Herveus - A Hers To Save Short StoryMichelle Connor / History & Fiction
A Hers to Save Short Story
By Michelle Connor
© 2017 Michelle Connor
All rights reserved. This book or parts thereof may not be reproduced in any form, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without prior written permission of the publisher.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
For my daughter, Sasha. Who fell in love with Herveus as much as I did.
His small figure went unnoticed as he shuffled from one shadow to the next. Emmeline will be mad at me, but what other choices do I have. Herveus were so hungry his belly even stopped its constant rumbling for substance. He knew his sister was giving him her portions of what little food they manage to scrounge. More often than not it were a mere mouthful or starting to rot. He may be only seven summers old, but he could see how listless she was becoming.
He followed his target around another bend. The coins clinking together with each step the man took. The male's clothing gave away his wealth. A leaf green surcoat stood in stark contrast against the filthy cobblestone streets. Herveus looked down at his own bare feet covered with cuts and felt envious of the man's leather boots. He will sure not miss a few coins.
He crept closer. The enticing aroma of beef pies swirled around him, as he past a stall diverting his attention for a mere moment. His fingers itched to grab one small piece. Shaking his head, he looked for his quarry. The gentleman was standing in front of a merchant selling fleece. Reaching forward as something caught his attention.
A cart carrying cages of chickens moved in front of Herveus. His view blocked, he slipped into the bustling crowd. Small body jostled from side to side, he made slow progress. An opening appeared ahead as a small flock of sheep interrupted the flow of the marketplace. He wiggled between the creatures. He pushed on one trying to get it to budge.
A flash of green moving away made his palms sweat. Herveus got on his hands and knees. I will not lose him. Bile entered his mouth as his small body shuffled under the unmovable animal. The stench made him choke. Once free he jumped to his feet, eyes searching. There, the man was holding up a bolt of woad silk. The bag of coins jingled as he inspected the cloth.
Trying to blend in Herveus reached out, hand shaking. The man became distracted trying to haggle a lower price. Like he can't afford it. He tugged on the brown leather pouch. The cord held, so he pulled harder.
“Oi. What are you doing?” bellowed the man.
Eyes wide Herveus gave one last tug. The purse came free, spilling its contents all over the ground. Herveus knelt down trying to grasp a hold of the rolling coins. With a thud, a foot connected with his side.
“Filthy, rotten thief. How dare you try to rob me?” The man struck again with another blow.
Herveus's mouth tilted up as he clenched his fist tight. He curled in a ball, protecting as much of himself as he could manage. Several more blows connected with his prone form.
Schlik, he could hear the man gathering up the spilled treasure. Taking a painful breath, he didn't move until the man's footsteps faded away.
Opening his fist, he looked down at the gleaming flat silver piece of metal. I did it.
Limping, he left the marketplace. Eyes roaming, alert. Many dangers lay in wait in the city for the unsuspecting and defenseless. He moved through the cobbled streets. The houses became more dismal the further Herveus travelled. They had been dwelling in a desolate barn near the outskirts of Tranmere. Even the rats had abandoned the place, but it offered a little shelter for his sister.
The wooden building leaned to one side. Many boards were missing and nature had tried to take back the land it sat upon. Moving aside a loose plank of wood, Herveus crawled inside. “Emmeline, Emmeline look what I've found.” He held up his prize.
“You better haven't stolen that.” She bent forward coughing.
Herveus moved from foot to foot. His sister's pale face loosing even more of its colour. “Ya need a healer. We can afford one now and maybe some grub too.”
“Don't be silly boy, I'll be fine. Fetch me some water will ya.” His sister pointed to an old tin cup, while she wiped the spit from her mouth.
“But the water made ya more sick last time.” He bent to retrieve the item regardless. He knew the only thing worse than dirty water where no water at all. The stream wasn't far and he could still hear the din of his sisters croaking breaths. Tears fell against his cheek as he leaned over the grassy bank. Filling the vessel with the murky liquid. He took a large gulp himself. “Blah.” The taste never gets any better. Standing, he wiped the evidence of his weakness from his face. The cleaner patches of skin would give him away if anyone were to look close.
His sister was sleeping when he returned. She slept more than she used to. Her chest rising and falling with each wheezing inhale she took. Her dark hair fell in matted clumps over her skinny shoulders. Her tattered dress hanging on her slim frame. A lump formed in his throat. She looked even worse than the day before.
He was in need of rest himself, his body ached from the beating he had taken. He curled up behind Emmeline trying to share some of his warmth. His small arms scarce reached around her but he held on tight regardless.
He jolted awake by the racking noise of his sister. Rolling over he followed the sound. Her frame shook, drops of blood hitting the packed dirt. He crawled to her. “What is wrong?” She didn't reply as more crimson liquid seeped from her lips. He felt cold inside. Hands shaking as he rubbed circles on her back. She is all I have. She can't die, I won't allow it.
“I'm getting a healer, I won't be long.” He stood, looking back one last time at Emmeline and left.