Grimm Tidings

Chapter 25

Voltag and Yolanthe rose from the bench on which they had been resting when Kerimos came out of the Council chamber.

“Well?” asked the dwarf.

Kerimos waited until the guards closed the chamber door’s before he spoke. “They don’t believe us. They think the kraken’s attack was a coincidence. They don’t believe Baltrog can hurt the city.”

While Voltag sputtered in rage, Yolanthe asked, “Should I speak to them? I know about Baltrog.”

Kerimos shook his head. “That would not make you trusted. No. We have to remain vigilant, but there’s nothing we can do.”

“We can find Baltrog and kill him,” said Voltag. “Where would he be?”

“I don’t know,” Yolanthe answered. “He travels a lot. He could be anywhere in the Finger.”

“We don’t know where he is, but we know he’ll come here,” said Kerimos.

Voltag grunted. “If he’s coming here, we can wait. But why here? What does he have against Seatorn?”

“That’s a very good question,” said Kerimos. He turned to Yolanthe. “Any ideas?”

Yolanthe thought back to her time with Baltrog. Seatorn was something that he constantly alluded to but never discussed outright. There was a large map of the city on his study wall, but she never saw him look at it. She had always assumed that he had some agents in Seatorn or that the city was already under his control. He had never brought her there to use her particular talents, but whenever the travelled close enough to the city to see it, Baltrog had stopped his caravan of followers to stare at the distant city and whisper to Grimestock.

“He was always obsessed by Seatorn,” she said finally. “But why, I don’t know.”

“Maybe we can find out,” said Kerimos.

The records of Seatorn were stored in a long colonnaded room on the ground floor of the city hall. One entire wall was made of huge windows that let natural light pour into the space and illuminate the thousands of books, scrolls, parchments and maps that made up the record collection.

When Voltag, Yolanthe, and Kerimos arrived at the record hall they were surprised to find the door unlocked and unguarded. Their surprise increased when they entered the huge room. It was utterly deserted. The only movement was the dance of dust motes in the sunbeams; the only sound was their footsteps.

“Where is everyone?” asked Voltag.

“I don’t know,” replied Kerimos. “Maybe down at the docks.”

“How are we going to search this place?” asked Yolanthe.

“I don’t know,” said Kerimos. “Perhaps Baltrog’s name is in here somewhere. But where?”

“Where where where where where.” The female voice came from behind them. They spun around to find a gnome dressed in an elaborate tunic staring at them through thick round glasses. She had a bundle of papers under her arm.

“That’s always the question, isn’t it? Where.” The gnome was as round and ruddy as Grimestock was thin and pale. She scurried past the three guests towards the middle of the record hall. “Where where where,” she repeated.

Voltag and his companions exchanged a glance then followed the little woman into the center of the record hall. They rounded the bookshelf that the gnome had disappeared behind and found the little woman sitting at a miniature desk surrounded by heaps of books. She was busily shuffling some papers. “Where where where,” she muttered under his breath.

Kerimos stepped towards the woman. “Hello,” he said. “I am Kerimos and the city’s Landguards.

“Hmm. I am Lazone Dingbittle, Master Recorder of Seatorn. My apologies for not greeting you earlier. The attack, so much information coming in, it is a nightmare.”

“We know, and we’re sorry to bother you at this busy time, but we need some information that might help save Seatorn from another attack,” said Kerimos.

“Another attack?” said Dingbittle. “Oh dear oh dear. Not good. Not good at all. What information do you need?”

Kerimos sighed. “It’s complicated. We believe that a man is behind this attack. This man wants to isolate Seatorn. If we could find out more about him, we could perhaps find him. His name is Baltrog. He styles himself a lord.”

“Lord of what?” asked the little woman.

“Lord of pain when I finds him,” said Voltag.

“Lord of Tzanasport,” said Yolanthe.

“Ah, Tzanasport,” said the gnome. “This way, this way.” She jumped off her chair and scampered through the bookshelves towards the north wall of the room. In a minute the group found themselves staring at a series of huge bookshelves crammed with documents.

“This is Tzanasport,” said Dingbittle.

“I don’t understand,” said Kerimos.

“No no no,” said the Master Recorder. “You wouldn’t. Let me explain. This room is a repository for all the documents concerning Seatorn. We also have many documents concerning the rest of the Finger of Torn, including Tzanasport, and the rest of the realm. So many documents, so many papers. How to organize them? Can you guess?”

The three visitors shook their heads.

Geographically,” said Dingbittle. “You see, this room is long and narrow, like the Finger of Torn. Indeed, it is aligned east-west, like the Finger. The room then is set up like a map of the Finger. Tzanasport is on the coast of the north shore of the finger near the main land, so the Tzanasport documents are on the north wall of the room near the door. You see? My desk represents the mountains. Documents about the realms beyond the Finger are on the other side of my desk. Documents about the sea are in a special room just beyond the Seatorn stacks. Documents about mining are in the basement. Very simple.”

“I see,” said Kerimos doubtfully. “So how do we find out about Baltrog in Tzanasport?”

The Master Recorder shook her head at the ignorance of the question. “Baltrog is called a lord,” she said patiently. “All documents about him will therefore be on the top of the people bookcase, just as all documents about beggars and criminals would be on the bottom of the same bookcase. Social hierarchy is reflected in the organization.”

“Right,” said Voltag. “Where’s the people bookcase?”

“Well,” said Dingbittle, “You’ll be wanting the living people bookcase for this year. Which is right here.”

She pointed at a bookcase some twelve feet tall groaning under the weight of its many documents that were heaped on its shelves in no discernable order.

“One last question,” said Kerimos. “How long does it usually take to find documents about a specific person, if you only have a name to work with?”

“Oh, there is no ‘usually’,” said the Master Recorder. “It can take anywhere from two weeks to three months.”

They could hear the main door of the chamber open and shut.

“Oops,” said Dingbittle. “Another customer. Happy hunting!”

She scampered behind a bookcase and was gone.

“Two weeks,” grumbled Voltag. “In two weeks the mad man could be anywhere. Or he could be here with an army. I would give my beard to have his white-haired head under my axe right now.”

“Three months,” said Yolanthe. “Whatever is going to happen will be long over by then.”

“We don’t have the time,” said Kerimos. “It can’t be done.”

“Yes it can,” said an unfamiliar voice.

All three looked up to see the Master Recorder standing beside a woman. She was in her late forties, dressed in a cheap dress that was too tight for modesty and ripped at the hem. She was covered in the dust of smashed buildings. Her face, which showed the signs of various excesses, suggested that the dress had fit once, years ago, before its owner had given herself over to the pleasures of the tavern. Her black hair was streaked with gray, her eyes rimmed with red. She wore badly applied make-up.

“Who would you be?” asked Voltag.

The woman raised her chin, trying to muster her dignity before the suspicious gaze of three would-be researchers. “My name is Tinder,” she said.

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