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Rodnia Academy is not a school. Well, not really. It is a home for all the unwanted boys of Delora. . But to pay the tuition they have to steal from the people of Citighy. Arlo was a harsh headmaster who would throw someone out if the didn’t steal the weight of a bust of Arlo’s head by the 7th day of each week. The boys had no contact with the outside world except for when they were on a stealing raid but the boys liked it that way. They had been taught that the outside world was evil. They didn’t know the whole world was looking for them.
Gavril ran past the market place and into the town square. He had done it now. Behind him ran the sculptor, Baham along with the town’s guard. Gavril made a sharp right into the alley that was the entrance way to Rodnia Academy’s hideout. The hideout was a series of stone and dirt tunnels that led to more stone and dirt tunnels that went to a trap door in the school. All the boys had learned how to navigate the tight, dark spaces so they could escape guards and other angry mobs. Gavril saw the little lean-to that marked the entrance and ducked inside. He ran through the first set of corridors. Right, right, left, right, left, left, right, he thought to himself. The gold-leafed pot that Gavril had stolen bumped in his pack. It was a pretty pot with perfect detailing along the base. It would bring in a lot of money for Arlo. Gavril heard footsteps behind him and open one of the hidey holes in the wall, another invention of Arlo’s. He picks up some rocks and threw them down the opposite corridor to trick the chasers. When they passed the alcove Gavril jumped out and continued into the next tunnel. Left, right, double back, right. He saw a faint glow coming from the ceiling and threw himself into the air. The impact of his body opened the trap door and he slide through. If he had been feed properly Gavril’s 12 year old body wouldn’t have fit through the door.
When Gavril got onto the floor above the tunnels he heard laughter and saw Joran and Asarel bumping down the hall. They both were carrying heavy purses that they probably stole from the noble men in the street. Gavril ran to catch up with them. Joran was a dark-skinned 13 year old who always stole money instead of items just to show off. He would never steal from someone with lower status than a noble. Asarel was very pale and always followed Joran around. His gray-green eyes always opened wide with worship whenever anyone complimented Joran who was only a year older than him. Both boys nodded with understanding when Gavril told them of his near capture. Almost every boy at Rodnia had used the tunnel at least once. Even shy 8 year old Bhim who came last winter had used it before.
Gavril said his goodbyes to the Joran and Asarel before going up to his room. Even though it wasn’t enforced the boys never stole from each other because it was dishonest, cowardly and it could spell out death for someone. They all had little places in their shared rooms to hide their stuff. Gavril pried open the loose floorboard and put the pot inside. Inside there was also emergency items that Gavril kept incase he couldn’t steal anything in time for the 7th day counting.
Since the boys didn’t have real classes they could do whatever they wanted after they stole enough for the week. Gavril sat on his cot that looked out the window onto the alley that led to the tunnels. He saw men gathering by the lean-to. They were wearing the uniforms of soldiers and they had huge swords hanging at their waist. Gavril knew this could be a problem. He ran down the stairs and opened the door into the older boys’ room. Teo, the oldest boy at Rodnia was sitting on his bed counting his money. Teo was 14 and at 16 you get thrown out of Rodnia Academy to live on your own. Teo stole everyday so he would have enough for Arlo and some to save for himself. His muscles were toned because he was now an apprentice at the black smith’s shop about a mile out of town. He put his worn leather money back down when he heard Gavril enter.
“We need to close off the tunnels,” Gavril gasped, “There are soldiers at the lean-to!” Teo jumped up and followed Gavril to the trapdoor. The slid through the trapdoor and both grabbed a spoke of the wheel that let down a door to block entrance to the room with the trapdoor. Grunting with the effort a metal door slowly came down from the stone ceiling. Just in time it closed, men had began to come down the last tunnel.
As they were climbing back onto the ground level floor of Rodnia Teo asked, “What exactly did you steal that made the look for you?” Gavril knew what he meant; usually the men would only stay for an hour at most.
“A gold-leafed pot that was engraved with silver vines,” he answered.
“Can I see it?” he asked. Gavril nodded and brought him up to his room. Obed, one of the servants who worked at Rodnia Academy for food and shelter was sweeping up mouse droppings. Teo waved him away and Obed scurried out the door. Gavril handed Teo the pot. He looked it over and ran his finger along the bottom of the pot. Teo looked up at Gavril and smiled.
“Gavril, nice work,” Teo said still smiling, “this pot was for the king of
Obesh. That’s why there were soldiers.”
“Arlo said I was from Obesh and an orphanage there didn’t want me because I was a trouble maker even at 4 years old,” Gavril laughed. Teo laughed too and then the boys heard the loud noise of a spoon hitting a pot. Teo and Gavril stopped laughing, that sound meant that Arlo wanted them and that could never be good. He could either be having a surprise counting or someone was in trouble, really big trouble. Gavril put his pot into his sack and ran out into the dimly lit hallway with Teo right behind him. They would be in trouble if they were late.
Other groups of boys were coming out of their rooms. No one wanted to be the last to arrive. When they came into the mess hall, Arlo was standing on a wood platform holding the pot and spoon.
Arlo was a big man, about 6’1” and with huge muscles. He had scraggly black hair and eyes that seemed to burn a hole in you if he was mad.Arlo’s hands were big and soft because the only work he did with them was slapping around the boys. When Arlo saw that everyone had arrived he handed the pot and spoon to Ho, his personal slave.
“As most of you know we had guards at our doors this morning,” Arlo said pacing the platform and grinning a sneaky smile, “and some of you know the reason. Gavril come up here.” Gavril let out a slight moan, handed his pack to Teo and started onto the platform. When he got to Arlo, the big man slapped him across the face. Gavril feel to the wooden floor and scrambled to get up.
“Gavril here lead the men to our fine establishment,” Arlo smirked, “and we are going to teach him a lesson.” Gavril groaned again as Arlo twisted his arm back. He motioned to Ho who brought out some rope. Arlo twisted back Gavril’s other arm and tied them to his ankles. By now Gavril was whimpering and the older boys had started to cover the younger boys’ eyes. Arlo motioned to Ho again and this time he brought out a ladder. This time the audience groaned with Gavril. Gavril knew what was coming. But he had only seen this happen once before, when Teo had spoken to a shop keeper and guards had been pounding on the door for weeks.
“Teo! Joran! Come up here,” Arlo yelled at the boys. Teo and Joran ran up onto the platform.
“You know what to do,” Arlo said to the two boys. They nodded, picked up Gavril, and carried up the ladder where they hung him on the wall hook by the rope that was connecting Gavril’s ankles and wrists.
“Gavril,” Teo whispered, “breathe deeply and clench your arm muscles. Don’t move to much or you’ll fall of. Try to think about something else. What ever you do don’t fall asleep. If you do you’ll be up here for a week and Arlo will beat you.” Gavril nodded and grimaced as the pain set into his arms. He felt his left arm break as Teo and Joran left the platform. Gavril cried out and Arlo walked over to him and kicked him hard in the stomach. Gavril let out his breath with a whoosh and hung limply.
“Because of Gavril’s stupidity he will hang up here for 3 days with out food and only receiving a cup of water at dawn. Also, you will all have to steal double this week so that everyone can help rebuild the tunnels that the soldiers broke apart.” Arlo said, acting like a king who had just beheaded someone. Everyone groaned and filed put of the mess hall. Arlo looked at Gavril, laughed and left Gavril hanging in the empty mess hall. Gavril didn’t cry until the big door stopped swinging.
There was a burning pain in both of his shoulders where the muscles were pulling and his back felt like it was going to crack in half. Already Gavril was hungry because he hadn’t eaten yet that day.
The rats that had run away with the banging of the pot and spoon came back and began to scurry around under him.
Think of something good,Gavril told himself, think of warm beds, or chocolate cake, or even the gold pot. Think of a family.
Gavril pictured a warm living room with a roaring fire. In it there was a stately looking man and a beautiful woman. A little girl sat on the man’s lap and Gavril was reading to his mother. Gavril could tell they were rich because of the chocolate sitting in a silver dish. Gavril thought about this as the light coming from the window went from yellow, to orange, and then faded into black.