Ellison caught a ride back into the city with Clinio Lind, Royal Season’s head of security, but jumped off a couple of streets before the Royal Season’s temporary offices.
The Krim Archives and Historical Society was on the corner of Banking and Lapwallace streets. The building was one of Krim’s many identical small castles. The original grid designers were lazy and tended to use the same building templates over and over again. The Krim Archives was build in the Romanesque style — heavy stone walls, narrow windows, battlements. If the historical society ever had to defend itself from attackers, it was all set. Architecturally, at least. In practice, director Valerie Kingston and her teams of historians and docents probably wouldn’t be much use in a battle.
Ellison walked up the heavy steps and noticed a wary guard standing by a set of heavy iron gates gates ready to be slammed shut at a moment’s notice. So maybe the archive would be just fine.
He walked through the small entrance hall, which offered information about the archives itself and featured a display stand full of brochures for Krim’s other historical points of interest. Immediately beyond that was a large open hall with a high vaulted ceiling. There were offices beyond a stairway to the second floor. Valerie’s office was upstairs, where she can look down on the central hall. Ellison had been there before. But today she was downstairs on the main floor, giving a personal tour to the Royal Season participants.
Unlike most long-time Krim residents who tended to dress for practicality, Valerie preferred long, elaborate dresses, though her style owned more to the Victorian era than to Elizabethan times.
She was standing in front of a glassed-in display of ancient crowns.
“This hoop crown dates back to Pepin the third of the Iarlabankisson regency, eleven hundred years ago,” she told her audience. Most had glassy looks on their eyes or were ignoring her completely.
One woman raised her hand.
“Yes…” Valerie paused, searching her memory. “Margarett?”
“Isn’t Krim only ten years old?”
“Well, officially, Krim is nearing its eleventh anniversary,” said Valerie. “But the history of the world goes back much further. We have artifacts here in this very room dating back thousands of years. And adventurers and explorers are always finding new historic objects.”
She stepped to the next exhibit. “This scepter dates back five thousand years. It was found in the Drotrearal Kingdom, an ancient desert kingdom far south of where we are now, buried under the sands.”
Another Singleton spoke up. “But the world itself is only ten years old?”
Valerie sighed. “Haven’t any of you been to a gaming grid before? There’s always a history.”
“So it’s all made up,” Margarett said. “The game designers just randomly planted artifacts all over the place for players to find.”
“I thought Krim wasn’t a game,” said the other Singleton. “Doesn’t everyone keep saying that? ‘Krim’s not a game, it’s a social world.’ Or, ‘Krim’s not a game, it’s a way of life.'”
“It all depends on how you define game,” said Valerie. “Now, let me tell you about the Drotrearal Kingdom. It’s fascinating.” She led the group down to the next set of exhibits and Ellison looked around for who he really came to find — Anne-Lise and Ditte, the two Royal Season staffers who he hadn’t talk to yet.
Ellison finally spotted them sitting down with their feet up in a little reading nook at the far right, surrounded by shelves of hand-written manuscripts and scrolls. He started walking in their direction when one of the Singletons broke off from the tour group and approached him.
“You’re the detective, right?” she asked.
“And you’re Margarett Pennebrygg.”
She nodded. “I heard you’re looking into Winnie’s disappearance.”
“Were you with her at the circus?”
“Not with her as such,” Margarett said. “She was with Raphe, and I was with someone else too.” She looked around. “Wolstan Babyngton. He’s over there.” She pointed at the man who was confused about Krim’s age.
“What did you see?”
“Well, they were closer to the front than I was,” she said. “When the rest of us panicked, they stayed there. I looked for them just as we were leaving, and they were actually down by the cages. I thought about going back for them, but then people started screaming, and Wolstan pulled me outside.”
“Did you see them after that? Maybe once you were outside the circus?”
“No, and I looked for them,” she said. “But then I heard that the only person who got hurt was the tiger tamer, and though they must have gone home. Or just went some place to get some privacy. I didn’t start worrying until the next day.”
“Is Wynefrede the type of person to go off and not tell anyone?”
“Oh, absolutely. She’s always going off with someone or something. The guards have the hardest time keeping up with her. Except when she’s going off with one of the guards, of course.”
“She was seeing one of the guards?”
“No, she was seeing several guards,” said Margarett. “Technically, they’re supposed to be off-limits. We’re in the Royal Season to find a suitable match, not to mess around. So please don’t tell anyone.”
“Why, are you thinking that one of them might have something to do with it? Oh, of course. The love is always the first suspect. Maybe they got into a jealous rage?” Margarett bit her lip and thought about it. “I don’t know any of their names,” she finally said. “She had a couple of regular guards assigned to her. Both of them were tall, well-built. Lots of weapons. And I saw her go off with one of my guards, as well.”
“Can you describe them?”
“I can do better,” said Margarett. “We had sketching classes, and several of us drew the guards. They are so picturesque. Also, their job is to stand still and stare, so they were perfect models. If you come to my mansion, I can show you the drawings.”
“I’ll send someone for them,” said Ellison.
“Check with the others, too,” said Margarett.
She went back to the group. The number of people listening to Valerie had dwindled, and now most of the Singletons were hanging back, gossiping quietly with each other. Margarett approached them and pointed back at Ellison. He’d need to check with all of them to find out exactly who else Wynefrede was seeing.
But first, he needed to talk to Anne-Lise and Ditte.