The New Scribe

Corte de Lions – Outside the Visions of Clarity Bookstore

The evening bells of the church could be heard along the streets of Irae. The lamplights glimmered as evening had settled, wavering with the breeze and casting shadows over shop doors that had already locked up. The fountain gurgled restlessly, marking the center of the square where several people passed by to admire it, possibly making a wish on their way home to their evening meals.

Anique fidgeted for a moment before the Visions of Clarity, her fingertips making an unaware dance over the stone. The warm evening did not warrant a cloak and after smoothing a hand over her dress, she made for the entrance of the bookshop, assuming she’d run into Allesandro and give him her message for the owner.

A clap of military boots sounds behind Anique and the voice of Benedict, the guard whom had given her the crucifix a few weeks back, appears from the shadows cast by the buildings around them.

He places his lance down and his features writhe into an odd frown upon recognizing Anique and the shop that she is standing in front of.

“You’re here again?” He says, not a question but more of a rather worried rhetoric remark. Immediately, his eyes scour over her frame and noting that she’s not carrying anything. Something fearful quickens in his voice. “Are you visiting Lord Christian?”

A smile greets the man as Anique recognizes him, still wearing the crucifix about her neck. Her pleasant response was genuine, not knowing very many people in the city yet. Seeing a familiar face was a relief.

Her features change as soon as he addresses her however, not even receiving a greeting before his tone and questions give her a moment for pause. Her brows knit together in confusion, “I am here to give him a message, yes.” She nods in answer as she speaks, her hands clasp together to hide the nervousness she’d calmed moments before and he was now bringing back.

Benedict’s solemn face registers an expression that acknowledges what she has just said. He exhales in the warm summer air, feeling his clothing chafe against his perspiring skin. Inspite of the heat, the church guards still have to wear their full livery every night while they are on patrol.

“I hope everything goes well.” He says quietly, unsure of what else to talk about now. Everytime someone goes into the Visions, Benedict would fear for the worse and he has made it his personal duty to watch the Visions carefully for any signs of the devil and Christian von Karlach’s rumored demons.

Anique eyes him peculiarly, her lips rising in the corners slightly. “Thank you.” She responds politely, remembering the last time they spoke in this same spot. He had seemed to want to say more then as well. “Perhaps.. to set you at ease I can wait until you pass again when I leave?”

Again, she set her mind on the opportunity that had been presented to her in Christians offer of employment. Benedicts response to the man did little to sway her from the strange impressions she always had when leaving the shop owners presence. Taking a step back, she offers the man before her a patient smile. “I should probably go in soon though, before I miss his employee.”

Benedict’s mouth opens as if he really did want to continue speaking but the door of the Visions open with a ominous tinkle of the copper bells hung on the silver crane handle. A pint-sized girl dressed in a white smock comes out of it, her face framed with two long black braids. She supports a few books with one hand and upon seeing Benedict, her forehead darkens with a scowl.

“I’ve told you not to wait for me anymore, Benedict!” The girl cries, shutting the door behind violently, the bells tinkling in protest. “I am old enough now, I can go home on my own and Mr. Von Karlach is not a demon, you hear?”

Esther strides past Anique, her eyes narrowing towards the church guard who is her brother and who is looking very much dazed at his sister’s sudden outburst in front of Anique and almost in the middle of the night too.

He takes a step back, bowing his head in distress and before he turns to leave, Benedict gives Anique a strange, imploring look.

The guard picks up his lance, walking away with his sister storming behind him, the crucifix around her own neck flying madly like her tossing braids. As she departs, something floats down from the stack of books she carries – a tiny bookmark shaped like a leaf of silver – onto the cobblestone pavement.

“Miss!” Anique calls out, immediately stepping forward to retrieve the forgotten item. Her eyes had widened at the girls outburst, more so at her words than her daring to do so. She hadn’t understood the look Benedict had given her either, further confusing her, and what he again might have said. The need to know grew inside her.

Glancing at the door as if it were out of her reach, she sighs, lifts the hem of her dress, and takes several more steps toward the departing pair. “Miss, you’ve dropped something.” She should probably consider the detainment as a sign to turn away from this shop completely, but the thought was fleeting as she held out the bookmark.

The two are out of earshot, Esther not hearing and the brother and sister vanish into the myriad of streets towards the west of the City. Silence ensues for a moment before a carriage rattles past the gray building, not stopping as it hurries along its way.

“You need not worry about that.”

A voice follows the opening of the door again and Christian is there, his eyes following the steps of the siblings, which Anique couldn’t see anymore. “It’s just a complimentary gift given to her because she bought more than usual tonight.”

“I’ll give it to her when she comes back tomorrow night.” The man tilts his head towards Anique and ventures to push the door further open. “You have been standing out here for quite a long time, fraulein. Are you waiting for something else?”

He presses his tall body against the glass of his shop’s door, his eyes continuing down her clothes and down to her shoes, then he smiles slightly, waiting for her indication or wish to move instead.

Jumping at the unexpected voice, Anique finds her gaze drawn immediately to Christian standing in the door, her fingers suddenly gripping the bookmark too tightly before realizing her actions and holding it out for him. “I… um. No, well..”

She’d expected his helper, not himself and just as it had before, a blush began to paint her cheeks a light pink. Taking an agitated breath, she attempts again to speak like a normal being. “I had wished to speak with you about the offer you’d made before.” With a relieved expression at managing a full sentence, she comes forward and up the step toward him, the bookmark still being offered.

“The offer.” Christian nods sparingly, putting out a pale hand and deftly picking the bookmark away from her proffered one. He slips it into his shirt’s pocket and turns to enter, the amber glow within encapsulating his figure and sparking tiny streaks of golden highlights in his hair.

“Have you come to a decision?” He asks, not looking back towards her as he makes his way towards the counter of polished oak where a large ledger sits together with a silver pot of ink topped by a rather ostentatious looking swan feather quill.

The interior of the bookshop would look familiar to her except for a small extension towards the left, a small oriel, a semi-circular room paneled with oak lattices. A new scribe’s desk is placed there together with shelves, which perhaps contained all sorts of pigments and inks.

Alessandro is nowhere to be seen, yet there is a scent of fresh-brewed chamomile tea in the air.

Nodding, Anique withdraws her hand as she follows him further into the shop. Moving idly past the shelves, her fingers glide down several of the spines, reading their titles.

Approaching the counter, her eyes catch the new addition and she scans it with interest, a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth before her gaze is pulled back again to Christian. She seems to think for a moment before speaking again, her expression wondering.

“I realize that it’s been some time, so I understand if it is no longer good. However, if you are still willing to offer me a position here, I would accept.”

Leaning against the counter, Christian places his elbows behind him, resting on the counter itself, his very stance rather relaxed and languid though his eyes still harbor the glint of the predator that he is and they stalk Anique with their gaze as she moves down the shelves.

“The offer is open, always. I was, in fact, wondering if you decided against coming here.” The pale man chuckles, straightening up and turns to walk up the stairs leading to the back of the counter.

“Tea?” His hand gestures towards a couch set before the oriel, upon which a kettle sits on a small blue flame. Porcelain cups are already set out as if it awaited her, together with silvery spoons and a bowl of sparkling sugar scrapped from a sugar loaf.

Anique smiles lightly, pleased by the answer he provided her. The dangerous glint in his gaze that she probably should have taken note of goes unnoticed, her figure relaxing somewhat. “Thank you,” She murmurs, moving to pour tea into one of the cups and offering to pour another for him as well. The scent rising with the steam reminded her of someplace else.

“I hadn’t meant to take so long. My brother was very unhappy with my decision. The least I could do was provide him with a replacement.” She answered, frowning briefly as she remembered their argument. Pausing with the teapot midway, she thinks back to the church guard as well and suddenly averts her gaze, knowing that her thoughts tend to tattle on her through her expression.

He lifts a hand as if to say no to the tea. Turning away, the pale man picks out a few books from the shelves hugging the inside of the chamber crafted behind his counter, “Your brother will not be making a mistake to let you experience what you deserve, fraulein.”

The sound of a book slipping his fingers and falling to the ground with a loud echoing thunk sounds through the entire bookshop. He makes a faint tch sound before sweeping the book up and glancing at Anique, “You know you will have to live here to and fro from your place and be late for work.”

She blinks at him for a moment as if misunderstanding his meaning, nearly choking on her tea before she coughed and covered her mouth. Anique was under the impression that the owners frequently occupied their shops.

“Is that appropriate?” She asks, recovering slightly. It wasn’t the idea of living there, as it would make her situation much easier. But to live with a man when she was unwed? She was positive that even that was unacceptable behavior in Irae.

Setting the cup down on the table, she watches him as he moves about, unsure exactly how to respond just yet. Her conflicting morals were evident in the sudden rigidity in her seat.

“I do not see a problem, fraulein.” Christian replies almost immediately after her question as he glides down the steps, books in one hand and settles, much like a swath of floating silk, upon the empty couch next to Anique.

He balances the stack of volumes he has chosen on the chair’s arm, one elbow lightly keeping them in place and preventing them from falling. “Now, fraulein, why would it not be appropriate?”

His question is soft and somewhat suggestive, not in a carnal sense of things but more like a cat batting around a mouse before it eats it up. “You are going to be my employee, it is best you stay in the shop and watch it. Alessandro does not live here, he lives with his sister near the priory.”

“But..” Anique’s brows knit together as she watches him sit before her, his complete calm and poise about his suggestion making her feel as if she’s being silly.

“Do you not live here? It would not be suitable for me to live here with you, employee or otherwise.” She asks, her voice sounding hesitant now, as he seems to add a persuasive quality to his words. As if the mere idea of it is not questionable.

She fiddles with the crucifix about her neck for a moment, a nervous gesture as she meets Christians gaze with uncertain eyes.

“I don’t live here.” Christian replies, crooking a long white finger and drawing it across his lips, rendering a smile in its progress as his green eyes catch her playing with the pathetic symbol of protection around her neck. “Does that solve your fear, fraulein? You will be by yourself here in this shop at night.”

He sinks slightly back into the soft, feather-filled cushions of the couch, looking extremely comfortable as the amber glow intensifies in the bookshop, along with a strange warmth as if someone has opened up the windows to let the summer air in.

“Wouldn’t you want to know what your duties are before you even agreed?” The man suddenly asks, fixing jewel-toned eyes on Anique now.

Her worry seems to expel on a breath as those words are uttered, nodding and smiling with relief. “Yes, that helps a great deal.” Even his amusement, that she assumes to be because of her worry, does not bother her.

“That was to be my next question before you frightened me about living here with you.” Anique covers her mouth as soon as the words leave her mouth, her eyes widening upon him, realizing that her comment seemed rude.

“I mean rather… about living anywhere.. with a man. I’m very sorry.” Again, those eyes create a rose colored blush upon her cheeks. Folding her hands in her lap, she nods her head. “What exactly is expected of me? You’d mentioned scribing before.”

Christian laughs at her words, the offense not taken but instead of him, converted into amusement and she is rewarded with a less predatory look from him. “Now for what you need to do,” He murmurs, standing up from the softness of the couch rather reluctantly.

“Here, follow me to the oriel.” The leather-shod soles of his boots make little scruffing sounds as he crosses a geometric-patterned carpet towards the newest inclusion of his bookshop, the scribe’s oriel, the small chamber built for Anique only.

A sheer curtain hides the inside partially from the view of customers and he pushes that away, keeping it upwards to wait for the girl. “There will be a door here when the builders come tomorrow so you can work in here without being disturbed.”

She follows him without a word, passing closely by him as he holds up the curtain. Anique grins softly as she’d noticed this addition when she first came in.

Curiously, she moves about, examining where she’d be spending a great deal of time from now on. “I was wondering what this was.”

She pauses, glancing over her shoulder to look back at him. “I’m sure a routine will settle itself once it all starts but are there certain things you expect of me? When I should be working, what to avoid…” The look on her face shows that seeing this has her excited to begin.

“I will place selected books on your table here for you to copy when the shop closes at night. Other than that, in the daytime, Alessandro will instruct you on what you should do.” He runs a hand over the top of the desk where a lacquered box sits and with a single stroke, he flips the box open. An array of tiny bottles filled with ink pigment, capped with gold, sits in neat rows, each bottle inscribed with miniscule writing of the color it contains.

“All the things you need are here, pigments, inks, quills, parchment.” His hand wanders up to another shelf constructed above the desk where stacks of pressed paper sat in piles. Then, he returns a look at Anique, his hands settling behind his back. “Have you any questions?”

Shaking her head, Anique mirrors his stance with her hands behind her back. “Not at the moment.” She meets Christians gaze, the faintest pink still evident on her cheeks although she seems otherwise relaxed again. “I think you’ve explained it well enough.” She smiles slightly, noting that he wasn’t even sure of her skill and she was prompted to wonder why he’d offered it to her specifically without first finding that out. All she had was her notebook that he may or may not have glanced at before. “Will I be seeing you here often? I seem to find you more easily in the evenings.” Without realizing it, she’d drawn closer, as if she had a chill and in search of heat she’d never find.

His eyes narrow for a brief second as she inches closer, the hand holding up the box of inks freezing in its position and his head droops slightly from his height to look down at Anique, “Then in the evenings you will see me, fraulein. There’s no need for me to be here… all the time.”

He lets the box’s cover drop, the thudding sound breaking a sudden glass of silence in the chamber. “There are candles if you feel it’s too dark in here.” He murmurs, spreading his hand on the desk and indicating to the drawer below the top. “One could see strange things in the dark if there’s not enough light.”

Christian chuckles lowly as if his own little metaphor amused him. He continues to lean against the scribe’s desk, dusted half with amber, half with darkness and behind him, the curving shadowy lines formed by the oak lattice around them appeared to dance for an instance.

“You may want to bring those books I have placed on the chair and put them here, lest either I or you forget that those are valuable collections which need to be copied in two days’.” He instructs, turning his head towards where the stack of books is still balanced perfectly.

“And be careful.” A slow tap of his boot on the ground issues with the warning he gives her. “There’s some high steps right here I forgot to remove. It would not be rather pretty to see you fall on your face.”

“Shadows are nothing but a trick of the light.” Blinking, as if she’s just realized what she was doing, Anique clears her throat and takes a step back. Nodding in understanding, her brows furrow minutely. “Of course,” She murmurs softly, taking note of his words as she makes sure to catch the step without error.

She passes by with the faint rustling of her dress and the sway of auburn tresses, feeling almost relieved to not be so near in that room. Picking up the books balanced on the arm of the couch, one begins to slip from the top of the stack and with some maneuvering; she gets it back under control. “I may fall on my face soon enough without the steps “ She grins, arriving with the books tucked in her arms and setting them on the desk.

“Thank you by the way… for offering me this job. It’s a chance for me to have a small sense of freedom I suppose.” Closing her mouth, she wonders why she felt the need to add the last part.

He found such irony in her offer of gratitude and those words but his smile is hidden away from her as he makes his way down the short flight of stairs leading from the oriel. “As for your living quarters, on the second level, there’s a room right to the end. It is furnished and you can move in immediately.”

“You can start work tomorrow in the evening if you wish and rest tonight.” He added, his back turned against her now as he vanishes again behind the counter, the sound of his voice floating in an ethereal fashion towards her. “That’s an interesting point, fraulein, but don’t be tricked by the light yourself.”

The soft sound of a door shutting and a click of a lock signifies his departure from the inside of the bookshop though his voice seems to leave a remnant of its echo in the books and within the walls.

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