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He Might Have Managed It, But For The Lizard

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It hadn't always been like this.

When he was a child, it had been okay. He was brought up well, child of a good tradesman family, below the radar of the Children. His parents were fine upstanding citizens, selling bread and pottery out of a little workshop on a bustling city street. Sometimes the patrols came by and asked if everything was okay. Some of them were friendly; some of them were self-important; some of them wanted bribes. When he was old enough to go to market on his own, they sent him to the local branch of the Lightist Youth when he didn't have errands to run. The pointless marching up and down was a bit strange, but mostly he had fun at their meetings and rallies.

One day he came home to a burnt-down workshop. Not quite knowing what to do about this, he wandered the streets aimlessly until a CotL patrol arrested him for vagrancy.

His overnight stay in the CotL cell block was very illuminating. Naive and biddable, but also obviously nimble and tough, he was effortlessly recruited by the criminal underworld. When morning brought the end of curfew and the Children let him out of the cells, he knew exactly where to go and who to report to.

Despite his law-abiding start to life, the eight-year-old took to the ways of crime like a duck to water. Noting his exceptional natural talent for stealth, the gang who had recruited him took good care of the growing lad, hoping to have an excellent asset for many years to come.

He'd had different ideas. After carefully growing up under the umbrella organisation's shelter, learning all they could teach him, he disappeared.

Living as a ghost in the well-oiled machine of a prosperous Teutonian market town wasn't a bad life. He stole what he needed, careful to take a little from here and a little from there, nothing that would bring down a serious investigation. He slept in the abandoned places that the hastily-expanding architecture afforded in great plenty. Somewhere along the line, he forgot his name. It wasn't important. Identity, communication, it just pinned you down - pinned you down to something you might miss when it was taken away.

He might have continued this way until age or infirmity caused a misstep, then capture or sudden death, if it had not been for the lizard.

It was a daft thing, a useless thing, abandoned in one of those dusty places between buildings that had been walled up from both sides. A child's toy, pathetic. But as he looked at it, a strange feeling came over him, and he snatched it up, binding it securely in fabric and tying it to his belt.

He never parted with it, but neither did he pay it much attention, until the dreams began.

They were unremarkable, at first. A road out of the city, some countryside, a forest. A journey remarkable only for its mundanity, not having the disjointed pace of his usual dream: cutscenes of chases through the city streets. But night after night it was the same, and gradually fading into the now-familiar images, a whispering:

"My shadow, my shade, my stalker of the city streets; my children have need of you. The time for fading is over - only follow, only guide my children."

At first he tried to ignore them, and he might have managed it, but for the lizard. Whilst it had no obvious connection to the dreams, its slight weight on his belt reminded him constantly of the whispering voice.

Finally, he gathered his courage and set out for the unknown forest, the directions for the journey burned into the back of his eyelids by the constant dreams.