“There weren't always dragons in the Valley.” Xavia Amaadon was in the middle of a debate when it happened. “They migrated from the north after the flood!” the young man sat opposite him laughed shaking his head.
“That’s not true, they carved the valley by melting the mountain” Xavia rolled his eyes and smirked at the man's reply.
“And where did you read that?” He looked at the man amused.
“It’s written in the Book of Vulpes”
“Since when have we categorised religious text as historical fact”
“Religious texts are always historical”
“But not necessarily fact” The man looked back at him wide-eyed and open mouth, Xavia was about to revel in his win over the novice Librarian when a booming knock echoed through the large halls of the Libaray of Stone. Xavia turned to the oak doors, he frowned then looked to the clock high in the celing, it was past twelve at night. "who would be calling at this time".
Xavia opened the door, the moonlight shining over the courtyard. he looks down, a bundle of inky black blankets riggled and squirmed on the first step. The blankets moved to revel a baby with slightly too pink skin, the baby giggled, her eyes glittered, gold the only visible colour in them. At her temples, the baby had small stubs. Xavia could tell they were horns trying to grow through the skin. Xavia looked down at the baby stunned.
When the librarians found Sypha they were going to find a nice family for her, but because of her appearance, small horns at her temples, pinkish skin, and gold eyes with no white or pupils, no one wanted her. She was 4 when they eventually decided to stop looking for a family and make her the official Ward of the library. The Librarian she spent the most time with was Xavia Amaadon, a half-elf that spent his life in the pursuit of knowledge. Just before Sypha was abandoned at the library, Xavia was a Traveler he would tell her stories of his journeys through the known land, and sometimes beyond.
The library grounds were near the woods on the outskirts of town; when she was a child, she would sneak out into the woods and play in streams, find caves and run with the animals till the librarians would call her back inside and chide her for getting so dirty. These chastisements never stopped her. Her nickname in the library was “little fox” because of her ginger hair and wild nature. When she was 11 they told her about how she came to be at the library, they gave her the note that she was left with her on the doorsteps, which read:
“Please take care of this child, she will not have it easy. Tell her, her parents love her and loved each other”
With the letter, there was a gold ring with a symbol on it; she would wear it around her neck on a chain. Because of this ring, she liked to collect gold jewellery. She placed rings around her horns and threaded them through her hair. She would get piercings as she got older. After finding out her unknown parentage, she spent a lot of time studying the different beings of the land to see if she could work out who her parents were. She found everything interesting and had her theories but no definitive answers. Many Wizards and Soursers had passed through the library so she knew she had magic, a Wizard from the north tried to teach her how to levitate a book once, but it just bored her. She was just never that interested in learning through the books. By the time she was 13, she was now going off to the woods to practice a different kind of magic, she collected herbs and flowers, stones and shells.
She very much enjoyed reading all the books in the library. Even though she knew a lot about the world, she was very sheltered, only ever going into the city two or three times every few months. She didn’t have many friends her age; there weren’t many children at the library and the children from the nearby town were told to stay away from her. She remembers Xavia shouting at a local mother because she told him that Sypha was untrustworthy and should be locked up in her room and not be allowed to “roam” the library by herself; she still remembers the anger in his eyes, but she also remembers the fear in the mothers.
CHAPTER 1: A Change
Sypha was in the Arts section, two steps up on the sliding ladder. She had a stack of books cradled in one arm, reaching up to place each one in its place. At the bottom of the ladder, she had left two other stacks. This section was situated near the front of the main hall. The maze of mahogany shelves were confusing to new Librarians; they often needed a year or two before they stopped getting lost. Sypha could navigate it in her sleep.
Librarians were milling about the area, two doing the same task as her and three sitting at the tables doing research. All of them dressed the same: a dress shirt, navy blue waistcoat, and straight-leg trousers. Much had changed surrounding the Brotherhood over the centuries. The inclusion of women for one, then not being a strictly human organisation. Though the uniform had always stayed the same. This made Sypha stand out of course. She wore a billowy cream shirt that she kept the first few buttons open. Her skirt was dark brown, floor-length, in the front she had hitched the mineral through loops on the leather belts around her waist, this gave her room to move up and down the ladders freely. That wasn’t the only thing about her appearance that stood out though, her skin was light but vibrant pink, the whites of her eyes were light yellow, a deep gold circle in the centre. Her hair was bright ginger, unruly and tangled. Occasional braids laced through the nest of flames. It swayed down her back as he stepped down the ladder. But what really made her stand out from the others situated in the library were the horns; they started at the top of her forehead and curled around her ears. She had decorated them with gold rings and charms she’d been gifted; she also a gold bar pierced through the bridge of her nose and a ring through her septum. She wore a gold ring on a chain around her neck. All of the metals glinted and sparked in the late morning light; the ring at her collarbone glinted and shined the brightest.
Sypha sighed as she pushed the ladder along, picking up the remaining piles of books from the floor. She staked them higher than she should in her arms trying to finish her task sooner. She moved on to the next shelf.
Xavia Amaadon was walking past as he noticed her struggling, the book on top not looking very secure. He stopped, smiled, and moved to join her. Before she could refuse, he had taken half of her books.
“Let me help you.”
“I can shelve books myself you know” she rolled her eyes, though it was only her pride that was annoyed. “I’m not a child” she knew that was the least childlike thing she could have said. “no, you’re not.” He laughed “you were a sweet child, that always enjoyed my company.” she sighed and scrunched up her face unwilling to admit her defeat aloud. She begrudgingly fell into a comfortable silence with him. Focusing on the task, they passed each other books and occasionally questioned titles and numbers placement. Sypha looked to Xavia silently asking for a book, she noticed his face, she supposed the changes to his appearance had happed slowly, she had only just noticed them now. He was around 83 now, for a half-elf this was the younger side of middle age. He still had his thick shoulder-length curls, they were still a dark blond colour, though now he combed it back. When she was little, he left it wild like hers. His face was sharp still, a collection of straight lines and angles, though now the skin had started to crease slightly around the eyes. Sypha was unnerved that time’s hands had reached someone so constant to her.
They had nearly finished the stake, the shelf now claustrophobic with books.
“We missed you at breakfast this morning” he was gentle with his words, it was a definitive statement with a question hidden inside. She still didn’t look at him, focused on the shelves.
“I wasn’t hungry.” he raised an eyebrow at her reply.
“You should still eat.” he smiled and handed her the last book in his arms. He leaned his shoulder against the shelf, she staked it into the only free space.
“I had an apple from the orchard” she turned to him, a quiet smile on her face. “And now I’ve done all my tasks for the morning.” She held her hands up to show off her work in jest and smiled, “thank you” she looked down embarrassed for her stubbornness. He laughed, and ruffled the mess of ginger hair between her horns, she tried to bat him away. In these moments she was still the little girl with missing teeth that wanted ‘just one more story’ at bedtime. But she would always be that girl to him. He knew she was bored today, that she needed something interesting to occupy her time.
He extended his arm, grabbed her shoulder and brought her to his side as if he was a Hen bringing a chick under her wing. They walked down the narrow ally of books, Sypha rolled her eyes, she didn’t embrace him but she didn’t pull away, feeling comforted by him.
“Well, I was going to ask you to journey into town with me.” Sypha looks down twiddling with her fingers as they walk.
“I don’t know…” Her voice strained.
“Oh come on, the market should have their new stock now.” He looked down at her, he was taller than her, around 6 inches difference. She kept her eyes down. “Brea said she’d order in some more jars for you, and that red ink you like?” His words were convincing though she still didn’t know if the looks from the townsfolk were worth it. Brea ran the market, she was always kind to her.
Before she could make a decision, a commotion had started near the entrance, the shouts were muffled but could be heard from the arts section. Xavia made his way over, faster than his usual pace.
“I’m telling you! Get Xavia Amaadon!”
Sypha could hear the refusal of the Librarian, talking about the “desecration” of the “reading peace”, Sypha rolled her eyes, she loved the library but some of the Librarians took the Teachings of Knowledge a little too seriously for her. Once Xavia and Sypha rounded the corner they saw the source of the chaos in front of them: a man in a long coat stood in the entrance waving his hands about in frustration. A Half-Orc woman stood behind him, it was obvious she was tall, broad shoulders wrapped in a pale blue shirt struggling to stay straight because hanging from her right shoulder was an elf man, Sypha didn’t notice many more details because the man was bleeding from his stomach. The Librarian that was trying to stop him, had the expression of a man that had never experienced stress in his life, that had suddenly been thrown into his worst nightmare; the relief washed over him as soon he saw Xavia running over.
“Fenric?!” Xavia stared shocked at the man at the entrance. The anger fell from his face as he rushed to Xavia, he clasped his shoulder brining him in for an exhausted, tight hug. Over the man's shoulder, Xavia spoke to the younger librarian.
“I’ve got this, they are friends of the library”. Sypha didn’t wait, she moved to the struggling woman.
“What can I do?”
“Take his other side, the idiots heavier than he looks”. The woman replied, her voice strained. Sypha immediately took his other shoulder the weight dragging her down, the man winced and spluttered as she did.
“Fenric, what happened?” he pulled away from his friend as he spoke, resting a hand on his shoulder. Fenric turned to the tall woman.
“A Necromancer” he walked Xaxia over to the group of three at the door. “We won, but our healer got in the way of a knife, the wound is deep and we think cursed”. Xavia pulled up the blood-soaked shirt of the wounded man, he let out a sound somewhere between a groan and wince.
“Not my finest moment bookman” He coughed out, Xavia looked from the man's face to the damaged skin, it had started to darken, the flesh necrotic surrounded the opening. Xavia then turned his head up to Fenric, his eyes now holding the same sense of urgency as his friend.
“Whatever we do now, first we need to remove the dead flesh.” he stood and turned to Sypha, “take him to one of the empty rooms, make sure he doesn't get too cold”. Sypha acted quickly and lead the woman, and man between them, way down the hall. He turned back to Fenric. “We need supplies, did you see the knife that did this? Can you describe it to me?”
“I can do one patter than describe it” Fenric produces a parcel of cloth from his satchel, unwrapping it he reviled a jet black blade with a bleched, bone handle, a ruby sat sunken into the bone pulsing with a soft glow.
Sypha walked the woman and the injured man down the labyrinthian hallways. She was switching from helping hold the man to opening the doors in the way. They arrived at a door Sypha knew was empty, she moved over to the door while she reached for her belt, looped to the leather was a metal loop with a fan of keys, she flips through them fast and purposefully. She came to a dark red key with a bit the shape of a skull, she placed it in the keyhole, turned it opening the door. The woman barged in carrying the man, she laid him on the bed and placed a pillow behind his head. Sypha was about to ask what they could do next when Xavia and Fenric stormed down the hallway, old books and jars in their arms. They passed Sypha without a word. Xavia dropped the contents of his arms on the bedside table, he rolled up his sleeve turning to the man on the bed. Sypha stood awkwardly at the doorway, she looked around at everything that was happening, Xavia and Fenric moving together with absolute fluidity passing books and jars back and forth the woman somehow knew exactly what to do. She removed the man on the bed's shirt and exposed the wound. And all Sypha could do was stand by the door. Wait to be useful. She stared at the wound itself, half of it was blacker than the wood in her hearth after the fire had burned itself out, the other half a dark red like the roses that grew in the gardens. She had seen diagrams in the medical books they had, she knew the anatomy of nearly every creature. But this was different, this made her feel uneasy. Xavia turned his head toward her.
“Sypha.” Snapped her head towards him, the big gold eyes pointed towards him had started to well. “We have this, go talk to Abathon, explain to him what happen.” Xavia paused, he closed his eyes stress seeping from every pore of his body as well as something else Sypha didn’t recognise. “Tell him- tell him five friends of the library will be staying with us for some time” Sypha nodded at him, she looked back at the organised chaos that encircled the room before her and turned her back on it as she closed the door.
Sypha had spoken to the head librarian as she was told. The man sat in his office which was situated in the tower above the Binding Room. He didn’t seem too pleased with the news she had brought him. The big man with the head of a Lion, fur over his large body that had been stuffed into the tailored uniform of the librarians, took off the spectacles that rested on his nose and furrowed his golden brow.
“Of course, he said that” he took a huge sigh, his deep voice boomed even when he didn’t intend it to. “Tell him to come to me when the injured party is no longer in need of his expertise. Though I’m sure he knows I’ll want a word with him”. He returned the framed glass back to his nose and shoed Sypha away. “Now run along little fox”. She rolled her eyes and walked out of the room purposefully not closing the door all the way. She had found that nickname endearing when she was young now it felt patronising.
About the author
Character and world-building are the most important to me as a writer. Scripts are where my passion lies, though prose-fiction and editorial can also interest me. No matter what I want the reader to feel immersed.