Words of a Feather – Balmung: Chasing of the wind

In his office, Corey Jacobson muttered to himself while going through actual paperwork. The vice-president of the bookshop Library of Progress and the secret organization Gram always did prefer the old ways, trusting pen and paper far more than unreliable hardware. In front of his desk his head clerk, Alicia Corson, cleared her throat. As he looked up he noticed her and curator Samuel Jenkins, who shyly had seated himself in one of the chairs in front of his desk. “Oh, can I help you two?”

Alicia rolled her eyes. “Not again! Sir, we can only enter your office when you explicitly gave us one-time access. Thus our presence here means you called for us. So what did you want to discuss with us, and does it have to do with our goons going on a covert operation for you?”

Jacobson blinked slowly then smiled. “Ah yes, you’re completely right! Thank you Alicia, you know how I can get lost in my head sometimes. So, yes, the job. I sent our people to investigate rumors of a hidden library said to have belonged to a departed dragon. Figured it was a good place to search for the third item, since the rumors rather smelled.”

Jenkins grew pale as Jacobson chattered on with a big smile on his face. “So I sent them to Helena, with one of our recent gains as gift to the local museum as an in. You know how the Siouans are with Anglos, so this was the best way to get past their prejudice. Now I hear our people had some trouble with a gang trying to rob them, but they managed to survive long enough for the army to rescue them and blow things to smithereens. That is the term kids use these days, right?”

“Breadcrumbs, sir?” Jenkins uttered in a quiet voice, earning him a probing glare from Alicia. Jacobson shook his head in response. “No, blow things to breadcrumbs sounds wrong Jenkins. What in heavens makes you think that’s the term they’d use? If so I wouldn’t want to live on this planet anymore.”

Jenkins coughed before daring to respond again. “Smelling rumors sir? I was contacted by Blumberg during this job, sir. He was wondering who was laying the breadcrumbs. And they already voiced their concerns before. It appears they have realized we’re being led around just like our competitors.”

“Ah, interesting. I guess they’ll get a good performance review in the future. But we’re not being led around like our competitors, because we’re the ones leading them around. After all, wouldn’t want to be too far ahead of them, that’d make them unpredictable! Speaking of which, let’s continue my recap shall we? By digging for information at the museum our men scored information suggesting where they wanted to go, so they got in touch with a team of guides I had arranged for them. Which of course they figured was already infiltrated by our enemies.”

The cheerful smile on Jacobson’s face compared rather poorly to the ghastly look on Jenkins’ and the frown on Alicia’s. “And that is a good thing why, sir? That means our competition knew we were coming so they wanted to follow us to the destination.”

“Uhm, miss Corson,” spoke a shy Jenkins. “Perhaps it is a good thing because it means they know we outclass them and this way they would tag along and let us prepare for them, rather than following us and catching us by surprise?”

“Precisely, dear Jenkins! Precisely! It means they recognize us as their betters! Oh, wait, I’m getting lost again. Did I explain what the find was? No? Ah, apologies. Okay so the guides helped sneak our people into the forest, where they searched for the terrain they thought likely to be the site they sought. I forget the details, it’s somewhere in these papers. Something about stories involving a hidden cave and an Ecclesiastes quote in ancient languages? I have to say I’m impressed, it only took them a day to find the real thing, booby-trapped and all.”

Alicia gulped, which was rather out-of-character for her. “Booby-trapped, sir? What kind of traps were there in a dragon’s cave exactly?”

“Oh you know, tripwires connected to arrow systems, anchored spells ready to kill anyone making the wrong step and a door only a dragon could open or close. Oh, you’ll love this! Not only did they find evidence that elves had served the dragon in the Fourth World, they also discovered a massive library with protective spells that prevented decay! Now mind you there was a ward around it, which apparently lasted decades if not more, but the protective spells were immune to the ward so we got them all out intact. Such a marvelous find!”

While Jacobson started on a long story about the various scrolls in the library, and how much he was looking forward to studying them all, Alicia and Jenkins looked at each other as if to ask which of them would interrupt their boss. And more importantly, with what question. Eventually Alicia’s impatience triumphed over her reluctance. “Sir, what about the treacherous guides?”

“-magine wh-! Hm? Traitors? Ah, right. They all were actually! When our people sent a few outside to call for assistance from a smuggler the guides knew, the guides all insisted to come with in case traps would go off and lock everyone inside. Of course it was partially a ruse as one of them then commanded the others to attack. Apparently he had approached them anonymously so that they would never suspect their boss was one of them. Now mind you it was rather foolish of them to attack our people, so the guy died rather soon and the rest surrendered. It’s a real shame though, but at the very least they blew his head off later at my request. Now, back to the scrolls! Can you believe that they contain information on the Horrors? It’s a true wonder! An-“

“Sir! Please. So our people won, took prisoners and called. What happened then?”

“Oh, I asked our lady to take care of it. She sent our people away and made arrangements, bringing all of the scrolls here. Mind you I did get intel on the traps first so there was no real danger. She got out all the scrolls, and of course the third item of our precious set of fo-. I forgot to tell you that they discovered that as well. Apologies. Yes, the breadcrumbs led us to the third item and only one remains. We’ll reach our goal before long.”

While Alicia and Jenkins again looked at each other, wondering about exactly how their president had so easily brought hundreds of scrolls in metal casings to Kansas City, Jacobson continued his enthusiastic description of various subjects covered in the scrolls he had read so far. It was clear to them that they would no longer be able to interrupt him so proper answers would have to wait. And perhaps he never intended to give them those to begin with…


“I really don’t get it,” sighed a fence of stolen art at a dive bar, “this Blumberg guy pays me a grand to protect a dead drop of his, comes over to review the data he sent me, then within a few seconds he grows pale and deletes it all before taking off as if he’s seen a ghost. What’s up with that, did a dragon eat his mother or something?”

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