Chapter I - Draft I
The drums finally began their rhythm at the other side of the village. Echoes portrayed the sound of an organized thunderstorm.
He would join them soon, once he found what he was looking for. One short glance back, the village square was empty. The wind swung the lanterns back and forth; the shadows followed. A few more moments to make sure he was alone.
Holding the key with both hands, he twisted it carefully until he heard the click. Then, he stopped motionless, no other sound could be heard around him.
‘So far so good’.
Darkness welcomed him as he slipped inside, closing the door behind him almost to a shut. Standing in the dark room he realized his mistake: during the holiday the village was indeed lit with lanterns, but the light coming from the window wasn't enough.
‘I should've known’.
Standing right at the door, he shifted his gaze from the door to the room: If he kept the door open someone might come and see him there, but without light, it would be impossible to find what he was after.
'A child’s mistake’
Using his palm he slammed his forehead several times. From the distance, shouts replaced the thundering drummers.
‘Time is running’.
He made his decision and wished he had a bat’s hearing. No one should be around here at this time anyway, like him.
At least half a dozen bookshelves made of drywood covered the archive’s walls. The organization of the books and scrolls was apparent even with little light. Every shelf hosted a different topic; older records were arranged from left to right. Years upon years of scripts and reports, memories and recollections, since the early days of the Fog. His father kept this place so tidy, that he would surely know if something was missing.
Thinking about his father for a moment made him turn back to look at the door. The light coming from the ajar was enough to reveal his face; emphasizing his deep black eyes.
What would he think if he knew.
‘He doesn't need to know’.
Bat searched the top row of the bookshelf closer to the door. Standing on his toes, he swiped his fingers over the books until one stood out. Brown cover, 3 fingers wide. ‘Northern Sands’.
‘Too recent to be relevant’
He selected a second one from below and opened it; he could have sworn it looked familiar. A sudden breeze cut off his reading, scattering papers everywhere like flies. He seized 2 pages before the rest fell to the floor.
‘Ahh, he told me to fix this one’
The shouts stopped; his father began his speech now.
Bat looked into scroll after scroll, skimmed books, and ancient records. Medicine, star mapping, herpetology, and aa. The archive is 200 years old, there must be something here mentioning it.
At this point, his eyes adjusted to the darkness; which he utilized.
‘Read through the book, close it, put it back right where you found it, pick up another’.
He closed another scroll and released another sigh. A short shiver went through him; the cold breached through his jacket. Bat crossed his arms on his chest, how can it be, so many books around him, and not even one mentions ‘The Runes Of Markia’
More searching here
‘Good going Bat, you wasted your chance and time here for nothing you, even missed the celebration and your father's speech… ohh the speech, it must be over by now’.
As if woken up from a dream, he opened his eyes wide and breathed heavily. He scanned the room around him. Everything must look the same. The books were in their place. No pages on the floor. He returned the stool to its spot and cleared his hands from any dust. Not a single sign he was here.
‘What do I tell Cedric.’
He was interrupted by a thrust. Something hit the floor. The hairs on his arms stood. His chest dropped like a weight. It came from the back of the room, the darker corner. Bat just stood there and listened, as if he had time to spare. The only sound was coming from the wind, no one should be afraid of the wind, especially not the son of the leader.
‘Are you behaving as a child now’.
He approached the corner placing one foot after the other, he squinted his eyes but couldn't spot anything unusual.
And then he did.
Bat dropped his shoulders and rolled his eyes. The broom that leaned on the wall before simply dropped on the floor.
He settled the broom on the wall, and took a step back to examine it; he moved it slightly to the left closer to the bookshelf. Then, something else caught his eye.
A small notebook with a white cover, tucked in the shadows of the lowest shelf. He looked around himself before grabbing the notebook. It was the size of his palm, no words on the cover. He frowned.
He opened it.
The first page was empty as well, but when he read the second one, his eyes lightened. He sighed sharply when he recognized the handwriting.
For a moment he stared at the writings, considering how Cedric would react when he showed it to him.
Then, he turned the page. Then another one and another one. To the end.
‘By the blindness of the Fog’.
Bat found what he was looking for. He smiled, holding up the journal in both hands like a mother holding her baby. He slipped the notebook in his coat’s inner pocket.
‘Time to head back’.
He looked at the broom briefly as if thanking it for helping with the discovery. One final glance around the room, can't be too careful. On his way out he took the old book with the torn papers.
‘I'll fix it tonight’
He turned to the door and his breathing stopped. A dark figure blocked the doorway. Bat swallowed. For a moment he stared at the familiar silhouette in front of him.
‘When did he get here… how long has he been here’.
His mind was racing with more questions, but he stood motionless.
The figure stepped inside. His broad shoulders rubbed the door frame, he lifted his hands with a smile.
‘Bat, my son, there you are’!
Bat swallowed again, he kept a straight gaze, his heart racing.
Riched looked at his son’s face, but no response was on it, he lifted an eyebrow.
‘Why are you so rattled, ahh was my speech that powerful’.
Riched patted his son on the shoulder in an attempt to make him smile.
‘It was an excellent idea to tell the story about the sand sleds, everyone listened carefully; good idea son’.
A moment passed, which felt like an hour.
‘Just response how you usually would’.
Bat jested. ‘It's not the story father, it's how one tells it’.
They both laughed together, no one could mistake they were related.
‘He doesn't know’
Riched’s face hardened, he placed both hands on his son's face, looking deep into his eyes.
‘You will make a fine leader one day Bat, I know it’.
Bat looked down as if a sudden sunlight blinded him.
‘A leader… if only he knew how much of a liar I am’.
The Fog’s leader looked around the room, his white hair and beard helped light his face. ‘So, what are you doing here anyway, dont tell me you are here to resume your studies’. He raised his hands and voice with excitement. ‘Tonight is a special night’.
Bat lowered his shoulders. He would have to lie to his father right in his face.
“I ahh… I forgot to fix this book you mentioned, foolish me’.
Riched nodded. ‘Even tonight when all are celebrating, you are thinking about your chores’. He raised his chest and tilted his head backward; smiled and measured his son.
Out in the distance, battered drums and rhythmic roars indicated the beginning of the feast. At this time of the year, the Fog that surrounds the village tightened like a herd of elephants protecting their calves in the center.
Riched turned to the door. ‘I'll eat your meal unless you get there first’.
The last thing he cared about was food. ‘Father.. ahh, have you seen Cedric there by any chance?’
Richard scratched his beard. ‘Ahh… I dont remember seeing him but perhaps he is there now’.
As they stepped outside, Bat locked the door behind them and slipped the key to his jacket; he used the opportunity to make sure the journal was still there.
He breathed deeply, adjusted his collar, and gestured to his father that all was well.