There was no doubt that Toby had entered the servants’ quarters. The corridor was narrow and dark, the floor and walls made of bare stone. He took a moment to make sure the closest rooms were empty before he pulled out the notepad and began drawing a rough sketch of his surroundings. The ground floor, he soon discovered, was designed purely for the servants. There were no signs of luxury here. The quarters themselves were small, with a cramped dormitory filled with small cots, a small dining area and a vast kitchen for the cooks. The rest of the floor was made up of storage rooms, along with a room dedicated to one huge machine that belched black smoke through a small square window in the top corner of the wall.
Not wanting to get too close, Toby tried to examine it from a safe distance. It whirred and juddered noisily. Steam hissed within the metal body of the machine and water bubbled. Judging by the wires that led away from the machine and through the ceiling, Toby suspected it was an electricity generator, designated purely for the Castle.
In the space on his notepaper for this room, Toby drew a quick diagram of the machine and how he guessed it worked. Jason would be able to verify it later. He pocketed the notepad and headed for the staircase, leading up to the first floor. Unlike the one before, this floor held the distinct pitter-patter of hurrying feet. Toby moved more cautiously through the larger, cleaner, sparkling kitchen to the long dining hall, sketching the lines on a new page in his notepad as he went. A shadow flickered on the electrically-lit walls and Toby pressed his back to the wall beside the door. He heard the running footsteps of, he presumed, a maid or butler, perhaps on their way to alert the family of the raucous outside. In any case, they were too much in a hurry to check for intruders.
Toby continued in this fashion, scouting the floors whilst smoothly avoiding the servants as they scurried about. None of them seemed to be the least bit wary of intruders. It was also odd, Toby thought, that none of them spoke. Some ran in groups of two or three, all in complete silence. The further he explored, the more luxurious and expensive the rooms seemed to become. They became larger and emptier. The paintings seemed to stretch the height of the walls. In the vast, open rooms, Toby felt exposed and vulnerable. He kept close to the walls, where the faint shadows did nothing to hide him, yet he felt safer than in the middle of the room. There was no one looking for him, but he refused to let himself be lulled into false security.
His progress slowed considerably on the third floor. He put away his notebook, having gathered three floors’ worth of blueprints, and continued with his full attention on his environment. An unmistakable figure dressed in a red coat, a black gun under her arm, strode past the corridor in which Toby was hiding. She paused at the door and peered in, but saw nothing and continued. The presence of the guards had Toby believing he was close to the Governor and his family. With one hand resting on the hilt of his curved blade, he continued in a prowl down the corridors, his boots silent on the deep turquoise carpet.
The corridors twisted and turned in every direction, creating a labyrinth of corners and narrow walkways. It would have been more useful to sketch out the layout of this floor than the three prior, but Toby did not want to let his guard down for a moment. He was more concerned about finding his own way out again.
The dark wood doors blended in with the wood-panelled walls, marked only by the gap in the lines of framed paintings. Toby suddenly found himself in the middle of a long corridor, with the approaching shadow of one guard in front of him and the hushed voices of two others behind. With no time to find a suitable way out of this situation, Toby lunged at the closest door, thanked every deity in existence that it was not locked, and closed it quickly but quietly behind him. He waited, listening for the guards to pass with no indication had he had been spotted.
Toby turned, half expecting to find himself in yet another corridor, but instead faced a large, dimly-lit bedchamber. A four-poster bed, not dissimilar to that of Peter Prendergast, with the curtains drawn back revealed a woman, awake and sitting up with the sheets covering her lower half. She must have been nearing forty, almost twice Toby’s age, but that did not take away from her beauty. Her hair, an auburn shock of waves, tumbled over one shoulder. She wore an elegant nightdress, and, judging by the décor of the chamber, she was the governor’s wife. She gazed at Toby with bleary eyes, as though his sudden entrance had just woken her. He stared back, waiting for her to scream. She never did.
“What have you come for, assassin?” she asked quietly. As she spoke, her voice grew progressively louder and more panicked. “There’s nothing I or my family can do for you.” She leant over and scrabbled for something underneath her bed. Toby took a careful step towards her, gripping the hilt of his blade in case she pulled out a weapon. Instead she revealed an ornate rosewood box, roughly the size of a jewellery box.
She handed it out to him. “Please take this. Perhaps your people can do something for the poor in the favelas. My husband promises many things, but keeping them can be difficult.”
Toby warily took the box and opened it up. It was full to the brim with jewels, gemstones and necklaces and bracelets made from precious metals. “Why, exactly, are you giving me this?” he asked in a low voice.
“To help you,” she answered as though it were obvious. “Your ideals are ones I agree with, but I feel as though some of your people have taken advantage of your newfound power. I’m sure you heard of the murder of our dear friend?” Toby decided not to answer. From some stroke of luck, he had garnered the support of the governor’s wife, and he suspected revealing that he had been the one to slit Prendergast’s throat would not help his case. As Toby picked up a silver charm bracelet to examine the gems, she continued. “I also give you this gift in the hope that you will now leave my children unharmed.”
Toby instantly replaced the bracelet and handed her back the box. “Your children have done nothing to harm myself, my brothers or the civilians. Fate chose this life for them, not choice. I have no reason, nor desire, to hurt them. I didn’t come in here to hurt you either, I am merely hiding.”
She took the box, staring at him curiously. “Thank you, Night Wanderer. If I could ask you to spare my husband as well-”
“This I can’t promise,” Toby replied coolly. He turned his back on her and returned to the door, paused to listen for any close by guards, and left. He took a moment to listen to the silence out in the corridor, before he continued to his left.
Moving slowly and placing each step with the utmost care, Toby carried on his scout of the Castle. He had no idea how to get back to the staircase, but he could escape through a window and scale down the wall if it came to it. At the end of the corridor, where he had the option to turn left or right, he stopped and listened. No sound came from either side, even though he waited a full two minutes. He peeked around the corner, saw nothing but shadows where the electric lights were turned off. It looked most uninviting, though Toby considered darkness his ally. He glanced the other way and promptly had his head knocked backwards.
Toby fell on his back with a thud, stars blinking behind his eyes. He was aware of a figure standing over him and, undoubtedly, the barrel of a gun pointed at his head. When his vision cleared, he looked up at an angry-looking woman with steely eyes. She was young, a year or two older than Toby, and he found the similarity between her and Lucy almost amusing. She wore the standard red jacket and black trousers, a leather holster on her belt. Apart from this, she could easily have been mistaken for a Night Wanderer.
She stooped and pulled his scarf down, revealing the lower half of his face. She scowled, clearly still not recognising him as someone she knew. “Your name. What is it?”
Toby refrained from grinning. She spoke like Lucy too. “You can’t get too many honest answers to that question.”
“Don’t be smart with me, murderer. Most people struggle to find their tongue when staring death in the face. This can’t be the first time you’ve found yourself in this situation. So, Night Wanderer, what is your name?”
“You won’t kill me, at least not here,” Toby countered, ignoring the question. “I haven’t done anything wrong so far. I have no blood on my hands. Or my blade. Besides, think about the mess it would make on the carpet.”
“You are outside after nightfall, that is crime enough,” she argued.
Toby made a point of looking around. “This definitely looks like the inside of a building to me.”
She smacked him on the temple with her gun. Toby winced as pain lanced across his head. “You must have been outside to get here, wise boy.”
“I could have been here since sundown for all you know,” he answered, struggling to keep his voice cheery. He could not show anger or frustration; this was something the Dark Keepers fed on. He had to keep control, act like none of this frightened him.
“Even so, you’re trespassing,” the girl snapped at him. “I could shoot you right now and my superiors would not question it.”
“Then why haven’t you?” Toby asked with a raised brow. She narrowed her eyes, which made him grin. The tables were turning. “Let me up. Fight me fairly, and then we can see who the superior is.”
“Sneaking in here with your face covered doesn’t sound particularly fair to me,” she pointed out coolly. “I don’t need to prove myself to you.”
“But you haven’t killed me yet. You could have shot me instead of knocking me to the floor and you could have avoided this whole conversation.”
“Call me sentimental, but I don’t like shooting people. It isn’t something any of us want to do, but you and your people are giving us no choice. Infiltrating the Castle, causing raids, setting fires- What do you expect us to do?”
“You were shooting civilians long before the Night Wanderers appeared,” Toby pointed out. “You can’t blame that on us.”
“That’s different. You don’t understand-”
“Then please enlighten me.” She did not answer, only glared down at him. Her breathing had turned heavy with the effort it took to keep him from messing with her mind and letting him up. “I don’t believe you’ve ever shot anyone before.”
“You’re young, can’t have left the Academy very long. Maybe you’ve only just finished training and this is your first encounter with someone like me. A criminal that hasn’t actually done anything wrong.”
“Why haven’t you called for a colleague to help if you can’t face taking my life? There are plenty of guards around, I’ve seen them. Do you want to give me the chance to escape?”
“I said, stop talking!” she snapped, moving to hit him again. She gave a satisfied but humourless laugh when he flinched.
The bang of a door closing nearby caught both of their attentions. Toby took advantage of the distraction and brought his knee up, kicking her right leg off balance. She stumbled and fell, landing on Toby. He scrambled out from underneath her, and was halfway onto his feet when she grabbed his ankle. He fell onto his front and she clawed her way onto his back, pinning him to the floor.
“Nice try,” she hissed. But Toby had not given up yet. He rolled to the side, knocking her off him, before he pinned both her wrists above her and grappled at his belt for a blade. He pulled out a tiny throwing knife, even though he had been searching for his longer-bladed dagger. No matter, the knife was sharp enough to pierce her carotid artery if he was pushed to that. Now that their positions were reversed and Toby had the advantage, he allowed himself to relax a fraction.
“I don’t try, I succeed,” he answered, allowing himself a smug smile. He held the knife against her throat, where the skin pulsed with blood. “Before I make myself scarce, as it seems I have outstayed my welcome, I have one question. Why didn’t you kill me when you had the chance?”
She bared her teeth in a horrible smile. “Like you said, it would have made a terrible mess. Have you ever tried to get blood out of a carpet?”
“I like to keep my kills clean,” he lied. “I really don’t want to hurt you, but I will if you call for help. At least let me get out of sight before you alert anyone else.” She said nothing. Toby bounded onto his feet, sheathed his knife and pulled his scarf back over his nose. He heard her scramble up behind him, but he had already swept into the shadows by the time she called out.
To Toby’s surprise, the bodies of the guards were not discovered until the night patrol began, long after he had left the café. He read the story in the newspaper, his palms sweaty, whilst working the following day.
“Such a travesty, isn’t it?”
Toby glanced up and recoiled slightly. Marcus gazed at him over the counter, a smile playing on the corners of his mouth. “Can I get you anything?” he asked, trying to subtly wipe his hands on his apron.
Marcus saw and smirked. “Just tea, please.” As Toby started making the drink, Marcus leant forward over the counter and spoke in a low voice. “The Dark Keepers won’t be coming after you, so stop looking so guilty. You weren’t the one to kill them, after all.”
“The two guards on interrogation duty yesterday were found dead in the ally right beside my workplace. I’m sure they’ll be able to put two and two together,” Toby answered, equally quietly. He handed over the cup of tea and passed him the bowl holding sachets of brown and white sugar. Marcus took four and poured them all into his drink. Toby watched, waiting for a reply.
“How can they put two and two together if it points them to the wrong person?” he asked, taking a sip of the drink. He made a face and took another sachet of sugar. “It wasn’t you. It was Lucy.”
“Well, yes, but it looks-”
“It looks like the three men met an unfortunate, unexpected end in an alley that so happened to be beside a café. The coroner could not specify a time of death between midday and the time they were found. As far as they’re concerned, your name has no attachment whatsoever to the incident.” Toby waited for more as Marcus took a large gulp of the scalding hot tea. “The data regarding yesterday’s interrogation schedule with your name on it unfortunately went missing.”
“How can you have access to those documents?” Toby asked.
Marcus knocked back the rest of the tea and dropped a note on the counter that paid for the drink and left a generous tip. “Join us and you’ll find out.” He straightened up and headed for the door, leaving Toby bewildered and not particularly reassured.
Nothing of particular interest occurred on the third day. He thought he spotted Lucy lurking in an alley in the Tower District, but she vanished before he could take a closer look. Marcus, whose size was impossible to miss, appeared on the streets of the Suburban district. Less than a hundred feet from the Academy, Toby spotted Lukas, the leader of the Night Wanderers. No longer dressed in the long hooded coat, he easily fit into upper-class society. His clothes had imported designer labels and his hair, which had been covered that last time Toby saw him, was charmingly scruffy. He looked up as Toby approached, smiled in greeting, and promptly walked away.
Baffled, Toby continued on to his lecture. Elsa was waiting for him on the back row of the amphitheatre, tapping the end of her pen nervously on her notepaper. She smiled when she saw him and threw a scroll under his nose as he sat down beside her. “I decrypted most of this on my own, but it doesn’t quite make sense still.”
Toby glanced over it. “It’s a numeric code,” he answered. “Read every fifth word and you will have a message.”
Elsa read the page, a small crease of concentration appearing between her brows. “How did you figure that out so quickly?” Toby reached over to tap the subtitle. Her shoulders slumped. “Where’s yours?”
“I didn’t finish it,” he admitted. “I’ve had a lot on my mind.”
“Like what?” Elsa asked playfully. “Have you been struggling to make leaves out of milk in hot chocolate lately?”
For the first time in days, Toby laughed. “Indeed. It troubles me at night.”
Elsa patted him on the back in mock-sympathy. “Are you working again tonight?”
Toby nodded, his smile fading as images of the dead guards flashed in his mind. Blood spraying the ground, a knife lodged in an eye, the manic glee on Lucy’s face as she took their lives. He shook his head and met Elsa’s concerned gaze. “Yeah. I’m always at the café workdays.”
“I’ll see you there later then.” She began writing out her message on another piece of paper.
“Do you miss me when I’m not around?” Toby asked, and immediately regretted it. Something about his encounter with the Night Wanderers had left him somewhat fearless of menial things. Elsa laughed softly, finished up her decrypted message and held it up to read it.
“To find that which is sought, look behind the door. What do you suppose that means?”
Toby shrugged. “I think they’re all made up, just to educate us.”
Elsa did not look convinced. “Do you ever wonder what all this is for?” she asked, setting down the message. Toby raised his brows at her and she continued. “Jake told me that everyone that graduates from the warrior’s college is immediately recruited by the Guard. Does that not mean that the government will recruit us as well?”
“For what?” Toby grumbled, the mention of Jake immediately souring his mood.
“I don’t know. It makes me think that there must be something that needs decrypting. Something big, or many things that need solving.” She slammed her pen down suddenly as something occurred to her. “This could be why it’s forbidden to be outside at night.”
It took a moment for Toby to catch up with Elsa’s thought process. He took a breath to reply to her, but the professor began his lecture at that moment and he was forced to hold back. Elsa’s suspicion made him think all the way through the lecture, distracting him from the subject of decryption and riddle-solving. If something had been discovered that required advanced decryption from hundreds of scholars, the chances that it was dangerous were high; dangerous and prohibited, which meant that they could risk no one stumbling across it.
His curiosity peaked, Toby made up his mind.
made a swift exit through a large window that swung outwards. It had a large
sill that allowed him to close it behind him, offering little evidence to his
whereabouts. He scaled down the side of the Castle, which was much more
difficult than he had anticipated. Unlike the towers he was used to, the
masonry was much smoother and more slippery. He slipped and slid his way down
the wall, falling from window to window in the hope that no one would see him.
He landed on his injured leg and almost fell. A scab had formed over the wound,
which prevented it from hurting, but the muscle was still weak. Alex bounded
over, his smile beaming, and nearly bowled him over.
“Look!” he said, pointing out towards the Governor’s District. The fire had spread and it sounded more like a riot than a raid.
“I thought the order were to keep the civilians safe?” Toby mumbled, scowling at his apprentice. “Why are you smiling at this destruction?”
Alex sighed, but his smile never wavered. “I said look.” He grasped Toby’s chin and forced him to look at the streets surrounding the Castle. It was full of angry-looking people, but none of them were dressed in grey coats. There was not one Night Wanderer in sight. The civilians were rioting against the Castle.
“When did this start?” Toby asked, dragging Alex into the cover of trees.
“About half an hour after you went in,” Alex answered. “I doubt it will get them very far, but it’s harder to fight against the entire city than just the Night Wanderers. How many people are in the Night Wanderers anyway?”
“None of us know,” Toby answered with a shrug. “It keeps us safer that way.”
Alex grimaced. “Did you get the floor plans?”
Toby handed him the notebook. “I mapped out the first three floors, but the fourth was heavily guarded. It looked like a maze anyway, and I don’t think I could have drawn it accurately. Did you run into any trouble?”
“Two guards saw you go in and went to follow you. I took them out before they reached the door.”
Toby slapped him on the back. “Thanks.”
“So what now?” Alex asked. He still looked eager for a fight. Toby, however, was exhausted.
“You can do what you like, but I’m heading back to the outpost. If you want to stay, make sure you keep low profile. Try and focus on keeping the civilians safe from the guards. That is our biggest priority.”
Alex shook his head. “I think I’ll just go with you.”Keeping their heads down, Toby and Alex made their way back through the city on the ground. Gunshots sounded, but it was no longer possible to tell who was being killed; more than once, Toby had spotted a civilian with a Dark Keeper’s gun. There would be many deaths this night, but for the first time, the city was fighting back. Perhaps, Toby thought, this was the beginning of a true revolution.