In those early days, we all lost followers. It was painful, but they knew what they had gotten themselves into. There was fierce loyalty on all sides, in all followings. It took nearly a year, and many deaths and rampant fear in the slums, but the other Thief Lords finally reluctantly acknowledged me as a Thief Lord. But it was still an uphill battle.
-writing on the cell wall
Raven had never been in the holding cells of the Court House before. She had never been in the Court House before. She had never been anywhere near the Court House before. This was a new experience for her.
She had expected to be led into a courtroom, one of those cozy, echoing chambers with a platform where the magistrate sat and a length of benches along one wall where the panel of barristers sat and helped judge.
She hadn’t expected a holding cell. She had thought she’d be judged at first light and thrown into prison. Then her people would have her out by the night. But she had ended up spending most of her time in the holding cell.
It was strange. The cell itself was large enough to hold half a dozen people and had a wooden bench running around the perimeter expect where the narrow door was closed and locked. There had been three other people waiting when the City Guards had put her in and placed her on one of the benches before chaining her to it. She could move one foot in every direction, and that was it. She didn’t like being confined so, and above ground.
But the weirdest part to her was being placed right in the middle of the Court House’s atrium. It was a large area with a white marble floor and a high, rounded ceiling that was at least three stories above her head. The people who came in and out barely spared them a glance. She figured this cell had been such a fixture, and no one really wanted to look on a criminal, that they were used to it and it was all part of the furnishings.
It was well past midday when someone finally came for her. The cell had emptied out throughout the day and now she was alone and lonely. She had never been so alone and bored before.
“Up,” the guard said as he entered the cell.
Raven wondered what would happen if she conked him on the head after he released the chains holding her, but there were too many people milling around. It wouldn’t be hard for someone to recapture her. No, her people knew what to do and she would be out of the Court House in no time. She just had to see this trial through.
Her wrists were chained together and a longer one was attached to where the wrists were joined. The guard took hold of the end of that long chain and she groused at being led like an animal. Didn’t these guards know she could have them killed at the snap of her fingers?
“Hurry up,” the guard grumbled as he led her along a hallway.
It was brightly lit and the carpet was plush under her feet. There were light fixtures every few feet and one wall was pierced every now and then with round windows. The other wall was punctured with gleaming wooden doors. Raven assumed this was where the courtrooms were, but, at the spacing between the doors, she surmised they must be small courtroom.
Finally, towards the end of the hallway, the guard stopped and knocked on the door. A moment passed before a muffled voice answered and the guard swung the door open. He tugged at the chain and Raven glared at his back as she was forced to follow him in.
Whatever Raven’s expectations for a courtroom, this was not it at all. It was small and carpeted with a large desk, larger than her own, dominating most of the chamber. The walls were plain, but there was a small potted tree in one corner to help cheer up the room. But Raven didn’t think courtrooms were supposed to be cheerful. Against the wall on the other side of the desk were dark bookcases filled with more books than Raven had seen in her entire life.
Behind the desk sat a man with a great mass of neatly combed white hair. He was bent over the desk’s surface, hastily scrawling something out on an off white piece of parchment. He was dressed in a black robe with tiny golden angels affixed to the ends of the sleeves, near his wrists.
“I’ll be with you in just a moment,” the man murmured as he finished scribbling.
“At your convenience, magistrate,” the guard replied, moving his feet so they were wide apart.
Raven silently grumbled to herself as she was forced to wait. Even when she saw people they never had to wait in her presence. That’s what the entrance chamber was for. And she kept fresh water and malted beer and a few other refreshments for her clients.
Finally, the man put his pen down and looked up at Raven with startling blue eyes. They seemed to see straight through to her soul and it would have taken Raven aback if she hadn’t steeled herself for it. He folded his hands on top of the desk and looked her up and down, his eyes finally coming to rest on her face.
He didn’t recognize her, but Raven knew who he was. The eyes confirmed it for her. She remembered those hands. She remembered watching them scrawl out her death sentence. He was the one who had made her a ward of the city, had sent her to the orphanage. Here before her sat the man who had started her journey to the underground. And he didn’t recognize her.
Raven smiled to herself. After all these years she had finally found the man who had changed her life. She didn’t know whether to kiss him or kill him. Her life after that decision had been hard, but she had met Aven, had become the most powerful Thief Lord. Still, she had promised that the man would pay for the pain she had suffered, and the greater pain she would have suffered at the orphanage had she gone to live there.
“Thief Lord Raven,” the magistrate said, his voice mild and his eyes unwavering. His hands were spread out on top of the papers he had been writing on, proudly displaying the ruby ring he wore as a magistrate. The setting was elaborate; this man had risen quite high since he had sentenced Tala to the orphanage. “I had hoped we would meet one day. You’ve certainly kept us on our toes.”
Raven didn’t say anything. She fixated on his face. This time she was intent on memorizing his face rather than just his hands. She would remember his mild manner at this point in time, and would later delight in the look of horror in his eyes as she slipped her favorite dagger into his gut.
The magistrate frowned and the lines around his eyes creased slightly as she remained silent. “What have you to say for yourself?” he asked, his voice gone cold.
“What are the charges against me?” she replied, her voice similarly steely.
The magistrate leaned back, a look of surprise flittering across his face. “You are a Thief Lord. Surely you know as well as I do that the list of charges is miles long. Your followers, as you people choose to call those petty criminals, have likely committed any number or horrendous crimes from simple theft to murder. As Thief Lord, surely you know you must take the fall for all the crimes your followers have and will commit.”
Raven only repeated,” What are the charges against me?”
The man sighed and plopped a pair of golden rimmed spectacles on his nose. He shifted through his papers and pulled one up.
“Thief Lord Raven, you are being charged with the murder of one Lord Daisun Sarlik.” He put down the paper and looked at her over the top of the spectacles. “Young lady, murder is a very serious crime. For that, you will be sent to the cells and sentencing will be in just a few days.”
The guard reached out to grab hold of her arm, but she quickly jerked away from him. She made it a couple of steps towards him before the guard caught her and held on to both of her arms. She struggled against the man’s strong arms, wishing she had spent more time on strength exercises as well as her usual limbering ones, but the man’s hands were like iron. The magistrate only watched her with wary eyes, but didn’t look afraid at all.
Eyes blazing, Raven stilled and ground out, “What kind of a trial is this?”
Surprise flared in the magistrate’s eyes. “Trial? What makes you think you deserve a trial? You are a Thief Lord. Trials are reserved for the people, the tax payers, the household owners, the lords and ladies, the merchants, the people who make their living honestly.” By the time he finished his recitation, his face had turned red and his hands were once again pressed to the desk top. “You are a common thief and thereby do not deserve a trial. It is clear that are you at fault for all your crimes. You do not get a trial. Guard, take her straight to the cells!”
Note: And that’s it! That’s all that’s been written of Raven. I had hoped to have written an ending by now, and I do know most of the ending, but that obviously hasn’t happened. While I had this story perfectly outlined, it started spiraling out of control halfway through and I’m still trying to figure it out. I know what happens to Raven, but no clue what will happen to Caidy and Tyala. One day, though, I hope this will be finished and posted here. Thank you so much for reading, and I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a better ending.
Check out my current first draft, Queen of the Garden of Girls, which is based on Beauty and the Beast.