Windows on the world

The room beyond, though dusty, was without doubt a map-room.  Several low, long and broad tables were laid in a neat row across the middle of the room, and the wall between the two high windows was occupied by a floor-to-ceiling map-rack; dozens of wooden pigeonholes, most still containing a rolled scroll of paper.  The dust on the floor was undisturbed and thick.  Some small weights were laid in neat columns on each of the tables, just lumps of unrefined ore.

"This might save you some time druid," said Lianna, still scanning the room, moving her head slowly from right to left as though expecting the dust to coalesce into a monster at any moment.  If there's a floor-plan in here already we can just take that and give it to Sir Wickhold."

"There's a lot of maps," said Venne, traces of doubt creeping into his voice.

"Then we'll look at them all!"

"That's not what I meant!  Venne whirled and glared at Lianna.  "I meant that there's a lot of maps for anywhere; how many maps of the countryside round here do you need?"

"Hmph."  Lianna's arm tensed as she glared back at Venne, and then she seemed to force herself to relax.  "Military campaign planning?  Reference library?"

"For a guard-tower?" Mirko couldn't keep the scepticism from his voice.

"Why not, druid?  Where better to keep your maps than with people who can guard them?  Or do your druids have such high ideals that they'll share their information with any who ask?"

Mirko stayed silent, his cheeks burning redly.  Of course the druids were frugal with the information they gave out; they might help out in Kinewick but they gathered more information than they offered, and some of their work was focused on their own ends.  And maps, such as they were, were carefully guarded.

"Are we going to look at them then?" Venne gestured casually into the room.

"Lead on, little man," said Lianna.


Venne walked cautiously across the floor to the map-rack, his movements cat-like, stirring up as little dust as he could.  His long, delicate fingers ran over the rack, barely touching it, checking for roughness, odd protusions or dimples, and then suddenly he stopped and peered at a shelf that looked to the others to be no different to any other.  He stepped to one side, and reached into an empty pigeonhole and there was a faint scrabble of finger on wood.  Then he carefully drew his arm back out, carrying a long black needle between finger and thumb.  The needle was at least as long as Mirko's forearm.

"Trapped," he said.  "The black is probably poison, dry now though, but I daresay taking this in a shoulder or an arm would hurt."  He pulled a scroll out of the pigeonhole below it and tossed it to Mirko, who dropped it.

"Clumsy."  Lianna picked the scroll up and opened it out.  "This is no map, this is worthless."

"It's a star map," said Mirko, looking at it over her shoulder.  "That would explain why there's so many of them."

Venne laid the trap-needle carefully down on one of the table, his hood falling back slightly revealing a disappointed look on his face.  Mirko guessed that Venne also realised the worth of the maps and had quickly seen that they were worth most together, and there were too many to carry away.

"Still worthless, you can't claim the stars.  We carry on."

There was another door in the wall to their left that would take them to a room behind the guard room they'd entered the floor by.  Venne sighed and checked it over.

"Locked," he reported.

The End

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