Lianna walked away, not looking back.  Venne had retreated into his cloak and was being very quiet.  Mirko swallowed the last piece of egg that he'd bitten off with difficulty, his mouth had gone dry.  He lifted his staff, and started after Lianna.  He opened his mouth to speak, but closed it again a second later, unable to think of any words to say.  He wanted to protest that Lianna hadn't given him a chance to be ready, that she'd gone ahead with her plans regardless of what other people were doing, but he could already hear her sneering at him, telling him to leave; that she and Venne would manage just fine without him.

Did he really still want to be here?  Yes, he did.  This was very different to the daily life of the druids in the enclave, this was exciting, interesting.  He wanted to like Lianna, he could learn from her; he wasn't sure about Venne, but the little watchmaker's apprentice seemed to be more than met the eye.  He did want to still be here.

He took up position behind Lianna, following her through the doorway into the dusty armory beyond.  Venne slipped behind him, moving almost silently.  Lianna paused just inside the doorway and crouched, checking the footprints in the dust.

"Undisturbed," she said, standing up again, her knees clicking.  "Doesn't mean there aren't ghosts or other shades around of course.  Or flying things."

"Are you always this cheerful?" muttered Venne just quietly enough that only Mirko heard him.

"We checked this yesterday though, today we go up the stairs.  I'm expecting another floor like this one, same lay-out, same size.  The tower looked uniform until the third floor.  If any rooms seem oddly small, we draw out the floor-plan and then look for hidden doors, secret passages, whatever.  Got that?"

Venne nodded and Mirko said "Yes!" in a firm but low voice.  Lianna pointed to the stairs.

"Druid, you go first.  Use your staff on the stair ahead of you, test it's solid.  No surprises.  Watchmaker, you next.  I want you watching for anything the druid misses.  I'll be watching your backs."

The stairs proved uneventful and emerged into a room thick with dust, a heavier coating than the room below.  Broken and splintered wood was scattered across the floor, some barely visible below the dust and a dusty mound was heaped below the room's only window.  Venne and Mirko spread out around the top of the stairs, moving slowly through the dust.  Even so, their feet stirred it up and lazy swirls of it drifted through the air in fern-like curlicues.  Lianna slid her feet across the floor, disturbing the dust less, and poked her sword viciously into the dusty mound several times until she was sure that nothing lived in it.

She picked it up and shook the dust off it.  It proved to be a large, ragged rectangle of soft black cloth with a large white circle in the middle of it.  Inside the white circle were two fists crossed at the wrists, crudely drawn in black ink.

"Curious," she said, dropping it back to the floor and resuming the guard position with her sword.  She looked around the room again.  "No flag I recognise, but then it may have been confiscated by the guards who worked here.  Either of you know it?"

Venne shook his head again, the movement barely discernable inside his cloak, and Mirko said "No," quietly and firmly.

"Let's check the wreckage then.  Anyone seen a door?"

The door was in the wall opposite the top of the stairs, and Venne quickly pronounced it unlocked.  Lianna motioned for Mirko to stand guard at it while she and Venne rummaged through the wreckage.  Mirko stood at the door, staff hefted and ready, glancing around at the others from time to time, concious that Lianna was punishing him by not letting him look for valuables to claim.  As it was, they found that the wreckage was probably once tables and chairs, and a number of partly burned playing cards.

"Definitely a guardroom," said Lianna, a thin smile pinching her lips.  "Right, let's see what's beyond.  We've had a marshalling room, we've got what looks like a rest-room.  I'd say we should be expecting a dorm-room next."

The End

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