Teryk trusted me. Perhaps a little too much. It was easy to get close to him. It was easy to slit his throat. I remember his eyes and his moving lips. They were accusing me, and all I could do was grin. I watched the light leave his eyes, and I had never felt more powerful.
-writing on the cell wall
Raven was inconsolable. She had barely made it back to the slums after Aven’s death. She wasn’t even sure how she had done it or how she had gotten into her bed. She had lost her best friend, her lover, her adviser. Aven had meant everything to her and she had lost him.
It was all her fault. If she hadn’t insisted on going ahead with the steal, he would still be alive and with her. He would be keeping a watchful eye over her, protecting her, taking care of her. She wasn’t always sure of when he slept because he always seemed to be watching over her day and night. Now she wasn’t sure what she was going to do without him. He had been an extension of her own body for so long it felt as though she had lost her arm.
Onna was the only one who dared go near her in this state. Raven had become volatile and prone to breakdowns in turn. She was unpredictable and often flew into rages more directed at herself than whoever she was talking to. Onna had been Aven’s chosen successor, hand-picked by the man she trusted most, so she allowed her former decoy near, hoping every time to feel the slightest of Aven’s touch.
A gentle hand touched her shoulder, rested there comfortably, waiting patiently for her to be ready. It was Onna’s touch. Just knowing that Aven had selected her to be Raven’s next adviser should something happen to her made her feel as though he were still with her. She resented the girl sometimes, but then her guilt would kick in. If it weren’t for her, Onna wouldn’t be standing behind her now, wouldn’t be trying to act like her adviser.
“Raven,” Onna said softly. “Lady Almi has returned. She’s been coming for the past two nights, demanding to see you.”
Raven lay with her face in her pillows. The last thing she wanted to do was have anything to do with Lady Almi. It was the wretched woman’s job that had gotten Aven killed.
“Send her away,” Raven said, her voice muffled against the pillow.
“Raven, she hired you for a job,” Onna said, her voice as commanding has Aven’s had been. “You need to see that job through. You still clutch that jewel setting as though your life depends on it! And it doesn’t! Aven is gone, Raven. Would he want you to wallow in your pain like this?”
Silence was the only thing that greeted her. With an exasperated sigh, Onna stood and headed out of the bedchamber to tell Lady Almi to return again the following night.
“Aven died because of this job for her,” Raven said softly.
Onna turned and found her mistress had turned over and was now sitting up. Raven’s eyes were haunted and her skin was pale. Bags sagged under her eyes and her lips were trembling as she pressed them close together.
“Aven knew the risks, Raven,” Onna said, just as quietly. “We all do. We all vowed to serve you until our deaths, though I have a feeling Aven would mean to serve you even in death.”
Raven turned her face away. “Aven was my best friend. He was the only one who cared about me when I was a child. He was my first source of support and my first follower. I don’t know what to do without him.”
“You go on. He would want that, and you know it. Aven knew the risks, Raven. He lived to serve you and he lived to die for you if he had to.”
Raven looked down at her clenched fist. The jewel setting Lady Almi had wanted so badly was clutched there, biting into her flesh. Her fingers tightened around it and the jewels were pressed into her palm, imprinting their forms into her pale flesh.
“Tell Lady Almi to wait for me,” Raven finally said through gritted teeth. “I will see her this night.”
Onna carefully studied the Thief Lord. “Are you sure?”
“Very,” was Raven’s whispered reply.
Onna turned and walked out of the bedchamber. As she left, she heard Raven whisper softly, “We will have our vengeance, Aven.”