22: Worth of a Life

We’ve to figure this out, Itero, The Devourer said as he rose from the table and went over and sat down in the rocking chair. He gazed into the dead fireplace for a while and said, We’ve to sell the books.

Sell the books! Itero exclaimed. This is ridiculous. Do you know what they’ve cost us?

That’s why we have to sell them. They are the only thing we own that’s worth anything.

Goddammit, Itero said and sat down in the other rocking chair. The puffs of smoke became more frequent and larger as the men sat quiet. Sounds from the outside penetrated the thick log walls. Birds chirped in the trees and spring sun as waves rolled against the stony shore. Little light came into the cabin through the small windows, and the stove illuminated its corner of the room like some ominous portal to another world.

Have it as you will, Itero said after his pipe had died.

How much do you reckon we can get for them? The Devourer asked.

How much do think they would pay for someone that could read them?

Nihil, Itero said, You can’t be serious? We’ve hidden your past like some hideous secret, and now you want to flaunt it around to the chroniclers? If they know, everyone important will know within a couple of moons. Then what would happen?

We don’t have to tell them everything.

What are you going to tell them then? That you just happen to be able to read an ancient forgotten language? Itero’s hands trembled as he stuffed his pipe again and put it against his lips.

I could tell them I’m a Seeker, The Devourer said after a moment of silence.

What the fuck’s a Seeker?

It’s an order of scholars older than this world. They reside in the mountain to the northwest. I was there many years ago.

When were you planning on telling me this?

I’m sorry. It’s just that I’ve seen so much during my lifetime, lifetimes, and I don’t know where to begin. And those figures I wanted to forget about.

You do think the chroniclers knows about these, Seekers?

Yes. I overheard the old Master Chronicler speaking about them many years ago when I was an apprentice. They’ve agents in every corner of the world corresponding with them.

We’ll try selling him back the books first. If that doesn’t work, we’ll sell him the idea of an interpreter instead.

Which books do you suggest we sell? Itero said after a moment of silence.

Whichever he wants, but I guess we should sell him those that I’ve read the most. Neokykeon, Aghori, Nibbana to begin with. Annihilation too probably, can’t make any sense of it as well as A Chronicle of Nothing, and A Recipe for Dreams which seems to be some obscure cookbook. Then we have those children’s tales by those scribes, what were their names now again, ah, Rothfuss, Tolkien, Erikson, and Martin. You remember? And yes, I hate the idea of parting with it, but I’ve read it so many times I can’t justify keeping it, The Blood Meridian it’s titled. It will have to go.

Itero rose from the rocking chair and went over to the bookshelf and tapped at the spine of a book with his pipe and said, This one?

Yes. That one, The Devourer said as a puzzled look fell over his face. The Blood Meridian, He said as also he got up from the rocking chair and went over to Itero by the bookshelf. This one, and this one, and this one, He said as he pulled out the books they would have to part with. This fucking hurts, old friend.

Yes. It does. Fifty years of searching, collecting. Fifty years of my life gone for giving me ten more. He stuffed his pipe and went over to the stove where he took a stick and fished out an ember and dropped it into the bowl. Fifty fucking years, He said and sat down at the table. Fifty. And where did we get? I always thought that deciphering those books would bestow us with some arcane knowledge that would change the world. But without a context they mean nothing, just words describing things washed away with the tide of time long ago.

At least you managed to change me, The Devourer said as he put down the pile of books on the table and sat down opposite Itero. I’ve been a good boy for a long time now. Haven’t I?

Itero chuckled, and puffs of smoke came out his nose. Yes, He said. At least I changed you.