Theodore slouched on a bench in the lobby of the Bureaucracy Dome and waited for his number to be called. He arrived late in the afternoon and was caught in the rush of people who put off their business until the last hours of the day. Dozens of citizens, young and old, noble and lowborn, rich and homeless, all sat shoulder to shoulder with listless resignation. Theodore had no choice but to wait. Light shining through the high vaulted windows crept across the floor as the day wore thin.
Theodore turned the envelope over in his hand and went over his plan for the hundredth time. He would present his violation forms to the Clerk Commandant and have him void the royal appointment. Once that was done he could finally concentrate on enrolling himself into the university. It was only a matter of time.
He fidgeted. Squeezing his palm, he watched as the people around him were called to the counter one by one. Dread welled up inside him as his turn ticked closer. Oboe’s words still rang in his ears and made him itch.
The knights would slaughter any creature party to the Red Caps, regardless of why they were there. Captain Redriver refused to take chances. Mercy would only lead to another revolt.
Oboe and Lemmy would be safe, but there were others who were forced to join the Red Caps. Some had reason to join, frustrated with how the city had treated them. They would all wind up dead. It made Theodore think of the promise he made Lemmy: that he would do what he could to help. But there was nothing he could do. Silas was a killer, and there was no way Theodore could stop him. Handing this off to the Knight’s Watch was the only responsible thing he could do.
For a moment, he was a child again. Somewhere deep inside Crookhole mine, he remembered being cornered by a wicked nymph and werewolf. His heart was pounding. He knew they were a moment away from killing him.
Then father came. The creatures screamed as they died, and the sound was worse than all the fear he felt before. Theodore left the cave with his father, but the screams came with him. They kept him company in the dead of night, and stayed with him when his father called him to train. He cringed, his stomach twisting into knots.
Silas was still a living creature. He was angry with how creatures were treated. Angry enough to kill. Was he just wicked? Or was there more to it than that?
“Number Twenty-Three Twenty-Two!”
Theodore stood up. That was his number. He staggered over to the counter and on the way realized he had crumpled his envelope in his hand. Shaken, he steadied himself and flattened it out again. The Whirlwood Valley was not his problem. If he was going to become a scholar, the city is where he belonged.
The secretary directed him to booth seven, where Clerk Commandant Silverstone looked up from his documents. He didn’t seem to recognize Theodore.
“Good afternoon, sir. What can I do for you?”
Theodore pulled the Ranger Deputy badge out of his pocket. He meant to surrender it with his violation forms. He stopped short.
“I’m Ranger Deputy Theodore Grayweather. I’m here on official business. I need full access to the creature records as part of an investigation.”