There were two children. The one Fur had heard was curled up on the ground, knees pressed to chest. A scrawny pup, no older than six or seven. Blood poured from his nose, staining the tattered jerkin he wore. The second one was slightly older and bigger and he was looming over the crying lad. Fur got the sense that he was a bully; he certainly carried himself like one. He clutched a stuffed animal in his hand, a crude looking toy cat. Fur had a good sense what had happened, but he didn’t want to be hasty. Children could be fickle, and the Ithecal didn’t want to just assume that the bigger boy was the villain in this scene. Though it certainly seemed to be that.
Fur creeped closer, hugging the shadows cast by the two story home to his left, until he was close enough to hear their conversation. The younger child spoke through his tears, reaching out for the toy. “Please, Gerald! Its my sister’s and she’s gonna miss it.”
Gerald kicked the hand away, balling his hand into a fist. The other child flinched. “I don’t care, its mine now!”
“You can have my toys, any of them. Just not that one.” The child tried to roll into a kneeling position, but Gerald shoved him back down. “Olive needs it. She don’t know I took it.”
“Don’t. Care.” Gerald turned to leave, shaking off the weak hands that wrapped around his ankle. The child cries intensified. The bully began to run a moment later.
It was such a small thing, in the scope of the world, a stolen toy. Yet to these children, it meant the world. All the dangers and hardship that loomed in their futures meant nothing to this present loss. Fur couldn’t believe he had been the same way, not too long ago. Deep down, he probably envied them. Not that he believed he could ever go back to it, the naivety. It was hard to pick up a wooden sword when you’ve held a real one.
Harder to pretend how it felt to kill the bad guy.
Fur nearly turned away from the scene, to allow it to play out. There was a lesson to be learned in its conclusion, as painful as it might feel in the moment. But he didn’t. He couldn’t because he had a role to play, one that had been thrust upon him when he chose to turn down the side street. Adults, they tried their best to insulate children for as long as possible, allow them to hold onto hope for as long as possible. Wisdom protecting blissful ignorance. Fur hadn’t ask to grow the way that he had, but there was no changing it. Maybe ignore it, but Fur couldn’t do that either. The child’s parents where out here, so the Ithecal was the next best thing.
To remind the boy that there were still heroes in the world, wearing their tattered cloaks.
Fur stepped into the light, moving towards the child. He looked like he was going to cry for help, but Fur shushed him with a finger against his lips. “Stay here,” Fur commanded, in as a soft a voice as was possible. “I’ll get the animal back. For Olive.”
The child wiped the tears away with the back of his hand, nodding. Fur broke into a crouched sprint after that, trying to catch up with Gerald. Bare feet struck dirt and cobblestone, softer impacts than boots, allowing him to move at a faster pace while still masking his approach. He was still far too loud than he should be, but a child wasn’t exactly the most attentive target.
Gerald had stopped running once he had gotten out of sight, ducking into a doorway just around the corner to examine his new possession. Fur watched him from around the wall, trying to decide how best to approach. There was a chance that he could just go straight at him and snatch him up before he bolted, but it was risky. Miss the grab and he’d be chasing a child through the streets of the neighborhood, waking up locals who definitely would not side with the Ithecal. Fur didn’t really want to bring a lynch mob down on him, not over a toy. He needed another way.
Fur glanced up, judging the distance. The first building was single storied and connected to the one Gerald sat under. He rose to his full height and held his hands up. Just out of reach when he was flat-footed. Maybe a running start. Fur stole a second glance to make sure Gerald hadn’t moved yet and then took a few steps back. Deep breaths, and then he lurched into motion.
His fingertips latched onto the roof, but just barely. He could already feel the strain of his body weight on his arms, but he didn’t plan on pulling up that way. Instead, bracing himself his arms, Fur walked his way up the wall until his body was in a right angle. From there, Fur pushed with his legs upward. This allowed him to get above the wall and to put his weight on his elbows. He wormed his way onto the roof, rolling onto his back. Exhale. One climb had nearly bested him; he needed to work on that.
Rising to a crouch, Fur moved quietly across the gable roof until he was directly above the doorway. From the street, the roof hadn’t looked that high, but that was deceiving. Too late now. He had to come down one way or another, so might as well follow through with the plan.
One more deep breath and then Fur jumped off the roof, turning in midair to face the doorway on the way down. He landed with legs spread and knees bent to absorb the impact, directly in front of Gerald. The kid squealed and Fur lunged forward before he could make any more noise. Fur’s left hand pressed against the child’s mouth while the right lifted the boy off of his feet, pressing him against the wood behind his back.
Pain shot through Fur when Gerald bit him. The Ithecal bared his fangs, growling, when he slammed the child against the door. It wasn’t to hurt him, just dislodge him. It worked. “I wouldn’t do that again, Gerald,” Fur warned the smaller child. “I’ve just come for the toy, but I’ll take more if I have to.”
Tears rolled down the child’s face as he dropped the stuffed animal. He shouldn’t have, but Fur took joy in that. He hated a bully, so it felt good to see them get a taste of their own medicine. Moving his left hand underneath Gerald’s arm, the Ithecal pivoted and tossed the boy into the street. “Go home now, and don’t think about trying to tell your parents about this either. I’m the monster beneath your bed, and they can’t protect you from me.”
Gerald bolted and, this time, he didn’t stop.
Fur flexed his hand, examining it for blood. Thankfully, the teeth hadn’t broken skin. Then, leaning down, the Ithecal snatched up the toy and made his exit. He was confident that Gerald wouldn’t out him. It had been dark and Fur had appeared out of no where. Plus, by trying to snitch, he would be owning up to stealing in the process. Better to just pretend nothing happen, and maybe be extra careful when he went to bed later tonight. Still, the Ithecal didn’t linger, because who knew who else might’ve been watching.