Footsteps crunched from the sound of dry grass as Alice and the rest of her group reached the Establishment of the Lorekeepers. Business had led the party to this place, as many of the members of the group had been wronged by a young woman, who may have possibly been the most beautiful person in the world. Of all of the people that were in the party, Alice had to assume that only her and the Librarian were the only two present that had been at this place in the past. Nothing about the building looked different to Alice. The outside walls were still a steely grey color, with dark patches made from weather and outside forces. Where the walls met the ground, there was a thin layer of dirt that collected from wind and rain throwing it about carelessly over the years. There was still a big metal door with two large windows on it guarding the entrance; one of the windows cracked in the upper left corner. And just like last time, the same guard was protecting the front of the building.
They only needed an instant to recognize each other before they shot each other a wink and two pistols with their fingers. He was a man that was about four or five years older than Alice. He looked like the kind of man that would seem intimidating, because of his tall stature and an above-average muscle build, which wasn't hidden very well under his lorekeppers uniform. She couldn't forget the piercing ice blue eyes he had, which were practically fixed in a permanent squint. He had a low voice, which sounded rough to her when he spoke. She remembered not being able to see his hair the first time she met him, because of the helmet he wore as part of his uniform. He was all sorts of intimidating at first, but after their first exchange, she would not accuse him of being scary.
It was about a year ago when she was sent to the Lorekeepers establishment to conduct a transaction with them. Her caravan was anxious to test her skills, as she would constantly brag of her good charisma with people. Her mother told her that she had spoken with one of their messengers a few days prior, and all she had to do was tell them why she was there. They sent her on her way with a small wagon, filled with bottles and canteens of water, a little pouch she could collect the money in, and a little something she stored in the wagon that she thought would be useful.
She was met at the door by this same guard, who was wary of her presence at first. He immediately drew his weapon out at her, which was a knife at the time, and demanded that she stated her business. She backed away, startled by the bold move of the guard. She considered going for her switchblade, which sat loyally in her right pocket, but stopped herself after she unconsciously flinched her fingers. She looked the guard right in the eyes, icy blue meeting earthy hazel for a moment, and spoke, “Hello. My name is Alice Doucette. My mother, Audrey Doucette sent me here in her place, and I am here for payment in exchange for this water supply.”
She was nervous about what he would say in response to this. She thought she could see his eyes widen at the mention of her mother's name, but she didn't think much of it at the time. She studied his facial expression, waiting for some kind of signal that it was alright to approach him. She went for the handle of the wagon to bring it closer to her. For a moment, she let herself think about how she felt about this man, who still held out his weapon at her. His glare was uneasy and intimidating, and she was scared that he would start a fight; which was the last thing Alice could deal with. Perhaps what she brought along with her would help the situation. Her thoughts were broken when he said, "Can I see the shipment?"
Alice was taken aback by this response, still a little worried that he would react negatively, but decided that it would be best to satisfy his request. She stepped to the side and said, “If you think you need to, but I assure you, all I have is water. Oh! And one more thing.” She quickly reached in to the wagon and pulled a small object from underneath a sheet, which was wrapped in a light covering of newspaper. “Mother always said that it’s a good idea to be friends with our trading partners, so I would like to offer a present to the Lorekeepers along with the water.” She was delighted to see that this prompted the withdrawal of his weapon, and held the present out to him as he stepped forward. “It isn’t for anyone specifically, so you can open it if you want.”
She watched him look over the water shipment first before giving her offer a second thought. After making sure the shipment was genuine, shehanded him the small gift. He gave Alice a quizzical look as he carefully ripped the newspaper from the object. Upon removing the wrapping, he looked down at the book that she had presented to him, which had Frankenstein written on the front in small gold wording. He looked back to her and said, “…I don’t think the lorekeepers have any need for this. They already have three copies of it.” Her expression dropped faster than an eagle swooping down on a field mouse. Her heart felt heavy, believing that her gift was not good enough. She looked up at the guard, who looked guilty for making her sad. He quickly added, “But, I haven’t read this book before, and I could sure use something to do when I’m not on my shift.”
Alice’s expression was bright again upon hearing this and she happily bounced to the side so he could take the wagon of water. “That’s great! I do hope you enjoy reading it. I for one thought it was really riveting, but I’ve read it so many times already."
"Great." He responded to her. He paused for a moment before saying, "Grant."
"What?"
"My name. It's Grant."
Alice beamed. "Nice to meet you, Grant."
Alice could remember walking away from the Lorekeepers with twenty five more water tokens and one less book to stuff her shelf with. It was her first successful business transaction without her parents present and she still regarded it as one of her greatest successes. As Grant was confiscating the weapons from the rest of her party and granting permission to let them enter, he gave her one more wink and flashed the book that he kept in his coat pocket.
As Alice walked by he said to her, “I’ve read it five times already. I can see why you’ve read it more than once.”