Chapter 9 : Cartography
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Rose watched Edward’s fingers trace the worn brown parchment, showing the recently appeared dotted line which was meant to be the answer to their quest, the path to Acanthus. She tried to hide her confusion over the origins of the map. After all, no skilled cartographer could have drawn it. It was made by a coarse hand, the drawings on it appearing to be primitive. Words had to suffice in the cases where the penmanship being too illegible.
Even so, nothing could deter Edward’s excitement about showing this to Rose. “It was a hard battle to get this, you know. A local family, I can’t remember the name, nothing too worthy, were attempting to bid higher for it than me. Luckily good old David and Charlotte helped fund this part of the mission.”
Edward gave the two of them a little grin and they returned it. Rose could sense those three were the ones which had a true affiliation to the cause, a true want to find Acanthus. Anthony and George’s purpose here still confused her. Did they want fame? Fun? Fortune? All the possibilities flowed through Rose’s mind, but neither seemed to match the puzzle. She was as clueless about herself being here as she was to those two though. Perhaps they somehow managed to stumble upon and decided to stay like she and Lorcan.
“You mentioned a local family,” Lorcan started. “What exactly did you mean by that?”
David let out a chuckle and answered for Edward. “Lorcan, you should know that Edward can get carried away by a sense of adventure at times. It is nothing. Just a little trouble to make the story more exciting, not that it needs it with your arrival.”
When he mentioned the last part, Rose could sense his eyes rest upon her. She didn’t know why. There was nothing remarkable about her when compared to Lorcan. He was a photographer whose equipment intrigued the others; he was naturally questioner who always had to have an answer readily supplied by others; he was more than she could ever be.
Rose gave David a faint smile back and that seemed to satisfy him. She watched as he quickly responded to Edward’s jibe and a pretend argument broke out between the two. Rose used that time to practice her second nature as a reporter, observation.
If they ever got there that was. The rumours and stories Rashidi had told them about people dying on the way ran around her head. She dared not to think about what could be lurking there to cause all those people to never reappear. All she could do was hope the myth was a modern invention.
She still wasn’t sure how the boulder and a simple spell revealed the route. Edward said something about ancient magic causing it to work, which seemed probable to Rose, but almost too convenient too. That something would appear to cause a new trouble as they had quelled the one about how to get there. But magic had a habit of taking away any difficulties Muggles seemed to face.
Her mind just couldn’t seem to rid herself of the rumours Rashidi has told her. Then what happened to her and Lorcan. This rival local family suddenly popping up. This mystery map which no one seemed to have heard of in present time. It was too much of a coincidence, too planned, too meant to be.
“I’m heading out for a light stroll,” a voice piped up in her ear. “It’s ever so stuffy in here and I cannot hear myself think with the rowdiness of those three, do you want to come?”
Rose looked up and saw Charlotte pointing at Edward, David and the recently joined Anthony who had formed a raucous cluster.
“I would love to.”
Pushing her chair back, she grabbed the light shawl off of the back of her chair having learnt the coldness of the night could penetrate quickly into her bones and followed Charlotte’s steps out of the tent.
“There, that’s much better now,” Charlotte said primly as they stepped into the cool night air.
“Yes, it is,” Rose affirmed. “Look at the sky! It’s so clear, you can see everything.”
Charlotte gave Rose a puzzled look. “It’s been like that most nights. That is why it’s cold. The clouds never appear her allow us to burn in the day and then freeze from the lack of insulation at night. Haven’t you been out at night in the desert before, dear?”
Rose knew she had, but letting on the exact reason why she avoided the sky wasn’t something she wanted to do. Rose gave a muted response before strolling on a little way ahead. She needed to clear her head. She didn’t want to talk about going stargazing with Scorpius; it would only hurt too much. Any thought or mention of him hurt too much. The constant reminder that she would never see him again seemed to be too much to deal with.
“Is everything alright, Rose?” Charlotte asked tenderly. “You’ve just seemed to be rather quiet these past few days, and I would hate to think of you suffering. You know you can tell me anything.”
Rose let out a little sigh and turned away from Charlotte. She couldn’t tell her. She couldn’t tell her anything, really. If she let one word slip about what caused her many troubles the explanation would be far too complicated. There was nowhere to hide here though. The endless blue sky melded with the dark brown of the sand, allowing Rose to be in sight no matter how far she strayed.
“I didn’t mean to intrude, Rose,” she could hear Charlotte say a little behind her. “I just wanted to see if I could help in any way. I’m ever so sorry, Rose.”
Rose finally turned to her friend and saw that her face was a downcast one for once. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t expected her to care, it was just odd to realise that Charlotte had formed such a strong attachment in such a short space of time. Rose supposed that telling her a little couldn’t hurt.
“No, it’s my fault, don’t worry. I’m missing home, that’s all. I never anticipated it too be so horrible, so strange. I’ve never been that close to my family as you and David are, so missing this so much is simply unexpected. Then there’s Scorpius.”
Charlotte gave Rose a knowing look. “Is he your beau Rose?”
Rose could feel blood seep to her cheeks and could only be glad it was so dark. “Yes, I suppose you can say he is. I feel as if I’m never going to see him again, but there’s so much I need to tell him.”
“But, we should find Acanthus in a couple of days or so. All we need to do there is document it, and inform the press and we’ll be back to England before you know it.”
Rose couldn’t help but laugh. If only Charlotte knew half it. “It doesn’t seem so bad putting it like that.”
“Good, I’m glad you’ve cheered a little.” Charlotte wrapped her shawl round her a little tighter and shivered. “Shall we head back? It’s jolly well freezing out here, and a mug of cocoa will put all of your problems to rest.”
“Yes, it will. Thanks Charlotte.”
They set off at dawn, determined to make headway in their search for Acanthus. Despite it being three weeks since they found her and her injuries had recovered dramatically since then, David was still determined to surrender his camel for Rose. He had quietly mumbled to her that it was the only decent thing he could do and ignored any of the cries of complaint from Rose. As he couldn’t be swayed, Rose found herself upon the camel, firmly glaring at the back of David’s head.
Rose stared at Edward who was a few yards ahead of her and couldn’t help but let out a laugh at how ridiculous he looked. Now freely showing his wand, it was placed at a jaunty angle behind his ear, the map pinned right at his face and he intermittently let out loud grunts which were usually followed by him rubbing at his head furiously.
“Edward, dear, you do know where you’re taking us, don’t you?” Charlotte asked, relieving the others of that duty. She gave Rose a small wink before pulling her camel over to him.
Rose turned to see that even Anthony had cracked a small smile. She pondered whether he would ever get over his animosity for her. Glancing at him quickly, she saw the smile quickly fade when he noticed her. He let out a little moan before turning to David and striking up conversation. How odd, she mused.
“Charlotte, I’ve led you this far, so you shouldn’t question my judgment,” Edward replied, sounding a little annoyed. “I’m only despairing because we appear to be far too close to it already. My calculations suggested we would arrive there in two days’ time at the earliest, not now.”
Lorcan let out a small laugh before sliding off his camel, handing the reigns to the nearby George and strolling over to Edward. “Let me have a look, Edward. I did a small course in map reading so I can check whether your calculations are correct or not.”
Edward let out another moan before begrudgingly handing Lorcan the map. He stomped off to Lorcan’s camel before beginning to stroke it.
“It’s always funny seeing Edward like this,” David whispered to Rose. “He’s usually so easy going, but when anything’s related to the map he ends up acting like a toddler.”
“Well, it certainly does make a change,” Rose chuckled and David gave her a small smile. “If you don’t mind me asking, is there a particular reason why Edward so fixed on finding this. I mean, it’s wonderful that he’s so dedicated but this does seem to be more dedication than usual.”
David let out a small laugh. “I never expected less from you, Rose; you’re always after the real reason of things.” Lowering his voice, David continued, “It’s to do with brother. He did well during the war and earned lots of medals for bravery as he managed to save his battalion from an attack from the Germans. When Matthew died it was a shock to everyone so Edward thinks he can lessen the shock by doing this. That it will prove something for them.”
“Ah, I see,” Rose replied. “I know this is a silly question to ask, but did lots of magical people take part in the war then. Lorcan didn’t so I don’t really know much about it.”
David mused for a moment before replying. “Not that many. Edward’s a Muggleborn, that’s why he and his brother took part. The same reason for Anthony too, that’s how those two really became friends. As for me, I’m still not sure why I did it. War is one of the lowest forms of humanity with that destruction we cause. At first I thought I was fighting for something better, achieving peace and calm across Europe.”
David paused, staring out across the desert. Rose took the opportunity to glance at the others to see that Charlotte was shooting her weird looks. As David let out a little cough to announce him beginning to speak, Rose ignored her ready to listen.
“Then I began to wonder what we fighting for. Killing like this because the heir to some country I had never been to had ended up dead didn’t seem right to me. They wouldn’t do that for me, so why him? Then the thought of killing to combat one killing just repulsed me, and I ended up deserting. I ran away to Switzerland and hid out there until the war had ended. Then Edward came along with his proposition, and I agreed. There wasn’t much else for me being a deserter and all. Even if it was a Muggle war, the magical community still look down on me. You probably do too.”
Even though Rose couldn’t relate to it as well as if she had actually come from the twenties, she would have liked to think that she would still accept David. She placed her arm on his shoulder and was about to mutter something about it not mattering to her, and that finding Acanthus would change everything before Lorcan let out a little yelp.
Without even waiting for anyone else to respond, Lorcan stuffed the map in his pocket and ran off.
“So Scorpius have you finally put the clues together? Have you solved my little puzzle?” the man asked. “Are you going to tell me how you can save dear Rose?”
Scorpius kicked at the ground in anger, causing motes of dust to rise up from it and create a small grey screen in between him and the man. He couldn’t stand being goaded any longer. Even if it didn’t exactly go along with the plan the others had made, he was going to make a stand.
“No, I haven’t. I am fed up with you, with your game, with these stupid clues which lead nowhere. Tell me your name. Tell me why you want me. Tell me what I did.”
Scorpius raised his eyes and glared at the man who simply let out a little laugh. “Now, now, Scorpius. I have told you many a time and I sincerely wish this will be the last. Do not raise yourself above your natural placement, meaning do not pretend to be brave. It will only serve you badly. As for your questions, I suppose you have been rather patient so I can reveal some.”
The man strolled away from Scorpius and stood beside, Dalila, his eyes were still laughing. “If you had been like Dalila, I would have opened up a lot sooner.” The man rested his arm on her shoulder and Scorpius could make out her shivering. “You see, giving away one of those answers will spoil the game for me, make it end sooner. Only by a few hours or so would it end earlier, but all those things matter a lot to me…”
The man paused for effect, but the silence was soon ruined by Rashidi emitting a loud rasping noise. Scorpius turned to face him and wasn’t entirely sure whether this was the plan being moved forward or whether Rashidi was actually ill. Rashidi raised his hands to his mouth and, in the dimness of the light Scorpius could make out droplets being fired out.
They sat there in silence, listening as wails and moans of pain began to intermingle with the coughs, wondering when this endurance would end. Scorpius hadn’t dared look at Dalila, too scared that her own fear and worry would set him off. He needed to remain calm; he needed to remain in control.
Suddenly, Rashidi fell forward, tipping the chair over with him. The man leapt over to him, fuming.
“Why can you not behave as you are supposed? What is so hard about remaining seated in your chair? This is why the plan has to work.” Marching over to Rashidi, the man whipped out his wand and begun muttering spells.
As Scorpius was the nearest one to Rashidi he managed to half-jump in his chair over to him. He had almost thought that he had made it over without the man noticing, but his initial surprise soon disappeared.
“Fancied a change of scene, Scorpius?” he asked. “I will oblige you that privilege, but as you can see that this room is rather monotonous in its decoration and won’t differ too much from another vantage point. If I am wrong in my assumption and you wish for something else, which I dearly hope for you sake that I am not, then punishment will be severe. I will not tolerate unruliness.”
“You are, naturally, not wrong in your assumption.” Scorpius glanced over at Dalila who gave him an encouraging nod. “I just wanted to see how Rashidi was, whether the coughing was anything serious or not.”
“How charming.” The man drew out the –ing of the word, leaving it to reverberate around Scorpius’ head.
The man slowly turned around, his wand dangling precariously in his hand. Scorpius knew he had to act. Without waiting for any indicator from Dalila, his arms surged forward grabbing holding of the man’s own arm. In that second that it took for him to realise he was being pulled to the ground, Dalila realised what was happening and grabbed hold of his other arm.
His body soon crumpled to the floor, letting out a painful cracking sound as it did. Scorpius watched the man reach for his head and wince when he came into contact with it. Knowing that he would have a few seconds to do what he had to, he gave Dalila a quick nod before shuffling his chair an inch closer to the man.
With one swift grab of the hand, the man’s wand was in his hand. Scorpius took a few seconds to listen to him mumbling, “Too soon, too soon. It happened too soon,” before brushing his comments aside and raising the wand against his master.
“Stupefy,” Scorpius yelled and with a flash of red there was silence.
Author's Note: Hello dearies! Sorry for the massive wait for this chapter NaNo has sort of taken over my life this past month! That was an action packed chapter so I hope it made up for the wait! If you're wondering why Scorpius could do that, remember his hands were left untied by the man and I will leave you to ponder why that was ;) I hoped you liked the last scene though and it wasn't too fast paced for you, so if you have any thoughts on that I would appreciate them greatly!
I would love it if you were awesome and left a review because this story has been feeling a little lonely recently. Thanks for reading though, you readers mean the world to me! ♥
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