The Shadowglass (The Bone Witch, #3)(9)

“Unffgh,” I managed to say from somewhere underneath his beard.

“And why are you here, Rahim?” Kalen asked, trying his best not to look amused.

“The Isterans, underneath their wool and fur, hold fashion in the highest esteem. The Queen Deira, she is kind enough to ask this humble Tresean to come to Farsun and design gowns for her girls. The Queen of Istera asking a Tresean! Back in my youth, it would be treasonous to imagine peace between our two kingdoms. It is like asking pink not to clash with the red! But I am honored, and I am determined.” He swept his burly arms out, briefly forgetting that I was still clinging to them. “To keep the style yet keep out the cold at same time! It is the undertaking of my career!”

“You’re doing good work, Rahim,” Kalen said calmly with a straight face. “You’re doing good work.”

The Isterans were avid readers and collectors of literature, and I was expecting an impressive library. What I wasn’t expecting was for it to take up a full wing of the castle. What the rest of the Farsun palace lacked in opulence, King Rendrovik’s manuscript collection made up for with decadence. Marble floors shone and vaulted ceilings were decorated in vividly colored frescoes by, no doubt, illustrious painters. Golden motifs and busts lined the bookcases. The shelves were of cured mahogany, specially treated to last and polished to shine.

“It’s not much,” said the Isteran king with quiet pride, “but it’s the most important place in all of Istera, and we try to present it as such.”

“Uhh…” I said in awe.

“This the most magnificent room I have ever been in,” Likh whispered.

“We boast some first-century manuscripts,” Queen Deira cautioned. “There will be assistants to help you with your work, so you would do well to follow their instructions. Some of these volumes are quite old, and we ask you take great care while browsing them.”

“Uhh…” I repeated.

“You’re going to catch flies if you keep your mouth open like that.” Kalen’s attempt at teasing was lost on me. I wandered past bookshelves lined with rare manuscripts and incunabula. Though my fingers flexed and trembled, I was too afraid to touch them for fear they might disintegrate. I could spend the rest of my life in this library; even if I read quickly, I knew I would never finish the texts in my lifetime—or a second lifetime.

“We were told you had the oldest accounts of the Blade that Soars legends,” Khalad said. “And some on runic magic. Tea and I would be very interested in… Tea? Are you okay?”

“Forget it, Khalad,” Kalen said. “She’s gone. Give her time.”

“In that case,” Rahim said, “I will go to consult with Queen Deira. Do not let books eat your lyubimaya, Kalen, and do not let her eat them.”

“H-how many books do you even have?” I finally stammered, trying to take it all in.

“Almost a million at last count.” King Rendorvik laughed, as we were led deeper into the library. “Our head librarian would know the exact number. It takes a lot of effort to keep the volumes in good condition, considering our perpetual winters.”

“Tea,” Althy said, “focus. Remember that we have a purpose in coming here.”

“Yes,” I found myself saying, “to read everything we can get our hands on.”

“Oh dear,” murmured my asha-sister. “We’ve lost her.”

? ? ?

Kalen volunteered to consult with some of the Isteran generals about the alleged daeva sightings, and Khalad went with him. That left the rest of us free to raid King Rendorvik’s library. There were nearly a million reasons to be distracted, and it took physical effort on Althy’s part to prevent me from wandering to new piles of books instead of sticking to the research we came to do.

The legend of the Blade that Soars and Dancing Wind was an interesting piece of mythology. The problem was that multiple retellings had been collected, chronicling cultures and politics of multiple kingdoms, each using the narrative as a source. It was easy for me to drift into other unrelated stories before realizing my mistake—and I was making a lot of mistakes.

“But they have a complete history of asha here,” I whined. “Vernasha of the Roses kept a diary that was preserved!” How could Althy be so flippant surrounded by so much knowledge? Vernasha was the famous asha who founded Kion, so surely she would understand my interest. “There’s also a complete manuscript listing the adventures of the Five Great Heroes’ epic in greater detail than anything I’ve read, and it’s more than two thousand pages! Look, this is Rashnu’s final journal, recounting his life after the other Great Heroes perished at the Ring of Worship—”


“Did you know that Aadil wasn’t actually the rightful ruler of Drycht? He was a distant relation to King Adhitaya and revolted against him fifteen years ago when heavy taxation turned the people against the monarch. There are even colored paintings of Adhitaya and his sons—”

“Read them all after we have our answers.”

Clearly, Althy had more willpower than I. She hefted a solid volume bound in thick, black leather with gold lettering. “This is the earliest retelling I can find, said to be written by the Great Hero Ashi the Swift herself. The librarians believe this to be the earliest source on Blade that Soars, so I’d like us to focus there.” She raised an eyebrow at Likh, who was paging through a large tome on ancient Kion culture. “Find something interesting?”

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