Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Suggestion Box, Vol. 3: "One Thousand Words" List #24

Suggested By: Kimberly Rogers

The List:
-Middle Ages
-the lost scroll of Atlantis

The Result:
"The Novice" 
The young novice cast the sleeve of his burlap robe over his face as the mound of scrolls deposited before him dislodged a cloud of dust.
“Caspian!” Brother Arnos barked, “Another lot needs to be sorted!”
Obediently, the scribe hopped off his stool—taking care to deposit the quill he’d been using in its proper stand—and moved to sift through the pile. Half of the parchments had been left unrolled, so he began the tedious job of rolling them. He glanced over the contents, sorting the scrolls by type, whether they were recipes for medical cures, or historical records, or merely documents on the various people groups living around the area.
Brother Arnos hadn’t left like he normally did. He stood and watched the novice chronicler busy at his work.
“You do know that these scrolls are the property of the monastery, correct?” he said.
Caspian nodded without speaking. It wouldn’t do to respond to the monk who was so much his superior in a matter that did not warrant discussion. Better to say nothing at all, than say something that Brother Arnos would make him regret.
The sour-faced monk wagged a calloused finger in the young man’s face. “See that none of the scrolls are missing; ours is a sacred duty, lad…”
And so on it went; Caspian received the same speech from the monk at least every day, sometimes twice. Brother Arnos made it his sacred duty to remind Caspian of their business as the librarians of Saint Peter Over The Water, an obscure holy order devoted to the ministry of history and anthropology. Theirs was the only order of its kind, and for reasons Caspian failed to understand, the importance of the scrolls handled, studied, referenced, and copied by the monks of Saint Peter Over The Water were of grave value, more important than the lives of the men who kept them.
Caspian waited till Brother Arnos had disappeared down the corridor before grumbling to himself, as quietly as he dared.
“It’s not like anyone could possibly find his way down here, even if they knew this library existed, even if they wanted so badly to steal any one of these scrolls!” he fumed.
The library of Saint Peter Over The Water was situated—in the height of irony—underneath a lake, in a vast network of catacombs spread over an indeterminate distance. The fact that the ceilings down here were still as vaulted as a cathedral only served to accentuate just how deep the catacombs ran. The only illumination Caspian and the others had were candles, torches and lamps—dangerous business when one’s occupation was solely made of paper. But all the monks were skilled at being able to accomplish their work well clear of any danger by fire.

Caspian finished filing the armload of scrolls and returned to the front for a second load. A monk had just arrived.
“Fresh accounts for the library,” he muttered. “Looks like the Spaniard is back from his voyage.”
Caspian accepted the parchments with no small thrill. The Spaniard—the great Cristobal Colón, himself—had been halfway across the world, and the records from his voyages all came through the library of Saint Peter Under The Water. He would not dare let anyone (least of all Brother Arnos) know of his sacrilegious obsession with the man, nor the way he sometimes slipped those scrolls out of their cases to read the Spaniard’s accounts like the greatest adventures Caspian could never hope to have, tucked underground like a mole as he was.
Caspian forced himself to file all the other scrolls before scurrying back to the corner where Señor Colón’s records were kept. As he sifted through the weather-beaten folios and quartos, Caspian fumbled as a small, folded parchment slipped out from the stack. Unfolding it, he found that it wasn’t even a full account—just a part of one.

“fear that my secret has been uncovered, that the small monastery deep in the
valley has been discovered. Messengers have reported a growing number of
out of the forest when they deliver my accounts. I wonder if it could be agents
for he has long been jealous of my status. At least I can depend on the holy
defend my secrets. I am sure they are well-guarded. I have nothing to fear.

A dark chill ran down Caspian’s spine. The lantern cast strange shadows over everything. What was coming out of the forest? Would someone really be coming all the way down into the very bowels of the earth, just to get after the explorer’s secrets? What sort of secrets did a man such as he have to hide?
The novice shook his head; Brother Arnos was making him paranoid. He raised the lantern and climbed the ladder. He had carefully placed all packages and catalogued every parchment received from the Spaniard himself. Certainly there was nothing—

Caspian froze and his body stiffened as the lantern’s light did not penetrate the shadows of one shelf as deeply as it should have. Leaning as carefully as he dared, he peered into the gap, the place among the books where he had hidden the strange locked box Colón had sent them, from a place called El Río de Las Amazones.
The box and its accompanying scroll were gone. It took all of Caspian’s willpower to pry his fingers off the rung and slowly climb back toward the ground. Once there, he began to pace, checking all around. Perhaps some sort of animal had sought shelter down here, and had pushed the box and scroll out of the hole for its own purposes.
Caspian’s madly-spinning brain had cranked his senses up to high alert—otherwise he may never have heard the faint crash echoing up the tunnels at the back of the archives. He did not even stop to wonder what could have made the noise before charging toward it.
He found the shattered remnants of the box on the floor a few yards away from the comfort and security of the library, and yet the archives stretched further on. Caspian came to a stumbling halt as soft strains of music reached his ears.

He reached the source of the sound as the last notes faded. The object resting at his feet seemed to be a music box in the shape of a round shell of some sort. Caspian leaned forward and picked up the shell with trembling hands. On its edge was a scrap of parchment, one he recognized as belonging to the scroll that his own foolishness had lost. On it was only one word: 


Previously in This Series:

#15 "Rendezvous"("Soul Mates" Part 6/"Serenity's Light" Part 2)