Overworked and underfed, young Skif is looking for any excuse to leave his uncle's dingy tavern. His way out comes on a cold winter's day when he is filching food and treats from a rich noble - and catches another youth stealing silk handkerchiefs and napkins from the noble.
Skif asks the young thief for training, and is taken to meet Bazie, the mentor for a handful of boys all learning the tricks of pickpocketing and roofwork. Bazie takes him on, and becomes the father figure that Skif never had. With the other thieves-in-training as is family, Skif is happier than he had ever been.
Happiness can only last so long, however. When Bazie is killed because of another man's disregard for life and law, Skif swears vengeance. He devotes all of his resources to tracking down the arsonist, and looks for clues to who would have ordered such a deed. In doing so, he overhears a conversation not meant for other ears. His eavesdropping is discovered and he is given a warning - drop his investigation, or risk losing his life.
Skif takes the harsh advice under consideration, and lays low for a while. When he finally decides to have some fun again, he finds his latest target was targeting him - and ends up changing his life forever.
Mercedes Ritchie Lackey (born 1950) is an American writer of fantasy novels. Many of her novels and trilogies are interlinked and set in the world of Velgarth, mostly in and around the country of Valdemar. Her Valdemar novels form a complex tapestry of interaction between human and non-human protagonists with many different cultures and social mores.
Her other main world is one much like our own, but it includes clandestine populations of elves, mages, vampires, and other mythical beings. The Bedlam's Bard books describe a young man with the power to work magic through music; the SERRAted Edge books are about racecar driving elves; and the Diana Tregarde thrillers center on a Wiccan who combats evil.
She has also