Argrave walked into the branch of the Order in Jast with long, confident strides, though he had to admit that he felt rather isolated without his two companions shadowing him inside. They were just outside, waiting patiently. Provided Castro sold Argrave’s proposition well, Anneliese would be given membership to the Order of the Gray Owl soon enough.

The Jast branch of the Order was quite a grand place in comparison to the one in Mateth. It occupied one of the taller towers in Jast. The black interior was just as grim and dour as the rest of the city, though it was brightly lit by magic lamps. At the center of the room, there was a large spire, a round desk circling around it with many attendants sitting behind. The spire was hollow, and there was one entrance at the front of it.

This place lacked stairs just as the Tower of the Gray Owl, and so the central spire housed those floating platforms of stone that would raise one from one floor to the others. They were the only way to move upwards in the tower.

He stepped to the desk, and the attendant craned her neck to look up at Argrave’s face.

“Hello, sir,” the woman said somewhat meekly. Argrave didn’t recognize her, so she must not have been important.

“I have an inquiry,” Argrave began without pleasantries, removing the circlet on his head that disguised his features. He stowed it away in his satchel bag and continued, “Has the tower sent any notices regarding the library and an individual by the name of ‘Argrave?’”

“Oh,” she said quickly, taken aback. “Um… yes, they have. Is that…?”

“That’s me, yes,” Argrave said with a small smile. “So, then I have free rein of the library?” Argrave looked towards the central spire, preparing to enter.

“Hold on a moment…” she shuffled through various papers on the desk, and Argrave waited patiently. Eventually she pulled out a piece of a paper. “Apparently… your identity needs to be verified. We’ll use your magic signature… so, please empower your badge and stamp here.” She held out a piece of paper.

Argrave paused, then obeyed her directive, retrieving his Wizard’s badge. Hold a moment… they take this signature when you register as an Acolyte. Will this even work? What is a magic signature? Where does it come from?

Lacking options, Argrave could only shake his head and will some magic into his badge. It shone, then he lowered it and pressed it down on the backside where it was flat. Blackness spread out across the paper where he’d pressed like a blooming flower. After a moment, the attendant gestured towards him to pull it away, and he did so.

She compared it to another piece of paper, looking back and forth between the two meticulously. Argrave felt a little nervous. “Excellent,” she said finally, setting both pieces of paper down. “Then that’s done.”

“So, what, I get a library pass now?”

“Oh, um…” she paused, shuffling through more papers nervously. “Yes, I think… but I don’t think I can give you it… I think you have to get it from the Order branch manager, sir. I think that’s the case.” she said respectfully.

“You do a lot of thinking, it would seem,” Argrave noted sarcastically. “Can you take me there? Or at least think about it?”

She blushed and stood from the chair. “Yes, I can take you there. Please follow me.”

The attendant opened the desk’s door and walked out from behind it, leading Argrave to the central spire. She pressed on the interface at the side of it, and before long, a wide platform came down before them. She walked on, and Argrave followed after. Soon enough, he felt his feet lock just as before, and the platform began to shift.

The desk attendant stared down at the ground, awkwardly silent the whole way. Argrave considered saying something, but then resigned himself to examining the other people moving about in the central spire. They were carried all the way to the top, and Argrave walked out first, waiting for the attendant to take him to the branch manager.

The attendant led him to a wooden door and knocked thrice before opening. “Please wait,” she said deliberately, then walked inside. Argrave heard a brief exchange between two female voices. After a few seconds she came back out, ushering Argrave inside. He entered. There, a beautiful red-haired woman wearing gray robes waited at her desk. She had sharp features that gave one an impression of fierceness—narrow green eyes, low-resting brows, and seemingly naturally pursed lips.

“Hello Elaine,” Argrave greeted cheerily. “Nice to see you. Here for my library card—got a few books in mind.”

Elaine was taken aback when her name was called, and Argrave considered that a good start. In a city like Jast abounding with smugglers and wizards, one had to be somewhat ruthless to rise to the position of branch manager, and Elaine certainly fit that bill. She was Rivien’s sister and a powerful wizard in her own right. Connections and magical power—that combination was quite potent. At present she was B-rank, and in the future she would rise to A. Argrave did not wish to linger long, but he did not wish to offend, either.

“So, the world-famous Argrave knows me,” she said, matching his cheer and thereby trying to regain control of the conversation. Her green eyes stayed locked on him. “I’m humbled.”

“Which world am I famous in? I must’ve missed the memo,” Argrave returned.

“The spellcaster’s world, of course,” she said with a smile.

“Maybe when I’m asked for an autograph, I’ll agree with you. For now, I just want to get some books from the library as Castro promised. I’m rather busy, you see, forgive me,” Argrave redirected the conversation away from himself.

“Ah, yes. I’m told you’re quite a… what’s the word… bibliophile,” she nodded, rising to her feet. She took something off her desk, but Argrave didn’t see what it was and it soon disappeared into her sleeve. “I’m told you even have spellbooks containing druidic magic.”

Argrave took a breath, considering the implications of her words. He wished to ask if Rivien had told her that, but he stopped himself. Considering her brother is Rivien, it may well be she learned from him… but… she doesn’t know I associated with her brother’s smugglers, and it’s been only a day. It’s unlikely she would’ve learned already. Considering her talk about my fame, it’s much more likely that she learned from other people in the Order. As such, I shouldn’t reveal anything.

“Not ‘have,’ but ‘had,’” Argrave shook his head after his correction. “I gave them all to Castro. I’m sure that’s how you know of this,” Argrave lied.

“Not quite how I learned, no,” she shook her head, walking closer while lifting her head to hold Argrave’s gaze. She was taller than most, but in front of Argrave near everyone was short. “People tell me you still have a great deal. An enviable amount, even.”

Argrave tried to keep his face neutral. Probably bluffing. Even if she’s not, I shouldn’t admit it, Argrave reasoned.

“People say a lot of things, Elaine,” Argrave said while sighing. “People say that the crown prince eats puppies alive for breakfast. Do you believe that?”

She laughed. Argrave thought it sounded fake. “Well, I cannot speak to the prince’s eating habits… but I do know this. If you do have any druidic spellbooks and you wish to earn some significant money… you might lend them to me for a day or so. They’ll be returned to you, and you’ll be able to receive all of the credit and the rewards for submitting them to the Order of the Gray Owl. Your coinpurse will be a little fatter, and you’ll have all the fame.”

She held her hand out, a strange metal badge in her hand. It bore an owl’s face in gold. Argrave reached out and took it. “This is the access I need for the library?”

“Yes,” Elaine nodded. “It’s usually only given to branch managers or the Masters of the Order, but Castro made an exception for you. Now—"

Argrave cut her off. “Then, is there any update on whether my friend Anneliese will be given Order membership?”

“The council will hold a deliberation at a later date. Now, back—”

“And that shipment of illusion spellbooks—is it ready? I’m sure Castro mentioned this if he sent out word of my access to the libraries…” Argrave interrupted again.

“No,” she said. If she was frustrated by his interruptions, Elaine was quite adept at hiding it. “The last of the books are arriving from the Tower tomorrow. Now, back to my offer,” she said quite deliberately.

Argrave stared at her eyes as he considered his answer. Is it even worth considering? She probably won’t offer enough money to make a difference, and I take an unnecessary risk. There’s no benefit to this deal for me.

“It sounds like a wonderful proposition,” Argrave said, hiding the badge away. “But I cannot well knock on Castro’s door and demand back what I have already given to him.”

She clicked her tongue, green eyes locked with Argrave’s own. She held out her hand for a handshake. “Well. If you change your mind, my offer is always open. If you have no need for money, I can offer other services.”

Argrave considered that might be an innuendo, but dismissed the idea; Elaine had pride, at the very least. “Even if you offer to shine my shoes or clean my house, I simply don’t have the books.” Argrave shook her hand quickly. “Until next time, branch manager Elaine.”

She stared for a few seconds, then nodded. “Yes. Until next time.” Perhaps Argrave imagined things, but her voice sounded somewhat cold.

Argrave turned and walked out the door, a smile on his face. Once it shut, that smile vanished. She’s definitely going to have her brother spy on me to see if I actually have those books. Argrave reached into his pockets, pulling out a folded-up piece of paper that had a list. Looks like I have another thing to add—pay a visit to Rivien, make sure he doesn’t help his sister.

Argrave sighed, despairing, until he remembered the badge he’d acquired. He took it out and flipped it in his fingers. “I’ve got a golden ticket,” Argrave muttered, his smile returning. He set off towards the central spire’s elevator, whistling the rest of the tune.


Argrave figured that, in the remainder of the day, whatever so-called fame he’d accrued at the Order of the Gray Owl quickly became infamy. He spent the remainder of the day hauling out books four at a time from the library at the Jast branch, feeling no shame at all for the glances cast his way as he did so. At first, no one seemed to care. After the fifth trip, people were skeptical or surprised. After the fifteenth, there was disbelief and contempt. None could protest in the face of his golden ticket, though, not even Elaine.

It was rather amusing to Argrave watching Galamon’s face gradually grow more and more dour as their bags were slowly filled with books. To his credit, he carried all of them without complaint. Their innkeeper cast them a strange glance at the elf weighed down by dozens of books, but Argrave paid it little heed.

Once they were all placed in their dormitory, Argrave took them out of the bags and arrayed them out.

“You want to draw any more attention to yourself?” Galamon questioned. “Hauling hundreds of valuable books about—what were you thinking?”

“I know, I know… Originally I had planned to do this quieter, but something came up. We have to go speak to someone, get some protection,” Argrave answered. “A man by the name of Rivien. I like him quite a bit. He’s the boss of those smugglers. He’ll watch our backs, I’m sure.”

“You trust criminals?” Anneliese questioned.

“I trust this one,” Argrave said conclusively. “He cares about reputation and image, and I can think of some things to leverage over him.”

“Fine. We should do this tomorrow, though. I’ll stay here tonight, keep watch,” Galamon nodded.

“Perfect,” Argrave concluded, picking up one of the books. “Look at it, Anneliese. It’s beautiful. Every C-rank and B-rank spell we’ll be learning, all arrayed before us—completely free,” he said, barely containing his excitement. He stroked one of the books. “A-rank spells are only kept at the Tower. Sensible, I suppose.”

“We’ve got warding spells,” Argrave listed, pointing at them as he listed them. “Elemental spells and healing magic. Three illusion spells—the rest in that branch are worthless for our needs,” he said dismissively. “We’ve got blood magic. We’ve got enchantment methods,” he pointed, grabbing one. “Frankly, I don’t even know if I should have taken these. Castro only specified spellbooks. But they’re mine now,” Argrave said with a hysterical laugh.

Argrave calmed down, sighing. “This is the most fun I’ve had in a while. I can’t wait to crack these open. Maybe… no, I don’t think I need to sleep tonight,” Argrave nodded. “I slept around four hours yesterday, that should be fine…”


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  • Buried on a hill overlooking a little river with pinecones all around
  • Esquire

Bio: Author of the #1 'Heroes of Berendar' fan-fiction. Vicar of Crust. President of the Richie Aprile fan-club.

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