The Great Library Stood

The Great Library Stood

Enjoy this excerpt from J.D.G. Perldeiner’s forthcoming novel, Haven. Read our profile on Perldeiner and Haven here.

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The morning air was cold as sin. Eyes shut tight against the dawn, Tibereus burrowed deeper into the hay. When the chill found him, he turned over and heaped straw onto his back. Warmish and exhausted, he had almost managed to drift back to sleep when the bells started ringing. He cracked one eye open, then the other.

Before he could pry himself up from the hay, Master Guilliame arrived, clacking his stick against the wooden wall of the novices’ shed. “Aurora, aurora,” he bawled. Moments later, his one-eyed face peered in through the window. He smelled like morning beer and day-old bread. “Tiber, aurora. Rise, and rise well. Your work awaits you.”

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Guilliame vanished. Seconds later, Tiber could hear him in the next stall, hollering dawn at the other novices. It took a few moments for Tiber to come to himself, to wipe the tail ends of straw from his roughspun and stagger out the door to the wash bucket. He broke the scum of ice with his fist, took a deep breath, and dunked his head. Many townies wondered how the monks kept themselves free of lice, as though it were thanks to some ancient secret. Tiber counted slowly to three, giving the bitter-cold water time enough to soak to his scalp. He gasped and pulled his head from the bucket, then set about toweling off his hair with the fringe of his tunic.

The yard swarmed with laborers from the Havens. Across the square, men-at-arms danced atop the cropped grass, tapping their wooden weapons and dodging sheep. Guilliame ambled over with five other novices in tow.

“Brother Laudangar needs help at the churchyard today,” he muttered to the boys. “The sixmonth workers go home tomorrow until after the snows end, and there’s much to be done before then.” As the other young boys dunked their heads, Guilliame rapped them with his stick. “Morle, Gaubert, and Felmont. You three will help for the morn.”

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Everyone else, including Tiber, was herded into the old chapel. A gong rang out the hour, and those monks not occupied with other duties filed in to join them. The floor was cold, even littered with rushes, and the ancient stones were cracked and broken. A relic of the time before the Cataclysm, the chapel had endured through war and famine, flood and drought. Magnificent piers supported a half-domed roof, and the balconies that hung low on either side were clustered with sacred manuscripts. Being in the chilly space was a reminder of the ancient past, of all that had been lost. Murals covered the rear walls. There, on the far left, were the ancients, commanding magical chariots and far-seers. On the right stood the monks of Haven, as somber-faced in paint as they were in life. In the very center, amongst the chapel windows, was Saint Elihu Yale, protecting the books from Burner and tempest, wrapped in the blue flag of the Yale. Each morning, the novices read the story on the chapel walls anew.

Today, Brother Laudangar read to the congregation from Prior Bartholomew. We are the future, the words went. Tiber knew them by heart. When it was time to respond in chorus, he did without hesitation. Bartholomew was his favorite prior. He wasn’t severe or stark like Gregorius, and he had a hidden kindness not found in Calixtus. By the time mass ended, Tiber had almost forgotten the biting cold, the smell of mildew, and the ruined world in which he lived. He saw the silver chariots of the ancients made anew, the mighty beasts of steel that tamed the earth. That was Bartholomew’s vision… that the monks of Haven might one day discover the secrets of the past.

The ceremony concluded with the usual prayer: All praise be to Logos and to man. When it was over, the novices were given their duties. Guilliame was impatient to dispose of them, as always. He sent Martius to the kitchens, Aquilis to the scriptorium, and when he reached Tiber, he muttered quietly in a gruff voice that stank of wine, “Father Abbot wants to see you.”

A knot formed in Tiber’s throat. Father Abbot? His mind ran in panic through the past few days, wondering at what he could’ve done to deserve the abbot’s ire. There was only one thing it could be: the script! He’d stolen a book, one of the monks’ precious manuscripts, but only for a night. It was hardly stealing at all! More like borrowing. Tiber had wanted to read it, that much was true, but he’d put it back when he was done. He thought no one would miss it for the few night hours. It had been dark, and he stole a candle to read it by! Maybe the candle had been missed… By the Logos, had he been revealed by a stray candle?

Tiber flinched as Guilliame laid a hand upon his shoulder and led him away from the other boys. “The rest of you, go down to the stonecutters and help them haul rock for the new church!” the Master of Novices ordered. “Avanti!” The others scattered even before the last echoes of Guilliame’s command died away. When they had gone, all that remained was a solemn silence pierced by the clack-clacking of the brother’s walking stick.

They made their way up College Street and turned onto the Abbey Cross. This was the heart of the monastery. Frowning stone houses lined the Cross Green. At the far end loomed the huge decaying bulk of Sterling Hall, the place where Saint Yale made his heroic last stand. That was where the abbot lived and where the great Library stood, preserved from the ravages of storm and Burner.

Brother Warden nodded them through at the gate. The two men-at-arms dicing in the hall lowered their voices to a hush as Guilliame passed them by. Even soldiers were afraid of the one-eyed master. His stick clicked even louder here, where the ceilings were high and echoing and the floor was cut from ancient marble. Many a time, Tiber had wondered at the machines they must have used, massive toothed things that could chew up stone and set forth such perfectly smooth tile. Today, he bowed his head and thought only of penitence. They made their way through the great library, between towering shelves and monks hurriedly reorganizing manuscripts, until at last they stood before the entrance to the abbot’s office.

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J.D.G. Perldeiner’s Haven
Release Date: September 3, 2016
Preorder: Prepper Press | Amazon

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