"An Excerpt from Keeper Records"
The library was built among a number of smaller buildings. Not tenements, but not places for the rich either. It looked like the library was built before the city extended out this far, and was absorbed into it. Moving through the people wandering the streets, I approached the front. It was an interesting place, with lots of ornate pillars out the front. There was a loafer leaning against one of the columns, and the usual beggars at the foot of the steps.
The occasional well dressed merchant, or lord’s servant entered the library. A brass bell was beside the main doors, tall wooden things that looked darker than ordinary wood. I stole round the side to the back, ignoring the usual urchins pulling at my clothes. I was dressed as a mildly dressed servant, probably a personal assistant to a businessman in their eyes, so they gave up when they realised I had nothing to offer. They didn’t seem to wonder why I was coming round the building instead of entering it.
I came round the corner to the back area. There were a few straggly trees attached to the rocky landscape leading down to the next level of dwellings. The library’s ground floor had nice windows though. Inside I could see a lounge where there were people carrying or reading books, and some who didn’t seem to have a purpose at all. The first floor had some more windows, no less ornate, but smaller and more infrequent. Offices by the look of it. There were no windows on the second (and highest) floor.
I went back round the front, and the guard at the door asked me if he could help me. I told him I was looking for one of Lord Brosius’s servants, and he said he hadn’t seen her. I sat down on the steps for a few minutes to give the impression that I was waiting, but after she didn’t show up, (not surprisingly, she was never coming) I entered the library. I looked around for a bit, and looked up herbal ingredients for cooking with.
One of the guards (seemed more like armed servants to me) showed me the way, and then left me alone. I attached a sweel-hair to the catch of a nearby window and fed it under the sill, so the window would open from the outside. After some smiling at the guards, I left, and returned to a nearby hotel room. It was a rundown dump, but it had to do. I changed into proper keeper garments, and then I sketched some things with a quill until it got too dark to see. I then slipped out of the window and vanished into the night.
The library was different by night. The outer walls seemed less welcoming, more sinister looking than they were in daylight. There were a few lights shining out of the windows, but not many. I could see shadows moving back and forth across some of the curtains on the first floor. The ground floor had no curtains. I went down the side alley, now devoid of the ragamuffins of the day. There were a few things lying about, the odd piece of fabric, or bit of wood, both of them filthy. I passed through, my cloak sweeping my footprints from the dust
I came to the window I had earlier fixed. After waiting for ten minutes, I had worked out that one guard passed this point every 2 minutes. Another guard made a steady patrol around the first floor balcony. The first floor was laid out in a different way. Towards the rear there was merely a curving wall with 2 doors in it. The middle and the front of the building was an extension of the public section of the library, with rows and rows of bookcases in it. In the middle of the floor was a circular hole surrounded by a railing. This was the balcony to which I referred.
I waited for 45 seconds after the guard had passed, and then I wrapped the sweel hair around the hilt of my dagger and yanked. The catch snipped open, and I pulled the window open and entered. As soon as I was in, I darted to a shadow at the side and took in my surrounds. My entry appeared to be unnoticed. I retrieved the sweel hair and snibbed the window shut again. Then I considered my course of action.
The ground floor consisted of a reception area at the front of the building, the main library, and the lounge at the back of the building. There was a wall between the reception area, and me. I decided to steer clear of that area, as it would probably be occupied. The lounge, although empty was extremely conspicuous, and I wouldn’t go there in a fit. The stairs to the first floor were to the front of the building, leading up from a place near the reception area. A “staff only” sign was standing in front of them. I made my way towards the front, keeping close to the bookshelves.
There was something funny about the stairs though. I snuck round and peeked out from the edge of a smaller bookcase. There was no carpet. There was no carpet on the stairs. I recalled the time several hours before when I first visited. There was carpet there before, I’m sure of it. I nicked across to the banister and looked at the wood of the stairs. There was a slight difference in colour, but not as much as there would have been if the carpet were always there. It must have either not been there long, or it’s added and removed on a regular basis.
Suddenly I heard footsteps. A rogue guard (one who breaks his or her patrol pattern) was coming down the line of bookshelves. There was no time to get back across to my old hiding spot, so I looked around for a new hiding spot. I found it in the form of a bookcase leaning against the wall. Ironically, this was the very thing denying me cover. I planted my feet on the shelves and swung up atop the bookcase. Lying flat, I had a perfect view of the ground floor, while I was hidden from all view. The guard passed by underneath.
Pressure plates probably protected the stairs. That was the only reason they would remove the carpet at night. Well, I suppose they could be cleaning it, but I couldn’t take the risk. So, I lay there, looking for an alternative route up. Then it hit me. All I have to do is wait for the guards to be in the right place, and then jump up to the balcony from atop one of the bookcases in the centre of the room. Conspicuous, but there were only 5 guards (that I knew of) in the building. While I lay there, someone rapped sharply on the main doors of the library, and I heard footsteps crossing the room to open it.
“Excuse me sir, the library is closed” said a voice. “Would you care to come back tomorrow?” “Read this please” said a second voice. I heard papers being rustled, and then an “ah” from the owner of the first voice, presumably the guard in the reception area. “If you’d care to come this way Mr Vallon” said the guard. They entered the main room of the library.
The man I took to be Vallon was about five feet tall. He had dark hair, and he was wearing a loose white shirt with a necktie at the neck. His trousers were matte black, as were his boots. “Section U is upstairs” said the guard with a gesture in my direction. “I’ll deactivate the security system for you”. Vallon thanked the guard and headed off into the maze of shelves on the ground floor. Now that Vallon was here it would be harder to ascend to the first floor following my previous plan, but thanks to the same man, I could now use the stairs.
I crept up the stairs to the first floor. The back wall had two doors in it, one on either side. The one on the left was thick metal, and the one on the right was oak. I followed the carpet and the shadows to evade the single guard up here, remembering to keep away from the balcony lest the guards upstairs see me. The metal door probably led to the restricted section, my destination. Considering the way the stairs were trapped, the door probably was too.
I made my way towards the oak door and pressed my ear to it (avoiding the guard was child’s play). On the other side I could hear footsteps. So, there was another guard there. I eased the door open a tad. The corridor ran most of the width of the building. In the back wall were a number of doors, and a guard was walking away from me down the corridor.
A single torch guttered, but it would be enough for the guard to see me if he came back in my direction. He would, but by then I would be in one of the offices. I moved swiftly to a door and entered, after checking to see that it was empty.
The office had a simple design. On one wall was a portrait of someone, and pushed against the other was a desk. A wardrobe and hatstand were there too. There were some papers on the desk, but it was merely accounts. I’d got into accounting most likely.
I moved into the next office. Sometimes people leave diaries or notes lying around giving hints about the location of secret places. I looked around the office, but there was nothing much different here. There were a few books lying on the desk, but they were printed, not handwritten. In the back of the room, like the last one, was a window looking out over the city.
Suddenly I had an inspiration. Nearby was a building, not nearly as big as the library, but big enough. It was only a single story and attic, so it’s roof was level with the window. A chimney was at one end. It was this that gave me the inspiration. The library probably had a chimney too. I went back to the accountant’s office and opened the window, muttering a curse at the guard. If only his patrol wasn’t so regular! Ah well, it’s worse for him than for me.
I leant out the window and looked up. There was no chimney overhead. Ah well, I guess I’ll have to follow a roundabout method. I lodged a rope arrow in the windowsill and jumped over to the roof of the second house (the one with the attic) and tied off the end of the rope arrow on the chimney. Then I walked along the roof of the second house until I was almost under the library’s chimney. I extended a rope arrow and swung it up.
The rope curled around the chimney and the shaft came back down, clattering against the stone wall of the library. I grabbed it and pushed it into the wood of the house I was standing on, and then I climbed up.
By now, you’ll be wondering what I have planned. It’s simple. Take a few tiles off the roof and come in that way. So, I took off a few of the tiles (ceramic, unlike the wooden shingles of the house next door) and climbed into the attic of the library. I located the trapdoor and climbed down in to the restricted section of the library.
It was not as elegant as the rest of the library. The walls were of old wood and they seemed to be rotting. The outer wall had no cladding and was just plain stone. A few electric lamps gave light to the place. Trying not to stir up the dust, I made my way towards the appropriate section.
Unlike the other two floors of the library, this place was not crammed with books. There were great gaps in the shelves, and the bookcases were a lot more spaced out. As it was like this, it was easy to find what I was looking for. I took it out and wiped the dust off the red lettering and the hammer seal. This is what I had come for.
It was a simple matter to replace the book with the fake hammerite note I had in my pocket. I opened the book and began to read. “…harnessing natural plagues and putting them to work. These plagues are actually not entities, as we once believed, but machines. Tiny machines altering the very fibre of our being. The trickster used these to create his own creatures out of living material such as certain types of fluid. This is similar to what happens in an egg of a hen, but his happens with a much greater rate because of the tiny machines. He gave them a growing sickness, and made….”
Okay, maybe I’ll leave that to the elders. With the book under my arm, I turned and looked strait at a crossbow. Pointed at me. And behind it was the man who had been admitted to the library earlier, Vallon.
“Alright, out of the shadows” he commanded.
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