Her fingers danced skillfully on the taut strings, creating an intricate melody. The fading sun was framed in the princess's window, a beautiful scene that could never be recreated by man. Kalarae's unladylike callused fingers formed a trill, imitating the birds outside, who chorused precisely with her music.
A boy her elder by perhaps two years sat below her window, absorbed in the music. The girl seemed unaware of his presence until she sat down her instrument and asked calmly. "What are you doing here, Daemon?"
The thief looked up sharply, but she had not moved sides for her placement of her hands and source of the music. Her eyes remained resolutely fixed on the distance, but she did not appear to have recently noticed his arrival, leaving him to conclude she had known he was here the entire time.
He blushed slightly. "I wanted to talk to you. You're interesting. And I like music."
Daemon received a genuine smile, and he beamed in return. "Would you like to come to the city again?" She considered for a moment before nodding and returning to her inner chambers. When she reappeared in was in her maid's outfit, and the two of them slipped out of the extensive gardens and into the jumbled streets.
The princess's wide eyes absorbed the unfamiliar sights. The last time she came, the route was direct. Now the two of them merely wandered the streets. Daemon chatted merrily to the contemplative girl, who listened peacefully. Shouts of men, and the loud barking of dogs interrupted his voice. The thief looked up sharply and dashed off, dragging Rae behind him. The maze of streets blurred as they ran through them before coming to an abrupt halt behind a sea of bodies. Daemon gestured for her to follow him, and wove through the crowd at incredible speeds. The closer they got to their destination, the more Kalarae felt like pulling back. An inexplicable feeling of fear and anger washed over her, but Daemon's strong grip kept her from returning to the outskirts of the crowd. Abruptly, the mob thinned, leaving the two children with a view of a large pen. Two dogs were circling each other in the enclosed space. One was black, the other a light dun. Both had lean bodies from accustomed fighting, with many scars decorating their short pelts. She pushed the fear she felt to the back of her mind, while pity came to the front. She tapped Daemon's shoulder. He turned briefly. "Yeah?"
She pointed towards the fighting pair. "That isn't nice."
He muttered something under his breath, barely audible, but sounding close to "women."
The princess glared at him, and he glared back, making them both miss the ending to the fight. The winner stood over the black dog, baring its fangs in victory. Blood seeped from multiple wounds on the loser, and its owner grudgingly went forward to claim it. He never got to, for a young girl got in his way.
Kalarae didn't realize what she was doing until she collapsed next to the injured dog. The sensation of fear ran through her again. The winning dog had been corralled into a cage while its owner collected bet money, and the injured dog was in no condition to hurt her. She looked carefully into its dark eyes, and saw its fear. The dog's ears were flat against its head, a sign normally associated with aggression, but what else is fear but a form of aggression on its own, Kalarae asked the back of her mind. She ripped cloth from the bottom of her hem and bandaged the leg to the best of her knowledge, dodging teeth and claws. She only remembered the existence of the owner when he interrupted her.
"Hey, that there's me dog! A dog fight ain't no place for a gal!"
The princess's training rushed back to her and she turned around, a cold look in her eyes. "Well, he isn't a very good dog, now is he?"
The man blinked, considering her words, before deciding to take insult. "He's a good dog, back off!"
"He lost a fight to a smaller dog. If he can't beat that thing," she pointed over her shoulder. "What good is he? He is just wasting whatever food you're giving it."
"It ain't yer business, missy. What are ya gonna do about it."
"I will buy him from you."
You could see the wheels working in the man's mind as he considered. "Twenty gold."
It was an obscene price for any dog, especially one who was on the verge of dying. Kalarae glanced over the man's shoulder to see Daemon shaking his head furiously. She took this to mean it was too high of a price, and started bartering.
Half hour later, the princess was one gold five silvers lighter, and had a dog. She ignored Daemon's ranting while she tied its muzzle shut to keep it from biting her, and carried it to the field she had been taken to on her first trip to the city.
The moon brightened her work as she unbound the dog's jaws, and cleaned the blood off his body. She ran a finger along his stomach and leg muscles. Daemon hovered behind her nervously.
"He is too young to fight. At most, he is seven, eight months old. The fool thought to fight him before he had finished growing." She growled vehemently and Daemon snapped his mouth closed.
"How did you know that?"
"They used to run the kennel dogs past my window. I would listen to the masters of the hunt as they trained them. They moved the training grounds when they realized that I was watching them."
The thief boy stared at her in amazement before turning his attention back to the dog. "Well, what are you going to do with him? There are too many dogs loose on the streets already."
Kalarae finished washing the dog's wounds and glared at Daemon. "Then I will feed them all."
The boy didn't give up. "How?"
"I have money, I will buy meat."
"You will buy meat… for the street curs?"
Rae didn't falter. "Yes."
He shook his head. "You don't have enough money for that."
"Then I will get it." Kalarae sat back on her haunches and hesitated before speaking again, hating to look ignorant.
"How do you know if they are female dogs or male dogs?"
Once Daemon controlled his laughter, he began explaining to her the facts of life. Facts that she would someday master.
The night passed, and Daemon talked, explaining what the difference between men and women was, and what they did at night when they thought their children weren't looking. Kalarae thought it rather disgusting, and Daemon agreed wholeheartedly.
That night taught the princess more about the nature of humans than all of her lessons in strategy, and was much more interesting.