Chapter Baker's Dozen
Scene Four: Journal Entry; Looking for a Creek
Denario wrote in his journal, 6,452 steps since breakfast. I’m exhausted. And I’ve been terrorized by a huge animal with antlers, called a ‘deer’ by the locals but it must have been three times the size reported. Then a pair of rabbits charged me and drove me upslope for half a mile. Other accountants never mentioned things like this in their journals.
At least the mountains aren’t as noisy as the farms. Coming out of Zeigeburg, I prayed to the gods to strike down every songbird. There aren’t many in the cities. In the wilds, they’re everywhere and they never shut up. Sometimes I wonder why no gods answer my prayers. Doesn’t the singing annoy them too?
I’m getting better at hiking. Except for tree branches. They grow at the exact height of my right eye. At least, they have on several occasions.
Denario had spent two days on foot from Ziegeburg to Hogsburg. He'd spent four days chasing armed warriors in the hills. He'd seen thirteen sunrises with a quarter of the Mundredi army as he patrolled the countryside. Finally, he'd worked for three weeks and two days more in Pharts Bad to solve their book keeping problems.
Time had slipped by. A journey that would have taken him eight or nine days by coach had grown to over a month. Worse, he hadn't made much progress. On the map, he'd moved south and east and that was good. But he'd covered no more than the equivalent of two days' coach travel along the Riggle Kill. He'd spent much of his time earning food.
This morning's march out of the magic of Tree Stump brought him another two hills eastward in the chain. But the rises were small and close together. Most of his progress had been vertical. It wouldn’t look like much when charted. He perched on a fat rock to consult his maps after his noon meal. Unfortunately, his most recent, hand-drawn map was largely guesswork. He fretted about how little he knew of the lands between him and No Map Creek.
The Kaufmanns, because they were such nice people, had tried to help him find the creek. Among their half-dozen magical knick-knacks was a scrying bowl. Hadewig could make it imitate a crystal ball by filling it with holy water. As long as the surface was perfectly calm, she could see distant places with it.
“There's no creek,” she told him.
“There's got to be one.” He pointed to the blank areas in his map. “Vir said it was in here somewhere in the hills between the Mundredi and Kilmun territories.”
“That's the chief of the Mundredi, Vir de Acker?”
“Well, he ought to know. If the water originates along the eastern border of his lands, it must be on the edge of West Valley. But there's no stream that shows up there. Every time I try to look at where it should be, the bowl goes all wobbly.”
They kept at it for an hour. Then, to prove that she knew what she was doing, Hadewig took a the spare drawing compass from Denario. It was the one he hadn't unpacked since he'd left home. She used it to tune her bowl to Denario's counting house in Oggli. After about a minute of work, she let Denario see. Sure enough, he could spy down on two of the rooms and a hallway in his home. He felt like he had a view of the place from the rafters except the clarity of vision was better. The walls didn't get in the way as much as they would have in real life. The magic of the bowl let him see through the top two or three feet of each interior wall if he concentrated.
In Oggli, everyone had left for the morning already. They hadn't been gone long. There were unwashed dishes sitting next to the kitchen tub, which was half full of water. A plate of food had been left to dry for at least a day. There were papers and parchments strewn about. Some of books were missing from bookshelves. Scrolls were missing from their slots but most of them had been laid out on the desks and pinned down with survey weights and stones. Good.
The counting house had seen a busy morning, apparently. Clothes had been tossed about, some of them positively kicked from the apprentices’ bedroom into the hall. But Denario had been gone for all winter and, after that much time, he was relieved things didn't look worse. Maybe the cleaning chores had gone downhill a bit but that wasn't so bad. It was a sign of strength, for sure, that there was enough work to be done to make Curo drag everyone from the counting house, even Mark and Guilder.
“But still no sign of No Map Creek,” Hadewig had said after she tried again.
She and Jake had given Denario a pouch of cooking herbs before he left. They told him about their neighbors on the lesser hills and advised him to barter for dinner whenever he could. They also mentioned that he might meet a few magical deer, mostly gold in color, and some werewolves, nearly black.
“Are you saying to watch out for wolves?”
“No. These are bigger than wolves. But you won't see them. The moon won't be right for days. You should always make sure to talk with the locals as you go along, though.”
“Of course.” He'd been planning to do that anyway. But how could he bring up the subject of 'have you or any of your friends turned into wolves?'
“Oh, I almost forgot,” said Hadewig. She reached up to a jar on her top shelf. “I've got one last herb for your pouch.”
She handed him a few sprigs of dark green leaves with dried, purple flowers. Denario recognized it from the apothecary on South Street in Oggli and from the Poisoner in Ziegeburg, too. This was wolfsbane. The way the dark green stem curled, he felt sure this was the magical variety. Hadewig's father probably supplied it to the wizards. Now Hadewig made room in his spice pouch and tucked in the sprigs. She pulled the leather drawstring shut with a smile.
That was why, in the middle of the day as he studied his map, he kept his spice pouch open by his side.
Next: Chapter Thirteen, Scene Five