Rowena didn’t sleep for the rest of the night, scared that every time she closed her eyes she would see the murderous glint in Damia’s eyes, as she stood poised to kill Artem. She spent her night watching Artem sleep. She had never seen him so peaceful; he was usually so animated and lively that seeing him like this was strange and alien to her. But never the less, when the sun came up Rowena couldn’t have been more glad for the night to be over. While Artem was still sleeping she got up and dressed and slipped out of the room to find something to eat.
Artem woke up about half an hour later and at the sight of the empty bed next to him he panicked, thinking the others had been right about Ena, and she’d run away while he had been sleeping.
He didn’t bother getting properly dress, just throwing his shirt on before running out the door and down to the main room of the inn. The innkeeper was standing behind the bar and Artem moved quickly across the room to speak to him.
‘You remember the girl who came in with us last night? Have you seen her this morning?’
‘Yes she was up about thirty minutes ago,’ the innkeeper said in friendly manner.
‘Where did she go? Did she say when she was leaving?’
‘Oh she’s still here sir,’ he said pointing over to a table in the darkest corner of the room. ‘She’s sitting over there.’ Artem felt a rush of relief and thanked the innkeeper for his help before going over to where Ena was sitting. She smiled up at him as he took the seat opposite her and picked up a piece of bread from the table.
‘How are you this morning?’ He asked politely. ‘Did you get much sleep?’
‘Not really,’ Rowena replied.
‘I’m sorry to hear that. Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?’
‘Very sure. It’s another of those secrets that I’d prefer not to talk about.’
‘You really are a mystery aren’t you Ena.’
The entrance of Jem, wide-awake and ready to be on the way, stopped the conversation. The rest of the group slowly joined them and when breakfast was over, they paid their bill and set off on the road towards Amea, the town on the Lyrian boarder. Rowena was at Artem’s side as usual. They were occasionally joined by Ishak or Hans, but most of the time they walked alone.
‘So why do they call you ‘your majesty’?’ Rowena asked. ‘Are you a king? Should it be me bowing to you?’ Artem laughed at the jovial tone in Ena’s voice.
‘Not at all, I’m not royalty in the way you would think of it. I don’t have an official title, or own vast swathes of land, or command an army.’
‘So what’s with all the formality?’
'I can’t tell you, you’d laugh yourself silly if I told you about my title.’ Artem shied away from the question, deliberately looking away from Ena.
‘Come on, please. I promise I won’t laugh at you if you tell me.’ She looked up at Artem with big puppy dog eyes, pleading silently with him to let her have her way.
‘OK fine. But you can’t laugh.’ After Rowena had sworn she would say nothing, Artem began. ‘So as you already know I’m not of the best reputation there can be, but for the authorities in my home country I’m a little bit special. See what you don’t know about your country, and every other country in the Known World, is that they have an underground thieves guild.’
‘I knew that. They have a building in Geneta.’
‘No, that’s the official thieves guild. What I’m talking about is the shadier side of things. You don’t think murderers and other people of that ilk are going to be a member of a public guild?’
‘But they’re not thieves.’
‘True, but the guild that I belong to, the secret one, isn’t so strict on their rules for entry. At least not in Madrimar.’
‘So tell me about this guild. What do you have to do with it?’
‘I’m their leader.’ Rowena stared at him with wide eyes and a dropped jaw. ‘Every five years there is a sort of election where everyone belonging to the guild chooses someone to be their king until the next election. The king has to monitor all the activities of the guild members and deals out punishments when they’re in the capital.’
‘Wait, so you are the King of Thieves?’
'I suppose that’s what you could call me.’
‘That is so stupid I have to believe it.’
'Hey don’t mock it. The leader of your thieves guild is one of the reasons law and order doesn’t break down.’
‘But I thought that was the job of the soldiers.’
‘Partly, but if we wanted to, the combined forces of the thieves guilds could wipe out the monarchy.’
'Well that really is stupid. The army is far better trained than a group of thieves.’
‘I wouldn’t be so sure. I know my people and they have skills that you wouldn’t think of. Most thieves have to have sharp knife skills, assassins need to have a steady hand and be a good shot with a bow and arrow, hit men need to be trained fighters so they can take out their opponents.’ The more Artem was saying the more Rowena was beginning to understand where he was coming from. ‘But thanks to your dutiful King of Thieves, peace reigns and there is no revolution against the monarchy.’
‘So how are you ruling your people now? You aren’t in your country so how do you know that all is well?’
‘A king has his advisors. Ishak is my right-hand man, everything goes through him and I never do anything without him. Then I have other men back home, they have the right to rule while I’m absent and have to be people I trust completely.’
‘So if you’re so important then why are you out here with these men from all over the world, committing petty crimes like stealing jewellery and capturing a helpless maiden?’
‘I have to keep in practice. There’s an election in eighteen months, I may not get back in power again, and then I will be nothing more than a petty thief.’