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Authors: Ben S. Dobson

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Scriber

BOOK: Scriber
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Table of Contents

Scriber

By Ben S. Dobson

Copyright © 2011 Ben S. Dobson

This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer's imagination or have been used fictitiously. Resemblance to any persons, living or dead, actual events, locales, or organizations, is entirely coincidental.

All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without the written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations used for the purpose of articles or reviews.

Dedication

 

For my parents, John and Janice Dobson, who badgered me relentlessly until I wrote this book, in a very supportive way.

Also for Morgan, who taught me how to gallop.

Prologue

 

Scriber Elyse tapped at the stone with her chisel, shaving just the slightest bit off the statue’s cheek, and then climbed down from the ladder to consider her work. After a moment, she set aside her tools and sat before the open journal at her desk.

She had read this one more than once; it had been written by Dennon Lark during the most famous period of his life. There was no better way to become familiar with her subject. Learning Scriber Dennon’s voice—the way the man wrote and thought—allowed her to better visualize what form the statue would take. She could almost hear him telling the story as she read his journals, though it had happened well over a hundred years before.

The desk was strewn with books—every journal and history by Dennon Lark that the Academy had to offer. That she had been chosen to sculpt such an historic figure was an honor, and she took her research seriously. But this particular journal was her favorite, and not only because it offered the best insight into her subject. No, she liked this one because of the small note Scriber Dennon had scrawled on the inside cover. She liked what the words said about the man:

In my life, I have been called many things: prodigy and madman, traitor and visionary, blasphemer and failure and fool. In the end, most people seem to have settled on hero.

People are idiots.

It is not me they should revere. I am only an historian, and I deserve to be remembered as nothing more. But I have
known
heroes, those whose deeds saved the Kingsland from destruction. So to all who read these journals, I say this:

If you would remember anyone, remember them.

 

Smiling, Elyse turned the page and began to read.

Chapter One

 

I disliked Bryndine Errynson the moment I first saw her. She must be the most irritating person I’ve ever known.

— From the personal journals of Dennon Lark

 

The letter was a torment, as they always were. My untouched meal slowly cooled on the table as I unfolded, read, and refolded the small parchment again and again. But no matter how many times I looked, the words remained the same.

I was alone in the Prince’s Rest that night; there were no customers but myself most nights, really. Waymark was a small, isolated village, not a place that had much use for an inn. Even in a larger town Josia Kellen’s cooking would not have attracted a great deal of business—leaving it uneaten might still have been the proper choice without the distraction of the letter. But on that particular night, the night I met Bryndine Errynson for the first time, I would have ignored a feast cooked in the King’s own kitchens. It was the same every time Illias wrote me.

Josia Kellen bustled out of the kitchen, kettle in hand, to refresh my tea. “Important news from the city, Scriber Dennon? You’ve barely touched your food.” She was beside me in two steps—the Rest was little more than a converted family residence, and the common room had space for only two tables, uncomfortably close to one another.

I raised a hand to my temple. “It’s a personal letter, Josia. I’d prefer not to talk about it.”

Not for the first time, I made a silent vow to start preparing my own meals at home. Josia was an impossibly chatty woman, and she fretted over me relentlessly. She had it in her head that I must be terribly lonely, living by myself with no wife or family. I had all my meals at the inn, and not one of them went by that she didn’t try to engage me in conversation. I hated it.

But for once she respected my desire for solitude. “I’ll leave you be, then,” she said. “Call me if you need anything.”

She hurried from the room, and I turned my attention back to Illias’ letter.

It had come that evening, delivered by a Scriber-pinned courier shortly before my usual late dinner at the Rest. Far from the Saltroad that ran between Three Rivers and the Salt Mountains, Waymark was not a place the couriers serviced regularly. Illias would have personally asked the man to take the detour; it was not the first time he had done so.

Waymark should have been a distant enough place to escape my past, nestled against the Salt Mountain foothills in the north-western corner of the Three Rivers barony. The villagers thought it an important historical site—a mark on the path of Prince Willyn the Lost, on the journey that had given him his name almost two centuries ago—but the rest of the kingdom ignored the village despite those dubious claims.

Unfortunately, Illias was undaunted by my isolation. He wrote without fail, once every few months at least. The message was always the same: though he rarely came out and said it directly, what he wanted of me was the one thing I would not give, not even for him. And every time, I would fret for days before I finally shoved down my guilt, stowed the letter in a drawer with all the rest, and neglected to write back.

It was always the same, but even knowing that, it was a cycle I was helpless to break. With a heavy sigh, I unfolded the paper and looked it over again.

Denn,

I hope this letter finds you well—but not too well. I need you back at the Academy, and the sooner you tire of that backwater you’ve exiled yourself to, the better.

The School of Arts is reconstructing more of Adello’s songs every day, and you are the only one who has ever appreciated the true historical relevance of his work. Legends and children’s tales, they say, as though that discounts their worth. Damn it to the Dragon, they’re all we have left. We can’t expect to just stumble across the truth if we ignore the clues we’re given. The Scribers have become indolent, waiting for discoveries to be brought to us for research and cataloguing.

The Council is no help of course. Pig-headed idiots, the whole lot. I wish I’d never taken a seat among them. They argue over money and appearances, and oaths be damned. I have no intention of sitting idle, hoping some farmer will miraculously uncover a hidden cache of history books in his basement. The Forgetting was almost five hundred years ago now, and what have we found since then? Nothing.

I’m surrounded by fools, Denn. I need you here. You saw the value in this pursuit before anyone. Come back, and help an old man accomplish something before he dies.

Your friend,

Illias

 

He had never so overtly begged me to return before. Usually he preferred to disguise his intentions, speaking of current affairs in the Kingsland or the latest decisions of the Council, while the subtext of every word screamed at me that I was wasting my life. This was different, though; there was nothing veiled about this.

Help an old man accomplish something before he dies
. That was not an easy thing for me to refuse, even knowing he had likely chosen the phrase with just that intention. My mother had died before I could remember, and my father when I was just a boy—Master Illias Bront had as good as raised me. I would never have earned my Scriber’s pin without him.

When I was young, nothing had seemed more noble or exciting than becoming a Scriber. Other boys dreamed of becoming warriors, joining the King’s Army and upholding Erryn’s Promise; all I had ever wanted was to swear the Scriber’s oath, to wear that golden pin, to pledge myself to the preservation of knowledge and the recovery of the Kingsland’s lost past. It was not an ambition that met with much approval from my father, a practical man of the Army—as far as Trestan Lark was concerned, reading and writing were pursuits for the weak. And besides that, enrolment in the Academy was as near to impossible as anything could be for the son of a low-ranking soldier, with neither the money to pay tuition nor the connections to seek the sponsorship of a Master Scriber.

And then one day, Master Illias caught me—a ten-year-old soldier’s son with no money and no connections—sneaking about the Academy campus looking for a glimpse of my impossible dream. Instead of throwing me out, he offered me a job running errands for him, and fostered my desire for knowledge by lending me his books and answering my constant questions. When my father was killed patrolling the Highpass cliffs that same year, Illias found me room and board with the Academy staff, and on my sixteenth birthday, he sponsored my entry into the Academy. As Master of the School of History, he oversaw my education for eight long years. When I graduated, it was Illias Bront who finally placed the golden quill-in-inkwell pin of the Scribers onto my collar with his own hands.

But when a dream becomes a reality, it is not always a good thing. I could not go back to the Academy, not even for Illias. Too many memories of failure lived there, and a Scriber never forgets.

“Are you sure you don’t want to talk, Scriber Dennon?” Josia’s voice interrupted my thoughts once again. Very little time had passed since she last refilled my tea, and the cup was more than half full, but she poured anyway—an obvious excuse to bother me.

“I’m fine, Josia.”

“It’s only that you seem upset,” she said. “It helps to talk about these things. I’m always here to listen.”

She meant that sincerely, I knew. Josia was one of the few truly kind people I had met in my life. She was not particularly quick-witted and her constant nattering annoyed me, but it was comforting to know there was at least one good person left in the world. Most people in Waymark—most people anywhere—only cared about other people’s problems to the extent that they made good gossip.

But for all of that, I still wished she would leave me be. “Not tonight, Josia. Please.”

She was about to reply when the creak of the front door stopped her. It was not a common sound at the Prince’s Rest, and I was grateful for the distraction.

“Excuse me, Scriber,” Josia said, and hurried over to greet the new guests. I glanced towards the door with mild curiosity as she ushered two women inside.

That was the first time I laid eyes on Bryndine Errynson.

Chapter Two

 

Though few records remain from before the Forgetting, there is little doubt that the Errynson line began approximately one thousand years ago with Erryn the Burner and his wife Aliana, the last princess of Elovia. Erryn forged his kingdom with fire, bringing his people up the Conqueror’s River and burning back the First Forest to clear the land. The Burning is considered by most historians to mark the beginning of Erryn’s reign, and the calendar of the Kingsland is measured in years After the Burning, or AB.

The family took the surname Errynson, after the barbarian tradition, and the burning tree, crimson on a brown field, became their sigil. To this day, the Errynson family is associated with fire and rebirth, and on the eve of each new year the Festival of Burning is held in their honor, during which symbols of the year gone by are burned and prayers are made for the prosperity of the Kingsland, the King, and the Errynson family.

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