In the kitchen, Deev found a plate with a sandwich waiting for him. The plate sat on a dully polished cart, it's base enclosed in rough wood. When he picked the plate up he found a note under that simply said “follow”. The cart itself began to tick when the plate was removed and he could hear something whir from within. Slightly alarmed, Deev took a step back and the cart began to move on it's own, rolling away from him and toward an open door.
Deev followed as the note had said and the cart turned at the door, moving down the empty hallway.. The whirring was soft and constant like a line unspooling from a fishing reel and occasionally he would hear a click. At the end of the hall, another door stood open and led outside. The cart turned again and he heard repeated clicks as the cart moved down a steeply inclined ramp. Deev held fast to the rail as he followed and found that the cart had stopped on a wide platform that clung to the side of the hill.
Krith was there, his back to the Acolyte and bent over a brightly polishes brass telescope. Deev looked up and could see that the hill was not as gentle on this side, dropping in places with straight cliffs.. The house and tower stood on the edge of one such cliff and the platform on which they stood was directly below. At the far end of the platform stood a tram car and he could see the cog railway that ran down the face of the hill there.
The valley looked as he had seen it from great windows of the front room of the house. He looked down and, fighting a sense of vertigo, could see that the railway ended at a small village beneath them. Clearly, this was the front of the property and designed to impress.
“What do you think, Acolyte?”
Deev looked away from the dizzying depth and out at the distant horizon. “Simply lovely, Master Bascot. I have seen maps of the distant lands but have never viewed them firsthand.”
“Distant lands? My family has an orchard there, on the edges of Lake Bascottal,” he pointed off to the west.. “My brother has taken the reins of running it and the people who live there.”
I have heard that the vintal from that region is some of the finest produced.”
“It is indeed, you shall sample some tonight, Acolyte.” He took a bite of his sandwich and casually leaned against the railing. “Tell me Acolyte., what is your chosen field?”
“I have not declared yet, most of my master teachers think I would excel in geology.”
“Most interesting since that too was my initial interest. I think that perhaps the Ministry thinks you will bring a fresh perspective in their challenge of my beliefs.”
“I am not here to challenge, Master Bascot, merely to observe.”
“So you say.” Krith turned back to the telescope, moving it slowly down to study the landscape. “Come and observe this, Acolyte.”
Deev bent over the eyeglass and observed a factory on a river, the rapid waters turning several great wheels and steam rising from four tall chimneys. The small shapes of workmen swarmed around a train like ants attacking a dying caterpillar, picking off freight. He followed the workers with the telescope and saw them hauling the crates into a large building.
A shift of the telescope and Deev could see a gathering in the center of the town. A group had gathered and he could see a man standing on a stage. He moved the telescope again and saw an airship rise briefly on its tether from behind a farm on the edges of the town. The symbol of the Ministry of Science clearly painted on its side.
“What is happening in the village?” he asked, straightening back up.
“That is Brynside and the men are assembling all the components needed for our expedition. That is part of Lord Duke Tachon's land, he has offered to let me make use of a factory and of his house.”
“Of what expedition are you preparing?”
Krith looked puzzeled. “You are unaware of my proposal? Didn't the Ministry tell you of my request before the council?”
“No, Master Bascot, I was simply given a file to read. I apologize that I did not get a chance to read it completely. The lateness of the hour and the carriage ride compelled me to rest my eyes for just a bit.”
Krith shook his head in bemusement. “Don't let it worry you, Acolyte, the Ministry demands too much from their students. We shall have to fill you in tonight then.”
“Look!” Deev shouted suddenly, his arm pointing down at the village and a column of smoke that was rising.
Krith bent over the telescope and swung it wildly, trying to center on the source of the smoke. He twisted the eyepiece and sharply focused on the factory and the train and black smoke billowing out of the warehouse. The front gates were open and men were pouring in, smashing the crates and overturning carts. The workers at the factory had fled, leaving it to the mob.
“To the Wall, they'll destroy it all!”
Krith sprinted to the tram and the Acolyte followed. They were barely aboard before Krith fired up the boiler and it lurched into motion. The stream escaped with a wicked hiss as they moved at breakneck speed down the tall hill. Krith kept one hand on the lever that controlled their speed while the other hunted into a steel box that was bolted to the floor. With a grim look he produced a pistol, aiming it's long barrel ahead of them to practice his aim.
“Have you ever fired a weapon, Acolyte?”
“I have been hunting with my father but that has been the extent of my experience, Master Bascot. Do you think I'll need to?”
“They've looted my factory, Acolyte. I'll not leave my property to be seized by the Ministry.”
The Acolyte bit his lip, remembering the Ministry airship he had spied. “I am only here to observe,” he muttered, half to himself.
The tram rumbled into a slowing curve and they could clearly see the fire and smoke that was engulfing the warehouse. Men were at the river now, a steam pump spraying water onto the burning building but it was obviously a losing effort. An iron bridge over the river then merging with the public line of rails and the squeal of the brakes threatened to deafen them as Krith pulled hard on the lever, struggling to maintain control.