Aven took me away right away. He knew there would be trouble from the other Thief Lords. He wanted to protect me. So, he took me underground into secret tunnels only he and a few others knew about under the Sapphire District. There, we worked our magic and developed a following, a following Aven allowed me to lead.
-the writing on the cell wall.
Conducting her nightly business without Aven was strange. Everything seemed to be the same, operated the same, sounded the same. Aven had trained Onna well to be Raven’s next adviser. She had made the change as seamless as possible for Raven, but every time Raven turned to look at her adviser she expected to see Aven, not Onna.
Tonight Barrister Salway was mumbling something about wanting Raven to terrorize someone. She couldn’t quite understand the man’s muddled words. For a barrister, he wasn’t very articulate and she began to have her doubts about the man’s abilities in court. He was sitting across from her with his legs crossed and his hands clasped around his knee so tightly his knuckles had turned a ghostly white. His thinning graying hair looked a little wispy and was in disarray from having been stuffed under the hood of his cloak and his forehead was starting to drip with sweat. His steely gray eyes were roving all around the cavern, falling everywhere except on Raven.
Eventually, it came to the point where Raven had to hold up a hand and shake her head. She had just met the man and already she was exasperated with him. Usually, it took a couple of visits for that to happen. And, unfortunately, she wasn’t familiar with his feud with whichever family, so she couldn’t help him out in any way, couldn’t possibly discern exactly what he was hiring her for. Neither this man nor whomever he was feuding against had ever come to her before.
“Barrister Salway,” Raven said, breaking into his mumbled monologue. “For a barrister, you’re hardly easy to understand. Would you please stop mumbling so I can actually help you?”
The man blinked at her before his eyes instantly shifted away. He shifted uncomfortably in the seat and cleared his throat.
“I’ve previously used Thief Lord Deryk’s services,” he said, much slower and clearer, his eyes now pinned to the ground before his seat.
Raven smiled at him. “That’s better, Barrister. Now I can understand you. Were you displeased with Deryk’s services?”
Barrister Salway grimaced. “His men bungled the last job I hired them for. I hired him to forge some notes supposedly from Barrister Rayly. That man has been a burr in my side for the past twenty years. Those notes were supposed to be his undoing, but that Thief Lord’s men made a mess of it and they were written off as jokes.”
Raven gave him a patient smile. “Yes. I can see how frustrating that can be. I’m glad you decided to try my services. I guarantee you I provide excellent work. There is a steep price, but I care about my people and they always work quickly, efficiently, and correctly.”
Salway nodded, still not meeting her eyes. “I had heard. Your services came highly recommended. I can pay your price, Thief Lord, never fear.”
“What exactly are you hiring me to do?” she asked.
Salway uncrossed his legs and leaned forward as though to engage in conspiratorial whispers, his eyes finally lifting to meet her face, if not her eyes. “I want your men to terrorize Barrister Rayly’s oldest son, Balier. Rayly and I have an important trial we’re starting in two days and I want Rayly’s mind on everything but the trial. I don’t want you to actually hurt the boy; just scare him badly enough that his father takes notice.”
Raven nodded thoughtfully. “I have just the man.” She turned to find Aven and was once again struck by the sight of Onna. She drew in a sharp breath and then nodded for the girl to come closer. “Bring me Pyoder.”
Onna nodded and hurried from the cavern. Raven focused her eyes back on the barrister, who was once again looking everywhere but at her.
“Barrister, my fee is three gold coins and six silver coins for my services, to be split. The first half will be paid this night and the second half to be paid in three days’ time if you are satisfied with my services. If you are not sufficiently satisfied, simply write a note and have it sent to the Angelic Church. One of my men will be waiting there in three days to either receive the note or the remainder of my fee. I also require five gold coins to be sent to the City Guard for my and my following’s protection.”
The Barrister nodded and fumbled for a coin pouch secured around his waist. “Yes, yes, of course. That is a bit more than Thief Lord Deryk’s fees, but I have heard you are good.”
Raven waited patiently as the man counted out half of her fee. By the time she had collected up the coins, Onna had returned with Pyoder. No one was better at psychological fear and terror than this man. He would do a number on the Rayly boy.
“Barrister, this is Pyoder,” Raven said, gesturing to the gangly young man standing beside Onna. “He will terrorize the Rayly boy for you.”
Salway turned and looked the young man up and down. He was tall and slim with a head of thick auburn hair streaked with gold and eyes as steely gray as his own. His features were rather plain and he looked, well, plain. He was the type of man who could blend in anywhere and not be seen.
Pyoder bowed his head to Salway. “It will be my pleasure to serve you, sir.”
“Pyoder,” Raven said, “Barrister Salway would like you to terrorize Balier Rayly, the son of Barrister Rayly. This must begin as soon as possible and will end in three days’ time. You are not to hurt him; simply terrorize him and put fear in his heart, so much fear that his father becomes more preoccupied with his son than his upcoming trial.”
Pyoder bowed at the waist to his Thief Lord. “Of course, Thief Lord. I will start plotting right away.” He turned to Barrister Salway. “It will be an honor to work on your behalf, sir.”
Barrister Salway gave a faint smile and looked the man up and down again. He had faith in Raven and hoped she would come through for him. Raven, for her part, felt a twinge of sadness, knowing Aven would just be shaking his head behind her, trying very hard to stifle a laugh. Pyoder was so cavalier and Barrister Salway was a quivering mass of nerves. It was a little funny.