Chapter 9, Part 2
The door that Kel led her to was what appeared to be a little-used service entrance, poorly patrolled, and Dena gave a silent acknowledgment of Ke’ls thieving instincts. The door itself was another matter, and while there wasn’t a door in the world that could stand before a proper application of the First Law. However, Dena did not want to leave evidence of her presence, so she turned her attention to the lock itself.
“You’re a thief,” she said to Kel. “How are you at lockpicking?”
“Excellent,” he replied. “And expert enough to know that you’re looking at an example created by Master Polun of Adaria, and I’ve heard of lesser locks placed on kingdom treasuries. The best thief in the world couldn’t pick that lock.”
“You could have just said that,” Dena muttered.
“I believe I just did. Though you can be sure that, although this is an archive, not a treasury, whatever is behind that lock is something this kingdom values very highly.”
That, Dena recognized, was a good point. While proper books in and of themselves had value, such records as were doubtless kept here were not the sort of thing any king would want wandering about for a potential enemy to read. The fact that Kel’s report indicated that Marta and her companion had spent several hours inside only intrigued her more.
I need to know what Marta found out today, and whatever that is will be inside.
“Mistress, I could only watch from a high window. I know that Marta and her companion looked at several books and ledgers. Which ones? Well…one was bound in red leather. The rest were all dark, including what looked like accounts ledgers. Even given that we can gain entry, how do you plan to locate these?”
“I think I will have help,” Dena said. “We will see. As for the rest, I don’t want to break the lock—and believe me, I could—so I must rely on you again.”
Dena was quite aware of the passing of time, and while that section of the building’s exterior appeared to be sparsely patrolled, that did not mean that there wouldn’t be a city guardsman passing by sooner or later. She studied the way the door fitted and found it frustratingly well-made except for the rightmost bottom corner below the hinge, where she saw a small sliver of greater blackness and judged its size.
“Gnat,” she said, and now Kel was a small black insect buzzing the air around her face. “Through that crack,” she said, “and if you’re not through it by the time I could thirty, you’d best be on this side again.”
Kel, even as a gnat, clearly understood her meaning. He landed on the threshold and immediately disappeared into the crack as Dena started counting.
“Man,” she said aloud, and was somewhat relieved that there was no sudden eruption of blood from the bottom of the door. Instead after a short delay she heard a satisfying click as Kel opened the lock from the inside. The door opened just wide enough to admit her and Dena walked through as Kel closed the door softly behind her.
“It was fortunate that this particular lock was designed to be opened easily from the inside,” he said. “Some of Master Polun’s creations require a key on both sides.”
“Luck is one of the many things I’ve never been able to count on,” Dena said.
“Have you ever noticed how very large the world is?” Kel asked. “Especially when spiders are the size of haystacks?”
“Stop talking and look for those books,” Dena said.
“Even in this poor light I see more than a score of them with red covers. Where did you want to start, Mistress?”
Annoying as he could be, Kel had a point. Dena knew they didn’t have very long before either dawn or a guard came by, and the chances of them locating any of the ledgers was next to none, as there were several thousand of them scattered around on the shelves, all bound in a similar fashion. On the other hand, books bound in red leather were finite. “Look for one that appears to have been moved recently, a disturbance of the dust, anything.”
This proved easier than Dena had feared, but in the end the search produced two books which told her absolutely nothing. The most interesting was account of a meeting with a famous dark magician five hundred years in the past, but there was nothing there about the Laws. She’d known from the start that this particular path was likely to end against a wall of stone, but being right did not make her feel any better about it. She’d hoped to feel a pull of the Law when she was anywhere near it, but that was a foolish idea. Unless she read the same piece of information that Marta had, there was nothing to create the necessary link.
Even assuming that there was some information here of significance to the search for the Laws, I would need to know what Marta knows in order to recognize it.
And there she was, back to the crux of the matter—now as before, at least one step behind Marta. At this rate, Marta would find what she was looking for, and Dena likely would not.
That has to change.
“Kel, we’re leaving.”
“Good. By my estimate, we have but ten minutes before the guard returns.”
“Can we lock the door behind us, or do I need to make you a gnat again?”
“I can set it to lock, if it is all the same to you. I’ve seen enough spiders from the gnat’s perspective.”
Dena understood. She was starting to feel the same way.
((End Part 2))
©2014 Richard Parks