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- Drew -

THE SCORCHING HEAT OF the sun could not compare to the burning fury Drew felt as he watched a merchant hit a child, a young boy no more than seven years old, for stealing a piece a bread. A measly piece of bread for that matter. The way the upper-class citizens treated the lower-class citizens was the reason why there was unrest.

The moment the man laid his hands on the boy, Drew leapt into action. He placed himself between the merchant and the boy making himself into a living shield. He glared at the merchant and the man backed up nervously.

"How dare you hit a child!" Drew growled.

The man shook in fear but boldly said, "He's nothing but a thief, a street rat! He deserved it."

If Drew had his way, the man would be on the ground begging for mercy, but he didn't want the boy to see him extract his vengeance. He placed a hand on the boy's shoulder and began leading him away. The merchant began protesting, demanding payment for the stolen bread.

Drew tossed him a gold coin and snarled, "Keep the change."

He grabbed the boy's arm and pulled him to an abandoned alley. He let go and turned to him.

"Are you alright?" he asked. "That merchant didn't hurt you too bad, did he?"

"I'm fine," the boy said. "You're the Peregrine, aren't you?"

"Yeah, that's me," Drew said. "But my name is actually Drew. What do they call you?"

"Aren," he replied. "Aren Eldridge."

"Aren," Drew repeated. "How old are you?"

"Nine," he said.

"You're awfully skinny for a nine year old," Drew remarked. Then he frowned. "Where is your family?"

"My parents died when I was younger," Aren replied. "I live with my older sister, Arabella. But don't worry, she takes very good care of me."

"You should get back to her then," he said. "She's probably worried about you."

"Thank you, Drew," Aren replied with a grin and dashed out of the alley.

Drew pulled the hood of his cloak over his head so that it hid his face. Then he crept back out into the streets. He silently wove his way through the crowds of the Middle Sector until he reached the border of the Lower Sector.

When he arrived at his house, it was immediately evident something was wrong. His neighbor, Mrs. Gardiner, stood at the door with a sorrowful look in her eyes. When she saw Drew, she beckoned him to come over.

"Mrs. Gardiner, what's going on?" Drew asked.

"It's your brother," she said, "he's suddenly fallen ill. Mr. Gardiner is checking on him now since he's the closest thing we have to a doctor."

Without another word, Drew rushed into the house, his heart pounding in fear. His mother and father sat at the kitchen table with Mr. Gardiner deep in discussion. They all had grave expressions on their faces and Drew felt his heart drop.

"What's wrong with Zach?" he asked.

Mr. Gardiner sighed and his mother burst into tears. "Your brother has a rare and fatal disease that has only been recorded a few times."

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