Map Quest

Exhibition Gallery, British Library

A number of books and manuscripts are on display to the general public in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery which is open seven days a week at no charge. Some of the items in the exhibition include Beowulf, a Gutenberg Bible, Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur (King Arthur), Captain Cook's journal, Jane Austen's History of England, Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories, Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby, Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway and a room devoted solely to Magna Carta.

In addition to the permanent exhibition, there are frequent thematic exhibitions which has covered maps, sacred texts and now the history of the English language. (thank you


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Kendrin Zoe

It's official. Zoe is a workaholic. It's a beautiful spring Saturday and here she is tagging and cataloging a new batch of books. She might feel sorry for herself or bad about that if Saturdays didn't tend to be her most productive times. No one really wants to spend Saturday in the library.

The weather means that the building is practically deserted aside from those like her who chose to work, and the grumblers who were stuck scheduled. The emptiness means that Zoe can cheat a little, and be just a little unprofessional, though. She has her iPod in her pocket, the ear buds in her ears, and is humming just faintly under her breath as she types information into the library's database.


Kendrin moves between the exhibit cases slowly — noiselessly, even. The big problem, really, is that she can't read a word of anything written in the books in the stacks. The alphabets she's familiar with are rarely, if ever, found in this world. It's a bit of a problem, really. Still, there are pictures and symbols that aren't alphanumeric she can use as reference. Thus far, of course, they've been useless, too.

But the exhibit cases are different. Maps and artefacts are things she recognizes, even if the geography and cultures are generally unfamiliar. Still, she's learned that it sometimes pays to peruse a culture's archives, when she can. There are things to be learn even by looking at what they choose to display, what they value as precious and deem must be protected.

And, more than once, she's found a useful clue among dusty trinkets. Thus, she scans the contents of each case with the practiced, naturally-close observation of a hunter and explorer.

Of course, her scrutiny doesn't go entirely unnoticed. She's dressed strangely, still, for blending in with the urban culture of London in this century. For the most part, because she's careful not to touch the glass and seems entirely uninterested in whatever security measures — physical or electronic — may be in place, the security guard she's noted following her hasn't felt a need to intervene. But, she knows her face and form will be remembered.

Let them remember her. She's no threat to them.

Not currently, at least.


When her shoulders start to tense up and her eyes begin to water, Zoe declares to herself that it is a time for a break. Rolling her neck to loosen the muscles, she slides her feet into her abandoned shoes (stocking feet are only acceptable under and behind the desk no matter how 'unprofessional' she is feeling) and pushes away from the desk. She automatically locks the computer desktop and turns away, wandering out of her office and into the library proper.

Zoe's eyes flicker over the oddly dressed woman, and then away. She looks somewhat out of place and out of time, and with her mind still processing what she's done and what she has left to do, Zoe dismisses the woman as an after image.

It's only when she's gone a few paces that it clicks: the woman doesn't feel like a spirit or an echo… and Joshua, the security guard, is following at a safe distance.


Zoe takes in the woman's odd dress again, then shrugs it off. The uni students dress strangely today, and she might even be migrant or transitory. Still, the best way to keep an eye on someone is to make sure that they know that you're aware of their presence. Joshua might not want to approach, but Zoe has no such qualms.

"Hello there," Zoe greets when she's rounded back around and is close enough to speak without shouting. "Is there something in particular that you're looking for?"


Kendrin glances toward Zoe before she makes it half-way down the aisle toward her. Thus, as the librarian greets her, she has already straightened and given the other woman her attention. She offers a courteous smile and an odd half-bow that's more a brief ducking of her head than anything else. "Good evening," she greets. She looks back at the cases and then to the woman.

"No," she says in answer to the question. "Nothing particular. Are you the…" — she searches for the word for a moment — "curator of this collection?"


Zoe is well schooled in not staring at people, but something about the woman makes it difficult for her to do that. The clothing is so … is she transitory? Making an odd fashion statement? Into live action role playing? The questions flow through Zoe's head quickly as she notes the question and the seemingly hesitant wording of it. "Yes, I'm responsible for this collection." Beat. "Did you have a question about it?"


Kendrin continues to smile, though it shifts somewhat, becoming faintly wry. "Will you tell me about it?" she asks. "I would like to know where these things come from and some of the stories behind them." She glances toward some of the information cards that are displayed. "The cards are… not as informative as I would like."

Mainly because she can't read them, but she doesn't say that.


"Certainly." The request isn't so odd to Zoe. Only the very basics are put into the summaries and description cards, and being asked for more information is nothing new. On busier days or nights, she'll often direct people to the collections of books that will be more informative, but it's slow enough tonight that she can indulge the young woman's curiosity.

Zoe takes a look at the nearest case and points to the first items there, the two are a set and thus the explanation applies to them both. She keeps it basic: when, where, what, and why. A miniaturized history lecture, without the dryness, and short enough so that the woman isn't bored.

Zoe hopes.


Kendrin is an attentive audience, actually. She's as much listening to the cadence and nuances of Zoe's speech patterns and body language as she is the actual content of her mini-lecture. She even asks a couple of clarifying questions that doubtlessly lead to more stories and connect to other pieces of the collection. Indeed, it soon becomes apparent that the young woman is particularly fascinated by those places legends intersect with history.


Zoe is always pleased to have a receptive audience, but whom isn't? It's why she chose library work - aside from (hopefully) avoiding many of London's ghosts. When people come to the library they're seeking answers and information.

Eventually that piece of history telling winds down, and Zoe smiles at the young woman. "You're fascinated by the legends aren't you? I've always had a fancy for legends and mythology, myself. My thought is that there is always some nugget of real fact that gave rise to the legend."


Kendrin nods to that. "A culture's most valued legends and stories reflect their most treasured qualities and philosophies," she says. "Learn those stories, and you learn much about how to relate to them." It's saved her tail on more than one occasion.

Again, she glances about at all the cases. "Why were the artefacts here chosen to be a part of this collection?" she asks now.

No. It doesn't actually occur to her that she's likely asked one of those OMG questions that leave a lot of people staring blankly.


It is one of those questions, and Zoe is stunned for a moment because no one usually asks that question. People don't want to know why and how the particular collections are chosen; and Zoe can't blame them. It's oft times part politics, part crowd draw and part luck of the draw. This time however, Zoe knows the reason and how these particular pieces tie into a bit of the local lore and history of London.

"No one usually asks that," Zoe laughs, blinking in surprise. "And this is one time that there's a reason that's not 'because that's what the benefactors want to see.'" With another slight laugh, Zoe explains what ties these collections together and why they were chosen at this time.


The fact the artefacts actually do tie into the city in which she now finds herself pleases Kendrin. She believes she has seen more people in this city-that-seems-to-go-on-forever than she has in all the other places she's been, combined. Indeed, did she actually know the true population of the city, she'd realize that was very true. London far outstrips even the largest of the Amrikan cities she's visited.

She smiles as Zoe summarizes the collection once more, and nods. "This city is very old, then," she surmises. "Older than it appears."


"Um, yes," Zoe blinks at the woman. Once. Twice. "It is."

It's like the oddest thing Zoe has ever heard said in the library and she's heard some odd things. She talks to ghosts, so she's heard some really, really odd things. Not so much the woman's words, but the one in which she says them. As though Zoe has just presented her with a new nugget of knowledge and in the same breath gave confirmation to some plaguing thought.

There's a moment where she wonders if maybe this isn't a ghost, and somehow her powers are on the fritz, but Zoe knows that isn't so.

Tucking her ponytail over her shoulder, Zoe keeps it conversationally light. After all, it's possible that the woman just has an odd way of speaking, perhaps she doesn't properly express herself in social situations. "Most of the European cities are, yeah?"

And maybe you're ignoring your gut, Zo and making up things as you go along.


'European'… 'Europe'. Kendrin's heard the word before. She's learned to recognize it as a geographical reference. But, beyond that, it still means nothing to her. Still, she nods in acknowledgement of that. Let the other woman interpret the nod as agreement, if she will. Or something else. Kendrin can hardly control that.

Still, her accent isn't clearly British. Neither is it North American. It drifts toward Renaissance European, actually — though she has picked up the round English vowels and carries some of the clipped consonants, now that she's been here as long as she has. She has an ear for accents, and though she hasn't purposely changed her own, it still drifts naturally. The end result, however, is that it's nearly impossible to place where she's from.

Pursing her lips, slightly, she considers Zoe for a moment. Then, she gives a small smile. "Do you have a map of this…" — 'realm' is the word that most naturally comes to her lips; her hesitation as she changes it to the local dialect is fleeting — "country? And perhaps of Europe, too? I would like to see more of how they relate."


There is either something odd going on here, or the young woman's question is an indictment against today's educational system. Zoe gives her a nod, "Certainly. Follow me."

She hesitates a moment before turning and leading the woman toward the atlas and maps, because Zoe has that 'off' feeling. It's a follow your gut thing that most people have, and the situation feels particularly 'strange.' Nothing that she can put a finger on, but something niggling.

"You're not from around here, then? The States? Canada?" Even though that's not really an excuse to not know basic geography.


"No," Kendrin replies. "I am not from here. Nor… those other places. My home is… much further away than that." Further away than half the world? She must have an odd perception of geography, this one.

Still, she follows Zoe willingly enough to the atlas. Indeed, sees the map, her face seems to light up with an avid curiosity.

Indeed, she could quite willingly monopolize the rest of Zoe's time in the library that evening with questions about the maps — their symbols, their different functions (political, scientific, historical), their different scales. The one of the city will no doubt be of particular interest, once she's placed it within the greater context.


"Australia, then?" Zoe offers. "Southeast Asia?" The girl does have a faintly Asian look to her features. It's her curiosity really. The odd questions and the interest. It's a mystery and Zoe rather enjoys mysteries.


Kendrin regards Zoe for a moment. She gives a wry smile and a twist of her head that could be construed as a nod. Indeed, it could be construed as a south asian nod, given it's more a tilt from side to side than a nod or shake. In a Westerner, it'd be non-committal, however. Truthfully, getting into a discussion of her origins is problematic, and Kendrin's not the sort to answer questions she doesn't care to.

She spreads out one of the maps on a large map table and spends several moments looking at it. After tracing her finger lightly along some of the shorelines, she glances again to Zoe. "Where are we?"


That's avoidance. A'right, then. Zoe gives the young woman another appraising look. Feeling eyes on her, she glances over her shoulder at Joshua, and gives him a nod to indicate that everything is still fine and he doesn't have to keep shadowing. She knows that he'll do it anyway, but at least he might not look like he's ready to grab the girl and escort her out at a moment's notice.

In answer to Kendrin's question, Zoe points to the UK on the map and then London. "This is the United Kingdom, all of these islands. We're on this one, here in the city of London." Beat. "I'm Zoe, by the way."


Kendrin leans over the table slightly as Zoe points out the various regions. Her brows raise faintly as she begins to appreciate the size of the city in comparison to the land that surrounds it. As Zoe introduces herself, however, she glances again to her and offers another of her courteous smiles. "And I am called Raelle," she says evenly. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Zoe."

She's polite, anyway. Indeed, as much as Joshua has been hovering for the past hour or so that Kendrin has been perusing the valuables, she's never once raised her voice, never once behaved in any fashion that suggests she is anything but quiet and well-mannered. Aside from her odd sartorial choices and precision when speaking, she's been the soul of courtesy.

"May I?" she asks, now, pulling a small leather bound notebook from out of an inner pocket in her coat, along with a carefully wrapped, sharpened piece of charcoal that acts very much like a pencil… but isn't. She opens the book and with several quick, neat strokes, begins creating a reasonably accurate miniature representation of the map. At first, it's the islands together, along with the European shoreline. She labels them, though in no alphabet the librarian is likely to have seen — it's a neat, cursive style that seems more at home in a fantasy movie than a modern street. Then, flipping the page, she starts mapping out London's major arteries, as shown on this particular map. It's nowhere near as detailed or useful as formal road map, but it gives her the geographic idea.

What is notable is how quickly and accurately she works. She has an artist's hand. Or perhaps a draftsman's. Either way, it's clearly evident she has a remarkable eye for both detail and nuance. Her sketches hardly take a handful of minutes.


"Oh wow." The surprise and awe are on Zoe's face and in her voice as she watches Raelle sketch. "You're really good at that. Very talented." Her eyes flicker from the map and back to the sketch a few times before Zoe ventures her next question, "I've not seen that script before. Not that I'm any sort of linguist, it just stands out as unique." Odd. Unusual. Near surreal as is this whole encounter.


An archeologist would doubtlessly have a field day with the notes and images recorded in Raelle's little brown book. She gives Zoe another smile, a faint twinkle in her dark eyes. "Thank you," she says politely. No. She doesn't imagine Zoe has seen the script before — more's the pity. If she had, Raelle might find herself a whole lot closer to home than she's been since this whole adventure started. Instead of commenting on the script, however, she says, "It is a talent I have found useful to develop. I have no other way to easily record details I do not wish to forget."

Fact is, she's got a remarkable memory, too. Her people have a robust oral tradition. But, she still prefers to have something physical to examine, whenever she can.

"Can you tell me how these roads relate to this building?"


The girl is a master of avoidance. It's not something that your average person would notice, but it's a skill that Zoe has mastered as well. It's necessary when you talk to and hear and see people that others cannot. Avoidance and redirection have saved Zoe from being thought of a right nutter on more than one occasion.

Still, she does her best to press into memory a little of what she's seen; Sean is a lot more knowledgeable about these things and Zoe hopes she can recall enough to run it past him.

To the odd (and getting odder) young woman, Zoe simply nods and describes which roads lead to the library and away. "Is there a particular place that you're trying to reach?"


Raelle shakes her head. "No," she says. "I am simply trying to better understand this city and how it is arranged. It is… much larger than most places I have been." That will no doubt set Zoe's curiosity somewhat afire, too. But, it's the truth. She's rarely one to lie outright — though it has been known to happen.

As she makes brief notations in her book about the roads as Zoe explains them to her, a shadow of frustration flits across her features. It's quickly suppressed, mind. But for the attentive, it lingers in the tightness that remains around her eyes.

In her mind, though not on the paper — or is that actually parchment? — she starts gridding out the city as she contemplates a section by section search.

Damned gnome. Of course he'd choose the biggest city either of us has ever seen to get lost in.

Her lips press together thinly. Perhaps she's going about this the wrong way. It is Spooker she's thinking about, after all. In the first place, he rarely does anything logically. In the second…

"Can you tell me how I might find just how many public houses, inns, or taverns there may be within a day's walk of Hyde Park?" When in doubt, rely on the gnome's stomach. (In another life, he was doubtlessly a hobbit.)


"Particularly those more likely to take trade or barter… or" — Ancestors forbid! — "entertain…" She pauses. Spooker is not a bard. "Storytellers," she decides, "hospitably?"


Zoe can't help it. She looks briefly around, expecting the camera crew to jump out at any moment and tell her that this is a prank of some sort. The girl really cannot be that unfamiliar with the area, even as a tourist. Her clothing, her wording and phrasing - all of it seems to scream prank. Zoe would almost think that she was imagining it all, if it were not plain that Joshua sees the girl as well.

"I can, yes," Zoe says, "But we can probably do it better a different way. We can print out a map that will mark all the hotels and hostels." It saves time from looking them up and marking them out individually.

Zoe motions for Raelle to follow her, and starts heading to the computers. "Right this way."


Raelle has spent much of the last month exploring Undercity, truth be told. She's got a handle on how the Market works and where its major arteries go, but she's seen no sign of Spooker there. So, the only other alternative is to start hunting the City-Above, as the Undercity denizens refer to modern London. She folds her book and wraps the leather flap over its front, tucking the odd pencil within its confines before tucking it back into her coat.

As Zoe glances around, seeking Raelle isn't sure what, she does the same. Just in case. All she notes is the security guard that's been with them since she arrived. Aside from noting his puzzlement and faint scowl, however, she doesn't really worry about him. If he'd wanted to cause trouble for her, he'd have done it before now. And she certainly has no interest in causing trouble for him.

"I am sorry to put you to so much trouble," she offers Zoe as she follows. "I would repay you, if I could. I am not certain I can."


"Oh, it's no problem," Zoe assures her. "I'm a librarian. Providing information is all just part of the job." Well, technically, not so. Maps and reference questions are not a part of Zoe's job, but she hardly minds helping out the odd girl. Especially since Zoe is still trying to suss out the odd situation.

Settling down at the computer, Zoe logs on and immediately goes to a map website. A few keystrokes later, she's printing out a map which has marked all the hotels, hostels and even a few of the local and nearby bed and breakfasts on it with neat little triangles.

She hands the map to Raelle with a smile, "That should help you immensely."


Raelle watches Zoe attentively as the librarian's fingers fly over the keyboard. She has got to learn how to do that.

Her head swivels swiftly as the printer hums to life and she smiles, clearly delighted, as it spits out its printout. Taking the paper from Zoe with a murmur of thanks, she studies it for a long moment.

Hyde Park, she recognizes by its swath of green and the fact that, conveniently, it's in the middle of the image. The streets that spoke out from it are partially familiar from the larger map — though there are many, many smaller roads on this version than the macro-view that is the wall map. And the street names mean nothing to her, though she's smart enough to know she can match the symbols that spell their names to the signs on the street corners. So, she doesn't ask for further clarification about that.

Laying the paper on the counter for a moment, she fishes out her book once more and unwraps it. Taking out her pencil, and referring to the map whereupon she noted the library's location, she transfers that information briefly to the printout.

"Thank you," she says again, wrapping the book back up and tucking it away. "This should be very helpful."

She smiles wryly. "Most librarians I have met aren't nearly as helpful as you have been," she admits. "Most guard their knowledge as if it were a commodity too precious to be shared."

A beat.

"Or, perhaps it is their time they so jealously guard," she concedes.


The delight on Raelle's face is clear and raises more and more questions for Zoe. She suddenly wishes that she had her smart phone nearby and that it would be possible to sneak a picture of the young woman and her odd book and charcoal/chalk. There's no way for it to happen however, so Zoe settles for pressing as many details into her memory as possible.

"I'm glad to be of help," Zoe smiles and it's quite a genuine smile. However, the smile is replaced with a slight frown and a heavy sigh as the girl explains about other librarians. "Sadly, I know many of that type. They don't wish to do anything that is outside of what they believe they should be doing." Beat. "I think that information is meant to be shared, and we're just the guardians of the knowledge because we know how to disseminate it."


"Then, you are a rarity," Raelle says certainly. Still, she smiles, genuinely grateful. She looks once more at the white printout in her hand and her smile takes on a decidedly satisfied character. Straightening, now, she carefully rolls the paper and slides it into a narrow cylinder hanging from the satchel at her side.

"I think I have taken enough of your time," she says finally. A sidelong glance to Joshua, lurking unobtrusively at the far end of the room, but still watching. "And, I suspect the watchman would prefer I went elsewhere. Thank you again for all your help, Zoe. It has, indeed, been a pleasure to meet you. Perhaps I will see you again."

The next time she has questions no one else seems to be able to answer properly, for instance.


"Again, I'm happy to have been able to help," Zoe says. It's clear that she means it and she's not just being professional and polite. Zoe does love her work, and this has been yet another one of those interesting character types that she meets that keeps it interesting.

Zoe follows Raelle's gaze to Joshua and gives a faint half-smile. "I think it's just a slow night for him. He needed something to do." Beat. "Please, if you need any other information, feel free to stop in and ask for me." If only so Zoe has further proof of the oddly dressed girl and her satchel.


Raelle gives Zoe a curious half-bow that is very nearly Asian… except isn't. Still, it's cordial and her smile is warm, if still on the formal side of friendly. Adjusting her shoulder straps, she turns, then, and meanders her way out past the artefact cases. She moves a trifle more slowly past those ones that particularly fascinated her, before, giving Joshua a faint half-bow as well, she disappears out the grand double doors about the rest of her business.

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