Chapter 14


Back in Sunstroke and Theo Potter had no intention at all of going to any lessons. He felt personally betrayed by Raze Farren and his general lack of a backbone.

"Theo!" Berwick was on his way to the class rooms with Seth and Harvey. "Where are you going? Raze wants our reports in by tomorrow."

"He can shove his reports up his hooter. I'm going to the library. Are you in?" The other three didn't need much persuading to skip class.

"This is about Spider, isn't it?" Seth asked. "You're naffed off with Raze about it so you pie his classes off."

"That would be bog all use to anyone, least of all me. Spider's my friend, Seth and it made Dick what it is, and taught me so much about it." Theo said.

"Same with my wand. I just used to use it to point at things." Seth said seriously.

"Well it wasn't all about tool users." Harvey put in. "Spider's knowledge of how magic was put together was huge, and it told it in normal language instead of waffling on like a milkmaid."

"Funny too." Berwick laughed. "Even when it was telling that story slagging off alchemists, it still managed to teach me more about alchemy than I've learned here in two years."

"So what do we do?" Seth asked. "Any books here won't be half way old enough and even if they were, there'd be no Curse stuff. The Elders would have removed all that. We'll probably get into trouble for even asking about it."

"So we won't." Theo said confidently. "Where's that old creep when you need him?" Herb Drisep glided up behind the students and scared them half to death.

"You lot here just for the view?" Herb narrowed his sunken eyes at the students.

"Hardly." Harvey muttered.

"We need maps Mr. Drisep." Theo told him. "In the old University study room there's a picture of Shadowfall Hall. Do you have any maps and plans of it? It's for school." He lied.

"Umm. Shadowfall Hall. Most of it's knackered these days. There's just that horrible tourist bit in use." Herb began rummaging through a large wooden cupboard.

"Do you know if there's anything left in the old bit?" Theo asked. "I was told you were an authority on the history of the area."

"Oh?" Herb stopped rummaging and tried to puff out his sunken chest. "Yes well you were correctly informed. No, son, there's bugger all left. The riff-raff looted it good and proper over the years. Anything left was just a load of tat and they bunged that in the tourist bit. Looks like the Watch made a pretty good job of drawing up plans." Herb handed a Theo a handful of hand drawn diagrams. "That's to figure out which bits were too wonky to be left standing. See? dotted lines with little explosion symbols. My half cousin Bertha was on the explosive team. Big lass she was with a face like a warthog."

"That's ... good. Can we keep these drawings?"

"That depends on whether Mage Raze provided you with any funds." Herb said not so cryptically.

"Well no. Why would he do that?" Seth asked in confusion.

"We'll just go and study them." Theo gave Herb a false smile.

"Don't you dare try and make off with them." Herb ordered. "I'll have my birch to the lot of you." Herb snarled and vanished into the bookcases,

"My Da reckons his parents were related." Harvey gave a very valid option.

"Come on. Pencils and paper everyone. We need to copy these quickly." Theo sat at a table.

"Why? There's only this front bit here open and it's full of old tat, like Drisep said." Seth started drawing anyway.

"There was a library. Spider said it remembered dusty old books, books that were written when the Hall was still running. The last Lord Shadowfall died a hundred and two years ago, aged fifty two. I looked it up in the parish records this morning. So Spider was at Shadowfall Hall over a hundred and two years ago. Brother Knowitall in the Monastery was a practicing, Curse detecting Mage ninety years ago so it was still being studied and documented when Spider was at Shadowfall and saw books." Theo had thought about this all night.

"Yes but there's nothing there anymore." Berwick pointed out. "There are no books in the tourist bit, just a load of naff ornaments and a few manky chairs."

"The Watch only cleared the bits that were unsafe. They won't have looked any further." Theo pointed at the plans and grinned. "All grand mansions had cellars and that diagram shows cellars."

"So they had a library in the cellar?" Harvey asked doubtfully.

"I was thinking more of storage, especially of stuff that was falling out of favour. Stuff like Curses and what not. My granny's cellar is full of books that my Da read when he was a child. Fergus the Farmer and Bella Bigbroom. How lame." Theo tutted. "Things that no one uses anymore but hold too much nostalgia to destroy." The others were looking at him doubtfully. "I know." Theo sighed. "More leaps of faith than a cart full of lemmings. I don't have anything else and I'm not ready to chuck it all in yet. I'm going tonight, after the tourist bit closes and the place is empty. You don't have to come. I understand it sounds batshit."

"Well if they cart you off to live in Pigger's Tor then we may as well go with you." Seth shrugged his shoulders.

"Yes and I think Farmer Addlehead quite liked me." Harvey added.

"Oh well. I'm not doing anything else." Berwick shrugged his shoulders. "Hurry up, here's Drisep. Is he on wheels?"

///


The four students skulked along the training ground wall then made a dash for a line of trees that marked freedom. The sun was just beginning to set and although they'd managed to evade Raze, there was no doubt he was aware of their absence.

"Did you get the lantern Harvey?" Seth hung onto Theo to minimise stumbling.

"I got two. Hal Logger had them round the scree wall. Do I light one?" Harvey shook his canvass bag.

"Not yet. We're still too close to the University. I'd forgotten what a trek this is." Theo slowed pace to get his breath. "The map says that if we go round the west side of the tourist show, we'll see the ruins and foundations of the one time great hallway."

"I had another look at that painting." Berwick said. "To me, it looks like the tourist show is in the vestibule. The place must have been huge."

"But the cellars only extend to the east wall of the great hallway, and north under what used to be some sort of ballroom." Theo sat on a rock and took out the map while Harvey lit one of the lanterns. "It's built on a slope. See? The west side slopes up to the east side. The cellars are under the great hallway, the tourist bit and the ballroom."

"What if the cellars aren't accessible any more?" Berwick asked.

"Then we're stuck." Theo sighed. "But at least we'll have tried. Come on, let's get going."

The location of the tourist bit could be seen a mile off, metaphorically speaking. It was a gaudy display of painted wooden facades and ugly models of the Shadowfall family, all of which would have caused violent offence to the actually family members. Once round the west side the outline of a crumbling foundation wall could be seen. The wall itself, was weed-choked and covered with moss, as was the area that used to be the great hallway.

"Sod." Seth said in disappointment. "How are we meant to get through that lot to the floor?"

"Shovels." Herb Drisep came clattering out of the shadows with four shovels. All four students screamed in sheer fright.

"Mr. Drisep! Torment's Bowels!" Seth sobbed. "How did you know we were here?"

"Part of my PAP obligations." Herb said officiously "You looked a bit dodgy so I followed you."

"With shovels?" Theo squeaked. "Does anyone else find that highly disturbing, seeing as he's the gravedigger?"

"Just as well I am. I'm responsible for shovel distribution for public service projects." Herb nodded. "Well?" He chucked a shovel each towards the students. "Start digging all this cack away."

"Aren't you going to help?" Harvey asked, jamming his shovel into the layer of weeds.

"I'm PAPping, not grave digging. Got to keep my books in order." Herb told them.

"Don't you want to know what we're up to?" Theo asked.

"Digging for the cellars, I'd say. There's bugger all else on those building diagrams." Herb shrugged his boney shoulders.

"And you aren't worried that it may not really be allowed?" Theo asked carefully.

"Not allowed? Of course it's not allowed! If you were causing an affray, I'd have you because I'm on PAP duty. It's what we do. The Watch on the other hand ... "

"You've reported us?" Berwick asked in alarm.

"What? Don't be an idiot. I only nark for the watch on Wednesdays, that being the only day they can embezzle my pay."

"Yes. I think." Berwick replied in bewilderment. "So we aren't in trouble?"

"For clearing weeds and tidying the place up a bit? Public service, I'd say. These grounds are a disgrace! They once tried to get the PAPs to do the bit infront of the tourist ripoff. I told them to boil their heads. I have rights, you know." Herb said firmly.

"Yes, absolutely." Theo agreed. "Do you know anything about Lord Shadowfall?"

"No. Before my time. My great aunt Clootie would have. She worked here."

"Really?" Theo was very impressed. "What did she do?"

"Bare knuckle fighting."

"Do what?" Theo laughed.

"She was the house champion. They used to hold fights in the cellar. By all accounts she had fists like sledgehammers and a jaw like an anvil." Herb said proudly.

"That's ... astonishing." Theo just shook his head in bewilderment. "So is that all the cellars were used for?"

"I wouldn't know." Herb said.

"I think he makes most of it up." Harvey whispered, hefting another shovel of weeds against the wall.

"I wouldn't be so sure." Theo whispered back. "He came through with the maps and plans and Raze gave him credit for deciphering Spider's name. Seth! Where are all those wood chunks coming from?" Seth was scooping piles of wooden shavings into a corner.

"The floor over there." Seth answered, pointing with his shovel.

"But the floor's stone isn't it, Mr. Drisep?"

"Daft question." Herb sniffed. "Stone floor, stone walls, stone supports. Stone all the way. Well apart from the doors."

"Seth!" Theo ran over. "It's a door! Clear the crud around here. Seth's found a trap-door."

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