The library smelled like dust and ages. The sweet, musky air, combined with the smell of parchment and paper was comforting and inviting. The wood screeched as Midnight stepped over the threshold, and the light from the large chandelier trembled when the door shut behind her.
"Faerie," a voice called from the shroud of darkness ahead.
Midnight jumped, even though she knew it was only Valrya. Nevertheless, there was something strange about the place that made her feel so jumpy. Something...well, supernatural wasn't exactly a good choice of words, but still...it had an undeniable aura of mystery.
Valrya came out of the darkness, carrying a pile of parchments and a thick, red and gold book under her arm.
"We'll sit there," she said, pointing to the only lit candle in the far corner of the room. "No one will bother us. Now come."
With this, she led Midnight to a rather small table next to a tall window, with two chairs just opposite of each other. As soon as they were both sitting down, Valrya handed her a small diary. When Midnight looked up, confused, the Faerie spoke impatiently:
"Take it. You have a lot to learn and not very much time to do so. I expect you to know the things you will be taught. And I expect you to know them well," she paused, and Midnight took the diary. She barely had time to open it and look for something to write with before the woman went on.
"You will work hard and you will not complain about it. You," she said, a trace of slight disgust in her voice, "are a Keeper. That is a privilege and a burden at the same time, and you would do well to remember it. Now pay attention..."
As the hours went by, Midnight's diary remained just as blank as when they had started. Valrya spoke so quickly, she had more trouble understanding than she would have thought. She talked about founders and history and things Midnight had never heard of before. And it fascinated her. She listened attentively as the woman pulled out parchment after parchment and laid them on the table. She showed her maps and sketches and documents, but still she never opened the book.
Just when Midnight was beginning to think that Valrya would never finish talking, the clock stroke 11 o'clock. The woman looked up from her papers, blinking quickly. For a moment, she looked confused, but then she got up and handed Midnight the large book.
"You haven't taken any notes," she stated, looking at Midnight's empty diary. "Very well, I have no time to watch your every step. This," she picked up the book, "is from Octric. I don't expect that it will be of any use to a Faerie, but he said he wanted to check something."
Midnight picked up the book and the sudden weight of it took her by surprise. She yelped and lost her balance, falling over the desk with a loud bang.
"I...I'm sorry...I didn't expect it to be this heavy," she excused herself as Valrya almost pulled her up in the air with just one hand. The woman didn't respond. She rolled back all of her parchments and shot her one last disapproving look.
"How this girl will come to be a Fairy I will never know..." she muttered. "It's late. Get going, tomorrow I will teach you how to properly wield a sword."
Midnight blushed at Valrya's accusing voice, but then the idea of another day in the Faerie Patron's company made her want to never wake up again. She lifted the heavy book with some difficulty and left the library as quickly as she could.
"Hey there!" a familiar voice greeted her when she was on the other side of the door.
"Oh, hey...Xyleena," Midnight replied awkwardly. She knew a lot of people didn't like her because she was not from their world, but she wasn't sure how Xyleena really felt about her. She'd been very nice to her, but she couldn't help but wonder...
"Oh my, I remember this book!" the girl exclaimed, breaking her train of thought as she leaned over to take a better look at what Midnight was holding.
"Uh, what...? Oh, this...um...Valrya said it's from Octric. I'm...not quite sure what to do with it. He said I should read it but I..."
"I'm sorry, you can't read this book," Xyleena said, her serious voice taking Midnight by surprise.
"Oh, no... I meant...You've never seen an Unreadable Book before, have you?"
Midnight looked at Xyleena like she was speaking in a different language. What on earth was an Unreadable Book? And how could a book be ‘unreadable'? But the girl picked up on Midnight's confusion and grabbed her by the hand.
"I'll show you, come on!"
"Wait, where are we going?" Midnight asked loudly, running as she ducked and swayed and pushed objects out of Xyleena's way.
They ran for about five minutes, although it seemed to Midnight like they would be running forever. She'd noticed that effort really drained the energy out of her and she started to wonder, a little scared, how she was going to last through the fighting lesson with her Patron the next day. Suddenly, Xyleena came to a halt, causing Midnight to crash into her.
"Oh, goodness, I'm so sorry!" the girl said apologetically, helping her get up. "I forgot...you don't like running," she chuckled, and Midnight blushed.
They turned to face a door so small that even the Elf had to hunch to get inside. The room was a subtle shade of yellow and orange. It was smaller than Midnight's but then, Xyleena was smaller too. It was actually a simple room, but the warm, sunny colors made it look comfortable. The four-poster bed was set just by the window, the heavy red curtains pulled up elegantly. An entire collection of weapons and armory hung up on a wall behind her: various types of blades, a whip, a chest plait and a very old, dented shield. In fact, it was the only piece that didn't fit with the rest. Everything else was polished and bright, whereas the shield was so worn out the colors had faded and Midnight could barely make out the Elven emblem in the center.
"It was my mother's. Zarina killed her in a raid when I was four years old."
A shiver went up Midnight's back. "Zarina was the woman that killed Gram, wasn't she?"
"Yes. She used to live here, you know, that wicked old.... But enough of her. It brings bad luck all around when you talk about Zarina this late at night. You can put the book on the desk, if you want," she added, noticing Midnight struggling to hold the heavy load in her arms.
Grateful, she placed it on the desk and both of them started studying the beautifully dressed cover.
"Why do you call it an Unreadable Book?"
"Well...because you can't read it."
Midnight looked at Xyleena, confused. "I don't get it."
"Look. No, come closer and look!"
Midnight drew nearer, as Xyleena continued: "These pieces of metal here...and here," she said, tracing her finger over two red lines that wounded around the book, "They're welded into the book. Beats me how, but they are. And you can't cut through them. It's ruby iron."
For the first time, Midnight noticed the red bars across the side of the book. "But, if it's impossible to read it, why would Octric have told me to read it?"
"I don't know...maybe he was testing you?"
Suddenly, an idea formed in Midnight's mind. She reached out for the book, putting her hand over it. With a scream, the Elven girl drew her hand back
"Good Gods!" she shouted, looking at the book with a terrified expression. "Did you see that?"
Midnight turned to the girl, shock imprinted on her face. "See what? Where?"
"It was...I saw...how did you do that?"
Midnight stared at the Elven girl like she had gone mad. "I didn't do anything! I just touched the book with my hand to see if anyone else had opened it!"
The two girls stared at each other for a second, before Midnight realized Xyleena didn't know about her...gift. She sighed and sat back in the chair.
"Well, it's like this..."