Flax 35th, 1358
The next day, in my independent class with Zosto, I throw myself into the magic.
It flows from my fingertips, spell after spell — fire, ice, fire again. But even when the volley is done, Zosto's lips are pursed. He dismisses me from the class later than usual, his expression icy, but his disapproval barely registers in my mind.
After seeing Azure the previous night, it felt like the weight of an entire planet has left my chest.
Even as I exit Zosto's classroom, the relief does not fade. He had not made good on his threats; for now, Azure is unharmed. For the first time since we had arrived at the Palace, I feel there is room in my lungs for air.
But alongside the relief, the memory of her skin plagues my mind. Azure's skin, her pale skin, covered in scratches and bruises.
As I trail after the herd of students exiting their morning classes, the image sticks to me. They flood clamorously into the dining hall; before I can be swept through the doors by the crowd, I slip into an adjoining hallway.
I watch the sea of bobbing heads for a moment, searching cautiously for Tirak's face, or Zosto's — but neither appears to be part of the crowd.
When I'm sure I won't be watched, I start rifling through my bag, pulling the crumpled map out from between the pages of a book. With the map in one hand, I wend my way through the Palace, toward the elegantly drawn square of land marked library.
The library isn't terribly unlike the rest of the Palace. It is made of vast ceilings, thick windows that allow barely an ounce of light to pass through, and towering inclaer bookshelves that line the walls. The room is devoid of color, even at high noon.
But despite its pretentious gloom, the place fills me with incredulous awe. From floor to ceiling, overflowing from the shelves, the room is full of books — hundreds of them, bound in every material imaginable, all of them smelling of new parchment.
The sight is incredible — never before, in my entire life, has there been so much information at my fingertips at once.
Information like the layout of the Palace, and the location of the dungeon.
At this time of day, most of the students are feasting in the dining hall, so the room is sparsely populated — the girl with hair like titanium is perched on a table at the edge of the room, her eyes fastened to a book, and a few young-looking boys are bent over a map. Other than that, there appears to be no one. My footsteps echo off of the ceiling as I patrol the shelves, but no one looks up.
There has to be something historical here. A book about past Saiopian kings, or something about more than the murder of Queen Lipi. I run my fingers across the broken spines of the books, scanning the titles.
Darke and his Journey. The Invasion. The Trial of Draix. The Roth Kingdom. Knives of Air. History of Medicine. The Geluflexis. History of Royal Architecture.
My eyes catch on the very last title; my fingers slow to a stop and tug the book out by its spine. I bring it up to my face and flick through the first few pages, searching for the name. The print is in Desovese, but the ink is faded. Building a Jailhouse — The Royal Court's Demise — The Palace of Libergue — Qeterbek Palace.
I dogear the page, then turn to the open library and look for somewhere to sit. The closest table is large and square, suitable to spread out on.
But before I can move toward the table, the shriek of hinges breaks the gloom.
I look up at the sound, shoving the book into the bag slung over my shoulder as I go. One of the intricately carved library doors is open, and a girl is standing in the doorway, with green eyes and dark hair — Mable. The nervous tension drains out of my frame, and I return my focus to the task at hand.
I've taken perhaps three steps toward the table before I pause again, and my eyes fall on Mable once more. Words Kersith had said that night come back to me: I can't help you find her, but I can create a window.
The idea comes in a flash, the way a match catches fire when it is struck.
Kersith couldn't help me... but finding Azure is unquestionably a necessity.
I must find Azure, but it's not a task I'll be able to accomplish independently.
I mull the idea over, watching Mable as she rifles through the pages of a book.
She had mentioned something about having royal blood, hadn't she? Even if she is from Oorokria, she must have been to this place before. Does she know anything about the Palace or the dungeon?
I have to find Azure, preferably before Zosto has the opportunity to hurt her. But my knowledge of the Palace is limited, especially my knowledge of the dungeon.
On another hand, involving someone else in this... mission... is a risk. My main concern, prior to this, had been betrayal: what if I enlisted someone's help, only for them to tell the King what I was planning to do?