The Caretaker, part 4: The Asurian Delegation
Part 4 – The Asurian Delegation
Rannol stepped into the hallway with as much grace as he could muster. He followed Aribald through the many corridors of the Library until they arrived in the Hall of Announcements. He had been here before as a mere scholar and knew what to expect.
On one side of the rectangular room was a dais on which was placed the inevitable writing desk.
‘Kings get thrones and I get a writing desk,’ thought Rannol. ‘We Caretakers get to practice the art of standing more than the art of writing.’
“I shall bid them enter when you are ready to receive them,” Aribald had regained his composure during the walk and gave his formal bow.
“Very well then, send them in.” Rannol walked towards the desk and glanced up towards the coloured windows that he had always admired when he had attended announcements as a scholar.
The secretary stopped short of the door and turned towards Rannol. “My Lord?”
“This is, I take it, a private reception?”
“Indeed, my Lord. Delegates of nations are usually received without public. Discretion is always the greater consideration.” Aribald gave another short bow and left the room in order to bring in the delegation.
Greater than what? Mused Rannol as he sternly suppressed a nervous flutter.
The door opened once more and Aribald announced solemnly: “The Lord Arikis and the Lord Barras of Asuria!”
The two lords walked in, their heavy boots echoing through the hall.
Rannol turned to welcome them but as he saw them, had to suppress a bubble of laughter that nearly constricted his air pipe. The two men could not have been more different from one another. The one was long, thin and looked like a chagrined schoolteacher while the other had the height of a dwarf and the build of a terribly good cook.
Forcing the air out of his mouth, Rannol managed a decent “My Lords” and mimicked one of Aribald’s bows. Then he turned to Aribald and gave him a pleasant smile. “Thank you, Aribald.”
The secretary stiffened but then he turned abruptly and left the hall.
Rannol turned his attention to his two guests. The tall Asurian took the lead. “My Lord Caretaker, it is an honour to meet you.” He did not bow but inclined his head and Rannol knew he had lost the first round.
“No indeed, I am much honoured by your visit and welcome you to the Library of Mova.” Rannol drew himself up and felt pride warm him inside as he spoke those words. Smiling he added, “what can the Library do for you, my Lord?”
The Lord Arikis, for he was the tall one, walked towards Rannol, appraising the young man as he approached the dais. By the time he had reached the desk, Rannol once again felt he had lost a round.
“Can I first congratulate you on your new office, my Lord Caretaker?”
Rannol heard the slight emphasis on the last word. Trying to regain some the ground lost, he inclined his head, saying “I thank you.” Then he waited.
Lord Arikis placed his hands behind his back and started is well-rehearsed speech.
“The Kingdom of Asuria has always been on good terms with its neighbouring Kingdom Thalasan.”
Rannol felt he was back in history class as Lord Arikis’s speech took on that lecturing tone.
“Recent events, however, have given rise to some uneasiness among our ruling council.”
Lord Arikis walked closer to the desk.
“As you may be aware, the sons of the old deposed King Damon are stirring once again in the west of Thalasan.”
He looked at Rannol for confirmation of that knowledge and Rannol gave him a slight nod.
“Especially he who calls himself the Dark Prince has been proclaiming himself King Galan’s enemy and is amassing an army.”
Lord Arikis gave a little shrug.
“Old enemies have risen before and usually cannot stomach more than winter’s campaign but this man…”
And here he gestured to emphasize his contempt for the insurgent.
“… this man is rumoured to possess some of the powers of old.”
Rannol’s heart skipped a beat. The powers of old….
This could not be coincidence. He had himself read only a moment ago about the powers in a book that looked out of place on the old Caretaker’s bookcase.
Lord Arikis had fallen silent, studying Rannol’s face with some satisfaction.
“You have heard of these powers?” It was hardly phrased as a question.
Rannol drew himself up. “I have come across them during my studies at the Library, my Lord Arikis. I am, however, no expert on the subject.”
He remembered the lecturers’ distinct disdain for magical subjects.
“Indeed, I do not think we have any experts on that particular subject.”
Lord Arikis nodded as if he had expected it.
“We have had little response from the Library on our past requests for such knowledge. We feel, however, that circumstances have made this a matter of some urgency.”
Rannol heard the warning, or was it a threat, in Lord Arikis’s voice. He decided on diplomacy.
“I can understand your reason for concern, Lord Arikis. If these rumours prove to be true, it is a concern that touches all of us, even the Library of Mova.”
He walked a few steps away from the desk as if in thought, creating a welcome space between the Asurian Lord and himself at the same time.
“I will surely look into this matter with the utmost priority, My Lord.”
Lord Arikis gave him another appraising glance.
“It would be greatly appreciated, my lord Caretaker. Indeed, very much appreciated. I feel that your predecessor may have not given this matter the weight or urgency it deserves.”
Rannol smiled, feeling he had resolved this matter most diplomatically.
But Lord Arikis was not finished. “In order to aid you in your search, we offer you the assistance of one of our greatest scholars.” He gestured to his shorter companion who walked hurriedly towards the door.
Ah, thought Rannol, not him then.
Both men turned towards the door expectantly.