I squinted at the scroll, written in a cramped High Dhurian by a long dead Priestess. I was certain the scroll contained the information about the Wise One my tutor had tasked me to find. If only there was a spell to magnify the script. I grimaced. Even if such a spell existed, the scroll was ancient enough that the spell might destroy it – or the other books in this part of the library. I glanced at the shelves surrounding me. For the other novices, the scrolls contained the gathered wisdom of the Priestesshood of Gwynfar. I found the scrolls were headache-inducing and dull. Maybe I would have been more interested if the scrolls hadn’t been written in High Dhurian. The fact that I hated High Dhurian was another sign that I wasn’t meant to be a Priestess of Gwynfar. I had tried to convince my mother, but she refused to listen.
Maybe she would have listened if she hadn’t been the Arch-Priestess. That was futile thinking. Even if Mother hadn’t been the Arch-Priestess, she would have the Matriarch of the family, and I would still have been steered towards a life path I didn’t want. All Dhurians had a touch of moon magic, a sign that we were beloved by the goddess of the moon. The Dhurians worshipped the Goddess, but few felt called to becoming a Priestess. As a result having a Priestess in the family was a mark of influence.
The sound of Mother’s voice cut through my musings. I cursed inwardly and gathered my things. This part of the library was technically forbidden to Novices, due to its proximity to the oldest scrolls. Which was why I had chosen it. There was information about the Wise One in other scrolls, but it had been watered down and edited by later generations. What I needed was to read the scrolls about the Wise One written by the first Priestesses.
I put the scroll in my bag, before hurrying into the rows between the shelves into the shelves. A part of me gibbered that it was forbidden to enter this part. I ignored it. I had long ago accepted that no matter what I did, Mother would be displeased with me.
I pushed away the thoughts, and hid behind a shelf. I shivered when magic brushed against me. The scrolls in this part of the library had been imbued with magic, or they were about magic, and they were old. Old magic tended to… warp. The result wasn’t moon magic but a more shadowy magic. Not for the first time, I questioned the wisdom in keeping all the old scrolls in same place. One of the first things I had been taught was that magic amplified.
“Are you certain we will not be overheard?” a female voice asked.
I recognized the voice. It belonged to the mid level priestess responsible for the novices and acolytes.
“Yes,” Mother replied.
Wood scraped against stone. I tried to remember if I had forgotten anything that could be traced to me.
“Now. Let’s discuss the initiation ceremony.”
The initiation ceremony for new novices and the promotion of novices to acolytes was to take place when the moon waxed. What I couldn’t understand was why Mother was meeting the Priestess in the library. It would have made more sense to meet in Mother’s study. Maybe Mother was in one of her paranoid phases. I grimaced. When Mother felt paranoid she saw conspiracies everywhere.
The Priestess sighed. “Preparations for the ritual are proceeding without any trouble. The main reason I requested to speak with you is your daughter.”
I frowned. My grades were good and I hadn’t mouthed off to a Priestess recently. So there was no reason for her to want to discuss me with Mother.
“Yes. Her one hundred and fiftieth birthday is approaching, which means she will soon be considered an Adult. It also means she will have to ascend to Acolyte, or be allowed to leave the temple.”
I held my breath. I had pleaded with Mother to let me leave the Priestesshood several times, but she had always said no. Maybe she will consider it when a Priestess requests it. That hope was soon crushed. “Let me worry about my daughter’s upcoming birthday.” My heart sank when I heard Mother’s cold voice.
“Yes, Arch-Priestess,” the Priestess said.
I sympathized with the woman. She had been in the temple long enough to know that the Arch-Priestess could hold a grudge. The chairs scraped against the floor. A moment later I heard the sound of foot steps leaving.
Once I was certain that I was alone, I stepped out from the shelves and dusted away the chalk like dust that covered my gray robe. I muttered a curse when the substance stubbornly clung to the robe. If someone spotted me, they would know I had been up to something. And they would tell Mother. Great. There had been a confrontation building between me and Mother for a long time, but I had hoped to avoid it for a bit longer. The Goddess had other plans, obviously.
This part of the Library might be empty, but wouldn’t be available to avoid notice. I shrugged. The worst the Librarian would do was to ban me from the Library. I walked through the library, noticing abandoned reading nooks and study places. I frowned. I could understand one or two acolytes or novices remembering a forgotten task, but all of them? I knew that there had been no impromptu speech by Mother, since she had been in the library. I paused. Maybe that was why everyone had left in a hurry. They had wanted to avoid Mother’s temper. I shrugged, and dropped off the scroll at the Librarians’ desk, so that it could be properly re-shelved later.
I opened the library door and stepped into the hallway. An empty and silent hallway. This time of the day there should be priestesses, novices and acolytes wandering towards different parts of the temple. There was probably an explanation, but I wasn’t planning on finding out. I hurried down the hallways, my footsteps echoing against the tiled floor. I expected a Priestess to step out from one of the rooms that lined the hallway and drag me to Mother’s study.
It was a relief to reach the large, midnight blue doors that was the entrance to the temple, or in my case, the exit. In times of war and unrest there would have been Dhurken warriors posted as guards, but now it was a time of peace so the door was unguarded. I pushed the door open, and stepped outside. A weight lifted from my shoulders as I walked down the stairs.