Chapter 8

Jowy seated himself on a bench across from the Academy’s main library and watched.

Greenhill’s Old Town, the part of the city close to the Academy which had been built before the war, was practically empty compared to the New Town. Here, there were no bustling crowds of too many Muse refugees crowded into too little space and thinking they had too much to do. Most of the people who passed him were students or teachers, just as they had been five years before.

It was a pleasant change.

If he hadn’t had work to do, and hadn’t had to fear for his life every day he spent in the city which hated him, he would have very much liked to stay there. He could think of worse ways to spend a life than watching the birds flit through the canopy of Greenhill’s ancient trees.

But it wasn’t for peace and quiet that he’d come here.

The four True Runes collected by Greenhill were within the main library, and he intended to change that. To do so, he needed to observe the comings and goings of the librarians and the guards.

Greenhill was hardly the most heavily defended city in the world, and there were five Runes to be had there - the four in the library and a fifth that the citizens of Greenhill, and possibly even its owner, did not know of. Jowy had made his way here to do research, but he could double his arsenal of True Runes, and that would make the rest of the tasks simpler.

“Just a few more minutes,” he whispered. That was the scheduled closing time. But if anything of the old Greenhill remained, there would be at least one scholar who decided to stay.

Jowy was counting on that.

He watched the people walk past. The natives of Greenhill managed to get where they were going as fast as anyone else, but how they did was a mystery to everyone else. The mood of Greenhill was academic, leisurely, quiet - and efficient.

A girl, not much more than ten or eleven and wearing the uniform of the Academy, went up to the library doors. Something about her seemed somehow familiar.

He’d probably been glared at by a relative of hers the last time he’d been in town. It wasn’t important. More importantly, her arrival called into question his beliefs about the library’s closing time. If she was going in...

But she didn’t go in. She leaned against the ivy-covered railing outside it and set her book bag on the ground.

Again, Jowy was struck by a sense of familiarity. He studied the girl - round and cheerful face, big brown eyes, curly brown hair.

Before he could get a better look, the great clock chimed. Several men and women left the library immediately, probably librarians and the last of the patrons. Jowy watched them, his mind back on the business at hand. If they were the only librarians, his plans might have to change. At the very least, he would need another few days to observe.

He looked back up to the door. The girl was still waiting there - there had to be another person inside.

He’d guessed right - another librarian came out a moment later, escorting an old man. Jowy could see the thickness of his glasses even from across the street, and his stack of books was thicker still. The old man went on his way, peering intently at some passage in the upper-most book, which was lying open atop the others. Jowy smiled. Such a sight was enough to bring a grin to anyone’s face - and that old man had shown him the key to getting Greenhill’s Runes.

Then he looked back to the librarian. She locked the library’s main doors behind her and turned to the girl. Jowy couldn’t hear what was said. Then she looked up.

His mouth went dry.

For an instant, her blue-green eyes met his. Those eyes, the cream-white skin of her face, the long hair so black it was nearly blue - five years couldn’t make him forget. A hundred wouldn’t make him forget.

He stood abruptly and looked away.

She hadn’t recognized him, or hadn’t seen him.

When he turned back to the door, she was gone, and the girl with her.

Jowy had to fight to keep from shouting to them, from running to them and holding them tight and telling them how sorry he was that he’d been gone so long.

He bit his lip so hard that he could taste blood. His fingers tightened around the bench.

But he won his battle. He didn’t shout the name of the librarian. He only whispered it: