A Learned Child
A Learned Child
Dusty wooden shelves line the walls, the room a nearly complete circle so cramped it is impossible to breathe without inhaling metric tons of spider webs. Countless books a myriad of sizes line the shelves twenty feet high and two feet deep. Simply reaching into one of these tightly-packed cubbies is asking to get bit by spiders. An aged, circular wood podium sits in the center of the room, five feet tall and a foot in diameter. A single candle atop the desk illuminates the miniature library.
The flame flickers as I wave my hand over it, feeling the warmth tickle my palms. Magic separates the flame from the wick. A simple upward motion of my hand to pushes the flame higher. As the flame ascends, I take my first step onto the shelves, steadying myself before moving again. I climb with the flame, passing by shelves of books left untouched for centuries. Finally I reach the top shelf and lift the rising flame so I might see past the darkness.
I reach in when I find the tome. It is a light book with a black leather cover and woven gold letters in an old language. Unable to truly contain my excitement I pull away from the shelf, glancing down into the darkness below me. I feel a slight hesitation, interrupted as the wood around my fingers breaks off and the light I brought with me vanishes. My heart drops into my stomach as I let out a high-pitched, short squeak, shutting my eyes to brace for the impact.
The flame reignites on the candle wick, the orange glow warming my face. I open my eyes to see the flame flickering before me – my head is mere inches from the candle. My body is surrounded by the cold, black glow of magic, keeping me still in open air. I let the book down on the desk and wave my arms about to spin my body around. As my feet touch the safety of hard ground I let out my breath in relief and my heart finally begins to slow.
“Behold and beware, reader, for the things I have witnessed are a result of terrible magic,” I recite as I open the small book. I place my finger on the following lines after the first, smiling as I reread the story for another, countless time. “This is the account of Remus Varshtig, a foolish mage who believed he could overthrow the gods themselves. Read and learn from my mistakes, so that the world can never repeat them.”
Footsteps outside the door make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I quickly extinguish the candle and freeze where I stand, not even daring to breathe. The footsteps stop and my heart drops again. As silently as I can, I slide the little book onto a nearby shelf. Unable to see where I am putting it tortures me, but I have to hide it in case I get caught. Right when I pull my hand back, another book falls off the same shelf, hitting my foot. I suck in my breath and beat down the urge to cry out.
After an eternity, the footsteps start again and move away from the door. Once they are completely out of earshot I let myself breathe again and fall to the ground to rub my sore toe. The candle reignites once more, letting me see the fresh bruise already forming. It stings, but this bruise is a small price to pay for a chance to read this story again. I glance back to the shelves only to quickly realize I’ve already forgotten where I put it. Upset, but resigned to the task, I sit on my knees with the fallen book in my hands, looking for the place it may have gone.
A cool breeze wafts in from below the door, causing me to shiver. Even in summer the nights sometimes get so cold. I rub my feet to get warmth back into them, but the intensity of the cold only grows until I start shivering. It isn’t until the flame goes out I realize the cold is not natural. I abandon my search to curl up in a corner, trying to stay warm. I would rather suffer this cold than to go out and face her. Then I hear the door unlock and the creaking of old bronze hinges moving aside.
“If you’re cold, there’s a nice warm bed waiting for you,” the woman, Emmenthia, says pointedly as the door opens. I can feel the ice on her breath even from here. I don’t dare look up at her but I already imagine what she must look like. Cyan robes that flow like silk draped over thin shoulders. A puffed-out chest and disappointment etched into every gesture and expression. Her pointed jaw and icy blue eyes looking down on me. “Curfew started five hours ago. Five hours, Vivian. Did you intend to even go to bed tonight or were you planning on skipping out on lessons again?”
I don’t say anything. I hear her frustrated breathing and curl up a little tighter, knowing the lecture is coming. “You’ve only been out of the detention cells for two days and you’re already breaking the same rules as before. Did you think I wouldn’t notice or pay attention to your empty room so soon after leaving detention? After having been in those cells three times this month?”
I hold onto my silence. She’s right, of course, I shouldn’t be here. But I do not regret the time I spent in detention. In the end, it is all worth it if I get to learn more about Remus Varshtig, and that knowledge will only come from one place – his book. No other writings exist with his name in it. And as this place is forbidden to me, I have no other hours I could possibly read it.
“Just what am I to do with you?” I hear her defeated sigh. I chance a peek up at her. Her hand covers her eyes and she rubs her temples, clearly irritated. I can see for myself the stress I cause her by breaking the rules. For what it’s worth, I do feel a little guilty.
“This is the only time I get to come here,” I start my excuse, but quickly realize she wants nothing to do with it and shut my mouth. The Historians won’t let me in this place during the day, I wanted to say. Then again, this part of the library is off-limits anyway. I’m really breaking two rules here, not just curfew.
“Fine,” she says, crossing her arms and giving me a telling look. “You tell me what I should do. Do you want to go back to detention?”
“In that case should I have a Purifier follow you everywhere to keep you out of trouble?”
“Then I will enchant your bed linens to keep you from leaving during the night.”
“Please no, ma’am.”
“Vivian, you have to choose something. I’m out of ideas for a punishment that might actually get you to behave. These rules are in place to keep you safe. If you continue breaking them, I won’t be able to protect you from the elders or Father Morrin’s corrective justice.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am.” I mean it this time. Emmenthia won’t believe me though, she never believes me whenever I apologize. It isn't like she has a reason to believe me, I’ll just break curfew again tomorrow night. She might even catch me, if she checks my room again.
Emmenthia’s eyes droop slightly, tiredness taking over. She reaches towards me and pulls me up by my arm. Her hands are cold like ice and send shivers down my spine. I don’t struggle, I already know she won’t let go of me. “I’m putting you to bed,” she tells me. “If I catch you out and about again tonight I won’t hesitate to hand you over to Father Morrin. Got it?”
“Yes ma’am.” She’s bluffing, I know, but I’ll listen to her this time. Every single time I’ve been caught, she threatens to take me to Father Morrin, but never has. I might be confident in that now, but I would not put it past her to hand me over. She wants to correct my behavior without the clergy’s help. But I have to be willing in order for that to work, and I never am and never will be.
Outside the small library’s heavy door leads to a much larger library with a thousand shelves and eight thousand books. Tomes and collections and journals of our country Ermith histories line the grand majority of these shelves. The mini-library I am not supposed to be in is where a collection of histories concerning magic are contained, particularly ones about forbidden magic. Those shelves are limited access, only the fully-fledged mages can enter, and even then most mages are banned access anyway due to the sensitivity of the items inside.
I would not call this library an underground one, even though it technically lies beneath the mage temple in Jesu City. Since the city floats on the lake, there is no ground beneath the stone keeping the city afloat. The ceiling hangs low, Emmenthia’s head nearly touches it – but she is tall, even for an Ermithian woman. The mini-libraries have extended ceilings and show up above-ground on the temple flats, but are fenced off and enchanted so no one can touch them or break in. We see these mini-towers after climbing a set of stone steps to reach “ground” level.
Heavy, gray stone towers over us, the temple enchantments causing the building to give off a faint glow. Blue shingles reflect the light of the moon, illuminating us as we walk through the stone garden. Moss and vines with violet flowers in bloom grow on the sides of the temple. It is not the only building in Jesu City to allow vines and moss to grow on it. During the spring especially, the entire city is covered in beautiful flowers. The river to the north pulls water lilies into the lake as well, which make the waterways here even more colorful.
“Enjoying the view?” Emmenthia tugs on my arm, pulling me inside. On each of the temple’s four corners are tall, cylindrical towers. Inside each tower is a staircase that spirals upwards. Some of the elders make their homes at the top of the towers while the rest of it is for reaching the different floor levels inside the temple. We step down to the base of one tower to climb these stairs up to the second floor. The hallway on this floor goes only two directions before becoming a dead end. Countless doors hang on the walls on each side, each one leading to a different room. This is where the younger generation lives. Emmenthia, even though she is seven years my senior, also lives on this floor as a kind of supervisor – the younger students call her the fairy godmother, even though she is far from what I would call a fairy or a godmother. From here I can see one of the Purifiers standing just outside my door with his knuckles mere inches from it.
“Stan?” I murmur, furrowing my brow slightly. What’s he doing by my door at this hour? He quickly takes notice of Emmenthia and I across the hall and freezes there for a second.
“Is there a problem, Purifier?” Emmenthia asks. I can sense something in her voice accusing him of something. “Is there something you need Vivian for?”
“Yes- I mean no, it is not important. I was just making sure she was inside.” Stanford isn’t the best liar; I can see the guilt etched on his face from halfway across the hall. Stan is younger than her, I think, so while he is supposed to have some level of authority over her it isn’t very effective – especially when he is being so indecisive. Not to mention he isn't exactly a Purifier – not yet. He hasn't undergone the final rituals, but he has all of the powers a demon/mage-hunter does.
“Next time you want to intrude on a predominantly female dormitory, I suggest you do it during daylight hours. Else I may be inclined to think you have other motivations.” Emmenthia releases me from her iron grip, giving me a little bit of relief. At least she isn’t going to throw me in my room this time. I shuffle forward quickly in case she decides to change her mind on that, giving Stan a look before ducking into my room. With the door closed behind me, I breathe out in relief. I feel a little too popular tonight.
My room is dark, save for a tiny blue light hovering just an inch below the ceiling. The magic orb faintly illuminates the tiny, cramped space I live in. The tiny space would make some claustrophobic, but I like it. There is enough room for a thin bed and a small wardrobe, leaving just enough space to walk between the two. I let my robes fall off my shoulders and slink into bed, already knowing I’m going to be woken up early, as is usual. I could always hope for a night to sleep in, but with my rule-breaking habits, it isn't likely.
- Posts : 16206
Join date : 2009-11-01
Age : 24
Location : Naletia
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