23: The Master Chronicler

I come with scrolls for the Master Chronicler, Itero said and held out the pile of books for him to see. The sentinel looked him up and down in contempt and spat on the ground in front of him. He wore the skins of the Blood Guard, and in his hand, he held a sword made from obsidian shards and wood.

Is he expecting you? The sentinel asked as he leaned against his weapon.

No, Itero answered. But he’ll like what I got for him.

Wait a moment, The sentinel said and knocked on the door and called out, There’s a man here, saying he has some scrolls for the Chronicler. Ask if I should send him up? Someone scuffled away from the other side of the door. A couple of moments later, the person was back and said, The Master Chronicler wants to see this man with the scrolls. The sentinel took a step to the side and opened the door for him to enter into the great hall at the bottom of the stone tower. A spiral staircase in the middle of the room stretched toward the ceiling where an opening let in the evening sun. Shelves for scrolls covered the walls from the floor to the top of the tower. The chroniclers clambered around on the thin ledges in search of whatever scrolls they needed.

There was a single room with a thick oak door at the top of the staircase. Itero knocked and a moment later, a young boy opened and looked at him through questioning eyes and asked, What can I help you with, mister?

I’m here with some scrolls for the Master Chronicler.

Let him in! A voice said from behind the boy.

The Master Chronicler’s immense body overflowed the bed that filled most of the room. It bore more resemblance with a giant maggot than that of a man. He was naked, but the folds of fat hid his private parts, and his flesh glistened with sweat, and a pungent stench lingered in the air. The cracked skin of his swollen legs and feet were gray and thick like the hide of some large hairless animal. The pores dilated like some insects burrows.

Yes, The fat man said with a voice much too high pitched for a man his size. He focused Itero in his small beadlike eyes.

I’ve got scrolls for you, Itero said.

Scrolls for me? The fat man said with inflection in his voice. What scrolls?

These, Itero said and held one with the title Neokykeon before him.

I remember those weird scrolls of mine. Have you given up deciphering them? You can hand them all to my apprentice over there, The fat man said and pointed with his plump finger at the boy now sorting through a pile of scrolls.

We’ve to discuss the payment, Itero said.

Payment? The fat man repeated as he stretched out his arm and took a handful of dried figs from a bowl standing on the podium.

Yes. For the scrolls. How much are we talking?

I’m not going to pay for my own scrolls, The fat man said and laughed a laugh that made his entire being jiggle. I’ve them all transcribed and archived already. Those are no more than curiosities.

What would you pay for someone that could read them?

I would give the entire kingdom if I had to, The fat man said and continued, I won’t buy back those scrolls. Now leave.

I know someone that could read them for you.

Don’t be ridiculous.

It’s the truth.

It’s a dead language, The fat man said. No one can read it. It’s impossible.

A Seeker could, Itero said.

What do you know about the Seekers?

It’s not about what I know about them. It’s about the fact that I know them, Itero said. How much is it worth to you?

Fifteen of the most beautiful gemstones.

Twenty-two, Itero said.

Very well. Whatever you want! The fat man growled as his cheeks vibrated. Whatever it takes. When can I meet with him?

Tomorrow, Itero said.

You come here tomorrow then, The fat man said and exclaimed, Boy! When you’re done with those scrolls, I want my needs tended to.