Alliance for antrim, p.6
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       Alliance for Antrim, p.6

           Thomas Lombard
 
PARTMENT

  It was a relief that he could read these words. Though their meaning was unclear, the language was familiar. At least he was in a place where he could potentially communicate. He saw no clues where this place actually was.

  The deep rectangular box fixed to the wall was three to four feet wide and about as deep, and the top was about eye height. It was made of a thin material he had never seen before, neither metal nor mortar and whitish in color. Whatever the material, the box was solid and strong but somewhat flexible as he pushed on the sides. He tapped the shiny center pipe over the basin, confirming that it was made of metal. The narrow black tube attached to the pipe was very flexible and the lower end of it coiled at the bottom. The purpose of this apparatus was difficult to fathom, but traces of liquid at the bottom suggested it was a basin of some kind. He grasped the star-shaped object on the right and pulled on it with no effect. Grasping the star to the left, he pulled up and pushed down, again with no results. Then, serendipitously, he rotated the left star and discovered that it had a pivot point allowing it to turn to the left. Slow turning made a slight creaking sound followed by a gush of clear liquid from the end of the black tube, making it writhe like a snake spurting in all directions at the bottom of the basin.

  Anson quickly turned the star back in the opposite direction and stopped the flow. He marveled at such an effortless way to produce water, or at least what appeared to be water. From his experience, people obtained water by dropping a pail into a well or cistern, but this device made water available fast and easy. He turned the left star again, picked up the flexible black tube to keep the flow aimed down and sprayed the fingers of his other hand. When the water quickly became scalding hot he jerked his hand away, quickly turning the star to stop the flow.

  Figuring that the star on the right would pivot similarly, he turned it and another spurt of water erupted. This time the water quickly cooled and seemed to get increasingly colder. Certain that the cold liquid was definitely water, he refreshed himself by alternately spraying his hands and face and sloppily lapping a drink from the end of the tube. The water had a definite off-taste that hinted at a familiar reagent, but the long drink was pleasant and the taste was not bothersome. As expected, turning the right star in the reverse direction stopped the flow of cold water.

  Anson had once visited King Lucan’s castle in Antrim where water flowed through a system of clay pipes for the bathing and toilet needs of the gentry. Perhaps this basin, or tub, was connected to that very water system and this room was in Lucan’s castle. Wherever this room was, it was marvelous to have such instant access to hot and cold water. Perhaps cooks used this basin for cooking purposes by spewing boiling water to prepare soup or stew, but that seemed unlikely after a sharp gurgling sound revealed that it was unsuitable for cooking. All the water had slowly drained away through holes punched in a shiny metal disc at the bottom. Looking under the basin to see where the water went, it apparently drained into an s-shaped sequence of metal tubes attached directly to the center disc. It struck Anson that this basin must be used personal ablutions.

  He remembered seeing private indoor latrines in King Lucan’s castle. Shaped more like a trough than this basin, they also had a similar draining system. Some were designed for sitting patrons and others for standing. All made use of a clay pipe of narrow diameter protruding through the wall and suspended over the apparatus. Water continuously dripped from a line of small holes in the pipe, falling directly into the trough to wash away the human effluent. It was the most amazing bit of plumbing Anson had ever seen, until now. The basin in front of him required the patron to activate the flow of water by turning one of the stars. Not only was this more convenient with hot or cold running water, a man could also rinse his hands. He then proceeded to use the basin for what he thought was its intended purpose.

  Flailing his dripping hands to dry them, his attention caught a white box on the wall to the left of the basin. This box was about a foot across, several inches high and deep. Protruding from the underside of the box was a leaf of tan-colored parchment. Anson rubbed the parchment between his thumb and forefinger, gave it a tug and a short length popped out of the box. To his amazement, there was still a protruding edge of a separate leaf at the underside of the box. He pulled out another piece, then another, each time staring incredulously at the box. Could this be magic reproducing a sheet of parchment without any incantation or other form of magery? He sensed none of the mental flux required for spellwork, so he ruled out magic. Was there a servant on the other side of wall standing ready to thread the box each time someone pulled out a sheet? This seemed plausible because this room might well be in Lucan’s castle and there were always servants ready to serve the needs of gentry. It would be amusing to see how fast he could pull out more sheets, challenging the servant to keep up with him in replenishing the box. He let that thought pass; it would be wrong to waste a book’s worth of parchment on such a jest. A mild throbbing pain reminded him of the superficial wound on his arm, so he wetted some tan sheets with hot water to wash the wound clean.

  The next thing to draw Anson’s attention was the wooden staff immersed in the metal vat. It might be a good idea to take this staff with him, he thought, since he was otherwise unarmed and did not know what dangers might lurk in this place. He fingered the staff and determined that it had a nice feel. There was no risk of splinters because the entire length of the staff was uniformly smooth, not just in the area where the user’s hands might rub it to smoothness. Grasping the staff with two hands, he felt the weight of something attached to the immersed end. Lifting it revealed hundreds of wet strings, each about a foot long, tied to the lower end. Gray liquid dripped from the strings, giving rise to that vaguely familiar odor he noticed before; it was reminiscent of pine trees. Considering the nearness of the water supply, it seemed likely that the gray liquid in the vat was dirty water tainted with some noxious reagent. However, the purpose of the strings was puzzling. Perhaps this type of staff is used on horseback. A rider could swing it around so that the heavy stringed end would dismount an opponent, but that seemed impractical with its relatively short length—unless he was transported to a land where the people and horses were much smaller. Whatever the use, this staff was not practical for a person on foot so he replaced it in the vat. It was time to leave this room and discover more about this place of deliverance.
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