Tacit Endari had been indoors, closed up in dusty rooms for far too long. He nodded with a certain finality as he closed the large book in front of him decisively, pushing himself back from the large table with his other hand. He could hardly believe that he had already been shut up in this dusty, cold room for a full day and did not have much to show for it. He was beginning to believe that what he sought no longer existed. All the knowledge and history of old Venne that had existed before the Kasnarian invasion had burned along with the rest of the city five hundred years ago.
The tragedy of the event was known only anecdotally to Tacit. His father had remembered well the old library, as he himself had come to Venne to study as a young mage in the service of the Tribunus government, in the years when Tribunus still made neutral and diplomatic contact with other nations. The diplomat to which he was assigned had allowed Tacit’s father ample time to comb through the library, then known as the greatest repository of arcane knowledge in the south. His father would often speak of the stacks of books on spellcraft and rituals that had been forever lost in the flames. He would lament that he was a young elf at the time, and had he more time or more experience, he could have gained skills and knowledge to outstrip many of the great archmages, just with enough time in the library of old Venne.
But that library was long gone, a sacrifice to the flames of war, along with the city that housed it. To know anything about the old city, its structure, layout and arrangement, a researcher had to rely at best on secondary documentation in other institutions. Even scholars in the new city spoke in regretful tones about the loss of the library at old Venne, although even their grandfathers only had hearsay and legend to promote its greatness. Even the greatest of academics in Haarkedamia admitted that their knowledge of old Venne was scant as best, and that their cultural memories of the city could very well just be myths.
Despite these known warnings and complications, Tacit needed all the information he could glean about old Venne. And so it was that he had ensconced himself here, in the library of Haarkedamia City, some two hundred miles southeast of Venne. This great old stone building, the Library of the Confederacy, had become the repository of the bulk of Haarkedamian knowledge following the destruction of the Library of Venne. He sought, with the help of a half dozen younger elven assistants, every scrap of information that the library contained about old Venne. The assistants helped him maintain his own sanity, as the search led into every recess of the enormous, musty structure of the library. Even when a helpful book was found, that single volume would typically branch out with vague references and faulty recollections. These references would spread the searchers into older books, in older stacks even better hidden and more forgotten than the book that referred to them.
So Tacit found himself, in his twenty third day of dedicated and deep research, with little more than two written scrolls of information about the city of old Venne. The writing on the scrolls was color coded depending on the reliability of the source. The most reliable writings, those confirmed by other sources independent of the original, were written in black ink. The next best sources, those that were at least found in the volumes written by known or reputable scholars, historians, and geographers, but lacking of confirmation from another source, were written in a blue ink. The rest, a collection of observations, or tidbits from books where the authorship was unknown or disputed, was written in red ink. Tacit rolled his eyes and sighed as he looked back over the two scrolls. At least two thirds of the writing was in red, and many of the red notes were borderline lunacy, containing such informational gems as “the sewers of Old Venne were infected with rare albino harpies, which would emerge at night from the largest of the sewer grates to abduct human babies,” or “the Hammer of Death is entombed deep underneath Venne in a catacomb that predated the city.”
Tacit’s eyes narrowed as he saw that last line, and he quickly read it again. With a smirk, he raised the scroll and looked up at his assistants, who had gathered quietly around the table when he closed the book he was reading. “Which one of you wrote this down about the hammer?” he asked, a smile playing across his face. The assistants quietly looked around at one another, worried that Tacit’s good natured approach could conceal a scathing rebuke. It had happened before.
Slowly, a young male elf raised his hand, clearing his throat. “That was my collection. I found it in a confiscated book,” he stammered, looking to his companions for support. Most of them looked at the table.
“A confiscated book? How did you go about wandering into that section of the library from the history stacks? Which text was this, this ridiculous assertion made in?” Tacit’s voice rose as he questioned his assistant, but he had yet to turn angry.
“I . . . it was a book of Kasnarian folklore, Lord Endari,” the assistant blurted out. Tacit winced at the formality of the title, and the falseness of its tone. “My sphere of study has been Kasnarian culture for the past twenty years, this was my first opportunity to access the Confederacy collection of Kasnarian works, I’d never had the clearance . . .”
“Quiet,” Tacit said coolly, rising from his seat to look down at the assistant seated across from him. “I didn’t bring the lot of you from Wood’s End to work on your private pursuits. You’d do well to remember that. The only reason you have access to these works in the first place is due to the grace of King Galen, whose royal warrant is the only reason any of us is in here,” his glance played across the faces of his assistants, not one of whom met his gaze. “Keep in mind that this research is being conducted as a serious inquiry into old Venne, and restrain yourselves from this sort of . . .” Tacit’s voice trailed off as he gestured at the parchment now crumpled in his first. “Questionable scholarship,” he finished, finding the words that satisfied the idea he was trying to convey. “Am I understood?”
A chorus of quietly whispered “Yes, lord,” and “Of course” answered him from the downturned faces, as the assistants shifted in their seats, futilely trying to find more comfortable positions.
“You,” Tacit said, pointing a long, thin finger at the young elf who had written down the excerpt. “Take me to this book. After all these days of research, I could use the entertainment.” Tacit laughed in a condescending way.
“Of course, lord,” the assistant replied hastily, rising quickly from his seat and dusting off his short green velvet jacket, emblazoned with the crest of Wood’s End. The assistant quickly moved away from the table and down the steps from the raised dais on which the table perched, looking out over the shelves and innumerable volumes. The light streaming into the room from the western windows was failing, its amber glow giving sparkle to the dust particles that floated gently over the stacks.
Tacit waved his hand at the remaining assistants as he turned to go. “Go, take the evening for yourselves. Have your tabs sent to my inn, it will be covered. Be prepared to continue early tomorrow morning.” He quickly followed the young elf down off the dais and into the stacks. Behind him, the remaining five young researchers sank into their chairs, sighing as they loosened collar buttons and rolled up billowing sleeves. One quickly took a surreptitious draw from a pewter flask before grimacing and rising to his feet, color coming to his cheeks and the tips of his ears.
Tacit caught up to the young man just as he was turning into a dim hallway off the main collection room of the library. Tacit glanced up, reading the small plaque above the doorway that said ‘Restricted’. He grimaced as he moved through the doorway, the ward that had been cast there letting him pass, but giving him a shiver as he moved through its invisible web. He knew that had he not been carrying the small token in his left pocket that he would have been frozen where he stood, the magic of the library’s wards freezing him in place for an unauthorized access attempt. The day he had arrived at the library, the head librarian himself had given the tokens reluctantly to Tacit, blustering through his gray beard about “highly unorthodox procedure” and “damnable practices and Lor knows what else in the restricted stacks”.
Tacit had smiled grimly and let the librarian work out his frustration to his old heart’s content; a royal warrant was not going to be ignored, particularly not one signed by Galen Crynus, a king well-respected in all of Haarkedamia, but not precisely liked. The only remaining royal old enough to have lived through the Kasnarian invasion, his small country had become increasingly withdrawn from Confederacy work and policy as he grew older, and his continuing research into highly esoteric topics had gained him a notoriety among both the academics of Haarkedamia, and the Ivory Council, the group of archmages who oversaw the instruction and implementation of magic for all the Confederacy. To suddenly appear in the capital with a warrant demanding unlimited access to the Library of the Confederacy was completely out of the blue, and had stirred up quite a bit of excitement and speculation among the city’s educated and magical communities. And of course the noble families of the city were all aflutter, but that was nothing new. So far their speculations had been far off the mark, as reported by Tacit’s other team of assistants: his spies.
Most of the academics being followed by his spies assumed the research was about Daarkia, the frozen island chain of the far north sea that Galen had been fascinated by all his life. The few mages who knew Galen well assumed that the research was involved with extraspatial magic, the esoteric field of essence magic that Galen was the leading expert on: the creation and maintenance of so-called pocket dimensions, spaces that could be entered that didn’t exist on this plane of existence. Galen had become well-known in magic circles for being able to create doorways into other realities of his own creation. For example, there was a rumor that his small royal castle had a series of small doors that lead into vast fields of grain and other staple crops, and doors into acres of pasture where cows and goats lived, happy and healthy. It was rumored that the cistern at the middle of the castle could not run dry.
When Tacit had distributed the tokens to his team of carefully picked young academics from the Wood’s End Academy, the reactions were ecstatic. Most academics could expect access only once they had achieved a large amount of accomplishment and renown in their areas of expertise. It was as if he had bestowed upon these young students their own small kingdoms. Little had each of them known then the demands that their newly assigned leader had in mind for them.
They were each summoned to the court of Wood’s End, and in a private audience with King Galen himself, they were each introduced to Tacit, and told their assignment: a joint research project on the city of old Venne. Although they were excited, most were confused, being aware of the general consensus that records of old Venne were practically nonexistent. But being told of their granted access to all records in the Library of the Confederacy, to an elf they were all so excited that they failed to notice that the ‘Lord’ they were being assigned to was someone none of them knew. Had they done their homework, they’d also have found out that Lord Endari had only received his title a week before they had been called.
An even deeper dig would have revealed that Tacit had no known family in Wood’s End, or even an address for that matter. A week before their excursion was created and sent via a powerful teleport to the Library, Lord Tacit Endari of Wood’s End simply did not exist.
7 - Berlin
8 years ago