The Thief Lords opposed my claim. But the followers kept coming. I rewarded and paid my people. I treated them like people, not servants. Two of the Thief Lords came for my head. But they lost their lives. Their followers quickly became my own.
-writing on the cell wall
Lady Almi couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She couldn’t believe what she had been seeing. All she could do was stare into her daughter’s defiant gaze as the girl tried to explain what she was trying to do.
Tyala hadn’t answered when she’d been called for supper. Lord Almi had asked his wife to see what was keeping their child. Tyala never missed a meal. Slim as she was, Tyala could eat. Rolling her eyes and muttering that the girl was probably daydreaming again, she had gone to find her daughter, only to find her hastily pulling out all of her clothes and stuffing them into bags.
“What are you doing?” Lady Almi had shrieked.
Tyala had bolted straight up, not having heard her mother’s approach. Her mother’s cry had also brought her father to join them. He hadn’t looked surprised, but he did have a reproachful look, as though he knew his daughter’s plans, but couldn’t believe she was putting her mother through this.
“What is going on up here?” Lord Almi had asked in his deep, calm voice.
“I don’t want to be a part of this feud,” Tyala had said stubbornly. “So, I’m going to run away.”
Lord Almi had shaken his head. “You’re only sixteen, Tyala. Old enough to be married but certainly not old enough to live on your own. Where in Needle City would you go? Where would you go where we could not find you?”
Tyala had tilted her chin up slightly, the stubborn chin she had inherited from her mother. “We’re going to leave Needle City and go to Aunt Celycia’s home in Mercaido City.”
Lady Almi’s eyebrows had arched so high they nearly disappeared under her hairline. “We?”
Tyala’s slender body had jerked slightly at that and a flush had come over her face, but she remained silent, pressing her lips together. She took a step back and stared at her mother with silent reproach.
“Tyala,” Lord Almi said gently. “What do you mean by ‘we’?”
“That’s none of your concern,” Tyala had whispered.
Now they stood staring at each other. Lady Almi had collapsed onto her daughter’s large bed and Lord Almi had clasped his hands behind his back. Tyala had backed up against the window, he back resting against the cool glass.
Lady Almi shook her head. “But…why? Why, Tyala?”
Tyala looked away. “I don’t believe in this feud. I don’t want to be a part of it. It’s ruined so many lives, cut so many lives short. Lord Sarlik killed someone a few nights ago, someone who was probably somehow involved with this feud. Caidy is in fits over it.”
Lady Almi’s eyes narrowed. “Caidy? Caidy Sarlik is in fits? And how would you know this, Tyala?”
The girl’s eyes darted between her parents. Her father knew she didn’t want to be a part of the feud, but he didn’t know she was best friends with Caidy Sarlik. She found no sense of safety in her father’s face. Her mother was staring hard at her with anger flaring up in her eyes.
“Caidy and I are classmates at the Academy,” Tyala whispered. “You knew that.”
“But you are not in school right now.” Lady Almi’s voice sounded dangerous and it scared Tyala.
“No,” Tyala said, her voice quivering, “but Caidy and I became friends. Good friends. She doesn’t want to be a part of this feud, either. So, we’ve decided to run away to Mercaido City.”
Lady Almi stood up quickly. “You will do nothing of the sort,” she said, her voice sounding powerful, so powerful it made her husband flinch and her daughter cringe. “You will stay here and do as your duty demands.”
With that, the woman swept up her daughter’s clothes and bags and stormed from Tyala’s rooms. Lord Almi looked over at his daughter with sadness in his eyes.
“Father,” Tyala whispered.
He shook his head. “You brought this on yourself, Tyala. I understand your desire to not be a part of this feud, but to run away?”
With that said, he shook his head and left Tyala alone.
“What do we do?” Lady Almi asked as she and her husband rested in their bed later that night. Their children were already tucked in to their beds and they had locked the windows and door to Tyala’s chambers so the girl couldn’t run away. “We’ve essentially imprisoned our own daughter. But she has to carry on this feud.”
“Against her best friend?” Lord Almi replied musingly as he stared up at the ceiling. “I don’t think either girl will like that.”
“But this feud has been in our blood for generations,” Lady Almi argued. “It can’t be ended just because two girls disagree with it. I was in her shoes when I was her age and look how I turned out. Tyala will come around. She has to.”
“I don’t know, dear. She seems to have made up her mind.”
“Then we’ll have to unmake it.”
“And how do you propose we do that?” Lord Almi asked dryly, certain that nothing could sway their daughter to stay and take her place in this feud. She was as strong minded as her mother.
That question silenced Lady Almi. There was no good answer to that. They could imprison her, but that would only make their daughter hate them all the more. They could forbid her from seeing Caidy again, but Tyala would become rebellious and find a way to run away anyways. She knew herself, so she knew her daughter. She recognized some of the girl’s antics, wondered if Tyala had been talking to some of the long-time servants who had served her family when she had been growing up.
“We have to keep her away from Caidy,” Lady Almi finally said. “Caidy is Sarlik’s only child. She will be taking up the feud after her father’s death. It will one day be Tyala and Caidy against each other. We must make them enemies.”
Lord Almi lifted an eyebrow and turned his head to look at his wife. “And how do we do that?” he asked, exasperation lacing his voice.
Lady Almi settled down, not quite sure herself of how to do that.
“We make Caidy take over her father’s place,” she finally said.
Lord Almi shook his head. “Wouldn’t she more likely proclaim an end to the feud in that case?”
“I hadn’t thought of that.” Lady Almi looked deflated. There appeared to be no way to make their daughter and Caidy turn on each other. It looked like they were going to lose their daughter, all because of silly childhood nonsense.
Her head beginning to hurt, Lady Almi kissed her husband on the cheek and then rolled over to fall asleep. But Lord Almi couldn’t follow suit. Of all his children, he loved Tyala best. She shared his spirit and values. They were like two peas in a pod. He would be devastated to lose her. He agreed with her that the feud had to end, but he didn’t want to lose his little girl.
And idea began to nudge at his mind. He knew it would only wrap him further into the feud, but it was the only way he could make his daughter stay. His wife was right; they had to turn the girls on each other. They had to make Caidy hate her best friend, no matter how much that would break Tyala’s heart. He had to find a way to make Caidy hate his daughter and have her turn on Tyala. And the feud was the only way he could do that.
Caidy had to take her father’s place. Yes, that could give her the opportunity to end the feud, but they could also infuriate her, make her want to retaliate for the death of her father.
Yes. That was it. Lord Sarlik had to die. Caidy had to take her father’s place. Caidy had to be infuriated enough to make her retaliate against the Almis. Then the feud would continue on as his wife wanted and Caidy and Tyala would no longer be friends. And Tyala would stay. His little girl wouldn’t run off, never to be seen in Needle City again.
He hated the idea. He hated having to ask one of the Thief Lords to murder a man, but that’s what they were there for. His wife would be pleased with him, but he knew he was going to go straight to the dark underworld lord himself.
Quietly, Lord Almi slipped out of the bed. His wife was a sound sleeper, so he didn’t worry too much about waking her. She had never been a light sleeper. If anything happened, he would have to work hard to wake her. So, he dressed quickly and threw on a dark cloak, pulling the hood up to cover his face.
Slipping out of the manor was easy to do. The children were asleep and his wife wasn’t stirring. The night was cool and dark, and it was well past midnight.
Lord Almi wasn’t completely sure of what he was doing, but he had to keep his daughter with him. He couldn’t lose one of his children. He only hoped that one of the Thief Lords could help him.
Nyana had talked about one of them. The female Thief Lord, she had said. Her name was Raven, but Lord Almi had no idea how to reach Raven. He only knew how to get to the slums.