The Market District was full of easy pickings. Aven taught me who to target and how to steal. He had to bail me out a couple of times, though. But, one day, he said I was a natural and he was going to take me to Teryk, his thief Lord. It was the most exciting day of my life.
-writing on the cell wall
Raven had her chin resting in the palm of one hand as she went over city reports at her desk. Night had fallen and now it was time for the serious work. Unfortunately, at that moment, work consisted of reports. Tedious, but necessary, she still wished it would vanish.
Tonight it was a lot of the same as last night: what routes the guards were taking, which family was feuding with which family, who had which seed of magic and jewel setting since those tended to be the most sought after items, and who was betting what on which family would be going to Raven next.
She yawned and didn’t bother covering her mouth. It was just her and Aven, anyways, and he was usually more crudely behaved than she was. After all, he had been abandoned as an infant. That orphanage, no matter its name as the Angel House, wasn’t very good at bringing up kids. Oh, sure, some of them made out okay, but most were turned out into the streets when they turned sixteen. The system didn’t really care much for them. And that was one reason why some of the followings, particularly her own, were so strong and numbered. They took in all of the children that were turned out, as well as the children they managed to grab before they entered the orphanage.
The clearing of a throat grabbed her attention and she eagerly looked up from the papers. She needed some excitement. She craved it. She hoped the throat-clearer had something interesting for her.
Stepho was standing at the entrance to the cavern. He was a new kid, about twelve years old, and had just joined her two months before. He spent most of his time being trained in various criminal acts, but spent two nights a week as her evening attendant.
“Um, my Lady Raven,” he said awkwardly, clearing his throat again.
“Yes, Stepho?” she asked, her voice calm and patient. He was a nervous kid who had seen his parents killed just six months before. Everyone had been warned to tread carefully around him. Raven was no exception; she would be as patient with him as he needed her to be.
“There’s a lady waiting to see you. A Lady Almi.”
Raven raised her eyebrows and looked up to trade glances with Aven. So, the Lady Almi had come to seek vengeance against Lord Sarlik. Let the feuding begin.
“Show her in,” Raven said, barely smothering a pleased smile.
Stepho nodded and jumped away from the entrance. His footsteps could be heard echoing in the tunnels. Raven shook her head. No, the boy would not make a good thief. She would find a place for him eventually.
“So,” Aven said sotto voce, “the Lady Almi has come. This will be interesting.”
Raven gave him a sly smile. Yes, it would be interesting. Usually, it was Lord Sarlik who came to her. The Almis tended to use the other Thief Lords, but had come to her once before, the last bit of the feud before the heavy winter came and stopped just about everything. Lady Almi had been very pleased with Raven’s work, Raven remembered, and it was only time before she came back. It would be fun to steal from both families for each other.
“Watch yourself,” Aven warned. “This is new territory for us.”
“I know,” she said. “I’m always cautious.”
Lady Almi entered the chamber, pushing back the black hood to her cape. Her dark curls tumbled out around her face as she took a look around before approaching the desk.
“Welcome, Lady Almi,” Raven said, gesturing for the chair. “Please have a seat and we’ll get down to business.”