Practical Exercise

“What about the bulletin board for students?  Or the one listing lectures?” I tried to sound hopeful.

“Student board? It moves every month or two.” She raised her hands. “The faculty have a rota; someone is charged with keeping it clean. Lectures are announced on Faculty boards. There’s no substitute for walking the halls; there’s no general schedule of speakers.”

“You’ve been very helpful,” I answered. “And, for helping me, a greeting gift.”  I slipped from my carryall a thin packet of my House’s fine papers, each tagged with its type, color, and a tiny family seal at the bottom.  She appeared to be truly grateful.  In the unlikely event someone liked the paper and started buying from us, using one of those tags, I would get my finder’s royalty.  Every penny helped. 

To visit the library for the first time, I dressed formally.  The top story of my townhouse had a vault; I replaced all its wards and seals, then stowed my gnothdiar for safekeeping. To satisfy the students-shall-go-armed rule, one of my reservoir pens doubled as a combat wand.  It wasn’t as powerful as a gnothdiar, but it was specialized for warfare.

The entrance was on the inland, eastern side.  When library construction began, when the Commonality was founded, facing the rising sun had some symbolism, something about the dawn of civilization.  There are actually a few people still alive who remember that event, four ice ages and the great warming later.

I stopped at an entrance desk and smiled at the librarian.  “Is there a map of the subhalls,” I asked, “which is where?”

“Mercy me, no!” he answered.  “This is not the New School, with their bizarre ideas about how to store books.   If you keep using the library, eventually you learn where things are.”

“So somehow I can find Ettore’s book on Paradoxes?” I asked. “OK, one paradox.”

“That’s easy, “ he announced.  “It’s right here.  He gestured.  I felt a weak but very complex spell.  A book appeared from behind his desk. “See!  Ettore’s A Mathemagical Paradox.  This is a copying master.  We keep it here.  Every so often someone appears and tries to destroy the shelf copy of the book.  They can’t find it. They firmly believe that if the book is destroyed they have disproven Ettore’s claims.”   I have heard of odd ideas about suppressing wrong ideas, but that one was absurd.

About George Phillies

science fiction author -- researcher in polymer dynamics -- collector of board wargames -- President, National Fantasy Fan Federation
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