Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter 100

Tor watched in dismay as the librarians searched the shelves in case anything else had gone missing, then picked up the latch to the front door from the floor. He noted the door was splintering around the hinges, but appeared solid enough.

The latch was bent beyond repair -- at least beyond his own skill to repair. Nothing his father couldn't have fixed, he was sure. Still, he had learned enough through the years...

"I can't fix the latch, but I can make the door secure for the night if you have what I need," he offered. The young woman looked up, startled as if she had forgotten he was there.

She pointed to a door under a ladder, "There is a small storage room in there with tools and a few items left from the years the library was a stable."

She turned immediately back to her task, and Tor walked over, shaking his head in amazement. The longer he was with them, the more they reminded him of Esmeralda, and of the strange creature he had befriended years ago --

The small room was cluttered, and again he shook his head. The contrast between this room, full of things the librarians obviously didn't value, and the tidy library and kitchen was astounding. It looked as if they hadn't ever set foot in the closet. But there was a toolbox...

He continued musing as he searched through the boxes, bags and shelves. A small decorated chest caught his eye, reminding him of his mother's sewing box.

He had been on one of his first scavenging trips, with a band of like-minded young men, searching for items of low value across the sea that would bring profit back home. The ship had been beached in a quiet cove and tipped on its side so the sailors could clean and inspect the hull before attempting to sail home. This left Tor at loose ends for occupation. So he had climbed the cliffs to look for bird nests and the eggs they might provide.

No nests, but he did find a ledge with a strangely carved door. Curious, he pushed on the door, and it swung open silently, releasing a gust of stale air. No one had been there in a long time.

It was dim inside, but once his eyes adjusted, Tor gasped. The space was filled with boxes, shelves, tables and bags. He glanced briefly back at the door, knowing it was hidden from the beach far below. An overhang above the ledge most likely obscured it from above, as well. He decided to take a quick look around.

A bag close to the door had caught his attention. He was surprised to find it held dried fruits. He tasted one, and recognized the flavor as coming from the trees grown near the village on the other side of the mountain.

On a chair behind the bag was a large tome with strange writing. He grunted as he shifted it and coughed as the dust on top was disturbed. It was heavier than it looked. He opened it at random, not expecting to understand it. But the page he opened to had a picture of the mountain. His mountain. He could see the village represented on its flank, and the crops of his father...

He looked at the page opposite. In thin bird-scratches the lettering stared back at him.

He thought back to something his father had once shown him, an old family book that had some writing like this. It had been a chronicle kept by the first of their family to settle on the mountain, when the land was wild and there were no fields.

A noise outside the closet door stirred Tor from his reverie, and he checked to be sure the women were okay. They were pushing the large tables up against the walls to reach the highest shelves..

He set down a hammer and a chisel by the door and resumed his search. A file, some metal pins or a stout piece of wood might make his life easier...

The large tome in front of him seemed to glow. Or glower. He began to read, haltingly, familiar words in an unfamiliar hand:
On the first day of the dark moons we arrived on the mountain. The trees give good cover, and we are safe. A week later, our child Otto was born, a strong and handsome lad, with his mother's chin.

Otto was walking this week before I left to retrieve supplies from the coast. Esme has made our home comfortable enough, and I am sure they will be fine while I am gone.

Esme woke me this morning and had me take Otto out to the fields. Owain was born while we were gone. He looks sickly, and I fear the illness has followed us.

The village is well established now, as several families followed us after learning of the ease of farming. The people who live on the other side of the mountain have proved to be good neighbors, and fine craftsmen. We are beginning to rely on them. I hope not too much, as Otto seems to have set his heart on a young woman from there.

Tor had paused in his reading. It read just as the story he had heard of the founding of the village, told every midwinter and midsummer. He grew homesick, and closed the book. How had this story turned up here?

Looking around, Tor saw a shelf holding a small box inlaid with stones that reminded him of one his mother used for sewing. Opening it, he saw an exquisite pair of shears and the finest needles. There was thread, too, in many bright hues he had never seen, as thin as spider's silk. He slipped the box into his pocket.

Then he paused, and set it back on the shelf. He glanced over the ledge, and noted the tide had just begun to turn. He had at least another hour before he would be missed.

Carefully, he cleared space for the book at a table and pulled a chair up to read. The light from the door was still sufficient to show the fine line drawings, and he ignored the writing to look at the pictures. The man who had drawn them had certainly known these places.

A large mountain, ringed with clouds, birds flying near the summit and far below a valley...

The mountain, in flames, collapsing...

Creatures and people fleeing from the mountain, through a narrow river cut, toward a wide plain, birds flying in the opposite direction. The caption read: Home no more

People huddled, in strange capes, on a beach, destitute as all refugees with only a few bags remaining to them.A new land

A man in a cape, sitting in a tree, throwing fruit down to a laughing young woman. Esme chooses our home.

The same man -- he reminded Tor of Adam -- with a snare in one hand and a rabbit in the other, bending over a small child. Otto's first hunt

On each page opposite the images were lines and lines of a diary, meticulously kept. Births, marriages, deaths, catastrophes and great celebrations were all noted. All stories Tor had heard all his life.

Tor had shivered, as he gazed at a picture of a great fire on the last page. The writing was still in the same hand. The great fire had happened when Adam and Ava were young.

Outside, a gust of air moved the door and caught Tor's attention. He had not known how late he had stayed! Swifly, he closed the book and left the strange cliff-side room, closing the door firmly behind. The tide was nearly up to the ship and his help would be needed to steady the lines as it rose.

As he scrambled back down the cliff, thankfully a quicker journey than the long climb up, he glanced across the cove and was surprised to see a large bird on a long-dead tree, gazing across...

The door to the tool closet moved, and he jumped up, startled. The ancient librarian chortled, "Not napping, I hope? We finished counting the books and putting away those that were left behind, but dare not leave this room until the main door is secured. If you have found what you need..."

Tor blushed, and hoped the woman had missed his glance at the decorated box. In no time, he had the front door secured better than before, much to the delight of the librarians. They returned to the kitchen, where Tor began to ask a few questions of his own.

Thank you for reading, and stay tuned... stidmama-zade has many more tales yet to spin!