Author's Note: My brain obviously fell out of my ears during the thunderstorm this afternoon. This post is actually for tomorrow, since I seem to have posted twice today. Next post... will be the day after.
“Atzana Jesara Mil Kallen, Aitza!” the old librarian had to pause and cough. Atzana schooled her features as she stood in the doorway of her superior's office immediately behind the Main Imperial Library desk, folded her hands decorously before her. Buranas Murnas, Aitzas, didn’t quite have the ‘full name’ down the way her mother did, but he was obviously annoyed.
“Bad enough that girls may read, now-a-days, bad enough that we must employ them! But at least we can request that the women in question refrain from answering a query and making cow eyes at the young man requesting research materials! Stick to filing and let the men handle the requests!”
“Yes, ser,” she said quietly. And just as quietly resolved to answer every request she could. “I did smile at the young man, ser. I was taught to be polite, ser, even to fessas scholars, ser.” Silly old man. “Did you know, ser, that that young man was Minakas Akam? The fellow who revealed the Wall of the Lost here in the Marble Palace?”
“No! And it’s not my purview!” Of course, she thought. Anything outside of First Age Patronymic Nomenclature is outside your purview!
“He was requesting some of the oldest files we have past the third portal, once restricted, ser. If I could call upon your expertise, ser...”
“Well, hrmph.” She could see him consider. He could assign her to the young scholar and continue his own work, currently stacked upon the desk, or set everything aside and attend the young man himself. “Young woman, you have proven yourself capable of filing and finding most anything... Set aside the makework and attend the boy, will you?”
Thank my serene and multi-dactyl Goddess. “We shall cease bothering you, ser.”
“Good. Go away.”
Atzana bobbed a bit of a curtsy at him, even though he was buried nose first in his own books once more, and hurried out to where the young scholar waited.
“Ser, my superior has assigned me to attend on you in your research, he is very busy.”
The young man blinked at her from behind brass rimmed spectacles. He was very young to have to wear them. He smiled at her. “Ah, yes. Then ‘f yah could show me where tah begin lookin’, serina.”
“You said Imperial Expenditures Archives from two hundred years ago?”
“Thet’s about th’ right time frame, serina.”
“Well, then if you would follow me, please.” She led the way from the desk, down the stacks to the third spiral staircase. “Have you ever been in the Library before, Ser Akam?”
“Ah, no, serina.”
“Please, call me Atzana. It will not be improper, ser, since I am an independently supporting woman and have no father nor brother to offend.” His almost silver pale eyebrows went up but he didn’t lose the smile.
“Merely a first name, serina? Very much like t’ Imperator, Atzana, Please tah be callin’ me Minakas then.”
She nodded and turned to now open portal at the top of the stair. “’th’ portals ‘r open, serina... um... Atzana?”
“Yes. One of the first things the Imperator repealed... the restriction of books and literature. To anyone... though as you found, I’m sure, the city libraries are much more open than the Marble Palace ones.”
She directed him to the correct set of stacks. He looked at them, then at her. “Are there cabinets of loose papers as well?”
Even as she said, “Oh, yes, Minakas, those have been moved to the conservancy room... I’ve been working on restoring some of the older papers...” she wondered how did he know? That meant a trek up to the top floor where there was a whole bank of windows and skylights, the lamp-sconces newly copied from the Press to provide maximum light with minimum smoke. “This room is new...”
“Oh, tis lovely!”
“So what papers were you looking for, ser?”
He coughed, like a much older man. “Ahem. I found a series ‘f letters in t’main lib’ry in Vae Arahi. Ah... were hopin’ ta find t’ match who he were writin’ tah.” He thought for a moment and then named a range of dates. ‘Round ‘t time, Atzana. Imper’t’r Tatthanas’s letters.”
“Oh. I haven’t come across anything like that,” she said thoughtfully. “The loose papers were and are still in a fearful mess. A hundred people could work years to straighten it all out.”
“’r yeh t’ only conservat’r?” He looked at her. “It’s obvious yeh love teh work.”
“Oh, no, there are a number of women in my circle who volunteer here, as well as four apprentices and my superior, Ser Murnas.”
“Wah then, let m’ do some diggin’ then an’ see iffn we can’t do thet w’thout destroyin’ anythin’.”
“Thank you, Minakas. If I might ask you, please, could you change your gloves for these?” She handed him thin gloves specifically for working with the old papers.
He was a careful searcher and she found herself looking up at him occasionally. It was the strangest thing. He was so comfortable, even in the Marble Palace, though he said he’d never been there before. Perhaps it was because it was a library.
At one point almost a bead later he pulled off his spectacles and tossed them upon the desk, leaning back in his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose, leaving a smudge of dirt on either side, muttering in Yeoli of all languages.
He found another box with some of the papers he was looking for and carried it to her desk and then, apparently, trusted her to deal with it. Unlike some other scholars who tended to hover and gasp every time she picked up the next paper, he retreated to his own box. Why is he familiar to me?
Like other scholars, he did tend to mutter to himself while researching. He sounds like my papa, talking to himself, she thought absently to herself as she squinted at the faded ink of a new folder.
“Ahah! There! Ah...” he cleared his throat and looked up to see if she was looking. “Atzana? Hev yeh got anythin’ there fr’m the Year 244 Present Age?”
“I have a folder that is supposed to be included in the bound Chronicles for that year... and four pages of things that looks like personal correspondence but I should check it against that book...”
He leapt up. “I’ll fetch it... is it still in the Silver stacks?”
“Why, yes... your pass will let you into the Heir’s library ...” Her voice faded. He was gone almost before she finished speaking, down to the other end of the room, to another hallway that would take him out of the Great Library and if he knew the way, to the Silver stacks more quickly than going by the main corridors.
She stared after him. You know this place. You know these libraries. Why would you lie to me about never having been here before? Your permission letter was from the Imperator Himself, not a minor bureaucrat. She looked over and saw his spectacles where he’d flung them. It was very strange.
When he came back, he laid the correct book on her desk and went to fetch his spectacles and settled them firmly upon his nose. “So, Minakas, might I ask what you are researching?”
His smile lit up his face. “Oh, Atzana, this ‘un’s workin’ on an unknown connection ‘tween Yeola-e and Arko. ‘T looks like their disgraced semanakraseye knew t’ Imperator Tatthanas.”
“Oh, yes there were a letter or two in Vae Arahi... but if I’m correct, then copies o’ t’ letters and t’ letters fr’m Notyaras should be here.”
“How fascinating!” Or did you see them once? I... shall consider this. “Let me compare my folder to the bound book and see if they were excised by decree or just by negligence!”
“Thank you!” He smiled at her again and headed back to his desk.
She pulled out a large magnifying glass and clamped it to its stand and adjusted it to bring the page into perfect focus. “This is a letter in Enchian, but I cannot make out the signature.”
“Set ‘t aside for me, please, Atzana.”
It was the faintest hint of accent. Aitzas, not fessas. She raised her head and gazed across at his profile. “Of course, Min—akas. Excuse me, please I will be right back.”
“Of cours’ o’ course,” he said absently. Atzana rose and exited as if she were going to the garderobe. Once out of the conservancy she gathered up her skirts in her gloved hands and ran down the hall, hoping that none of the palace fluffies spotted her or decided to chase her. Down the hall, and the wide blue marble stairs around the corner and caught herself before she ran into a guard at the corner. She slowed down and decorously walked past the guard, smiling at him.
And opened the crystal doorknob into the Chrysophase reading room. There was a painting of a young man in that room, it was of the young Spark of the Sun’s Ray, in profile, over his school work. It was a portrait of 12th Amitzas Boras Tatthanas Aan and it could have been sat for by the young man upstairs bent over his mucky, crumbling papers.
Is that young man related to the Aans? If so there is only one person he could be. It would explain how comfortable he is in the Great Library and in fact where he might have know about the Wall of the Lost...The various little clues fell together in her head as she reversed her course back up to the conservancy.
But I’ve liked his articles... his ideas... and he has been perfectly polite to me... oh my most elegant serene Goddess. What do I do?
She worried over it even as she carefully set another letter, half eaten by spots of mold, over onto a glass topped table. Finally she turned in her chair. “Minis?” she said softly.
“Hmm?” he said in reply before he twitched as if prodded by a sword-tip. “Did you call me?” He said, trying to make as though he hadn’t heard me correctly, but he was so rattled he could not keep the fessas accent.
“Does the Highest Office... does the Imperator... know?”
It was so quiet she could hear a distant fountain and the muffled-hoofed click and creak of a house-donkey cart and the trilling, whistling songs from the Most Splendid and Regal Wings Aviary. He rubbed his gloves together and gazed at the kernels of dirt falling into his lap. “Yes.” He said, glancing up as he said it. Then he sat, looking, waiting for her reaction, for all the world looking as though he were holding his breath.
She turned back to her latest folder as if he had just answered a question about a page or a type of ink. “Oh. Good,” she said. “I’ll just get back to this, then, shall I? That research piece will not write itself.”