"Another win, eh Bax?" Archie began putting away the chess pieces. "Sometimes I wonder how you do it."
"To be fair, Archie, I have been around a few extra years than you; a hundred and fifty-five, to be exact. I've seen my share of games. What else do you think all those royal courtiers did with all their time? Nothing productive, you can be sure; prancing around all day like a bunch of--"
"Goodnight, Baxter." Archie could tell when Baxter was getting irritable from lack of sleep.
"Hmm? Oh, goodnight, Archie. Another game soon?"
"Oh, for certain." He smiled warmly at his companion.
"Are you heading off to bed as well?" Baxter inquired, settling comfortably into his frame.
"I think I'll take a stroll around first; say goodnight to anyone who's still up."
"Alright, then, we'll see you." King Baxter closed his eyes and was soon breathing deeply.
Archie made off down the hall, each step accompanied by a distinctive clunk of his cane. The paintings that were not already asleep smiled at Archie as he passed, taking comfort in the familiar intervals of his cane hitting marble floor.
Archie rounded the corner and was coming into the wing of seventeenth century paintings when he noticed something quite odd. One of the paintings was off kilter, hanging at an awkward angle on the wall. Archie rushed over to find a woman dressed in elegant attire, laying horizontally in her frame, apparently unconcious. She was normally perched prudently on a highbacked chair, holding a book of poetry. Now the book lay open on the floor, the chair quite empty.
"Henriettia! Henrietta, my dear, wake up! What has happened?"
The girl in the painting was roused and began to wimper. She managed to push herself into a sitting position.
"Mr. Leech! Oh, Mr. Leech, it was terrible!" She produced a silk handkerchief from her bosom and patted her forehead and neck in distress.
"What has happened, my dear! Do tell, please!"
"Some-something tore down the hall; I do not know what it could have been. It came right up to my humble frame and, do you know? It tried to pull me right off the wall! It shook me and pulled quite forcefully! I tell you, I have never been so frightened in all my life!" Henrietta was practically in tears now.
"And then what?" Archie implored.
"Why, I do not know! I must have become faint. I suppose it gave up."
Archie took hold of the frame and righted it on the wall. "Take hold now, Henrietta, I'll put you right again."
She was soon perched upon her chair once again.
"Don't worry Henrietta, I'll find out whats going on." Archie scurried off down the hall as fast as his aged legs would carry him. He was terribly worried; someone (or something!) in his museum? He knew immediately what they would be after, but he didn't dare to think of it.
Down the hall, Archie received another shock, this one quite grievous. "Lady Jennifer!" He exclaimed at the sight of her tattered canvas. "Oh, dear me! What has happened!" He rushed up to the frame but knew that it was too late; there was no way to save her, the damage was too great.
Archie was overwhelmed with these sudden turn of events. He understood somebody trying to steal his precious friends, but to destroy them? That, he just couldn't understand. He frantically looked around at the other paintings. They all seemed to be fine. He directed his attention to the portrait of Henry of Scotland to possibly get some answers but he was no where to be found.
"Henry?" Archie tried to peer in and around the sides of the painting but he could see nothing. "Oh dear..." He muttered to himself.
Archie knew where he had to go. It was where the perpetrator was sure to be; where the prize of the museum was kept. It was located in the south wing; the most protected of all wings.
Archie was off.