The Beginning of Things #1

At long last, here is the first instalment of my serial fiction featuring the characters I have introduced through a series of prologues. A .pdf is available here and will be updated as the story progresses.

If you have any comments or criticisms, let me know.

Enjoy!


The setting sun shone in through the large windows and warmed the pale marble floor under her feet. Around her, the sounds of quill on parchment gradually faded as the students left. Within minutes, she was alone in the Grand Library.

Caelynn Selasthrin, her auburn hair pulled messily back and her ink stained fingers trembling with fatigue, desperately wanted to leave the Library as well. She had been here for three days already, grabbing short naps where she could, and eating what little she had brought with her.

“You really should leave, you know.” The deep voice carried on the still air, causing her to jump. She looked up from the research scattered on the table and rubbed her eyes.

“I don’t have time.” She said, stretching out her spine. “I need to find what I’m looking for, much depends on it.” The priest approaching her smiled, the weather-beaten skin on his scarred face creasing along well-worn laugh lines.

“That’s what they all say.” He stopped at the edge of her table, folding his hands into the sleeves of his plain robe. “I’ve been a librarian here for a long time, and I’ve seen all sorts pass between these shelves. You, Caelynn, are not a researcher.” He cocked his head and looked at the scattered books and papers covering the wooden surface in front of her. “You have works on five different subjects, presenting thirteen points of view and collecting the results of at least two insane geniuses.” He sighed. “Please. Get some rest.”

“No. I need to find this, Raez. I need to. I just don’t know where to look.” She looked around, gesturing towards the shelves. “There is so much to go through.” Her shoulders slumped.

“What are you even looking for?” Raez’s voice was quiet and he placed a comforting hand on her shoulder.

“Lassin’s Rune of Protection. Master Gerund needs it for something and he said it was here. Somewhere.” She paused as a broad smile split Raez’s face. “What? What is it?” The priest said nothing in return, merely pointing at the ceiling. She looked up and her eyes widened.

Lost among the mosaic depicting the end of the Cataclysm, but plain to her trained eyes, a grand rune, undeniably a master rune, was hidden in the exact centre of the library’s roof.

She groaned and slumped forwards on the desk, her head cushioned on her right fore-arm.

“Are you sure this wasn’t a test? It’s not easy to forget where it is.” Raez said, struggling to contain his laughter.

“Of course it was a test.” Caelynn’s voice was muffled against the fabric of her sleeve. “It’s always a test. He’s been testing me ever since I got back to Scour with that caravan.”

“That’s just his way. You know what can happen if your magic isn’t applied properly.” She raised her head and stared at him

“I know, I know. I know I struggle to focus on things sometimes, I know that elves don’t make natural rune-carvers, I know that the tests are for my own safety. I just wish he would stop telling me that.” She sighed. “Sorry. It’s not your fault. I’ll sketch the rune and put these things back before leaving.”

“I’ll put the books back. Just go and rest.” Raez smiled. She couldn’t help returning the smile as she pulled some parchment towards her.

“Thank you.” She said, sketching the rune swiftly.

Raez began to silently tidy her desk as her hands drew smooth, sure strokes on the parchment.

As she put the quill down and craned her head to check her work against the original, he stepped away and made a shoo-ing gesture with his hands.

“Now go.” He said, smiling. “Sleep.” She nodded wearily and collected the few things on the desk that didn’t belong in the library.

“Thank you, again.” She said, standing. He nodded and grabbed a pile of books from her table as she started to walk out of the library.

The double doors opened smoothly at her touch and the golden sun painted the courtyard in shades of amber and bronze.

At this time of year, Temple Court was still busy in the evening. Students and faithful alike filled its numerous courtyards and meeting spaces.  The Grand Library, with its ornate façade, formed the entire south side of this particular courtyard and looked onto the unassuming rear of the Temple of Knowledge. Statues of both the Guardian and the Seeker, the two deities of knowledge, were recessed into alcoves along the temple wall and stood silent vigil over the Library.

She breathed deeply, enjoying the warm summer air, and started walking down the steps. The sounds of the city surrounded her and wrapped her in their familiar embrace as she crossed the square. The smell of food from somewhere nearby caught her attention and she realised how hungry she was.

Without really thinking about it, she changed direction, heading for the little café she favoured. Honeydew and Bramble was a small establishment, unknown to most and tucked away behind a few university buildings, that served a wide variety of traditional halfling pastries, as well as the honeyleaf tea she had thought she would never find again when she left the Starspire Forest.

It didn’t take her long to get there and sit down with a bramble-berry tart and a pot of steaming tea. She closed her eyes and inhaled the sweet smell of the infusion, smiling with satisfaction.

“Looks nice.” A sibilant voice said nearby. She opened her eyes and looked at the copper-scaled dragonborn standing next to her table. There was an air of lazy authority in the stranger’s voice, and a stiffness to her bearing, that betrayed an expectation of obedience.

“They usually are.” Caelynn replied, her tone guarded.

“Elenia Moondharrow wishes to see you.” The dragonborn said, reaching into her pocket and dropping a sealed roll of parchment onto the table. “She awaits you in her tower.” She turned to leave. “I wouldn’t keep her waiting.”

Caelynn froze as the dragonborn left, her hand hovering over the parchment.

The Guardian of Stability. She thought. What does she want with me? She began searching her memory, desperately looking for something she might have done that would result in being summoned by the head of Scour’s secret police and one of the oldest, and most powerful, members of the Twelve.

She closed her eyes and gritted her teeth, reaching for the missive. Without pausing, she broke the wax seal and unrolled it.

Caelynn Selasthrin, I need someone with your knowledge for a mission of utmost importance. Your tutors suggested you as a possible candidate and have given me permission to offer you a once in a lifetime opportunity.

 I can say no more about the mission other than that it is dangerous, but vital for the continued survival of the city. You will be well compensated for your troubles and I believe the experience will give you ample opportunity to practice your skills.

If you wish to take me up on my offer of employment, bring this letter to my tower and show it to my assistant. He will know what to do.”

She put the letter down and ate her tart as fast as she could, unwilling to keep Elenia Moondharrow waiting.

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