The incessant shaking wouldn’t stop. She mumbled, half asleep, and turned away. But it wouldn’t stop. Someone had hold of her shoulder and was rocking it back and forth. Growling, she grabbed a pillow and flung it in the general direction of the person trying to shake her awake.
It was the middle of the morning. She had just gone to bed a few hours ago. Aven and her assistants knew she wasn’t to be disturbed in the morning. She thought that news had already made its rounds in the rest of her following. There was no reason for her to be shaken awake in the morning.
“I swear,” Aven’s voice said from above her, “if you don’t wake up right now, I’ll give you your bath right here in your bed.”
Grumbling, Raven turned over onto her back and slowly blinked her eyes open. Aven was kneeling above her, the loose shirt he wore pulling away from his chest as he leaned over her body. He had been the one shaking her awake, but now he had his arms crossed.
“I was sleeping,” she said crossly. “What’d you wake me up for?”
He lifted an arched eyebrow. “Was it not you who asked me to wake you just before noon so you could take your bath?”
Groaning, Raven pulled a pillow over her face and sighed into it.
“Well?” Aven asked.
She flung the pillow away, narrowly missing Aven’s head as he dodged out of the way, and pushed herself up. “Fine. I’m up. See?”
He patted her shoulder sympathetically. “That’s a dear, Raven. After all, this was your idea. After that last assassination attempt, you decided no more evening bathing. Too many shadows and too much darkness, you said.”
“Yeah,” she groused, “but why did I have to pick the morning?”
“Because all the other Thief Lords would be asleep during this time of day, too. Don’t worry. You’ll make up your sleep tonight. You have no planned jobs, and neither does anyone else. The work has been light so far, but it will come. You should take advantage of this time.”
Sighing heavily, and knowing he was right, Raven flung her covers away and pushed herself out of her nice warm, comfortable bed. Even though he had seen her naked numerous times, Aven left her bedchamber to let her prepare for her bath in peace. He was considerate like that. She was also grumpy in the mornings, and he knew it.
Muttering to herself, she pulled on the robe she wore whenever she went to bathe and gathered up her bathing things. She really did enjoy her baths. But did she really have to pick the mornings for such a task?
Raven, Onna, and Idala made their way over to the female bath house without any incidents. Onna was a little weary, but Raven thought it might have something to do with the fact that the girl hadn’t been back to the bath house since the assassination attempt. After all, she had lost her friend and confident during that scuffle. But Onna had insisted on attending to Raven that morning. Besides, she also needed a bath.
The water was warm and soothing as the three of them settled in. Since it was still morning, no one else was in the house, so they had the whole pool to themselves. Raven settled in up to her neck and rested her head back against the wall, closing her eyes. A little cat nap wouldn’t hurt. And the water was so nice and warm.
“Raven,” a voice called, soft and insistent. “Raven. Wake up, Raven.”
What? She wasn’t asleep, was she?
Slowly, she opened her eyes and looked right into Onna’s upside down face.
“Raven, you have a message.”
Onna, dutiful and perceptive as always, realized her mistress was just waking up. She waited patiently as Raven quickly came to full awareness. Raven, for her part, was upset with herself that it was taking so long for her to wake up today. What was wrong with her? And why did people insist on waking her every time she had just slipped into a restful slumber?
“One of Edvin’s messengers came by with a message for you.” At Raven’s narrowed eyed look, she quickly went on, “Aven directed him to come here.”
“And what did this messenger say?” Raven asked, suspicion thick in her voice.
“There will be a Thief Lord council meeting tomorrow night. Edvin is calling it and is requesting that all Thief Lords and their advisers meet him at the Dirty Pig Tavern at midnight.”
Raven nodded, deep in thought. The Dirty Pig was neutral territory. There, none of them would have the higher ground. It had been their meeting place for years. The tavern owner was a stubborn old man who remembered the slum days before the Thief Lords had taken over. He would never allow bloodshed in his establishment, and they respected him. After all, he was the oldest person in the slums, had made it that far in life in the slums. He wasn’t the kind of man you tangled with.
Raven sighed. “I guess it’s that time for our yearly meeting, then. I had forgotten Edvin was the one arranging it this year.”
Onna looked troubled, remembering what had happened the last time all four Thief Lords had met. “Are you sure it will be safe for you? They all want you dead.”
She gave her decoy a sympathetic smile. “We all want each other dead. Don’t forget, trying to assassinate each other is what we do. No one ever succeeded until me. We just do it to keep in shape. Don’t worry, Onna.”
Onna just gave her a dubious nod, then handed her a warm, fluffy towel. Raven sighed. It was back to work, but, at least for now, it was sleep that was her work.