Raven, Chapter 12-a

Aven and I worked hard to bring in loyal followers. They were shy of following a girl, but I proved myself to them. I was a good leader, kind, but firm, giving, yet demanding. My followers were steadfastly loyal. Finally, it was time to face the remaining Thief Lords to establish myself as one of them. It was Aven who gave me my new name. He put an “R” before his own name, to signify I came from him, and called me Raven.
-writing on the cell wall

She couldn’t sleep. The sun had risen, but she couldn’t sleep. No matter what she did, she just couldn’t sleep. So, she took Onna, Salaida, and Kythi to the bath house. A good soak might do her body some good, and it helped that the water was always kept warm, even in the slums.

Raven was furious with herself. She had just barely missed murdering Sarlik as he slept. She had just barely missed feeling his blood on her hands. She had just barely missed getting her revenge for Aven’s death.

Onna was wary of her mistress. Raven was stewing, but she wouldn’t speak. She guessed that Raven’s mission had failed, but she didn’t know how or why. Raven never failed at a job.

Now, Raven was sunk down up to her neck. Her eyes were closed and her head was leaning back on a rolled towel. Onna could see her body was tense and her lips were pressed in a firm line. Raven was very displeased.

Salaida and Kythi kept their distance, following Onna’s silent instructions, communicated to them through subtle gestures. The two young girls were to keep their distance and serve Raven silently and quickly. She didn’t know what Raven’s mood was, but could tell she was tightly coiled.

Cautiously, Onna dared to approach, swimming from the other side of the pool to join Raven at her side. After all, she was the young woman’s adviser. If she couldn’t get close, who could? Aven had trained her well and she knew he would have gone to her side, if he had been allowed in the women’s bath house. Of course, she wasn’t Aven, but she was hand-picked and trained by him to take his place. That had to count for something. She hoped, at least.

Raven felt a disturbance in the water as Onna slowly approached her. She barked out a laugh, startling the girl. “Aven would do the same. He trained you well, Onna,” she said without opening her eyes.

“He did select me, Raven,” Onna said quietly, cautiously. “If you can’t trust me, who can you trust?”

Slowly, Raven blinked open her eyes and turned to look at Onna. The girl was almost blown away from the depth of Raven’s grief evident in her dark eyes. Raven was far beyond tears; now her eyes were just veiled, but the overwhelmingly sadness could not be masked.

“I left him to die,” Raven whispered. “I left his body to others. I should have brought him home. Why didn’t I bring him home?”

“You did what you had to. You did what Aven would have wanted you to.”

Raven turned away from Onna. She couldn’t stand the look of sympathy on the girl’s face. Aven would have just told her things happen and she had to take them, otherwise why should she call herself a Thief Lord? He was hard on her, but he knew just how far he could go. He had always pushed her, pulled her, stretched her. There was no one else who could do that for her, not even his hand-picked successor.

“Leave me, Onna,” Raven said, her face now looking well beyond tired.

Raven took in a deep breath and then closed her eyes and leaned her head back. Onna looked at her for a moment, watching her breathe and mourn, before turning away and rejoining the bath attendants.

“Is she okay?” Kythi asked in a hushed tone. The petite fourteen-year-old was new and had been taken in to be a bath attendant, a protector to Raven. She was still in awe of the young Thief Lord and stared at Raven with large green eyes.

Onna turned to look over her shoulder at their quiet mistress. The water was hardly disturbed around her body. She almost appeared to be dead. Onna remembered how they had lost Sasha here just a few weeks before. But Aven’s death was hitting her harder. Never had Raven lost so many people in so short a time. It had to be weighing heavily on her.

She turned back to Kythi. “I don’t know,” she admitted.

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