Chapter 17
The Fruits of Research

Sagia, Byrn; Anno Regis 1285

"When you set yourself wholly on a goal, the world around you fades away and nothings else matters. Sometimes, that sort of dedication is admirable, but not always."
--Excerpt from the assorted writings of Mark the Guardian

The Library of Antiquities was the one place the scholar could work in peace. The trustees offered him tenure two years ago, but he turned it down. He could not be bothered with teaching classes. He did not care about money, so losing a professor's stipend was no great loss. All that mattered was his research.
In the two years since his graduation, he had scarcely left the study room he claimed for himself. His only company was a stack of parchment, several rolls of imported rice paper, and some old texts that had faithfully served him over the years. His studies had been a hindrance to his research, but the risk of being expelled from the university and cut off from all its resources prompted him to set aside his work for a while. Now there was nothing to get in the way.
He examined the charcoal rubbing on one of the rolls of paper and compared it the characters drawn on a page of parchment. He caught several mistakes on the parchment, something that had derailed some of his earlier translations. What he wanted more than anything was to launch a new expedition to the source, the only time he regretted losing his chance for a professor's clout.
He knew there was nothing to be gained by obsessing over what had already been done. Pushing all other thoughts aside, he redoubled his efforts. Lately he had become fixated on a series of apocalyptic passages. Although he specialized in ancient history, he found those lines to be far more intriguing than the tedious accounting of the rise and fall of forgotten dynasties.
Years earlier, he had made a rough translation of a prophecy of the end of humanity in the world. Recently he had backtracked to find a foretelling of the purge of the nonhumans during the Great War, written hundreds of years before the Old Tyrant was even born. Now he was working on the very last lines, lines that seemed to detail nothing less than the end of the world itself.
He was painfully deliberate with the translation. Because he would tolerate no mistakes, he was willing to take as long it took. Without any other obligations, he had nothing to lose. Thanks to years of study, he was well-versed in Old Bannish, but he still double-checked his references just to be sure. Bit by bit, the passage began to take shape.
When the light of the black sun covers the land, the goddess stands betwixt the stars of evening and morn. Six devils will rule the day and a beast with the blood of dragons will be their champion. In the eleventh hour the sons of Man will return to the world. They will be led by one with the blood of heroes, the blood of the Eagle.
The scholar recalled the mention of an 'eagle' in one of the earlier passages. Shuffling through his notes, he quickly found what he was looking for. He remembered it from the original expedition to the desert ruins.
When the eagle flies, the wolf shall come to this land with a ravenous horde. The dragon shall be consumed, devoured by the hungry wolf. Far and wide, the wolf's horde will lay waste to the land and the children of this land will be put to the sword.
As he was reading the lines, a great noise rose in the distance. He rubbed his temple in annoyance. Sagia was a city of scholars. There was absolutely no reason for such a ruckus. It was disturbing his work and everyone else's studies. He made a point to write a letter of complaint later.
The noise only got louder. The scholar was no longer able to think straight. It was impossible for him to work anymore. At very least, he would find out what was behind the abominable racket.
Leaving the study room, he made his way out of the library. Along the way, he was surprised to see none of his fellow scholars. He had a hard time believing no one was doing any research, even with all the noise. When he took his first steps outside, he understood why.
He could not believe what he was seeing. The city was under attack by foreign soldiers. They were burning, killing and pillaging without any regard for the price humanity would pay for the loss of so many treasures of greater knowledge. He saw their standard, a green flag emblazoned with a grey wolf, and the words he had just read burned in his mind like hot coals.
When the eagle flies, the wolf shall come to this land with a ravenous horde.
He knew he was witnessing the words of prophecy fulfilled. There was no hope for Byrn, but he was not necessarily doomed to share the kingdom's fate. Perhaps he could survive, preserve his work for future generations. It was a small hope, but enough to spur him to action.
He hurried back into the library. The shelves and shelves of priceless books made his heart ache. He wanted to save every single one, but if nothing else but him and his work were spared, it would be enough. The noise bore down on him like a millstone as he hastily gathered his things. His arms loaded with as much as they could carry, he made his way to the underground storage chamber. Surely the raiders would not think to look there.
Although he did not need a reminder of his need for haste, a flaming arrow punched through a window on the northern side and caught a desk on fire. It would not be long before the raiders stormed the library or simply burned it to the ground. Between his own girth and all the stuff he was carrying, he could not move too fast, but the urgency of the situation made him far quicker than he would have ever expected.
He waddled down the stairs to the underground storage rooms. He found a place to set down everything he had brought with him and then went to work barricading the door. Practically anything he could move was pushed up against the door in the minuscule hope that it would deter anyone trying to break in. Thoroughly exhausted from the rare exertion and sweating profusely, he plopped down on the floor and reached for a glass of water, but there was none. Only then did he realize the critical error he had made.
The storerooms housed nothing but rare volumes kept outside the regular collection, a handful of forbidden books and the library's records. There was no food and no water. Thinking only about saving his work, he had brought nothing to sustain him. For some strange reason, he remembered a time long ago when he was teased for doing the exact same thing.
Knowing that death was certain if he went outside, he shrugged off his lapse of foresight. He had his work with him. He could pass the time with it. How long could the foreign soldiers possibly stay in the city?
He lit a taper and set up a new workspace for himself. He consoled himself with the knowledge he had gained from the ancient prophecies. The fall of Byrn was a small thing compared to the trials the world would face in the very near future.