The Eight Crimes of The Iconodules

The Museum, Part One

The Inspectors gathered in the Museum of the Old World.

The place almost seemed like a gift given all the lies they had been dealt. A curated experience that could show them some aspect of the world that they had missed, or that they had forgotten. It took three of them to open the door, throwing their weight against it until Refay, muscle bulging, dug in her claws and shattered the mechanism that was holding it closed, causing a sifting pile of abandoned dirt and dust to cascade over the front of the old, stone door. She wrenched it open and settled back, letting another go first. It didn’t seem like it was for her, whatever could be held within. Refay felt like that a lot. She blinked slowly at the rest of the Inspectors, her eyes strange and reflective in the glow of magical lights, which swung one by one on necks and belts as they shuffled inside.

Uta’s shining boots seemed similarly out of place as she entered first, slipping inside with all the caution she favored, moving along walls and gingerly touching stones, not believing that just because the place was abandoned meant that it was safe. The rest of the Bitter Trench had been filed with terrors, and this place was likely no exception. But, unlike the rest of the Trench, this Museum was dry. It had not experienced the flooding that the rest of the Trench had, nor the damage from explosive blasts of water. Her eyes flickered from shadow to shadow, starting from the floor up, reconstructing what had happened in her quiet. Outside she could hear the Inspectors shift impatiently, holding back their thoughts until she had given the all-clear.

The foyer was the entryway, she deduced, and she said as much to the others when she emerged from the dark, beckoning them inside. There were things they had to see. First, there was the mural.

It was made of a thousand, thousand tiles. Assembled into mortar and plaster by a steady hand over the course of what must have been years, the colored chips combining to form dwarves, tunnels, cities, a glittering place of mountains and rolling, alien grasses that could only be called the surface of the Old World. They wove together to tell a story. Evenria blinked in surprise when she recognized the language and, thereafter taking on an affect of disinterest, narrated the journey of those dwarves with the steady words of someone who had done her fair share of reading aloud to an audience. ""The People, where they spread through the Old World, were, like us, inhabitants of underground homes, prone to exploration and excavation. Our people explored the distant truths of the past and the more contemporary virtues of wealth and fine living, aided always by the vast riches and shelter provided by-" Evenria stopped, and her gloved hand reached out to run across smooth stone where the script had stopped. Water had scoured it away, a hundred years of erosion in an instant, propelled by some arcane, unimaginable pressure. Anis’ professional opinion was that someone must really have hated what was written there. Where the Inspectors had asked for arcane analysis they instead got a glimmer of possible motivation. And, in Inspector Shor’s inexplicable way, it was still somehow insightful. Someone had defaced this place, and had done so with surgical censorship. Naturally this blossomed into a vast conspiracy that the rest of the Inspectors tuned out. The Museum continued to beckon.

The foyer opened up with statuary and armory, much of which turned out to be missing vital pieces or damaged beyond repair. Names had been struck, recognizable faces had been shattered by the hydraulic power of whatever had swept through. They picked bits and pieces from the mess. Lin stood a long time before a glossy, obsidian tile that represented the Edge in all its horror. It was a sheet of stone, lovingly polished a long time ago and retaining much of its light-drinking luster. Before it dwarves fled, upward and inward. An etched inscription below had not been defiled. But nor had the tile itself. It was hard to deface a wall for being a wall, after all. Evenria offered translation helpfully without prompting, though it was in her own circuit around the room that she did so, almost as a public service. “The advent of the Edge and the Migration brought many hardships, and we must not forget that there was a better era. This does not mean that we should always strive for the return of the past. From the past we can learn, and dwarves can forge a purpose out of any conditions, even the most dire. We must not allow ourselves to lose hope, no matter how much the New World tests us.” She spoke into the relative silence only full of the shuffling of boots. The rhetoric was a far cry from the broken Copperhome that had sent them.

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