Will of the Ancients

  • Goal – Rovan wants to finish transcribing a book at the Scriptorium, so that he can get off early and go to the tavern where his colleague, Jenra, awaits.
  • Conflict – Just as he is about to finish this work, he is handed a new book that he needs to transcribe and make a copy of. Rovan attempts to persuade the High Secretary to give the job to someone else.
  • Disaster – The High Secretary persists in that he takes the assignment. She hands him an old patchwork book of misplaced pages and rotten covers. The book is over three-hundred pages long and all written in Ancient Illyrian, and stuffed in with some cryptic runes, to boot.
  • Emotion – frustration and overwhelment.
  • Thought – Rovan thinks that he might convince his colleague Jenra to draw the images and paintings against payment. If he starts writing into the night as well, he could effectively halve the time it would take.
  • Decision – Rovan decides upon this course and intends to ask Jenra when he returns to the Dorms. He will then do some writing after supper.
  • Action – Rovan starts transcribing from the new book. 


Rovan’s quill scratched over paper and wrote the finishing line of page two-hundred-fifty-five of Safleure’s Philosophical Meditations. He made a nice little curl at the end of the last letter, as he always did, and dropped the quill into its glass jar, then grabbed his sore wrist and rolled his hand around. His wrist cracked several times.

Time to finish this. He glanced out the window. Grand, light-giving windows bathed the hall of the Scriptorium in all the light the sun could muster. Columns of light rolled in, centered on the lecterns all arranged along the opposite wall – all neatly symmetrical to the windows. The sun was reaching its zenith. There was still time.

Time to meet Jenra outside The Wilky Willow and share a cup of victory cider. Rovan sighed. He could already taste the sweet, fragrant taste of fermented apple and courage rolling down through his throat. He could see Jenra's brown eyes and dark lashes batting before him. He was only missing ten pages. Ten pages between him and the freedom of the streets.

His fellow scribes sat hunched before their own stone lecterns, their pens scratching over paper like alley cats testing their claws against wood. Most of them would write until the sun faltered in giving its light. Since they were fast approaching the winter season, that light proved ever more fickle – and a sun-filled day like this needed to be used.

A tall, robed figure moved past the backs of his colleagues. She cradled a large tome in her arms. Rovan stiffened. He was the only one not currently scribing for his life. And the High Secretary had that look about her today – that hawk’s glint in her eye peeled for any lethargic demeanor that she could immediately scoop down upon and clutch with her talons. Humming to himself, Rovan dipped his quill in the black inkpot, turned the next page, and—

“Master Ravenhill.”

Rovan’s quill froze above the paper. He raised it so it wouldn’t drip, and, with some hesitation, he dipped it back into its jar. The writings of Safleure required a delicate hand, and he intended to mimic the open pages of the original version as well as he could.

“Mm-yeees?” he said and turned around in his seat, not really surprised to see the High Secretary standing there behind him in her red-and-gold robe and thinning, once-strawberry hair. She looked down at him from her beak of a nose.

“Are you busy?”

“I’m just putting the finishing touches on this one,” he said, purring as well as any kitten in an attempt to be coaxing, while smiling his best I’m-completely-happy-and-content smile.

“Ah, I see. Well, then I might have something for you after that.”

His smile dropped like a falling stone, all the way into a sudden pit in his stomach.

“Well, I, still need to write the last pages—”

She put the book down on his small table, thudding as heavily as any cannon ball. Rovan drew back from it, already repulsed. Its covers were mottled, scaly and brown, and the pages seemed to be jutting out everywhere like the spikes of a porcupine. And there were a lot of pages. A right cloud of dust spewed out from it, like the last, wheezy gasp of a dying old man, as it made contact with the wood of his neat, once-empty table.

“As soon as you have finished those, you should have ample time to finish this. It’s from high up – a patron of the royal court, no less. He wants its writings copied into Svartlandic and onto fresher paper.”

Rovan twitched his nose at the abomination of a book. There would be no tavern-time for him if he started working with that one. Not until much later, where Jenra, his fellow scribe, likely would have gone back to the Dorms, along with everyone else he knew.

“Really, I’m not the best to consult with regards to . . . ancient work. My old Svartlandic is a little rusty—”

The High Secretary gave him a sceptic look, but her argument didn’t test the truth of his words.

“This is not written in Svartlandic. It is written in Ancient Illyrian. And, as far as I know, you’re the one to have translated and copied most Ancient Illyrian texts.”

“How about Master Eljarro? He’s from Illyria!”

“Ancient Illyrian is not the same as Illyrian, master Ravenhill. Besides, this text needs to be translated to Svartlandic.”

With no way out, Rovan felt the pressing need to submit. His heart plummeted with his words.

“Very well, very well. I’ll finish this first – then I’ll look at the other one.”

The High Secretary smiled faintly and gave him a nod, before she went off. Rovan grumbled to himself – non-verbally, of course – and continued with the writings of Safleure.

It was a good, further hour in before he was finished. He looked at the old, ugly book on his table – that revolting thing. He took fresh parchment and ruled its lines, muttering below his breath, as the sun steadily declined outside. Then he picked up the book and flipped it open on the first page. He had to put his hand on it so it did not flip closed again against the weight of all those other pages.

The writings were dense and small. And along with that, a series of much larger and cryptic runes he didn’t recognize brimmed in among the Ancient Illyrian words. Rovan cursed to himself. His mind went blank and his stomach turned into a hard knot. He flipped through the pages, looking at the number of the last page. Three-hundred and seven. He almost gagged. He would not finish this within the day – a month’s worth of work was here! Just as he had spent the last fortnight, writing day in and day out, he would now spend twice that long doing the same thing all over again.

There had to be some way around this. He leafed through some more pages, careful not to have the old pages rip out from the sewn strands in the bind. Pictographs appeared throughout, along with surprisingly detailed images - especially of hands, heads and weird circles. Perhaps I could convince Jenra to draw some of these . . . Jenra was ever the better artist at drawing and painting than Rovan. Rovan saw himself as a master of the written word and of the subtle nuances between different tongues, spoken or written. The artistic work sometimes required was but a matter of necessity for him. However, in this case, it might actually be a good thing -- if he could convince Jenra to draw some of those pictures for him, against a loose silver coin, perhaps, or a round of drinks. It would also give him more of an excuse to spend time with her . . .

With this slightly emboldening thought, Rovan decided to work as much as he could. He might be denied freedom this time – but he would be damned if he would spend as long as he did on Safleure’s mind-numbingly boring writings. He dipped his quill into the ink-pot, let it flow down to the tip of his swan-feather, and started scribing the first few words, which surprised him somewhat.

Rune of Fire.


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