Hidden Treasures

by Christian O'Kane

It was cold down here but it is always cold in a cellar, any cellar, whether it was in Marigund, Pyralis or in the tunnels beneath a small castle near Frondheim. Which is where they were following Lady Charlotte Marchilou whose husband was lord of Marchilou castle. The lady herself was wearing a yellow and blue dress of wool with sleeves that went all the way down to her wrists. Walking closely behind here were a man and woman. Both were wearing a nondescript tunic and pants, no different than that worn by countless peasants, workers and craftsman. That simple disguise had gotten them here and they were confident it would get them home to Marigund safely.

They passed thru a door made of wood that had grayed with age and covered with patches of moss. The four people walked down a long corridor lined with doors as old as the one behind them. The dust was thick on the floor here and each step stirred up clouds of it into the air.

"My apology for the conditions here," Lady Charlotte said. "We rarely come down here anymore."

The man shook his head. "I don't mind. Back in Marigund the Mages guild seems to have endless hallways like this. All of them filled with the oddest things," Kaeso commented.

The second woman smiled. "When was the last time you were down here?" Brianna asked.

Charlotte paused in her stride. "Not since great uncle Selric died. He was a great collector of many things. His wife refused to have his more unusual items upstairs in the main hall so he had a private room here."

"What did he collect?" Kaeso asked.

"Anything and everything," came the answer. That point was driven home by the door she was standing in front of. It was lime green in color and seemed to be one large piece.

Kaeso ran his hand lightly over the surface of the door. "Is this porcelain?"

Charlotte nodded in reply. "Yes made in one piece. But it's as strong as stone."

"Very nice!" Kaeso commented. "I don't see any magic in it. All its strength comes naturally."

"Uncle was very proud of it," Charlotte commented.

As she opened the door the room lit up instantly. A soft white glow spread out from globes hanging on the walls flooding the entire space. It revealed a large room to the brim with a vast amount of items. Statues, paintings, sculptures, furniture and boxes, barrels, whole windows and doors intermixed with plates, dinnerware, stained glass windows and even a pair of carriages. A pair of stuffed elk flanked the doorway standing a dusty guard. Their glassy eyes looked down at them with a steady gaze.

"I used to come down here and play as a child," Charlotte said "But not in this room. The things in here made me uneasy."

"I can see why, " Brianna commented as she looked up at one of the stuffed elk.

Kaeso nodded his head slowly. He had seen this type of thing before when asked to look into someone's collection. People collected some of the strangest things most of which was completely worthless. But mixed in with all the strange and useless junk were usually some real, hidden treasures that made it worth the entire trip.

They walked past a long line of bookcases filled with all manner of books and scrolls. "This is Selric's private library," the lady explained.

"Have you examined the books?" Kaeso asked.

"Some but his taste in literature is not to my liking," came the answer. "Feel free to examine them. There are no wards on them."

A quick spell confirmed Charlottes words and Kaeso pulled down a large book with a dark red leather cover. He opened the book to the title page and was rewarded with the image of a large breasted woman wearing a skimpy dress in the passionate embrace of a heavily muscled warrior with long, flowing blonde hair. They were standing on the edge of a tall cliff kissing passionately. "The edge of Passion," proclaimed the words along the bottom. The mage shook his head. A book like this would have cost a large sum of money and Selric wasted it on this drivel? He slid the book back onto the shelf.

"Not all of uncles books are so petty," Charlotte explained. "His interests in books were as varied as everything else he collected."

Kaeso turned and ran her eyes over the bookcase and one book caught his attention. It was a large book, almost two feet tall and a foot and a half wide. The cover was not of leather but a type of cloth that she did not recognize. He opened the book and gingerly leafed through the pages. The first image he saw was a drawing done in a fine ink line of some sort of complex geared mechanism. "Brianna," the man said softly. In moments the woman was crowded close to him examining the book with him.

A turn of the page revealing more ink drawings of mechanisms. The page after that showed a large mechanical horse. Opposite that was a page filled with different gears. Dozens of gears each unique with different sizes and types and spacing of teeth. Another turn brought a forth an image that covered both pages. The image of a mechanical eagle with its wings spread wide. The creatures inside was filled with a complex array of gears wheels, rods, springs and other complex mechanisms.

Brianna lightly ran her hand over the image. "That's the Emperor's Eagle."

"What's that?" Charlotte asked as she peered over the mages shoulder.

"It was a beautiful automaton said to have been owned by the emperor Claudius eight hundred years ago," Kaeso answered.

"I've seen this image before," Brianna said as she peered at the book more closely. "In Dreyer's Muricum. But the others are completely new."

Kaeso fingered the cover gently. "This book is relatively new. It must be a copy of another text. I wonder if there are any more books like this?"

"You are welcome to look through all the books so long as I get a fair price for what you take," Charlotte said as she waved her waved towards the book shelf.

Brianna smiled broadly and nodded her head energetically. "Thank you. The guild always deals honestly."

The lady smiled. "I understand that. It is why I contacted the Mages guild in Marigund rather than someone closer."

"For which we are grateful," Kaeso commented. "We are also grateful for your agreement to keep this transaction quiet."

Charlotte turned to the man with a serious look on her face. "This agreement is for both of us. Many around here would be unhappy to know we were dealing with the heretics from Marigund."

"Understood," Kaeso answered. "Rest assured that we will leave no trace of our visit. Politics and religion have always been the bane of knowledge it seems."

Brianna ran her hand along the spines of the books on one of the shelves. "We'll bring in more people and have them go through the entire library."

"If you are interested in such mechanisms I need to show you Sydney," Charlotte commented.

"Sydney?" both mages asked at the same time.

Charlotte smiled. "I nicknamed that when I was small and the name seemed to stick." The woman turned and walked deeper into the room.

The small group wound its way past a wide variety of objects scattered about the room. They walked past a couch covered with bright blue cloth. Seated on it was the statue of a young woman wearing a long, flowing dress. Behind the couch was a table made entirely of deer antlers interlocked in a complex pattern.

In the back of the room standing near a corner was a wooden table made of thick, sturdy planks and beams. On the table was a large object covered with a black cloth. "This was Uncle Selric's last project. He died before it was finished which is not really surprising as he was working on it for almost twenty years." The woman took one end of the cloth and slow peeled it back revealing an amazing sight.

Laying on the table was a lion. It's head resting on its front paws and it's eyes closed. They walked around the table revealing that this feline was artificial. Where there had been skin and fur on the left side. The right side had only metal skin and only in a few places. The rest of the body consisted of bare metal framework behind which was a complex set of gears and mechanisms.

Spread out on the table around the figure was several thousand parts all arraigned neatly by shape, size and material they were made of. Over everything lay a fine layer of dust. Nothing on the table had been touched in a long time.

"Your uncle built all this?" Brianna asked as she slowly walked around the table.

"Some," Charlotte explained. "He was a mage of some power but more importantly he was wealthy enough to hire the best mages and craftsmen."

"Impressive workmanship!" Kaeso said in the soft tones of admiration. "Does it work?"

The woman touched the lion on the shoulder and it's eyes opened and stretched its mouth open revealing a large array of silver teeth. It's head moved back and forth three times then stopped. "There are several motions like wagging the tail but nothing more complex than that."

Brianna stepped very close to the lion and peered into the unfinished interior for a long moment before turning to Charlotte. "Sold," she announced. "Name your price."

It was late that night before Charlotte managed to return to the strange storeroom. She made her way slowly to the table with its unfinished occupant. The woman looked at the lion. "You are now officially the property of the Marigund Mages guild. They are sending eight wagons for all the stuff they are buying in a week." She kissed the lion on the muzzle and smiled broadly. "They suspected nothing!"