The Book Thieves

In which Haft and Megren avoid Roshan and are aided and abetted by Lady Avery

Library

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The Library of Anvard rises around you. Reddish wooden pillars like twisted tree-trunks support the roof at even intervals, long bookcases in rows between them. The room is warmly lit by a multitude of round hung lamps, like globular fruit. The air is heavy with the sweet and musty smell of books, old and new. Hundreds of volumes line the shelves, and a few spaces between trunks have been left open for tables at which to reading and write. Thick pillar candles can be used to bring a little more yellow light to late-night researchers in these places.

The room appears to be well-dusted and well-kept, its contents carefully maintained and repaired throughout the years.

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You can go: Hallway <W>

Contents: A daughter of eve with honey-colored ringlets (Avery) and A Row of

Bookshelves.

Avery is standing beside a table, her finger tapping her lips in thought. “Something is missing…” she mumbles to herself, rotating a large sheet of parchment. She leans on the table and starts to sketch a bit.

Haft stops on the threshold of the library, glancing around carefully.  Whatever he sees appears to satisfy him, because he walks inside and motions to someone behind him.

Megren stands in the doorway with her back pressed against the frame. She leans casually there and casually crosses her arms. Casually, she glances around at either side of the door.

Avery doesn’t look up as she says, “Almost finished here, Lady Aravis…”

Haft coughs softly.  “We, ah, didn’t mean to intrude, Lady Avery.”

Megren casually takes one step into the library and casually leans back to see around a bookcase to where Lady Avery is hidden from initial view.

Avery quickly looks up, blushing. “Oh! My apologies…I thought you were–Never mind.” She sets her charcoal pencil down and, after taking a breath, says, “Evening, Haft. Not quite sure how I could have mistaken you for Lady Aravis…”

Megren stumbles backward a few steps to where she can bow, “Oh, hello, Lady Avery! Is it just you here, then?”

Haft asks, “The charming disposition.  It fools everyone.  Do you know Sir Darrin actually mistook me for Megren the other evening?”

Megren covers her mouth.

Avery smiles at Megren. “Just me and the librarian, but he seems to be very preoccupied with his nap.” One of her brows arches as Haft speaks. “I always wondered if he was a bit blind…My poor cousin…”

Haft spreads his hands.  “What can one do?”

Megren says, “Perhaps we can find him a seeing companion.”

Megren exclaims, “Oh! Or a cane!”

Megren says, “Definitely a cane.”

Avery sighs. “Not much. Perhaps Tyre will lend him a pair of spectacles…But what a shame to cover up such a handsome face…” She glances at Megren briefly, smirking, and then nods at her suggestions.

Haft raises his brows, glancing between the two women.

Megren shakes her head. “No, no, the spectacles blow up Lord Tyre’s eyes, and you can see little specks in them and it’s very pretty. We couldn’t deprive him of that. It’s a cane and a dog for Sir Darrin.”

Avery sits down with an exhale. “Or a pig. I hear they’re rather intelligent…”

Megren says, “Ooh. Yes.”

Megren says, “A speckled one.”

Haft says, “Lord Tyre’s eyes…”

Haft looks lost.

Megren glances at Haft. “You’ve never noticed?”

Haft says, “Megren, I don’t even notice what color your eyes are, and we have watch for hours together.  Let alone notice specks.”

Megren says, “Well, but I don’t have spectacles.”

Haft snorts.  “A significant aide, I’m sure,” he says drily.

Avery nods. “He does have lovely eyes, doesn’t he?” She rolls up her parchment. “But he rarely makes eye contact, so I can understand you not noticing, Haft.”

Megren nods, accepting this as reasonable. Her brows rise as she realizes she’s forgotten her sentinel duty, and she returns to the doorway to peer into the hall.

Haft bites his lip, glancing after Megren.  “Um, if you’ll excuse me for a moment, Lady Avery, we actually did have an errand here…”

Avery narrows her eyes, glancing at Megren. “What are you two up to?” She grins.

Megren gives Haft the thumb’s up. “Haft’s looking for a book.”

Haft steps around the next bookshelf.  A slight rustling is heard and he emerges a moment later with a volume in his hands.

Avery watches. “What book, if I may ask?”

Haft says, “Uh, ‘The Art of the Blade’, milady.  A swordfighting commentary.”

Avery hmms. “You’ve found it, then?”

Haft says, “Well yes, but I need to have a conversation with the librarian about borrowing it for a few days.”

Megren keeps her eyes on the hallway, glancing in at Haft and Lady Avery from time-to-time.

Avery glances toward the napping librarian. “That might have to wait…”

Haft looks as though he doesn’t particularly mind rousing someone who’s sleeping on duty.  “It’s just that it would be better to ask now while we’re here…”

Avery shrugs. “I can always tell him, but it’s up to you.”

Megren says, “I’m sure it’s fine, Haft.”

Haft looks uncertain, but apparently unwilling to argue with a lady.  “I would appreciate it.  If you’ll tell him I’ll have it back in a week.  He can always send a page for it if-if that’s too long.”

Avery laughs lightly. “I’m sure a week is perfectly fine.”

Haft nods.  “Um, yes.  I hope so.  Thank you.”

Megren says, “You can tell him about Haft’s boots.”

Haft glances at Megren.  “You might hafta explain that one first…”

Megren exclaims, “She can see them!”

Avery tips her head. “Just take good care of it, or I’ll say I had nothing to do with any of it.”

Haft says, “Of course, milady.”

Megren grins. “Careful. You’ll have him jumping anytime someone with dirt on their hands comes near his bunk.”

Haft clutches the tome to his chest defensively and looks fierce.

Avery chuckles. “It’s only a book, Haft. Enjoy its contents and return it when you are thoroughly finished.”

Avery says, “If someone comes looking for it, I’ll tell them I needed some extra kindling for my fire.”

Megren giggles.

Haft goggles, then coughs.  “That is appalling.”

Avery shrugs a bit. “But it’s the most logical demise for a book, no?”

Haft furrows his brow.  “I…suppose…after one was thoroughly falling apart and had been meticulously copied down…”

Megren laughs, “Haft.”

Haft gives her a stern look.  “Are you in fact watching the door?”

Avery covers her mouth, hiding a smile. “Watching the door? Whatever for?”

Megren narrows her eyes at him like a child considering rebellion, and then leans to look out again. “Yes,” she says defiantly.

Haft says, “Nothing to worry about.  We’ll just…go.”  He takes a few steps toward the door.

Megren waves a hand at him. “Stay. Look at other books, or something. I’m watching, I’m watching.”

Avery frowns a bit, looking concerned as she stands back up. “Is there something wrong, Haft? Why should Megren guard the door?”

Haft shakes his head, making his voice reassuring.  “Nothing wrong at all milady.  Just someone it might be better not to annoy.”

Haft looks back to Megren.  “There’s really only one more book on swordplay, I think…you want me to see if I can find you something?”

Megren says in a false whisper, “Prince Roshan doesn’t care much for us.”

Haft presses his lips together irritably.

At this, Avery laughs. “Does he care for anyone?” She comes around the table and walks toward the shelves.

Megren grins at Lady Avery’s remark, then makes a face at Haft. “I can’t do books yet.”

Haft says, “Well, but he can’t keep you out of the library, you see, milady.” He looks to Megren. “Well…not a real book…or…not one with lots of words.  Maybe something like a bestiary, where you can suss out the animals’ names from the pictures.”

Megren blinks, and then nods. “Oh– yes! Yes, that would work, maybe. It would be interesting to try, anyway.”

Avery shakes her head. “He can’t keep me out of the library, but he can certainly drive me from it…” She pulls a book from the shelf. “Besides, you are both my guests at the moment. He would never be so rude to disappoint me by sending you away.” She replaces the book with a thud. “Oh, wait, he would.”

Haft says, “Well, he didn’t send me out per se, Lady.  He found me here and plainly didn’t think I belonged.  In the interest of…well…international relations, I offered to leave, and he took me up on it.  I don’t mind much.  It’s not as if he’s staying forever.”

Haft says, “Let me see if I can’t find where they keep the books about animals.”  He bows slightly and steps past Avery to the farther shelves and disappears.

Megren asks, “I wonder what it is like in the palace of Tashbaan. Is it possible the ladies do not read?”

Megren seems to find this idea rather hard to believe.

Avery says, “Two shelves to your right, near the bottom.” She smiles, moving closer to Megren. “Good question…Although, I believe Lady Aravis does read, so perhaps some do.”

Megren says, “I don’t know very much about Calormen at all, now that I think of it.”

Avery waves a hand. “I didn’t either until I started to gather information. Everything I’ve learned is from Chesterton’s trade merchant, Lady Aravis and books.”

Megren asks, “What do you think of it?”

Avery leans against the opposite door frame. “I find it…very different from Archenland. Mostly desert, hardly any forested areas, like we have.”

Megren nods. “And lemons, like in the garden upstairs, right?”

Avery nods. “Lemons, oranges and pistachios. Vibrant flowers and trees with large, flat leaves.”

Megren says, “I’d like to see it.”

Avery nods. “I should like to visit one day. I hear the markets are very busy with things of a sorts being sold.”

Haft returns with a large book in his hand.

Megren nods. “Like, the difference from coming from the forest to here, only here is the forest and Tashbaan is here.” She squints an eye, parsing that out in her head to make sure it makes sense, and then nodding again in confirmation of her own phrasing.

Haft tilts his head slightly.

Avery looks up to the ceiling, nodding slowly. “Yes…I think so.”

Megren grins affably. “Something like that, anyway.”

Avery nods again. “Something like that.” She looks to Haft, motioning to the book. “Found another one?”

Haft says, “You’re talking about Calormen?  What?  Yes, it’s got a bit of everything.  Archenlandish and Narnian creatures.”

Haft offers the book.

Megren takes it, opening the cover immediately to take in the first page.

Avery leans closer. “Oh, good choice.”

Megren looks up at her. “You’ve read it?”

Avery nods. “Looked through it on many occasions.”

Haft says, “Looked like it might be helpful.”

Avery moves back toward the table, gathering her things. “The librarian should be asleep for a bit longer. I’ll come by before dinner and make sure he’s aware of those two books being borrowed.”

Megren runs her fingers over an illustration, already fascinated. She looks up. “Oh– oh. Thank you, Lady Avery.” She closes the book in order better to bow.

Haft bows. “We appreciate it, Lady Avery.”

Avery smiles. “It’s no trouble! Enjoy them.” She steps through the library doors. “Afternoon, to you both.”

Avery walks out to the Hallway.

Megren holds the book close to her chest. “Afternoon, Lady Avery!”

Haft looks to Megren.  “Well, now that we’ve lost our good benefactress, perhaps we’d better head back to the mess to look these over?”

Megren glances at Haft and nods.

They walk to the mess.

Off-duty Mess

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This is the place where off duty soldiers and sailors can relax and eat. There is a small cookfire and hearth and a few tables set up nearby. On one wall is a dart board, and on a small table in the corner there is a chess set. Someone has left a pile of parchment with sketches of his fellow knights on another table. This is a comfortable, casual room.

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You can go: Out to the Northern Stairwell <S>

Contents: Hearth <LIT>.

Haft walks over to a well-lit table and lays his book down, taking one of the seats.

Megren sits across from him and folds her legs under her.

Haft says, “Well, yours is bound to be more interesting than mine.” He gestures.  “Let’s have a look.”

Megren opens the book to the middle. It is well bound, so that the pages can easily fall flat open on the table. The image she opens to is an illustration of a mouse.

Haft says, “Hmm, definitely not Sir Tyren.”

Megren looks up at him. “Hm? Oh!” She giggles. “No, Sir Tyren’s ears are much closer to his head.”

Haft smiles. “Can you sort out the letters in the heading?”

Megren nods, and recites, “M-O-U-S-E.”

Haft nods.  “Nicely done.”

Megren asks, “I’ve got the letters. Just, it’s hard to sound them out together. They don’t always make the same sounds?”

Haft makes a slight face.  “Unfortunately not.  There’s times when you’re just gonna have to remember how a word looks as a whole…let’s see though…’O’ and ‘U’ together…that would be the same sound for ‘mouse’ and ‘cloud’ and ’bout’…oh, and ‘sound’ itself.  So it happens that way a lot.

Megren sounds out each letter and then tries to rush the the vowels together so that they make an “ow” sound. It sort of works.

Haft says, “See?  Not too bad.”

Megren wrinkles her nose disbelievingly.

Haft exclaims, “It’s really very easy to remember.  ‘O-U’.  It’s the sound I’d make if I said “Oh, you!” and then you punched me in the nose.””

Haft grins.

The fire flickers, casting dancing shadows all over the walls.

Megren squints an eye and looks at the ceiling. “That… doesn’t sound like me.”

Haft says, “Well, that’s a good thing.  Rather like my nose where it is.”

Megren tilts her head assessingly, and then nods. “It’s a good nose.”

Haft asks, “Well thank you.  I’m quite attached to it.  So, shall we move on to a less violent animal than the common field mouse?”

Megren turns the page to a Nightingale.

Haft says, “Uh…might want to skip that one for now.”

Megren looks up at him. “Why?”

Haft says, “Well, it’s a nightingale…but…the letters break a lot of rules.”

Megren says, “Oh.” She looks carefully at the word. “Nigt-in-gal-y…” She frowns.”

Haft says, “Yeah…um…when it’s in the middle of a wo-rd like that, you don’t always say the ‘G-H’.”

Megren asks, “Why’s it there?”

Haft says, “Because…” He trails off.  “I honestly have no idea.  Never made any sense.  Just ignore it.””

Megren says, “Shouldn’t it be I-E?” She frowns. “And A-E, too.””

Haft asks, “Huh?”

Megren says, “The… the E is supposed to make the other letter make its name.” She speaks the next slowly, looking at the ceiling as she thinks, “N-I-E-T-I-N-G-A-E-L.””

Haft says, “s mouth forms an ‘O’. “I see what you’re saying.”  He looks at the word for a moment, then starts muttering.  “‘sigh’, ‘right’, ‘slight’…I guess sometimes the ‘gh’ makes the letter make its name too.  And that’s what that ‘e’ at the end does.  I do remember that much.  You don’t say it, but it makes the ‘a’ make its name.”

Megren nods slowly to the first, but screws up her mouth at the second. “Even though it’s not next to it?”

Haft says, “Yeah.  It’s kind of a funny way to arrange things, but you’ll see that it happens a lot.  What’re some others…’made’, ‘wade’, ‘dale’.”

Haft says, “Those all have ‘e’s at the end.”

Megren nods thoughtfully. “Scale… hail…”

Haft says, “Yeah, like that.”

Megren nods again, and turns the page.

A log on the fire shifts, sending a column of sparks flying upwards.

Haft says, “Oh, that’s a good one.  Nice, regular letters.”

Megren looks uncertain of the illustration, so she sounds out the word. “Oh-tehr. Ah-tehr. Ah-tehr… Ah… Otter?”

Haft asks, “Aye that’s right.  Sounded that out real nice.  But you didn’t recognize it?”

Megren furrows her brows at him. “Well… no. There’s no rivers here.”

Haft says, “Well no…but the resemblance…” He squints at Megren, then at the Otter, then back at Megren again, winking.”

Megren peers at the image and tries to imitate the expression.

Haft chuckles heartily.  “Most convincing.”

Megren looks at the other text, glancing between it and the image, but after trying a few muttered words, she stops.

Haft says, “Go on. What’s the first one?”

Megren seems hesitant to do something this complex with an audience. “Um, that one’s ‘the’. I know that one.”

Haft asks, “Good.  And the next?”

Megren says, “Ah…t … oh. It’s otter, again.””

Haft says, “That’s right.  That’ll get easier after awhile.  The more words you learn, the more you’ll recognize.  And then you’ll only have to stop to sound out the new ones.”

Megren sighs.

“It takes time,” Haft says gently.  “Took me years, but I got it.  And so will you.”

Megren asks, “Years?”

Haft says, “Well, I was a boy.  You try keeping all those rules in your head when it’s a bright day outside and you’re staring out the window hoping that your father’ll make it home before sundown and show you a new pass with your sword.  It took a bit for it all to…stick.  And become natural.”

Megren doesn’t look very encouraged by this, though she nods. She looks down at the page again, as if willing it to make sense.

Haft opens his mouth to continues, then closes it again and turns to his own book, opening it to the first page and beginning to read.

A log on the fire shifts, sending a column of sparks flying upwards.

Megren watches him for a moment, and then she can just be heard quietly sounding out words.

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