Charlie Boone

by Geron Kees

Here Be Dragons, Charlie Boone! - Chapter 3

Robin smiled. "Well, now that we have the pizza guy's take on all this, I feel a lot better!"

Charlie laughed at that. "It could have been anyone, Robin. Anyone a part of the local Lenape culture, anyway. What I got from this event is that the stories about Oshtàpày and our old house are fairly common knowledge here, at least among the Native American population."

"Perhaps more research is needed?" Horace suggested. "The local public library might help."

"Maybe," Charlie agreed. "But I'm wondering if there isn't a local Lenape historian we might consult, too."

Ricky grinned. "You mean, like a shaman?"

"It doesn't have to be that," Charlie countered. "In fact, I don't believe that's even a Native American term."

"It's not," Robin agreed. "Shaman comes from the Tungus peoples of Eastern Siberia."

Charlie nodded. "There you go. We just need someone with a more in-depth knowledge of Lenape beliefs and history."

"One thing was interesting," Kippy pointed out, as he took a bite of his pizza. "The pizza guy said that the legend of this Oshtàpày goes back a century and a half, which is just how old this house is, too."

"I didn't miss that," Charlie said. "That goes along with the belief that the spirit is a visitor. It apparently came here when the house was built."

Amy gently cleared her throat. "Then it seems to me we need to look more at Herbert Tasker, and what he was doing prior to building this place."

Charlie watched her a moment, munching on his pizza, before nodding. "I agree." He smiled. "I'm happy you decided to come along."

The woman smiled in return. "So am I. This isn't at all what I thought your investigations were like. I sort of imagined all sorts of strange things happening, and, well, some danger. But this has been fun, so far."

Ricky laughed. "There's still time for the horror to start!"

"Stop it, Rick," Adrian said, but unable not to smile.

"There have been those things, on previous quests," Horace pointed out. "We have faced danger before. And, we have been scared."

"I'll say," Adrian agreed. He smiled at Amy. "That's a part of all life, though."

She gave a little nod. "I'll agree with that. I just meant this has not been as, um, unusual as I supposed it would be."

Ricky held up a hand. "As I said, there's still time."

"It's been fun for me!" Browbeat offered. "There's nothing like this in the lower layer."

"And that surprises me," Adrian replied. "Maybe you just haven't found it yet. I know there are people there. Humans, I mean. They have to have created some human realities."

"I've only visited a small percentage of what's there," the little flyer agreed. "I really didn't see a lot of your kind until I met you." He tittered. "My new friends!"

That brought a round of smiles from everyone, and Charlie leaned closer to the little alien. "What's your take on all this?" He waved at the room, meaning the entire house. "This place?"

"What do I think?" Browbeat's small face scrunched up in thought for a moment. "There's something here. It doesn't want to be revealed yet. It's trying to keep this place as it was, because that's what it knows, and that's what it's comfortable with. doesn't belong here, and it knows that, too."

Charlie considered the idea. "If it doesn't belong here, why hasn't it left?"

Browbeat laughed at that, as if the answer was obvious. "Because it can't!"

"You think that's right?" Kippy asked, looking around the room. "It's stuck here, somehow? Maybe we can help it get back where it belongs, then. That would solve its problem, and Arno Coldat's problem."

Charlie turned to Amy. "I guess you were right about something being lost here. This spirit can't get home."

The woman looked surprised, and shook her head. "Oh, I didn't mean the spirit." She let her gaze move around the room. "Something else is lost here. And waiting to be found."

Horace put a hand on her shoulder. "Do you know what it is?"

"Do you know where it is?" Kippy added quickly.

Amy closed her eyes a moment, and then slowly raised a hand, and pointed at the ceiling. "All I sense just now is up."

Ricky looked at the ceiling. "Upstairs, you mean?"

"I think so."

Charlie frowned. "It's dark now. I don't really want to go exploring by flashlight."

"There are ceiling lights in all the rooms," Kip reminded. "And the electricity is on."

Charlie glanced up at the dual chandeliers that lit the parlor, and sighed. "Maybe. And, it's still early, I guess." He looked around at the others. "Does anyone else want to go looking tonight?"

The show of hands was complete, and Charlie smiled. "Well, the surprise I had for you guys will be less fun at night." He shrugged. "Okay, we'll go. But we will not go into the five bedrooms that our friend has protected. If whatever is lost is in one of those rooms, it will have to wait until we know more about our spirit's background. Fair enough?"

It was decided, and everyone stood.

"Kip, close that pizza box, please," Charlie instructed. "Maybe it will still be warm when we get back."

"Cold pizza is good, too," Kip reminded, but dutifully closed the box. "It'll be fine."

They did get their flashlights, just because there might still be places that were dark, and headed back to the second floor. They turned left at the top of the stairs, and investigated the rooms there. In each one, they moved carefully around the walls, each using what senses they had to see what could be discovered.

Finally, Amy shook her head. "I think it's still upstairs."

Charlie sighed. "I was afraid you'd say that."

"Something wrong with the third floor?" Rick asked. "You didn't want us to go up earlier."

"No." Charlie smiled. "I just thought all of you would enjoy it more by daylight. But I guess it doesn't really matter. We can always check it out tomorrow, too. Come on. We'll go up."

They returned to the staircase, and Charlie led them up to the next floor. There was a light switch at the top of the stairs, and Charlie tipped it up with his finger as he passed. Lights came on above them, and they emerged into a large area with a vaulted roof above. Browbeat sailed past him then, and fluttered around the room excitedly, trying to take in everything at once.

They were facing a grand window in the rear of the vaulted roof, circular and about eight feet in diameter, installed beneath an eyebrow set into the rear roof. The window was slightly concave from their side, and made up of triangles of glass in a wooden frame set in a geodesic pattern, and looked like the view from the inside of a multifaceted diamond. Before the window was a large world globe in a fine wooden cradle, the diameter of the sphere easily four feet. The cradle had three carved legs that looked to be set into the floorboards, which rose to terminate in a cradle circled by an engraved horizon ring. A bronze meridian loop traveled from pole-to-pole, winking at them in the overhead lights, which fixtures looked to be of brass, and of an old nautical tradition in style.

Everyone simply stopped to stare.

"Wow," Ricky finally said, sounding almost reverent. "Look at that!"

Charlie smiled. "The rear of the house faces east. I'd imagine that a sunrise is quite a sight from here."

"That's the surprise you wanted for us!" Adrian said, smiling. "Aw. Charlie, that's sweet."

"We can see it tomorrow," Charlie replied. "It will still be cool."

Kippy put his hand on his hips, staring at the big window. "There's a mountain out there," he reminded. "Wouldn't that kill the sunrise?"

Charlie shook his head. "No, just make it later. I would say by mid-morning the sun is peaking over that ridge, and right into this room."

"We'll see it tomorrow," Adrian said, patting Charlie's arm, and giving Kippy a look.

Kip sighed, nodded, and patted Charlie's other arm. "Yeah."

They turned almost as a group to stare around the large open space, and then walked around it, staring even more. There was shelving along one end wall, well away from the large window, and obviously meant for books. Many books.

"What place is this?" Browbeat asked, settling onto Kip's shoulder. "It's amazing!"

"Is this the library, or something?" Adrian asked, smiling at the flyer.

"There's actually one of them on the first floor," Charlie explained. "I believe this place was where Tasker ran his business."

Robin frowned at that. "I thought he was an investor of some kind?"

"It's all in the paperwork I shared with you."

The ex-thief smiled. "And I've been meaning to get to that, too."

Charlie also smiled. "I actually did a little research on Tasker online the night before we came up here." Charlie walked in a slow circle, eyeing every corner of the room. "Imagine this place full of tables, on which maps and charts and things like that were spread. The shelves over there were full of more charts, and references - books of all kinds, but not fiction books. Journals, and accounts of travels to every part of the planet." He turned to face them. "Herbert Tasker specialized in high-risk financing, Arno Coldat said. But from what I read about him online, he specialized in adventure capital. Herbert Tasker financed exploratory expeditions to every part of the planet. Most were hugely successful, and returned knowledge and artifacts that more than paid for his investments."

Robin narrowed his eyes at that. "I never heard of the man."

Charlie nodded. "He was very low-key. He did not want to be the man in the history books, it seems. He wanted to be the man behind those that made the history."

"Why?" Kippy asked.

"He was a witch," Charlie said. "A skwish-user, just as you thought, Kip. And one that understood his talents well, and was aware of the witch world around him. Only too aware, I think. He was very good at covering his tracks. I had to utilize some of the elf links online to find out anything about him at all."

Kippy laughed. "You used Goggle?"

"Among others. I used a couple of links Frit gave me, too, that provide history that human history books have omitted."

Robin looked amazed. "I would love to see these links!"

Charlie nodded. "I don't think Frit would mind."

Kippy crossed his arms. "And when were you planning to tell us this stuff?"

"Well...right now." Charlie smiled. "Actually, as the sun was coming up in the morning, and peeking through the big window. But now will do."

Amy gave a little, smiling sigh. "You have a flair for the dramatic, Charlie."

"Partly. And some of it was just that I needed some time to digest what I had learned about Tasker. I figured after I slept on it, I'd know just what to say to you."

"It seems you've done pretty well so far," the woman returned, her approval clear.

Ricky scratched at his jaw, surveying the room. "I can imagine this place set up like you said, Charlie. This Tasker must have been pretty well-connected."

"I'd say so," Charlie agreed. "From what I read online, he also quietly steered money from other wealthy people in the east into these endeavors. Tasker wasn't the only one to get rich from these investments."

"Hidden history," Horace said, smiling. "I have a feeling there's a lot more of it than people know."

"There is," Charlie agreed. "I had a few spare minutes after looking up Tasker, and looked at a few other things, too. Some were really eye-opening!"

"Like what?" Ricky asked, rubbing his hands together gleefully.

Charlie laughed. "Like...maybe that's for another project, down the road. We need to be concentrating on this one just now."

Rick huffed in faux annoyance. "Party pooper!" But he turned then, and smiled around at the room. "This would make a great movie set!"

Horace put a hand on Amy's arm. "What do you sense now?"

The woman nodded and closed her eyes. She remained still a moment, and then slowly walked forward, turned a little, and headed for the bookcases across the room. The others followed quietly, trying not to disturb her concentration.

Amy arrived at the bookcase, and laid a hand on one shelf. "That's odd. I feel whatever is lost should be right here."

Charlie moved closer to look. The shelf was bare.

"May I?" Robin asked, coming to stand next to Amy. She smiled, and backed up a few steps.

Robin bent and used his flashlight to carefully examine the shelf. This was an end bookcase, the narrowest of the lot, about three feet in width, and ran from above a kick panel that rose a hand-span from the floor to well over their heads, the top shelf at the limit of arm's-reach. Each shelf was set upon a crossbar that ran the full width of the shelf beneath the middle of each, with about 16 inches between shelves, allowing for some large and heavy tomes to have been accommodated. This particular shelf was at breast level. Robin laid a hand on it, gave it a slight push; and when that gained no results, turned his hand around and lifted. The shelf popped upward to the tune of two small clicks from each end.

"Ooh," Browbeat whispered, fluttering his wings to keep his balance on Kippy's shoulder as he strained forward to look. "Secrets!"

"Aha!" Robin lifted the shelf, and brought his light up to look beneath. Charlie leaned forward, too, and could see now that the crossbar under the shelf was the front of a compartment, and the shelf a lid that swung upwards on concealed hinges. Under the spot where Amy had laid her hand was a large piece of paper, loosely folded several times. Robin turned to smile at Charlie, and then leaned closer, playing his light over the paper within the compartment.

"I don't see any surprises."

Charlie was startled by that. "You mean like a booby trap, or something?"

Robin grunted. "Charlie, people that hide things usually do it for a reason. And they sometimes leave a little something for people who find their hidden treasures, and are too quick to pick them up."

"Wow," Kip said, sounding amused. "I would have just picked it up and been blown skyward." He smiled then. "My skwish isn't warning me of anything."

Robin finished his visual examination. "And I don't see anything sneaky." He turned to Kip. "Shall we be blown up together?"

Kip waved at the contents of the secret compartment. "After you."

Robin gently withdrew the folded paper and handed it to Charlie. He peered back into the compartment, shining his light within, and then straightened. "That's all there is."

"Any other shelves loose like that?" Ricky asked.

Robin tried the other shelves, and the ones above and below the one they had opened both popped upwards when prodded. But their concealed compartments were empty. The other shelves proved to be secured, and offered no surprises.

Ricky moved closer to Charlie, staring at the newfound loot. "What is it?"

They moved away from the bookcases to stand beneath one of the overhead lights. Charlie examined the folded paper, which on closer inspection looked to actually be vellum. His senses picked up a definite feeling of age, yet the material was still supple. Still, they would need to be careful. "We'll need a flat surface to open it on," he decided.

"That has to be the treasure map," Ricky kidded.

Charlie smiled at that, but wasn't about to leap to conclusions. Instead, he led the way back to the stairs, and down to the first floor.

The parlor offered a number of tabletops, and Charlie selected one that was well-illuminated. He laid the folded vellum atop it, and carefully opened it. It proved to be a large sheet, and was covered with the intricate drawing of what appeared to be an island. It was a chart, expertly drawn, and minutely detailed. Across the top was penned, in a fine, inked hand, the words, Mnidoo Mnis.

And underneath that, smaller, but in the same talented hand, the words, Here Be Dragons.

Robin looked across Charlie's shoulder at the title, and gave a soft sigh. "And now, maybe, we are getting somewhere."

In the morning light, the third-floor room proved to be just as fascinating as Charlie had supposed it would be. By mid-morning the sun was rising above the peak behind the house, and golden light streamed in through the triangular panes of the glass in the big window, drawing intricate patterns in light on the floor. There was an ethereal quality to the place, not at all unbecoming a room where legends had once been explored.

They had carried up the dining room table from the parlor, a fairly heavy piece that pulled apart to allow extra leaves to be placed in the middle, yielding a table large enough to work on. It had eight chairs with the set, and they brought seven of them upstairs, figuring that Browbeat would be just as happy perched on the back of one of theirs as he would having his own. Fortunately, there were enough strong backs to make the task fairly simple.

They set the table to the left of the staircase, where there would be ample light from the window to augment the light from the overhead lamps. Charlie set up his laptop at one end of the table, and Kip set his at Charlie's left hand. Their laptops had been tethered to their cell phones via a wi-fi hotspot, which gave them access to the Internet. Charlie was sure they would need to go online for information to assist with this investigation. Fortunately, the house was close enough to the town that some cell tower was nearby.

The map was spread out on the center of the table, where the others could pore over it, looking for clues. It was exciting to feel a connection with the past forming now. They felt that working in the room where Herbert Tasker had likely done the same sorts of investigations more than a century before could only help to focus them on the task at hand.

The first clue to come to light was the name at the top of the map: Mnidoo Mnis.

"It's the Odawa name for Manitoulin Island, the biggest island in Lake Huron," Kip read, his eyebrows raised as his eyes searched through information on this laptop's screen. "It's also the largest freshwater island in the world."

"Is that Manitoulin, as in Manitou?" Rick asked, looking interested.

"Yes," Kip agreed.

"There's a connection, right off," Rick continued, nodding. "Our pizza guy said that Oshtàpày was a manitou."

Kippy read further, and looked up. "Mnidoo Mnis comes from the Anishinaabe culture, which was made up of the three Native American groups that lived on Manitoulin Island. They were the Ojibwe, the Odawa, and the Potowatomi tribes."

"Does the name have a meaning?" Robin asked.

Kip went back to reading a moment, and then looked up again, his eyes alight with excitement. "Mnidoo Mnis translates as, Island of the Great Spirit."

Charlie had brought up a map of Manitoulin Island on his own laptop by then, and was comparing it to the island on their own map. "But the two places do not look at all alike." He frowned. "I'm wondering if Tasker selected that name to call his map for what it meant, and not because it was a map of that particular island in Lake Huron."

"Are they even close?" Horace asked. "Maps of the world, even in the 1860's, were less than perfect."

Charlie shook his head. "They're not even close. And look at our map." He pointed to a small outline that almost resembled the skyline of a modern city, enclosed in a circle, to one side of the island. A tiny legend next to it said, simply, ancient city. "There was nothing like that on Manitoulin in Tasker's lifetime."

Robin nodded. "I read that paperwork you gave me last night before I went to sleep. Tasker was extremely interested in Native American cultures. He knew quite a lot about the ones here in the east, anyway. I think you may be onto something when you suggest he simply picked that name to call his new island. But where that island is...that's the big question."

"Why would the man leave that map here?" Amy asked. "Why not take it when he left?"

"Tasker died in Scotland, in 1936," Charlie supplied. "He had a home there, too. When he died, someone else must have cleaned out this room later. They didn't know about the hidden compartments, so the map wasn't found."

Robin's eyes widened at that. "1936? He must have been on in years by then!"

"He was 106," Charlie supplied. "Maybe his skwish had something to do with that."

"You're over 800," Adrian reminded, smiling at Robin.

History's favorite thief laughed. "I'm a fluke, though. Like Nicholaas. For some very few humans, skwish bestows an elf-like longevity."

"And for some others, it seems to provide for a lifetime in the upper reaches of the human experience," Charlie returned. "Tasker was probably one of them. His older brother, Robert, passed away only a few years before Tasker did. Robert was over 100 years old, too."

Robin waved a hand. "Point taken. Let's get back to the map."

Charlie got up and went around the table, to look over the map again. The island was the only thing represented, with no other clues to its location, not even compass marks.

"He knew where it was," Amy considered. "And he apparently didn't want it easily found."

"The name he gave the island may be the reason for that," Horace said. "Suppose this was the place our visitor to this house came from?"

Adrian nodded. "That sure makes sense. A spirit, coming from a place named as the home of a great one."

"It does make sense," Charlie agreed. "But we're still guessing." He frowned. "We have to figure out where this place was."

"You mean where it is?" Kippy asked.

"Maybe. Hopefully. It seems to have been a place that existed in Tasker's time. But...the world is pretty well-known today. An island with a strange, ancient city on it, like this? A place like that would be known today, certainly. There would be something written up on it, somewhere."

"How do we know there isn't?" Horace asked.

Charlie pointed back at his laptop. "That's what I've been doing. Searching for an island that is home to an ancient city, that even remotely resembles this one in outline. There are some really strange islands in the world, some even with abandoned buildings on them. But none that look like our island here."

"Maybe it was found, and it's just been kept secret," Adrian theorized. "I can think of lots of reasons someone would keep a discovery like that hidden,"

"Tasker evidently felt that way," Charlie agreed.

"What does this mean?" Ricky asked, pointing at the legend below the island's title name.

Charlie smiled. "Here be dragons? It's a legend once used on a few old maps and globes, to indicate unknown waters. Places that had yet to be explored. Early mapmakers were aware that the maps they made didn't cover the entire world. Just the parts that had already been discovered."

"Seems kind of odd, doesn't it?" Robin asked. "By 1865, all the world's landmasses had been discovered. Maybe not every island, certainly. Maybe this just means the island was unexplored at that time?"

Charlie shrugged. "There are even some largely unexplored places in the world today. But they're mapped, at least. We know where they are, even if no one has taken the time to explore every inch of them. In Tasker's day there had to be places left in the world's oceans that simply had not been found yet."

Robin shook his head. "But this island has a city on it. Someone knew it was there, even before Tasker."

"It could have been abandoned, long ago, and the island forgotten. We just don't know."

"So, we take this dragons thing to mean that the island was unexplored?" Rick asked. "I mean, at least by Tasker?"

Charlie laughed. "I just don't know."

Kippy had been staring at the map. "It just feels odd to me," he said. "That saying was written on the map for a reason."

Amy turned to point at the large globe. "You said that legend was used on some old globes?"

Charlie turned to look. "Oh...probably not that one. I meant very early globes. I would think Tasker's globe would be as modern as he could find at the time. He probably needed an accurate world map on which to base his plans."

"Let's just see, shall we?" Robin said, turning and heading for the globe.

Browbeat came off the back of his chair, laughing excitedly, and everyone turned to follow Robin. Kippy bumped into Charlie, and smiled at him. "This is fun."

Charlie returned the smile. "It always is, with you." He canted his head at the others. "And them."

Kippy grasped Charlie's hand and squeezed it. "What an amazing universe we live in!"

"Our small part of it isn't half bad, either."

They reached the globe and encircled it, and bent to examine it. "Should be a maker's identifier and a year on it, somewhere," Charlie said.

"Here," Horace said, pointing. Everyone circled around to where he was standing to have a look.

"Charles Smith & Son," Adrian read. "1865." He frowned. "That's not very new, for a guy that lived until 1936."

Robin pursed his lips, staring at the globe. "Maybe he had a reason for keeping this one."

"Could have just been too big to move," Rick said. "I'll bet it weighs a couple of hundred pounds. I wouldn't want to have to bus it down two flights of steps."

"Maybe he just liked it," Amy said. "It's beautifully done. Almost ornamental."

Charlie nodded, curious now. "Look it over carefully. Sing out if you spot a Here Be Dragons."

They turned the globe carefully, and covered every inch of the northern hemisphere. "Nothing," Kip said. "Figures."

"There's more down here," Browbeat called, from down low. Charlie stepped back to see the flyer seated on the floor, looking up at the underside of the globe.

Charlie laughed. "You'd better be careful. You don't want to get stepped on!"

Browbeat tittered happily. "I'm quick! Besides, nothing can hit me, remember?"

Kippy smiled. "So, what do you see?"

Again, the little flyer laughed. "I don't know. I can't read your language!"

Kippy huffed. "We need to talk to Eseffa and Jorli about that. You'd think a translator would be a built-in."

Robin surveyed the globe critically. "I think we can roll it over. See? It's on tiny rollers. The meridian ring sits in that groove. You have to turn it upside down that way."

Charlie and Rick grasped the globe by the ring, and tried to turn it upwards. It came easily, much easier than they had expected. The rollers were superb, and they had the globe south pole-up in an instant.

Robin nodded. "Okay, same deal as before. Turn the globe, and everyone look for the dragon."

They turned the globe in small increments, and everyone scanned the surface. The globe was beautifully rendered, with tiny but legible script naming everything. There were ornamental waves along the coasts, and an occasional small sailing ship marking known sea lanes of the oceans. But there seemed to be no terra incognita that Charlie could see...

"Stop," Amy said then. "Back up." She laid a hand on the globe, and turned it slowly backwards several inches, and stopped it. "Here."

Everyone moved to peer closer.

Amy laid a fingertip against the globe, and Charlie bent closer to look.

And there it was. It was beautiful work, but it had obviously been added to the globe later. The ink was red, not brown or black like had been used by the makers.

Here Be Dragons.

"Where is that?" Kippy whispered, as if to speak too loudly might be to break something.

Charlie peered closer, and finally identified the landmass. It was upside down, and everything looked strange that way. "It's the southern tip of South America," he announced. "Tierra del Fuego."

Robin nodded. "Indeed. The land of fire. How appropriate for the realm of dragons."

Charlie looked askance at the man. "I don't think it was meant that there were really dragons there."

Robin smiled. "I don't, either. But it would have been a very dangerous place to visit in Tasker's time, just the same." He stared at the globe, and smiled. "A real, unknown land."

Browbeat rose slowly to land gently on Kip's shoulder. "What does it mean?"

Horace gave a little shake to his head. "I'm that where our visitor came from?"

Ricky emitted a low whistle. "That's a long way off!"

"How would we know?" Adrian asked.

Horace took a big breath, turned, and smiled at Amy, and then redirected that smile to Charlie. He blew the breath out again. "Maybe it's time we ask it."

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