Ack, I’m falling into my anxiety about posting stuff I’m not 100% positive about. But I overcome it and here it goes. Not a whole lot has changed from the original draft here, but major changes coming later. Always, critiques, suggestions and questions welcome!
Like every evening, it was quiet. Oracle Sofie stayed snoozing, heavens knew since when. Freya had spent most of the day following up on her research for an elderly scholar making use of her speed and thoroughness. The day being a success, she received a small thanks and he went on his way. The smallest gesture meant so much. She couldn’t stand the initial crowds that had surrounded her and followed her around after the amazing events of almost two years past. The first year had been filled with picking up the pieces from where they lay, and this last year was to settle into Daguerreo for some much-needed peace.
And peace had been achieved. It felt good after all she’d been through and all the politics she’d played a part in, to know that the most traumatic event in this mountain library was a missing lens or a torn binding. It comforted her. She remained in the same room she had been first given. It was only meant for a traveler, but it wound up being her residence. It was small but cozy, barely long enough to fit her eight-foot trident, but during the first few months the weapon slowly disappeared underneath various accoutrements and knick-knacks. In the beginning months, she had dug out a window, which eventually led to her building a small balcony outside on the mountainside. Many scholars came to enjoy its view, preferring to use her balcony to get a breath of fresh air rather than go out the front door of the cave.
It was better that her trident remain hidden as it inadvertently was. The Dragon’s Hair and the sights it had seen was all but a distant memory now. She was grateful that the nightmares had finally subsided. The less she thought of them, the less they came around.
Watching the slow-moving waters beneath her, she started to hear the pitter patter of raindrops. She squeezed her eyes shut and gripped the ledge. Raising the imaginary wall inside her mind, she forced her eyes open and desperately scanned the waters. There. That railing needs work, she made a mental note for her tasks tomorrow. And that one, too.
She turned, watching the mustachioed man amble down the hall toward her.
“Dr. Bani,” Freya said when he neared.
He came to a stop and peered up at her. “Your eyes,” he sniffed. “They’re all crazy-like again.”
“It’s nothing,” she lowered her gaze. Is it so obvious?
“Pah! Well I have just the distraction for you. Come! It is complete!”
“Indeed!” He clapped his hands and turned back to the circular ledge. Dr. Bani was one of the livelier of the scholars here, but he had the unfortunate habit of ignoring everyone unless he needed something from them. For the past few months, he had been visiting Freya almost on the regular, interviewing her about her first-hand knowledge of Terra and what she saw there. He would ask questions, she would reply, and he would never explain. Most of his questions lately were beyond her comprehension, and he would shrug and walk away without a farewell, only to return to her a week later with a set of new incomprehensible questions. He would never respond to her questions, as if he didn’t hear her.
But Freya didn’t mind. Thinking of Terra as a science subject was better than pondering the things that had happened there.
She followed him down the lift to the main level where most of the dormitories were. She had been invited into a few, and while they varied in size and dampness, all were in disarray, much like their owners. She’d never been invited into Dr. Bani’s abode, so when he opened the door and led her down a short dim hall, she was surprised when she was led into a spacious large room with a high ceiling. Most dormitories were poorly lit and cramped. Books stacked in high piles everywhere in Dr. Bani’s abode, shelves covered every wall space except for one area near a grandiose desk. A large parchment was tacked onto the wall with various scribbles and doodles covering its surface.
It looked like a map of sorts, but she couldn’t be sure. Dr. Bani was at his desk, pushing aside papers and writing utensils and then looking up expectantly at her, an eerie grin on his face.
“You’ve completed your book on Terra, I assume?” Freya questioned. She could never be too sure with these scholars. Their train of thought didn’t quite match the average folk outside this library.
“Shush!” He beckoned her over. “I don’t need the whole dosh-garn cave knowing!”
They all know you’ve been on a hunt for anything related to Terra. She kept this to herself and made her way to his desk. Daguerreo’s library included those inside the dormitories, this she learned a long time ago.
“Look!” He suddenly raised a large hard-covered book to her face and she had to resist jumping back in surprise. “This is it! My months of research and knowledge, all in one volume!”
She smiled and tilted her head to read the title: “An Assessment of Terra.”
“There’s none other like it?” She asked politely.
“Certainly not. It is complete, now take a look, you will be the first.”
“I’m honored,” Freya bowed. Why he chose her was beyond her, but she felt flattered nonetheless. She took the book from his shivering hands and she took a moment to admire the filigreed cover before opening it to the Table of Contents.
Dr. Bani crossed his arms, his universal sign of silence. She sighed inside and looked back down at the contents. Footnotes. Would it be insulting if she skipped to the end? Only in fiction. She went to the back of the book and found pages upon pages of reference books, some not relating to Terra at all. “First copy?”
“First and last, indeed.”
“Would you allow me to read it?”
Arms still crossed, he tapped his foot and narrowed his eyes. “I was going to place it in your protection, actually.”
Freya couldn’t hide the surprise on her face. “Me? Why?”
“I trust you. You’re not a thief like everyone else here.”
She shook her head. “That’s a high presumption, Dr. Bani. I would never steal, true, but it saddens me to hear that you would put your fellow scholars down so low.”
He snorted. “You’re not one of us, Miss Freya. You don’t covet words and accomplishments. You yourself loathe your own accomplishments! So there, I leave this to you.”
“What would you have me do with this gift?”
“Burn it, if you like! But read it first. Now that I am accomplished, you must be going. Good night.”
“…!” She nodded good night. It was best not to pursue any confusing matter with the scholars. Clutching the book to her chest, she exited the dormitory and quietly closed the door.
The skylight above the entrance in the cave indicated that nighttime was well underway. Her room was on the fourth level, and there was no one in sight. Curious of the odd references in Dr. Bani’s book, she decided to take the fastest way to her room.
She waded out into the water for clearance, then in a single leap, landed atop the fourth level rail. She hopped down to the floor and looked around quickly. It wasn’t that the residents here didn’t know what she was capable of, it’s just that she had kept to the standard mode of travel for so long, that it felt almost odd to use her dragoon abilities.
As she walked down the hall, she heard a door open below. That sounds like Dr. Bani’s door, her sensitive ears told her. She stopped and peeked down to the main level.
Sure enough, Dr. Bani was scurrying around the lower level. Surprisingly, he went up the ramp to the altar and made his way down the raised walkway to the entrance of the cave. An owl followed in his wake.
She slid the book into her coat and hurried to her room. Thankfully no one had fallen asleep on her outdoor balcony and her eyes immediately adjusted to the darkness outside. The moon was barely a sliver, but it shed enough light for her to see Dr. Bani scuttling across the bridge. She didn’t see the bird anywhere.
What is he doing?