He is a bad man. The thoughts flashed through Penelope head as she watches the War Hero General parade around to the cheers of people surrounding him, she would have liked to think that she was mistaken with her quick judgement of the man but she knew she wasn’t. Her father had told her to trust her instinct, he told her that it was the only thing she could trust in life and right now her instinct told her that this man in front of her was no good.
Of course her instincts has let her do some foolish things too, like running away from home only to arrive in the lion den because she had thought it would be safer. From her crime yes but for her survival? She is doing a poor job at it, it has barely being three months since she left home and came to the empire capital and yet she was already half starved to death, her bones showing but the goodness with her new appearance is that she had lost some of the baby fat she had on her and that made her look more like a street boy which she was pretending to be. The streets is no place for girls, she knew this fact more than she should. Penelope closed her eyes as she tried to block out the scene she had witness a week ago from evading her mind, the scene giving her sleepless nights but she couldn’t.
A slave was r***d in her presence by so many boys, people she stayed on the street with. She could do nothing other than report to the guards she saw, by the time they returned, the girl was already half dead. Penelope heard later on that the girl died when she was returned to her master’s house, her wrists were slit and the case was covered as a suicide.
Penelope knew better.
“Watch where you are going. Fly.” A big bully spat at out Penelope, shoving her aside even though she had done nothing to him, when Penelope glared at him he turned to face her.
“What? You have something to say?” He taunts.
Penelope gritted her teeth and gave a stiff head shake and turned to leave the place, this particular bully had been after her since she arrived to join his gang of followers and Penelope knew she couldn’t keep anybody close, no when they were the ones who was going to sell her out if she slipped up and mistakenly let them see that she is a girl.
“General Cain is amazing, he will be the best prime minister to go down in history.” Penelope stops as she heard those words from two middle class girls who were gushing and gossiping, she was just like them. full of hopes and dreams, had opinions which didn’t matter but could air then, a best friend who was thick just like her and then one unwanted attention and everything went down the drain.
“What are you staring it?” One of them noticed Penelope lost in thoughts looking at their direction.
Her words jolted Penelope back into herself. “Nothing Milady, please spare a coin for a hungry fellow.” Penelope bowed her head and used a pitiful tone to say her words.
“Go… we don’t have coins for the likes of you…” one of them started in a brag filled tone.
“Wait, he is hungry, sure we can spare something.” The other said with some sympathy and reached into her bag to give Penelope, leftover sandwich.
It was more food than Penelope had eaten in two days. “Thank you.” she whispered with tears in her eyes as she snatched it out of the girl hand and hurried away from the fringes of the crowd to the empty stalls where she sat down and continued to eat the meal she had already started to eat on her way there. Her cheeks were growing wetter as she ate in a hurry but she didn’t care.
“Poor boy.” She heard one of the girls whispered.
“I am sure that all he ever did wrong was to be an orphan. Come the emperor is giving a speech.” The other tutted as they moved on.
Penelope chewed slowly down casted by their words. My parents are very much alive, all I ever did wrong was to kill a man.
She continued with her food as she watched the crowd hurrying forward to hear the Emperor words even though it wasn’t possible for them to, they were too far away but whatever the emperor said will be passed mouth to mouth and it would get to her ears soon enough. As she watched the crowd move around her, that was how she saw the symbol from her father amour, when he still had one. The golden raven. It was on the cane of an old man who was slowly walking the opposite direction with some men walking behind him, listening to every word he was saying.
As they passed her she got the tail end of their discussion. “…the emperor is making a mistake, he shouldn’t have just done what he did, there is no need for us to listen to more. The new Prime minister is out to get us…”
“The golden raven.” She whispered as her mind took her back to when she was little.
“Papa. What is that?” a younger version of herself asked the man who had always and will always have her back.
“That, my dear little one is the symbol of brave men who upholds justice at any course, they are the real hero. The ones who suffer behind the scenes.” Her father replied with a limp as he sat down besides her, he couldn’t keep standing for much longer then, not unless he wanted to destroy his leg completely.
“Like you papa.” Penelope peers at her father who nodded his reply with a smile playing on his lips.
“Boy, I asked you a question, do you know the symbol?” The man stopped and asked her as Penelope cheeks turned red.
“No Sire, what does a lowly nobody like me know of a symbol like that?” Penelope bowed her head, holding her breathe and hoping that the man would leave, she shouldn’t draw attention to herself in any way.
“Your status doesn’t stop your knowledge. And how will I know what you know if you don’t tell me boy.” The man replied.
“The golden Raven was the symbol of men who upholds justice no matter the temptation not to, the ones who are the real hero.” Penelope mentions as the man snorted.
“You have the seasoned truth, the one who is easier to swallow. Let me keep you with your rose colored view on the world.”
“My views on the world is not rose colored, I have gone through so many things which you cannot say you have gone through.” Penelope flared up.
“This brat… how dare you?” One of the men following the man started forward like he would like to thrash Penelope who shrank back from him.
“Leave him alone, he is right after all. What is your name boy?” the man asked.
“Penn.” Penelope replied.
“That is a very unusual name Penn.” The man said as Penelope just nodded but didn’t say anything again. “What are the things you have gone through that you think I didn’t?” The man asked with a patronizing tone which made Penelope temper to flare up again.
“I live on the streets for something which I had no control over, I experience hunger and it is a feeling that I am always with, I battle every day for my life and in the end of it all, I am not welcomed home as a hero or given the right to have a golden raven as a show of status because the battles I fight everyday has become my own twisted version of home through no choice of mine.” Penelope finished ranting only to shrink back away from the man apologizing.
“I am sorry sire, please let me go, I will never appear in front of you again.”
“You are right. I like your spirit Boy, I think you will do better in a good environment.” The man offers but she shifted back, bumping into the walls, she couldn’t accept it, not when it meant that her secret will have a bigger chance of being exposed and then she will die in the way she often had nightmares about. No! The streets were a necessary danger. The offer sounded like a liberation… it would have been one if she was a guy but no, she is a girl. It is not salvation for her but doom.
Penelope shook her head. “No sire, I won’t. I am where I can be.” With those words she lowered her head in a bow to the man as she darted to the side, she needed to take a bath, remind herself that she is a woman and that she had no place in that offer.
The man liked her spirit because she was a boy, the only thing liked about women is their bodies. And it is taken by force when the woman has no man to fight or defend her honor. She felt the man watching her, she just hoped that he didn’t feel affronted by her refusal, she knew that it was far from the last time she would see that man in her life.