“Thief Lord Corinn is here to see you.”
Edvin turned from the window he had been staring out of. It had been far too long since he’d looked out of his library window and seen day light. He was loathe to turn from the sight, but business was business. Besides, Corinn was not easily dissuaded.
Unlike the other Thief Lords, Edvin chose to base himself above ground. It gave him a great vantage point, especially since his building was three stories high and his private quarters were on the third floor. He could see most of the slums from his windows and had the perfect vantage point for looking out for assassins. The other Thief Lords often pointed out the value of keeping underground, out of sight, out of the public eye, but he liked the starlight and moonlight. And sometimes he got to see daylight, as well.
It’s not that he even wanted to be awake during the day light hours. But there was work that needed to be done to prepare for the council meeting tonight. All four Thief Lords would be there. They needed to have as many precautions in place as possible. Enough guards, no weapons, minimum amount of personal items, only an adviser each. The list went on. There was just too much to attend to. The Dirty Pig was common ground, but it was a well-known fact that any one of them would love to take control of it. The old man who owned couldn’t live forever.
His heavy black boots clunked on the wooden floor as he turned to face his adviser, a scrawny, but shrewd man by the name of Zyno. The two had been inseparable for over ten years. He was the best adviser Edvin had ever had. He also had no idea where the man had come from; Zyno having wandered into Needle City as a middle-aged man. But it didn’t matter to Edvin as long as the man was loyal.
“What does he want?” Edvin asked, his voice gruff as usual.
Zyno gave him a bemused look. “Like he would really tell me.”
Edvin gave what sounded like a chuckle, but his face didn’t changed. That was about the extent of his amusement. In Zyno’s opinion, his friend was all too serious.
“Well, then,” Edvin said, “show him in.”
Zyno nodded, his floppy dark hair flipping in and out of his eyes. He just brushed the hair to one side and left the room. Edvin shook his head and, hands behind his back, walked over to one of his armchairs and dropped down into it.
Unlike Raven, he had two walls lined with, not books, but things. Some of them were things he had stolen that his clients hadn’t been able to afford or hadn’t come to retrieve. Others were things he had just collected. Some of it he couldn’t even remember what they were or why he had them. He also had two armchairs facing each other, one with the back to the door and the other with the back to the window. They were moderately comfortable, but they really weren’t designed to be sat in. Edvin preferred to stand and he didn’t want any guests, employers or followers, to get too comfortable. Between the two chairs was a small round table. He had a lantern sitting on it, but, with day light streaming in, he didn’t need it.
A knock came at the door before it was swung open. Without a sound, Corinn strode in and plopped down across from Edvin. The two Thief Lords nodded to each other and Edvin steepled his fingers as he waited for Corinn to begin.
They sat in silence for several moments, neither willing to speak first. Edvin didn’t want Corinn to think he was eager to hear what the other Thief Lord had to say. Corinn didn’t want to say anything just yet, wanting to make Edvin wait and squirm. It was an odd power game all four of the Thief Lords played. Eventually, they would meet an impasse, usually time constraints, and whoever had the more pressing appointment would be forced to speak first.
Unfortunately, this time it was Edvin. And he was not pleased about that. He was the oldest of the Thief Lords. He should have seniority, but it didn’t work that way. Unfortunately.
“What brings you here in broad daylight?” Edvin asked.
Corinn barely contained a smile. That was one point for Corinn. Not that they really kept count. By now it just evened out, but it was all part of the power game.
Edvin sighed. “What about Raven?”
“She’s going to want us to have to sign her peace agreement tonight.”
Edvin nodded in agreement. “Most likely, yes, that will occur.”
“We have to change the rules. I don’t like it.”
“It’s exactly as it was before,” Edvin pointed out.
“True, but I still don’t like it. It’s too restricting. We need to change it so it favors us now.”
Edvin raised an eyebrow. He didn’t like Raven and the way she had become a Thief Lord, but she had guts and, really, the peace agreement favored them all. It protected all of them.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Edvin said slowly.
Corinn frowned and narrowed his eyes. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Edvin had been all for killing Raven not that long ago. Now he was changing his tune? It was common for the Thief Lords to change sides, but, for a long time now, Edvin had been staunchly against Raven.
“Look, Corinn, we keep each other in check by attempting to kill each other. But we’re not supposed to actually kill each other. We’re supposed to hate each other and undermine each other. That’s what keeps us from overstepping our bounds and stepping on each other’s toes.
“That’s exactly what Raven has enumerated in the peace agreement. We get to do what we’ve always done, but we can’t gang up on each other. It isn’t fair and it makes us all uneasy and wary of each other. If we’re to rule the underground together, we have to trust each other to some degree.
“What we did to Raven goes against the agreement. Sure, I was all for it. But that was because it had been so long since anything else had happened. And, yes, I do hate that girl. But we need that agreement if we’re all to be protected. Remember, Raven has the largest and most loyal following of all of us. If something happens to her, we’ll have her whole following at our throats. And you know as well as I do that hers is larger than the two of ours combined.”
Corinn sat back in the armchair, a thoughtful look on his face. “That is what the peace agreement says, doesn’t it?”
With a grave face, Edvin nodded. “Yes. And this is a reminder of what it says. Nothing more. Now, if you have nothing else, Corinn, I have work to do for tonight.”
Edvin stood, signaling their meeting was over and Corinn was no longer welcome. Corinn was forced to stand and make his way over to the door.
“Until tonight, Edvin.”
The other Thief Lord only nodded as he turned back to his window. The sound of the door opening and closing was the only way he knew Corinn had left.
He heard the door open again a few moments later. By the sound of the foot falls, he deduced it was Zyno that had walked in. Still, he didn’t turn from the window. His adviser was used to talking to his back.
“Zyno, bring me our copy of the peace agreement. I need to go over it one more time before I sign it.”
The door closed again, leaving Edvin alone with his thoughts and plans.