The journey back to the clanhouse was long, slow, and joyless. They were nearly on the opposite side of the city from the clanhouse, and they couldn’t ride the semorjos anymore, partially because they were loaded down with loot from the North Vandeo Bank, and partially because they’d stripped off their disguises to escape from the mercenaries and thus no longer matched the descriptions on their fake identification papers. So with the semorjos no longer an option, the thieves were forced to make their way across the city on foot.
The sun was almost fully overhead by the time the thieves stumbled down the street in front of the Mekoval clanhouse. The sentries at the door frowned worriedly as soon as they saw Kraylea and his team, but they didn’t say anything as the team passed through the door. Silently, the four of them made their way up to Bezzum’s quarters. Alessandra was not looking forward to this meeting, but she took solace in the knowledge that she couldn’t possibly be blamed for this fiasco, as she had not been in charge of this team.
Once inside, they found that Bezzum was meeting with all four of the Clan Leaders. There was some consternation among the five of them when Kraylea and the others entered, but they were too good at masking their emotions to let any real shock or surprise show. The signs were there if you knew what to look for, though.
“So, four members of a six member team arrive in the middle of the day,” Bezzum said grimly. “I take it things did not go all that well.”
“You could say that, Clan Master,” Kraylea replied, his voice grim. “Sharae and Fihal are dead. The mercenaries knew we were coming. They had an ambush all planned.”
“Is that so,” Bezzum said, his voice unchanged. “And what about the spoils?”
“We managed to get away with some,” Kraylea said, pulling out two large sacks full of riches. Shiena and Fergen did the same. Alessandra stayed motionless. She had been standing guard outside the vault with Fihal, so she hadn’t taken any loot out of the vault.
“A fair take, I suppose,” Bezzum said with a sigh, emptying one bag out onto his desk. “Well, you four are dismissed for now. The Clan Leaders and I need to discuss the appropriate punishment.”
“Punishment, Clan Master?” Kraylea asked, confused.
“Of course,” Bezzum said. “Two of my clan members are dead. Surely you would agree that such an occurrence demands consequences?”
“I…yes, I see,” Kraylea said with a bow. He turned away from Bezzum, and motioned to the others to follow him out of the room. As soon as they were outside, they immediately dispersed in different directions. Alessandra stood outside Bezzum’s study for a few minutes, hoping to hear something of what was going on inside, but she couldn’t hear anything, and finally decided that the risk of getting caught was greater than the possibility of figuring out what the “punishment” was going to be ahead of time. Surely Bezzum wasn’t going to try and blame her for this…was he?
She slouched down the corridor and made her way back to her quarters. Before she made it there, however, she was met by Halidasa, who had her usual cheerful grin on her face.
“Hey, Alessa!” she chirped as soon as she saw Alessandra.
“Hey,” Alessandra replied glumly.
“Uh oh,” Halidasa said, her grin fading slightly. “I know what that look means. Did your latest job go bad?” Alessandra nodded.
“I swear I must be cursed, Hali,” she replied with a sigh. “Everything I do lately goes bad. I don’t know how to fix it.”
“Cheer up, Alessa!” Halidasa said, her smile widening again. “Bad luck never lasts forever. Before you know it, things will be going great again, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a Clan Leader!”
“I wish I could have your optimism, Hali,” Alessandra said, smiling slightly. She started to continue on her way past Halidasa, and then she stopped. “Hali, I need to tell you something.”
“What is it?” Halidasa said, looking slightly confused.
“If anyone ever tells you that I’ve betrayed you, or that I’m thinking about betraying you, don’t believe them, okay? I would never, ever, even think about betraying you.”
“I know that, Alessa,” Halidasa said with a frown. “Why would you even think about that?”
“Just…remember,” Alessandra said, looking at Halidasa intently. “I’ve always got your back. No matter what.”
“Okay, Alessa,” Halidasa said, still confused, but then she smiled. “I will remember.” Then, on impulse, she gave Alessandra a hug. Alessandra just stood there for a moment, looking stunned, and then, awkwardly, she put her arms around Halidasa and returned the hug.
“Thanks, Hali,” she said softly. Halidasa patted her back lightly, released her, gave her a dazzling smile, and then turned and bounced down the hallway. Alessandra stood there for a moment, looking utterly bemused, and then she turned and continued on her way toward her quarters.
She spent the rest of the day laying on her bed, staring at the ceiling. She was completely exhausted, but she couldn’t sleep. All she could think about was how once again, she had gone out on a job and it had been a total disaster. Of course, it wasn’t as bad as the Vanmorzen manor, but in a way, that thought almost made things worse. The job where she hadn’t been in charge was less of a disaster than the job where she had been in charge. What did that say about her leadership skills? How could she ever be Clan Master if she couldn’t even pull off one simple heist?
The hours seemed to crawl by as she stared at the ceiling above her bed, but before she knew it, somebody was banging on her door, startling her.
“What is it?” she yelled, sitting up suddenly, her eyes going wide.
“It’s Kraylea,” came the response. “We’ve been summoned to see Bezzum.”
“Alright, I’m coming,” Alessandra said, ignoring the sick feeling that appeared in pit of her stomach.
To be continued…