The snib – and Aderyn really did like that word, she would have to remember it for the future – yielded easily. Since she’d moved first and slid across the wall, her hands gripping the wood, Aderyn neatly blocked Rafe from whatever method he had been planning to use on the window. Instead it was subject to her open palm pressing to the glass, fingers spreading wide and applying pressure in as even a fashion as possible. Tripwires and wax were common in defensive positions – but defensive positions didn’t have damaged snibs. Instead, putting her weight on the tips of toes that were holding on an edge maybe three cims, she leant forwards, into her hand, and raised it up. The damaged snib was maybe half-broken, only sitting against the groove, rather than sunk down into it, and that pressure lifted the little catch just a far enough that it caught against the wood. The mechanism resisted, it adjusted… then snapped open.
“Y’got it?” Rafe asked behind her, and his voice lacked something.
With the window no longer held, Aderyn pressed fingertips against the recess of the wood, pulling backwards with one arm. The window, hinged at the top, swing up and out – a short chain on the inside hooked to keep the window from swinging too far out and let the rabble’s air into the balcony. It swung out… a little.
“Hrm.” Aderyn said, pursing her lips.
“Hrm what?” Rafe asked. “It’s open, get inside.”
“It’s well, it’s open enough for me, but, well, Rafe,”
“Well…?” Rafe asked, as if he wasn’t supporting his entire weight on his fingertips and toes.
“It just might be a bit small for your, ah, large head.”
“My what?!” And there it was, whatever it was that had been missing in Rafe’s voice. Something indignant, perhaps?
“Well, not that this is perhaps the best venue for a conversation like this, but your head is somewhat… ah…”
“Get in there for f-” Rafe began
The window creaked at the right moment, and Aderyn swept one arm underneath the black wood and glass, grabbing the edge of the inside sill. Stepping off the wood of the wall, she hoisted herself up, sharply darting on one side of the chain. Lifting with her arm, she tensed her shoulder, and folded in the middle. For one moment, her back end pressed against the glass, pressed flat momentarily, out a little at both sides, and clearly, Rafe had been looking, because he snorted out a laugh.
“That,” Aderyn said, as she unfolded herself on the other side of the windowsill, acrobatically dismounting from the windowsill, “is hardly appropriate.”
Aderyn stood up, turned, and looked out the window. She looked down at the chain, briefly, giving an expression that Rafe was quickly coming to associate with ‘What’s this pillock done now.’
“I think the chain can be-“
Rafe threw himself sideways, a lope where Aderyn would have made a step. Instead of grabbing the windowsill and pulling himself up, he caught the solid black wood underneath it. Then, without a moment of grace, he pulled himself hand-over-hand up underneath the window. If not for the whiteness of his already-pale knuckles, Aderyn wouldn’t believe he was even trying. Of course, the boy was pale all over – but who wasn’t, who grew up in Timoritia?
Rafe slipped through the window easily, pulling himself hand over hand, but his head didn’t hit the floor – instead he caught himself with one hand on the carpeted floor, curling up and rolling to sit on the floor. Barely a breath and he stood up again, reaching over to the window to tug it shut. He pressed his thumb against the snib for barely a moment, and Aderyn saw his thumbnail go whiter for a moment while he shoved it out of the track.
“Okay,” Rafe said, turning around, resting his hands on the sash under his folded robe. “We’re in. Gotta find Praefoco and Tully…” He rubbed his chin.
They had gone over the plan, in the church, looking at the layout on a desk. Two pairs of hands had pointed out areas in the plan of the building, outlining areas where a suspicious boy expected to see guards, and where a suspicious girl didn’t want to reveal she knew there were guards. Neither of the pair had been quite as forthcoming with one another about their plan as they could have. Rafe, after all, wanted to escape and didn’t feel it was wise to reveal more about what he knew, or could do, than was safe. He had no idea why Aderyn was so cagey – but she’d clearly been to the estate. It was all in the little signals.
Aderyn rubbed her own chin, and Rafe was sure she was making fun of him. “Split up, perhaps? It’s a large estate, and both of us would make more, ah, noise, than one of us.”
Downstairs, champagne was filling glasses, which tinkled against one another as people oh-so-carelessly risked chipping glasses worth more than Rafe’s life savings. “You’re heading downstairs, aren’t you?” he asked.
“Why, I imagine I could blend in reasonably easily,” Aderyn said with a sweet smile. “Your outfit isn’t very… ah… festive.”
“I look like a priest.”
“No, you look like a male entertainer trying to evoke a particular priestly fantasy.”
Footsteps interrupted the response. Rafe swung a palm out to the wall, then stepped upwards against it, throwing himself up into the air. One foot on the wall, second step up, and then he was up in a light fixture. Rafe hunkered in the shadows up above the lights for a moment. He knew this art – the guard was going to stumble up to Aderyn, who would flash him a smile and make an excuse and-
Aderyn had the window open again, and swung out the window like she was fleeing the scene. The window swung shut again, resting closed. and from his higher vantage point, Rafe could see the tiny outline of Aderyn’s fingers, gripping the hard dark wood. That was odd…
The guard shuffled on past. The lamp systems were gas; high tech and impressive. Long cables that carried the gas and charge ran up from the bottom of the metal rig around his feet, and then up into the ceiling. Seeing the big-booted flat-foot with a beer gut, Rafe was immediately filled with hope. Guards like that tended to not want to run, and that nice fancy uniform he had spoke of a long time in a private guard position – which meant he wasn’t likely to take risks. The kind of guard who’d rather report a missing vase than chase whoever was carrying it.
He ambled out of earshot. Rafe swung himself over the edge of the light fitting and opened the window again, reaching down to help Aderyn up.
Hang on, why did he do that again?
If he’d locked her out, she wouldn’t be able to ruin the hit, which consciously, he’d been telling himself he was expecting. Except here he was, his forearm gripping her pale arm and squeezing as a silent signal she should grip him tight, and pulling her into the enclosed room that was called a balcony. Standing straight, as Aderyn brushed herself off, he adjusted his belt.
“Well,” Aderyn said, with a strange guarded tone. “I think I shall descend into the depths and find myself an invitation,” and Rafe realised she hadn’t been expecting the hand.
“… I’ll stay up here. The quad should have partygoers in there. Don’t see signs of many guards here – these two guys don’t seem the like to ever think they’re in any kind of danger.” With the movement of the one guard, that lazy, slow amble, he probably wasn’t expecting much danger, but was expecting to have to keep walking for hours. Then, priorities. “You going for Praefoco, or Tully?”
Aderyn shook her head. “You’re not trying for both…?”
Rafe blinked and the question had in it such a stinging rebuke he didn’t know why his gut felt like it was suddenly full of mice. “Well… hit ’em both together, hit ’em apart…? The less time between the hits, easier we can escape, right?”
Aderyn tapped him on the nose, her smile brightly lighting up their little hiding spot. “Wonderful idea. Well, Tully is a father and a noble; I imagine he might be an easier target for me to find.”
“Alright. Praefoco’s mine, then. Make your hit and get out, fast.” And then Rafe drew a breath, “If you hit before I do, get out. No point us both getting caught…”
Aderyn nodded – and stepped out of the balcony, walking on cat-silent treads. God, the girl was a shadow.
Rafe hoisted himself up into the rafters again, a one-two-step up to the ceiling and a simple crawl along the upper skirting boards, adjusting his undershirt as he went. Rafe didn’t think that much as he crept along towards the centre of the building, looking for the windows that faced into the little green courtyard all the way down on the ground. It was only when he slipped through a laundry cupboard – so large it had two doors! – and looked down into the sparkling lights and the bright white linens of tables and dresses that Rafe realised that Aderyn hadn’t even considered that he might make the hit first.