"You did what?" His deep blue eyes betray his outrage and I try not to squirm under his gaze.
"Saf it's not that bad, I mean come on." I try to play it down but his eyes peel away every lie.
"No, you're right it's not bad. It's the worst." I frown at him as we walk down the street.
"Hey now, sarcasm is my job you can go back to being the overprotective stick. In. The. Mud." My voice reaches a louder level and the owners of the market shops begin to stare.
"Ivy, let me make something clear to you. It is perfectly okay for me to make a deal with you like that because I'm not going to short change you but I can't guarantee the same about First Advisor." I sigh dramatically as I pull two pouches of coins from my pocket. I toss them at him and he catches them against his chest.
"He promised to keep us out of jail. Saf you can't guarantee the same." My voice is bitter as I back away from him. He stares at the money for a second before he hears my words. He looks up and his eyes glitter maliciously. I turn and sprint through the market.
"I'm gonna kill you for that one Poison Ivy!" His voice rings out and echoes through the streets. I duck under two people carrying a glass window and almost run straight into a group of guards. I side pass and give a curt nod.
"Gentlemen." They nod back and let me go even though I can see the recognition in their eyes. Ha! Riley kept his word. In your face Sapphire Pine. I race toward the castle gates and screech to a stop just before the gate.
"Ivy." A mischievous grin rests on his lips as he dares me to do the impossible; go in and come out. Alive.
"You know I can't resist a dare." My teasing only edges him on and he steps closer still too far for my taste.
"Stay safe." His worry is what gnaws at my stomach more so than my own anxiety.
"Sapphire Pine do you truly doubt that the famous Poison Ivy cannot kick impossible to the curb? Ah, I'm hurt." I press the back of my hand to my face in mock pain. He rolls his eyes at me and shoos me away.
"Go on now, get out," I curtsy and watch Saf go before turning and running smack into someone.
I back up and the man's warm brown eyes pierce my soul. His unshaven look and amused glint in his eyes makes me practically swoon on my feet. A half smile reaches my lips.
"Dai." He smiles and I compose myself.
"What are you doing here?" My lips form the words for me and I'm grateful.
"I could ask the same of you. Not getting in more trouble I hope." He raises his eyebrows in a scolding manner. I grin mischievously and he doesn't press any further.
"I'm here for a job what about you?" I figure telling him that much can't hurt. His eyes widen as he stumbles about for an answer.
"Um, let me show you to your quarters." His answer causes suspicion to surface but I swallow it along with my fear of being in the castle.
A thief's worst nightmare is being in the castle and even though I've spent years preparing myself I still feel butterflies in my stomach. Dai gestures for me to go first and I catch the pass he flashes the guards as we walk through the doorway. Ooh what I wouldn't give to get my hands on that pass. Well, I could sweet talk my way into getting it. It wouldn't be that hard I mean Dai is way too trusting to begin with. I stop those thoughts there.
As we head down the hall I find myself staring at the beautiful walls decorated with gold. I stop myself before I start drooling. This is a thief's dream. As I reach out to finger the gold a hand slides onto my shoulder. I turn to see Dai peering at me.
"I need to talk with the general for a few minutes so you can just roam the halls until I find you." I nod but my real focus is on the pass that hangs from his belt. If I could only reach it.
As I reach for it he turns away leaving me with the walls as company. Scowling I turn and run smack dab into a woman wearing wealthy looking clothes. What is it with me and running into people today?
I pull back but not before concluding that her pockets are empty.
"I'm so sorry." I play sweet little servant and she almost buys it. She readjusts her shawl before answering.
"I know a thief when I see one." Busted. It's not quite a retort but not quite a compliment either. I frown, time to play true.
"What kind of wealthy woman doesn't carry money on her?" She looks away for a second before swinging her shawl over her shoulder lazily.
"The kind that's not wealthy. What kind of servant is so clumsy that they run right into a wealthy looking woman?"
"The kind that isn't a servant."
"I see." She looks thoughtful and gives a curt nod before turning and leaving me by myself again. It’s an agreement of sorts. She’s a thief, I’m a thief, we won’t tell.
I wander the halls until I stumble upon a conversation between two guards.
"Yeah, you're not needed to protect the Queen's jewels tonight because of reinforcements needed at the border."
"Oh come on! It was going to be my first time on the second floor."
"Sorry, general's orders." I smile; more incentive to steal the pass.
Dai comes up from behind me and his brown eyes linger on me just a second longer than they need to.
"This way." He leads the way and we head down many different corridors until I'm most certainly lost. Dai however, seems to know where he's going. Finally he stops at a room. Opening the door he gestures for me to go first.
"After you." His formality is such a shocking difference that I almost disobey.
But after a half smile lights up his face I walk in the room.
"You’re such a gentleman." His smile grows at my compliment as he turns to shut the door. I stare at the interior of a servants quarters taking note of the 2 twin beds on either wall with chests at the foot of them.
I turn to thank Dai and find him close. He reaches for my cheek and leans in. Panicked I freeze. What is he doing?
The door bursts open hitting Dai in the back. I barely get a glimpse of who it is before Dai crashes into me sending us both to the floor.
I let out a laugh as I realize the ridiculousness of this. He looks at me like I'm crazy and I slip my finger into the ring holding the pass onto his belt. That's when I notice a key hanging from a chain around his neck. I frown and tilt my head to the side.
"Your necklace is on wrong. Let me fix that," I lie as I unclip the necklace. His warm brown eyes watch me as I discreetly slide the key off its chain. I hold onto it while hooking the chain. Once I'm done I lean back and smile at him. I don't want to hurt him; I've already committed enough sins to condemn me. Miss I-stole-a-wealthy-woman's-clothes looks surprised and almost sorry as she clears her throat.
"I'm sorry," Dai mutters and his face turns red. He stands and brushes his clothes off as I lay on the floor.
"Well I'm sorry," Red head apologizes and I smirk.
"Whatever." I play it down as Dai stands uncomfortably.
"There's the door, feel free to use it." Her retort sounds strange after hearing sorry come out of her mouth.
He walks out shutting the door behind him. I wait until he's most certainly down the hall before taking the key out and stringing it around my own necklace.
"I don't believe I caught your name."
"I didn't give it." I'll give her that one but I'm not done.
"I'm Ivy but it'll be Poison Ivy to you." She considers this before acting like she's better than me.
"Oliver." I snort; she must be joking right? She glares at me and I grow sober.
"That's uh," I cough, "that's an unfortunate name."
If she could glare daggers I think I'd be dead.
"What? Is my name not good enough for you?" I turn away from her gaze hoping it'll help the confidence. It doesn't.
Sighing I turn and walk out the room without answering her. Behind me I hear her snort in disgust and I roll my eyes. Time to find out if I can steal the Queen's jewels.
Calmly I walk toward the steps as if I belong. There are only three floors to the castle. The first floor is for servants and things like the kitchen and the sewing room are located here. The second floor inhabits the king and his sons along with their dining areas and such. The third floor, well nobody I know has been up there and the rumors say that there's nothing up there but storage things.
I begin to climb the steps to the second floor before realizing that I'm not disguised at all. Turning I run back down the steps toward...well I'm not really sure what. I'm kind of just hoping I'll run into someone who is my size.
Turning a corner I find myself in a hall that looks exactly like the last one. And the one before that one. Frustrated, I decide to mark my path.
Searching my pockets for something to mark the wall with I come up with nothing. The stone walls tease me in my mind telling me I'll never find my way anywhere.
I look at the walls closely trying to find something that sticks out that I'll remember. It doesn't take long. An indigo blue rug hangs from the wall telling the story of a peasant who falls in love with a noble woman. I don't remember how the story goes; all I remember is that in the end the father of the noble woman kills the peasant. It's a horrible story created to keep people in their own ranks.
In my mind I mark the rug as a landmark and continue on my quest for navigating around. I walk until I reach a corner. Turning left I continue down the corridor before stopping in my tracks. There on the wall hangs the same rug I used as a landmark. Discouraged, I moan but continue on believing that I'll find a room of some sort somewhere. Ahead I see a fork in the path. Remembering my last left turn I decide of head right. Big mistake. On the wall resides an indigo blue rug telling the story of a peasant who fell in love with a noble woman. Angry now I run past the rug and don't stop until I'm so out of breath that I have to stop.
Placing my hand on the wall I expect to feel the cold hard support of stone. Instead, semisoft fabric comforts my rough hands. Sadly I don't even want to see what I touched.
Curiosity gets the better of me though and soon enough I look up to once again find the same stupid rug I used as a landmark. I could have sworn I didn't turn though. Panting, I sit under the rug and rest my head against the wall. Heroic Poison Ivy manages to break into the castle only to get lost in is apparently complex hallways.
"Are you lost?" I jerk to my feet ready to run only to find a girl my age studying me with mild curiosity. I unsuccessfully try to swallow the feeling of being caught. Staring into her warm brown eyes I let out a long sigh.
"I am positively utterly lost." Shorter than me by at least three finger widths she glances at the tapestry before the beginnings of a smile light up her face.
"You must be new here; my name's Zelina. What were you using as a landmark?" I frown.
"I was using the rug er tapestry and how do you know I'm new?" She smiles at me but it's not mocking it's understanding.
"That rug as you say, is the kings favorite tapestry and he has hundreds hung along the interior walls of his glorious castle. If this wasn't you're first day then you would know that." Well at least I'm not going crazy.
"So how do you all find your way around?" She pushes her deep brown hair behind her ears.
"Along the bottom of each and every interior wall there are little symbols that correspond to a place. If the symbol is on the left side then you take a left the next time there's a chance to take a left. Entendu?" I understand the concept; it seems easy enough and now I'm impatient to get going. Honestly I'd just leave except I want to know what entendu means.
"What's entendu?" Her face turns red and she's clearly uncomfortable.
"Oh, it's um, well it's a bandit thing and it means understand but, I'm sorry I didn't mean-"
"No, it's fine. Really." She brightens up a little so I try to hide my chills. Bandits are savages and they kill without batting an eye. I hate them with all my guts. I’ve always been told to run at the sight of them.
"You should come to the Seven Seas Inn two days from now. They have storytelling and I heard that there's supposed to be a pirate coming. The keyword to get in will be Ghost." She turns without waiting for an answer and I watch her walk away.
"Thanks." I call after her but if she heard she doesn't show it. My focus on finding a uniform is renewed and I search the walls for the right symbol.
Scanning the little pictures I finally find a mini shirt. I suppose it either stands for the laundry room or the sewing room. The symbol resides on the right wall so I follow the right wall until I reach a turn. Following Zelina's instructions I take the right turn and find myself in a big room.
"The Clothing Wing," I read the banner aloud as I walk until it. I spin around slowly, taking in everything around me. Smaller rooms branch off of the big room. Signs with pictures hang from each mini room.
I walk toward the room with a ball of yarn on it and upon entering I find myself in a sewing room.
"Goodness gracious dear what are you wearing?" I jump as a woman comes up from behind me. She grabs my shoulders and holds me out at an arm’s length.
Her light brown eyes inspect me and her lips are pressed into a small frown. She sighs.
"Well, I've only got one outfit in your size since you're so small." She pulls away and walks to her tables. Piled high with clothing and string I’m not sure how she ever finds anything.
She picks up a piece of string and ties her almost-black brown hair up before handing me a black shirt and pants. I take them and stand awkwardly not knowing what to do.
"Go try them on. There's a small room over there you can change in." I turn and walk into the room. Quickly I change and a smile forms on my lips. The black form fitting outfit would work perfectly for sneaking around.
I step out of the room and the woman analyzes me with a critical eye. I almost want to hide. Her gaze is on the verge of being a glare.
"That should suffice until I can make you more. The name's Delilah." I blink and look around the room trying to figure out what I should do. I guess the proper thing would be to give my own name but I'm used to the rules of thievery; the less people who know your name the better.
"Ivy. Er- yeah, my name's Ivy." So much for the rules of thievery. She nods and smiles.
"Nice to meet you." I smile and as I head out I glance back once more. Delilah sorts through her fabric sorting the colors. I think she could be a good ally.
I walk quickly out of the Clothing Wing and head toward the nearest set of steps. The skinny windows show the dark light of the moon as I race to the late Queen's jewel room. My new black uniform blends in with the shadows and it beats my street clothes.
At the top of the steps I encounter a guard. Lowering my head, I show the pass and he nods me on. I make it to the room without any trouble from guards and I suppose I have the distraction at the border to thank for that.
I slip the key over my head and slide it into the lock. A satisfying click sounds and I slip into the dusty old room. An out-of-place sound reaches my ears and I spin around. Something smashes into my head and I cringe. My head screams with pain but I stay on my feet. Red head looks shocked.
"That was supposed to knock you out." I sigh loudly and rub the bump forming on my head.
"Guess you'll have to hit harder next time," I groan as I move toward the gems. She snorts and intercepts me.
"These are my gems; I did all the hard work to create the distraction." I cross my arms and give her my best Delilah glare. She cringes.
"You may have gotten rid of the guards but I was the one who got us in here." She scowls but before she gets a chance to retaliate the door widens. In pops Dai. Of course.
"Ivy? What are you doing here?" If my head didn't hurt so much I'd have escaped by now. Thinking fast, I remember I'm in servant's clothes.
"I'm dusting, see?" I swipe some dust from the tabletop and blow it in his eyes.
Crying out he backs up giving red head a chance to swipe his legs out from under him. She dashes out the door and notice the gems dangling from her fingers.
"Thief!" I cry as I dash after her.
Chasing her down the halls proves easy and I launch myself at her. She falls to the ground and I swipe the jewels.
"See ya later!" I sprint down the steps and out the castle doors into the free world.
Running silently I make to Saf's without problems. Knocking on the door, I glance around before entering. Sapphire's broad shoulders and familiar sapphire blue eyes greet me at the door. I sink into his arms and he pulls me tighter.
I slip the jewels into his hands. He pulls away and an astonished smile lightens his face.
"You did it." I raise an eyebrow at him and my hand slides to his right shoulder. I'm not sure if it's just my imagination or if Saf actually cringes but for whatever reason he moves my hand to his neck. His left hand snakes through my hair touching the new bruise. I back out of his arms and keep my gaze on the ground.
"I can't do this." He stares at the ground and even though the words came out of my mouth I can tell he was thinking them too.
"Come home Ivy." His voice is low and his eyes are pained. So we're back to this.
"Saf you know I can't." I take his hand in mine and he squeezes it gently. He hugs me again but he shields his right shoulder.
"Please?" He breathes in my ear sending shivers down my back.
"What happened to your shoulder?" I change the subject and he backs away from me. The look in his handsome eyes says it all. My eyes widen and anger fills my veins.
"Ivy, don't do anything reckless. I know you and-"
"I should have known Riley wouldn't keep his promise." I turn to leave but Saf catches my arm.
"No Saf, I'm tired of having to hide all the time. Someone needs to change something." I break his grip and leave. Running through the streets, my anger only increases.
When I reach the castle I walk in without problems. The distraction at the border must still be working. I reach Riley's personal quarters in no time with no recollection of how I found it. A guard blocks the doorway and he crosses his arms.
"The First Advisor does not wish to be disturbed at the moment." I give him my best Delilah glare.
"Let me in." He struggles and I can't figure out why. Finally, with a scowl at me, he opens the door.
I barge in to find Riley sound asleep on his cot. I take a step toward him and he shoots from his position, a knife in hand. Immediately I find myself against the wall. Recognition flashes through him and he backs off, leaving me frozen in confusion. He runs his fingers through his black hair and glares at me. He's kind of cute when he does that.
"Are you trying to get killed? Cause that's a good way to do it." I cross my arms and glare back reminded of my purpose. A frown grows on my lips.
"You didn't keep your promise." I spit at him and he puts his knife back in its holder.
"Two things. I promised to keep your friend out of jail, I never promised to keep him out of trouble. Second, I agreed to do that only if you took the job. I believe you were supposed to show up to work today and didn't." Well, he has me there. Still.
"Just out of curiosity, what was my job supposed to be?" Confusion lights his face.
"Poison taster." I shake my head.
"Aww, something I'm actually good at." He rolls his eyes at me clearly knowing there was sarcasm coming.
"Just don't be late tomorrow. Training starts at dawn." He guides me out the door and I realize only after reaching my room that I never got the point across that I wanted.
Frustrated, I don't even see red head until she tries to whack me again on the head. I duck and back against the wall.
"Oliver." She glares at me before lunging. I squeal and race down the halls.
I turn a corner and plow right into Dai. He catches me and stands me upright. Oliver turns the corner and I hide behind Dai.
"She's trying to kill me!" I whisper to him and he pulls out his sword. The broad sword is beautiful and I know if I got my hands on that I'd be rich. Too bad I don't know how to fight.
Dai points it at red head's neck and she backs off.
"Leave us alone." His voice is commanding for a servant and I like how power rings from him. Oliver lowers her head and with one last glare at me she flees.
Dai turns to me and I see the question in his eyes.
"Why was she trying to kill you?" Um. Ha ha. Long story. I widen my eyes and play the helpless look. It works. Thankfully. He wraps me in a hug and kisses my forehead.
"Oh Ivy, I don't know how you always get yourself into these problems." He sighs before hooking his arm in mine and escorting me to my room.
After shutting the door behind him I sink to the floor. All my problems just keep escalating. Saf's still getting hurt. Riley's promise won't save him. Riley, oh I could just kill him. Dai, well Dai is starting to confuse me. Slowly my thoughts turn to mush and soon I'm out.