Prologue

"Seven Goddamned notes for each. What in God's name are they thinking? I can hardly buy bread for one person for seven fucking notes." The children's new guardian was saying as they followed her out of ear shot of the orphanage.

The price she was paid to take them wasn't the first complaint she had about the situation. She had tried to talk the orphanage into giving her more children, but three was the limit. If she agreed to take more in another month, then she could. Her real annoyance must have come from having thought the children went for a higher price. That was true for a time, but the organization were running out of money. And still, the orphanage was full.

The plan was to give people a stipend in exchange for caring for orphans. Return each month with the children, identified by the orphanage logo that had been branded onto their arm (or whatever limb was remaining) and the stipend would be handed over. The initial 'adoption' used to constitute an extra few coins but the funds were running out and the tax payers were already complaining about the costs.

"Up this way." The woman swatted at the slower of the children, herding them toward the river and up under a bridge. "You all stay still, I don't want to go chasing after you." She ordered and none agreed but neither did they give the indication that they would disobey.

Three children, a boy and two girls, all of indescript backgrounds, underweight, uneducated, unloved, and unseen. All three unresponsive when the woman took the boy and slit his throat.

As easily and as unconcerned as throwing out trash she threw his body down the slope where he rolled into the river; still sputtering as he was not yet dead. Grabbing for the first girl and hefting the knife that was most likely more weighty than the child herself, the second one scrambled for her feet and ran. The woman, distracted by the disobedience of her last ward, managed only to slit the girls throat from gland to chin and trusted the river to finish her off.

By the time the first girl hit water, the woman had knocked the last one to the ground with a swipe of her hand. The girl was still fighting to her feet but a quick kick to the temple sent her careening down to join the others. It would have been too much to tromp down there and do what the river would inevitably do on it's own, so the woman hurried home to feed her family with her new bounty.