Gifts-Hider Part 1

By Geraldle

Copyright © 2001

All dates used in any of the Gifts stories will be in Camron dating scheme where AF means After Founding.

One-642 AF

Hider was what he was called and hiding is what he did. He was a slight ten year old with tangled red hair and large green eyes. Unlike many of the other naked urchins on the streets of Tenve, capital of Scart, a small but free Princedom several hundred miles south of Camron's border, he was clean, well as clean as he could be, without the good scrubbing that soap would have allowed.

While Hider would have loved to take a bath with plenty of hot water and lots of soap, it was impossible. Even if he would have been allowed into a bathhouse, he would have had to pay at least a copper. To use the few precious coppers he stole for that purpose would make him conspicuous and would show irresponsibility to what had become his CHILDREN.

That's how he thought of them; twenty young children between the ages of four and twelve. All he stole and all they could scrounge went to feed their hungry mouths. One day he had been one of them and the next he was responsible for them.

Hider had been eight years old at the time, and he had been with the band for about three years. Four older children, three twelve-year-old boys and an eleven-year-old girl had loosely organized the band. They were all bullies. They hadn't had a generous bone in their bodies. They had controlled the band with force, taking the best that the younger children could find, leaving them with what was left over. They never gave anything in return, neither their affection nor their protection.

Luckily, two of the children had been going out, and they rushed back into the inner room yelling, "The Hunters are coming!!!"

The older kids panicked, and rushed to one of the makeshift entrances of the ruined hut. The last one through pushed over the pile of stones and blocked the entrance behind him.

The younger children were ready to panic as well, and if they had done so, there was no way of knowing how many would have died under the Hunters' swords. Despite their age, there would have been no mercy. Homeless slum children were the lowest of the low. No one cared whether they lived or died, even slaves had far more importance than they did.

Hider was afraid as well, but it was a controlled fear. He would use it to help him and the others do get away; not to help him die. He had been having a sand bath that they could use to keep themselves clean. Not that many of them attempted to do so, Hider was the only one who used it on a regular basis.

Hider scooped up the broken pot, which held the water he had been using with the sand. He emptied it out on his friends. Despite their fear, astonishment made them look at Hider. There was fear in his voice as well, but, like his fear, his voice was controlled and the other children recognized it.

Hider barked out, "Follow me!!!!" and he led the way to what was now the only exit. He stopped at the small hole barely big enough for the oldest of the children. He began pushing the children through the opening. Somehow, he was the leader, and unlike the older bullies, who would've gone first, Hider would go last.

One of the Hunters was just coming through the inner door bare sword in hand, as the last of the children was ducking through the hole. With relief, Hider followed him, knowing that they were probably safe now. Fortunately, the Hunters were too lazy to make any serious efforts to find the children.


Hider didn't dare steal large amounts, not even silvers, such a large amount as even one silver, in the hands of an street urchin such as himself, would have attracted the attention of the City Guard and the much more dangerous Hunters. That would allow them to concentrate on a fairly small area, and he would be too vulnerable a target if that occurred.

As a Magic User who would never have High Magic, let alone be a Mage, his major magical gift of Concealment was probably unmatched by anyone except perhaps for a Great Mage. It had developed early and very quickly matured in his dangerous environment. He also had a minor Empathic ability.

A pretty child, he had no objection to offering himself as a prostitute, but something about him frightened off those who enjoyed young bodies. Only on a few occasions had he been able to sell his body. It baffled Hider, not knowing that many of the men who lusted after young boys were instinctively wary of Hider, sensing that there was something unusual about him.

Six of his little band could and did attract those who desired youngsters on a regular basis, but Hider only allowed them to go with those his Empathic ability showed were truly after sex and not sadistic pleasures. When he was not with them, they were only supposed to go with ones they had been with in the past, never chancing a stranger.

Those youngsters rarely earned even a copper, but they generally ate well and in the mornings were sometimes given food that they could share with their friends.


Hider was in Concealment in one of the city squares, carrying a small bag, standing, leaning bare back and bottom against the wall of a building. It was one of the smaller markets in the city, which was why he had chosen it. It meant that there were fewer people to bump into to inadvertently reveal his presence, and there were seldom any Hunters here.

Hider was about to dart forward to snatch some food to fill the bag when he went rigid, as the small procession that a high noble caused entered the square. First two guards and then four men carrying a plump noble in a sedan chair. Trotting beside the sedan chair was a small nude, dark haired boy with an elaborate slave collar, then two additional guards. Hider saw that a dark-haired young woman, in her early to mid-twenties, was paying particular attention to the noble party.

Hider cursed to himself as he realized that the guards following the sedan chair were aware of her attention. They were talking to each other about it, trying to decide whether to do anything about her blatant interest.

He cursed himself for being a stupid fool, as he darted forward, threading through the market stalls, avoiding people with practiced ease. Reaching her, Hider kicked her in the side of the knee. Since Hider was barefoot it wasn't that hard, but it got her attention. He hissed, “Stop paying so much attention to Considus, you're attracting too much attention to yourself.”

She didn't turn around immediately, kept looking at the noble and his guards, and then she snapped her fingers and nodded her head decisively. Turning around, she acted as if her looking at them had simply been an accident while thinking about something.

It won Tana top marks, the guards who had been watching her were taken in completely, and they now ignored her. She heard the voice, a very young voice, as Hider said reprovingly. “You've spoiled my raid. You're going to have to make up for it. That is if you want to know where Considus lives, without making yourself even more conspicuous. You should be able to get a half dozen loaves of bread and a skin of goat's milk without attracting any attention. When you leave take the street that Considus came out of and about a hundred yards along there'll be a narrow alley on your right. I'll wait for you there."


Tana took her time, cursing herself for the mistake she had made; it could have ruined her plans, aside from the fact that it might have gotten her killed. She did some casual shopping before purchasing the food that Hider had told her to get, as well she added a couple of bottles of wine, as if she had a small dinner planned.

It was getting toward late afternoon, when she left the square. Tana strolled casually as if she had all the time in the world. She turned in at the indicated alley, wondering whether it was an ambush. It was dark in the alley, but she had excellent night vision, and her eyes adjusted quickly. Twenty feet from the opening, a small naked boy who had been sitting, back against the wall, jumped to his feet.

“That was very stupid,” Hider said reprovingly as he brushed a stray lock of hair off his forehead. Despite the fact that she agreed with him, Tana was inclined to giggle. That young treble voice saying exactly what her instructors would have said.

The boy continued, “Nobles use off duty City Guards when they travel in the city. The Prince allows them to use a small number of guards at their homes. He has forbidden them to use their own guards when they travel inside the city. You'll have to make sure you stay away from those two in the future. They're trained to remember people who come to their attention.”

“I know,” Tana said, contritely. “I was just so surprised. The slaveboy was my nephew Kinon, and I didn't expect to just come upon him like that.”

“All right, as long as you don't get so careless again,” Hider said grudgingly. “Here take my hand, it's going to be dark soon and since I know where your nephew is, I don't think you want to lose me. Oh,” he giggled, “try not to think of what you're stepping in. The only good thing about these alleys is that they're too narrow for carts or wagons, so there shouldn't be any horse or mule dung.” A pause, another giggle, “At least probably not.”


Tana took his hand in hers. It was the first time she had ever held a child's hand, and she was surprised by how small it was. Normally she had a good sense of direction, but she was lost within minutes, not even knowing which direction was north or south.

Finally, after about a fifteen minutes walk, in which she thanked the Gods that she hadn't stepped in anything soft, Hider stopped, and gave a perfect imitation of a Nightwitch bird, giving three calls.

She heard the bird’s call, in the same manner, from two different directions. “Coast is clear,” said Hider. He led her around back and slipped through a door, into a dimly lit, room. Looking up she could she the sky through a big chunk of a missing roof.

When she looked down, she could see she a total of fifteen children surrounding her. There were eight girls and seven boys, and like Hider, they were all naked. With the two lookouts that made a total of seventeen children.

They were looking at her somewhat warily not used to having an adult in their home, as humble as it might be. She gave a friendly nod, and they relaxed a bit. Hider looked around at them anxiously, counting them. When he saw that three were missing, he asked anxiously, “Where are the others?” They turned their attention back to Hider.

One of them, a boy and probably the oldest of the children, assured him. “None of them are with strangers. Unfortunately, none of them will pay cash money either, but they're usually pretty generous with food.”

One of the other boys gave an audible sigh, “It's too bad that Considus bought that slaveboy from Camron. He was a nice man, and he always paid well and gave plenty of food to share.”

One of the girls said with a little bit of resentment, “But he only liked boys, girls never had a chance with him!”

Hider said with a grin on his face, “I know. He even took me to his bed a couple of times. I didn't seem to frighten him like I do the others. I was there at the Slave Market when they sold the slaveboy. Considus was there as usual, just to watch the boys parading by, and it wasn't until Marrko started bidding that he did as well. He was determined that the boy wouldn't fall into Marrko's hands. I saw him shudder when Marrko went to four thousand golds, but he went to forty-one hundred and Marrko finally quit.”

Hider frowned before saying, “You've all heard the rumors about Marrko, and know about the boys who've disappeared. He hates nobles with a passion. If he'd purchased the Camron noble boy, the boy would have been lucky or perhaps unlucky, to live a week.”

Hider turned to the woman with his hand out, and she gave him the bag. Kneeling down, he removed the contents. Once everything was out of the bag, he divided the loaves into equal portions. With himself there were eighteen children, he divided each of the six loaves in thirds and handed them round. After pouring goat's milk for the youngest of the children into makeshift mugs, he let the others get their own, and he took his after they were all finished. He pointed to two of the children, one boy and one girl saying, “Once you've finished you two replace the lookouts so they have a chance to eat as well.” and they simply nodded in obedience.

All the food disappeared as if inhaled; within five minutes, it was all gone except for the two portions left over for the lookouts. Hider stood up, and held up the wine bottles. He told them in a firm voice, “Use plenty of water with this wine. If any of you get drunk and I find out, I'll give you a whipping you'll never forget, and it'll be even worse if any of you get the little ones drunk.”


While it was dark, there was a bright moon in the sky. Hider took Tana to a small, mostly ruined house about a quarter of a mile away that he used for his quarters. It only had part of the walls still standing. The boy spread a sack on the ground and offered her a seat. Tana asked, curious, “You don't stay with them?”

In the bright moonlight, she saw him shake his head. “No, it would be too dangerous for them. If the Hunters found me with a group of children, they would just as likely kill them, as to leave them alive.”

“What are Hunters? I've heard them mentioned, but nobody will tell me anything about them.” Tana asked with curiosity.

Hider nodded, saying, “Sensibly most people are afraid of Hunters. The Prince's grandfather had no magical abilities, and he resented those that it. He began to encourage those Magic Users that were here to leave, though he and his descendants have always tolerated Healers, and Hunters. Hunters are active Empaths. They know when someone is afraid of them. When they find a person with an out of the ordinary type of fear, if he has some importance they'll take him to a Healer to have his aura read. If the Healer finds indication of magical ability, then those people will be exiled.”

Hider shook his head in disgust, and he said, “If it's someone of the Lower Merchant class or lower, then they kill them, or perhaps set them to hard labor, which is the same thing, it just takes longer to die. With those they consider no-accounts, like me and my friends, they don't even bother to take us to a Healer. They just start killing, and if that person is in a group of slum kids they're not too worried about finding out which one is actually the Magic User. They'll just kill them all. That's why I don't dare stay with the others.”

Tana was shocked, though she didn't show it; she was back to being the professional she had been trained to be. She asked, “Why do you stay here? With your ability of Concealment, you would be welcome almost anywhere, and it wouldn't be hard to get out of the country.”

Hider shrugged his small shoulders and explained, “I used to be one of them, then suddenly a couple of years ago, I was abruptly the leader, and with my ability of Concealment I can steal much more than most of the others combined. The others would have much less of a chance to survive if I left. With what I steal, and what they're able to scrounge, and prostitution, at times we still barely get by.”

Tana changed the subject, “What about Considus?”

Hider gave a nod of approval as he said, “Well you heard just about all you need to know about him. When you see him, he looks like a plump, petulant spoiled brat. He's the classic case of appearances being deceiving. He's actually a kind, courageous person. To go against Marrko, he had to be. Even the Prince is a bit afraid of Marrko, though there are rumors that they’re much more closely aligned than the head of a country and a major criminal should ever be,” he said with obvious disgust in his voice.

Tana decided to tell him why she was there; he seemed so knowledgeable about his own society. “Right now many children, both noble and common, are disappearing from Camron, all of them into Madron, except Kinon. It has been determined that someone is trying to start a war between our two countries by kidnapping noble children. We're not going to move until everything is in place, but we established that someone who had no connection to those trying to start a war kidnapped Kinon. My team and I were given permission to try to rescue him.”

Hider nodded in understanding and then thought for a few minutes before speaking. “If Kinon was an ordinary slaveboy Considus would be quite willing to sell him back, Gods he might even give him back to you. He can easily afford the golds he spent on the boy. Under the circumstances, he can't. For two reasons. First, the Palace receives notification of all slaves to be sold in Scart. The Prince rarely sees any of those reports. He would have seen the report on Kinon. To sell a crested noble boy of Camron, he had to have given specific written permission.”

“Secondly, Considus made a very serious enemy when he purchased a boy that Marrko was bidding on. In the past, those who have bid against the man have disappeared. Only the fact that he's a noble, and in favor with the Prince, allowed Considus to defy Marrko. If he ever loses the favor of the Prince he'll be dead within hours.”

Hider paused to allow her to digest the information before saving, “However there might be a chance. Rumor has it Considus has been moving his money out of the country. If true, if you can give him and his staff a safe haven, and find a way to get him and his household staff out of the country, you can probably get your nephew back.”

Tana smiled, “There's a Camron merchant ship called the Moddy D in the harbor, just to provide us with transport. There's a warship over the horizon to provide us with an escort. We can easily manage a few extra passengers. In fact we can easily squeeze in an additional twenty-one small bodies, with no crowding at all.”

Hider's voice caught in his throat, “You'll take us with you?” he asked, eagerly.

“Yes, I'd take more if I could, but getting them aboard ship would be impossible.” Tana assured him.

“I'll have to ask them, though I'm pretty sure what they'll say. We'll do what we can to help you; people tend to ignore us, so we make good lookouts.” Hider grinned at her, white teeth flashing in the moonlight. “Also I think I can get in touch with Considus for you. The two times he took me to his bed; I went to his gate and offered myself to him.”


Hider had guided Tana back to her inn, and the next morning he gathered all of his little band, even the lookouts were there. He was taking a bit of a chance, but they would only be there for a few minutes.

Hider looked around at the boys and girls, he felt affection for all of them, good humor bubbling in his voice. He said to them, "Last night you were talking about that slaveboy that Considus bought. The woman who I brought here is named Tana Stark, and she's from Camron. The slaveboy is her brother's son. She and her friends are King's Messengers, and they're here to get her nephew back. They have a ship in the harbor."

Hider told the children, "I want to help her. In return, she said that she would take us with her when she leaves. I think we should go with her. We're nothing here. Somewhere else, we can have a future and be real kids for a change."

The children huddled together to talk about it. It didn't take them long to make up their mind. Tres, at a few days past his twelfth birthday, was the oldest of the children and acted as their spokesman.

The boy said with a serious expression on his face, "We woulda gone if you had told us to, but we're glad you asked us. You always take care of us and you always put us first. As you say we're nothing here and will be glad to go."

Six–Two days later – Late afternoon

The rest of her team had agreed with Tana's idea, and had prepared over the last couple of days. Now if Hider could just get in and talk with Considus, they were ready to move. Hider's band was in the area, acting as lookouts, and Tana and her team hidden in a close by alley.

Hider used the small gong, on the gate to announce his presence. The two gate guards came out of the gatehouse. The older a middle-aged man asked gruffly, “What do you want boy?”

“I need a couple of coppers, I just wondered if the noble Considus could use a bedwarmer for the night?” Hider asked seductively; well his idea of seduction.

The older guard shook his head, telling him, “He bought a slaveboy. He hasn't taken any other boys to his bed since.”

Hider looked at the younger man, who was obviously interested. “How about you, sir?”

The younger man looked at his superior asking, “How about it, sarge?”

The older man looked at the naked little boy. He wasn't interested in boys, but he could see that Hider was pretty. He said gruffly, “All right, he's been here before. But you'll have to keep him in the gatehouse until your shift is up, then take him to your room.”

The man unlocked the gate and opened it enough for the boy to slip in, and then closed and locked it again. The younger guard was already leading Hider into the gatehouse, hand gently playing with the hair on the nape of his neck. When the guard sat down, and drew the boy between his legs, Hider kissed him more from happiness than from passion, as the man gently stroked his bare back and bottom.

“All right!!! I said after your shift is over!!” the Sergeant snapped with authority in his voice. Before the younger guard had a chance to release him Hider whispered in his ear, “How would Considus like to get out of the country?”

The man took his arms tightly and pushed him backwards, holding the boy at arms length. The older man said with amusement, “I didn't mean you had to throw him away.”

The man said excitedly, “Sarge, he asked me if Considus would like to get out of the country!”

The older man's short sword whipped out of his sheath, and he pressed the tip of his blade to Hider's throat. The boy didn't struggle and just looked mildly at the blade. Somewhat embarrassed by his overreaction, the man sheathed his sword, smiling sheepishly. He shook his finger at the boy, “Boy, I put the sword away, but I can get it out just as quickly and you know no one would care what happened to you. Tell me why you're here?”

Hider said calmly, “The aunt of the slaveboy Considus bought is here in Tenve, about a quarter of a mile from here. She's a Camron King's Messenger and she has a team of four others with her. They have a ship ready in the harbor. The tide is ready to change and that'll help them get out of the harbor. If Considus wants to get out of Scart, she's ready to take him, and any of his retainers who want to go with him.”

The Sergeant eyed the little boy with interest evident on his face. He said, to the younger guard, "I'll take him to the house while you stay here."

Seven–Early Evening

Tana's nephew Kinon answered the library door. He nodded to Hider before looking at the Sergeant, and saying respectfully, "Please come in sir." He held the door open while Hider and the Sergeant entered them closed it behind them.

Considus was sitting behind a desk and Kinon went over to stand beside him. Considus patted the small naked slaveboy on the bottom, saying, "Thank you, little one."

He looked at the two who had just entered. He looked with a little bit of puzzlement at the small nude boy, who accompanied the Sergeant. Hider saw recognition come into Considus's eyes as the man realized that he had employed the boy as a prostitute on several occasions.

Considus looked at the Sergeant and asked, "Yes, Bayes what is it?" in a pleasant voice.

Bayes put his hand on Hider's small shoulder and told his employer, "This little one has a message for you sir."

Considus looked at Hider his eyebrows raised in a questioning expression. Hider responded by pointing to that boy with the slave collar saying, "Kinon's Aunt Tana is a Camron King's Messenger. She's here in Tenve to get her nephew back."

Hider saw Kinon's small hands clench as he realized with joy that his family had come for him. Considus gave a sigh of relief and patted the boy on the back encouragingly.

Hider paused for a moment to let them recover and then said, "She has a ship waiting in the harbor." He gave a grin, "I've been hearing rumors that you've been sending your money out of the country. Tana said she would take you, and any of your retainers who want to go, out of the country."

As Hider had said a couple of nights before, Considus's appearance was deceptive. When given the proposition, he acted quickly and decisively. Within minutes, abandoning everything they walked through the gate, Considus, his cook, and housekeeper, the gardener and his son and his four personal guards, and Kinon.

As they made their way down to the harbor, and the abandoned wharf chosen as the departure point, Hider's band filtered in to join them. There were half a dozen boats ready to load with passengers and they left at five-minute intervals. Considus showing what he really was, not simply what he looked like on the outside, waited for the last one to leave. It was about ready to pull out, when they heard voices from the wharf above them. “I'm sure I heard something coming from around here,” said one of the voices loudly and vehemently.

Hider said, in a whisper, “Go, and try not to splash too much.”

As the men began to pull on the muffled oars, he grasped both sides of the boat and concentrated with all his might on Concealment.

As the boat glided away from the wharf, it faded from sight, and when the men who had been talking reached the end of the wharf only the occasional splash made by an oar was visible, and they took that to be fish jumping out of the water.

When they reached the ship Moddy D, they were quickly unloaded, the boat gotten back on board ship. The anchor that was holding the ship in place was cut and the ship allowed to drift out to sea with the tide. Nobody on the galley warships even noticed. Once well out of the harbor, they raised the sails and the ship headed out to sea to join her warship escort.

Tana at the rail with her arms around Hider's chest watched the city disappear behind them. “I wish we had been able to free all of her children,” she said regretfully to the boy.

“Don't worry. I intend to come back, and when I do, Scart is going to need a new Prince!!” He spoke with such absolute certainty that Tana shivered with complete belief.

Behind them, they could hear Hider's band yelling and cheering as they sailed into a new life.





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