• Published 8th Jul 2015
  • 499 Views, 16 Comments

Filth - Vi

One of these Changelings is not like the others. What will happen when she is taken away from the only family and home she's ever known? Can she survive the new life she will be forced into?

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“Female. Born one hour, twenty minutes ago.”

“No. The horn is shaped wrong, and bent right here, see? And the body is too small.”

“We will dispose of it immediately.”

“Excellent. Next?”

“Female. Born one hour, sixteen minutes ago.”

“Well, let’s see here. Hmm, no physical deformities to be seen. Good. Next?”

"Male. Born..."

My childhood wasn’t really too bad. Sure, Mother and I were a part of the lowest echelons of society, but at least life was relatively simple. Every adult woke up and did what they were supposed to do until the end of the day. Then they’d just do it again the next day, and all the days after.

Me? I would wake up and go out to play with the other children. I ran through the streets with them, taunting and playing pranks on the Guards. We’d wrestle and rough-house with each other. Sometimes we’d rummage through the odd piles of things on the Outskirts, seeking the hidden treasures within them, arguing and fighting amongst each other for the best spoils. We’d talk about our future purposes with a fervor only the young could possess. What would it be like to be a Cleaner, a Worker, or a Charge?

Many of the males dreamed of being a part of the Guard. Not just the regular, cynical ones patrolling the markets and walkways, singularly trained to rain down blows and hurl obscenities at us with equal measure. There was a higher calling for them: Warriors. Not that we actually knew what they were. Only a few of the males were taken away, past the gates leading into the fabled High District. We all wanted to know what and who was up there. We all had our speculations, and reveled in the gossip of the magical city that lay beyond most of our reaches, behind the line of guards hovering just before the gates.

But this place, the Lower District, was the only place I needed. I had everything I could ever dream of wanting. Here in the dark city I was a Queen and the refuse was my kingdom.

I started to help Mother watch the store once I grew older. It was a small shop with a lone counter and a couple shelves, packed into a tiny nameless neighborhood sequestered in the Lower District. The familiar faces of our little community would pass through, coming each day to pick up what they needed before they headed off to work. Sometimes they’d come just to say hello to my Mother. Just like everyone, we didn’t have much to give, but we gave everyone what they needed.

Mother was always proud of what she provided. It was difficult, searching for treasures through the endlessly expansive Outskirt piles. Even more difficult were the Guards constantly hovering above, keeping any fliers from the openings above the Outskirts where the things fell out. And if you found something good, they were sure to take it from you, no argument permitted. Despite that, Mother was as good as any Scavenger could possibly be.

Somehow, she always knew just when the good things would fall down into the Outskirts. Her whole body would freeze and her ears would swivel back and forth, a near-maniacal smile spreading across her face. This would happen many times a week. Sometimes she’d have the feeling come strong enough to warrant my coming with her, so there’d be an extra pair of hooves to carry treasures to the store. I knew better than to struggle when she would excitedly whisk me up and out of the Lower District. Not that I minded. Flying speedily over the district on her back, dodging the Guard and snatching up treasures to sell in our shop was nothing but pure exhilaration to me.

It was a few weeks before my twelfth birthday when the latest rumor raced its way through the city. Rumors always spread quickly. They were daylong fantasies for the working class, a welcome distraction from the constant routine. A young female Nobleblood had been spotted outside of the High District. One of the Guards had sworn on his pride to have seen her wandering through the Lower Market Square. The Guards mobilized, and the Lower District was abuzz.

I had just been in the square myself, picking up the daily ration gels from the distribution center. I didn’t see any Nobleblood, but then, I was concentrating more on the meager amount of gel we had gotten for today. The ration size seemed to be getting smaller and smaller with every passing week. ‘How much smaller will it get?’ I had wondered at the time. Making my way back to my neighborhood, my ears picked up pieces of the rumor from various passers-by. Of course I had taken quickly to the gossip with all my young curiosity. What did a Nobleblood from the High District look like anyways? Would she be nice? I hoped she was. Maybe she’d be able to tell me about what the High District was like. Maybe we could be friends?

I found my way back home while the questions danced away in my head. “I’m back Mother!” Walking into the store, I slid the bag of rations from my back and started sorting them into one of the shelves. Suddenly, the wild sound of galloping resounded from the back of our home and grew closer to the front of our store. I didn’t even have a chance to turn around as Mother rushed past me.

“Got the feeling right now something’s good coming down in the Outskirts finish shelving the rations and open up the store I’ll only be a few minutes!”

The hasty string of words trailed off as Mother bounded out of the store and into the air, speeding off to her next big find. I could feel her enthusiasm trickle up my hooves, and couldn’t help smiling as I went back to shelving the rations. Maybe she’d find some much needed food gel. Maybe a book with pictures, or a few flicker crystals? Those always sold well, and we needed a few more to light this place up. It was getting darker inside again.

I was nearly finished when the first customer walked in. I turned around to find myself looking at a Guard standing at the entrance, looking all over the inside of the store. Not one of the ordinary Lower Guards, in the grey armor, holding a club for beating the most troublesome of us children. This one was cloaked in a deep purple armor. His posture rang with purpose, and a well-polished poleaxe was strapped across his back.

“Citizen! I am here to ask if-” The Guard seemed to lock up in surprise as he met my eyes. “Oh! Here you are! My apologies, Miss.” He knelt down to bow. “We had received word of you here in this filthy district. Please, tell me the name of your House, and I shall get started on arranging an escort to take you home.”

I could only stand in place, utterly flabbergasted by the sincerity of this Guard. “Uhhhh…what?”

The Guard stood up and tilted his head to the side. “Miss, are you feeling well? Do you have a fever, or any sort of injury to the head? Any confusion?”

They never asked how you were doing. What was this? I held a hoof to my head, trying to process the words. “Er, yes, I feel very confused. Um, why…what’s-”

He came close, looking me over. “Huh, your eyes are glazed over. I don’t know what this means, but it might not be good. Please Miss, come with me and I’ll take you to the Physicians immediately.”

I was quickly and gently guided out of my home, as though I was some fragile treasure. Outside, I recognized the familiar faces of the community poking their heads out of windows and standing stock still in the street, staring at the strange scene happening right before them. I would have been shocked too. A Guard holding the hoof of a commoner. Who would have thought it possible? What a surreal sight.

“The High Command has assembled in the market square. I can carry you back to where the Captain is waiting, and we will order a chariot to take you back to your House from there. They must be so worried for you.”

Finally, I was able to string a few coherent words together. Be polite, be polite. “N-no! No, thank you mister, this is my house right here. I don’t know what’s going on, but my mother will-”

He scooped me up right then and there and began hovering off the ground. “Apologies little Miss, but I think you’re still little confused. We’ll get this whole mess sorted back in the High District.”

“What? No! I’m not- Stop! Put me down!” I squirmed in his unyielding grip.

“You! Get your hooves off of my daughter!”

I looked up to see my mother flying over a now growing crowd of onlookers. Dropping her bag from her mouth, she swooped down, wings folding against her as she streaked through the sky and collided into us mid-air. She wrenched me out of the startled Guard’s grip, and the three of us tumbled to the ground below. I lifted my head, groaning. My mother lay dazed on the ground next to me, while the Guard recovered quickly and jumped to his hooves.

“Filth! How dare you interfere with the duty a Royal Warrior! And worse, assault a foal of the High Noble Houses!” He grit his teeth, and I heard the crowd of onlookers gasp as he grabbed the poleaxe with both hooves, rising to his hind legs as the deadly weapon swung around his back and rested right above my mother’s dazed form. “Know your place!” He pulled the axe back.

I shivered as the poleaxe began to swing down. “No!” I leapt directly into the path of the oncoming weapon. I saw the Guards eyes widen in panic as mine closed in fear.

I felt a tap on my left shoulder.

Slowly, I opened my eyes. The strange purple Guard’s jaw was hanging open in shock and horror. My friends and neighbors looked out from the crowd, faces filled with worry and fear. I slowly turned my head to the left, at the well-polished poleaxe resting in my shoulder. I was not surprised at the thin trickle of green trailing out of my body. No, I was surprised to see my face, staring out from the blood-speckled reflection of the metal. I remember thinking how strange it was to look into my eyes, and see two black circles emerging out of two pools of light blue.