Tepic had brushed the snow off one of his upturned bucket seats and sat watching his fire, thinking deeply. After a relatively mild autumn, the snow and cold had arrived with a vengeance, and on his evening tour round the City he had come across small groups of newcomer urchins huddled together for warmth in all the usual daft places. Some had even tried to find a warm corner by themselves, unaware that they would likely freeze to death by morning. He couldn’t keep the memory of the frozen girl he had found last year from resurfacing as he gently directed some to safer hiding places, or bullied others into huddling together with larger groups.
Many of them had not ventured out since the snow had started, so were not only cold but hungry too. Since the loss of the stores, there was little he could do but give them some tips, how to send out two at a time to beg or otherwise gain food, then warm them up on their return while the next two went out. There were so many new faces, so many who knew nothing of survival in the City but just believed life would be better here than wherever they had come from.
Last year the City urchins had worked together, evacuating some to warmer places, convincing others to return home, all to protect them while the City had been menaced. The wetter, colder autumn had also kept many safe at home, unwilling to travel in bad weather.
He sighed, there was little he could do, except keep himself fed and warm, and give what advice he could. Creeping into his crate and under his heap of old but warm blankets, he snuggled up and like most small boys when tired, fell instantly into sleep.
He was high up above the City, looking down as if from an airship, but there was no basket or balloon above him. It was a sight that always made him feel warm inside, this was his City, his home, when covered in snow as it was now, when the cobbles gleamed wet from the rain, when the sun sparkled from the myriad of window panes, it was his.
Then, he saw there were points of light twinkling in various parts, and faint, glowing lines passing along the streets from one to the next, as if some giant finger had traced a map. It linked all the safe places an urchin could stay, with other, different lights showing where food or a friendly face might be found. Yes, this was it, this was how they could help, they needed to set up a Quest for the newcomers, a series of clues and directions to help them learn how to survive!
A voice, a lady’s voice, came from behind him, a voice he vaguely remembered, saying “Yes, Tepic, that’s the way, remember this when you wake. Ask all of your friends to help.”. He turned to see who it was who spoke, but behind him was just a field of stars in the sky, with just a hint of an outlined smile.
With a start, he woke, and rushed off in the early morning light to find Beryl.
“Beryl! Wake up, i got an idea!” he cried.
The cat raised his head, shook the sleep and his dreams from himself, grinned at the boy and replied, “Yes, I know!”