“Papa,” Caidy said as she descended the staircase the following morning. She was smoothing down the silk of her spring green gown and had a matching parasol clutched in one lace gloved hand. “I’m ready to go.”
Sarlik glanced up from the paper he was reading in the parlor. His daughter appeared in the doorway, looking just as lovely as her mother used to. He smiled and put his paper down on the low table sitting in front of the settee he sat upon.
“You look lovely today, Caidy.”
“Thank you, Papa.” She frowned as she saw his dressing slippers rather than his shoes lying beside his feet. “Papa, you’re not ready yet.”
He gave her an indulgent smile. “Not yet, my dear. I have some business I need to attend to before we can leave. Why don’t you go into the kitchen and see if Cook has any sweets for you this morning. It smells like cinnamon buns.”
Ever a lady, Caidy’s nose daintily flickered as she sniffed. A smile bloomed on her rosy lips and her eyes brightened. “Yes, it does. I’ll go see if she has any.”
With that, she turned and headed off for the kitchen, calling out to their cook. Sarlik watched her go and his smile slid from his face. He patted at a pocket in his thigh-length jacket. There was a nice little stack of golden bills wrapped in a white cloth, a little note pinned to it, hiding there, a stack of money he couldn’t let his daughter see. It wasn’t yet time for her to know about the details to this feud. She was still too naive to know it was the Thief Lords that did all the dirty work.
A knock came at the front door. Sarlik shot out of his seat and rushed to it before the butler could answer. The Manor servants didn’t know the details of the feud either. It kept the gossip among the help in the Sapphire District to a minimum.
“I have it,” Sarlik said shortly as his butler materialized.
With a bow, the butler withdrew. Sarlik took a deep breath and tugged his jacket down, waiting for the man’s steps to recede into the distance. Then he opened the door to find a young boy standing on his doorstep. He had a gray messenger cap on his head and freckles on his face. He was dressed in the gray and navy blue messenger uniform, but his shoes looked scuffed. He was young, but had been running for at least a few months. He would have learned subtlety and a quiet tongue by now. Perfect.
“Morning, my good Lord,” the boy said cheerfully. “I heard you are looking for a message to be delivered.”
“I have a package for you to take to the office of the Needle City Guard. And not a word of this, right?”
The boy tipped his cap. “Right sure, my Lord. I’ll do as you ask and mum’s the word.”
“Excellent. Take care.”
“Will do, my Lord.”
Sarlik handed over the money wrapped in the cloth. To one side was pinned a folded note. It read: For the protection of one Thief Lord Raven and her following, with the silver raven sigil. For the duration of one month’s time. To be added to what remaining protection time she and her own have. By the power of one Lord from the Sapphire District.
The boy tucked the package into a deep pocket without a further glance at the package and, with a last tip of his hat, was off. Sarlik breathed easier as he closed the door. There was no going back now. The feud was on with a vengeance.
Hopefully, a shopping trip to the Market District to purchase his daughter a few new gowns would do him some good. He did love to spoil his little princess.