I have no idea how Kiera knew where to find me. It was only the day before that Kragar had told me about the new klava shop he’d found. And I hadn’t mentioned to anyone that I was stopping there that morning. I’d been in the place just long enough to conclude that the klava was decent but I make better.
Loiosh gave me a heads up from his perch on my shoulder as Kiera entered the café, “Company, Boss. You didn’t tell me you had a date.” So I was able to look casually unsurprised as a beat-up brown leather pouch landed on the table in front of me. It made a nice healthy ‘thunk’. Kiera sat down, declaring “My turn.”
I loosened the strings and peered into the pouch. Not because I didn’t trust Kiera. It would’ve been rude not to admire her trophy. I whistled. “My, my. The renowned Pink Phoenix diamond, all 170 carats of it. I guess it is your turn. But if it wouldn’t be revealing too many trade secrets, how did you manage to get this little bauble out of the Imperial Palace Museum?”
Kiera shrugged. “Every move of that job was covered in trade secrets. But this game wouldn’t be any fun if I didn’t tell you at least a little of how it was done.”
The waiter approached our quiet corner table and I was left in suspense while Kiera’s order was taken and, promptly, delivered. The klava may have been only decent, but the service was top notch.
“Well,” Kiera began as she blew on her mug to cool it, “you know, of course, that the Pink Phoenix has its own room in the museum with special security?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen it,” I replied. “The room has one door and no windows. The rock is on a pedestal in the middle with nothing at all around it. And the place is covered with physical traps and sorcerous wards. You enter the room and the orb knows you’re there. You touch the floor, you die. I’m guessing that the walls and ceiling are similarly lethal. And there are teleport blocks, of course.”
“Yep,” Kiera nodded. “Also, the pedestal has a charm on it that triggers an alarm if the weight is lifted off of it. It was an excellent choice on your part. I won’t reveal all of my secrets but let’s just say that my solution involved a certain amount of skill with a crossbow, ground up golden phoenix stone mixed into petroleum jelly, and a very tolerant, very well trained ferret.”
I tipped my head toward Kiera in acknowledgement of her feat and handed her back the pouch. “What are you going to do with your prize? This isn’t exactly something you can fence. Maybe a private collector?”
“Oh, I have plans for it. Don’t worry.” Kiera smiled a very Jhereg smile. I wondered if she was going to plant the stone on some poor sod who’d crossed her. As soon as anyone noticed the gem was missing, every Phoenix Guard would be out on the streets with his or her nose to the ground trying to pick up the trail. “My turn?” she asked.
“Your turn,” I confirmed.
Kiera invoked the traditional opening, “Truth or dare?”
Loiosh bobbed his head and chuckled in my mind. “You ever notice, Boss, that neither of you ever chooses truth?”
I took a sip of my klava. “Yeah, yeah, wise guy. You’re the only one who gets unfettered access to the inside of my head. My truths are private property.”
“I thought you might pick dare.” Kiera handed me the pouch. “I dare you to put it back.”