Little walked the streets of the city just seeing what was new from the last time he had been there, and it had changed a lot. There were bigger buildings and many more people. In both cases, it was not a good thing; as the cleanliness of the area was in question as was the health of its residents.
Little had turned and was about to leave the area when he heard a ruckus.
"Please, I didn't take nothin!" A young female voice said.
"I know you did, you little thief! Now, where did you stash it?" A man yelled, as he held and shook a girl.
Owww! You're hurting me! Please, I didn't take anything." The girl cried.
Little didn't like what was happening but it was none of his business really. As he passed by, he felt a strange pull that made him pause and look around. As he did, his eyes locked onto the girl and the pull increased. As Little let his mind open to the pull a name came to him: Riana. Little also saw the man pull back his hand to hit her.
As he walked closer, Little yelled, "Riana, what the hell is going on?" The shout distracted the man as he turned to see who had yelled.
The girl, Riana, had never seen the man that called her name but she just knew he would help her. Before she could say anything, the man holding her did, "Is this your brat? She stole my property and I want it back or I'll..."
"I didn't take anything," Riana yelled in her own defense. "There were several other kids at his booth. I was just walking by. I swear!"
The man pulled his hand back to strike Riana but Little jumped, caught it, and said, "I wouldn't do that. This girl has never lied to me and if she says she didn't take anything from you then she didn't."
"I know she did it! "The man yelled as he pulled free of Little. Little let him.
"What's your evidence?"
"She tossed it. I saw her..." The man started.
"I can't have tossed something I didn't have," Riana interrupted. "If I did would I have stayed when you started yelling. I moved out of the way but you grabbed me."
Little had been gently pushing the man's mind so that he would listen to and hear the truth of the girl's words. The man fought it but in the end, the man couldn't win.
The man had heard the girl and some how knew she was telling the truth. That didn't help his mood. He shoved the girl to Little, who caught her before she fell. "Take the brat. If I see her at my booth I'll have her hand!" The man turned and stormed off.
Riana was shocked that the merchant let her go but she had been telling the truth and if the man had asked, she would have even told him who did it. Now she looked at the tall handsome young man that had saved her.
"Thank you Sir, for helping me, Merchant Tonkin knows I don't steal. I may be poor but there's nothing wrong with making a real living."
"That's true, but I think you, and I should leave this area before Tonkin gets ideas. Do not fear I will not harm you in any way but I think you and I need to talk."
Riana could think of a few things that young man might want from her but that too was something she was unwilling to do.
Little had been listening as he started to pull the girl down the road. "Riana, I would never ask you to do anything that would cause you harm. As cute, as you are I'm into slightly older women. So please believe me when I tell you, you are perfectly safe."
"Ok. But why do you want to talk to me?"
"I think we can discuss that over a meal, you looked like you could use it," Little smiled at Riana.
Riana blushed when she heard the man call her cute and blushed again as he must have seen how thin and small she was. That was when she remembered why she was on that street to begin with.
"I'm sorry sir, I can't go with you. I need to get to the bread shop that's two streets over. I did some work for the baker and she said she'd save me a few small loaves."
"Oh, Well then I'd be happy to escort you there, my lady," Little bowed and extended his arm to her. She blushed and giggled as she took the arm. The man was sweet and he was being ever so kind. They went around the corner so they didn't go in front of Tonkin's booth and upset him further.
The old lady at the "Bread shop" was just about to close for the day when they got there.
"Hi Mrs. Nomy, I'm sorry I'm late."
"Oh my, I'm sorry I'm afraid I don't have anything for you today. Everyone seemed to want to buy bread today. I'm so sorry," Said the little baker.
"There's nothing? Do you have any of the flat bread; you always have that. Please I can't ... I've worked hard... ," Riana was going to cry. Her family was counting on that bread.
"I know you have child and I wish I could do better. I know how hard you work. I have only four of the flats left until after the bake in the morning." She pulled the small wrapped bundle out of her basket. "You take that and come by first thing in the morning and I give you three large loaves to take home."
Riana knew that three large loaves would keep them in bread for about a week and was a loaf more than she usually got. She walked over and hugging the baker. "Thank you Mrs. Nomy." She started to take the bundle but stopped. She also knew the little baker and the bundle would be part of her dinner that evening. "I can't take it. That's for your supper. You should keep it; you work harder than I do," Riana stepped back but it was hard.
Little just looked on, he knew the two women had forgotten about him, and the offer of the bread was generous but only if she had done a good deal of selling that day. When Riana turned down the small bundle of flat bread, he knew the girl's heart was true. He hatched a plan right then, to make sure that the girl, and her family would get two loaves a week, for a year, from the baker. If Riana stayed and continued as she was, it would be one worry off her mind.
"Child I know how things are for you and your family. Please I insist," Replied the little baker lady.
"No, it wouldn't be right. I'll see you in the morning," Riana turned and bumped right into Little's chest, and he had to grab her to keep her up right. "Oh I'm sorry sir," Riana paused and looked at the smiling baker, "Oh where are my manners. Mrs. Nomy this is..." again, Riana paused and looked at Little.
"Mr. Lee Tel. But don't let the name trick you," Little smiled. The little baker lady let out a good hearty laugh. Little said, "I'm afraid Riana's being late was partly my fault. Of your kindness, could tell me, if there is another baker that is still selling? I would thank you most graciously."
Mrs. Nomy was, taken a-back by the young man's charm. "Oh, well let me think. I think Mr. Carrick should still be working, but he's on the other side of town. Wait there is Mr. and Mrs. Larken. They do more pastries but they do have some, breads."
"There is Mr. Wells," Riana added.
"I would never send you down to his shop if you paid me 100 gold pieces. The hang-man's noose is to good for him," The little baker barked. She looked strait at Riana who cringed under the on slot and Little wandered just what that man had done to anger such a peaceful woman. "I won't even send you to that part of town. Please tell me you don't go there?"
"I live near that area. I don't go there but my mother sometimes has no choice. We can't afford to go other places," Riana hung her head in shame at how poor she and her family were.
Mrs. Nomy knew what she had said bothered the sweat child that had never stolen from her and worked very hard for what she could get. This time she moved to take hold of Riana. "I'm sorry dear. It's just that, I know what that man does, that makes me mad. If I could pay you more, I would. I really would, but with the Mr. Down with that chest cold of his ... It's all I can do to keep up with the bills."
"Mrs. Nomy, what does this Mr. Wells do that has you so ... disgusted with him, if I may ask."
"The man is a cheat and a scum that preys on the poor. He sells maggot and weevil infested flour, rice, and cornmeal. He claims his prices are low but at what he pays for the spoiled food, garbage that he takes in, and sells, he's making a fortune. What's worse is some of the other things he sells. Drugs, sex, I know he's tried to get his hands on this little one. I have a friend that tells me things. Some days I send poor Riana off on some of the strangest errands so that she isn't in curtain areas. He has his men sometimes round up young girls and boys to sell them as sex slaves. The magistrate won't do anything about it because they're getting kick backs, as well as freebees."
Little hated hearing things like this, he'd had his fill of it by the time he was ten years old, at the hands of his uncle. "That doesn't sound good at all. The man must have very good connections."
"He does. That's the whole problem."
Little was slowly growing more and more agitated. Again he knew it was really none of his business but it was just beyond him to know the people who's concern it was, were in on it.
Though it was warming his heart to know that the little baker lady cared enough about Riana to watch over her in such a way. No, he decided, something needed done.
"Riana if you would be kind enough to lead the way to the other bakery. It is getting late and with what I have learned I will not let you walk home alone."
"Sir, that's nice, but... ," Riana looked down, "I don't have the money to buy it."
Little knew it hurt her to say that but before he could do anything, the baker lady did. Mrs. Nomy reached into her pocket and took out a few coins, then handed them to the girl, "I would give you more but that might not be safe."
"Oh Mrs. Nomy, you don't have to..."
The little woman smiled and said, "Yes I do, I sold more than I should have, and I had a deal with you. I broke it. This is just compensation for the work you did. Now I'll not hear no more about it."
Riana was to overcome with surprise to respond. Little walked over, gave a hug to a very surprised woman, and slipped a gold piece into her pocket. He would still come back in the morning and arrange for the weekly bread. With a quick peek into the woman's mind he got the directions to their destination and taking hold of the stunned girl, he led her down the street.
As they walked Little felt, the girl's mind as it whirled and spun; sending out its confused thoughts. Little shielded them so it wouldn't go beyond him. "Riana you need to calm yourself. You're sending your thoughts out too wildly."
"Oh," Was all she said as she tried hard to control herself.
Over the past two months Riana had been slowly realizing that she could hear other people in her head; things that were not said aloud. It scared her at first but as she learned, it gave her the ability to know when she was coming into an area that was going to be a problem. That's when it came to her what the nice man had said.
"Yes Riana," Little said to her mind, "I can hear you. Just as one day you would be able to hear me and others, if we let you." Little smiled, "That's what I want to talk to you about. Actually, that was why I stepped in. You are at a dangerous time and you could be harmed as well as harm others."
"I would never hurt anyone!" Riana stated aloud.
"Think your responses. We don't what the world to know. There are those that would love to get their hands on you."
"Then what ... What do you want with me?" Riana asked as she looked at Little.
Little smiled, "At the time it was to help you get away from that merchant. Now it is to see that you get training. It's something I do from time to time."
"I've seen the damage that can be done. When I was younger, I met a young man that was just coming into his powers, just as you are, but this young man's gifts came on fast. One afternoon a gang of boys attacked him. After about ten hits, the poor kid went crazy. His power manifested as fire. He fried the boys in the gang but it didn't stop there. The wave grew and grew. Three city blocks in every direction were set a blaze.
I don't know if he realized what he was doing or not, but a second wave washed over the area putting out most of the fire. He stood in the middle of all of that for a moment more then fell to the ground dead."
Little paused and looked at Riana. She had tears running down her face. Little stopped and took her into his arms, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean ... Please don't cry."
"That poor boy."
"It's alright. Please don't cry. I hate to see pretty girls cry. I'll never let that happen to you. I swear," Little said aloud.
Riana was about to say something when she sat up in his arms and looked around. She grew cold with fear, "We have to go back. I..."
"Riana, is it alright to look through your mind and see what you see?" Little asked as he turned and went a different way.
"Just open your mind a little more. Don't fight it."
With that, he saw what had scared her. Just a few blocks from where they had been were a group of men. They were harassing people as they went by.
"Good girl. Let's get passed them and I want you to go on to the baker's. These men need to be stopped."
"Please don't leave me. Those men would hurt you bad if you... , " she cried.
"Don't you worry, I won't get hurt but those men need to be stopped, and they need to learn they can't do what they're doing."
Little had been moving faster than Riana had been expecting and they were now just a few safe blocks away from the baker's shop. Little put Riana down; "You go on and wait for me there. I mean it. Don't leave until I get there. Do you understand?"
Riana was going to argue but thought better of it when she looked at him. She suddenly had the idea that the bad men didn't stand a chance.
Riana held him a little longer. "I understand. Please don't be long," Then turned and walked away.
Little felt the girl's fear ease but he wasn't sure if it was for his safety or out fear that he wouldn't be coming back for her. He sent a soft caress to her mind as he made his way down to where the men were.
The men were right where they had been but now they were picking on an old lady. That was enough for him. He walked right into it.
Little grabbed the arm holding the old lady's bag out of her reach. "That is no way to treat a lady," Little said, as he took the bag. He released the man and moved next to the woman, and handed it back, "Come Grandmother, on you way now."
Little walked her though the group, then gently pushed her to keep her going. The old lady took the hint and kept moving.
Little stayed between the men, who were just barely that, and the woman. The men had been so in shock that it wasn't until the old lady was gone that they woke up.
"Who you think you are? Fuckin with us!" One said.
"Ya, you fuckin put yo fuckin hands on me!"
Little turned. The look he gave the men made them take a step back. "You want to try and hurt me?" he said in an even deeper voice. "I would clean the streets with you. You should go home and be thankful I'm feeling generous."
A man came running at him with a raised club. When the club came down Little just caught it.
"That was very rude!"
Quick as lightening, he took the club and broke it with just three fingers. After that, it was a free-for-all. With Little telling the men the proper way to behave.
In the end, only Little stood; 6 men lay moaning on the ground. Little walked over to the leader, "You have gotten a taste of what I can do. I will be by this area again. If I find you here harassing anyone again; the little pain you are in now won't matter."
Little let his eyes manifest a glow and filled the man's mind with fear then stood and walked away.
Riana felt the nice man's mind touch her mind and it helped to take the fear away. What was really, strange was how comfortable the man made her feel.
Riana reached the store and walked in. It was slightly unnerving to her. She usually came and went by the back door; if she needed to come here at all. Quickly, and belatedly, she looked at the coins. She had two half pieces and three quarter pieces of copper. That would be enough for a small loaf and that would get her family through the night.
There was one customer in the shop so Riana waited patently. It wasn't a long wait and soon the woman left.
"Why Riana, what are you doing on this side of town? Especially, at this time of night. It's dangerous out there for young girls like you," said the baker.
"I need to buy some bread. Mrs. Nomy ran out before she realized it."
"I can understand that. I've had quite a number of sales today myself. Well how much do you have and we'll see what we can do."
"I have one and a quarter coppers, sir," Riana said, hoping she could keep the rest, and get some veggies the next day.
"Well let's see," The man looked over his stock. Mr. Carrick knew Riana worked hard to help her family. He also knew the girl would not have come all this way if she didn't need the bread. He had paid Riana a time or two for errands that she had done for him or his wife, but now...
"You know, I have something in the back from the last bake that came out all wrong. I'll sell that to you for the copper and not a quarter more. How's that strike you?"
"Really? If it's all right, I'd like to see them. Not that I don't... ," Riana looked down embarrassed at what she said to his offer.
To her surprise he laughed, "You're a good girl. There's nothing wrong with checking your purchases before you buy them. I'll get them and be right back." Mr. Carrick turned and went into the back room.
Riana stayed in the front of the store and looked at the different breads. However, something was beginning to bother Riana. She cautiously looked out the windows to the street but couldn't see anything. That was when she heard her named called.
"Riana, can you come back here and give me a hand."
Riana thought that sounded funny, "Is everything alright Mr. Carrick?"
"Yes and no. I dropped some roles and they went under one of the selves. I was hoping you could get them for me. My arms are too fat to reach them."
Riana giggled and took three steps towards the back when her sense of danger kicked in full force again, this time stronger, and coming from the back room.
Even though it would be breaking her promise to the nice man, she wasn't staying. She moved quickly to the front door and out even as she heard Mr. Carrick call her name again.
She was two doors down and hiding when a mad looking baker came out the door. Riana just sat there shaking, nearly sick that someone she trusted would want to hurt her.
She wasn't sure how long she sat there but finally she calmed and let her mind reach out to find the nice man. She found him and he was coming in her direction.
Little was three doors down from the baker's when he felt Riana's mind. Three more steps and he stopped. Riana ran to him and through herself into his arms.
Little was surprised, "Riana why aren't you at the baker's? What's wrong sweetheart?"
"I don't know. Something bad was going to happen. I had to get out of there!" she cried.
Little soothed her for a bit more. "It's just not your day, today, is it? Lets go back to the baker's and see what's going on."
"Please I don't want to go. Please, I..."
"Honey, I know you're scared. I need to know what scared you. You might not be the only one it's happened too or will happen too."
Riana nodded but would not let go of Little. Little moved her to the side better to carry her then walked the rest of the way to the Mr. Carrick 's Shop.
Little had to shield Riana again. What ever had scared her, had unnerved her enough that not only her thoughts were going out, but so were her emotions, and that could really be dangerous for her.
One-step inside the shop told Little what had scared Riana. The man behind the counter glared at Riana then changed his expression when he saw Little's face.
"Riana, what happened? Why did you run out? I thought you were coming in to the back to help me," Mr. Carrick asked.
Riana clung tighter to Little as she could still feel the danger coming from the baker.
"Riana I would like an answer. And who is this?" Mr. Carrick looked at Little.
"I'm a family friend. I was walking by when Riana ran out of your shop. Something scared her something awful. What's worse she hasn't said anything to me about it. What could have happened here that scared her that badly?" Little asked but he knew. The man had wanted Riana for sometime but his wife was always there. Now with her sick he thought he would take the chance.
"Oh Riana, you should have told me you were scared. I wouldn't have left you out here alone. I'm sorry. I have that bread I was going to sell you right here." The baker pulled the two loaves out and placed them on the counter. Little looked them over carefully. The loaves didn't look too bad but they didn't look all that good either. More importantly, they did not smell to good.
"No, I don't think that will do," Little looked in the display, "I'll have two of the long loaves and two of the sweet loaves."
Little haggled over the price and with a mental push came out the better. He would deal with Mr. Carrick later when he could think of something appropriate. Little took the bread and left.
"Sir you didn't have to buy the bread... ," Riana started.
"I know I didn't but the bread he was offering smelled strange. I didn't want to take the chance. Now lets get you home."
Riana felt the nice man peek into her mind to find the directions to her house.
"Sir, can I ask you something?"
"I think that would be okay. Ask away."
"Sir ... What's your real name?"
Little chucked, "I was wondering when you were going to ask that. Now do you want the name I go by or do you want the real one?"
"Well, while I'm in town I usually go by Mr. Lee Tel, as I told the lady baker, but my mother though I was the cutest Little thing she had ever seen. So she named me Little."
Riana lost it. "You Little," She choked out as she cracked up laughing.
"And she delights in using it. But if you do I'll tickle you," Little glared at her, which only succeeded in making her laugh more. They reached Riana's home still laughing.
"Riana, where have you ... Oh who's this? Riana is everything okay? Are you alright?" Riana's mother asked as she came out of the little house.
Little put Riana down and she ran to her mom. "Oh momma, I'm sorry I'm late. Today was not a good day. First Merchant Tonkin thought I stole from him. It was Bobby and his friends, Mr. Tel came by and helped me. Because of that, I was late getting to Mrs. Nomy's but she had sold out of bread. Mr. Tel walked me to Mr. Carrick's shop because Mrs. Nomy gave me a little to get something for the night. We want around Greggor and his gang," Riana looked to little and smiled, "And then we were at Mr. Carrick's, I told him how much I had, and he offered some day old stuff. I thought that would have been fine, but Mr. Tel didn't think it was good enough so he got some good stuff."
Madeline was in shock, "Oh god, baby, Oh thank you sir." Hugging her daughter too her again.
"It really was nothing ma'am. Riana's been a good girl and from what Mrs. Nomy said she's a very hard worker." Little proudly announced.
"She is. I'm very proud of her."
"Riana, come and get the bread, " Little said to Riana's mind.
"Oh ya, Look what Mr. Tel got for us." Said Riana as she moved from her mom, took the bread, and opened the sack.
"Oh my, that's very generous of you, sir. How can we ever repay you?"
Little was going to answer but stopped to watch a little boy come running out of the house holding his finger.
"OU!!! ... Momma!!! ... OU!!"
"Well what happened?" Madeline knelt down.
"Sissy bite! Sissy Bite!"
"Where did she bite you?" Madeline was trying very hard not to laugh as she could see his red finger and the teeth marks. She also knew her son liked to tease his sister and she only bit when she was really mad.
"Finger!" said the little boy as he held it up.
Madeline looked at it closely, "And how did she do that?"
"With her mouth."
"And how did she get your finger in her mouth?"
"She put it there."
That was all Little could take and he started laughing and just couldn't stop. Riana and Madeline weren't far behind.
When Madeline stopped laughing, she kissed her son's finger and sent him back inside with two pieces of sweet bread, with the orders to give one to his sister.
"Please won't you come in, sir? We don't have much but for what you did for Riana... ," Madeline offered.
"Actually, I need to see someone yet this evening but there are a few things that we need to talk about, and I'll stop by tomorrow if that's all right? If so I'll bid you good night."
As Little started to turn Riana ran to him. "Please stay. Please!"
"Sweetheart, I will see you tomorrow but there's another very special lady I need to see or she'll have my Little hide for a door mat," Little said and waited to see if Riana caught it. She did and started giggling.
"Ok, we can't have your little hide used as a door mat," The giggles turned into a belly laugh.
"Remember Riana, I'm only a thought away. If you need me, I'll hear your. Stay away from Mr. Carrick's shop even if you have to tell Mrs. Nomy that he was looking at you funny. And don't worry I'll take care of that too."
Riana had already been hugging him, "Oh thank you, thank you. I promise I'll stay away from there. I work with Mrs. Nomy in the morning then I work with Lady Chi, She has a seamstress/tailoring shop over on Stitch Street."
"If I don't catch you at Mrs. Nomy's. I'll see you at Lady Chi's."
Little kissed the top of Riana's head, "You go on in and eat. You tummy is growling louder than a grumpy dragon."
Giggling and laughing again Riana hugged him one last time and followed her mother inside.
Little turned and headed for the inn to meet his mother.
Little hadn't planned to see his mother that night but she had been in town longer and finding her was only a matter of a moment and the reaching out of his mind.
"Mother, I hate to bother you but I need some help."
"What is it baby?"
"You've been in this area for a year or so. How bad has it gotten? I mean I've heard a few things and I don't like what I'm hearing."
"Like any city it has it's good years and it's bed. I've seen more theft, vandalism, and gangs over the last year. A few more rumors of kidnappings."
Little proceeded to tell his mother all that had happened and all that had occurred.
"Oh that poor dear. I take it you want to see to her training?"
"Actually, I was thinking of the twins. Remember they started that school."
"Oh that's right. That might be better, I think... , " Seleena paused.
"Well with how you described the little one I think she might be developing a crush on you." Seleena giggled mentally.
"What? Mom! She's a baby!"
"You said yourself she's about 12. She's at that age. Her abilities wouldn't be awakening if she hadn't started her monthlies. Just let her down gently."
"Mom do you really ... Of course you do. And you're most likely right; But what to do about the magistrate and this Mr. Wells?"
"Lets get together tomorrow evening, bring the girl and her family. They'll be in danger too. Tell them your taking them out to dinner. I still have that property just east of the river about an hour from town."
"Good, I'll arrange a carriage from the stables on Chandler. The girl is supposed to help some seamstress named Chi in the afternoon."
"She does good work. I'll go by in the morning and see her. Talk her into letting the girl out of work for the day."
"That would work. I'm going to Mrs. Nomy's in the morning but if I can talk the family into going then that will save me. Otherwise I'll arrange for the two loaves a week for them."
"You are one of the best kids. Get some sleep."
"Yes mommy," He ended laughing as he entered the inn.
The two smallest were in bed and Riana would be following soon but Madeline had to know just what was going on with her daughter.
"Baby, I need to ask you some questions."
"Who is Mr. Lee Tel? Did he touch you or do anything to you?"
"Oh no momma. He wouldn't do that; he kept me from being hurt. He's special momma; Really, special. He made me feel so safe."
"Baby, have you been having those feelings again?"
Riana looked at her mother and saw the concern. "Yes momma. The feelings keep me safe. I can stay away from the gangs and ... and Mr. Wells and his men."
"Have you told anyone?"
"No, and I won't, momma. I know there are people and creatures out there that would want to hurt and use me because of them."
"And what of Mr. Tel. What if he..."
"He's not like that! I would know if he was, momma. Please believe me."
"I do but then what does he want to talk to us about?"
"I..." Riana looked at her mother. There were two things she was known for, not stealing being the first, and never telling a lie. "I ... He felt ... no that's the wrong word. He heard me. I can just barley feel him and I think that's because he's letting me, so I can feel better. He's strong momma, real strong but he's so gentle and sweet."
Madeline watched her daughter and saw the starting of a big crush, which meant the poor girl's first broken heart.
"Has he been in your mind?"
Riana nodded, "Three times I think, but they were only peeks. The first to help with merchant Tonkin, then to see what had triggered that danger thing as we were walking to Mr. Carrick, lastly, to bring me home because he let me see how he pushed Mr. Carrick into a cheaper price, and I was laughing so hard I couldn't talk. If you say his name fast, it sounds like little. He's just too big to be a little."
Riana started giggling again and covered her mouth quickly so as not to make too much noise.
'Yep, she's hooked, ' Madeline thought. "Well, we still need to be careful. We can talk more later. Off to bed."
The two hugged and Riana went to bed.