only knew how the people who ate it in broths managed to stomach it. But, the boy was starving and beggars could seldom be choosers.
Sack after sack he moved, rooting for anything that seemed edible, scavenging for the fresher looking produce to consume.
He found some apples that did not look bruised and felt firm to the touch. These would do.
The boy jumped up onto one of the barrels and bit into the apple fervently, desperate to get the sustenance into his body, each bite always felt like it was an extra hour he would live so now the boy took as many as he could and in as little time as possible.
The juices that burst into his mouth hydrated it, giving him a brief relief from the sandpaper feel that his tongue had taken on. Though, the fruit juices did cause soft stinging in the gaps of his dry and cracked lips, but it was a pain he willing to endure for the sweet fruits.
A contented sigh left him as he shoved down the last of the second apple and was already moving onto the piece of meat he had obtained during his hunt.
He bit into it gladly, teeth tearing at the uncooked meat but he didn't care. However, that was when he realised that something was incredibly wrong.
His throat felt as though it was burning, as if a fire was making its way down his throat and into the pit of his stomach, following the same path the meat had.
What remained in the boys hand fell to the floor when he opened his hands, fingers flying to claw at his throat as if that would allow air to flow.
He could not breathe, his throat had surely closed up so suddenly.
The room was spinning and the edges of his vision were growing black, he had fallen from the barrel that had been his perch and his knees smacked against the rough stone as he had landed,hands too busy at his throat to catch his own fall.
The boy was curled on the floor, screaming with no voice, calling for help that would not come. He could not breathe. There was a fire raging inside of him, ripping at every fibre of his being and his head felt as though it were ready to explode.
"What do you do to rats that come to steal your food?" A voice floated into the room, a sinister purr filling every syllable. The owner was staring down at the choking boy that writhed in vain on the floor of the basement. "You poison them."
The boy had been poisoned. There was nothing he could do, he would die here and that would be it. Not a soul would bother to save him, no one to remember him, not a person in this city would remember his name or even notice that he had died.
The only person that would bear witness to his death would be his murderer. He would be thrown out on the street to rot and to feed the crows, and that would be it.
Nothing, he had lived his life as nothing and now he would die the same way.
Whatever small speck of existence he had been had now been thoroughly wiped from the world, and not an eye blinked with care.
The owner stared down at the boy as his actions grew weaker and weaker until all movement had ceased.
The boy had died with his eyes still open wide with terror, mouth remaining agape in a silent, unanswered plea for help.