The person knocking on the door appeared to be a girl, wearing nothing but stitched up rags in various colors. Her orangish brown hair was unkempt, and it went down to her neck. She also smelled horrible, like a person who has not bathed in weeks. Donna was well familiar with this girl, and invited her in. Donna then shouted at Darlene, who was still conversing with Nicolas upstairs. “Darlene! Ruby’s here!”
Back upstairs in Darlene’s bedroom, Donna caught her attention. “Okay! Just bring her upstairs!” She then turned to Nicolas. “We’ll have to continue this conversation later.”
Nicolas frowned, and gave Darlene a look of bewilderment. “Who is Ruby?”
Darlene couldn’t help but smile. “Ruby is a real nice girl. One whom I get all my information from.”
“Information about what?”
Darlene brought her face close to Nicolas. “She’s a streetear.”
“A really good streetear,” a voice responded from behind them, which shocked both Nicolas and Darlene.
They both turned to see a girl standing there, with Donna.
Nicolas then took a careful look at the girl. She was a grungy little street urchin that Nicolas figured to be slightly younger than Ruth, his lifelong friend that he talked to back in Tulin Square. If he were to pinpoint an age, he would guess that she would be about ten. Now this girl was odd to Nicolas, as he had never seen a streetear that was a female. He has seen his share of male streetears running around the streets of Tulin, but this streetear was another story. Looking down at her in disbelief, he blurted out, “You’re a girl streetear?”
The streetear stared Nicolas straight in the eye. “What’s wrong with a girl streetear, huh?” she shouted. “Do you have a problem with that?” Ruby gave Nicolas a shove, which sent him to the ground. At the sight of this, she playfully giggled.
Nicolas stared up at Ruby from the ground, gasping. The girl has a lot of spunk! He found her no-nonsense attitude and tomboyish behavior surprising. “I’m sorry, Ruby. I’ve just never seen one before.”
Ruby walked up to Nicolas and stared down at him. “You have now. Get used to it.” She then turned to Darlene. “I have some news for you.” The streetear sat down and held out her hand, expecting money.
Darlene went to her wardrobe and grabbed a small bag that was loaded with gold coins. She walked over to Ruby and sat down. “And I have some more gold coins for you. Tell away, Ruby.” She placed a few gold coins in Ruby’s hand.
“The more you give, the more I tell.” Ruby grinned, placing the gold coins in her bag. “What you have given me has earned you the news that I am about to tell you.
“Last night, near Saris Castle, some Saris soldiers brought in a prisoner from Tulin. This Tulinite was a boy, and was placed in the dungeon until they were ready to interrogate him. He was stripped down to his underwear and was violently thrown into a cell. In spite of this, he was still unconscious during this time.”
Nicolas held his hand out at Ruby and shook his head in disbelief. “Wait a second,” he scowled. “How are you getting all this information?”
Ruby smirked, in response to this question. “There are several hidden passageways in that castle. Passageways that only I know the whereabouts of. And let’s just say that I happened to be in the right place at the right time. Now do you wanna hear the rest of the story?”
Everyone nodded. Ruby however, just sat there and shook her head. “Na-ah.” She held out her hand again. “Give me some more coins, and I’ll tell you.” The streetear said.
An important thing one should know about Ruby, or any good streetear for that matter, is how they give you their information. When you pay them, they will surely give you news. The problem however, is that they will, at any time they wish, ask for additional money in order for them to tell you more of the news, until the whole story is told. This shrewd practice has resulted in a few streetears becoming wealthy. And it is because of this practice that streetears are considered unpopular among the poor and less fortunate.
Darlene, who was very well familiar with the way Ruby worked, plopped a few more gold coins into her hand.
Ruby stared at the small pile of gold coins in her hands, making sure it was enough. “Thank you.” She placed the coins into her bag and continued. “The Tulinite was taken away to be interrogated. To put the story short, he knew nothing and was stabbed to death. The body was thrown out of the castle, and remained within the castle gates to be disposed of in the bone yard later.”
Darlene frowned when Ruby suddenly stopped speaking. “And?”
Ruby shook her head and sighed. “And what? That’s all I know! In my hiding place, I fell asleep. When I woke up, the body was gone!”
Nicolas could stay silent no longer. He tapped Ruby on the shoulder and cleared his throat. “That’s not the whole story. For one thing, I’m the ‘body’ that those Saris idiots left in the castle for dead! To finish the st-“
“Wait!” shouted Ruby, who was now shocked and terrified. “How were you brought back to life? Now that you mentioned it, you do look familiar. But I have no idea how you could’ve been brought back to life. Are you some kind of ghost, or something?”
Nicolas frowned. “Can ghosts do this?” He touched one of her rags, and Ruby shook her head. “Okay. Now let me finish my story. From what I can recall, the next thing I remembered was waking up in this bedroom. Now according to what Darlene has told me, somebody carried my body out of the castle walls. They left me near this house and Donna found me. Both Donna and Darlene carried me to this bedroom. And.…”
“….I prayed.” Darlene interrupted, continuing the story. “And with the hand of The Master, he was brought back to life.”
Ruby marveled at hearing the story. She was especially moved when she heard that The Master revived Nicolas. “Amazing story. That reminds me….” And from behind her rags, she pulled out a book. “I found a copy of the Copian scriptures when I was inside the castle gates. I only know about this book ‘cause my parents used to have a book that looked like this. I can’t read so I don’t really have any use for this.”
At the sight of seeing that book, Nicolas gasped. “That’s mine.” he said. “That was one of the things I took with me when I fled from home.”
When Ruby heard this, she smiled and held out her hand in front of Nicolas. “That’ll be 500 gold coins.”
Nicolas lunged at the streetear, who tried to keep the book away from him. “Give me that book! I shouldn’t have to pay to get my book back!”
After playing keep-away for a short while, Ruby held out the book. “I’m only joking.” she giggled. “Can’t you take a joke? Here’s your book.” And with that, she handed the Copian scriptures back to Nicolas, who then placed it on the table, near his empty cup. Ruby then directed her attention back at Darlene. “I still have some more news for you. Would you like to hear it?”
Darlene nodded, which prompted Ruby to hold her hand out again. Darlene dropped another handful of gold coins into her hand. Ruby frowned, waving her other hand down at the hand filled with coins. With this hand, she sharply pointed at the coins. It wasn’t enough. Politely nodding, Darlene placed another small handful of gold coins in Ruby’s hand. Ruby gleefully smiled, and placed the coins in her bag, which was now full.
Noticing this, Ruby bunched the end of the bag and tied it shut. She then took the bag, and lifting one of several patches of her stitched garments, placed the bag inside, like a pocket. Ruby reached into another one of her patch-pockets and pulled out an empty bag. “Now this bit of news cost a little bit more, but trust me. It will be worth every bit you gave me, as this will really shock you….”
“Wait!” Nicolas interrupted, gazing at the all the colored patches of Ruby’s stitched garments. “Are all those patches pockets?”
Ruby, in response to this, sighed. It wasn’t the question that Nicolas asked. It was the very fact that she wanted to get on with her story. Darlene understood this frustration, for she knew how valuable time was for a streetear. And if it was anything that Ruby hated, it was having her time wasted by someone who lacked the knowledge of how a streetear conducts business. “Every one of them is, okay?” The streetear scowled. “How do you expect us to carry around what we make, huh? Now let me get back to my story already!
“Here’s the shocker. Just a few hours ago, in the morning, some Saris soldiers have captured Princess Saris. The reason for her capture was that she was caught spying on her father, King Saris. They threw her into the dungeon, where she remains now. She will be executed tonight.”
When Darlene heard this news, her mouth dropped wide open. “Tonight?” she gasped. “I’ve always known from your news that the king was corrupt. But why would he do this to his own daughter?”
Ruby shook her head and frowned. “I could not tell you. If I knew, you would have been paying me a whole lot of gold coins to find out. Since I first started as a streetear, the king has always been like this.”
Darlene placed her hand on Ruby’s shoulder. “Well, it’s nothing that is within our control. The Master is in control, though. Now I understand the importance of you time. Do you have any other news?”
Ruby nodded, and gave her a rather bright smile. “I have one more story for ya. And this one’s expensive. I’ll even tell you what it’s about, for free.”
“Let’s hear it,” Darlene said.
“Okay. I know where the Seed Relic is. That’s all you’re gonna get for free. Do you still want to hear it?”
Darlene nodded. “Tell away.”
This time, Ruby held out both her hands together, with a rather large smirk on her face. “Let’s see it.”
Darlene poured the rest of her bag of gold coins into Ruby’s outstretched palms. Ruby cleared her throat impatiently, as Darlene ran and fetched another bag of gold coins out of her wardrobe. She poured the bag of coins until they spilled out of Ruby’s hand and onto the floor. Quite pleased now, Ruby scooped up all the coins, filling her empty bag, and gathered all the coins that spilled on the floor. She placed these coins into her bag and tied the bag shut. She placed the loaded bag into another one of her patch-pockets.
“Thank you.” Ruby said. “Now I heard last night from King Saris and General Tarmis where this Seed Relic is that they keep talking about.
“The Seed Relic is far north in Tulin. Some Saris soldiers got this information out of some Tulin nobles. King Tulin has the other half of the relic, and is nowhere to be found in Tulin Castle.”
“There’s two halves to this relic?” Nicolas asked.
“Of course.” Ruby said, as she continued. “I know that the Power Relic here in Saris is made up of two parts. The scepter and the plaque. The plaque looks like a tiny shield and displays a picture representing the emblem of power: a lightning bolt.”
“All the relics have two parts.” Darlene said. “This, I knew from studying the Copian Scriptures. “What I didn’t know was that Saris is looking for the Seed Relic. Do you have any other information on the Seed Relic?”
“That’s all I have,” Ruby said. “You paid for everything that I knew about the Seed Relic. That’s it.”
Darlene nodded and placed her hand on Ruby’s shoulder. “As always, thank you for updating me with the news. How has business been today?”
“Good as usual,” Ruby proudly boasted. “All my other usual customers are paying me pretty well. And so are you. You have just bought me a nice dinner. A real nice dinner. As always, thank you for the gold coins! I’ll catch ya later!”
And with that, the streetear merrily skipped out of the room and down the stairs. Darlene returned the partially full bag to her wardrobe.
Nicolas was appalled at Ruby’s behavior. She was certainly a surprise from the start, but her greed and arrogance really got to him. For her, it was all about money, and how often she could hose people. When she received the money, she made sure that she rubbed it right in their face. That snotty brat! Finally, Nicolas spoke up. “How could you let her get away with so much of your money?”
“Nicolas,” Darlene said, with a sigh. “That’s just the way Ruby is. I know that she can act arrogant at times, but that’s just her. She has lived on the street for quite a while, and that’s just how streetears conduct their business.”
“By being greedy and arrogant?” Nicolas retorted. “How can you call such behavior ‘business-like’? Why, her parents would be outraged! They should hold her down, and give her a good spanking!”
“Her parents are dead.” Darlene argued. “They both died from catching disease on the streets. Ruby told me the whole story.
“When Ruby was two, her parents ran out of money. This forced them to sell their house and live on the streets. They lost everything but the clothes on their backs. They only had a little money left to buy food, but that was it.
“Near the food markets, they used Ruby to beg for food. At the sight of seeing a such a poor baby, many people took pity on the child and gave them some food. On a couple instances, some vendors felt so awful that they bought some of the food they sold and gave it to the family. Using Ruby worked for a while, but it wouldn’t work much longer.
“When Ruby was three, her father taught her how to beg. He also taught her how to steal, which was done every now and then. He knew that the time would come when begging wouldn’t work anymore. As time passed, Ruby got better at stealing, which was good for them, since begging was becoming less and less effective.
“Suddenly, a horrible disease swept the city. Ruby’s parents became sick and eventually died. At age five, Ruby had to learn to make it on her own. She stole food to survive and did this for a year.
At age six-and-a-half, Ruby was still stealing food. While sitting next to the wall of a house, she overheard some people talking. While she didn’t understand the information that was being said, she listened carefully. On her way to steal some more food, she repeated everything she heard from the conversation that she heard earlier. She didn’t know what she was saying, but she thought that it was funny. A person nearby told her that she had some valuable information, and that they would pay her for it. With that, she started listening to everyone. Being careful on who she talked to, she approached people and they paid her for her information.
“And the rest is history. At ten, Ruby is making a real good living for herself. You owe me a good apology for everything you said about her. I would hardly call her greedy and arrogant. It’s who she is and how she was raised. She’s actually pretty nice once you get to know her.”
Nicolas was overwhelmed and heartbroken. And being at a loss for words, he didn’t know what to say. He had no idea what Ruby had to go through. He took the entire story in and pondered it. The more he pondered, the worse he felt about what he said. His eyes began to mist and he sniffed. Now was the time to apologize. “I….” he gulped, choking back a sob. “I had no idea at all that she was raised like this! I’m sorry, and I take back everything that I said!”
Darlene smiled, and she embraced Nicolas. “Apology accepted.”
©2011 K. L. Walker