Here follows an excerpt from Thieving Ways, Aisling's tale from Sanctuary Tales, Volume One. Thieving Ways is one of six tales in the book. The others include:
Savages - A story of Cyrus and Vaste
A Familiar Face - A Cyrus tale.
The Last Moments of the Gezhvet - Takes place during the failed expedition to Enterra in Defender.
The Greenest Fields - Explores the past of Martaina Proelius.
A Princess of Sovar - Delves into how Erith Frostmoor undertook the path of the Healer.
The story of Aisling Nightwind's last heist before joining Sanctuary.
"I want to steal the Red Destiny of Saekaj."
The dim, sole lamp above the stone bar in the establishment that was known on the streets of Sovar as simply "the Unnamed" cast the man across from Aisling in a dim light. His name was Xemlinan Eres, but to everyone in Sovar he was known as Xem. His eyes glistened as he stared at her, waiting to see what response his confession would stir.
For her part, Aisling took a long, slow breath and picked up the small glass in front of her on the stone bar. It sat unevenly, the natural curves of the surface tipping it slightly to the left. She had grown up with wood furniture, real wood, but that was an unusual commodity in Sovar. She lifted the dirty, smoky glass, tinged by what looked like carbon scoring. The strong aroma of the Reikonosian whiskey, an illegal import, stung her as she breathed it in, burning her nasal passages like she had pored it down them instead of between her lips. She liked it, it lit a fire in her, and she tipped it back before clacking the glass back on the bar as she felt the whiskey burn all the way down. The sound of the glass touching the stone echoed in the Unnamed, and Aisling let out a breath that stung just a little - the way she liked it when she took a drink of something. "I'm listening," she said.
"No one's ever tried before," Xem said, his face alight with something beyond the glow of the lamp. "It's a slap right to the face of the Tribunal-"
"Because we want to slap the face of the ruling body of Saekaj Sovar while we're still living here in the city," Aisling said with cool detachment as she held up the empty glass for Xem to see.
"Sorry," he said, and hastily reached for the bottle nearby to refill it. He spilled just a little while he was doing so, and Aisling watched it splash on the bar. Xem was usually such a steady hand, too. "Think of it, Ais. It's a gem twice the size of your head."
She didn't even blink. "And it'd be an ill replacement for losing said head if we were caught." She tossed back her drink. "You're talking about breaking into the Sovereign's palace-"
"Which he's not even using at present," Xem interrupted.
"True, the Sovereign has been away for the last century," Aisling agreed, "but he's been replaced by a triad of men so thoroughly loathsome that the only policy they've come up with that hasn't incited hopelessness or anger in the masses is the Exodus Proclamation that opened the gates, allowing hundreds of thousands of our people to leave the city and their strangling grip."
"And that is why we should slap them in the face!" Xem was nearly triumphant about the whole thing, as Aisling felt herself want to retreat from the situation.
"This is starting to sound personal," Aisling said, and began to turn to get off the short, flimsy stool she was resting atop. "I don't do personal jobs, nor revenge jobs either."
"It's not personal," Xem said, shaking his head. He came around the bar in a hurry, catching her before she could retreat. Well, that wasn't entirely true; she moved slow, giving him the opportunity to do so. No one can catch me if I don't want them to, she thought with a deep satisfaction. "I want the Destiny. Have you ever seen it?" Xem's face was hopeful.
"No," Aisling lied.
"It's a mammoth ruby," Xem said, his eyes widening as though he were seeing it in front of him right now, in the moment. "Its worth is incalculable-"
"I'm not so keen on objects of incalculable value, either," Aisling said, and made a clumsy move to slip past him. He caught her, just as she planned for him to. "Too hard to fence afterward, which leaves you stuck holding them when the guards find you."
"Thirty million gold pieces," Xem said, his eyes dancing.
Aisling hesitated, thinking it over. "Awfully low, if it's a ruby twice the size of my head."
"But that's the beauty," Xem said, and took a ragged breath, "we're done once the ruby is delivered. We saddle up horses, take our gold, and leave Saekaj Sovar out the main gate. I've arranged transportation with a elven wizard just outside the borders. All we need do is clear through some guardsmen-"
"With our thirty million gold pieces," Aisling said dryly, "which I'm sure won't attract any attention." She rolled her eyes, but in truth she was just playing him, waiting for him to remove her mental objections.
"It'll only be seven and a half million each," Xem said, "split four ways."
"Oh, well that solves the problem of transporting them entirely," she said.
"I know, it's still a lot," he agreed, "but there's a convoy leaving two days from now, and I've arranged for us to join it, along with six wagons to haul our take. It's be going to Aloakna, and it'll also be bearing gold in the shipment, and thus we'll pass unnoticed."
Aisling pulled her arm away. "So you've covered the escape," she said, playing it to be almost grudging, like she wasn't expecting that. "Do you have a plan to steal the Red Destiny, then? Or just an extraordinarily well-detailed idea for fleeing afterward?"
Xem grinned. "I have a plan as well. And if I may be a bit immodest-"
"Hardly a first for you, Xem."
"It may in fact be one of my most genius," he said, ignoring her quip.
To Be Continued...
Robert J. Crane
copyright © 2013 Reikonos Press