The Last Librarian
by Jeremy E. Brown
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3, 4
Scouts had spotted about forty men three miles out. Tancred sat on a handcrafted bench outside the main doors to the rebuilt library, just off the main entrance to the CA. As the small column approached, his eyes were drawn to the black, charred stain on the road before the CA, where the ash had been swept up and spread over their fields.
Let death make way for life, he had told them.
The column of soldiers neared the rotunda, flocked by a smattering of townsfolk at a cautious distance, fear permeating their curious observation. At the head, they were led by a cassocked man with cropped black hair, shorter than those who followed him, and a shimmering silver cross pinned to his left chest. The man raised his hand and the column stopped.
Tancred watched them with an air of intrigue, his glare unreciprocated by the leader, whose eyes looked to Tancred with utter contempt. “What is the meaning of this?”
Tancred stood to address them. “Turn around and leave these people; there is no need for bloodshed.”
The Inquisitor looked past Tancred through the newly fashioned doors, shelves upright and lightly stocked with books. He cast his eyes over the now larger array of townsfolk around them, fire raging in his eyes.
“And who are you, blasphemer,” the inquisitor barked at him, innate self-righteousness abounding, “their guard dog?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Tancred stated, “though I prefer ‘librarian’, myself.”
The inquisitor inhaled sharply, as if Tancred had insulted his mother. “We warned them about pursuing this.” His hand pointed towards the open library. “That stupid little girl refused to see reason, even as we pried her eyes from her skull.” He looked back to Tancred, clearly holding him accountable, as a smile spread across his face.
Tancred stared back at the man unmoving. Inside him a rage built at the cold, proud declaration of Yvette’s murder. He was all the more resigned to do what he had planned next.
The cassocked man turned to those gathering. “This land is now under the jurisdiction of the Inquisition!” he shouted. “We’re here to save you people from the corrupting ideas of a godless and selfish era.”
The Inquisitor motioned the column forward with a gesture of his hands. “We will purge this abomination first. Then, we shall set the town to the question, and find this man’s accomplices.” As the men set to work tearing down shelves and throwing books into a pile near the door, the Inquisitor nodded and turned to address Tancred. “Now, as for you—”
Tancred landed a crushing kick to the chest that sent the man stumbling backward into an unsuspecting soldier.
Given the signal, some members of the crowd that had shadowed the column rushed forward and slammed the doors shut. Ashland’s family burst through the main entrance of the CA, a large metal bar between them. They rammed it through the door handles as Ashland walked up to the bar with a sledgehammer in hand. With a heavy grunt, he raised it and slammed it down on the bar, bending it in place and drowning out the enraged curses of the Inquisitor pounding on the doors.
A small group of people rounded the corner of the building. “Back door secure, Tancred,” they reported. Another group approached the windows with gasoline canisters and set to dumping them in through the glass they smashed.
He nodded. The magistrate walked up to him, her eyes heavy with uncertainty.
“They must be dealt with,” Tancred said, sensing her unasked question, “or they would continue to exert their will over you. It would not get any better.” He turned to the people next to the windows. “Light it up.”
What was once the library erupted in flames as members of the crowd lit matches, hesitantly at first, and dropped them into the library. The angry shouts of the soldiers and Inquisitor inside became panicked screams.
Tancred turned back to the magistrate. She winced at the sounds coming from the library. “Ma’am, our work is done here. Perhaps it’s time we put Yvette to a peaceful rest.”
At the mention of Yvette’s name, she stood up straighter and nodded to him. “That is an excellent idea.” With a wave of her hand, the gathered crowd, eager to get away from the pyre, moved off with her.
Tancred watched them walk off for a moment with approval and then brought his eyes to bear on the blaze that had started to lap at the roof. Ashland strode up next to him and stared with him in silence. With a nod, he produced a small, wrapped package for Tancred.
Tancred glanced down at it as he took it. He glanced inquisitively to his student, who smiled, nodded, and walked off to join his family.
Unwrapping it, Tancred saw the gilded flowers and swashbuckler greet him. A small note sat on top.
This is a little something to help you start over. Yvette would have wanted you to have it.
Tancred smiled and looked back at the flames. A voice echoed deep in his mind: Fortify against the night.
Copyright © 2018 by Jeremy E. Brown