Klane Kalonia and the Great Burning (17) by DMFW ()
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“Let’s show him”, Gillan said and with Klane following, the blacksmith and his wife descended a sturdy ladder to reach a small cellar. Sensing their anxiety Klane wondered briefly if it was wise to trust his hosts. Perhaps they thought he’d seen too much and they were leading him into a trap? He checked unconsciously for the presence of the alien weapon that had given him his name but his better instincts told him they did not intend to play him false and he was intrigued to know what this was all about.
Loops of rope hung from iron pegs on the walls. Two sacks of flour occupied one corner with an open barrel of assorted nails in the opposite corner. Pulling back a crude rug, Clara exposed a second concealed trap door, this time opening onto a ramp which led to a narrow passageway between two rough walls. They reached a spiral stair case running round a continuation of the chimney breast but below ground. Here the bricks were dusty and noticeably warm to the touch. Klane realised that two fires could share the same vent and that one lit beneath the flue used by the forge would draw no attention from a casual observer, who might reasonably assume that any smoke rising from the chimney came from the publicly visible fire where the blacksmith worked.
After two circuits, the stair case gave out onto a balcony that ran round the perimeter of a much larger cellar space, lit from below by three yellow lamps on an ash black table. The walls were lined with wooden shelves and rows and rows of books. To his astonishment Klane found himself in a secret underground library!
Down at floor level, there was evidence of some hasty packing. Klane quickly appreciated that Gillan and Clara’s son and daughter had been hard at work clearing the shelves but it was a big job and one that had scarcely been started.
He had little time to think about that before Clara said, “This is Zander”, and he was introduced to a woman wearing some strange kind of contraption over her eyes (which he later learnt was called “glasses” and helped her to read).
Zander immediately confronted them all.
“Who is this? Is he a member of the Order? What’s he doing down here? Haven’t I warned you?”
“Slow down Zands”, Gillan said. “We’ve got a big problem. Ethan’s been hurt. We’ve got to change our plans!”
As quickly as he could, Gillan shared the story of how Klane had rescued Ethan and the beating the Thranish men has taken from the Southern Pralannians. But all the time Klane was conscious of the anxiety his presence was provoking and knew that they must all be acutely aware of how incriminating this library would look to an ordinary Rider. Even after the blacksmith had explained that Klane had no aversion to books, Zander still looked suspicious and he needed to repeat his assertion that he knew how to read and did not fear books or writing.
At length she took a deep shaky breath. “I have not encountered anyone who can read unless they are a member of the Order of the Silent Word”, she said. “Now it seems we must trust you. There is little time and I have much to explain. Then perhaps you might aid us.”