The Chronicle of a Thousand Books

Being the Chronicle of a Thousand Books, kept faithfully and diligently by thy humble servant, in this most excellent repository of worthy works, the marvellous and justly famous Library of Mare Caelorum. "He who measures his wealth in books shall never be robbed of it, not by fire nor knaves, if only he should preserve them in his memory."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Lord of Mare Caelorum Commands His Chronicler

The day grew late, and the shadows grew long, when my Lord of Mare Caelorum did visit his Library, and found his Chronicler at his seat at the head of a long table, covered in volumes bound in leather, or painted in gilt, or ornamented with precious metals or rare stones. He greeted me with civility, and did ask for the parchment - which I gave him - on which I had written much in the hours since dawn. My day's labor had marshalled many squared columns of prose, escorted by curious phalanxes of notes, all in my peculiar, but clear, hand.

"A fair beginning," said he, "You have imbibed much in your short time on the Isle - not least of which the unfailing courtesy of the Islanders. And you have adopted our manner of speaking most closely, I do note." I nodded and replied, "I embrace the ways of Mare Caelorum in all things, my lord, she who took me in as a wanderer of no grace and less name."

He returned the parchment, then took up the volume before me. "Beowulf ... Now there was a truthful fellow. He boasted obscenely, but made good them all. A rare retainer, he." Rapping the book with his knuckle, "And I enjoin you to follow his example, Chronicler."

"In what manner, my lord? Command me."

"Speak as he did, always, with truth bereft of ornament. You speak as an Islander, and wear our ways well. But this Chronicle may suffer for it, and that I will not abide." His face was solemn as he spoke, and I remained silent.

"Do not bend words or shade meanings, nor look upon the pages of the Books with eyes other than your own. The vessel that brought you to our shores was fashioned in a land far away, as were you yourself, Chronicler. As this task falls to you - and you alone - you will fulfill it honestly and in perfect truth. Write as you would for those you left behind, and you will serve me well. I forbid you to do otherwise, lest respect for our ways become unwitting mockery that poisons the Chronicle even as it is being born."

"It shall be as you say, my lord," I said, and meant it.

"That is well. As you make your way through these shelves, my man, you will find many volumes that will defy any accounting, unless you use the tools you brought with you, in your head, ere your boots were soaked by our surf when you left your frail craft. Do not be surprised if you recognize most of these tales. They made the same journey as you."

I nodded again. I knew this was true. And I suspected it was true of many of the Islanders also. But I said nothing of this. I asked, "I will not fail in obedience, my lord. But will not the Chronicle then bewilder those who chance to read it?"

He shook his head. "I misdoubt any will read it other than myself, Chronicler. And your ways are no mystery to me. Besides, the Islanders care little for the Library, being engaged in pursuits that please them better."

I hazarded a final question. "Is that then to what I owe my office, my lord? No one else wanted the job?"

He laughed and nodded. "Yes! That, and the fact you are utterly no use anywhere else on the Island! Now go to! Beowulf awaits."


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