Ch.2 Higher Learning:
Aliene and Jacobus approached the large stall formed from a manor-cart, which opened to a covered section that housed the smith’s wares. The smith was polishing a blade as he listened to a thin man sitting on a stool beside him; their conversation halted as the duo approached. Jacobus exchanged greetings with the smith as Aliene focused on the other man, taking note of his fine red clothes that had become worn with travel. “That place you just mentioned, where is it?” She asked as she dropped her pack and left Jacobus to speak with the smith.
Over his thin nose, the man’s eyes narrowed a bit. He exhaled through his nose while smirking before finally replying. “That place, as you put it, is the Grand Library for the Magic Academies of Kirrion, surely you have heard of it?” He paused just long enough for Aliene to begin responding before continuing, “I, by the way, am Mattias Starling, a graduate of Tempest Academy. Who are you?”
“Aliene,” she answered biting the inside of her cheek.
Mattias smiled slightly, “Well Aliene, the Academies of Magic are built upon a large cavern that houses the materials needed for students to truly master the art of magic they choose.”
Aliene nodded along, interjecting her question to stop him from talking, “Could anyone gain access?”
The student laughed aloud, slightly higher than expected. “Of course not, non-students could never be permitted to roam in such a valuable collection; even we are monitored closely.”
Jacobus stepped beside Aliene and nodded to her, signaling he was done; she pivoted on her foot and walk off with the monk trailing closely. A dozen paces away Jacobus asked, “Not even a thank you for his informative speech?”
Aliene caught his grin in her peripheral making her smile as well, “Not kicking the stool from beneath him was my thanks.”
“That does leave us with one question,” the monk rolled his shoulders, settling his now much lighter pack on them.
“If that is the second largest library, what’s the first?” Aliene sighed, “May have been a little hasty to leave that way.”
“It was however very funny.” The words came from the duo’s side as they turned to look up the hill, seeing a man leaning on a tree. He wore mail and coarse cloth, blackened by dye; his hair and short beard were colored to match. Shifting hazel eyes stared at Aliene from atop a shallow smirk, the man stepped deftly down the hill, thumbs hooked into his sword belt.
Jacobus looked him over again after sharing a questioning look with Aliene, as the man stopped a few paces off. “You were eavesdropping?” The monk asked.
“Not really. I was just nearby; that fool’s voice carries farther than he knows. What you’re looking for is the Obsidian Tower.”
Jacobus folded his arms, “Probably, but that does not help us either.”
“Why not, where is that?” Aliene asked, raising her eyebrow, suddenly reminded how isolated she had been when both men shot her a questioning glance. She powered through, “Who are you anyways?”
“Isaac Fidel, I’m from Axon. I was travelling with this caravan till today… and what’s your name, member of the Misten tribes?” Isaac had a self-satisfied smirk when his remark caught Aliene off guard, “Don’t worry, I am probably the only one who would notice.”
Jacobus looked back to Aliene who was staring death at Isaac; the monk coughed, trying to ease the growing tension. “The Obsidian Tower is a place that stands to the far west in the wastes beyond the wilds. The tower has been around since before the Crimson Era; it is the greatest repository of knowledge on the continent, but it is impossible to get in. Only those chosen by the ruling bodies of each nation are given the privilege, and they number in the hundreds.”
Isaac looked down at his boots for a moment. “Its actually just over a couple thousand people who can get in, and the tower is much, much older than you think. The thing was built in the Black Era before our civilizations had sprung back up.”
Aliene blinked the surprise off her face. “But that era ended in some world shaping calamity, nothing could have been left standing that long. It’s why they call it black… everything ended.”
Isaac breathed deeply. “But we are off topic, you’re looking for something, what exactly?”
Aliene shifted her eyes to a shrugging Jacobus, Should I tell him? her thought came with a hard gaze that made Isaac shift on his feet. “Why should I tell you?” She asked after a moment.
Isaac chuckled lightly, reaching into the neckline of his shirt and jerkin, pulling out a string of leather lopped to hold an obsidian ring. The dark multicolored stone had been shaped so cleanly it appeared to be liquid suspended in mid-air. “Because I have a Ring of Honor that opens the Tower, and I’m headed there already. Tell me what you’re after and I might just get you in.”
Aliene bit her thumb as Jacobus asked her question, “Just like that?”
“Just like that.” Isaac smiled wide tucking the ring back into his clothes and turning away, “Let me know what you decide before morning.” He walked off back up the hill and disappeared, leaving the two alone with their thoughts.