To be within a library again was a great boon, the smell of the books and vellum and leather, the years of dust.
As I suspected, there was a system at work there of which not even the librarians were aware. Within many of the ancient libraries across the Boreal Archipelago, there existed a code: various sections – histories and geographies mainly – are spaced at precise distances from each other, and no librarian had ever been able to explain why this is the case.
I knew why, of course.
The system was created as a way of guiding Jorsalir wayfarers to specific texts within the library, journals of previous wayfarers and pilgrims, as a way of secreting progress in spreading the word of Bohr and Astrid. But there were deeper and darker codes that only those most senior in the church knew of, guides to hidden regions. Codes that guided those in the Jorsalir religion to forbidden texts, translations of works hidden from the general public. The section of rare tomes – those in public view – was a surprising treat for me. Kept in protective cases are doctrines written (supposedly) in the time of Vilhallan, and critiques of King Hallan Hynur who established the original colony. I allowed myself a chuckle at the commentaries on the Rumel Wars, a great mythological battle between tribes of that race, but I know that this is, as is most of the history in this library, likely to be a lie.
I found a bizarre section buried deep within the section on fauna, a tiny nook on the third floor. This particular room was of little consequence, save that I knew such chambers existed and they were not sealed off, and I considered this progress. Where there was one, there were likely to be many others.
Maps! The great cartographers of the last thousand years had each left original works here, carefully preserved and rarely examined, it seemed. There was evidence of lands beyond the fringe of the Boreal Archipelago in all directions, and some of the librarians had barred me from investigating further into the map room. It suggested a control of information. There was one particularly shifty custodian, a leering fellow with a forest of eyebrows upon his head, who saw it as his duty to stop people from even walking by the cartography section. He piled up great tomes and built a wall of books to prevent access. I entertained myself for several minutes by visibly showing I was contemplating different routes and I enjoyed watching him haul books to the other side of shelving units to block my way. He was old and greatly unfit and if I had continued all week I would be confident that his back would be put out.
Despite my urgency, I felt I was not in a great hurry this week. I did not feel watched. I awarded myself the luxury of several days settling into the library and its books in order to do my job properly, and perhaps by soaking up the atmosphere I could perceive new depths.
What was certain, though, was that the wayfarers of the ages had . . . struggled here. They were frustrated, even troubled by some of the presences deeper within the library. They spoke in rhyme and a deliberate confusion of old tongues; these were codes which intrigued me, but in my darker moments I suspected that those who came to understand the books in the library descended into insanity. One wayfarer called Jorg repeated the word ‘Acheron’ several times in his final entry. I could not be certain, but I suspect I would be dealing with forces new to even me, and this caused me both vexation and excitement.
The dead – that is what the entries referred to. According to my own studies of the very oldest texts, Acheron is a river to, and of, the world of the dead. Many wayfarers talk of the dead under the city, the dead stirring beneath the library, at the very least. Was Villjamur constructed upon the souls of the dead? I have seen the dead walking during my travels to the city, however they were not sentient as these texts suggest. It has long been known that many of the great ancient ley lines all intersect here, but ley lines tell us nothing, and much of this history is truly unreliable.
Perhaps the ancient occultists were guiding people here, to this spot?
It is certain that the city needs exploring further, though where I hope to go maps will be of little use. I will head down, into the depths of the city. I could be gone many days.