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. 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.
And it was all her fault. If she hadn’t insisted on going ahead with the steal, he would still be alive and with her. She wasn’t sure what she was going to do without Aven.
Onna was the only one who dared go to her in this state. She 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, had picked by the man she trusted most, so she allowed her former decoy near.
A gentle hand touched her shoulder, rested there comfortably. 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 close by.
“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 her 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 let 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. Her eyes were haunted and her skin was pale. Bags sagged under her eyes and her lips were trembling.
“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 so wanted was clutched in her fist. Her fingers tightened around it and the jewels were pressed into her palm.
“Tell Lady Almi for wait for me. I will see her this night.”
Onna carefully studied the Thief Lord. “Are you sure?”
“Very,” came 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.”
Caidy had been avoiding their gardens for the past two days, ever since her father had killed that man. She didn’t know who he had been, but she guessed he had to have been from the underground for her father to kill him.
She remembered the morning afterwards, when she had woken to find her father sitting on the edge of her bed, his head down. He had a devastated look on his face, one she had never seen before, and it had frightened her.
He had told her what he had done. He had killed a man who had stolen from them. He had stabbed him through the heart. The City Guard had removed the body so his precious daughter wouldn’t be exposed to that horror.
And Caidy had been horrified. How could her father have killed someone? Even if he had stolen from them, how could her father murder someone else? How could he take another person’s life?
Her father had been afraid of this, afraid of losing his daughter’s respect. She knew it hurt him to see the accusation and tinges of hate in her eyes every time she looked at him. She couldn’t help but loathe him. He had killed someone. This feud was getting out of hand.
Sure, she knew others had been killed throughout the feud, but to know her own father had taken a life? It was unimaginable, and, yet, it had happened. Her entire opinion of her father had changed. She couldn’t help it.
For the past two days, Caidy had been avoiding the gardens, and her father. She had discovered that her mother’s jewel setting had gone missing, but that didn’t matter to her as much as knowing her father had robbed a man of his life. That was a far worse crime to her.
It’s not that she doubted her father hadn’t acted to defend himself, her, and their home. It was more of the fact that he hadn’t taken some other course of action that would have spared the man his life. The man hadn’t even had the jewel setting on him! Someone else had taken it, but Caidy didn’t care. This feud had cost them enough. What was one jewel setting to a man’s life?
Caidy hadn’t been to the Angelic Church, the one located in the Town Square, since her mother’s death. The memorial had been done there rather than at the Angelic Church in the Sapphire District. The Town Square’s church was much larger and grander than the one in the Sapphire District. The Angelic Bishop oversaw all the people of Needle City while the Sapphire District’s Angelic Minister only tended to the nobility. For what she wanted to talk about, she needed the Bishop.
The Town Square was busy in the middle of the day. People were rushing around, tending to their business, delivering this and that, searching out that person or this. She skirted the Needle on her way across the cobblestones towards the Angelic Church.
It was a large, white building with four spires at each corner. They rose up and narrowed into twisted, golden spires capped with silver balls. In the middle was a taller spire, this one twisted as it reached for the clouds. There were four stained glass windows at the front of the church and below the middle two were the wooden double doors that always stood ajar. The Angelic Church welcomed all at anytime of the day or night.
As she entered the church, she pushed back the hood of her dark brown cloak. She entered a rectangular chamber, its walls extending to either side of her. Shelves had been attached to the walls in three rows and candles flickered along them. They were lit in memory of someone who had been lost.
Off to one side, Caidy took a match and lit it on the large, stout candle that stood on a single shelf. She walked down one side of the chamber until she came to her mother’s candle. She bowed before it and lit it, something she hadn’t done in years. Usually, it sat gathering dust until either she or her father chose to visit the city’s church.
“Bring peace to my soul, Mother,” she whispered before blowing out her candle.
Tossing out the match, she headed into the main church and walked along the aisle to the front. The front of the church was rather plain with only a seat in the middle of the platform and a pulpit to the left side. Sunlight filtered through the large stained glass bearing the image of an angel with flowing blond hair and blue gown, casting pastel colors across the platform and the elderly man seated on the chair.
Caidy headed straight for the woman, ignoring all the other people who were filling the pews here and there to make prayers of their own. The Bishop opened her eyes and smiled gently on Caidy. She reached out a hand and indicated the girl could approach before resting her slender hands back onto the white silk gown she wore.
Her eyes filling with tears, Caidy went to her knees before the Bishop and pressed the golden band that ran around the hem of the woman’s gown to her forehead.
“What brings you to me, child?” the Bishop asked, her voice gentle and almost angelic. It was musical and quiet, the tones soft and welcoming. “What ails you?”
“Bishop,” Caidy began, “my name is Caidy Sarlik. My father is Lord Daisun Sarlik. My mother was Lady Mertara Sarlik.”
The Bishop smiled. “I remember your mother, child. She was a good woman with a beautiful heart.”
“Yes, she was,” Caidy whispered.
“What ails you?”
“My father, Bishop. He killed a man in our gardens two nights ago. He said the man was a thief who had taken my mother’s jewel setting, but the necklace was not found on him.”
“Ah,” the Bishop said, nodding. “Your father has committed a crime, but shall pay no penance. That is indeed troubling for a young lady who has looked up to her father since the day her mother died.”
“Can you help me, Bishop?” she implored, staring up at the old woman with pleading eyes.
The Bishop gave her a gentle smile and rested a hand on top of Caidy’s head. “I cannot, Caidy. The forgiveness must come from your heart, not mine. You know the correct course of action. You must follow your own heart, child.”
Caidy’s shoulders sagged. “But I don’t know what to do.”
“Yes, you do.”
Caidy was silent for long moments. Then she raised her eyes and looked right into the Bishop’s. “The feud must end.”
“Feuds are the way of this city, but they are not always right. I have seen them destroy many families and many have come to bloody ends. You know where your’s is headed.”
Caidy nodded. “I do. After my father, I am the only one left to carry it on. But I don’t wish to. Bishop, I am friends with the Almis’ daughter. She wants not part in it, either.”
The Bishop smiled, a twinkle in her eyes. “And you have a plan.”
Caidy started. “How do you know?”
The Bishop took a swift glance around before leaning close to Caidy’s ear and whispering, “Tyala Almi came to seek my counsel yesterday.”
Caidy blinked in surprise and stared up at the old woman. The Bishop raised a finger to her lips to indicate all secrets were hers to keep. If Lord Sarlik ever came to her to find out anything about his daughter, the Bishop would keep whatever Caidy said in the strictest of confidences.
“Caidy Sarlik, you know what you must do.”
Night was approaching and Lord Sarlik was most paranoid at night. Especially since he had caught that man prowling on his property. It probably wasn’t the best idea to have killed him, but it had angered him to catch a thief in his own gardens.
He had heard creaking from his roof. He had initially written them off as the roof settling and the manor being generations old. But then they had started to sound more like very soft foot falls. That had alarmed him and he had gotten out of bed. The nearest weapon he had at hand had been the knife, so he had taken it into the gardens to hunt down the intruder.
He hadn’t meant to kill him, but he had become enraged at the man’s audaciousness. His actions that night had cost him his daughter’s regard and respect. It hurt to think about, to remember, but he would protect his daughter and she would come to respect him again one day. One day she would see that his actions had been correct.
That evening he sat in his study with three City Guards. They stood before him, feet apart and hands clasped behind their backs. They were three very solid men, men who were at his command until he felt safe in his home once again. He hadn’t intended on asking for guards, but after discovering that the man had broken into his little girl’s bedchambers while she slept in that very room had upset him. He was doing this to protect his daughter, not himself or the manor.
“You know your posts?” Lord Sarlik asked.
The middle man, the oldest one, his blond hair cut very short and his green eyes vivid and sharp, nodded sharply. “We do. One of us will be posted outside of your daughter’s chambers while the other two roam the grounds.”
Sarlik nodded. “The orders remain the same.”
“Very good, sir.”
With that, the three men marched from the study, leaving Lord Sarlik to his thoughts.
Caidy was safely ensconced in her rooms. She had spent much of the day out in the city, alone. He didn’t blame her for not wanting to be around him. After all, he had blood on his hands. He’d literally had blood on his hands when he had told her what had happened. As a matter of fact, after dealing with the City Guard, he had gone straight to his daughter’s rooms and had waited for her to awaken.
He did worry about her when she went out into the city alone, but it was daylight and there were people bustling around everywhere. He hoped she would be safe enough in the crowds. No one would try anything in broad daylight. Besides, the Thief Lords operated at night. At least, Raven always did.
Sarlik hadn’t told his daughter he had known the man he had killed. He recognized the man. He was always standing at Raven’s side, but he didn’t know the man’s name. Neither he nor Raven had ever offered it.
And the only reason why the man could have been in the gardens in the middle of the night would be because the Almis had hired Raven. The Thief Lord was working both sides of the feud. It was just a job to her, but it angered him. He and the Almis were using the same Thief Lord to get at each other. The thought didn’t sit well with him.
Now, not only did he respect Raven for what she did, he also feared her for what she did and what she could do to him and Caidy.