Categories > Books > Dragaera

Takes a Jhereg

by BeccaStareyes 0 reviews

It is the Seventeenth reign of the Athyra and the Lavodes have a mission -- retrieve a dangerous book from Dragaera's seemy underworld. Spoilers for Orca

Category: Dragaera - Rating: PG - Genres: Drama - Characters: Kiera the Thief,Sethra Lavode - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2007-08-13 - Updated: 2007-08-14 - 2362 words - Complete

I was not particularly pleased with the situation at all.

It all started with a book. This particular book happened to be both very old - most likely a relic of the Founding of the Empire and covered in enough protective spells to preserve a library - and rather dangerous. The Lavodes had tracked it to the ownership of one Rafale, a member of the Left Hand of the Jhereg, and had just come up with a way to get the book with a minimum of fuss... when Rafale was reported dead.

"Her flat was ransacked?" I asked Rilen.

"Yes. Most of the library was in disarray, or so our sources say. The remainder is up in an estate sale to cover debts. Our sorceress appears to have owed some people in the Jhereg a great deal of money" After catching my expression, he added. "The book will be in the sale. We've confirmed it."

"When is this sale?" Surely it would take the heirs a while to go through the property. It would give the Lavodes time to revise their plans, make them work with a dead Jhereg sorceress.

"Around Endweek. Something about wanting to get the whole thing wrapped up before the holidays."

That wasn't good at all. Having an estate sale when the body was barely cold could mean that something was up - they suspected they had something. If this information got out, there would be fuss, at least in certain circles, and I hate fuss - at least, the kind that could be avoided and just served to put a little more grit in the wheels of the Empire.

"How courteous of them. Can we get someone into the sale?" The book had been lost for several cycles, after all - even the resources of the Lavodes were unable to find the paper trail left by the artifact. Wouldn't hurt it to disappear into their offices for several more cycles, after being purchased by a mysterious buyer.

Rilen shook his head. "Jhereg only. We've heard words that several Athyra sorcerers have hired middlemen to attend in their place. Rafale was reported to have quite a book collection."

"And the Dragons?" That would serve as a flag to the situation. While the Athyra thought nothing of hiring any service that interfered with their pursuits of magical knowledge, everyone knew that Dragons and Jhereg got along like a flashstone in a theater. A Dragon bending his pride enough to do business with a Jhereg wasn't unheard of, but meant that said Dragon wanted something badly.

"No reports yet, though I heard talk of a few Jhereg making contacts with some of the more esoteric booksellers in Dragaera City." He handed me several sheets of paper. "Here's what we know of the guest list so far, and who they are working for."

"Buying agents, then?" Rilen nodded. If I had to make a list, short of a few people I wouldn't trust with a child's sorcery primer, let alone a pre-Empire relic, having the books available in the general market would be the least ideal outcome. While the Lavodes could act quickly to snap it up, there was a risk of anyone doing the same. Which would only prolong the whole situation.

We need more contacts in the underworld. But, very few in the Jhereg were interested in becoming a Lavode, and it was hard to slip in undercover among a group that relied on personal contacts to keep their less savory activities secret.

Perhaps it would be easier to make a Lavode a Jhereg than a Jhereg a Lavode. Aloud, I said, "Rilen, have someone check our budget. I want to know exactly how many Imperials we can afford to use on this." I turned to the door. "I need to make a few contacts of my own."


The good thing about the underworld is that, given enough money, it was surprisingly easy to have a person appear out of thin air. Those of House Jhereg weren't inclined to ask questions when it came to purchasing a small title. Well, they did ask questions, but they were more along of the lines of 'Are you sure you aren't interested in a county? We have a special this month, and I know a guy who could get you an excellent loan.'

Renting a place to stay, being sure to leave a paper trail, in case someone in the Organization decided to check up on me, a stop to the tailor's to pick up a new suit of clothing in grey and black. I could have had them alter one of my spare uniforms, but that was too risky if it somehow fell into the wrong hands. There was the Eastern practice of witchcraft, as well as a few sorcerers, that could track a person using a possession, and I didn't intend that there be any connection between my new identity and the Lavodes. Which meant working alone, which doesn't bother me much. Rilen would not be pleased with this.

I disguised my features enough that a passing glance wouldn't reveal me as Sethra, even if someone who knew me spotted me. I tried to pull off the Houseless look many of the established Jhereg families had - though it wasn't unheard of for someone who was disgraced, or a halfbreed who somehow managed to earn enough money, to join the Jhereg, it would serve as a rather noticeable feature in a crowd. It was a non-magical disguise, as sorcery would be a little too noticeable. Wearing an illusion in front of a sorcerer is like waving a sign around your neck saying 'I have a secret I don't want you knowing about'.

I went over my identity as I walked. I am a thief, recently arrived in the city from the northwest. I am currently living off savings, and have enough for a month or two, so am not immediately in need of work. I don't talk about my personal life if I can possibly avoid it, and work alone. I have enough knowledge of sorcery to work in my chosen profession, but no more than that. As for the auction, I'm working for someone, but not giving the name. If anyone asks, it's part of my contract. The recitation had become a mantra as I established the patterns of me new persona. It was getting easier - I was almost beginning to forget I was a Lavode, and not a Jhereg thief. It's part of any undercover job, establishing a persona.

The auction was being held at the residence of one Jhenfa, named as next of kin to Rafale. There were two bored looking enforcers at the door. "I'm here for the auction," I told them curtly.

"And who are you?" the shorter one asked.

"The name's Kiera. I believe I'm on your list."


I sized up the room, trying to identify a few of the other people seated there. A few members of the Left Hand of the Jhereg were in the right corner. I went through the information Rilen had given me, trying to size up who would be the greatest threat with that book.

Of the people assembled, maybe three had both the interest and the money to have a chance. Seena was a small-time Jhereg who was working for an Athyra by the name of Baroness Dreenam. Dreenam was a bibliophile - she mostly used the income of her holdings to buy more books. There were half-serious jokes around court that she had more books in her possession than the Imperial Library. Any manuscript purchased from her would be difficult to retrieve, but would not be used against the Empire. There was also the point that she was old, and had no strong heirs, which meant that the fate of her book collection after her death could be negotiated.

Kaidura was a member of the Left Hand of the Jhereg. I had serious reservations about her. She was one of those people who, if given a button that would undo every protection the Lords of Judgment had on the Sea of Chaos, would push it just to see exactly how the world would look dissolved into its base components. Needless to say, she wouldn't walk out of here with that book, if I had to hire an assassin on the spot.

The third was a Jhereg known as Sandals, who had a rather lucrative business in trading rare artifacts. Were he to get the book, it could end up in any collection across the Empire in the time it would take for the buyer to send a messenger to bring payment to the capital, and return with the book.

In short, the Lavodes could deal with Dreenam -- or myself, of course -- winning the book. Sandals or Kaidura were another matter entirely.

The auction began shortly after I arrived. I took a seat near the back center, where I could watch the proceedings. Things started off slow, with items like jewelry or furniture going first. Bidding was slow - most of the people here seemed to be waiting for the books. I couldn't blame them there. Rafale had quite the book collection. I made a few small bids to keep up appearances, and accidentally ended up with a collection of plays from the Sixteenth Dragon reign when I misjudged a fellow bidder's interest level, or his pocketbook.

The final object was the book. I sat up in my seat, looking between Kaidura, Sandals and Seena. All three looked alert.

"As a reminder, all bidders should be prepared to pay in currency at the close of tonight's auction," the auctioneer repeated for the fifth time tonight. "There are several moneylenders in the halls, with affordable rates." The last was said with a grin. Everyone in the room knew how loans from the Organization worked, and I imagined that rates would be even higher than usual, considering the lack of options a heavy spender would have. "Opening bid is fifty Imperials. I see one hundred, two hundred Imperials from the lady in the front. Three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, yes, I see your bid, noble sir. Do I see seven-fifty? A thousand? Two thousand, from the gentleman in the hat."

I stopped for a moment as the bidding escalated, to watch the room. There had been a few smaller competitors, who dropped out as the numbers rose into the four-digits, usually with sighs of disgust. I saw Kaidura fold her hands, and slump a bit as Seena outbid her. If nothing else, some Vallista somewhere could be scandalized by the amount of money people are willing to pay for a book. I raised my hand, signaling my bid.

"And we have fifteen thousand from the back. Do I see twenty? Twenty-five? Thirty?" It was like watching a very fast paced ball game - those out of the game whipped their heads this way and that to keep an eye on the bidders.

"Forty thousand Imperials." I raised my hand. I myself was running out of funds - much more and I would have to rely on a moneylender.

"Fifty thousand Imperials!" From Seena. She was standing next to a moneylender.

Sandals raised his hand. He motioned over to me. "I don't think you can top that, unless you are far richer than you look."

"I like having liquid assets. Don't let appearances deceive you," I shrugged.

"I'll remember that," he said. "Just keep in mind, I do have an interest in some of our fine brokers here." He waved his hand, taking in the moneylenders near the back.

"It's good to have friends, isn't it?"

He nodded, still keeping up that rather feline grin. "Seventy-five thousand Imperials."

He was right - I couldn't top that. And, with the moneylenders in his pockets, it would be the one time I couldn't get a loan, even at high interest rates. Were I back in my office, I could withdraw the money - even if I had to raid the other Lavodes' pocket money. On the other hand, they weren't the only people I could raid. I am a thief, from the northwest. Then again, the Jhereg didn't generally steal from one another - honor among thieves, and all that. It was said that any Jhereg could leave his door unlocked, and still find everything in the right place when he got back -- something few others could boast of.

Then again, there were more ways to pay than with money. "Ninety thousand Imperials." It would have to be enough, and judging from Sandals' expression it was. It seemed like I had made a bit of an enemy - not bad work for only a week as a Jhereg.

I cornered Seena before getting up to pay for my book. "You were rather interested in that last item."

"So were you. Congratulations on winning it."

"You're welcome." I looked over my shoulder, and stepped closer, deliberately playing up the 'I have a secret for you' body language. "I'm a bit new to the area, so I'm going to cut you a deal. We both pay for the book, you -- or your employer, I'm not picky - return me my share, and I let you have it. You get a nice bonus, and I get a contact in the city."
Seena looked me over, deciding whether to take the risk. She started walking in the direction of the auctioneer. "Let's pick up the package, then."


"You settled the book matter, then?" Rilen asked me later.

"You'll find it in the hands of one Baroness Dreenam. A bit of work and she might even be willing to let us have it, after her death." I put down the file I had been reading. "I'm going out for the afternoon - I doubt the Empire will fall apart in my absence."

And, while Sethra Lavode was the one to step out of the office in the Palace, looking forward to a free night, Kiera the Thief was the one to step onto the streets of Dragaera, looking for opportunity.
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