I was orphaned when I was six years old. I never attended school. I can neither read nor write. My parents died in a factory fire. They called me Tala. But now I am called Raven.
-the writing on the cell wall
A yellow light fell across the creaky floorboards, slipping through the three inch space between the edge of the door and the door frame. The three Thief Lords weren’t being very careful. It explained why Raven and her following were as powerful as they were. No one took more precautions than she did. Which was also the reason why she was still alive.
He had his back pressed hard against the wall opposite that sliver of light. He barely breathed, not wanting the rise and fall of his chest to be perceptible or the whisper of his breathing to be audible. His shadow colored cloak, with the hood pulled well down below his eyes, hid him in the dark corner. His hands were tightly clasped around the inner folds of the robe and he fought to keep his legs from shaking. Raven had trusted him for this task. Him, an eleven-year-old boy she has rescued from the streets. An urchin stealing just enough to keep his tummy from rumbling in the middle of the night. Not enough to sustain him. He was grateful to his new, kind mistress, his own Thief Lord. He wasn’t going to screw up this mission.
Voices rose and fell within the room. He could hear the scraping of chairs and the squeak of floorboards as one of the Thief Lords moved around, too impatient and agitated to sit down. He could hear periodic tapping on the table that was undoubtedly in there. There were three deep voices and, from his close hiding place, he could hear just about every word they uttered.
“We’ve got to do something about that girl,” one of them said. He knew the other Thief Lords by sight, but didn’t know their voices well enough to put a name to them. This one had a deep, gruff voice, unkind and gravely. It made him wince.
“Yes,” another said. This voice was smooth and silky, deep and caressing. You could get so wrapped up in that silky voice that you would never see the snake coming to bite your neck. It made his hands curl into fists so his fingers wouldn’t reach up for his throat. “But she has foiled all of our other attempts. What else is there that we can try?”
“We must be bold, but not too bold,” the third said. This last voice was a deep, rich tenor that could lull someone into a false sense of security. He would have a knife in your ribs before you realized it. This voice made him swallow, hard.
“Raven is very careful. More careful than any of us. We must be swift and silent, then,” the silky voice said. “We must lull her into a false sense of security, let her think we won’t harm her anymore.”
The tenor laughed. “But that is the way of the Thief Lords.”
“True,” the silky voice said. “Very true. But perhaps we could come to a truce with her. One of us could partner with her and then, bam, have her dead in an instant.”
There was a brief period of silence before he heard the gravelly voice speak. “No. That would take too long. We need to deal with her right away.”
“Tonight,” the silky voice said.
“Yes,” the tenor agreed. “We will go from here and confront her ourselves. We won’t let anyone from our followings know. That way she can have no warning if she has spies among us.”
“This has to be quick and brutal,” the gravelly voice said, eagerness laced through his tones.
He swallowed hard, feeling the blood rush from his face. These three Thief Lords were planning on killing his mistress that night. It was a good thing she had sent him to listen in on them!
“The slum bath house,” the tenor said. “My people say this is the night she bathes. We should ambush her there.”
“But she is female,” the silky voice protested. “She will use the female house.”
“Have you no sense?” the gravelly voice sneered. “We will clear the bath house and be ready for her when she enters.”
His fingers clutched even tighter to the inner folds of his cloak. He had to warn Raven at once!
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