And here we are again, another Wednesday, another flash. This time I was inspired by the phrase, "It's a fact of life." Enjoy!!
Fortitude Part 15
“It’s a fact of life, Will.”
“Not the life you should have,” I said. I’d escaped following in my father’s footsteps by nature of my birth, the very thing that trapped Teddy in his life. Apprenticeship within the family was a poor system.
But individuality was seldom a trait celebrated in the city. Duty, familial honor, strict adherence to tradition… all prized above following one’s dreams or personal ambitions.
Including Teddy’s desire to tell the tales I’d been so lucky to hear since were small boys. “Come on. We have things to do.” I trailed my fingers in the cup I’d only taken a few sips from. I dabbed the ale at my neck.
“To your parents’?”
My parent’s fete would continue. Teddy’s father would remember, possibly, that he was working with me. Then we would be expected to return to our routines, and any deviation would cause scrutiny we could ill afford.
Not if the truth of this puzzle was to be found.
“We need to find the location of Schvesla’s machine,” I said, as we ambled down the road arm-in-arm again.
“Do you remember my map? The one I showed you down in the tunnel?”
“The path didn’t begin at the entrance to the tunnel. So, we’ll follow it backward.”
Yawning, Teddy asked, “Why did we leave the city anyway, then? How could you be sure that Schvesla hid his codex outside the city walls? Why would he expect those who came after him, those who found refuge here, to leave?”
“It’s only been in our lifetime that the isolation has been complete. My grandfather told me stories he’d been told, of how there were other cities like ours. There was trade and information, even travel for a select few. There are two stars on the map. One for the machine, one for the codex. It only makes sense. And we know the machine is in the city. That much is irrefutable.”
I was tired, and I knew Teddy was exhausted. We’d kept to a grueling pace. As much as I wanted to begin immediately, we couldn’t. We’d be far sharper with rest. Walking, our journey took the better part of an hour. My feet ached in my boots, throbbing and swollen against the leather.
We certainly wove about the walkways and alleys enough to simulate being drunk from drink instead of exhaustion. Our cover story firmly in place, we passed through the front gates and into the courtyard. A servant, water buckets hanging from her shoulders, gasped at the sight of us and hurried away to the side entrance. A man, one of two servants my mother’s family employed to keep up the estate, strode from the same entrance.
I knew better than to try going in the front door, but I made a great pretense at trying. Finally, I allowed him to draw Teddy and me through the narrow halls and stairs until we hit the third floor where I was quartered.
“Your parents have been asking about your whereabouts, Master Will.”
“A few drinks, a few games. A few girls,” I said with a leer. There’d never been any girls, and I saw Teddy wince, even though he’d been with me. I sighed. “I’m quite worn out with the tedium for today though, and need a rest. And a bit of a wash.” Making a face, I plucked at my shirt. “I could go down and announce my presence, though, if they’re that anxious.”
He grimaced. “No, Master Will, I’m sure they’ll be quite busy at the moment. Perhaps in the morning, you can speak with them breakfast?”
Not bloody likely, but I nodded.
“Very good. I shall have baths drawn up, sirs,” Simon said. He bowed slightly. “If you’ll remain in your room, Bettice will bring it all here.”
Once we washed, Teddy and I were out. As I thought, we’d slept the morning away, quite missing breakfast—and any interrogation by my parents. We dressed in fresh clothing and grabbed some food on the way out the kitchen door.
“Where are we going?” Teddy took a bite of his sweet roll, glaze drippings shining on his lips.
“Now we go to the museum. It should be deserted at this time of day. I want to look at Schvesla’s diagrams again.”
Most people were eating lunch, and the front desk was unmanned. The small house Schvesla had lived in was set up as a museum, but was seldom visited by many. I stared around the parlor, examining it visually first.
“What are we looking for?” Teddy asked.
“Secrets. Another hidden compartment, a hidey hole or something. I’ve been thinking. What if the stories about his codex are false? What if there is no other scientist he collaborated with in another city?”
“Didn’t he leave the journals? The originals were in the foyer.”
I raised a finger. “One, no one can say for certain he wrote those. Two, no one can say for certain what is written there, even if he did write it, is the unvarnished truth. We’re here because we suspect our city leaders of being false. Our very landscape outside the city walls proves man does not always care for his fellow humanity, or the cataclysm would never have happened in the first place.
“I already found the map. I want to know if I missed something because I was too sure of the knowledge I thought I had.
“All right. I’m not sure how much help I’ll be, though.” Teddy shrugged, a dissatisfied look on his face.
“I told you before, you don’t give yourself enough credit. I won’t allow you to go into a fugue state here, so just try to focus.”
“That brings it on, sometimes.” Gammas were almost as unheard of as betas, but they were much maligned. Teddy’s father had not helped with his self-worth, at all.
“I believe in you, Teddy,” I reminded him.TBC
Do you think they'll find anything? Find out next week! Now go read some more works by other Briefers: