Sons of Light and Sons of Day

May 24, 2011

Aloysius heard them at his door – how could he not? The thuds reverberated in his ears and shivered through his wings. When he glanced at the page, he sighed: the lessons of Saint Julian developed – into nothing more than a splotchy scrawl. He ought to answer the door. Somebeast needed him. He shuffled past the sheaves and slid a claw into the latch.

“Good evening, friends, friends,” Aloysius said. “Is that young Tamarack, I hear? And Brother Andrew, I hope you are well, well.” He touched each of their paws in turn as he spoke. “Cobb, out of imprisonment I notice. Delightful to see you again, – I always enjoy our talks, talks.”

“As do Oi, Zir.”

“No need for sirs, friend Cobb. We are all equals here. Step inside, inside.” Aloysius beckoned them within his study, then began to fret as the three wedged past his work. Gangly limbs, blunt claws, and an excitable nature might set his careful piles toppling at the slightest provocation.

“It’s awful dark in here, Brother Alo – you weren’t sleeping, were you?” Tamarack expected a negative answer, which he gave. “I thought so, see!”

“Such pride, young maiden. Though perhaps you would like a light, a light?”

“Yes,” said Andrew. “We’ve found something interesting – who has it now?” The sound of frantic patting accompanied Aloysius’ search for a candle. He wished they would not jostle so. Once he found a stub, he cleared a space on the desk and struck a match. It flared, and light blossomed in the small room.

“Oi think you’m had it, Zir Andrew.”

“Oh – so I did, right here.” He placed it on the desk. Even from afar, Aloysius could see the pin’s glimmer.

Tamarack leaned forward. “D’you have any idea what it means? Only we thought you’d know, seeing as you’re the one what’s got everything about the abbey. And see – it’s the abbey, right there!”

“I do indeed see, see.” Aloysius peered close. A lens would help; he cracked open a drawer and withdrew a silver-rimmed slice of glass. “I might have a record of this symbol, symbol. It is not unfamiliar to me, though I cannot place its precise origin, origin. Perhaps,” he continued, halting Tamarack as she drew a breath to speak, “perhaps it can be found in Brother Timothy’s A Mossflower Heraldry. I shall be but a moment, moment.”

Aloysius ducked between two stacks of paper and knelt beside one of the near-hidden bookshelves. The state of them! He ought to fix the overflow soon, though he did not know how – his study could not fit another piece of furniture. When he tugged the ledger’s bulk from the bottommost shelf, the other books slumped to fill its place.

Aloysius hauled the tome onto his desk. “Now, let us look. To M for Mossflower, since A does not count, count.” He had found that beasts enduring the silence of a scholar’s search grew more comfortable with narration. “How did you come to have this pin, this pin?”

“Miz Tam found it, Zir,” said Cobb. “We’m be roight coorious.”

“Found it, found it?”

“That’s so,” said Tamarack, bristling. “I found it, that’s all. On the ground, somebeast must’ve dropped it.”

Aloysius turned another page. “You needn’t say anything your conscience deems unnecessary, Tamarack.” He felt her whiskers quiver, but she gave him no reply.

Once he found the location, he knelt beside a different shelf, squinting at the bindings as he traced a claw over the rich fabrics. “I keep the large books at the bottom. That way I find them easier to handle, handle.”

“That be mighty smart, Zir Aloysius,” said Cobb.

Aloysius sat back, frowning. “It should be here, here.”

“It’s not?” Andrew’s voice was sharp.

“How come?” asked Tamarack.

“If only I knew, knew,” said Aloysius. He squinted again, and a flash of annoyance huffed through him. Patience was a virtue. “Surely it must be here. Everything has its place, though I know my study seems crowded, crowded.”

“Someone stole it!”

“Let us not be hasty, Brother Andrew. Why would any abbeybeast steal, steal? They need only ask me to borrow, borrow.”

“Mayhap if it was one of these fancy ones,” said Tamarack, “somebeast might try to fence it. Not that they could now, seeing as there ain’t noplace to go.”

“Such speculations, speculations,” said Aloysius. “I am certain it is somewhere in my study. I will search for you – in the meantime, perhaps you can ask the printers’ opinion on the morrow, morrow.” He expected new editions for his collection.

“Good idea,” said Tamarack. “I’ll ask Miss Saskia if I get the chance.”

“Should we’m be telling folk about th’ pin, Miz Tam?”

Tamarack scoffed. “Saskia’s the very soul of – what’s the word – discretion. I don’t think she’d be like to spread tales.”

“I shall leave this decision to you, friends, friends.” An itch crept over Aloysius’ wings, and his thoughts turned to everywhere, anywhere his missing friend might be. “I am awake, wide awake, but I think that you all are tired. Rest on it. I will send for you if I find the book, book.”

“Right then,” said Tamarack. She scooped the pin into her paw. “Come on, Cobb – I could use some shuteye.”

As Aloysius followed them to the door, he unfurled his wings around them – a friendly gesture, and a protection from limbs askew. Any bump would send everything toppling over, and he needed his library intact.

“Goodnight, Brother Aloysius,” said Andrew.

“Goodnight, Brother Andrew, friends Cobb and Tamarack. Martin’s grace be with you.” After a courteous bow, Aloysius closed the door behind them.

He blew out the candle. A search, then, or perhaps he ought to think of it as a quest – a noble albeit irritating pilgrimage through his stacks.

He pictured the book: a beautiful folio, encrusted with jewels in the old style, though the binding had endured no more than thirty seasons. He recalled that it was paw-written, too, illuminated in faded reds and greens when he peered close. Over time, countless new bindings must have housed the pages. They crinkled under his claws – why, only a season ago he had pressed a thin new sheet between every leaf. If he weren’t otherwise occupied with translating a faraway moralist’s Confessions, he might have read it.

Aloysius chirped; his spires of paper and towers of books sang back at him. A pretty folio could scarce hide between papers – books first. One by one he felt the heft, trailed a claw over the cover, and then shifted it to a new pile. As the new stacks soon began looming over the old, his hopes dwindled. His chest heaved. His head hurt. He nearly slammed a book.

His ledgers lied, though they never had before – such corruption! To what temptation had they fallen? How silly they were, the thoughts that plagued his aching head. Sighing, Aloysius folded his wings behind him and curled upon the floor. Beasts depended on his precision; often he could locate a book with a single squeak. Ah – perhaps this was a lesson meant to chastise his pride.

I am but a humble purveyor of histories, he thought, a vessel of the written word.

The litany echoed in his thoughts as he continued his search. With every blink his eyelids felt thicker, heavier. Dawnlight touched the tops of his stacks. Echoes of a cart’s wheels and snapping-wit voices met his ears. Surely they had not arrived yet! He had but one more pile to finish. If the Mossflower Heraldry remained in his study, then there it lay.

He settled himself, and he forced his breaths into calm. Saskia and Merritt waited for him; he’d not allow his selfish distress to shadow their meeting.

 

*Written and posted by Aloysius’ sub.

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