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A/N: This chapter features a scene which is a particular favourite of mine from the book. That's why it's one of the longer chapters I've posted thus far. I'm interested to see whether anyone else feels the same way about this. It actually took all my self control not to post the whole book at once to reach this point. So glad we've finally made it!

Chapter 14: In Which Rat Visits Loneliness

It was a given. I was not going to stay at the palace.

Just the idea of staying there was an abomination. The palace, and everything about it, was tainted with Moe and Fizz's blood. I bided my time, building my strength, knowing that when I would be strong enough, when the Grand Master would begin taking my presence for granted, I would take off and make sure they would never be able to find me.  But for now, for the first in my life, I had to be patient.

I was constantly moody and unpleasant, purposefully trying to make everyone resent me. If they hated me enough, they would be glad to be rid of me once I left. It's not very difficult to have people dislike you when you're an adult.

Alas, things are vastly different when you're a child. I never really understood why, but in Auranoran society children were viewed as naïve, crippled and dumb, in need of education, guidance and a good thrashing on occasion. Everyone was always talking about how children needed to be taught, how they could not possibly differentiate between good and bad on their own, and how our dark and gloomy world could so easily corrupt their innocence. It was no surprise to them that I behaved the way I did. In their eyes, it was natural, after all I've been through. In their eyes, it was perfectly understandable, since I was only a child.

I grew up on the streets and for the most part, I was treated just like a miniature adult. After all, garbage is garbage, no matter its age.

The servants sent to look after me, the nurse and even the Grand Master did not find my behaviour repelling; they felt they had to help me enter "decent" society. As the days went by, I became more and more frustrated with their attempts to straighten me out. Eventually, I began to lose my ability to argue and yell, I stumbled all the way through rage until I reached an island of stillness.

Apathy. I burrowed deep within myself, filling my soul with veil after veil of blackness until nothing came through to me. I ate when hungry, slept when tired, drank when thirsty, my body continued to function in its bodily ways, but I cut off all communication with everyone.

Even with myself.

Sometimes, people would come in and try to speak with me, but I didn't notice their words. There was no impact, it was as if they spoke a foreign language. I assume they glanced at me worriedly, I assume they felt helpless at the deadness of my silence, but I remember nearly nothing from those days.

And then came the day when I felt strong enough to leave.

Until that day, I had not left my room. I woke up from my dark daydream a month after I fell into it. My room had a balcony that overlooked one of the back gardens. It was only one story up above the ground. It would be an easy climb down for a boy like me.

I don't know how I passed those days; perhaps I was too ill in body as well as soul to ever be bored. But that day it suddenly became very obvious to me that, after hours of staring outside, I knew the route the guards took underneath my balcony, I knew how to climb down.

I therefore decided that I knew how to escape.

All I had to do was wait for night to fall; it would be simple.

That night was full of clouds, hiding the moon and stars from sight. I looked down from the balcony at the black expanse of the gardens below. Some would perceive such deep darkness a nuisance, but I knew the darkness well, it was, for me, an advantage. The guard's footsteps crunched on the gravel path below; I waited until they faded away. I did not rush as I placed my palms atop the marble railing of the balcony. I breathed deeply, calmly and swung my legs over, finding my footing on the stone of the palace wall.

Rat - YA FantasyWhere stories live. Discover now