When we were bowed through the heavy oak doors to the library wing, and I stepped beneath the gilded dome for the first time, I thought my heart might stop.
Hundreds of oak shelves, polished and carved with the faces of the Spirits, lined the hall, stretched to the ceiling save for where the dome arched over us. Packed face to face, spines out, were hundreds of thousands of books, bound in leather and names written in gilt.
It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Hession stepped up beside me and let out a whistle. “Wow.”
Alistair grunted and touched the crackled pages of an enormous tome laid flat on a nearby table. “Where do you suppose—”
“Excuse me!” A head appeared over a nearby table. It was a woman—an elven woman—all narrowed eyes and messy hair. “Please, keep your voices down. You are aware of where you are, yes?” She straightened and tucked flyaway curls of bown back into the tight bun at the back of her head. “Who are you? I wasn’t expecting students today.”
Father let out a short sigh. “No, we aren’t students—”
“No?” She rolled down the loose sleeves of her dark dress and gave Alistair a severe stare. “Do you have guest credentials for the day, then?” Though she continued to glare, she reached up and lightly scratched the corner of her eye.
“Er, no, I didn’t know—”
“This is the largest centre of learning not only in Cyril, but the known world. You do know that, right? We can’t just let anybody run amok, especially”—her gaze shifted to me, then to Sophia behind me—“fool bloods and ruffians.”
Alistair pressed a fist to his mouth and cleared his throat. I hid a smile as he straightened his back. “What is your name?”
“I am Scholar Saraid of Oakspring, the librarian here,” the woman replied curtly. “Had you actually taken the time to get guest credentials, I would not have to ask who you lot are.”
A pleasant smile crossed Father’s face, but it was so painfully obvious that it was forced it was a wonder the woman didn’t force us out right then. “Well, let me do the honours of introducing myself, then, since I don’t have these credentials. I am Alistair Wymer of Nallis.”
“Y’know, the king,” Hession helpfully piped up. Continue reading →