Venne's discovery

Venne pressed himself against the warped bookcase, and Mirko grasped his staff in both hands, coming up into the guard position again.  They remained, tense and on edge for several minutes while Lianna scanned the room, then again, and then a third time.  Finally, glancing down the stairs, she relaxed again.

"Something's not right up here, but we still have a job to do.  I reckon the only thing above us now is the roof, so we'll carry on and finish this off, then get out of here.  No stopping, so if there's anything you still want to pick up, now's the time to be doing it."

Venne shrugged, looking around him again.  "I think I've picked up everything I'm interested in," he said carelessly.  Mirko eyed him, saying nothing, suspecting that Venne intended to come back for the maps in the map room when he was sure that Lianna had left the tower for good.

"Druid?"

"Can we reach any of those books?" Mirko pointed at the small handful in the cage of bookcase.  "They may tell us something about what's gone on here."

Venne found a path to one of the books, isolated on what was once a shelf near the ceiling, and Mirko stretched through another section to just get his fingertips to a second.  The remaining four books remained tantalisingly out of reach.

"We could smash this wood," said Venne, gripping a branch of it and pulling, testing to see how strong it was.

"No.  For all we know, this wood is the only thing that's holding this room together."  Lianna's hand went to her sword pommel when Venne didn't immediately let go of the wood, and even then his reluctance was obvious.

"These books..." said Mirko, trying to pretend that Lianna wasn't still threatening Venne, "one of them seems to be a diary of some kind, but I don't recognise the language  It might be a code.  The other is a local history."

"Let me see?" Venne slipped back across the room to where Mirko was standing and held his hand out.  Mirko gave him the coded book, and carried on turning the pages of the history, skimming pages here and there.

"It goes back a way," he said.  "The river's mentioned a few times, but I haven't seen Kinewick anywhere.  There seems to be a settlement of some sort somewhere north of us -- there's a map," he said, anticipating Lianna's objection.  "And a mine, I think."

"Ancient history.  What good is that?  Give it to Sir Wickhold, maybe it'll interest him.  Any luck with the code, thief?"

Venne flinched as though stung.  "Apprentice watchmaker, Lianna, or Venne if saying my name won't kill you.  And no, this makes no sense to me either."  He didn't offer the book back to Mirko though, and Mirko wondered how truthful he was being again.  Venne seemed to have a lot more secrets than any normal person.

"Fine, well if you're all done with your reading circle, let's carry on."

"Carry on where?"

"There's a door there, behind the bookcase."  She pointed, and Mirko, taking a couple of steps, saw that she was right.  "There's another one at the back of the room too, but that one will be the bigger room if the lower floors are anything to go by."

"This door's not locked," said Venne, running his hands lightly up the wood of the door.  "It is slightly warm though."

Lianna looked at him, her eyes narrowing.  "How warm?  Body heat?  Fire?"

"It's not hot," said Venne thoughtfully, his palm laid flat on the door.  "The walls beside the door are cool, so not fire.  I don't know, Lianna."

"Druid?  Can you sense anything on the other side of the door?"

Mirko shivered, then controlled himself.  After his ordeal in the map room he wasn't sure how ready he was to risk opening his mind to anything living in the tower.  But Lianna was right to want to know what was on the other side before they opened the door.

He braced himself, physically and mentally, and slowly opened his mind again.

The End

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