The three thieves met after nightfall at the Heaven’s Gate.

     Hengist and Twist arrived together, walking into the common room with matching scowls, soaked, cursing the rain. Both wore plain, dark gray clothing; Twist liked his flashy colors by day, but at night he was a shadow. Nevertheless, he still wore each and every one of his blades and presented a sinister image.

     Hengist wore only one dagger, yet looked even more dangerous.

     They glanced around the room, eyes squinted in the dim candlight, until spotting Jess. They joined her at her table and ordered two glasses to share the jug of whiskey she’d already ordered.

     She was a small woman, wiry, with short brown hair and a mouthful of rotted, brown teeth. She looked like a scavenger, and that was a fair description of her.

     Hengist didn’t really like her, though she was one of the few women he’d ever known who would share his bed without pay.

     The professional conversation began. They threw ideas onto the table, examined them, tried to fit them together like some mad puzzle, until all had agreed on the rudiments of a plan, to be finalized later at Twist’s room (unlike Hengist, he didn’t live in the palace, choosing instead to keep his own rented room, away from the other thieves). There they could examine the layouts in detail.

     “Are you sure you can trust this Rischule guy?” Jess asked at one point.

     Twist glanced at Hengist, then nodded. “Yeah. I think he’s too afraid to cross us.”

     “I hope you’re right.”

     “So do I,” Hengist muttered.