The grand library of Hadera was truly a magnificent, breath-stealing sight. Visiting Studious and Magisterras from the other Sanctuaries always remarked upon its breadth and beauty, and those who were blessed to walk within its walls day to day knew their fortune for what it was. Three levels of carefully polished wooden floors and gently twisting staircases held a seemingly endless assemblage of books, scrolls, and ancient stone tablets of all shapes and sizes. The library had stood for over a century, and it was considered a point of pride for the citizens of Hadera to add to its voluminous shelves.
Korrit sat at the bottom of a shelf that morning, nose buried in a large tome bound in red-stained leather. She was reading a story that had supposedly survived the fall of the Metal World, though the actual book was certainly not that ancient. This version had been written by a particularly famous Studious who had lived over half a century before Korrit was born. Every Studious knew the name of Korana the Renewer, that noble woman from Hadera who had worked tirelessly over the course of her life to breathe life into the old tales. Korana had found old books amongst the ruins of the Metal World, translated them, and brought them back to the Ealderra born anew. Korrit was proud to share a namesake with the woman.
Korrit currently had her hands on a copy of Tomala of Sawyer and was enjoying the snarky young woman’s ability to manipulate those around her. Indeed, Korrit envied the ease with which Tomala spoke and interacted with her fellows. And though she wasn’t quite sure what a “picket fence” was, Korrit imagined that it must be some kind of pike defensive formation to keep Tomala’s aunt’s home secure from intruders.
She had just gotten to a particularly exciting scene involving a graveyard (which sounded similar to the Hall of Echoes where Hadera’s fallen were laid to rest, only dirtier) and several evil, seedy men. Tomala and her friend Huaki watched from the shadows as the men argued; then, one of the men raised a spade above another, and—
She screamed in fright, the book slipping from her fingers as she jumped to her feet and clutched at the bookshelf behind her. Heart pounding, lungs gasping for air, Korrit turned toward the source of the interruption: Koreltan, a Studious a few years older than Korrit and thus in an upper class. She also happened to be Korrit’s sister, though the two could rarely be found to claim that fact. Where Korrit was scrawny and had to squint to see far distances, Koreltan was lithe and strong. They were both Studious, and yet it was not Korrit that the leaders spoke of with such admiration for her studies.
“What are you doing here?” Koreltan asked, accusation dripping from the words.
“You scared me!” Korrit snapped. She knelt down to gather the dropped book, smoothing out its pages before carefully closing it.
“You should be with the other second years! But what are you doing instead? Reading another silly fairy tale?” The older girl stepped forward and snatched the book from Korrit’s hands.
“Hey! That’s mine!”
Koreltan, who stood a good head taller than her sister, easily held the book out of the latter’s reach as she opened the cover and scanned the first few pages. With a grunt, she snapped the book closed and glared at her sister.
“Why do you waste your time with this nonsense? You should be focusing on more important studies! Like those that will make you into one of the leaders of the library!”
Korrit glared back with venom, still reaching for her book. “Maybe I don’t want to be a leader! Give it back!”
“Don’t want… You are such a child!”
Koreltan shoved the girl back a few steps and slipped the red leather book under her arm before turning on her heel and storming back down the line of shelves, calling back over her shoulder: “You can have this back when your duties are done! Get to class!”
Korrit regained her balance and continued to glare at the retreating form of her sister. Gaining a bit of courage from the sight of Koreltan’s back, she stuck out her tongue in defiance and made a rude gesture with her left hand. But then Koreltan was out of sight and Korrit was alone once more, this time without her story. She sighed. Despite her defiance, she knew the older girl was right; it was time to resume her place alongside the other second years. Feet dragging, Korrit made her way to the staircase leading down, down, down into the bowels of the great library where the Instructor Studious held their lessons.
Tomala and Huaki would have to wait.