[EXCERPT] The Wren and the Raven Chapter One
 
Ash darted to the carriage door and opened it, slipping quickly inside. He quickly noted a large trunk in the middle of the floor. Sitting on
the seat on the other side of the carriage was a man, startled and
trembling. His garb was fine and intricate, and he bore jeweled rings
on his fingers. Ash grinned wide.

    “A steward,” he crowed softly, menacingly. “A caretaker for treasure
in motion. Governor Borolf finally seems to be taking my threats
seriously.”

    The man did not reply. Ash grinned wider as he drew a short, silver
knife.

    “Do you know who I am?” he asked.

    The man stuttered terribly as he spoke. “Th-the r-r-Raven.”

    “So, you know what I’ve come for.” Ash held the knife up to the light.
The frightened man said nothing, but his trembling had doubled. In a
swift movement, Ash jabbed the blade of the knife into the trunk just
under the lock. The steward let out an audible sigh of relief as Ash
pried the lock off of the trunk. He opened the lid and the gold of
the contents shone bright in the dark. They were accompanied by
precious gems and jewels, encrusted finery such as crowns and
necklaces. All were things a common thief would lunge at the
opportunity to steal. Ash, however, was no common thief. He had a
mission, a clear objective. He shoveled the coins and gems aside
until he lay eyes on a dull plain object in a sea of shine. Elated,
he pulled the object out and beheld it in his hand. It was a small
scope with a wooden case and a thick lens.

    The man cowering in the corner once again found his words. “W-what is
that?”

    “They don’t tell you much, do they?” Ash crowed. He glanced at the man,
reveling in his confusion.

    Just then, a gleam caught his eye. The steward had several rings, but one
stood out. It was large, with a blue setting and gold filigree. As
Ash gazed he realized the symbol on the face of the ring was familiar
to him. This was a signet ring of King Romun of Aurel.

    “Where did you get that?” Ash breathed. The man seemed to have detected a
change in the Raven’s demeanor. His trembling resumed, and he
stuttered an incoherent answer. Ash pressed the knife against the
man’s throat and leaned in close.

    “Where?!” he barked.

    “Aegiron!” the man chocked. “My employer in Aegiron gave it to me!”

   “Why?” Ash growled. At that instant, he heard a strange bird call from
outside the carriage. It was a signal Tilla had taught him. The
soldiers were returning. Ash knew his time was short.

   The man began to sob uncontrollably. “I was bidden to show Borolf the
ring and announce his favor with my employer.”

   “Who is he?” Ash pressed. “Who is your employer?”

   The signal sounded again, louder and more urgent this time. Ash grunted
in frustration. In one aggressive motion, he buried the knife in the
wood of the wall next to the steward’s face. He tucked the scope
into a pocket in his cloak, then reached down and snatched the ring
off the whimpering steward’s hand before turning and dashing out of
the carriage and into the night.

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