“Raven,” a voice called, rousing her from sleep. “Raven.”
With a yawn, Raven came awake, wondering why, for the hundred thousandth time, why she hadn’t allowed Aven to install some kind of door to her bed chamber. She pulled the covers from over her face and pushed herself up so her pillows supported her back. She blinked a few times to clear the sleep from her eyes and covered her yawning mouth with the back of her hand.
Onna was standing at the doorway, waiting patiently for her mistress to awake. The decoy smiled and bowed her head.
“Raven, Master Yadrow is here to claim his spoils,” Onna said, her voice quiet and gentle. It was a voice Raven liked awakening to, which was why Onna was often the one on duty at the door to the caverns during the day. Not many had a voice that sweet, soft, and gentle. It was like waking to a nightingale. “He will be waiting in the meeting chamber. I’ll await word from Aven to bring him into your audience chamber.”
Raven nodded. “Very well. Thank you, Onna.”
The girl departed and Raven, fully dressed, pulled herself from her bed. She slipped into her boots and walked out of her bed chamber, idly wondering what it would be like to wear pajamas in bed, like she used to before her parents were killed. She didn’t look back, not wanting to see the warm, comfortable bed she had to leave because of business. Sometimes, it really stunk to be a Thief Lord.
Aven was already waiting in the audience chamber, just as he always was. She nodded to him as she took her place reclining on her cushions, walking past her bare desk. Aven left the chamber to let Onna know Raven was ready.
Raven waited patiently, fighting back yawns, until she saw Aven precede Onna and Master Yadrow into the chamber. Her adviser took up his place at the back of the chamber, standing silent guard with arms crossed and eyes hard. Onna, gentle and smiling, gestured for Master Yadrow to approach Raven and then she withdrew.
“Welcome back, Master Yadrow,” Raven said. “Aven?”
As Master Yadrow approached Raven, Aven walked over to her desk and dug out the ledgers.
“Do you have what I asked for?” Master Yadrow asked, his eyes flickering nervously around the chamber.
“Indeed I do,” she responded. “Have you paid off the guard?”
He nodded, the movements uneven and jerky. Even though the man had been through this numerous times, he was still extremely nervous and it still tickled her. She had to force herself to swallow her giggles.
“And you know the price of lying?” she asked.
Gulping hard, Master Yadrow nodded. “Believe me, Thief Lord, I would not lie to you. I have paid them off to look away for three weeks’ time.”
Raven nodded, satisfied. “That is more than the price I asked for, but I assume that means I won’t be getting the rest of my pay?”
The man flushed, but Raven bestowed a gentle smile on him and held up a hand. “Have no fear, my good man. I sent out someone new to do the job. You owe me nothing more. The extra week of protection will do me some good. Aven?”
Aven stepped forward and handed over the three ledgers. Master Yadrow frowned as he weighed them.
“This is it?” he asked skeptically, lifting an eyebrow at Raven. “For a merchant of his caliber, he has only three ledgers?”
“He has tiny writing,” Raven said dryly. “I believe you will need a magnifying glass.”
Frowning to himself, Master Yadrow bowed his head to Raven and then withdrew from the chamber. Aven stepped forward and helped Raven up.
“Back to bed, mistress,” Aven said, pushing her back to her bed chamber. “You need your rest for your job tonight.”
She nodded complacently and covered a yawn. “Yes. Excellent idea, Aven. Good night.”
He smiled. “Good night, my heart.”