Mar 24, 2022
8 mins read
Cyrus the Librarian is distressed. The guests he has received in Hammerfell are being rude, but they have agreed to ceremoniously return a book.
Cyrus the Librarian had to slip away from the party for a short time. He did not enjoy the furious glaring of his countrymen. The Thalmor were being even ruder than he had expected.
He mopped his brow as he found refuge on a nearby roof terrace. It was not too warm, but he was quite distressed.
"The Hoon'Ding trample these wretched Elves, before they drive away all my friends." He grumbled. He was frustrated but it was said without conviction.
He was also not alone.
"Hello, Cyrus." said Archivist Halthir. "Do not worry, I am sure Second Archivist Eldaline is merely homesick."
"I didn't mean it." said Cyrus. "I do not want the Hoon'Ding to trample anybody. In addition to this, I do not have any friends."
"I am sorry for you." said Halthir. "I have one. His name is Skavild. He is trying to persuade the Second Archivist to stop shouting at people."
Cyrus said, "He is not doing very well. When I last saw her, she had escaped and was harassing a florist about his eyebrows."
"This is regrettable." said Halthir. "And while I must appear paranoid, I believe Aranwen is watching me, and watching Junior Archivist Linvel too."
"We had better get back to the others. I do not want to risk an incident." said Cyrus. "I promised the Baron we would all stay in a group, and I keep explaining that any of you can be killed under the terms of the treaty for wandering off alone."
"Yes, I forgot." said Halthir.
"I am looking forward to the Ceremony of the Return of the Book very much." said Cyrus the Librarian.
"I will be glad to witness it. It has been many years since..." Halthir trailed off.
He wasn't sure what was happening, but something in the air seemed very off.
Skavild was too hot to become as angry as he wanted. "Is it the air or something? I've never seen you this bad before, and I saw you give a lecture at the Bard's College called 'The Divines Don't Even Like You'."
"What do you mean, Skavild?" demanded Eldaline. "I have broken none of their arbitrary rules."
"You're practically hostages in Hammerfell, everybody hates you, and suddenly you go acting like you're back to colonise the place. You're going to get us killed."
Eldaline said, "You do not trust the Redguards either? Good, then your education has not been an entire waste of time."
Skavild came to an abrupt halt in a little square and everybody turned to look at him. But he was not abashed.
"If you're not worried for yourself, think of Archivist Halthir, and little Linvel, and me, too. The four of you are being a damned embarrassment and it's not our fault the Redguards humiliated you."
"Second Archivist." said Ondolemar. "Cyrus is insolently demanding an audience with you. Cyrus the Librarian, not the famous pirate. Will you deal with him while I teach your human good manners?"
"Don't you think he'd have learned them already, if he could be taught? Let this impudent librarian approach."
Cyrus was furious, but being a librarian, he was furious quietly. "Why have you betrayed my trust in this way? The city has received you in good faith, and I have accommodated you in my home on the understanding than you will behave yourselves as we would ask of an honoured guest."
"You have made no secret of your disdain for every person and thing you set eyes upon. Why? When I have lain my reputation upon your adherence to the second Treaty of Stros M'kai, and all of your lives may depend on it?"
"Oh, that is enough from you." said Eldaline. "Honoured guest indeed! You have not even altered the weather for our visit, although Agent Flopsy has made it eminently clear that her mother requires her to wear a woolly scarf at all times. The Treaty demands a cessation of hostilities in Hammerfell. I have seen to it that no discernible infractions by the Thalmor will take place for the entirety of our sojourn here. Do you realise how difficult that has been to arrange? Ungrateful humans. This is the quietest you will ever find the place in your lifetime, you have me to thank for it, and instead you censure me for not adhering to your rigid local formalities."
"Not calling a florist 'upside-down-hairy-eyebrows-face-man' because he wouldn't give you a free shrubbery is not a rigid local formality. Neither is not kicking a respected stonemason on the shin because he did not laugh at Aranwen's joke about polishing his monument. It was a funny joke, but he takes his craft very seriously and was very upset."
"Do you want this book returned, or not?" cried Eldaline.
"I have spoken to the Baron. He agrees that the sooner this ceremony is concluded, the sooner you... I mean, we can all go home. Now, please. If you find you have nothing nice to say about a person, try to say nothing."
"Well, that's boring." said Aranwen. "Gods, look at the top of Skavild's head! It's like a big round lobster."
The long-lost Tome of Tava's Blessing was of great importance to Cyrus the Librarian. It held no great magical secrets, but was a (mostly) faithful and (sometimes) unbiased chronicle of noble and otherwise high-ranking positions in the city, and those families who held them, from the time when Lainlyn had been called Tava's Blessing, to the tyrannical years under the uncompromising iron fist of Baron Shrike, two hundred years before.
It was upsetting to know that the Aldmeri Dominion had been pawing at its pages and sneering at its words since the invasion more than thirty years before, and saddening to discover that Eldaline had kept it in her possession for so long, but Archivist Halthir was so eager to share his findings with Cyrus that the Redguard could not believe any ill of him.
Cyrus longed for the day when all wars could end and librarians of all species would rule Nirn together, and violence would only be employed as a response to excessive noise.
Aranwen kept asking for directions to the beach, in case she had any time to go after the ceremony.
Eventually, one of the combat-librarians agreed to show her.
"How does this book return system work, then?" said Skavild.
Eldaline momentarily stopped being rude to everybody. "This should be very interesting for you, Skavild. You will at last witness one of the rarest ceremonies described in the accounts of the ancient archivists, or first spirit librarians, as some texts say, as they have been conducted throughout every recorded age."
"Oh, yeah, with those chapters you told me I should read." said Skavild.
"That's right. Did you read them?"
"Course I did." Skavild said. "Thoroughly. Looking forward to seeing the ceremony in action." Because that will help me pretend I read about it. He thought.
Eldaline had not visited Hammerfell since the signing of the Second Treaty of Stros M'kai. Upon which she was cited as a witness. And the existence of which many bitter Altmer in Alinor attributed to her directly. But as Aralina and Aranwen often remembered, Eldaline had offered the Redguards her head in return for accepting the peaceful surrender of the fortress of Anin Shar. Instead, the Redguards had accepted this surrender and taken pity on her.
Eldaline had never forgiven them.
The Great Library of Lainlyn was actually no bigger than the Archives of Alinor. Indeed, since such a large part of Eldaline's domain lay in otherworldly realms, it housed considerably fewer books. But it had a very impressive collection of historic maps. Cyrus was forbidden from allowing the Elves to make copies.
The Thalmor were not angry about this because they already had copies.
"Second Archivist, I must say, I am very impressed by the reading ability of these Hammerfell water voles. I just passed one with its adorable long nose in 'Vernaccus and Bourlor'."
"I thought I told you to take that woolly scarf off and the hallucinations will go away by themselves."
"Yes, Second Archivist."
"That is much better. It wasn't a water vole, Second Archivist! It was Archivist Linvel."
"I thought so."
"And her nose is not even that long. Imagine a hallucination being so real, Madam. It must be one of those Alik'r 'desert mirages' I have read about. I did not realise they could occur in libraries too."
Skavild unobtrusively watched the Elves as they skipped around the library. The Thalmor looked excited.
Sometimes, they lowered their voices, and Skavild wondered what they were whispering about.
At times, it appeared that the junior archivists who worked with them shared his thoughts.
But the junior archivists were certainly not about to ask too many questions.
It was very clear that something was being planned. The only thing that was unclear was when the plan would manifest itself. This much was evident to Archivist Halthir, too. Skavild watched him from across the corridor and he appeared less than happy.
And when Skavild turned around, he found that Eldaline was watching him, and smiling faintly.