The door thudded with heavy security, but the boy on the other side of the bars still shivered as he faced me. I stood, a guard behind me, in a small antechamber of sorts, before a room divider with a door that locked from the inside, the boy on the other side.
I was surprised by the room divider’s inelegant design. The vertical boards hardly matched the refinement of the rest of the mansion that I’d seen, a strong tell that they’d been quickly—and probably poorly—constructed. The boards were spaced too far apart. They might deflect an arrow shot hastily or from a distance, and I allowed that the boy would have time to run or hide if the assassin came with only a sword or knife or blunt instrument, but an assassin with time could easily push an arrow’s tip between the bars before releasing.
Lying amidst brocade and velvet cushions as the boy was, and wrapped in a heavy velvet robe himself, the neckline fur-lined without his—I was sure—having hunted and skinned the fox, it was hard to pity him, though I’d heard what had rattled him—and it was enough to rattle any but the toughest-skinned.
“Do you know why you’re here?” He tired to inject his voice with steel but it was brittle as a dry twig.
“Aye, boy,” I said. “I suspect. Rumor travels fast.”
“Can you do it? Can you find it? And kill it?”
I wasn’t sure how much of me he could see, but I still fingered the wooden beads around my wrist for show as I said, “I suspect so. But not easily.” If the boy suspected devilry and magic then it was best to make a show of being pious.
“You’ll have whatever you need.”
Nobles are always saying that. It’s what makes the job profitable. The fun is in coming up with outlandish and expensive necessities and plausible uses for them when all I really need are my wits, a knife, two good ears, and stealth. With those accoutrements alone, I can usually find and end any threat. But I thought for a moment. “I’ll need a ruby, one about the size of your palm, a stylus strong enough to etch the gem, six sheets of clean vellum, ink and a pen, and a few of your hairs—to track the beast down, young master.”
“I’ll tell Styles. You’ll have them. All of them. The ruby might take time, and the stylus….”
“The sooner the better. I might be able to track the beast without but I’ll have no container for it.”
“Will only a ruby do? There’s a sapphire in my mother’s—in my collection that’s about that size.”
I ignored the stumble. “Hmmm,” I said, while trying to suppress a smile, “a ruby and a sapphire are about as hard as one another. I think it’ll do.”
“I’ll—I’ll give it to you then. For this.”
“And the other things? When can I expect them?”
“Give Styles your address as you leave. He’ll see that you have them.”
I’m abysmally late. Apologies have been made to all the appropriate parties but you, dear readers. This week’s theft was from Kid at The Gate in the Wood. She wrote “Tonic and Poison” but we saw only her first line before we wrote our own stories. I wasn’t the only thief. Here are our other thieves’ works:
I suspect I may have to continue this story at a later date….