Chapter 11.2

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Nick leaned back in his chair, propped his boots on the desk, and interlocked his fingers across his middle. 

"I know you said to tell nobody else," Ward said, "but she -"

"- caught you," Carmen said.

Nick smiled. "If I can't trust Franklin Blanket's niece who can I trust? But before you show me what you've brought, I have something to show you."

He withdrew his feet from the desk, opened a drawer, carefully removed something, and lay it on the desktop. It was about the size of a newspaper, coated with an opaque lacquer that had yellowed and brittled with age. Although the ink had faded it was clearly the map of a city.

"Yes, Bareheep," Nick said in answer to Ward's questioning look. "It's in the Old Language, so probably pre-Plague. This film," he ran a finger lightly over the surface, "seems to have preserved it. It's been locked away for centuries."

"Where did you get it?" Carmen said.

"I can't tell you."

"I can't read none of this," Mildew said. "How do you know it's Bareheep?"

"That has to be the Yar," Nick said, pointing to a winding river. "And see the grid layout of the streets? It's hardly changed." He looked up at the huge modern map on the wall of his office. "See? But look at the size of this city – it makes Bareheep look like a village."

"Did you find the university?" Ward said.

"No. I can't read this map. Perhaps there are a couple of Hattoist scholars who -"

"I can try," Ward said.

They all stared at him.

"What are you talking about?" Carmen said.

He didn't answer. Instead, he leaned over the map until his nose was almost touching the surface. The others moved out of his way.

"Where did you learn this?" Mildew said.

"Hey, I know this word here," Ward said, ignoring her. The word was station. He translated it into its closest equivalent, which meant resting place. "And here. River. Of course." The map was thick with words. He wished he had his catalogue with him – he would probably have been able to decipher the whole thing.

"This's where the Wall is now," Mildew said, pointing at a long straight line. "But it looks like a road. What's it say?"

"Something Parade," Ward translated. "I can't pronounce it. And look, there's a cemetery. It says right here: cemetery. And -"

He drew in a sharp breath.

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There once was a man from Nebraska,

Who forgot to vote on a chapter,

He died a horrible, horrible death.

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