17: The Plan
I had returned to my room with no trouble; thankfully, I encountered nobody on my way back and Spenser's escort was ultimately unnecessary. His goodbye was brief, with a knowing smile as he left me standing there, overwhelmed with everything that had happened.
I re-locked the door manually and readied for bed with more questions swimming in my head than before. There had to be more. I doubted Spenser's motives that he had voiced; who would share something so intimate with a complete stranger?
I lay in bed, unable to sleep, trying to figure out what I should do. Can I trust this Spenser Red? He's already proven to me that he is both a criminal and a turncoat, assuming anything he's said to me is true. Anything I shared with him I had to be careful about, as he could be just trying to entice me into spilling information to the Naga gang. Surely, that was the more likely situation. It appeared unlikely that I would be able to find anything else useful on my own given my current status here and my constant companion, Dean. One must take risks in order to receive gain, and I think I will have to ally myself with Spenser.
I tossed and turned, unsatisfied with my decision, but unable to come to a better conclusion. The morning will hold a brighter day.
KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK
I woke with a start to an open door and an enthusiastic Dean holding something wrapped in a clean white cloth. I must've fallen asleep without realizing, and into a dreamless rest.
"Wake up, Larke, it's time to be productive."
Rubbing my eyes, I noticed that the small slit of a window in my room emitted a faint, rosy glow. Sunrise.
"Get dressed, we're busy today." He threw a slice of sweet bread in my direction, which must have been what was wrapped in the cloth, and then exited the room as loudly as he entered.
"Good morning to you too, Dean," I whispered sleepily, sitting up. I removed the bread from the general area of my knees and set it on the table for later. Something of interest must be happening – Dean doesn't usually arrive until well after daybreak.
I met him in the hallway, fully dressed but still groggy.
"What's all this about?" I asked, curious and excited.
"The Raven has called us to a briefing. Something about a raid," he shrugged, as if the topic were boring. "You'll find out the important details in a minute. Come on." He gestured that I follow, and promptly began walking towards our impending meeting.
It happened to be located in the small, dark room where I had first met The Raven. She sat there, in her terrifying and gruesome chair of bones, ignoring all of us. I looked around and saw that only a few people were in attendance; Dean and myself, Spenser, a few familiar faces I'd met at my initiation celebration and probably had even been introduced to. They looked like I'd met them before, but their names were blank to me. They all seemed eager for action and instruction.
"Welcome, friends," greeted The Raven, still lounging in her throne of violence.
She looked so comfortable cuddled against the various sizes femurs and ribs, somehow. Her face paint hid her features as it usually did, thick clay-like paint smeared across her high cheekbones, clearly applied by hand as her fingers made vertical stripes upon her face. She took the time to make eye contact briefly with everyone in the room. Her eyes met mine, and felt almost familiar, like a word on the tip of my tongue, a memory just out of reach.
She continued, "We have received information, thanks to Dean, that the Bank of Kinia is visiting the Usurper this very week."
This was met with a chorus of vocalizations from everyone in the room; sounds of approval and excitement began to grow.
The Raven waited for it to dissipate, a small smile on her painted face, and then spoke again, "Via a caravan, the throne will be receiving a large sum of currency on loan from The Bank of Kinia."
This bank was famous for lending large sums of money all around the world: to nations, world leaders, and the occasional very rich merchant. Whenever that Bank was involved, so were extremely large sums of money. Kinia was a neutral country, allied to no one but also enemies with no one. But it was known for its financial superiority. Because it was so neutral, Kinia did trade with everyone, resulting in excessive wealth for their people. There have been several occurrences where the Bank of Kinia had funded both sides of a war. They didn't care who you were, just as long as you were able to repay as agreed upon. In the end, the Bank of Kinia always got their due.
The Raven stopped speaking to stand from her throne, pushing the chair back, the bones screeching in protest at the movement. She addressed us with her hands folded behind her back, her posture stiff and straight. It reminded me of the standard posture when briefing high ranking military officials; I had often used the stance to incite confidence and order when briefing the King himself. Automatically, I mirrored her stance, straightening myself out of force of habit.
"This indicates that the throne is likely shoring up their forces in preparation for war." She previously had been sitting at the head of the table, and now she paced the length of the entire table and she began to speak again; this time, her hands gesticulating her points as she made them. "Of course, we can't let them have that kind of advantage. And, wouldn't you all like to be a bit richer?"
She held her hand open towards us as she asked us, a rhetorical question, of course, a slight grin tilting her lips crookedly. The small group smiled back, murmurs of positive agreement echoing through the room. Who wouldn't want to be a bit richer? She stopped pacing and returned to her original standing position and stiff posture. She was making statements again, and commanded attention effortlessly.
"We will intercept the caravan before it reaches the capital, extract the money, and send the caravan on its way with a message to Usurper Zante: the rightful King walks among us." She nodded at the end, having assigned us the gist of our mission, the big picture. At the end of her speech, she nodded towards Dean, and said, "Dean will fill you in on the details of how."
She returned to her seat, comfortably leaning back, and kicked her feet up onto the table. She had passed the reins onto her second in command, Dean. I took a mental note that Dean was openly recognized as her right hand man.
In response, he stood, and adopted a similar stance as she had earlier, equally commanding attention just as she had before. He, quite authoritatively and efficiently, detailed the plans to us. I watched carefully, noting everyone's complete compliance and confidence in him as he spoke, accepting his every command with a smile.
New members were pointed out to me as Dean instructed them with their tasks. Retta, a slight woman with mousy features and long brown hair was the bartender at the Ruddy Apple, the inn where the caravan would be directed to. Kynt, a heavyset man that she had been hiding behind would be the one to divert their travels directly into our trap. Then, Dean, Spenser and I would take it from there, with the expectation that whatever needed doing, we would get done.
When he finished detailing specifics, everyone looked to The Raven. She gave a single nod of dismissal. Low conversation and excited murmurs filled the room as everyone made to leave, eager to perform their duties.