Home > Sorcery of Thorns(3)

Sorcery of Thorns(3)
Author: Margaret Rogerson

“Look at me . . . look . . .”

Slowly but surely, as if drawn by an invisible force, Elisabeth’s gaze began to travel downward.

“There,” said the Director. Her voice sounded dim and distorted, like she was speaking from underwater. “We are finished. Scrivener?”

When Elisabeth didn’t answer, the Director slammed the grimoire shut, cutting its voice off midwhisper. Elisabeth’s senses rushed back. She sucked in a breath, her face burning with humiliation. The eyes bulged furiously, darting between her and the Director.

“Well done,” the Director said. “You held out much longer than I expected.”

“It almost had me,” Elisabeth whispered. How could the Director congratulate her? A clammy sweat clung to her skin, and in the vault’s chill, she began to shiver.

“Yes. That was what I wished to show you tonight. You have a way with grimoires, an affinity for them that I have never seen in an apprentice before. But despite that, you still have much to learn. You want to become a warden, do you not?”

Spoken in front of the Director, witnessed by the angel statues lining the walls, Elisabeth’s soft reply possessed the quality of a confession. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

“Just remember that there are many paths open to you.” The scar’s distortion gave the Director’s mouth an almost rueful cast. “Be certain, before you choose, that the life of a warden is what you truly desire.”

Elisabeth nodded, not trusting herself to speak. If she had passed the test, she didn’t understand why the Director would advise her to consider forsaking her dream. Perhaps she had shown herself in some other way to be unready, unprepared. In that case, she would simply have to try harder. She had a year left before she turned seventeen and became eligible for training at the Collegium—time she could use to prove herself beyond a doubt, and earn the Director’s approval. She only hoped it would be enough.

Together, they wrestled the grimoire back into the coffer. As soon as it touched the salt, it ceased struggling. The eyes rolled upward, showing crescents of milky white before they sagged shut. The slam of the lid shattered the vault’s sepulchral quiet. The coffer wouldn’t be opened again for years, perhaps decades. It was secure. It posed a threat no longer.

But she couldn’t banish the sound of its voice from her thoughts, or the feeling that she hadn’t seen the last of the Book of Eyes—and it had not seen the last of her.





ELISABETH SAT BACK, admiring the view from her desk. She had been assigned to transfers on the third floor, a vantage from which she could see all the way across the library’s atrium. Sunlight streamed in through the rose window high above the front doors, casting prisms of ruby, sapphire, and emerald across the circular balconies’ bronze rails. Bookcases soared upward toward a vaulted ceiling six stories above, rising around the atrium like the layers of a wedding cake or the tiers of a coliseum. Murmurs filled the echoing space, punctuated by the occasional cough or snore. Most of those sounds did not belong to the blue-robed librarians striding to and fro across the atrium’s tiles. They came from the grimoires, muttering on the shelves.

When she breathed in, the sweetness of parchment and leather filled her lungs. Motes of dust hung suspended in the sunbeams, perfectly still, like flakes of gold leaf trapped in resin. And teetering stacks of paperwork threatened to spill from her desk at any moment, burying her in a landslide of neglected transfer requests.

Reluctantly, she wrested her attention toward the imposing piles. The Great Library of Summershall was one of six Great Libraries in the kingdom. It was a full three day’s journey from its closest neighbors, which were spaced evenly apart in a circle around Austermeer, with the Inkroads connecting them to the capital at the center like the spokes of a wheel. Transferring grimoires between them could be a delicate task. Some volumes nurtured such a potent grudge toward each other that they couldn’t be brought within miles of the same location without howling or bursting into flame. There was even a house-sized crater in the wilderness of the Wildmarch where two books had clashed over a matter of thaumaturgical doctrine.

As an apprentice, Elisabeth was entrusted with approving transfers for Classes One through Three. Grimoires were classed on a ten-point scale according to their level of risk, with anything Class Four and above requiring special confinement. Summershall itself held nothing above a Class Eight.

Closing her eyes, she reached for the paper on top of the stack. Knockfeld, she guessed, thinking of Summershall’s neighbor to the northeast.

But when she turned the paper over, it was a request from the Royal Library. Unsurprising; that was where more than two-thirds of her transfers went. One day she might pack up her belongings and travel there, too. The Royal Library shared a grounds with the Collegium at the heart of the capital, and when she wasn’t busy with her warden training, she would be able to wander its halls. In her imagination its corridors stretched on for miles, lined with books and passageways and hidden rooms that contained all the secrets of the universe.

But only if she earned the Director’s approval. A week had passed since the night in the vault, and she hadn’t come any closer to deciphering the Director’s advice.

She still remembered the exact moment that she’d vowed to become a warden. She had been eight years old, and she had fled into the library’s secret passageways in order to escape one of Master Hargrove’s lectures. She hadn’t been able to bear another hour of fidgeting on a stool in the stifling storeroom-turned-classroom, reciting declensions in the Old Tongue. Not on an afternoon when summer pounded its fists against the library’s walls, thickening the air to the consistency of honey.

She recalled the way sweat had trickled down her spine as she crawled through the passage’s cobwebs on her hands and knees. At least the passage was dark, away from the sun. The golden glow that filtered between the floorboards provided enough light to see by, and to avoid the skittering shapes of booklice as she disturbed their nests, sending them racing around in a panic. Some grew to the size of rats, engorged on enchanted parchment.

If only Master Hargrove had agreed to take her into town that day. It was just a five-minute walk down the hill through the orchard. The market would be bustling with people selling ribbons and apples and glazed custards, and travelers sometimes came in from outside Summershall to peddle their wares. She had once heard accordion music, and seen a dancing bear, and even watched a man demonstrate a lamp whose wick burned without oil. The books in her classroom hadn’t been able to explain how the lamp worked, so she assumed it was magic, and therefore evil.

Perhaps that was why Master Hargrove didn’t like taking her into town. If she happened to encounter a sorcerer outside the library’s protection, he might steal her away. A young girl like her would no doubt make a convenient sacrifice for a demonic ritual.

Voices snapped Elisabeth back to attention. They were emanating from directly beneath her. One voice belonged to Master Hargrove, and the other to . . .

The Director.

Her heart leaped. She flattened herself against the floorboards to peer through a knothole, the light that poured through it setting her tangled hair aglow. She couldn’t see much: a slice of desk covered in papers, the corner of an unfamiliar office. The thought that it might belong to the Director sent her pulse racing with excitement.

Hot Books
» House of Earth and Blood (Crescent City #1)
» A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire
» From Blood and Ash (Blood And Ash #1)
» A Million Kisses in Your Lifetime
» Deviant King (Royal Elite #1)
» Den of Vipers
» House of Sky and Breath (Crescent City #2)
» The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #
» Sweet Temptation
» The Sweetest Oblivion (Made #1)
» Chasing Cassandra (The Ravenels #6)
» Wreck & Ruin
» Steel Princess (Royal Elite #2)
» Twisted Hate (Twisted #3)
» The Play (Briar U Book 3)