“I wish we could stay for the dawn,” Raven said wistfully. “Being underground, I never get to see it anymore.”
Aven gave her a sideways look and grinned. “Come on, then. I know where we can go.”
Intrigued, Raven laced her fingers in his and allowed him to pull her along. Their job over, they didn’t have to hide in the shadows. Even if they were suspected of committing a crime, no one would find anything more than a handful of coins on them. It made getting to wherever Aven was taking her easier. And she had no idea what the man had up his sleeve. He was always full of surprises.
She followed close behind as he led them through the city. They left the Sapphire District and cut through part of the Town Square. They didn’t have to dodge the guards, but it never hurt to stay in shape, so they slunk around in the shadows, backs pressed to stone buildings, to avoid the uniformed men.
They were entering the Emerald District before she knew it. And right into Astrel Gardens. It was a garden to rival Astor Gardens, but had been the former president’s home, so of course it was vast and lovely. Many of the nobility believed it should be incorporated into the Sapphire District because of what it looked like, but the Emerald District held to it tightly with pride. It was an exhausting, ongoing debate.
The manor house hadn’t housed anyone in over four generations. Instead, the grand two story stone building with ivy creeping up all sides was reserved for ceremonies, banquets, balls, and weddings. Raven had never seen the inside of it, but could only imagine it was opulent and probably decked out in gold. It was a thief’s dream; her dream.
The gardens were another matter. There was a raised cloister leading from the house. It was alabaster marble with vines heavy with blooms and fruit twining up the pillars and along the open top. In the middle of the cloister was an opening where a set of marble stairs descended into the statue garden. Here, there were whole and fractured forms of humans and animals. Some of them were draped in cloths, but most stood bare and gleamed in the light that often flooded the gardens. On the other side of the statues was Alina’s Pool. It was named for the city’s first president’s wife. It was long, running the length of the cloister, and shallow at only two feet deep. The water was pure and sparkling and flowers were often found floating in it. Opposite the manor, at the other end of the estate, was the Tangleweed Garden, a relatively small garden patch full of wildflowers. Stories said Alina had been fond of wildflowers and they had been planted in her honor when she died. On the other side of Alina’s Pool was a wide walkway, paved in marble. On the other side was a smaller pool, more of a square shape than a rectangle, called Beth’s Pool, named for Alina’s daughter. It was a deeper pool and housed golden fish. Beside the pool was a small rose garden with red, pink, orange, and purple flowers, planted when Beth had died at the tender age of nine.
Aven led her right by the pools and through the statue garden. She knew he had been here before, but she hadn’t. She wished he would slow down so she could take a look around, but dawn was quickly approaching and she knew he had something to show her.
They raced up the stairs into the cloister and then Aven approached one of the pillars and dropped her hand. He looked up the length of the pillar and nodded to himself. Before she could say a word, he had his fingers wrapped around the vines and was climbing up.
“Aven!” she hissed. “What are you doing?”
He glanced down at her and grinned. “Climbing. You’d better hurry up if you want to see the dawn.”
With that, he resumed his climb and squeezed through the vines creating a roof over the cloister. Muttering to herself, Raven followed him and he helped her get through the vine cover.
However crazy she thought him, she soon forgave him. He helped her settle on one of the marble beams, their seats resting on vines that crossed this way and that. The sun was rising and they were facing the Sapphire District and the rising sun. To their left were the Town Square and the needle.
The golden sunrise washed over the city and struck the needle, catching on the crystal prism at the top of it and sending a rainbow of light across the other half of the city. The roofs of the Sapphire District residences gleamed in the light and the gold than many of the nobility had painted onto the roof of their home glittered, beckoning for her to steal some of that paint.
“This is beautiful, Aven,” she whispered as he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Thank you.”
“You deserve to see a dawn as beautiful as this at least once in your lifetime. Enjoy it for the next few minutes. The City Guard will be making their rounds here soon and we will need to be gone by then. We are trespassing right now.”
Raven could only nod. She was too in awe of this city that was her home, the city where she was the most powerful Thief Lord. The city where she was a queen.