Maeve stood alone in the tent she shared with Mog, gathering herself before facing what lay beyond. Anxiety drove her to pick up and fold discarded clothing and set it atop one of the chests. She absently picked up Pendaran’s ledger which Mog had tossed onto their tangled bedding. Odd that he had arrived so early. The man was legendary for his tendency to sleep in.
Curiosity drove her to flip the heavy leather cover open and gaze upon neat columns of text and numbers. Red ink bled between lines of black. Her grasp of New Krytan allowed her to make out the names of the things he had tallied – barrels of hard tack, crates of candles, wax, soap, nails, powder. There were little stars beside a few of the items which referenced other pages. She turned to page 7 at the behest of one of the comments and noticed there were two pages painstakingly marked 7. The first one listed units and an explanation of how these items were to be stored or paid for. The second page seven had the words “Mog, remove this page and destroy it after reading it.”
She blinked. Below this statement was scrawled the following in old Ascalonian:
“Doomspeak has arrived early. I tried to delay them as long as I could but the Priory suspects that we are up to something. Boll wants to dig in the northwest canyon, but I sense a high level of etheric energy there. We need to keep them away from it. I suggest trying to draw their attention to the buildings in the high southwest region. There are plenty of broken pots and statuary up there to keep them busy until we have figured out a way to get to the complex in the north ahead of them.”
Maeve swore under her breath and carefully removed the page, leaving no trace of it. Casting about for a moment, she folded it up and tucked it inside of her clothing chest amongst her intimates, determined to burn it later when they made a fire for their supper. Outside she could already hear raised voices. She hurried toward the ruckus to find Mog, Pendaran and a group of Priory members arguing. Doomspeak, Maeve assumed, was the towering charr in flowing magister robes.
“Good morning!” she said as she arrived among them, hoping to interrupt whatever trouble Mog had gotten them into. Pendaran was clad in slate blue Priory colors, a show of solidarity no doubt.
“Morning,” he replied while the others gazed sidelong at Maeve. Mog folded his arms and said nothing. His anger and irritation was palpable.
Doomspeak glowered at her expectantly.
“You’ll pardon me, but I need to attend to a few things,” Maeve said. She made a show of hurrying away, gathering her skirts and breaking into a run as she reached the nearest stair. With any luck Tristan would be attending to the animals as he did each morning. The dolyak paddock lay near the entrance they had hacked into the southern ruins.
To her relief she heard his voice below as he instructed one of the hands to check the feet of the beasts and bring up fresh water for the trough. She arrived outside the dusty coral, its low walls made from carefully stacked rubble blocks. Tristan was perched atop it eying the six beasts gathered inside around a mound of fodder.
“Tristan, I need your help,” she called out.
He turned to face her, flashing a bright smile as he hopped lightly to the ground.
“The southwest ruins. I need you to hide the path to them.”
“Please, just do it, don’t ask me why.”
He gazed upon her thoughtfully, then nodded, “Of course. I’ll get right on that.”
“If anyone from the Priory asks what you are doing just be evasive.”
He nodded slyly, then called to one of the handlers as he went to the makeshift shed where they stored their gear. A moment later she was standing gasping for air at the top of the steps. To her relief Doomspeak was waiting for her there.
“Getting your exercise, I see.”
“Of course. Must stay in shape!”
“What are you hiding?”
Maeve laughed, “Hiding? Whatever in the world would I need to hide from you?”
“I know your group came here to find something. And I know you don’t want us to know what it is.”
Maeve feigned hurt and confusion, “Magister, we are on the same side.”
“So you won’t mind if we excavate in the south?”
“Wha… what? There’s much more promising sites in the north.”
“Like the promising site to the east?”
“That was a simple misunderstanding.”
Maeve shrank back from Doomspeak’s claw as the charr pressed it against her sternum, “No more lies, or I’ll have this entire expedition cancelled. Do I make myself clear?”
“Of course,” she stammered.
“Then it’s settled, we’ll explore the ruins in the south and you and your band are to stay well out of it.”