Raven barely suppressed a yawn as she held audience with Master Yadrow, one of the wealthier merchants of the Ivory District. Those were the upper middle class people. They were wealthy, but not of blue blood. That didn’t stop them from trying to emulate the nobles of the Sapphire District, though. The Ivory District had their number of feuds.
It all bored Raven to death, but it was a living. She did what the lords and ladies and masters and mistresses wanted and they paid off the City Guard to look the other way whenever they saw her or her sigil. And the Yadrow-Alber feud paid quite well. They were competing clothing merchants and had been trying to destroy each other for the past ten years.
It had been ten years ago when she’d been introduced to the Yadrow-Alber feud, when she’d been in Thief Lord Teryk’s following. He had sent her out to steal from the Albers for the Yadrows. She had been his most skilled thief and he had trusted her. Of course, that trust would end up being misplaced a couple of years later, but she had gained the respect of both families during her two years working for both. After Teryk’s death, after she had gone deep underground, they had been forced to go to other Thief Lords, but hadn’t been as satisfied with them. After hearing that Raven had returned to the underground four years before, they had come back to her with a vengeance.
Of course, Raven didn’t involve herself in such petty matters anymore. It was far too easy to steal from the Ivory District. She usually sent out some of her more skilled thieves for those jobs, but delighted in taking the ones from the Sapphire District. Sometimes she was requested to do the job, as Master Yadrow was doing, but that didn’t always mean she had to comply. They would, after all, never know.
It felt good to have power. For a criminal living in the middle of the slums, it was quite heady. That power had gotten to Teryk’s head, especially after Raven started bringing in money by bucket loads almost every day. He began to think himself invincible and it had gotten to his head real bad. It was just the opening Raven had been waiting for. She wouldn’t make the same mistakes he had. She made sure of that.
“I’m sorry, Master Yadrow,” Raven broke in. She rearranged herself on the pillows she was reclining against. “I personally can’t take this job, but I have just the man for this.”
Master Yadrow frowned, his whole aged face turning into a pile of wrinkles. Really, the man needed to take better care of himself. His graying dark hair was looking quite stringy around his face and his dark eyes looked hollow. This feud was taking more of a toll on him than he was letting on.
“I don’t understand, Raven,” he said nervously. “It’s just a simple steal. I want that man’s ledgers.”
Raven gave him a placating smile. “Master Alber keeps his ledgers in an unlocked drawer in his office above his shop. The guards are making their rounds at night, but I know for a fact that it takes them twenty-eight minutes to make a full round. I can be in and out in less than three. No, my good man, this needs to be an exercise for one of my following members.”
As the man continued to frown, Raven turned her head and beckoned for Aven to join them. He had been hovering in the background, just waiting for his mistress to summon him. Now he walked towards them, his height towering over both Raven and the merchant.
“Aven, would you bring Deri for me?” she asked. “I think it might help if Master Yadrow meets the man I will be sending to do the job.”
Aven nodded and withdrew from the chamber with silent feet. He had been a cat burglar when she had met him, and had been quite excellent at it from a young age. He had taught her everything he knew and, even though he no longer committed any crimes himself, he still walked with silent feet. Raven wished she had mastered that as well. Alas, it was a rare skill to have, and one she was not meant to have despite all her other talents.
“You’re certain this kid will do just as good a job as you would?” Master Yadrow asked, his fingers fidgeting in front of his pudgy stomach.
Raven sighed. “I’m certain, Master Yadrow. He saved me from an assassination attempt just last week when he eavesdropped and escaped a creaky building without a single squeak.”
He gave her a dubious look and Raven returned it with another placating smile.
“Mistress? You asked for me?”
Raven craned her neck slightly and motioned for Deri and Aven to approach them. Aven faded back into the background, walking past where Raven reclined without a glance at either of them. Deri approached and stood a few feet from Master Yadrow.
“Deri, my child,” she said, waving a hand at Master Yadrow. “This is Master Yadrow, one of the wealthiest merchants in the Ivory District. He has come to me for a job and I would like you to take care of it for him.”
Deri bowed and turned to Master Yadrow. “I’m you man, Master Yadrow. I can do any job you would have me do.”
Master Yadrow looked the skinny youth up and down with a dubious look before turning back to Raven. “You sure he’s up to it? Kid looks like he hasn’t eaten in days.”
Raven frowned. “We take good care of ourselves, Master Yadrow. If you dare insult anyone from my following, I will make sure you can never come back to see me.”
Master Yadrow’s eyes went wide and he waved his hands in front of him as though he could erase what he had just said. “No, no, of course not, Raven. I meant no disrespect. I’m sure he’ll be just fine.”
“He is just about where I was when I started working with your feud,” Raven said softly. “Remember that, Master Yadrow. Now, Deri, take him to the conference chamber and he will tell you exactly what he wants. If you need my advice or Aven’s, you know where to find us.”
Deri nodded. “This way, Master Yadrow.”
Raven watched as they left before beckoning Aven forward. He joined her on the cushions and leaned back beside her, groaning softly as he lowered himself down. He gave her a wide grin and gently laced his fingers with her.
“Well,” he said, “here’s some of that excitement you asked for. Let’s see how Deri does with his first steal.”
Raven shook her head. “He’ll do just fine. No, Aven, I need something more exciting. The Sapphire District has been relatively quiet lately. They must have been hibernating with the winter this year.”
“Well, it was a rather brutal one this year,” Aven pointed out. “Even we were snowed in. It was a wonder we even found Deri when we did. Poor kid would have been frozen alive.”
“That’s true,” Raven admitted. “But the Sapphire District’s goings on have been more petty than usual. I’m tired of stealing odd stuff and sending my con men to dupe people. I can’t send my murderers because no one’s been around asking to off anyone. My swindlers are doing good work, but they’re really the only ones seeing any action. The caverns have been filled with more people than usual. Everyone’s starting to wear on each other’s nerves. The weather cannot heat up fast enough.”
He squeezed her fingers. “Just be patient, Raven. They’ll come.”
“I hope so.”