"Ugh, and these people call themselves scholars!", Samuel complained as the doors to the Zantiken Wizened Institute swung shut behind him. "If their knowledge is of such vastness that only they are trusted to set the blasted calendar, how is it that they can't help us look up one bloody name? And what's more,"
Will broke in, "Now Sammy, ya gotta calm down. I'm sure..."
"I said, what's more, they have the nerve to throw us out like so much of yesterday's hog slop without even offering us archive access to do the bloody-damn research ourselves! It's unconscionable! It's outrageous! It's... It's..." Stopping halfway down the Institute's steps to collect himself, Samuel turned around and poked Will in the chest. "We are going to get access to those archives whether those 'wizened' clowns in there want us to or not!"
"Sure we will, Sammy. But don't you think there may be a few other places we could look for answers before trying to pull off a job like that?"
"Will, We've spent two months on this. Two damn months just to work out one part of the riddle to the Imposer's location. If we want to find it before we're too old and decrepit to collect it, we need to start making some progress. Besides, this is an easy job. These academics have no interest in managing security themselves. That's why they contract it out. And guess who's held that contract for the last fifteen years? That's right!", not pausing for Will to respond, "None other than our beloved Freeperson's Association Guild. So we just need to get ourselves posted on guard duty and bingo, all-we-can-read access."
After a moment, Will replied, "Not a bad plan." Nodding back towards the Institute, he said "I actually know some of the blokes on the night-guard rotation. I think I can convince one of them to have a few extra rounds over guarding some moldy old books."
"Perfect. Then I'm off to pilfer a guard uniform and extra parchment from the guild store-room, if you don't mind. I imagine I'll have an abundance of notes and precious little time for precise penmanship."
"Yeah, take whatever you need, but just remember that half comes out of your cut if we find the damned thing."
Already a dozen paces away Samuel replied over his shoulder, "You mean 'when'!"
It was three hours past sunset, and although part of Samuel admired the studiousness of the last few robe-attired youth working by candlelight, he was becoming increasingly annoyed with the amount of his own research time that was being robbed of him by their presence. After all, it wouldn't do for a "guard" to be found working fastidiously over a pile of aged parchments and musty tomes. Lacking that, he made due with patrolling the rows of bookshelves and making mental notes of shelves and sections to return to later.
Rounding the end of a row of shelves, Samuel took a moment to admire the library itself. It was a single vast rectangular chamber with walls of imported Thrayzian marble, red with streaks of blue and purple. Looking down, one would notice geometric tile-work in black and red running amidst the stacks of books around the rooms edges, but centrally a large mosaic depicting Heldon, the founder of Zantiko, wrestling a giant asp, with large curved mahogany desks incorporated as plates of his legendary bronze armour. Pillars of white marble support three sets of balconies above, each floor holding increasingly rare volumes.
At last, the final student gathered his notes and prepared to leave. Samuel, as instructed by the usual guard (who by this time was more than likely sloppy drunk and losing his shirt at dice) followed him out and locked the door behind him. After exchanging pleasantries, the student walked off into the night. Samuel waited for him to disappear out of sight before turning around and quickly letting himself back in.
The library was unlit, but the windows on the upper floor let in just enough light to avoid hitting one's shins on the benches littering the ground floor. However, Samuel had come prepared and quickly retrieved and lit a small lantern he had tucked away earlier in his shift. Thus equipped, he made his way directly to the top floor where the oldest and rarest books were kept. Many of the shelves on this level had iron bars restricting access to the books themselves, but Samuel, as the trusted attendant of these treasured tomes for the night, possessed the keys to open all of them.
Heading for a section he had marked earlier, he grabed a musty old tome titled "The Rise and Reign of the House of Schnee". He quickly opened the book and flipped through the pages, scanning for relevant sections until he came to the last chapter and nearly dropped the book from excitement. The title read: "Of The Witch Morrigan and the Breaking of the House of Schnee".
TO BE CONTINUED