Crocodilian ~ Chapter 2
Tales of Havek: Volume One | Duration: 8 minutes, 25 seconds
The first part can be found here.
II: The Most (Un)Talented
The Cartographers’ Guild, deep in the heart of Asyrema City, contained many corridors, halls and rooms that even on a busy day seemed abandoned. One of these halls—some might say it was the main one—displayed upon the wall enormous hand-drawn maps depicting various locations discovered by famous explorers. A grand desk sat to one side of the main hall and behind the desk were hundreds of scrolls and tomes sticking out from an intricate shelving system equipped with its very own ladder. Sitting at the desk was a clerk named William Yitlin who had dedicated his entire life to the guild’s mission of providing truth where only uncertainty had lain before.
William adjusted his glasses and thumbed through a stack of envelopes of varying pastel shades. The envelopes contained inked letters and drawings by cartographers describing and rendering the minutest of details from wild, uninhabited regions spread across the continent of Empyrea. Some were stamped with insignias the clerk didn’t recognize, likely new outposts established in what were deemed “Untamed Territories”. He came across one near the bottom of the stack that had an odd discoloration smeared across the front which obscured the name of the sender. He squinted and pinched the frames of his glasses tighter as if that would clarify what he was looking at. The dried substance looked eerily familiar. William’s eyes widened when he came to the conclusion that it greatly resembled the crimson smears of aged, flaked blood.
The desk shuddered and William jumped back in his chair as papers flew about in a whirlwind. He looked up with crooked glasses just as a white sheet fluttered down to land on his head. The frown somehow made his wrinkles more wrinkled.
“Why on Havek do you keep doing that, Ian?” William asked, ripping the sheet away and fixing his spectacles. The young man standing in front of the clerk’s desk, who hadn’t been there mere moments ago, was named Ian Merstellar. He wore a trench coat with the collar popped up around his neck and carried an oversized hat in his right hand. His short brown hair was disheveled, his face clean shaven. Ian exhibited the rare ability to harness Energy and use said Energy to teleport, which, to William’s knowledge, no one else in Empyrea could do; although the stories of other powers were just as remarkable in their own right. However, this made his relationship with Ian that much harder.
“Because I can,” Ian said. “And I thought I’d remind you that you have the most talented, skilled cartographer in all the land at your disposal and he’s beyond bored.”
William scoffed. “If you could read or write, you’d have at least a modicum of skill, sure. Lights, if you could doodle a picture, you could be of use, Ian. Why don’t you spend your free time learning how to do one of those things instead of teleporting about scaring people?”
Ian took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “You know I can’t draw. I know I can’t draw. That’s not what I should be focused on.” He reopened them with keen ferocity. “I am a showman, okay? People don’t want to see my scribbles, William. People want to see and hear me! I’m practically famous, ya know!”
“No, you’re not. No one other than me knows your name.”
“Well, I’m pretty sure the Guild President mentioned me once. So, she knows me,” Ian said, spinning the hat with his pointer finger inside the rim.
“That’s who you went with? The Guild President? What about your parents, your friends, anyone else?” William asked, desperately trying to avert his eyes so as to not encourage the annoying hat spin.
Ian dropped the hat on the floor. He grew quiet, staring off down the hallway at nothing in particular for what felt like an entire minute. His shoulders were slumped and his mouth was twisted to the side. Then he sighed and said, “It’s kind of a sore spot, but since you brought it up. I, uh, accidentally teleported away from them as a child and I never found them again. I’ve been searching ever since. The streets, William, the streets were not kind to a five year old boy. Not kind at all.”
One of William’s eyebrows arched high above the round rim of his spectacles as he slowly shook his head. “I’ll be sure to add lying to your short list of skills.”
“Man, you’re good,” Ian said, smiling and picking the hat up to place it on his head. The young twenty-something leaned on the clerk’s desk and noticed the envelope that had the odd, red smearing. “Whoa, what’s that? Are you befriending a serial killer? A moody Pen Pal seems right up your alley.”
William, ignoring the insult, picked up the envelope and began to open it. “You know, I have an idea where this came from. That belligerent Mayor Penh from Yonledo keeps asking for more provisions, more aid, more, more, more. Who does he think he is? He’s not even technically a mayor. There were no formal elections, nor was he given permission to start building there to begin with. He’s a lunatic. If he brings up a trade route one more t—”
The clerk stopped speaking after his eyes landed on the paper. Ian bent over the desk to see what he was looking at but only saw illegible squiggles—illegible to him at least—and a few bloody thumbprints on the empty border sections.
“Come on now, you can’t leave me hanging like that,” Ian said.
“Sorry,” William said, clearing his throat. He stood up from his desk and walked around to the front to stand next to Ian, who was a full head and shoulders taller. Someone walked by them quickly, giving them an odd glance. William waited for the fellow to get out of earshot, then he angled the creased paper so they could both read it, despite only one of them possessing the ability, and he spoke aloud:
‘Dear reader, whomever you may be, I’m writing to you now not as a mayor but as a man in desperate need of assistance. My scribe has disappeared, likely killed if I had to guess. And for the record, not by me, despite the many times I threatened the poor lad. A giant crocodile-like beast terrorizes my town. A beast which I believe to be the source of six other missing souls from the township of Yonledo. I’ve seen this beast with my own eyes, and it is unlike anything I’ve ever imagined to walk Havek. The hunter, whom I’d contracted over a year ago to exterminate threats of this kind, has also disappeared without a trace, presumably killed by this monstrosity, and I have no other means by which to protect my citizens, other than my own personal guard. But he’s just one man. I need soldiers, hunters, or, if one could be spared, a Cardinal. Please send any help before it is too late. Food, drink, building supplies, and other provisions would greatly assist— ’
William threw his hands up. “I knew it.”
“What? You knew what?”
“This is just some elaborate ploy to get us to acquiesce to his initial request. Giant crocodile beasts? How out of touch does he think the guild to be? Everyone knew this would happen. Literally everyone.”
Ian nodded. “Yeah, swamps do tend to have crocodiles.”
“Right?! Even you know that,” William said.
“But wait, what about the blood on the letter and the envelope?” Ian asked.
William looked at the letter again searching for an explanation. “Oh, here, it says, ‘P.S. Pardon the blood. In my haste, I nicked my finger on the parchment’s edge and couldn’t stop the bleeding. Forgive me.’” William looked at Ian incredulously. “The nerve of that man.”
Ian sat on the clerk’s desk, feet dangling. “That’s… lame.”
Pacing back and forth along the wall of large maps of Empyrean landscapes, William continued, “President Vistenna is not going to like this. Not one bit. Actually, she’s going to flip. But, what if I don’t mention it? I could toss the letter in the waste and no one would be the wiser. No, that wouldn’t be good because what if on the off chance Penh isn’t lying? That surely wouldn’t bode well for me, or those poor townsfolk. Bah!”
Ian cocked his head and watched as the short man bounced back and forth, his flat shoes giving off a slight squeak every time he did a one-eighty turn. Ian eventually gazed up at the large map William happened to be passing under. He noticed that on this particular map the southern region was fairly devoid of annotations. There were no names for the rivers, the forests, or even the coastal area where he believed Yonledo to be located. That’s when the idea came to him.
“What if I go?” Ian asked.
The clerk stopped and looked up, fixing his spectacles. “Whatever do you mean?”
“I mean exactly what I said, what if I go? I could teleport to Yonledo and be back by tomorrow with a full report. That way you’d know if this Mayor Penh was lying or not, and you’d be able to respond appropriately, and I get to name a few things. Everybody wins.”
“Wait, name a few things?” William asked, squinting.
“Yeah, you know, because I’m a cartographer and that’s what we do.”
“You don’t even work here, Ian. Harassing me for weeks on end doesn’t entitle you to employment. Honestly, I don’t even know who you really are. You could be an escaped criminal for all I know. Wait, you’re not an escaped criminal are you?”
“What? No. Of course not. I mean, I’ve escaped some places and I’ve broken the law a few times, but I’ve never hurt anyone,” Ian said, scratching the back of his head underneath his triangular hat.
William blinked rapidly and tried to act as if he hadn’t heard what he’d just heard. “You’re something else, kid. Well, I’m going to go with my gut on this one. If, and I mean if, you do this for me, I just might legitimize your ventures with the Cartographers’ Guild and…,” William closed his eyes as he spoke, “…I can’t believe I’m saying this, I’ll let you name a few things. Just a few.”
“Deal!” Ian jumped up from the desk and moved to hug William, who held out hand to prevent him from doing so, then angled the flat hand downward. Ian took the clerk’s hand in his own and they shook hard once and let go. William pivoted and returned to his chair behind his desk.
“Look, you’re going to need some supplies before you go. A notebook, pen—” William cut off as he looked up and saw that Ian had already disappeared. There was also a large blank space on the wall where the map used to be. He glanced up and down the large hall of the Cartographers’ Guild, then sat in his chair and began opening the next envelope in the stack. After a long silence, he dropped the letter he was trying to read and mumbled, “Oh, lights, what have I done?”
To be continued….
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Until next time! ~ WM