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52-In the Library

It took a good twenty minutes of walking to reach the library after lunch. Though I didn’t think Quill had taken the most direct route. We saw a few servants, and very few others on the walk. Quill maintained his military demeanor and I rounded my shoulders and tried to look awed by every graceful hallway instead of merely appreciative. Between the play acting and the stiffness setting in from the morning’s work, I was very relieved when we arrived. The library was so heavily shrouded in quiet that silence stretched into the surrounding halls. Carpet swallowed our footsteps when we entered the dim room. Long gauzy curtains covered the windows on the western wall while splendid chandeliers descended like angels from a vaulted blue heaven to cast a warm golden glow on the room.

I noticed alcoves niched in the walls, some with tables and chairs, others with wing chairs. It was a long room, though not as long as I had been expecting, with a fireplace roaring at the far end. There didn’t appear to be a single soul around. My heartbeat quickened as I took in each delightful detail—each curve of woodwork, the height of the ceiling, the white stone of the fireplace, and above all, the books.

Quill left my side and quickly checked every single aisle and alcove before returning. “We are alone at present.”

I turned slowly and surveyed the tall shelves full of beautiful books. “No librarian?”

He grimaced. “We have one who tends the books, but he doesn’t have much to do.”

“But who answers questions about history, land, and philosophy?”

“There are not many questions that are safe to ask.”

I walked forward, “Do you know where the histories are, at least?”

Quill spread his arms, “The Library of Dalyn is arranged chronologically, you will find history on every shelf, as well as philosophy, economics and literature from the same period.”

My brows shot up in wonder and I picked an aisle at random. Trailing my fingers along the spines of the books as I walked. “Why?”

“Do you arrange yours differently?”

“By subject…you know, history, in one place, philosophy in another…”

“Why would you do that? You can’t truly understand Beltrain’s Treatise without knowing about the wars and famine that led to his writing it?”

“I’d never thought about it. I read the history, and if I want to know what Beltrain wrote I’ll go find that in the philosophy section.”

“But what if someone started in the philosophy section?”

“Then I suppose they find out of Beltrain’s ideas work without context.”

“They don’t. But that person would likely think Beltrain a fool, which he was not.”

I paused, “What on earth did this man write?”

“Satire.”

I stared at Quill.

“It’s brilliant, but makes no sense at all unless you know the story behind it.”

“Maybe I should read that.”

“You’d have to read two hundred years of history first, possibly more.”

“I’m not completely ignorant of history, you know. I had an excellent library and tutors.”

“An excellent library that was organized wrong.”

An excellent library that burned. I pulled a book off the shelf at random and gave Quill an arch look. “Don’t you have work to do?”

“I told your brother I would accompany you. Paperwork can wait.”

I headed for one of the alcoves with comfy chairs and Quill grabbed another book and followed behind me. I settled into one of the chairs, deciding that a merchant’s daughter would certainly pull her feet up under her—something a princess would never do in public. I’d gotten fifteen pages into my book before I realized I wasn’t actually reading, and this was an economics book. I closed it.

Quill looked up and watched me rise and stiffly march down the aisle to put the book back. I returned with Dalyn 2100c-2400c. Amusement glittered in his eyes.

I snuggled back into the chair. “This should be more interesting.” I waved the book.

He dipped his chin. “Most likely.”

“Shut up.”

“I didn’t say anything.”

“You were thinking about me getting in my history so I can read that satire.”

“I didn’t say anything.” A moment of silence passed before Quill added, “Anyway, that’s the wrong era of history.”

I shot him a glance, and then deliberately turned the page and made a great effort to actually read the words on the page while looking as stately as possible. I was aware of him smirking and returning to his own book. Then I did truly get drawn into the history book. The eight cities of Daisen Bay had had their share of wars over the ages, and I lost myself in the politics, skirmishes, weather and trade deals of two hundred years ago.

I was reading about a dispute centering on renovations to the cathedral when Quill cleared his throat. “I should bring you back to your rooms.”

I looked up. The dim light from the windows had faded to black, leaving the library to the golden lamps. “What time is it?”

“Dinnertime.”

That hardly seemed possible, but I when I examined my book I was a third of the way through. Come to think of it, I was hungry. I closed the book and uncurled slowly. My body protested and I winced. “What were you reading?” I asked, filling the time as I coaxed myself to stand.

Seven Swords, a novel,” he replied.

“You read novels?”

“Surprised?”

“I was expecting military history…or satire.”

“I read those, too.” He shrugged. “But today, a novel.”

I stretched and almost shook my head, but my neck was sore also. “May I take my book back with me?”

Quill rose, “Of course. You may take as many as you wish, no one will mind.”

We turned and made out way out of the deserted library. There was a bit more of a bustle in the palace halls—people on their way here or there to dine. I wondered how far the gossip had gotten—that the king had given me gifts, and sent for me to join him somewhere for a few hours. Quill seemed to sense my thoughts and moved closer to me. I made myself small and unnoticeable beside him and we made it to my chambers without a single person looking me full in the face, even though a few had greeted the Captain of the Guard.

In my chambers, Quill strode in and habitually checked the entire suite for intruders before coming back to the sitting room where I had stopped to set down my book.

“I have rung for Amantha,” he said, pausing by the settee.

“Thank you.” I shifted, “Should I be expecting the king tonight?”

He shook his head. “The King is not planning to come tonight.”

“Good, because after dinner I’m going to take a long, hot bath. Something I would prefer to do alone.” My cheeks reddened but I continued with just a touch of umbrage, “So unless his Majesty has something truly urgent to discuss, I’m not available this evening.”

Quill bowed slightly at the waist. I couldn’t tell for sure, but I thought I saw a smile cross his face before he said, “As you wish, milady. I’ll see you in the morning, then.” He turned to go.

“Quill.”

He turned back.

“Thank you—for lessons, and the library.”

“You’re welcome.” He bowed again, then left.

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