Chapter 1: Decisions

Casually flicking a few stray strands of his hair out of his face, Syos began whistling his favourite song as his hands pressed the knife smoothly against the block of wood he was carving into yet another wooden figurine. Seated under the bright red and blue awning with his back against a merchant stall that was positively heaped with apples, the young man couldn't resist snitching one. As he ate, using the same knife he'd used on the block of wood, Syos kept one blue-grey eye on the human traffic passing in front of him.

When he'd finished the apple, he always ate everything even the core, he returned his attention to his carving. Many people spared the strange man sitting whittling and whistling a glance as they passed by. He seemed lost in his own little world. However, his air of complete obliviousness was destroyed when without even looking up from the carving; he snatched the arm of a fat boy who had tried to steal one of the special candied apples on display. "I wouldn't if I were you." He said mildly, still carving although now one-handed as his other hand was wrapped around the youth's pudgy arm.

"Let go!" The kid cried, struggling to rip his arm from Syos's grasp and failing miserably.

Syos shrugged. "If that's what you want." He said releasing the boy quickly causing the boy to fall flat on his face. When the youth had climbed to his feet and was glaring angrily at Syos, he was incensed to see that Syos had returned to carving two-handed and wasn't even bothering to watch him.

"You had better leave before Hienna gets back or she'll tan your hide for certain sure."

Paling slightly, the fat boy knew of Hienna's reputation; he scurried off, leaving Syos to chuckle. As if the mention of her name had summoned her, Hienna's tall form was shortly seen, parting the crowd as she made her way towards the stall.

"Thanks Syos. I can'na trus' anyone else ta watch my stuff. They'll steal my money and my bes' merchandise." Hienna said her wide sun-browned face alight with gratitude and happiness to see him still there.

The young man grinned. "I steal your merchandise too."

"Aye but you take only tha one. The others are likely ta fill their pockets full up and with tha good stuff, not tha ordinary apples."

Smiling still, Syos said goodbye to the huge red-haired woman and strolled out into the crowds. There were more people as it was closing in on lunch time. Hienna always made sure to get back before then as that was when she sold much of her merchandise. She often got Syos to guard her stall as she had her own early lunch. And Syos was almost always happy to oblige.

As he wove his way through the densely packed crowds, Syos began to whistle again, much to the irritation of some of the unfortunates caught in the crush. "Must you do that?" asked a clerk managing to look both haughty and disgruntled at the same time.

Syos nodded, grinning. "Yes. I really must." To further irritate the clerk, Syos began whistling off key until the now cursing clerk was out of earshot. Continuing his winding process through the thick crowds, Syos made his way out of the merchant district and into one of the poorer districts. Not the poorest district, but not far above it either. Walking down the street covered in broken cobblestones, run-down or dirty buildings, Syos continued to whistle. Near the end of the street was a building that was in fairly good repair but was absolutely filthy. The grimy walls were a grey-brown from rock and road dust and the windows were either boarded up or so covered in filth as to make it impossible to discern even light through them. The front door however was strong and well-built but was covered in peeling black paint. This was Syos's destination.

Without knocking, the still whistling man sauntered in and found himself looking down the end of a knife. "Quick and hostile as ever, Feita." Syos said, completely at ease.

"I should have known it was you. Only you would come here whistling." Feita replied, rolling her eyes as she sheathed her dagger. Pulling her long black hair out of her face, she jerked her chin at the door behind her. "Nadan's in. He's busy though. Some trouble or another from the pickpockets. He hasn't been able to make a decision yet."

"Well then it is a good thing I'm here to take his mind off things, isn't it?"

Feita rolled her eyes again. Syos grinned and walked through the dirty antechamber cluttered with broken furniture to the door at the back of the room. Without knocking, earning him another glare from Feita, Syos strolled in. Inside was much nicer, cleaner and well furnished. A couple of other people were lounging on chairs but they waved to him as he entered.

"Got time for a game of cards?" The tiny Caran asked from a chair in the corner.

Syos shook his head. "I'm just popping in."

"You say that but you're likely to be here for hours." Moehira laughed.
"Besides you don't want to play cards with him Caran. He always wins." Vormin said.

Grinning, Syos shrugged. "I'm just lucky is all."

"Don't you have a job you should be doing?" Moehira asked.

"Nah. Nothing right now. I might pull something later. Too tired tonight."

"You've got to be the laziest of all of us." Vormin said, chuckling.

Syos's only response was to wink and then saunter up the stairs. The young man made his way to the very centre of the building where Nadan's office lay.

Pushing the door open, Syos called out. "Hey old man? You busy?"

"Is that you Syos?" Came a gruff voice from behind a mountainous pile of papers.

"Of course. Who but myself would call you an old man?"

Laughter followed this statement and Nadan stood up from behind the stacks and walked over. He towered over Syos; then again he towered over most people, least of all the slender Syos. As if his height wasn't intimidating enough, Nadan was heavily scarred, bald and looked quite prepared to bite of your head and eat it. However, behind those dark eyes lay a quick and intelligent mind.

"I'm glad you're here sir." Nadan said, bowing his head respectfully to Syos.

"Ah! I thought I we had already established that you are to cease using that epithet. What if someone were to be spying upon us?"

Nadan smiled. "Then you'd actually have to do some work."

Syos shuddered. "Precisely. So what is this dissension with the pickpockets? Are they demanding a larger percentage of the profits?" He asked as he sat down on the only clear corner of Nadan's desk.

Sighing, the bigger man shook his head. "No. They want more say in the decisions. They say it's not fair that the roof thieves get more say then they do."

Syos snorted. "Everyone has equal voice. It has always been so and will always be so. Remind them of that and inform them that if they do not stop with the grumbling you will actually give the roof thieves more voice."

"What if they threaten to break away?" Nadan asked worriedly.

"Then explain to them they will be without our aid in dealing with the authorities. We will not be cleaning up or aiding them in any way. They will lose our network."

Nadan frowned for a moment then grinned. "That'll work perfectly. You always know what to, sir."

"Must you call me sir all the time?" Syos complained. "It does not sound right coming from your lips."

"It wouldn't fell weird if you actually openly acted as our king."

Syos made a face. "Then I would not be able to have any fun. Besides I gather information of a higher calibre this way. Our people will speak with me as they do with each other and that makes facilitates my attempts to discover any kind of problem. I also have no ability with paperwork and all the other necessary day-to-day nonsense."

The thief king's number one man sighed. "You're right I guess. I'm just getting tired of people trying to wheedle your identity out of me."

"They are still doing it?" Syos asked, much amused.

"Yes. It's one of the favourite gossip topics."

"Well they have not got anywhere near the mark from what I have heard. The current most popular belief is that Krisiana is the king and she hides the truth because of her youth and inexperience."

Nadan chuckled. "Well she is in here an awful lot so I can see where they'd get that idea. And unlike you she helps me with the paperwork."

"Do you really wish for my aid with the paperwork?" Syos asked. "Because I recall your words after you viewed the mess I had made of the books hours after being chosen as king. I believe your exact wording was. 'How in all the gods' names can one person disorganize two years of papers in two hours? From now one you are not allowed to touch the books!' So unless you wish a repeat of that…"

"Gods no!" Nadan cried, shuddering in horror. "It took me two weeks to fix all the damage you'd done."

Syos grinned. "Well now that that has been settled I will take my leave. I believe I may pull a job tomorrow evening. So it is necessary that I choose tonight."

"Are you going to send a message?"

"Do I not always?"

Nadan shook his head. "You need to be careful. One day you're going to get caught."

Laughing, Syos patted Nadan's shoulder. "They have yet to catch me. They do not even have one who can keep pace with me."

"There's a rumour going around that they have a new member. Word is this newcomer's damn good. You'd best watch it."

"Ah this newbie will in all likelihood not even be able to glimpse me. You worry too much."

"I get worried. If something happens to you, what'll we do?"

"Follow my heir."

Nadan shook his head. "Not unless I'm certain you're dead. You're one of the best kings we've had in a long time. I'm not going to leave you in a cell when I have the ability to rescue you."

"Good king? You are the one who does most of the work."

"You're the one who makes the decisions. I just take care of the business any clerk could handle."

"No clerk could handle things with the same finesse you do. You are half diplomat and half mathematical genius. If I did not have you I would be completely without a guild."

Actually blushing, Nadan muttered a disclaimer.

"I will stop by and see you on the morrow. I will let you know who I am visiting at that time. But you may very well know before I tell you." Syos said with a grin as he ran off before Nadan could try and talk him out of it.

Syos waved merrily to all he passed, snuck up behind Feita earning him a hurled dagger accompanied by a curse and then was back out in the sunshine. The young man began whistling again as he made his way towards the richest district. He had houses to spy on.