Rena grabbed Rodrick’s upper arm and led him back to the stairs, away from the alcove with the guards until she felt confident enough that no one would be able to hear them talk.
[Rena] “I doubt that we could fight our way past the guards. Do you think there’s another entrance?”
[Rodrick] “It’s highly unlikely that they have a secondary entrance for these rooms, and even if there was one, they certainly wouldn’t let it be unguarded. There are no windows as we’ve already seen, well, also because we are underground. What they might have, if the building is structured in the same manner as the archives in Mak-Hemma and other archives and libraries I’ve been to, is ventilation shafts.”
[Rena] “Ventilation shafts?”
[Rodrick] “They are a kind of small tunnel between rooms and the outside that lets air circulate between them and helps regulate the temperature and humidity in a building.”
[Rena] “Okay, so are they big enough for a person to crawl through?”
[Rodrick] “Well, for someone of your stature probably, but not for me. Even if I would fit, I’m much too old for that kind of adventure.”
[Rena, sigh] “Alright, so that’s not an option either then. Hmmm, we could maybe try to get a clerk to give us one of these special decrees, or pretend we lost ours, but they would probably just tell us to come back tomorrow with a new one.”
[Rodrick] “We could steal someone else’s.”
[Rena, reluctant] “We could try, I suppose.”
Rena frowned down at the ground, crossing her arms tightly in front of her. They had lied and snuck around and gotten false documents to get to this point, but stealing? Taking something from a random, innocent person that they owned and might need? That felt completely different to her.
[Rena, hesitant whisper] “I don’t know if I’m entirely comfortable stealing someone else’s decree.”
[Rodrick] “I think it is the safest option we have. You’re right that we won’t be able to battle the guards, and I don’t see how we could distract all of them at once, so sneaking past them isn’t an option. Our only options are convincing one of the clerks to accompany us without a decree, or stealing a decree, and out of those two options the fastest and surest option is stealing.”
[Rena] “But what if they need still it?”
[Rodrick, chuckle] “Don’t worry about that. They can just get a new decree from wherever they got the first one from. You don’t get those types of decrees without a good reason or good connections, so it will be easy for them to get the new one reissued. You would be astonished how often scholars lose important documents, or they don’t remember where they put it. Even I have managed to lose the occasional essential file here and there. It never turns out to be as much of a calamity as you think it will be.”
[Rena] “Still … You never know.”
[Rodrick] “You are right. Of course, of course. Stealing is certainly not an honourable response, and I don’t fault you for being opposed to it, I certainly have my qualms about it too, but I think it is imperative for us to access these communications, as I believe we could uncover some immensely important information about secrets the royal council and other noble families are trying to hide from us all.”
[Rena] “I know, I know.”
[Rodrick] “So I have a proposition for you. The scholar that just passed us was obviously done with her research, and she didn’t seem in any hurry, so even if she were to still need her decree at a later date, she certainly has enough time to get herself a new one. She might not have left the building yet, so if we hurry we could catch up with her.”
Rena still didn’t like the idea, didn’t like just taking something away from someone, but she supposed that if that woman had just been inside the room with the records then she probably had gotten the information she needed, so it did seem quite likely that she didn’t need her decree anymore. She pressed her lips together and hesitantly nodded.
[Rodrick] “Let’s go back to the entrance hall.”
When they reached their destination, the room was more packed than when they had first arrived, almost as if all the people who had been standing around in the hallways earlier had shifted to standing around in the hall instead. They stepped aside from the entryway and craned their necks to look over the crowd, hoping to recognise the scholar that had just passed them moments before. Rena hadn’t exactly gotten a good look at the woman, but as luck would have it, her dress was instantly recognisable even from across the room and the way she carried her hair convinced Rena that she had found the right person.
[Rena] “Over there!”
She leaned closer to Rodrick so that he could hear her and nodded towards their target.
The scholar was still standing next to the clerk who had been talking to her earlier, or more accurately who had been talking at her, which he seemingly hadn’t stopped doing. The scholar, on the other hand, kept looking away, glancing around and behind herself, and scanning the room as if searching for someone or something.
[Rena] “Do we approach her here? What do we say? What should we do? Or do we follow her outside?”
[Rodrick] “We don’t know where she’ll go next. I want to avoid her going somewhere where we can’t follow. I know her dress, that’s the uniform of the historical academy in Dam’Vala. I think I could distract her with some questions but you will need to figure out where she’s keeping her decree and get it off of her.”
[Rena, hesitant] “Ok, I’m not exactly sure how I’m supposed to do that.”
[Rodrick] “She doesn’t have a backpack or other bag with her, so she has to have the decree on her person. In a pocket or inside her shirt sleeve. You will have to circle around her and find out where it is.”
[Rena, nervous] “I don’t know if I can do that. I’ve never pickpocketed something. She will definitely notice something is up. I don’t even know how deep her pockets go, and if she’s got it in her shirt sleeve, how am I supposed to get it out of there? I certainly can´t just walk up to her and sneak my hand in there, she would notice instantly.”
[Rodrick] “You’re right. I suppose if I can get her to show me her decree you could try bumping into her and exchanging it for another document. Here, I’ll give you one of our decrees. Try to fold it the way she has so she won’t notice it isn’t the same.”
He rummaged around in the inside pockets of his coat until he pulled out a folded piece of paper and handed it to her. She took it with both hands, staring down at it with wide eyes.
[Rodrick] “It’s going to be alright.”
Rodrick put a hand on her upper arm, slowly rubbing it up and down to comfort her, smiling at her softly.
[Rodrick] “If it doesn’t work out we’ll figure out another way.”
[Rena] [BIG BREATH] “It’s gonna be alright. We need the information in those secret documents, so we need this decree. We can manage it.”
Rodrick’s smile grew wider as he nodded at her, once, to confirm her feigned confidence.
[Rodrick] “We can manage it.”
[Rena, murmur] “Ok.”
[Rodrick, murmur] “Ok.”
Before leaving, Rodrick patted her lightly on the shoulder and then turned around. He clasped his hands behind his back and leisurely strolled through the crowd, looking around as if he was admiring the architecture.
Rena took in a big breath and then slid the decree into the front pocket of her dress before wiping the sweat off of her palms. She looked back up, determined to keep track of where Rodrick was going, and took a few careful steps forward. She slid from behind one group of people to the next, her eyes constantly darting between the floor, the people around her and Rodrick’s back. He had slowly approached the other side of the room but had somehow decided to walk past their target and go chat with one of the clerks behind the desks. Rena wished he had told her what his plan was, but she wasn’t even exactly sure he had a plan. At least not a carefully constructed one. She hid behind a group of older women all wearing almost the same kind of clothing as if it were a uniform they were allowed to personalise. The scholar and her companion stood only a few meters away from her. Rena tried to figure out where she could be hiding the decree, but every time the scholar turned her head to look around Rena instantly looked down to the ground, too afraid that their eyes might meet. Rodrick still wasn’t moving from his position, seemingly in deep conversation with the clerk. Rena’s stomach tightened at the thought that their target might turn around and leave before Rodrick decided to start his approach. She slowly became aware that just standing around behind a group of people and nervously looking up and down at someone only a few meters away looked extremely suspicious, evident by two of the older women glancing back at her and frowning, still too polite to say anything to her. She needed a new approach, an approach that didn’t consist of standing around in the middle of the room and looking like she was planning to rob someone. If only she knew what Rodrick’s plan was, where he would approach the scholar from, where Rena had to stand to get the best view of her robe without being seen by anyone. Considering where Rodrick stood, however, he would in all likelihood approach the scholar from behind, meaning that if Rena wanted to be in position behind her later, she would have to pass in front of her now.
She took a few steps back and snuck past the group of women she was standing behind so she could put a greater distance between her and the scholar. She would have to approach the desks from behind other visitors and hope that wasn’t the moment Rodrick decided to walk towards their target. She approached the desks at a spot between two clerks, hoping neither of them would notice her, and turned her back to them, looking over the crowd as if she was simply searching for someone. Her eyes lingered a second longer on Rodrick and the scholar before wandering over the rest of the room. When she was sure no one was looking in her direction she slowly slid closer to her target. The scholar seemed to be looking away more and more frequently, barely regarding the man in front of her who was apparently still complaining about something or other. If Rodrick didn’t approach the woman soon they clearly ran the risk of her leaving out of boredom or annoyance.
But maybe that was his plan after all? To intercept her when she was about to flee her predicament? But how could he know that she would stop to talk to him then, that she wasn’t so annoyed by the clerk that she didn’t want to be roped into yet another conversation? Rena hated this waiting game, the uncertainty of not knowing how she was supposed to act when an error on her part could mean the plan failed, or worse. What would happen if the scholar noticed she was trying to steal her decree? Would she signal it to the guards? Would they be thrown out, or arrested? She didn’t even really know what happened to thieves in cities like this. In her village, they tended to deal with thieves simply by kicking them out, or by giving them a stern lecture if they were younglings, but she knew city folks were more serious about these things, that if the crime was severe enough, bad things could happen to the perpetrators.
Her fingers started to feel cold and she wanted to rub them together to warm them back up but she didn’t know if that would look suspicious, if people could see the nervousness and fear on her if she moved too much. She tried to ground herself, to think about something else, about what her actual objective was at that moment. Figuring out where the scholar kept her decree. She let her eyes slowly creep over the floor until they landed on the woman’s shoes, as if she would be able to feel Rena’s eyes on her if they moved too quickly. Her gaze wandered up the woman’s body from the worn black boots to the hem of her dark-blue robe, drifting along the golden inscriptions of phrases in a language she did not speak, until her midsection where the inscriptions had faded into the midnight blue of the fabric. Rena kept her eyes unfocused, as if she was simply zoning out instead of investigating the scholar, trying to figure things out from the corners of her vision. She noticed that the robe did have deep pockets at hip-height and by the way the fabric bulged it looked like something was inside both pockets. She also noticed that although the sleeves of the robe were wide and billowy, that there was a tighter band around the wrists to keep them in place, so it was rather unlikely that the scholar kept the decree there. Rena kept looking around bit by bit until she noticed her eyes stinging too much and she had to shut them tightly and blink the pain away.
Finally, in the corner of her eye, she caught Rodrick move away from the desk, turn around and walk towards their target. She tried to stay calm, to not look up at him in excitement. Her whole body was tense as she forced her gaze to look over at the entrance door to her left, keeping track of Rodrick’s movement in her peripheral vision. He looked down at a piece of paper in his hands, slowly drifting away from the desk and towards the scholar until he almost ran into her. His head whipped up as if he was shocked to see anyone in front of him but immediately his face lit up, hurrying to fold his document and sliding it into his jacket before shaking the woman’s hand enthusiastically with both of his. He didn’t let go of her hand as he talked to her, although Rena couldn’t hear what they were saying, just more murmuring that was drowned out by the general cacophony of the room. She could, however, see how the woman turned away from her previous companion and engaged fully in Rodrick’s conversation. The clerk, who stood perplexed and somewhat annoyed next to them, pressed his lips together tightly, waiting impatiently for the conversation to shift back to him.
Rena pretended to look through the room and scooted closer to them, making sure no one was observing her when she took the steps to her left. After a few minutes she was close enough to hear their voices, and if she concentrated hard enough she could even vaguely understand what they were saying.
She had positioned herself in such a manner that the scholar wouldn’t be able to see Rena in her peripheral vision and although Rena was now closer to the woman, she still couldn’t figure out in which of her pockets she kept her decree. She certainly wouldn’t be able to get closer and sneak around behind the scholar to get a better glance at her pockets, because even if the clerk would leave Rodrick and the scholar alone, there were still too many people around them for such a risky approach. But bumping into her without knowing where the decree was would either be futile or would reveal their plan, so that definitely wasn’t an option either. All that was left for her was hope that Rodrick managed to make the scholar take her decree out of wherever she was hiding it. Rena clasped her trembling hands in front of her, squeezing one hand with the other so tightly that the pain would force the rest of her body to not move, that it wouldn’t betray her nervousness. She wanted to scream, she wanted to run, she wanted to do something, anything, and not just stand around waiting for a moment she didn’t even know would come.
They kept talking and talking, the woman’s face lighting up with interest, leaning in closer towards Rodrick while her previous companion grew visibly impatient, his arms crossed, his foot tapping up and down incessantly.
But then, suddenly, out of the corner of her eyes, Rena saw how the woman reached down, fumbling around in her right pocket until she pulled a piece of paper out and handed it over to Rodrick. Rena’s body froze, her breath stopped, her eyes fixed on one of the swirls on the wall at the other end of the room, unable to move. Rodrick took the document and turned it around in one hand, inspecting the back of it before opening it up.
Should she go now? Should she wait an instant longer? Should she try to take it from Rodrick or wait for him to give it back to the scholar? What if the clerk stopped her before she could reach them? She would have to run towards them, make it seem like she was in a hurry, like she couldn’t waste even a second to apologise to them. She suddenly remembered that she had to match the folding pattern of their own decree to the scholar’s decree first, but she couldn’t just take it out here in the open or they would notice.
She turned around, her hands trembling, her fingers ice cold. She pulled their decree out of her pocket, almost dropping it. It was folded in four, once horizontally and once vertically, but the scholar’s decree looked to have been folded in three, with three equally long horizontal parts. She tried to smooth out the old folds on the desk with her palm but it was impossible to make them disappear. She refolded the document carefully, slowly, so that she wouldn’t have to redo it and add even more creases to the paper. She laid it down on the counter, stretching out her fingers and closing them up a few times to get the heat and blood back into them. She looked up, suddenly aware that what she was doing must look extremely suspicious. She didn’t dare turn her head too much, didn’t dare scan all the people around her, but from what she could tell no one was observing her. She took a few deep breaths, picked the decree up in both hands and slowly turned around. Rodrick was still reading the document the scholar had handed to him, nodding slightly with the tip of his tongue sticking out between his lips. The woman was leaning in close to him, pointing at the document and explaining something to Rodrick. Rena stared at the wall behind them, her whole body tense, waiting desperately for the right moment. She didn’t know if the clerk was still observing the other two, couldn’t tell if he was now observing her, if he had noticed her odd behaviour. She hoped not. She hoped no one was paying attention to her, but it started to feel like everyone in the room was looking at her, was acutely aware of her.
The scholar leaned back, interlocking her hands in front of her again. Rodrick nodded more enthusiastically and looked up at her with a wide smile, folding the decree back together. This was the moment. Without thinking Rena rushed forward, her eyes still focused on the back of the room, straight towards the empty space between Rodrick and the scholar. She didn’t plan her movement, didn’t plan how she would exchange the two documents, she simply dashed towards Rodrick and ran into him.
[Rena] “I’m sorry! Oh no, I’m so sorry!”
[Rodrick]” Are you alright? Wait, wait!”
[Rena] “I’m sorry! I have to … Sorry! I’m late, I have to go. I’m so sorry, sir!”
[Rodrick] “It’s fine, it’s fine. Nothing happened. Are you alright?”
[Rena] “I’m fine, I have to leave. I’m so sorry.”
[Scholar, fading] “Look where you’re going! This isn’t a playground. Can you believe that? The youth of today, no respect at all. Are you alright?”
[Rodrick, fading] “Yes, yes, I’m fine. Just a bit shaken up. She must have been in a real hurry. But I’m fine, don’t worry too much about me.”
She ran through them, clutching the new document tightly to her chest, not looking back, not waiting for them to say anything else, she simply weaved her way through the crowd, apologising to the people she bumped into, until she had reached the other end of the room.
[Rena, in background] “Sorry. Excuse me. I’m sorry, just coming through, excuse me.”
She rushed towards the entrance that led inside the archives, slowing down but not stopping until she had reached the stairs to the basement and was already a floor down.
She turned around, looking up the staircase to make sure no one was following her, then looked back behind herself to see if anyone was observing her in the hallway. When she had made sure no one was following her she leaned back against the wall and looked down at the piece of paper she was clutching in her hands. It was crumpled from her tight grip so she tried to smooth it out on the stone wall behind her, too afraid to open it. It didn’t seem to have the crease marks from the other folding pattern, meaning that they had successfully managed to exchange documents, but what if this wasn’t what they were looking for? What if it couldn’t actually help them and all of this had been for nothing?
She had to reassure herself that Rodrick would have probably said something, or at least motioned to her, if this wasn’t the decree they were looking for. She closed her eyes, stood up straight and took in a few deep breaths. As she opened her eyes again she delicately unfolded the document, as if it would crumble in her hands if she wasn’t careful enough. She had to scoot closer to one of the lamps to be able to read the document, but there it was, their access to what they were looking for. Issued by the magistrate at the military academy near Lomen, full access to the rooms in the R4C6 category for the delegation of the historical academy of Dam’Vala without mentioning any exact names, dated only three days ago. She clutched the document to her chest and let her head rest against the cold stone wall.
It was going to be fine. They would just have to sell the lie that they were from the historical academy to one of the clerks, even if they weren’t wearing the appropriate uniforms. Rodrick clearly knew enough about that place to make something up, so if they picked one of the younger clerks it would be fine. They just had to be quick about it, before the scholar realised that the decrees had been switched. Hopefully this was their last stop in the archives, that they would actually find out the truth in that room and wouldn’t be sent to yet another location.
From far away she could hear footsteps coming closer, one pair, unhurried, heading down the stairs. Her body tensed and she leaned back, eyes fixed on the bottom of the stairs, waiting for whoever was coming down to emerge. She tried to evaluate whether she had to run away or not. She didn’t know where she should run away to, where she could hide, but if whoever was approaching was the scholar or a guard she didn’t have the luxury of just staying there.
The footsteps came closer, but they were slow, sluggish, not like a person who was looking for someone. She stepped away from the wall, sliding the decree into the front pocket of her dress without taking her eyes from the stairs.
[FOOTSTEPS APPROACHING AND STOPPING]
[Rena, huff] “Oh thank the stars.”
[FOOTSTEPS RUNNING A SHORT DISTANCE]
[Rena] “I’m sorry I ran into you like that, I didn’t think before rushing forward.”
[Rodrick] “No, no, you did well. You did very well.”
[Rena] “Look, I got it!”
[Rodrick] “Good, good, very good. We shouldn’t dawdle here too long. I managed to distract her long enough that she just put the decree into her pocket without looking at it but I can’t guarantee that she won’t look at it soon. I don’t know how long we’ll have.”
[Rena] “Do we have to go back up? I don’t know if that would be a good idea, what if she’s still standing there?”
[Rodrick] “I saw her walk away, it should be fine. Don’t worry about it.”
[FOOTSTEPS AND VOICES COMING CLOSER]
[Rena] “Wait, someone’s coming.”
She pushed him away from the stairs and towards the wall, choosing the middle point between two lamps so they could stay in the shadows, at least as much as that was possible.
Two people came up the stairs, one man in tight black pants and a floor length brown coat, and a young woman in the same uniform the other clerks were wearing. She was plump with rosy cheeks and light brown hair braided into two long braids running down her chest and before Rena even realised what she was doing she was rushing forward towards the clerk.
[Rena] “Hi, excuse me, I hope I’m not interrupting you. We are searching for someone to accompany us to room R4C6E1, would you be free to come with us? I’m truly sorry, we’re in a bit of a hurry or we would have gone upstairs again.”
[Clerk] “Oh, ehm, I- I think I’m available? If that would be ok with you, sir?”
[Companion] “Yeah, I’m good, I know the way out of here.”
[Rena] “Thank you so much!”
[Companion, chuckle] “Sure.”
[Clerk] “G- Goodbye, sir.”
[Rena] “Thank you so much for your help. We’re with the delegation from the historical academy in Dam’Vala. I’ve got our decree right here.”
[Rodrick] “Hello, it’s very nice to meet you.”
[Clerk] “Oh, yes, I’m honoured to meet you too, sir.”
[Rena] “Here you go. It’s for any of the rooms in R4C6, but we only need to go to the E1 room.”
Rena handed the decree to the clerk but barely gave her enough time to open it and glance at it before she looped her arm around the clerk’s elbow and headed down the stairs.
[Rena] “I’m sorry to rush you like this but we really are in a bit of a hurry.”
[Clerk] “No problem at all, I understand that you are busy people, especially after coming from so far away.”
They walked down the stairs and down the hallway, Rodrick following both girls close behind. The clerk didn’t ask to see their decree again before opening the door to their room, nor did she acknowledge the guards. It all seemed too simple to Rena, like someone would come rushing down the stairs calling out to arrest them at any moment.
They entered into another deep, dimly lit room filled from floor to ceiling with bookshelves that were packed with what looked like the same type of bound book over and over again.
[Rodrick, whispering] “Go find the documents. Look for ARC.”
Rodrick had leaned in to whisper into Rena’s ear before turning to the clerk.
[Rodrick] “I have a question. A member of our delegation is currently looking into a rather confidential subject at the moment, and she has mentioned that she has already inspected all documents she has access to without finding exactly what she’s looking for. How would one go about getting access to the more restricted areas? I understand that not everyone is allowed in those rooms but can exceptions be made for reputable institutions?”
Rena stepped forward a few steps, feigning curiosity at the bookshelves until she was out of sight of the clerk. She slipped between two bookcases and hurried down the passage, making sure her feet barely left the ground so her footsteps wouldn’t resonate through the entire room. She only stopped shortly to look at the signs hanging on the side of the bookcases to figure out where the documents they were looking for could be, but since she wasn’t sure how to interpret the abbreviations it took her several minutes to find out where she was supposed to go. She had to find row A first, which happened to be the last three rows of the room. She then had to find the bookcases labelled RC, but since the letters related to abbreviations and were not simply just organised alphabetically she had to run from one sign to the next to figure out where the correct one stood. She was lucky enough that she didn’t run into anyone, or even hear anyone else in the room. She was far enough away now that she couldn’t hear Rodrick’s conversation anymore, which also meant that she didn’t know if he was still successfully distracting the clerk or if she was now looking for Rena.
[Rena, whisper] “There it is. Finally! What do I have to look for? Oh, why do they all have to look the same? Hmm, I should probably look for the year when the fire happened, am I even in the correct decade? Why is it organised like this? How do these people find anything in here?”
[Logan, whisper] “Hey!”
[Rena, hiss] “What are you doing here?”
She had reached the end of the bookshelf when Logan had slid out of the shadows between rows and was now standing next to her.
[Rena] “How did you even get in here?”
[Logan] “I have my ways. What are you looking for?”
[Rena] “Well, ehm, I need to find the books with the year of the fire on them, or anything more recent than that.”
[Logan] “Ok, ok, ok, so what? Two, three years ago? Yeah, we can find that. Over here!”
He ripped three books out of the bookshelf near the end of the row and spread them out on the ground, kneeling down in front of them.
[Logan] “What are we looking for?”
[Rena] “I don’t know. Any mentions of the fire I guess, or any mentions of the town name or even just orders to change the road signs, anything like that I suppose. I’m honestly not sure myself. We just found a mention of this place in another report that had been cut up to hide information, so I don’t even know what we’re looking for.”
[Logan] “Yeah I had that too. It was like going down a spiral of clues. Not sure I got anything useful out of it either. Wait, here, I think this is what you’re looking for. Yeah, yeah, that looks relevant.”
[Rena] “Can I see it?”
Rena sat down on the ground next to Logan and took the thick book he handed her, placing it in her lap. The pages of the book were letters between the administrator and various members of the Royal Council that had been sewn together into a tome. Logan leaned over the book and pointed to a section in one of the letters that mentioned Miller’s Knee. Rena’s eyes grew wide, turning immediately into a frown as she skimmed the letter.
[Rena] “How dare she say the town had no great importance and then mention right after that thirty-seven people died?”
[Logan] “Yeah, these people are assholes, don’t expect compassion from them.”
[Rena] “Wait, she mentions the crow effigy, I found one of those too! In my hometown, next to the church. They had been planted in the ground, like, like a ritual or something. I-I don’t know, it was kind of strange. But I picked one up and it had an inscription on it, in some old script. Rodrick didn’t know what it was either but I think he knows someone who could read it.”
[Logan] “Okay, weird. Like, someone placed them there? Never heard about that before. You think the people responsible for it left them there? As a threat?”
[Rena] “I-I don’t know. The-the letter doesn’t state much either. It, ehm, oh, wha- ‘as per protocol, the complete elimination of the town’s memory has commenced’? What does that mean? How can they eliminate a town’s memory?”
[Logan] “What? Show me! What the- They just admit to that? They genuinely keep evidence of the fact that they actively suppress the truth just lying around here? Where everyone can see it?”
[Rena] “But what does it mean?”
[Logan] “I don’t know, probably that they try to pretend the town never existed. You know, like, if they never talk about it then the town’s destruction never happened, and everyone who says otherwise is called a liar or silenced by them. But the fact that they just keep this lying aro-
[Logan, murmur] “Wait, wait, wait.”
He held out a hand in front of her as if he wanted to stop her from moving. He looked up, his eyes wandering around slowly as if he was scanning the room. Rena froze up, eyes wide, hearing nothing but the slowly approaching footsteps. She didn’t know if it was best to stay quiet and hope the person didn’t see them or if they were supposed to run away, but where could they run away to? The room only had one door and there were guards outside of that door, so if they were to run out the guards would know right away that they had to be arrested? Could they hide from the person by sneaking between rows? But Logan wasn’t moving and the footsteps were getting closer and panic was starting to rise in her.
[Logan, whisper] “I can’t be one of the guards. Must be just another visitor, just pretend we’re allowed to be here.”
[Rena] “How do you know?”
[Logan] “The guards wear heavier armour and a sword, you hear that immediately when they’re walking. It’s gonna be fine, let’s just keep reading.”
[FOOTSTEPS GETTING LOUDER]
Rena stared down at the page in front of her, the letters melting together in front of her eyes. Her breathing slowed down until it stopped completely and she was only aware of the beating of her heart and the approaching footsteps.
[Logan] “Thank the stars, it’s only you.”
He got up, ripping Rena out of her trance. She looked back at the figure that was closing in and realised with relief that it was only Asha.
[Asha] “Where’s the old man?”
[Rena] “You didn’t see him near the entrance?”
[Asha] “No, there was no one there.”
[Rena] “Strange, he should have been there. Do you think he left?”
[Logan] “Nah, he doesn’t seem like someone who’d do that. He’s probably just looking around in another part of the room.”
[Rena] “I guess. Asha, how did you get in?”
Asha stood a few metres away from them, facing the same bookshelf Logan had taken the books out of. She didn’t respond and Rena wasn’t sure if she didn’t want to answer the question or if she was simply too engrossed in finding what she was seeking. She reached out and pulled one of the books out, leafed through it till the very end before stopping at a certain passage and ripping out the page.
[Rena] “What are you doing?”
Rena shot up, the book sliding off of her lap. She rushed over to where Asha was standing while Asha slid the book back into place and folded the ripped out pages in four before sliding them into the inside pocket of her tunic.
[Logan] “You know what, you’re right.”
[Rena] “No we can’t just steal these things, they’ll notice.”
[Logan] “I kinda already did it earlier with my stuff.”
[Rena] “But they’ll notice!”
[Asha] “They won’t notice anything, they’re too blind and stupid for that.”
[Logan] “Yep, definitely agree with that.”
[Rena] “It just, isn’t right to destroy someone’s property and then steal it.”
[BOOK SLIDING; FOOTSTEPS]
[Logan] “Look, we don’t have the time to read all of it here anyway, and we’ll probably need it as evidence later. Let’s just take everything we need and get out of here and then read it outside. I promise, they won’t notice it’s gone.”
[Rena] “How do you know?!”
[Logan] “Wait, shut up.”
[Logan] “Shit, we need to leave!”
[Asha] “Over here.”
Asha rushed past and before Rena had really grasped what was going on Logan had grabbed her by the wrist and was pulling her towards the back of the room until they had reached the wall. They turned left but just as they emerged from behind the bookshelf they almost ran into someone. Someone who suspiciously looked like one of the guards that had previously guarded the other side of the door. Immediately Logan swivelled around and pulled her back so they could run in the opposite direction. In front of them another guard emerged from between two bookcases, blocking their path and forcing them to turn right, back towards the centre of the room. As they reached the end of the row Logan stopped abruptly, letting go of Rena’s wrist as his arm shot up in front of her. Asha had to pivot to the left so she wouldn’t crash into him, her back instead hitting the bookshelf. Rena lost her balance and fell backwards, and only after she had hit the ground did she see the rapier blade held out in front of Logan’s throat and the man the sword belonged to. He didn’t look like one of the guards. He instead wore a long, blue coat with gold details that told Rena that in all likelihood he was the one giving orders, even if he barely looked to be Logan’s age.
She scrambled backwards and got up, trying to run back to where they had come from, but one of the guards had caught up with them and was now coming down the passage. Rena stepped backwards until she hit Logan’s back, keeping her eyes fixed on the approaching guard.
[Captain] “Who are you?”
[Logan] “Hey man, I could ask you the same? This all seems a bit abrupt. Why all this aggression? Look, we weren’t doing anything wrong, just looking at some documents like we’re allowed to. You’re coming on a bit strong here.”
[Captain] “Then why did you run away, smartass?”