Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Nine-Letter Word for Shy

((Image chosen to represent character is a Canadian singer, Natasha St-Pier. This short short is meant as an introduction.))

. . . . . It was nearly six in the afternoon and, in the short days of deep winter, that meant it was quite dark outside. The broad windows which let in light for us to use during the day were merely glassy walls now, occasionally reflecting back to me the glimmer of candlelight. Only the archivists were trusted with flame among the royal collection - and even then only in carefully crafted, closed lanterns which extinguished themselves immediately upon leaving the vertical axis. It was some clever design from Siovale, certainly.
. . . . . I hardly cared that it was dark. Evenings were the only time I could really get much done, since no one cared to wander the Royal Archives in the pitch of night. I had claimed for myself a broad oaken table on the upper floor of the archives, my notes set neatly before me as I cross-referenced the sections of Shepherd of Knowledge: Shemhazai's Founding with the handwritten notes - some hundreds of years old - about the companions of Elua. Oh, alright, so Shepherd of Knowledge: Shemhazai's Founding was still a working title. I hadn't actually completed it yet. That's why I was here, alone, nose-deep in ancient dust.
. . . . . There was a thud behind me. I shrieked and rocked back in my chair, pushing away from the table as I tried to find the source of the sound. Of course, working in lantern light had left me night-blind and I could barely see the bookshelf behind me, much less anything else. "Hello?" I called out. "It is after hours..." Only silence in reply.
. . . . . Then another sound, a scuff like a boot toe against the tile floor. I turned towards the noise, still blinking night-blind eyes as I tried to make it out. "Hello?"
. . . . . A figure materialized out of the shadows, limned golden by my lantern's fire. He was fair, blond, and gawky of limb despite surely being near my own age. "Oh, thank goodness you have some light. I...uh..." The young man trailed off and smiled wryly at me. "I fell asleep in the stacks and I can't find my way out."
. . . . . Oh for Elua's sake, I thought, twisting my hands at my waist as I tried to smile through the interruption to my work. "You're upstairs. Here, I can lead you out." I turned back to the table and picked up my archivists' lantern. It would take me fifteen minutes to lead him all the way to a portion of the royal grounds which was well-lit at night, but the last thing I wanted was further interruption. "Sh-shall we?" I grimaced at my stammer and tried to gesture for him to walk before me in the circle of light cast by my lantern.
. . . . . I still had time to work on my thesis. Morning wasn't for eleven more hours.

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