“Just can’t seem to stay out of trouble, can you?” Bezzum said with a look that was halfway between a sneer and a snarl.
“I’m so sorry, Clan Master,” Alessandra said in her meekest voice, while looking down at the counter in front of her.
“So you can at least pretend to show respect,” Bezzum said. He was silent for a long time, and Alessandra risked a glance up at him through her eyelashes. He was standing with arms folded, regarding her with a calculating expression on his face, ignoring the mutters of those people who were still waiting for food
“I have a job for you,” he finally said. Alessandra continued to look at her feet, her hands folded in front of her. Amusement colored his voice as he continued, “I think it might even be something that’s easy enough for you to handle. And if it isn’t, well, you’ll be alone this time, so your incompetence won’t hurt anybody else.” It took all of Alessandra’s self-control to keep her hands from balling into fists. “Come see in my study when supper is over. I’ll give you the details then.” Alessandra waited a moment before she looked up, to make sure that he was gone, and then she was back to ladling stew into bowls.
As soon as her shift in the mess hall was over, she made her way up to Bezzum’s study. As she walked, she was torn between her rage that he would blame her for the deaths of her team members, and excitement that she was finally going to be sent out for a job again. Whatever the job was, she knew it was going to be something that would likely kill her, but she didn’t care. She would pull it off, whatever it was, and she would prove, if only to herself, that she was a worthy thief.
Reaching the door of Bezzum’s study, she knocked, and heard his voice calling her to come in. Once again, he had his boots up on his table, and he was trimming his nails with a dagger. He grinned maliciously as soon as he saw her.
“You know, watching you dump that slop they serve in the mess hall into people’s bowls, over and over and over again, I feel like you really missed your calling,” he said. “I should have just stuck you in the kitchen as soon as you showed up on my doorstep, and the forgotten about you.”
“If that is your will, Clan Master, then so be it,” Alessandra said through gritted teeth. Bezzum’s grin grew wider at her tone.
“I really enjoy this whole, ‘pretending to be meek’ thing you’ve got going on right now,” he said. “It almost makes your continued membership in my clan worthwhile.” He regarded her a bit like a cat getting ready to pounce on a tiny mouse. “Unfortunately, the Clan Leaders seem to think you have a bit of talent, so they’re insisting that I use it.” He pulled an ilvesa folder out from a stack of folders on his desk and held it out to her. “Here.” Alessandra took it from him, opened it up, and read the mission briefing. Then she looked up at him.
“Really?” she asked incredulously.
“I told you it was easy,” Bezzum said with a shrug.
“This is a training mission!” Alessandra exclaimed.
“You don’t want it? Fine by me. Go back to the kitchen and scrub some pots.”
“No! I want it, I want it,” Alessandra said hurriedly. “It’s just…” She trailed off at the look Bezzum was giving her. “It’s just great,” she said with a forced grin. Bezzum smirked knowingly at her. “What’s my timeframe?”
“Whenever you want,” Bezzum said with a shrug. “This is no rush job.” Alessandra nodded and frowned pensively, looking over the papers in the folder again.
“Okay,” she said with another nod. “I’ll do it tonight.” Bezzum returned her nod with a neutral expression on his face, but there was a knowing look in his eye that made Alessandra uncomfortable. She needed to get back out in the field, though. No matter what surprises Bezzum had in store for her, she was going to meet them this time, and prevail.
She turned and left Bezzum’s quarters, and found Halidasa waiting outside for her.
“Hi, Alessa!” she chirped as soon as she saw Alessandra.
“Hi, Hali,” Alessandra said with a smile. “What’s up?”
“Oh, I overheard Bezzum talking to you in the mess hall, and I wanted to see what kind of job he gave you,” Halidasa replied.
“Nothing too exciting, I’m afraid,” Alessandra said with a frown. “Just a normal house job.”
“Oh, I see,” Halidasa said, and she was silent for a moment. “Alessa,” she finally said, and there was a note of sadness in her voice that Alessandra was shocked to hear, “what if…what if being a thief is a bad thing?”
Alessandra was so stunned by this it took her a moment to reply. When she did, all she could do was stammer, “Wh-what do you mean?”
“I don’t know,” Halidasa said with a shrug, looking away from Alessandra. “It’s just…we take things from people. Those things don’t belong to us, and yet we take them. Isn’t that…wrong?”
Alessandra thought about this for a moment. She’d never questioned the life that she led. It was all she had ever known, all she had ever wanted. Was it wrong? How would she know? What was the basis of right and wrong? Finally, she said, “I don’t know, Hali. I’ve never thought about it before. But does it matter? What else is there for people like us?” Halidasa shrugged again, and continued to look away from Alessandra. Alessandra began to feel uncomfortable, and she said, “What brought this on, Hali?”
“I don’t know,” Halidasa said with a sigh. “I just feel like there should be something else. Something better. I don’t like being a thief. I’m not good at it, and it feels wrong. But I don’t know what to do about it.” Alessandra didn’t know what to say to this, so she stayed silent. After a moment, Halidasa walked away, leaving Alessandra alone in the hallway with unpleasant thoughts.
To be continued…