Title: Svierre and the Library, part 1
Summary: A parable about a young man named Svierre who found a mysterious source of knowledge and made a deal with a great entity.
In the Realm of Aetherium there are many legends that exist. The devoted know these tales to be true, the faithless will mock them quietly behind closed doors. Whatever the truth may be, the stories still persist.
In the town of Windguard, sheltered in the high mountains whose stones are blacker than obsidian, there was a lovely young scholar by the name of Svierre. Svierre loved to learn from a young age. At the age of seven he had read all of the book in his small farming village and grew restless.
“What is the matter Svierre?” asked his mother, as she chopped the vegetables for their dinner.
“I’m bored, ma.” He said, kicking the leg of their wooden table lightly with the toes of his boots. He knew a young man should be happy with the life he was given and did not want to burden his mother, but he also did not like lying.
“Why don’t you go play with the other children? Dinner won’t be ready for several hours and it won’t be much fun sitting there.” She doted.
“The other children are stupid. They don’t even know who Gorath the Conqueror is.” He scoffed. In truth the other children knew very well who Gorath the Conqueror was, but they did not care for a child so young to be telling them that he knew more than them about it.
“Svierre!” she admonished, brushing the vegetables into the soup pot and moving on to the meat, “They are not stupid. They simply do not read. They were not blessed with a father who studied with the monks and could bring that knowledge to you. You would be just like them if it was not for him and the fates favoring our family.”
“No. They would never be like me.” Svierre sullenly said. He knew that no matter how hard they tried, they would never be like him. They weren’t curious and did not seek answers. They sat like sheep, content to graze and sit in the sun. Even then he knew he was not built to be a sheep.
His mother, now annoyed at his arrogance, put down her knife and began to shove him out of the house, “Then help your father with planting if you don’t want to play. There are many vegetables to plant and we shall have no food in the summer if they are not planted now.”
With that she shoved him into the yard and closed the door. Svierre sulked, for he certainly didn’t want to farm. The day was bright and warm with just the right amount of breeze that made the tiny sprouts of vegetables bounce as it blew past. Surely this was never a day meant for working.
Seizing this new drive towards avoiding work he began to wander towards the river, intending to bathe in its cleansing waters and try to catch a few guppies with his hands. However on this familiar path he saw sitting there, plain as day as if it had always been there, a small dark house. Svierre paused, blinking at the house as if his eyes could unsee that which they were seeing. Yesterday there was nothing there but a patch of heather and now there was a full house. Amazed, he walked over to it and touched the walls to make sure that he knew it was real. Smooth wood met his hand and he nodded, as if confirming the reality of his hands.
As if his touch was a signal the door swung open gently, bringing with it the scent of that which was within. If it had not been that specific scent, he surely would have walked away and told the village of that which he saw, but it was too late. The scent of old paper and leather, unmistakably it was the scent of many books. Books that he had never read. Perhaps whoever lived here would be willing to let him read some if he went in to meet them.
With curious feet he walked through the door and called within “Hello?”
Nothing but silence that swallowed and recorded his words. The light was dim despite the brightness of the sun and he grabbed a candle from the table by the doorway along with a tinderstick. “Hello, I noticed your door was open. I just wanted to say hi.” He said, even as he was lighting the candle. Surely they would forgive him if he wasted just a bit of their wax in the name of being friendly.
The warm glow spread over the most glorious sight his eyes had ever beheld. This was no typical house. Instead of a table and chairs before him, there were shelves. Shelves that reached to the ceiling and were covered in books. Losing track of the fact that this was not his house, he ran forward with a candle in his hand to go look at them. Some were in texts he could not understand, but everything within his eyesight was tales of old, legends that were long since lost or merely relegated to the big cities and fancy colleges. “Atron and His Hubris”, “Kilik and the Ring of Flowers”, “A Rage With No End”, “The Architect”- so many tales that he had never heard of before. Deeper and deeper he moved into the labyrinth of shelves. He placed the candle to the ground as he picked up a book titled “Alouetta the Brave”, pouring eagerly over its pages.
He was so wrapped up into the book that he did not hear the footsteps as they approached him. “Do you like what you have found in my library?” came a resonant voice.
Startled and slightly ashamed of himself, Svierre looked up at the voice without closing the book. Before him was tall man with squarish glasses, looking down upon him with a bemused smile on his face. Placing the book down on the ground and picking up the candle as he scrambled to his feet he could make more out about the man. He wasn’t old, no, but he also wasn’t young. His face was angular and handsome with a light brown goatee, but there was a strange sense of power that rolled off of him that made him think that the man was much older and important. Maybe it was also because of the way the man dressed. He dressed like a foreigner, in long green robes with a light green sash around the shoulders that was patterned with crawling vines- both precise and elegant. Whoever he was, he was rich enough to have all of these books and still have a lots leftover for clothes.
“I’m sorry, sir.” Svierre began, “I saw the door was open and I wanted to say hi and-“
“You got distracted reading?” the man finished, laughing a little as Svierre looked down in shame at getting caught.
Rather than admonishing him, the man clicked his tongue softly against his teeth, “It would be a shame to leave that book partially finished. It’s a rather good tale, one of my favorites to tell children. Finish the story. I will wait.”
Svierre waited a moment to tell if it was test but only a brief moment lest the man change his mind. He practically tumbled over himself to get to the book again. Svierre read quickly, taking in all the details of Alouetta’s journey from a simple farm girl to a master general. As soon as he was done he looked up. The man had not left, nor had his expression even changed that much. He simply stood as a sentry, looking down at Svierre with a bemused look on his face.
“Thank you, sir, uh” Svierre said, getting up and giving the man a clumsy bow.” I don’t know your name.”
“You can call me The Librarian.” He said, turning his head slightly and motioning for Svierre to follow him.
“I am-“ the child began
“Svierre of the Clan of Lionsbane. I know. Your coming was recorded here when you were born.” The man finished.
Svierre’s mouth dropped open. “How did you-“
“You see all these books?” the man motioned to the seemingly unending stacks of books, “I’ve read them all. Lots of interesting thing in them. That’s how I knew you. Besides,” The man chuckled, “You mother has been calling for you for an hour outside. Dinner is ready, apparently”
“An hour?” Svierre repeatedly dumbly. Surely it hadn’t been that long. He had left when the soup was just beginning to be cooked, which meant it would take several hours after to make the dinner. Yet she was calling him to the dinner table now?
“Don’t worry. I told her you were going to eat dinner with me.” The Librarian said, now leading Svierre out of the shelves and into a small room with a wooden table. Upon the table was a modest bounty of bread, warm cow meat, fresh apples and baked potatoes. The older man motioned for him to sit, patting one of the chairs, and took a seat himself. Svierre paused, unsure if to follow. The man was doubtless kind, he had let him finish the story and had yet to have yelled at him for sneaking into his house and lighting his candles in the first place, but it seemed odd to have dinner with a stranger even if he was kind.
“Come now. If you don’t eat it will get cold.” The kindly owner of the books said, putting meat, fruit, bread, and potatoes onto his own plate with a long fork that was twisted into a spiral.
“I should get home to my ma.” Svierre said, getting a bit nervous.
“Nonsense. We still haven’t discussed the method of payment for you reading my books. Sit,” the man hit the chair a bit harder making the wood crack loudly with his finger rapping, “We need to have a talk. After dinner I swear I will take you right back to the hillside which you came in from.” The man’s gaze fell upon Svierre in such a way that it left no room for him to question. Besides, he wasn’t even sure he could find the door now even if he wanted to with the way that the shelves were. It was like getting trapped in a maze. The boy moved forward quietly and began to put food upon his plate, mumbling a thank you to his host.
The Librarian, apparently satisfied, let a smirk go back on his face, “Today, Svierre of the Clan of Lionsbane, you stole knowledge from me. I am impressed. Not many manage to do that.”
The seven year old blanched. “It’s not stealing. I was just reading!”
“Reading books that are not yours is taking something that does not belong to you. Isn’t that stealing?” The Librarian eyed him over his spectacles, watching his face carefully.
“It’s not the same!” Svierre exclaimed, yet he could not articulate how. He just knew it was, but there were no words as to why.
“Be that as it may,” the Librarian looked thoughtfully out of the window in front of him, “You still owe me a bit of a service for the knowledge as payment.”
“I don’t have money!” Svierre said, all too well aware of the fact that his family fended for themselves most of the time out of necessity rather than a headstrong desire to be self-sufficient.
“It’s not money I am going to ask of you.” The older man turned to him once more and there was an odd look into his eyes, like a general planning the moves of his armies. It was deadly and severe, an expression that frightened the child a little bit. “I won’t even ask that you pay it now. I will find you later, when I need you. You will then help me with my task, until the task is finished. Think of it like a favor to a friend.” The Librarian extended long fingers towards him, “Does that sound like a good deal?”
A favor didn’t seem too bad. “And you won’t tell my mom that I snuck in here and stole?” Svierre asked.
The Librarian laughed, “No. She will never know that you weren’t asked to come in and read my books.” The hand still stayed extended, waiting.
This seemed easy. Svierre shook the man’s hand, noting how strong it was, when sparks of purple light began to fly between them. The child tried to move away and the older man held fast to his hand as the light grew so bright that it hurt his eyes and made his chest feel cold and tingly as they touched him. The world went completely silent.
“One more thing.” The man said as the color began to die down and sound returned, “Go check on the dam. It has a leak that will burst in two days unless it is fixed.”
Svierre blinked, crying a little more out of surprise than anything else, and nodded. Taking that to be a good enough answer the Librarian led him to the door.
“I will see you again, my boy.” The man nodded, his brown hair practically glowing in the sunset light. Svierre nodded numbly.
“Remember about the dam.” The older man said once more before closing the door to his house.
For a moment Svierre stood outside, unsure of what to do. It was far later than he was expecting it to be, but he did just eat. He could go home or…see if the man was lying.
In that moment he decided to go to the dam. It was only a short walk and if he was already going to be yelled at for being late he at least wanted to know if the man was crazy or not. The great lake and the dam were quiet when he found them, with everyone having gone home for dinner. No one stopped him as he walked along the stones and doorways, looking for any cracks.
He was just about to go home when he saw it. Plain as day, hidden in a corner, there was a spiderweb of cracks in the stone. The remnants tried their best to hold together, but they shook with the effort of making sure the whole thing did not come tumbling down. Frightened, Svierre rang the bell to sound the alarm and summon the adults there to help.
When they all came he pointed them towards the spot and they marveled at his good eyes. He explained that he had been playing and found it. They were all so grateful that his mother almost forgot to yell at him for being late and he forgot to tell them about hanging with the Librarian.
The next day when he went to find the cottage again, it was nowhere to be found. There was just a spot of heather on a hill.