(click individual photos above for captions)
It was not the binding that snagged Cael’s eye first; a weathered intersection of creases and half-measured blemishes, souvenirs of each time the tome had tumbled from its rickety shelf. A veteran of its advanced age usually wore parchment accessorized with faded dyes and a reasonable amount of smudgecentric illegibility, the author’s words lost to time. But this book, with a title Cael could not read, was woven like iron. Though not overly large or heavy, it commanded a presence, as if the other volumes both respected its position and feared its judgment.
The young page brushed his ink-stained fingers along the edges, questioning. He’d been drafted into the library three months earlier, his obsession with the book culminating in the Court modifying his assignment. His father had begged the Empress to allow his son stationed with the wordsmiths, if only to assuage Cael’s perpetual yammering. According to the official reports, he’d already deciphered five spells and successfully tamed two of them. Unofficially, he couldn’t even crack the object of his affection open without shivering.
He could continue the ruse until Winter. A plan would spring forth by then, fully formed. He was certain of it.