“Excuse me?” Billy’s teenaged voice was barely audible above the mélange of voices in the market. Not seeing any of the merchants turn in his direction, he raised his voice. “EXCUSE ME?”
From behind a long wooden table laden with wicker baskets filled with bread, a fat man in a flour-covered apron looked down at Billy. “No treats today.”
Billy extended his hand, which held a copper coin. “Two loaves – ”
“Hey!” Another boy, slightly older, hustled in on Billy’s left, and pushed him aside. “Where’s the Roland bread?”
The fat man shook his head. “Same answer as yesterday, boy – it’s not the season for Roland bread.” The boy then ran away from the table.
Billy gave the fat man his coin, and turned to leave with two loaves under his right arm. He then saw who was facing him, and stopped.
The boy who had jostled him had his right arm twisted behind his back, his face contorted in pain. Standing behind him and holding his arm, was someone Billy knew but hardly expected to see. He was shorter than both boys, but with a face that looked far older; his pale skin made him look almost sickly; golden hair flowing under a large cap that covered his scalp and extended over the top of his ears. Billy didn’t know much about this person, except that his name was Gil, and he was now speaking briskly to the boy he was holding. “I believe you have something that belongs to my friend here.” The crowd in the marketplace seemed too preoccupied with buying and selling to notice their struggle.
The boy shook his head, and Gil responded by applying more pressure on the boy’s arm. With his free hand, the boy then reached into his pants, and pulled out a small sack, about the size of a fist. Billy pointed at the sack – “That’s mine.”
“Indeed.” Gil waited for Billy to take the sack, before releasing the boy, who fled into the bustling crowd.
Billy glared down at Gil. “How – how did you know?”
Gil’s face was nonplussed. “Because I saw him take it from you.” He waved to their right – “You need to get back to the inn, before you run into any more trouble.”
The teen walked down the marketplace, Billy bumping into shoppers frequently and dodging others awkwardly, while Gil moved effortlessly among the throng, as if he anticipated each approaching step. Minutes later, they had exited the market, and began walking down a narrow street leading to the Two Brothers.
Feeling uncomfortable with the silence between them, Billy said, “I didn’t know you were watching me.” The teen felt strange, looking down to address Gil, as he was accustomed to always looking up when speaking.
“I didn’t want you to know you were being watched.” Gil kept his eyes forward as he continued. “You’ve never been on your own, and our group is too small to have someone with you at all times. You need to learn how to look out for yourself, and we need to make sure nothing happens to you as you learn.”
“I understand.” They approached the entrance to the Two Brothers; Billy pointed at the building. “Are you coming inside?”
Gil turned to look at Billy, then shook his head. “I need to stay outside. It’s where I can do my best watching.”
Billy nodded. “So, if we need to tell you something, how do we let you know?”
The left side of Gil’s face curled in a sarcastic grin. “Oh believe me – I’ll already know.” And without further word, he continued walking briskly down the narrow street.