When it comes to learning about the founder of Clan Wingnut, some things come easy and some come hard. All of the public information is, of course, available in the Clan Archives, but none of Abner's personal possessions are kept there. It turns out that they were spread out among the various families, and there wasn't much to go around at that. The Kettenrads have Abner's drafting compass and T-Square, but there wasn't anything special about them that Zahnrad could determine, other than their being old and probably coming from outside of Stonebarrow.
Abner's cabin is still around, but has been sealed off. Every year, a different family is in charge of upkeep on the outside, but everything that was inside is supposedly gone now; including all evidence of Abner's beheading. Of course, Zahn knows that that wasn't Abner's only cabin: before the formal creation of the Clan, the various families lived further from the river. Some of the old cabins are still standing, although seventy years of exposure to Sylvania's weather has left them in poor condition. Still, there might be a clue or two there about the one thing not mentioned in any of the official records: the location of Abner's secret workshop.
Armed with an old map and a trusty Lapi sidekick, Zahn heads out for…
The Ancient Tree
The ancient tree is a massive oak-like tree that now sits on the edges of the Wingnut territory. It is massive; its base easily thirty feet across, perhaps ore. Some of the roots that jut from the ground are taller than most Kadies. While ancient, the tree is still quite alive; its branches far above blotting out the sky. At the base there are several deep 'cracks' in the trunk, fading back into unknown darkness. Dotted all along its trunk as it reaches skyward are the sunken pits of former branches time-worn into knotholes.
"This is where Amy had me bring you the other night," Parsley notes. "It's a lot less scary during the day." The doe is doing her best to take Amelia's place today, since the Kadie herself had 'witch business' to attend to and left Parsley in charge of keeping Zahn out of trouble. And since the doe doesn't normally have any 'adventuring' clothes, she's borrowed some of Amelia's. This is why she's constantly having to set down her picnic basket to make adjustments to her shorts and tied-in-front shirt.
"You keep, ah, falling out of those," Zahnrad has to comment as he tries to not look at the occasionally exposed Lapi. The best distraction he has right now is the old map which he's studying rather intently. "And this place isn't that scary. It feels a bit like home, really. Well, except from the occasional chill that might be a ghost," he jokes.
"Ghost?" Parsley squeaks, and stands close behind Zahn. "Ummm, I don't want to meet a ghost! A vampire was scary enough."
There's a slight problem with the map. During the intervening decades, many of the original trees have fallen (or been cut down for building material) and new ones have grown as well.
"It would just be a Kadie ghost. Those aren't that scary!" Zahnrad claims as he turns his map upside down. "And where did that old loon hide his stuff? Why can't he have picked an obvious place?" Zahn pauses at that, the snorts, answering his own question, "Because that's too easy!"
"Living Kadies can be scary!" Parsley notes, looking around nervously. "I mean… look at Gunther. Can you imagine what he'd be like as a ghost?"
"Stalking you," Zahnrad notes absently, "But really, he's harmless."
"Didn't he make a really nasty crossbow though?" Parsley asks. "And… uh… where do Kadies normally hide things? Up in trees or underground or… maybe you make fake hills… "
"It varies, unfortunately. Some like to build underground caverns. My older brother likes things that were high up," Zahnrad admits, "The best way to guess is to know something about the Kadie. My guess is Abner would have probably gone underground; he did specialize in those sorts of construction projects. You do know that at least sixty percent of the dam is underground, right?
"Uh, that's more than half, right?" Parsley asks. "Isn't is actually underwater though?"
"Not all of it! There are structural supports and maintenance passages that go out a ways into the ground near the lake," Zahn explains. "Without them, the water pressure would just push it out of the way. Anyway, hmmm." Zahn tries to at least find the large tree on the map to try and guess direction and distance.
Aha! One of the more mature trees has what look like tumorous growths on its trunk but are more likely old anchors for stairs that have been grown over by the tree.
Zahn rolls up the map and tucks it in his shorts. "Well, it's as good a place to start as any," he decides as he heads towards the possible decaying stairway. "So, how long before the otter twins pull their joke on Gunther?" he asks Parsley, "They sure have been setting him up for a while."
"Oh, I wouldn't know," Parsley says. "They might tell Amelia, if they're going to tell anybody. I hadn't realized they were setting him up for something?" The Lapi eyes the tree trunk warily.
"Well, surely they don't actually like him? It's … Gunther," Zahnrad says as if that should explain everything. He reaches out and gives the possible old stairs a squeeze test.
"Well… he is sort of like an otter, I guess," Parsley notes. "And I like him," she points out. The bark over the old anchors is pretty thick, and not likely to break, but the anchors themselves only extend a few inches outward.
"You might want to wait here, unless you're good at climbing?" Zahn says as he starts climbing the remains to test them out.
"You're going to leave me all alone?" Parsley asks, clutching her hands together. "What do I do if you don't come back?" she asks.
"Why wouldn't I come back?" Zahn asks from where he hangs from the tree a few feet off the ground. "And don't you know how to get home from here?"
The Lapi looks around, and then looks up at the glow in the overcast that would be the sun. "Well, I know if I keep going in that direction," she says, pointing, "I'll run into the Rootrunner Road eventually. I think."
"Would you feel better if I keep talking so you can hear me?" Zahn asks as he shimmies up a little higher on the tree, trying to see if he can make out an old door.
"Yes, it would," Parsley says, and then goes about opening the picnic basket. She takes out the customary checkered blanket and finds a level spot to spread it out. "I'll have a treat waiting for you, so that you don't forget about me!"
"It better just be food!" Zahnrad says jokingly as he starts up the tree slowly so he can look around on the tree and the area. If there are old tunnels, the ground might have sunken some, after all. "And what is Amelia up to, today? It seemed so … secretive!"
"She said it was witch business," Parsley notes, "which means it's best not to ask. And what do you mean, just food?" She looks up at the climbing Kadie with her hands at her hips which just shows how far her shorts have sagged already. It's probably just the tail hole holding them up now, since they surely weren't that low-slung on Amelia.
"I'm trying to focus! I can't afford to be seduced," Zahn claims, then grins down to the Lapi.
"I'm not trying to seduce you," Parsley claims. Of course, by then the curve of the trunk puts her out of Zahn's immediate line of sight. He's high enough to make out the remains of a platform up above. There's no telling how sturdy it remains, though.
"Right, you're just trying to sleep with me!" Zahnrad calls from around the tree. "I see the old platform, going to check it out. If I fall and you here a disturbing splat, uh, don't come look."
"Don't fall!" Parsley urges. But no handholds come loose nor great sheets of bark tear away from the tree, so that Zahn makes it to the old platform safely. Half of the boards are gone, and some are warped by the growth of the tree while others are now embedded in the bark itself. This area appears to just be a landing though, with no cabins immediately visible on this side of the thick trunk.
"Why do things have to get old and grow big?" Zahnrad complains, "It changes all the tolerances. Very annoying." Never one to give up, he tries to scoot around the thick trunk.
There are some ominous creaking noises, but the remaining wood holds. After lasting seventy years, they're probably ironwood. Half way around the trunk, a giant branch arches out, with a few bits of wood clinging to it still to indicate a former stair or footpath.
"Nothing yet and the evil tree gnomes haven't tried to chew off my head!" Zahnrad calls down to Parsley below. "And before you worry, I'm kidding about the gnomes." Undaunted, he makes his way towards the branch and intends to try and crawl along it.
"What about the butt-pinching gnomes?" Parsley calls up from what sounds like a good distance (but she probably isn't having any trouble hearing Zahn, at least). The branch is as thick around as the trunk of a 'normal' sized tree might be, and a dark shape seems hidden the mass of foliage at the far end. The path that was once attached is long gone, though. It's either walking or crawling time.
Given how high up it is, Zahn decides the better part of valor is to crawl on all fours. Four grips are better than two! "I sent the butt-pinching gnomes down to you," he teases.
"What are you doing up there?" Parsley calls. "I can't see you any more, but I hear rubbing sounds."
"Rubbing? I'm crawling out along an old walkway," Zahnrad replies. "I'm not sure how that sounds like … rubbing."
"Oh, you're crawling," Parsley says. "Never mind!" Even though he's taking the safe route, Zahnrad is still a Kadie. It doesn't take long at all to traverse the branch and reach the step of an old cabin. The wood is practically petrified, and there are large gaps in the walls and door, but the faded crest he finds is still that of the Wingnuts.
"Old cabin ahoy! Prepare the boarding lines! They'll face the wrath of Zahnrad, the greatest air pirate ever!" Zahnrad declares. Hmmm … maybe he hit the cider early today. In any event, the Kadie tries to peer through one of the gaps.
The inside of the cabin is dappled with what light makes it through the foliage and the gaps. It doesn't make it clear what's inside though, besides shadows, and the contrast is too high for Zahn's night vision to tell him anything. The door is latched, and in a moment of deja-vu, Zahn recognizes the setup: there are buttons on the inside of the handle, for entering a combination. Just like on the underground apartments.
"Interesting," Zahnrad muses as he examines the door handle, "Now, who would have seen this other than Abner?" Instead of trying to work around the lock for know, he tries to see if he can reach through a gap and open the door from the inside.
The gaps aren't quite wide enough to fit his whole hand through, but one of the slats is loose enough to pry away, making a large enough gap. There is a simple latch on the opposite side from the feel of it, just like in the apartments.
"I will be forever known as the Kadie who opened a door!" Zahnrad declares and starts to lift the latch! He then stops dead, adding, "Or the dumb one who set off a trap… " He slides his hand out and starts checking the exterior and platform for signs of traps.
"How about the one with three girlfriends?" Parsley shouts up from the ground. From the outside, there don't appear to be any likely traps, especially since everything but the cabin itself has rotted away, including what might have been a wrap-around balcony or porch. Closer examination shows that the doorframe itself is warped, and he can even see that some of the inside hinges have bulged and deformed as well. Even without a lock or traps, the door won't be easy to open.
Zahnrad reaches back in and just flips the latch. "Things are about to get dangerous!" he calls down to Parsley. He looks for something to hang onto so he can swing his body weight against the warped door.
There is the skeleton of an overhang above the door, where the roof tiles are long gone. It looks as sturdy as the rest of the structure though.
Zahnrad takes ahold of the overhang tightly and tries to lift himself to test how sturdy it may still be.
They hold the Kadie's weight for now. He can feel them starting to give, however, so there's no telling how long they could hold out.
Zahnrad takes the moment to swing on the overhang and kick the old door as hard as he can.
The door opens with a screech of scraping wood and the pop of some of the hinges snapping. There's also a clatter of noise as the door sweeps debris through a hole in the floor. A moment later, Parsley yells up from the ground, "You almost hit me!"
"Are you following me around down there?" Zahnrad calls out, "I did say it was about to get dangerous!" He lets go of the overhang and now peers through the opened doorway. "Anything interesting fall down?"
"Bits of bark and old wood," Parsley calls back.
"Boring," Zahnrad declares as he scoots a bit further in the cabin. "Let me see if there's anything in here… "
The floor of the cabin is largely intact, save for a hole where a shoot from the support branch decided to grow up through it. The windows are shuttered, so the only light is coming through the gaps worn between the lumber. The cabin itself is small, probably smaller than Zahn's own. It's rectangular, with a storage chest built into one wall that probably doubled as a bed, and the remains of a worktable likewise fixed to one wall. It looks like anything that wasn't part of the architecture was removed.
"I wonder if there is anything under the table, like a slide drawer. Less obvious than the trunk," Zahnrad notes as he goes to look under the worktable.
The table is oddly thick, and underneath there is a square outline, made all the more obvious by the wearing of the edges of the wood from neglect. It probably wouldn't have been noticeable at all when it was first made.
"I so smart!" Zahnrad says smugly as he uses his claws to try and pick/pull the outline open. "I just hope this is Abner's place and not say, a girl's room and this is where she kept her diary… "
The panel rises up when pushed (although the table itself is only about an inch thick, and then slides out. Something falls out of the opening, falling just past Zahn's cheek and sticking into the floor.
"Ooo, that could have been bad. I don't want to explain why I lost an eye or suddenly sported a horn… " Zahnrad says with a nervous laugh. His head tilts to the side to get a look at the object.
It's a chisel. A shiny, silver-metallic one, with some sort of lacquered handle. The fall of a few feet was still enough to embed the tip a quarter inch into the petrified wood of the floor. It's likely very, very sharp.
"Hey, I think this is that neat metal," Zahn says as he tries to work it free to check it.
It comes free after a bit of twisting. And it certainly must be the same 'metallic glass' alloy that was used by whoever made the underground apartments. The handle, however, looks more homemade, although high-quality.
"Nice," Zahnrad says after more inspections. He looks up into the cavity he opened next and even feels around it it more for anything else hidden. "Looks like ol' Abby got curious in the underground too."
There's something thin, which almost gets brushed away by Zahn's fingers. It takes a bit of careful pressing and sliding to work it out to the edge. Once he gets a look at it though, Zahn recognizes it instantly: it's a key-card for the underground workshops.
"Hey! No fair! How many of these are there? That place is mine," Zahnrad complains as he tucks that away. "Mine, mine, mine! Or maybe there's another! And maybe that is where his place is now!"
The key-card looks just like the one Zahn has… at first glance, anyway. He'll need to actually compare them side to side to be sure. There's also something odd about the handle of the chisel.
Zahnrad scoots out from under the desk so he can get a better look at the handle of the chisel. "Now a real Wingnut has multipurpose tools," he mutters, "Like making the handle even useful as a key, a prybar, or whatnot. So … what are you, hmm?"
Turning the tool in one of the beams of light reveals something. The lacquer is somewhat translucent, and had been applied in layers. There were darker spots within the reddish lacquer, dismissible as impurities at a casual glance until the handle is held at just the right angle in the light.
Then, the dark spots overlap to form a diagram of some sort…
"Ooo, interesting," Zahnrad says, eyes widening. He holds the handle up to the light using one hand and the old map he brought in the other. "Now … let's see if this is a miniature map. And if not, well … there is still much to explore in here. Mwahaha! I'll find your old lair, and your little … wait, what am I saying?"
"Is that cackling I hear?" calls a Lapi voice from the ground far below. Parsley either has really really good hearing, or just isn't listening to anything other than the sounds from the old cabin.
"A little! Nothing to worry about. Perfectly normal," Zahnrad calls back as he carefully wraps the chisel and tucks it into a pouch. Then after popping his knuckles, he goes to raid the old trunk.
The hinges on the lid of the trunk-bunk are as bad as those of the door were, but at least there doesn't seem to be any latch or lock this time. It takes a bit of strain for Zahn to finally overcome decades of warping. When the dappled light falls into the open trunk, though, he has a momentary flashback to the underground workshops, where the storage bins were full of… bodies. White orbs look up at him from a wrinkly gray face…
"Wah!" goes Zahn as he falls backwards and scrabbles with his claws as he back pedals. After several deep breaths to calm his head, he scoots slowly back to the trunk and peers in…
The face is immobile, and even a bit… crumpled. The rest of the troll's body is likewise deflated. And then something switches in Zahn's head probably from having a brother who is constantly building weird disguises and the Kadie realizes he isn't looking at a body at all.
It's a costume.
"I heard that!" Parsley yells. "What's happened? Are you okay? Should I go get help?"
"Oh for goodness sake! Abner built a troll costume!" Zahn says, laughing hysterically. And boy does he wheeze for the next few minutes. "Wow, I bet Gunther would love this!" he says as he finally spends some time examining it.
It's very good. The canvas hide lays loose just like a real Troll's skin does, and the face is made to fit a Kadie's head. It would be bigger than the usual troll, but not quite as big as one of the really big red-eyed and metal-clawed ones.
"I bet I could use this to sneak in too. Hmmmmmm," Zahnrad says with a disturbing glint in his eyes. Amelia would not be happy right now.
"Are you sure you're okay up there?" Parsley calls up. "You sounded out of breath for a moment! You aren't up to anything naughty are you?"
"I'm fine, I'm fine! Just finding stuff I can use in the future!" Zahnrad claims as he lifts the costume out to take with him. The side benefit is, he can see what's under it.
Underneath the faux-troll is a layer of… well… junk. Broken eyeglasses, worn out tools, underwear full of holes, and a wood-etching of a nude Kadie girl in a rather provocative pose.
"Hey, that almost look likes Amelia," Zahn claims upon spotting the etching, "It's even holding her tail up the way Amelia did when … er." He puts that back down and turns his attention to the tools to see if any are salvageable.
Abner may have thought the tools could be salvaged, or at least that the handles might be. But that was seven decades in the past, and the bone, chitin and wood pieces are likely beyond salvaging now. There's even something that might be the guts of a hand-cranked pencil sharpener with grooved stone cutters.
"I bet I can still fix this stuff," Zahnrad insists as he ends up taking some of the bits anyway. Few Kadies can pass up the chance for more goodies, unfortunately. He even briefly ponders uses for underwear with holes … but even those seem to be out of the realm of Kadie usability now.
There doesn't seem to be anything left in the cabin. The gaps in the planks are wide enough to show that there aren't any secret cubbyholes in the walls or under the trunk. The only things that haven't been opened yet are the window shutters.
So, of course, Zahn just has to try to open them.
CRACK The hinges give out on the first shutter right away, and it snaps right off in Zahn's hand. The window frame is bare, as it looks like Abner salvaged the glass from it before abandoning the cabin. It does have a rather nice view of the reservoir though.
Zahnrad takes a moment to peer through the window and look for any patterns on the ground leading towards the reservoir for evidence of old tunnels.
The ground is… well, hopelessly overgrown. The remains of an old rail line can be seen, which was probably used to haul material to the dam site once upon a time. There are splashes in the distance, seen as bursts of glittery light. Probably from otters.
"We need to invent otter repellent," Zahnrad grumbles as he spots the flashes. Seemingly done here, he gathers up the goodies he can (including the costume), and heads out of the cabin. "I'm heading back down," he calls out.
"Okay!" Parsley calls back up.
Just as he's about to leave, Zahn spots something out of the ordinary on one of the cabin's short walls: a knot in the wood that doesn't look as aged as the rest of the wall.
"Heeelllo, what's this?" Zahnrad says, stopping mid-step. He heads over to the knot and inspects it a bit closer.
It's made to look like a natural knot, but it's clearly made of ceramic or else just fired clay.
Using his claws, Zahn tries to pick it out of the board. His expression while doing so, well … involves squinting and biting his tongue.
The plug pops out, revealing a hole going straight through the wood.
Zahnrad peers through the hole. (And pockets the piece of ceramic)
The spy-hole shows another cabin on a neighboring branch or at least the skeleton of one. The support frame is still intact, but the walls are gone. A large square window once faced the hole, and enough of the detailed fretwork on the frame survived to show a somewhat flowery, frilly pattern around the edges.
"A ladies cabin, perhaps? Abner, did you spy on a girl?" Zahnrad has to ask, grinning. "I'll be a bit longer. I think I found something interesting!" he calls out, then looks for a way over to the other cabin.
"It better not be something too big to haul down the tree!" Parsley warns.
"Nah!" Zahnrad claims as he now heads out of cabin to find a way across.
The central walkway has collapsed in places, but not so much that Zahn can't leap across the gaps. The next branch over isn't quite as thick as Abner's, but the footpath across it is in better shape. There are lots of smaller branches and leaves to work past, though, before Zahn finally reaches the skeleton of the cabin seen through the peephole. Apparently, the roof and floor were removed along with the walls, leaving just the framework and some of the carved trim.
"Wow, someone just moved the entire cabin," Zahnrad says as he searches for any evidence of who may have owned the old cabin. Even something as simple as a name etched on the frame, for example. He even sets down the troll costume in order to explore.
Something in the doorframe stands out, and must have been added after the cabin was disassembled. It's a valentine heart, carved with something very sharp, with the initials 'A W' over a plus sign, with 'C K' beneath it.
"Aww, he did have a sweetheart! Abner Wingnut and C … KETTENRAD?!" Zahnrad says, mouth dropping agape at the sudden realization. "Holy Gorpenoodle! Who is C Kettenrad?!"
Given that the Kettenrads were one of the families involved with the original clan formation, the 'K' likely does indicate that Abner… was peeping in on one of Zahnrad's ancestors. It certainly puts that etching in a new light…
"I hope I wasn't looking at an etching of my grandmother or something," Zahnrad admits as he rubs his neck, "Now I have to check family tree records for Kettenrad women that had C names."
"Anyway, heading down now, really!" Zahnrad calls out and this time really looks for a way down.
The way down appears to be the same as the way up: using the old stair anchors and hand and foot holds. It's a little trickier, given that Zahn has to carry a bunch of loot down with him, and it demands more concentration on the path. He almost doesn't realize when he's reached the ground.
"Whew, well, that was an unexpected discovery!" Zahn declares when he does finally hit the ground. "Ol' Abby had the hots for a Kettenrad."
"What was that?" Parsley calls from around the other side of the thick tree trunk.
Zahnrad heads around the trunk with his arms full of the looted stuff. "Abner. He was in love with someone in my family line," he explains. "Now I have to find out who."
It's probably just a coincidence that Parsley is lounging on the picnic blanket in the exact same pose as the Kadie in the wood etching or as close as can be, given the lack of the big floofy tail. Parsley seems to make up for the lack by doing suggestive things with a carrot, since there really isn't any other reason for her to be licking one, surely! Her clothes are stacked near the basket, where some bread and wine and cheese are set out. "Really?" the does asks, perking her ears.
Zahnrad blinks several times, looking very much like a poor yiffle caught in a trap. "Er, uh, heh, uh," he babbles and clutches the canvas to his chest. "Did you get hot?" he asks the naked doe lamely.
"Mmmm, a little," Parsley says, resting her carrot between her breasts. "And bored. I mean, it's been hours, Zahn… "
"Hours? I've only been up in the tree for about forty minutes," Zahnrad explains obliviously. "I'm pretty sure, anyway. I'm not that bad at keeping track of time."
"Hours since we spent any special time together," the doe corrects, with a slight pout and somehow making her eyes look bigger. "Don't you want to celebrate your discoveries?"
It takes a moment for that to register with Zahnrad. "Oh, you mean since we … er, is it normal for Lapis do do it that often?" he asks nervously.
"Well… I'm sure you're up to it," Parsley asserts. "And we're all alone out here… "
Zahn actually sets down the stuff he found and heads over to Parsley, then sits down by her on the blanket. "So, uhm, were you meaning something by how you were holding that carrot? It make me think of something you once whispered to me," he admits and somehow can't bring himself to look at her.
"Oh, yeah, you'll like it!" the bunny claims, and starts reaching for Zahn's trousers. "It'll help work up an appetite, and clear your head, and your sinuses, and I hear it helps with hernias too… "
Zahnrad actually takes Parsley's hands, stopping her for a moment. His tail flicks around nervously as he seems torn between conflicting wants. "So, uhm will you help me do more searching afterward?" he asks.
"Will it mean climbing trees?" Parsley asks as she looks up at Zahn's face.
"Not this time, I don't think. I need to look over something I found first, but I'm pretty sure it won't," Zahnrad answers.
"Oh, good, then I can come with you!" Parsley says. "You can show me what you found too."
"Okay, uhm, well, after a few things," Zahnrad says with a sheepish grin and guides Parsley's hands the rest of the way to their destination. "Can I make a small request?"
"Mmm?" the doe asks, looking up. "Sure, Zahn! Anything you want!" Her little heart-shaped tail wags back and forth happily.
Zahnrad looks really flustered and embarrassed for about a minute. "Well … if you're going to do what I think you're going to do … I want to try doing the same on you. Well, not the same, same, since we're not the same! But the same idea! You explained it was possible once and how and… I'm babbling again, aren't I?" he babbles.
"Oh sure!" Parsley says cheerfully. "That's why I brought the red wine. It goes better with rabbit!" she says with a giggle!
Zahnrad just stares at Parsley … then can't help but start laughing. When he finally calms down, he runs his hands through his hair, saying, "And well, please forgive me if I'm bad; I've never done this before. I guess that means we'll just have to practice till I get it right!"
The sun managed to break through the overcast while Zahn and Parsley explored one another. The shadow of the Ancient Tree was thus sharp and dark, and beginning to encroach on the blanket. Zahn hardly seemed to have the energy left to move, but Parsley seems more energetic than ever. "You'll get a chill if we don't move soon," she noted, gesturing to the shadow.
"I feel like pudding," Zahnrad complains as he slowly sits upright and blinks a few times. "But right, need to get moving and find the workshop," he notes as he fumbles for the bundled up chisel. Once he has it, he pulls it out and inspects the handle again, using the rare sunlight to get a better look. "There's the big tree, and the hole is probably the door to the cabin, so if we orient… "
"What are you looking at?" Parsley asks as she finishes packing things into the basket, and is about to put her clothes back on.
Zahnrad shows Parsley the handle to the chisel. "This. See the pattern? That's the tree, and that shows going underground. The one in the middle I'm not as sure about, unless it's the combination."
The doe tilts her head this way and that, until she can see the pattern. "Oh hey, that's neat! It's only there if you look just right!" she says. "Did Amy make this? It's like the treasure maps she made when we were little."
"Nah, Abner Wingnut did," Zahnrad explains. "I think it's the location to his workshop. The middle one stumps me. Anyway, Let's see if I can orient the first one and walk towards that … circle thing."
"Oh, I know what that's for," Parsley claims, nodding her head. "It's old nut-sign. Amy learned it from Isolde, and we used it to hide stuff."
"Really? What does it mean, then?" Zahn asks.
"Umm," the Lapi says, and gnaws on a stick while she thinks. "Okay, the first one is the starting point. I guess this big tree, because it's got a hole in it and the tree trunk has windows. And marks are… uh… hours. So… I think the first one means 8:30 in the morning, so the shadow would be… " She pauses, seems to get her bearings, and then points off to the west, not quite towards the new Wingnut compound.
"Okay, so west from here. Is the second one distance to go, then?" Zahn asks as he thinks. "Six, something? What's the unit of measure?"
The doe starts tapping the side of her head with her knuckles. "Right, distance… uh… circles. Circles are tree-trunks. Kadie tree trunks, I mean. So… six trunk widths times… uh… the number of sections in the circle, I think?"
"So, six times twelve? Six times thirty-six? Six times forty? Probably Six times forty. So … two hundred forty tree widths?" Zahnrad suggests, "That's … quite a distance!"
"Thirty-nine!" Parsley says. "There's a little line making three more sections… unless it's a defect. But yeah, it's a lot of paces. And… the dead tree and boulders are on this side of the river."
"Okay, well, we had best get walking! And I thought I was tired now," Zahnrad says as he starts dressing.
"Okay!" Parsley says, and finishes trying to fit into her borrowed clothes. "Amy sure has hips," the Lapi notes.
"That's not all she has," Zahnrad mutters, "Be thankful she removed all her weapons from those clothes… " So, the Kadie gathers up his stuff and starts on the very long walk. "Why can't anyone build their secret places close to home! Well, except for me. My stuff is important."
"Well, we are heading back towards the dam," Parsley notes, and chews on her lip in thought. "You know, there's something I feel like I'm forgetting."
Zahnrad stops. "What's that? Picnic basket?" he asks.
The doe pats the basket in her arm. "No, nothing like that! Just… I'll remember it when I need to!" she says. "Let's go. Don't want to lose count of our steps!"
"Why does this suddenly worry me? Anytime someone says that disaster looms!" Zahnrad frets. Still, he resumes walking.
"We're just taking a walk," Parsley says. "What could go wrong?"
"Do you really want a list?" Zahnrad has to ask.
About a hundred paces short of their goal, Parsley says, "Oh, now I remember what it was!" The water of the reservoir laps at her and Zahn's toes, as the doe notes, "The lake wasn't here seventy years ago!"
Zahnrad arghs and covers his face. "It's under water! Now I need a diving suit. That means … talking to Gunther," he laments as he looks at the lake, ears and tail drooping. "Then I'll owe him a favor. Do you know how horrible that is?"