A long corridor gives way to a massive cavernous room. The walls filled with shelving which in turn were filled with books. The Guildern Library smelled of leather, old manuscript and a strange stale smell mixed with the perfumed air. The dust particles hung in the shining sunbeams, creating intricate patterns throughout the mosaic glass. The sound of shuffling echoing throughout the cavern. Pages turned, slow footsteps, general muttering and light scribbling made up the delicate cacophony in the library. A small man in dark robes notices Jim by the door and displays a slight smiles before beckoning him over. He draws open a large book by the desk and readies a quill. his voice deep and enthusiastic.
"Master Campbell, how can we assist you today? More on the history of the Icarus perhaps? Supposed Memoirs of Gabriel? Or perhaps a little more research on the history of the Titans?"
Jim smiled and shook his head, "Something a little more dour I'm afraid. Do you have anything on the Red Death?"
The smile quickly soured on the librarians face, and he recapped his quill. Jim thought he tapped a sensitive subject.
"There's nothing on that I'm afraid. We've scoured the archives and our scholars have travelled the entire continent looking for information."
"Nothing. Not a damn thing. It's been the top priority ever since its return over the last few years. All we know is the symptoms, the sickness and the end result. No treatments, no medicine, only quarantine and death. I assume you've been the one tasked with the retrieval of this miracle worker?"
Jim nodded, "Yeah, they want my flotilla to retrieve him. They're sending two others as a show of force but it rests with us."
"I see. Well I understand you're moving to Cathedral to find his contact. Does he want to be found?"
"I assume so, that's why he reached out to the church." Jim noted the genuine interest of the Master Librarian.
"Looking to encounter much resistance? Anyone in particular you're looking to avoid?"
Jim thought about the various nations and the tactics each one employs. His mind raced straight to one with a slight tweak of fear in his spine.
"The Chaladonians." he remarked.
The Librarian was strangely delighted with this answer, and his smile returned.
"Ah yes, the heavily armoured Inquisitors! The shield walls, the ancient piety, zeal and religious fervour, the honour of one on one combat and the constant knowledge that your fight is the right one!"
"You seem to be more than interested in the Chaladonians"
The old man smiled unabashed by his interest. He turns and draws a small piece of manuscript from the shelf behind him, and points to one of the notes.
An account of the White Dukedom, from the Great War to the War of the Fjords, by Magnus Hall.
"Is that you?"
"Yes. It's the scripture that allowed me access to the Library in the first place. The former Master Librarian was impressed and commissioned it as a full work."
"Where's the White Dukedom?" Jim asked, slightly confused.
"The White Dukedom was at war with the Mountain Compact, and after the war they all found themselves believing they fought the war for different reasons. Most of the nation assumed they fought because they were trying to expand the Dukedom, soldiers were trying to prove themselves as knights to claim new land and try and start a fortune. The rest assumed they were fighting for the glory of their religion. The Order of Chaladon was formed by Duke Chaladon, and he instated a religious institution which stands to this day. They don't believe in a deity, but rather a unique presence that watches over everything."
"So the Baronies were unhappy with this."
"Indeed. They saw this as a rebellion, and as the religious moved to the East to form this new Order, the less religious moved West to maintain the secular senate. After the failed negotiation, war eventually ignited, and that's why the conflict is still raging to this day."
Jim took a moment to process, and grunted in acknowledgement.
"After all my experience with both nations, I never once found someone who knew why they were really fighting."
"Internal propaganda makes sure they just know who the enemy is, not why they are the enemy."
"Oddly prophetic from a secular scholar."
Magnus liked that, smirked a little and gave a slight wink.
"So what's your plan for the meeting?"
Jim took a walk to the bay window at the side of the library, Magnus by his side. He took a long look at the desert meeting the ocean in the distance, and the high walls of the city.
"I'll dismount and meet him in one of the outlying district. I'll send in Gaige to make contact, and to arrange a proper meeting with myself and my council. Then we'll make an arrangement, and we'll bring him back here."
"Is that what you think is right?"
"I'm paid to do a job"
A slight dissatisfied grunt was Magnus' response.
"Master Campbell, you'll never be overly successful if you just follow. Even as your own commander, you're still under the command of another. "
"Well I'm a mercenary right now, I can choose my own boss and turn down jobs, that's all I can do for the moment."
"Take a moment when you're finished this assignment. I feel this will either make or break you"
Jim nodded and left Magnus to his work again, leaving the corridor and walking back outside to the fresher air of Vyshtorg. He took a deep breath letting the cool air fill his lungs before reaching into his jacket for his pipe and tobacco. Looking over the railing of the staircase back down to the city he was overlooking the market district, and could see the airdock several blocks down and could make out a few of the ships in his flotilla. He took some of the tobacco and rolled it into a small but loose clump before slotting it into the pipe. He lit the match against the railing and ignited the tobacco before taking a small puff and exhaling through his nose. The aromatic smoke ran around his jacket, into his collar and throughout the space around him.
A set of footsteps behind him announced the presence of another.
Jim turned and saw Swallow making her way towards him, eyes slightly unfocused and breath hinting of moonshine.
"Not a damn thing. Mostly another lecture and some smoke about the Chaladonians and Baronies."
"Shame" She steps towards him and takes his pipe, taking a quick puff and handing it back.
"Looks like we're going to have to do this the way the Guild want it."
Jim takes one long draw and turns, his cloak whirling behind him, and Swallow following beside.
"Maybe something will come up when we get there"
"The way I think, everyone knows where this guy is, so we need to make sure we're the first ones there. Otherwise it'll be a scramble, and it might get violent."
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