Raven, Chapter 11-c

As soon as she entered the Market District, her movements changed. Her bold stride through the slums, her own territory, became a slink as she moved from shadow to shadow to hide from the City Guard.

Instead of taking the direct route through the Town Square, she instead crossed Skywalk Promenade, which divided the Market District from The Commons. Here, three, four, and five story apartment buildings rose on either side of the narrow streets. These, as in all the other districts excepting the slums and Factory District, were cobbled with light brown, white, black, and gray stones and smoothed over so wheels had a flatter surface to travel over. It also ensured fewer wheels were lost or broken.

The apartment buildings were dark. It was, after all, well after midnight. There shouldn’t be anyone awake to watch a shadow creep along the walls and skirting around Arel Gardens. A jolt went through her heart as she caught sight of the vines winding their way around the cloister and she quickly averted her gaze. She didn’t think she would be able to return there any time soon. It reminded her too strongly of Aven and the dawn they had spent together. Never again would they be able to watch the dawn together, explore the city, or swing up onto a cloister covered with vines. She clenched her teeth together and quietly ran away from the Gardens.

She continued her way around the city, calming her mind and her heart as she did so. She crossed the Needle Promenade, which divided The Commons from the Emerald District, where the upper class resided. These people were very wealthy, some even more so than the nobility, but they could never live in the Sapphire District; only those of noble blood could, unless they were the Parliament President.

The residences in the Emerald District were grand, but not as grand as those in the Sapphire District. Many of the homes, especially those covering extensive ground, had fine gardens, colorful and sweet smelling, an echo of the Sapphire District. These people would do anything to emulate the nobility. It sickened Raven. She never took any jobs necessitating being in the Emerald District. It was far too pretentious to her. Besides, it was excellent practice for her followers for when she did send them to the Sapphire District.

Finally, she crossed the Esplanade into the Sapphire District. It was quite fortunate Sarlik Manor was just off of the Esplanade. There were fewer other manors she had to worry about here, manors where people might be peeking from lacy curtains.

Silently, Raven crept onto the manor grounds. She could hear movement, footsteps moving evenly in time. Those footsteps could only belong to the City Guard, she knew. Only they were that disciplined. And that loud, she thought, smiling to herself. It made them easy to avoid.

She wasn’t surprised Lord Sarlik and his daughter were being protected by the City Guard. It happened periodically when a job went bad and the nobility were spooked. But it never lasted for more than a few days.

The City Guards didn’t scare Raven. If anything, she was even more determined, knew it wouldn’t be a problem to get around them. She could almost taste her revenge, could almost feel Lord Sarlik’s warm, red blood spilling over her bare hands. For this, she would remove her gloves. In her mind’s eye, she could see the look of fear and horror in Lord Sarlik’s eyes as the light went out of them, just as the light had gone out of Aven’s eyes.

She gritted her teeth as Aven’s dying face crossed her mind’s eye. She had to do this. She had to get her revenge. Sarlik had stolen her best friend, lover, and adviser from her. She would steal his life from his body.

She worked silently and automatically to get inside. With surprise, she realized she was entering the manor; she had no recollection of it. Her skills and instincts and training had moved her while her mind was preoccupied with Aven and thoughts of avenging his death. She felt lucky she hadn’t been caught.

Raven knew exactly which door would lead to Lord Sarlik. Down one hall, where Caidy’s rooms were, there was a guard, but Sarlik’s rooms were in another hallway and were not protected. It appeared the man was more concerned about his daughter than himself. At least he had his priorities straight. And it made her job easier.

She silently ghosted into Lord Sarlik’s chambers. Silvery moonlight bathed part of the sitting room, casting shadows long and tall over the rest of the room. The moonlight lit up the door to the bedroom, and Raven was glad to see it was partially open. That would eliminate the need to open the potentially creaky door.

She slipped into the bedroom and quietly unsheathed her knife. On the broad bed was a sleeping figure, the covers pulled up to the chest. Lord Sarlik slept on his side with his mouth open. A soft snore came from him.

Quietly, she approached the bed and raised her knife. She brought the blade down quickly, her body shielding the moonlight from sparkling on the blade. It was as hungry for blood as Raven was.

But Lord Sarlik shifted, moved further away from her. Her blade whispered just past him and struck the bed. Silently cursing, she pulled the knife from the bed, but there was no way she could go back for the kill.

Lord Sarlik had come awake with a start. He gasped and his body shifted as he struggled to sit up to find out what had disturbed him. By the time he had turned himself over, his fingers brushing against the hole the knife had made in his mattress, Raven was only a silhouette against the window. She vanished a moment later.

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