Welcome to the first ever crowd-sourced epic fantasy novel written with reader input on Twitter!
Go to @InverseWorlds to shape the story
Chapter 14: Borrowing and Lending
Jason & Fin sat opposite each other on a tavern bench eating spiced chicken broth. Like all Inns in Arton, performers took turns to entertain the patrons. There was privacy in the hubbub.
“The Master just gave a general description rather than a name. Part of the test perhaps.”
“All we know is that she’s in her 20s, slender of build and dark of skin. We will no doubt find her in the Library building.” Has
“Is it well guarded?” Asked Fin. Jason had scouted the building.
“Not at all. Not physically, at least.”
“Our next steps?”
- Into the Library at night 38%
- Into the Library at day 13%
- Catch her outside 24.5%
- Watch her for a few days 24.5%
Night fell & clouds obscured the white ring in the sky, deepening the darkness. The two men dropped to the grassy floor of the Library garden, having easily scaled the tall, unguarded wall. Meandering hedges & stone benches filled the garden, a heady scent of flowers in the air.
The garden was substantial, designed for scholars to wander in contemplation. Many lights filled windows of stained glass. It was late but clearly many of the Library’s residents kept odd hours.
Fin nodded to Jason and they both crept towards a tall door.
- Not alone in the garden 38%
- The door was open 13%
- The door was locked 38%
- Try a 1st storey window 11%
Jason tried the iron-bound door but it was firmly locked. Fin sighed quietly.
The two stepped back & stared up at the windows, many dimly-lit. Most were lead-lined & looked like they didn’t open.
“Can I help you?” asked a voice from the darkness, a few paces into the garden.
Jason stepped protectively in front of Fin, despite the voice being calm and polite.
“You scared us” said Fin.
They must have walked past the silent individual who seemed to be sitting on one of the stone benches amongst the roses.
The person stood and walked towards them.
- A Library visitor 14%
- A young acolyte 7%
- An older Librarian 57%
- Their target 22%
Carrying an old book, a man, the latter-end of middle age, smiled warmly at them.
“I didn’t mean to startle you both. I’m just taking some night air. I heard you both come over the wall.”
He shrugged. “I wonder what book is so important that it couldn’t wait ‘till morn?”
The two looked at each other. Fin spoke.
“We are here for a girl” he said.
A small light appeared above the older man’s hand, showing a grin. “Many your age would scale a wall for the heart. Not so many for the head.” He chuckled.
“We should sit and talk” said the man.
- They join him on a bench 69%
- They make their leave 15.5%
- They attack him 15.5%
Against their instincts, the two joined the man on a stone bench in the garden. The Librarian, light still hovering above his hand, sat between them.
“I knew you would be here” he told them. “Five years ago I spent some time with the Mancers. An arrogant lot, but very skilled.”
The Librarian told a tale of demons, angels and prophesy.
“These things are always cryptic,” he said. “But in short, one of you will save the world. And for that to happen, I need to be here to let you in.”
The two boys were dumbstruck.
“This is some sort of trick” said Fin.
- Ask him some questions 67%
- Accept his help 28%
- It’s a trap. Leave. 5%
“Who are you?” asked Fin.
“I’m a Master from Harn” the older man replied. “I’ve travelled here with one of my promising graduates who will spend the next two years serving the Library of Arton”
“And your companion?” Jason pressed.
To their surprise, he described their target.
“And you know why we are here? Who we serve?”
The man’s brow furrowed. “I do not.”
“Then why trust us?”
“I do not. I know this serves a higher purpose.” He paused & reached into a pocket. “Please, take this” he said. He handed Jason
- a Librarian’s signet ring 43%
- a white crystal pendant 21%
- a black crystal pendant 21%
- a strip of sigil cloth 15%
The man dropped a heavy metal ring into Jason’s* open hand. He looked at it in the magical light & saw the Library’s seal – crossed quill and scroll.
“A ring?” he asked.
“A key” the man replied. “To all Libraries.”
Fin’s* eyes widened. “Why?”
The man shrugged. “It has to be”.
The man nodded to the locked door. “In you go.”
The two stood, nodded to the man, a cautious look still on their faces, and walked to the door.
Jason* placed the ring on his finger, pushed the door, half in anticipation of a trap or alarm, & it swung open easily. They crept in.
*Edit: swapped names to correct for consistency
She leaned over an oak desk in one of the Library studies, one of many small rooms adjoining the Grand Collection of Arton, leafing through a text on illusion.
She had arrived 3 weeks ago with her mentor, having secured a position, training under one of the senior Librarians.
Most of the scholars had retired to their chambers hours passed but she knew she’d not sleep until reading this section on shifting appearance. The Library in Harn didn’t hold this ancient text.
She held up a mirror and concentrated, her face changing shape.
The door opened &
- two men walked in 70%
- one man walked in 0%
- a woman entered 10%
- nobody was there 20%
She started at the sudden visitors, young men, not long 18. Both pale skinned with brown hair, the slightly-shorter of the two had striking blue eyes to the other’s dark brown. They moved like dancers or acrobats, she thought curiously.
She turned towards them.
“Hello” she said, “can I help you?”
There was a look of surprise on their faces. She realised that the illusion she had placed on herself still held. It didn’t require much concentration at all, she realised, happy at the discovery.
To the men she looked
- like a young man 31.3%
- like an older woman 18.8%
- blonde and blue-eyed 6.3%
- red-skinned with red hair 43.8%
“Your face!” said the shorter man.
She glanced again at the mirror & giggled. What he saw was a pretty woman, full lipped with beautiful eyes but with skin red as an apple. Her short, coarse hair was also deep red. She felt herself blush but the new colour of her skin hid it.
She smiled & shook her head slightly, the illusion loosening, her skin returning to its usual dark brown, hair a lustrous black.
“Sorry,” she said. “I discovered a new trick!” Her excitement and friendliness was infectious.
The men smiled back but then looked at each other.
- “Can we talk?” asks a man 29.4%
- A man darts towards her 11.8%
- A man casts a sleep spell 17.6%
- A loud commotion outside 41.2%
Violent shouts were heard somewhere in the Library, followed by some screams.
The three looked at each other in surprise.
“An attack” said Fin with certainty.
“Who?” Jason aimed at the woman. She shrugged.
“No idea. I’ve not been here long.”
The three left the room.
“Follow me” the woman said. “Come.”
They hurried away from the sound of battle, metal on metal punctuated by the pop of magics.
They turned into an oak-lined corridor to come face to face with
- a large demon 11.1%
- a pack of small demons 22.2%
- A stern-looking Angel 55.6%
- 3 strage-garbed people 11.1%
The 7-foot-tall winged androgynous figure towered over the three, white flexible armour covering it from neck to feet. The angel attempted to pull an enormous blade from over its shoulder, but the corridor was restrictive to the giant-winged being. Its frown deepened.
Jason didn’t hesitate, jump-kicking the angel in its stomach, driving it back a step.
“We have to get out of here” Fin shouted, as the angel raised a hand. White flames fell from the ceiling to the spot where Fin had stood.
The young Librarian raised her palm and
- a dark beam hit the Angel 22.2%
- called to her mentor 5.6%
- a portal opened 61.1%
- the Angel’s feet sank 11.1%
The air twisted behind the three & a portal opened.
“Quickly” the young Librarian said. “I can’t hold it long.”
Both Fin & Jason stepped quickly through into fresh air and a familiar smell of roses. They were in the Library garden again, though it was far from peaceful.
The young Librarian followed and the portal closed behind her just as another flash of white flame hit the ground behind them.
Three older Librarians fought another angel hovering at tree-height. One was the older Librarian who had helped the two men.
“We must help!” she said.
- They help fight the angel 81.3%
- They grab her and leave 18.8%
The young Librarian pointed a finger at the Angel, a bright ring of sigils appearing around her hand, & a thin beam of dark energy shot forth, hitting the being in its chest. The other Librarians cast similar. A pillar of flame hit a clear shield over them.
The Angel shrieked.
More Librarians joined them outside. They formed a ritual ring, hands palm upwards & to their side, nearly touching each other, sigils ringing wrists. A bright portal opened to the Angelic domain.
A big stained glass window shattered as the other Angel emerged in flight.
- They banish the angels 21.4%
- Angel grabs young Librarian 35.7%
- A Light Mancer arrives 35.7%
- A Shadow Mancer arrives 7.1%
Shaking away shards of glass, the Angel dodged the magical attacks cast its way, speeding towards the young Librarian at incredible speed. It lifted her off her feet & started away but her mentor, the old man from the gardens, lifted a wand & the Angel crashed agaist a barrier.
A white robed figure exited the Library, eyes shining white with Angelic power, hand grasping a crystal around her neck. She pointed at the Angel holding the Librarian and said in command “bring her to me!”
The Angel swept high and landed next to the Light Mancer.
Jason & Fin
- hit the Mancer from the side 50%
- attack the Angel 20%
- hide, watching the scene 10%
- take the Mancer hostage 20%
The Angel in flight was pushed into the open portal, Librarians sealing it quickly behind it.
The Light Mancer let out an exasperated cry, pointing at the group of Librarians. Three fell to their knees weeping from her cast Judgement.
Beside the Mancer a shadow darted forward.
The heel of Jason’s palm struck the Mancer’s head in a sharp blow. She crumpled unconscious to the floor.
The Angel swung towards him, young woman in its arms. Behind the Angel, Fin kicked off the wall, arms swinging over its head, enchanted garotte catching its neck.
- The Angel breaks free 45.5%
- The Angel is defeated 54.5%
The Angel grimaced, hands letting go of the woman, rushing to the thin wire at its neck.
Rather than run, she turned and placed both palms against the Angel’s breastplate. Black fire covered her hands, searing the silver armour.
The wire at the Angel’s neck glowed red.
Fin gritted his teeth. The magic of the garotte trippled his strength. White light leaked through the Angel’s neck where the wire cut as well as through the fingers of the young Librarian who channelled magic into its chest.
In a flash the Angel was gone. Dead to this plane.
- Help secure the Mancer 41.2%
- Help Librarian’s mentor 41.2%
- Go back to the Library 17.6%
The young Librarian caught her breath, looked up across the garden and dashed to her mentor who was picking himself up from the floor. Jason gestured to Fin with his head and Fin followed the woman to help.
“Are you okay?” she said in concern to the older man.
“I am, girl.”
“I wouldn’t recommend a Light Mancer’s Judgement” the man said, wiping tears from his eyes. He looked at Fin. “A good job you boys were here.”
They all glanced at Jason who was tying the Mancer’s hands.
“Well done” the man smiled at the young woman. He touched her face & said
- “talk to these boys” 0%
- “Go with the boys” 46.2%
- “You must all follow me” 30.8%
- “We must leave” 23.1%
Huh?” She was confused. “Go? Where?”
“Not far, I think?” he said with a questioning look at Fin.
“No, not far” Fin replied. “Just into the city. We can decide the next steps from there.”
“We can deal with this” her mentor said, gesturing to the other Librarians* and gardens now in disarray.
*added other Librarians for clarity
She nodded agreement reluctantly, but trusted her mentor. And she also liked these young men. They had saved her.
An hour later they sat in the pair’s Inn common room. It was deserted, other than some very early kitchen noise.
The message crystal Fin held glowed with orders.
- All listen to the message 50%
- Ignore the crystal 12.5%
- Fin leave to listen 37.5%
Fin held the glowing amber stone in his palm & looked at Jason, who nodded.
“Before you hear this” Fin said to the Librarian “we don’t really know why we were sent here to find you.”
She looked at him, puzzled. “You were sent here to find me?”
“Yes. We work for the Metrist.”
“Assassins!” she hissed.
“In training” Jason replied smoothly. He reached across the table & held Fin’s hand. “There are bigger games afoot, though. Your mentor spoke to us.”
He repeated the tale told in the garden, to her amazement.
“Shall we hear our orders?”
- Capture & bring her here 0%
- Recruit her as an agent 72.7%
- Interrogate her 27.3%
- Kill her 0%
The message was forceful. She was to be recruited. There was no order to say what would happen to her if she refused but they were Metrist. The result was implicit.
The Librarian looked at the wall, lost in thought. Librarians were free to work for whoever they chose.
After training, Librarians often moved to distant lands to take up posts. Many chose to grow their knowledge & power in the Great Archives. Others comfortable lifestyles sponsored by rulers. She had imagined eventually returning to Harn & her love.
But did she have a choice?
“Say I agree” she said, staring them in the eye one after the other. “What’s required of me? Am I to come to Dabna? Will I be free to chose by path, still, or will I need to go where you want me to?”
Jason understood their task, now. It had been hinted at in previous meetings.
Assassins* of the Metrist were to have their own network of contacts across the world. The Librarian would be their first. The relationship would be up to them. Theirs to own. To manage. To start – and end – as they pleased.
*changed to Assassins from Agents for clarity
Jason smiled at her.
- We’d be allies 60%
- You would work for us 10%
- You’d do as we ask 20%
- Your life is ours 10%
“I see this as a mutual relationship” said Jason. Fin squeezed his hand in quiet agreement.
The Librarian’s eyes widened. “Not what I had expected”
“We would love to work with you” said Fin. “Your magic is impressive.”
She smiled “not many can claim to have banished an Angel”
Fin blushed at the veiled compliment. Jason went on.
“You can continue with your studies but we will contact, and pay you, when we need you.”
“But it’s important to understand” said Jason. “This is for life. Once we enter into this agreement it cannot be undone.”
- “I agree” she says 11.8%
- “I cannot” she says 5.9%
- “On one condition” she says 82.4%
“What would that be?” Asked Fin.
She locked eyes with them both in turn. “I can see a future in our relationship. The Metrist is feared around the world but you own a lot of lore & knowledge.”
They both nodded. “You will have access to everything we do” said Fin.
“My condition is simple” she said. “One day I may need help. Maybe something that the Metrist would disapprove of. Maybe even something you don’t want to do. But I want your word that when that day comes, you will help me.”
After a shared glance, the young men nodded & smiled.