Tome of Reality

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Swept up by the excitement of a crowd, a young woman finds herself in a line before an ornate building. Curiosity demands she find out why so many wait.

Submitted: August 04, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 04, 2018



Nestled in the heart of the sprawling city of Dhrelurias, is the structure from which the city drew its name: Dhrenarlivos, The Grand Library. Constructed during a forgotten age, the library's white stone walls, stained by time; high, arched buttresses; countless clerestory, and pointed, arched windows remained well kept by the structure's denizens. Three towers, arranged triangularly around a central dome, pierced the sky from the core of the library, an area few outsiders have ever had the fortune to see. Despite the immensity of the structure, its prominence within the city, and the knowledge housed within, the athenaeum saw little visitation.

Save for today. For today, a mass of people from all corners of the continent had gathered in the library's paved courtyard.

Among this crowd, a young woman with short, black hair by the name of Iurvia. Dressed in a loose, thigh-length red tunic and leather trousers tucked into shin-high boots, she came from the town of Skrevurda, near the eastern border as a means to part ways with her old life; a doldrums which wore upon her every day she lingered. In the fury of arrivals, travelers drawn to the old library by some unknown command, she got swept away and now found herself in the middle of a twisting line.

Iurvia had never seen so many people in one place, not even at Skrevurda's annual harvest festival. Though she kept a straight face, her brown eyes betrayed her anxiety. A consideration crossed her mind, to leave the line and head back to the city proper. But, as she drew toward the library's arched entranceway, curiosity won out.

Two sets of large, ornate metal doors stood open beyond the curved arches of the entrance. The line, fed through the left door, paused for minutes at a time. These periods would have bored Iurvia, if not for the excitement of the line and her amazement at the architecture of the library.

She had never seen a structure like this before; her eyes moved over every stone in the archways and every tile underfoot ahead with a lively, curious gleam. The doors, engraved with images of shelved tomes, quills and inkwells, and a bizarre border of odd, vine-like growths absorbed her attention between bouts of movement. The noise of the crowd behind her served as music. However, what caught her attention most came after each jolt of motion ceased.

Between each pull of the line, a single individual would emerge through the right door and always with a different expression. Some would giggle to themselves as if their minds had departed; others would beam great smiles as they took light steps from the building. Each person dragged a curious look from her and led her to wonder what set them into such a state.

As the young woman continued her observance of the departing, she passed into the semi-circular entrance hall.

This chamber offered her new sights, which she devoured. Pillars, curved like the ribs of a great beast, ran up the walls and along the ceiling. Stone benches as curved as the walls they pressed against lined the chamber. Two open archways allowed her to peek into the next room: a long hall filled with desks, chairs, and a great many shelves stuffed with thick tomes. The immensity of the space proved difficult for her to take in from such a distance, and so her eyes settled on an elderly man, dressed in finery, approaching the archways with a smug grin on his face.

Her head followed the man as he passed the arches and departed through the door behind her.

In her turn to observe the figure's departure, a man dressed in a dark blue ankle-length tunic cinched at the waist with a slit down the middle of the skirt and buttons running up from the naval approached her. A silky, black shoulder cape hung from his shoulders, with embroidery mirroring the odd vine-like engraving of the doors.

Iurvia recalled this attire, minus the embroidery, on numerous people out in the courtyard. Perhaps, she thought, these individuals had an association with the structure. The thought, combined with the man's approach, concerned her. Had her curiosity and inquisitiveness gotten her in trouble? Panic flashed across her face.

The expression did not go unnoticed by the advancing figure, who smiled in response.

The smile did little to reduce Iurvia's anxiety. To her, the situation looked dour; poisonous to her chances in the city. To upset what appeared to be an important institution would be a death knell. As if the bell rang in her head, she dropped her eyes as the man stood before her.

"Salutations, young miss. I apologize if my approach has brought you discomfort. You looked to be one bristling with curiosity, and questions for which you had no answers." The man bowed at his stomach, his voice smoother and less angry than expected. "As overseer of the attendants, it is my privilege to offer any answers and explanations I can to those unknowing."

Iurvia flicked her eyes up at the man, nervousness clear in her features. She heard his words, but they were slow to sink in. Her mind fancied paranoia and sought to pull hidden meaning from innocuous speech. Met with immediate failure, the suspicion subsided.

Though still uneasy, she forced a meek response, "He-hello."

"No need for nervousness. I am Head Attendant Nichlosh, overseer of the present event," he said.

" Iurvia. It is a pleasure." Her voice came out uneven as she looked at Nichlosh's face. The man, older than she first thought, kept his left eye shut for a reason she couldn't determine. Nor did she want to.

"A joy to make your acquaintance. Now, what thirsts may I slake for you?"

The young woman hesitated for a moment before speaking. "This may sound...odd, but what is this place?"

"Ah, a splendid question. One I oft find myself answering, actually." He clasped his hands before his chest, giving Iurvia an opportunity to see the missing ring and pinky fingers of his left hand.

"This glorious structure you now find yourself is Dhrenarlivos, The Grand Library. Housed within these walls are a near countless number of tomes, scrolls, books, and other documents of knowledge. And, some, of pleasures."

As he spoke, the line continued its periodic march into the recesses of the repository. The two kept pace and departed the lobby.

Nichlosh gestured to the room around them, the long hall Iurvia saw from the foyer. "This chamber is almost always open to the public, with many texts readily available from the shelves present. Works not available are a request away."

Iurvia nodded at the attendant's words as her eyes, again, turned to her surroundings. The hall proved wider than it appeared from the lobby, and the shelving more numerous. The ribbed vaulting overhead dazzled with designs reminiscent of flowers or depictions of stars. At the end of the hall, ten feet past where the line ended, stood an ornate podium surrounded by four attendants.

As her eyes lingered on the arrangement, a young lady in a simple dress approached the podium from the line. The woman stood at the lectern, focused on the wooden construct's surface with great interest. After two minutes she turned and started back down the hall, a dreamy look on her face.

Iurvia observed the woman with renewed curiosity and looked to Nichlosh after she passed, curious gleam still present.

"Question?" the attendant asked with a knowing smile.

"Yes. What is upon the odd podium that draws such a range of reactions from those who look upon it?" Iurvia kept her voice low, ashamed of her lack of knowledge.

"Another frequent question." He looked toward the rostrum. "Upon the lectern is Ahlzhrevos' Tome, constructed over four thousand years ago. It is commonly known as the 'Tome of Reality' by those not of the library. It is a treasure of the library and is rarely available for public perusal. Hence the masses."

"I see. But...umm, what of the varied reactions? Surely a book known as the 'Tome of Reality' must be consistent in its revelations?" The young woman asked as she watched another departing visitor. The names rang no bells, made no connections in her head; never once had they been uttered in her remote town.

At least, not to her knowledge.

"Your inquisitiveness is boundless; a good sign. The common name is a misnomer. The tome...can provide sight into reality, but often does not." The smile faded from his face, and his voice lowered to a whisper.

The sudden shift in the man's voice didn't go unnoticed, and Iurvia turned her attention back to him. The smile had drained from his face, which now rested expressionless. His left eye, as it had since she first saw him, remained shut.

The change disconcerted but did not dissuade.

"Then the reactions are the result of the tome's trickery?"

"Not quite." The attendant smiled again, but the smile looked thinner than the jovial one he approached her with.

"What is seen within the pages is dependent upon the individual reader. Those who view the book will see what they wish to see, read what they wish to read." Nichlosh rubbed his chin with the fingertips of his right hand. "Should the peruser desire a happy, elative read, they shall find it. Something to enrage them, light the fire of furious motivation, it will be shown. Sorrow, hope, despair; if desired, so revealed."

Confusion crossed Iurvia's face at this claim. Who would seek cause for anger or despair? What sort of warped person would desire to be so emotionally, spiritually afflicted? The harshnesses of the world are unkind enough to not need assistance. The suggestion made no reasonable sense.

"Who...why would any desire such unpleasantness?" Iurvia asked in a lowered voice to mirror Nichlosh's.

"Hmm. Those who hold such desires have their causes, their reasons. Many come wishing their perceptions not only reaffirmed but to be cast in iron; set in stone. To be without doubt. The tome...appeases. What they do with this appeasement ties to the will behind their desire."

Nichlosh paused for a moment, only to speak up when Iurvia appeared ready to launch into another question. "For ages we have had scholars and nobles, from all corners of the continent, travel here to read from the tome; always seeking confirmation. A lord with an initiative in their court, a scholar with a theory tied to the workings of the universe, and a peasant girl seeking affirmation of secret affections are all the same. They all come searching, and they all leave sated."

Iurvia paused after the answer, a chance to mull over what the talkative man had said. And, an opportunity to see where they stood in the serpentine column that devoured much of her day.

The man's word's made sense enough. She could recall, with ease, seeking validation for feelings of anger or fear. For sorrow, joy, or suspicion. Validation from an authority, an object said to hold truth, could be ideal.

And too good to be real.

As for the line, they had passed through much of the hall, and her turn at the lectern loomed near. Her stomach tightened at the realization, and hesitation set in. What would she see upon those pages, if what the attendant said was true? What desire did she have, did she come with? She hadn't a clue.

"Do the readers not care for truth, for actual reality over their yearnings for convenient authority or flattery? Is the tome allowed to carry the title solely for the power gained by the belief of others?" she asked in an attempt to flee her thoughts, her face a mixture of betraying expressions.

Nichlosh's smile regained its relaxed, jovial form. "All passages proffered by the tome possess a modicum of truth, of the reality which surrounds and engulfs. But, information offered is not always information observed. Details, conflicting and contrarian, are often buried deep. Desire for affirmation does so limit the curiosities."

The attendant looked forward toward the lectern as another visitor departed with a whimsical smile. "And truth, actual truth of this world around us, is a melancholy, frightful thing. Yet, when influenced by unconscious will, it becomes mitigated and filtered; comparably fangless, a shadow of itself. Suppressed."

"But, enough from me. Your turn at the rostrum draws upon you. I do so wonder what you will see in those ancient pages." The attendant's smile grew broad.

Iurvia, in spite of all the answers related to the tome, still found herself uncomfortable and out of place. All the knowledge offered did nothing to relax her. For a moment, she considered asking another question, But, she had no time to spare.

Her turn at the lectern had arrived.

She slipped from the line at the silent gesture of one of the book's attendants and stepped up to the podium. As she approached, she noticed a large door tucked into the shadows at the rear of the hall. Iurvia hadn't the time to observe the obscured framework and instead turned her attention to the tome open before her. Of course, the book had a thick, worn leather binding with fine etchings. The most important aspect were the pages of the book.

The blank pages.

The sight perplexed. Not once in the attendant's rambling descriptions did this possibility arise. She turned page after page; convinced text must lie within. When ink did not reveal itself, anger and frustration swelled.

Swelled, until she heard Nichlosh's whispering voice.

"Those who gaze upon the pages and see them as they truly are, blank and lifeless, exist in a state of boundless luck and endless misfortune. For they are awakened to the reality around them. As terrible as it may be."

Iurvia's chest tightened when she looked at the man. Where once the attendant's closed left eye had been, now existed a bulbous lump of flesh with two slits: one facing forward, the other to the left. His missing fingers had revealed themselves as thrashing, hooked appendages with a series of toothed mouths on the undersides. He gestured to the hall with this hand, and her head followed.

Her throat tightened, and eyes widened as she regretted her decision.

From the ceiling, once populated only by ribbed vaulting, saclike masses hung from thick, fibrous stalks. Each growth possessed innumerable slits, similar in shape to the two on Nichlosh's facial lump.

These slit sacks were not worst of what she saw. That right belonged to the thing above the lobby's archways. The entity, of a terrible size, clung to the wall and arched ceiling with four-taloned feet. Many of these limbs lay hidden beneath the creature's form, bent to accommodate its length. A darker, thicker variant of the fibrous tissue that kept the slit sacs aloft comprised its hide. The beast had no head, but an open stump of a neck.

Iurvia thought she could see dozens of small movements in this darkened cavern.

She had become so focused on the beast that she jumped when the overseeing attendant put his right hand on her shoulder.

"Now, Miss Iurvia, please follow me. Your induction awaits."

Fearful of what the hall dwelling apparition would do to her if she refused, she turned around. In her peripheries, she saw two of the four attendants move to her flanks. With a smile, Nichlosh led her toward the doorway at the hall's rear.

As the four drew near, the door before them opened and three figures in attendant garb stepped forth. The figures bowed their heads toward Nichlosh before two of them passed by and assumed the now vacant positions around the lectern.

The middle attendant raised his head after the two departed and looked to Iurvia with gleaming eye and a closed mouth smile. His gaze lingered and shifted like an appraiser's. Without a word to the young woman, he returned his attention to Nichlosh and again bowed his head.

"Salutations, High Overseer. Preparations for induction are officially completed. Please, follow me."

With no further words, they led Iurvia deeper into the library.

© Copyright 2019 JPDonelan. All rights reserved.

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