"Will! Will! Open up!" Samuel pounded on the door of Will's cottage on the outskirts of Zantiko. "Will! Damnit! Open the door!" As Samuel raised his fist to knock again, the door swung open and he was greeted by a stalky ginger halfway between a yawn and glare. "If you wake the young ones, you will be loosing more skin than just the tips of your knuckles."
"Ah, good evening, Mrs. Beechem. And I beg you to forgive the intrusion, but I'm afraid I have urgent business with your husband. Is he home?"
"And what urgent business is that, exactly?" Mrs. Beechum replied.
"Well, it's just that. Uhh, well. There's an order that's come into the store. You know these delivery blokes. Totally lacking in tack, making deliveries in middle of the night. Haha."
"Peddle your nonsense to someone who will listen. If you don't mean to tell me, just say it. Have a seat here in the kitchen, and I'll fetch Will." As Mrs. Beechum left the room, Samuel took a seat at the dinner table and examined the room. There was a framed painting of Will's late parents, Hector and Helen Beechum, hanging above the mantle. They had both passed before Samuel had ever visited Zantiko, but judging from the stories Will had felt comfortable sharing, and the unpleasant frown drawing wrinkles across papa Beechum's face, they had both been rather wretched parents. Samuel had never understood why Will kept the painting in his home, and on the mantle of all places.
Just then, Samuel heard shuffling down the hallway and moments later a bleary eyed Will appeared in the doorway wearing nothing but his smallclothes and a sleeping cap. "Aw, Sammy. What the devil has got you knocking down my door in the wee hours? Wait, you didn't actually find anything useful in those moldy books did you?"
"Will, can you sit down? This is imp-"
"Actually, lemme guess: You found the long lost recipe for Aunt Jem's fluffiest pancakes and you've come to make me some! That's perfect, I'll get a fire going, put on some coffee, and let you get to it!"
"Damnit Will! Sit down and listen to me! I did find something in those moldy books. Something that I think you will be interested to hear."
"Well why didn't you say so? Go on, spill it out." Will pulled up a chair to face Samuel across the table.
"Alright, well after the last student left the archives, I began searching through the locked sections and found a biography of the Schnee dynasty. What makes this so special, you may ask? Just that this biography was written contemporaneously with the Wars of the Unreigned after Jan Schnee's death. In particular, it has a juicy chapter dedicated to the life and actions of our mystery madame Morrigan." Samuel paused to gauge Will's reaction, and noted a rather surprising lack of response. "Will, we know who Morrigan is! After all this time, we have progress. I was hoping for at least a celebratory hurrah."
"Yeah, yeah, Sammy, this is great, but as I see it, this only helps us if we can puzzle out the rest of the instructions. We still don't know how to point our noses at 'west by west', and how exactly are we meant to count up all of the sins of this Morrigan person. I couldn't even count up my sins so far this week! Unless the section of your old book has a minute by minute breakdown of all of this girls actions, we're just as good as guessing."
"First of all, I appreciate you're optimism," Samuel responded. "As it happens I do have a lead on what 'west by west' means. That book also included a map of old Sinjennto, and the main boulevard in the city that led from the river to the edge of the city was called "Sandun", which, of course, translates to..."
"West!" Will blurted out. Samuel, a bit taken aback by Will's knowledge of dead languages, raised a questioning eyebrow. "My father, rest his soul, had unusual ideas for educating his children. Had barely learned to read before he started making us recite old Sinjennto poetry. Anyway, Sammy, bloody lead with this next time. This is a breakthrough! So, "'West by west' clearly just means 'go west on West Road'. We still don't know how far to go, or what the bloody time of day has to do with it, but this is a start. So, what's our next move?"
"Clearly, there are still some holes in our knowledge here, but I think the place to find answers in where this quest is meant to start. Let's go 'west by West'.
"Excellent plan Sammy. Now, since you're here already, how about fixing me up some of those ancient pancakes?
TO BE CONTINUED