197 Chapter 194 Map of the Wastelands
"Do you know who I am?" asked Joseph, looking at her carefully. Did she look familiar?
With a sigh, she removed her spectacles, that she was using to read the very small print in her book, and set them down on the table. Turning her full attention to them, she leaned back in her chair and crossed her arms.
"For one, you're not a gnome. For two, I've never seen you before. For three, only the royal family is allowed in here, and you're not of the gnomish royal family. For four, us gnomes are taught from a very young age the prophecies regarding our imprisonment, and our rescue. I could continue, but logic would dictate that you would have to be the savior Joseph."
Stella looked at him, waiting for him to say something. Joseph nodded thoughtfully, looking her up and down.
"Then you must be a princess, or the queen?"
"Since I'm female, yes, I would have to be one of those two."
Stella was gritting her teeth, and Joseph sighed. "Stella, you may not kill her just because she is being annoying."
"But she's being rude to you! No one should be rude to my king!" Stella glared at her, no doubt envisioning all the ways she wanted to kill her. Joseph wanted to think she would just hurt her, make her kneel, but he knew better.
"She doesn't know that I am a king," he said, turning towards the door to the map room. It wasn't worth the effort to argue and try to wheedle information out of the gnome. She was being a brat, but that didn't mean Stella should just kill her.
"She could show some respect for her 'savior', as they keep calling you."
The gnome rolled her eyes, before picking up her glasses and going back to reading. Joseph ignored Stella's comment, agreeing with her to an extent. The other gnomes had been in obvious awe at seeing him, and he had rather enjoyed it. This gnome, he knew, would be evil, and if being a brat was her form of evil, he would take it.
Pausing at the door, he checked to make sure there weren't any traps, or other nuisance devices, before opening it. Inside was a table, covered with a large parchment, carefully detailed with the surrounding lands. He was reminded of the cartographer his father had taken him to as a young boy, and wondered briefly whatever happened to him, before turning his attention to the map.
"Stella, why didn't you like that gnome in the other room?" he asked, as he walked around the table, studying the map. "You don't normally act so hostile to individuals we just meet."
"She was unnecessarily rude. She didn't have to talk down to you like you were a child."
"Has it occurred to you that she may have no one else to speak to? I imagine she may have grown up here, alone, with only these books to occupy her time. If she truly is evil, as the barrier seems to suggest, then leaving this area, to mingle with the other gnomes would cause her constant pain."
Stella was quiet, and he straightened up with a frown.
"What's wrong?" she asked. The map was a wonderful recreation of the land from here all the way to the western coast.
"This map doesn't show the wastelands," he murmured to himself.
After a moment of thought, he grabbed the table and flipped it over. A bar on the underside allowed it to spin over, exposing a map of the land south of the human lands. The wasteland was huge.
"That's better," he said with a nod, bending over to examine certain areas in detail.
From the border, where his people currently lived, south for a hundred miles, there was nothing but barren land. Very few hills or valleys dotted this land, and nothing on the map seemed to indicate any ruins. Below that, there began a line of hills that quickly climbed into mountains that stretched from one coast to the other. They blocked all travel south, except for those who could fly, save through a single gap. In the middle of the mountains, along the route that the gap provided, there was marked a town of some kind.
Joseph looked for a key, on the map, to tell him what the symbol stood for, but there wasn't one.
Below the mountains, there was what looked to once have been jungle. The trees that were drawn were skeletal, with no leaves. Several ruins dotted the southern coast, marked with a similar symbol as the one in the mountains, only smaller. Joseph could imagine the various life and towns that must have once lived there. He wasn't sure what would return to those areas, once the tree was restored, but he could imagine swamps and bogs at the ends of some of the marked rivers.
Standing up, he glanced around the room, but saw nothing else of interest. With Stella close on his heels, he left the room, to see the gnome again.
"Ah, done already?" she asked, with a smirk. "Bet you are going to ask me where the map to the wastelands is?"
"Nope," said Joseph with a smirk of his own as she turned to give him a surprised look. "I figured out that the table flipped over. Rather interesting design, as it saves quite a bit on space, though I was wondering why you changed the map?"
"What do you mean?" she asked nervously.
"Well, I've seen the wastelands already, and I know that some of the things are missing from the map that you have in there," he said, pointing behind him with his thumb, as she had when they first arrived.
"I don't know what you mean," she said, chewing on her lower lip.
"Come now. I'm the savior of your city. How am I supposed to do my job, if the map I came here to find isn't correct?"
"But you aren't here to help us! You're just here to see that stupid map!" she fumed, then realized her mistake, wrapping her hands over her mouth.
"Of course, I'm here to help you. I just also happen to be here to see that map. After all, I'm not one to intentionally ignore a god's request."