By Alanna Tieschmaker
Image provided by Pyro
Richard couldn’t believe that he was doing this. Sneaking into the king’s museum was the last thing he wanted to do. Rumors had spread throughout the kingdom, and with them the idea of a cold and unfeeling king. If a village missed their payment, there would be no mercy. Every last person would be hunted down and killed by soldiers told to be as ruthless as their ruler. So why was he here, risking himself a cruel faith?
He sighed quietly, careful to not make a sound that could alert the guards patrolling the area. He knew exactly why he was doing this. It wasn’t out of boredom or for fame. No, it was all for the sake of his little brother.
Even thinking of the situation leading up to this moment was hard. They had been sleeping in a sheltered underpass. Richard had been unsure, but his brother seemed so happy to have a clean place to sleep and nothing had happened the past few nights. So, against his better instincts, Richard settled down for the night, pulled his little brother closer and fell asleep. How he paid for ignoring his gut.
Thunder cracked through the air, startling him from his sleep. Looking around frantically, he saw a scene from his worst nightmare. A hulking figure stood over his brother, who was farther away than before. Lightning flickered and illuminated the underpass, gleaming off the blade that was held above his brother’s head. Richard froze, knowing that any wrong move could spell the end for his brother.
“Don’t ya move a muscle,” growled the figure, pulling his brother closer and putting the knife at his throat.
“I won’t!” Richard responded desperately; eyes pinned to the knife. “What do you want from us? You can have anything, just please, put my brother down.”
“You don’t get to make demands here!” The knife drew blood, waking his brother.
“Richie?” he mumbled, still half-asleep and unaware of what was happening. Looking down, he drew a sharp breath when he saw the arms holding him in place. He traced them upwards and found the knife at his throat.
“Hey, hey, don’t look at that, eyes on me.” Richard coaxed, trying to prevent his brother from panicking. Panicking could lead to death with the strength of the hold, and he couldn’t handle another death.
The man relaxed his grip enough to snap twice, then re-strengthened it again. Three other people filled the alcove, signaled by the snaps. Without turning away, he ordered one of them to bring a coil of rope and sent the others to restrain Richard. Knowing fighting back would hurt more than just him, he allowed his arms to be roughly pulled behind his back.
“Now this one.” The thug pulled his brother’s face to meet his, greedy eyes meeting terrified eyes. “He would be perfect for the job. He’s skinny and wouldn’t be missed if he was caught by the king.”
Richard went deathly pale, hearing what may happen to his precious younger sibling. The king was ruthless, and any intruders faced a gruesome death. Nothing would change that, not even the intruder being a child. He couldn’t let that happen to his brother.
“Wait!” he cried, careful to stay still while grabbing the thug’s attention. “Let me go in his place.”
“And why should we do that?” replied the man, a sneer clear on his face. “He’s perfect for the job.”
“W-well I would do a better job. I can do everything that he can and would be faster on my feet.”
There was silence as the gang considered the offer. Then, to Richard’s relief, the head thug put down his brother although not so gently.
“Fine. A bigger brat is less likely to tattle anyways. But just for a bit o’ insurance...”
The hilt of the knife slammed down onto his brother’s head, knocking him unconscious.
“Emmet!” Richard surged forward, scared that his brother had been killed despite his offer being accepted. However, he was still held by the other thugs, who quickly wrestled him back.
“Oy brat! Be careful or I actually will kill him.”
One of the thugs holding him down began to tie his hands behind his back, pulling harder than necessary. The other pulled a piece of cloth across his eyes, taking away one of the senses he needed to survive this situation.
“Load ‘em up boys!” hollered the lead thug.
“Move it!” Richard was shoved forward, almost falling over from the unexpected push. He caught himself at the last moment, and blindly shuffled forward, having no choice but to trust his captors.
Richard was pulled out of his memory when he heard movement below him. The guards were finally changing shifts. There was only a small period when he could sneak in according to the thugs. He had spent days looking over plans, knowing that everything he had depended on getting this right. It wasn’t just his life on the line.
‘Now --’ he thought, slipping off his perch and landing next to a window. His location would be out of sight for a minute and a half while the change happened. Richard pushed on the old window, which swiveled and allowed him to slip through and jump down. He landed in a silent crouch on the museum floor. He was in.