Mock Scene #2 – Revision

The book, bound in cracked leather, was only a little larger than Lilian’s open hands; the pages smelled of vanilla and grass, and on the cover there was the faded picture of a willow tree with a sword in its roots. Such a simple thing. Yet, when Lilian read it, she did so with the full knowledge that if anyone saw her, it would be the end of her life as she knew it.

The motor carriage rocked and rattled constantly, but luckily Lilian had long ago grown accustomed to reading under these conditions. The interior of the black carriage was lit by the hum of electric torches, which cast their orange glow across the worn leather seats and the family of three that sat in them. Her younger brother, Jasper, sat snoring in the passenger seat.

“Have you decided on a title, yet?” her dad asked from the driver’s seat. He was the odd one of the trio, with dark scruffy hair and a salt-and-pepper beard. Both her and Jasper had the same honey-blonde hair and almond colored eyes.

“I haven’t even started reading, yet. I was waiting until the village lights were out of sight,” she said. Behind her the town of Corse had become little more than dancing fireflies in the night. The cobblestone street had already faded away to dirt roads, and as she glanced back one last time, it was to see the last glimpses of the town disappearing through a thicket of trees.

“Good girl,” her dad said with a tired little smile. He never took his eyes off the road. From where she was sitting, Lilian could see the bags beneath his hazel eyes, even behind the wire-rimmed spectacles. He’d barely slept since they went looking for the book. She could still see the stain of blood on the sleeve of his white button-up.

‘The dangers of being a Librarian,’

“It’s strange, a historia with no title,” her dad said, interrupting her thoughts. Once more, Lilian glanced down at the small little book in her lap. Yes, it was strange. A hundred books had passed through her hands, and each one had had a title. If not on the cover, then printed inside. But not this one. There was only the picture of a willow tree, with a sword in its roots.

“It probably faded away,” she said, trying to offer her best explanation.

“Probably,” agreed her father. He glanced at her in the little mirror, and for a moment she saw the strangest look in his eyes. But then he was staring at the road, and she dismissed it as simply being tired. “I think we’re safe. You should start reading now, we’ll be there by tomorrow morning. Mr. Caraway is already expecting us,”

Mr. Caraway was a nice enough man, as far as nobility went. He called her dad “Mr. Allister”, unlike the other nobles. Most of them simply called her father “Librarian”, as if he were nothing more than a position and not a real person. At least Mr. Caraway treated her father like a human being.

‘I’ll still never understand how he just keeps all his books on shelves,’ she thought, bitterly. The idea of all these books being owned by men and women who would never truly appreciate the wonderful stories within always irritated her. She knew she had only a few short hours before the book in her hands would be on a similar shelf, out of her grasp forever. Librarians only deliver books, they don’t own them. Lilian, as the child of a Librarian, had neither privilege. These precious moments on the road, so few and far between, were her only opportunities to do what she loved most. Read.

‘So small, for something so dangerous,’ she thought, opening the book to the front page. It crackled under her touch. The pages were coarse, but not stiff, though the edges had begun to chip away. With one last glance at her father, she stared back down at the page, found the first few words, and began to read…

In the forest, there was a creek…

…and then everything changed. It happened in the blink of an eye. One moment, she was sitting in the motor carriage, reading pages from the book. Then it was as if she had awoken from a strange dream. Her mind was grasping for details, trying to align the dream into something that made sense, but it was all torn away by the sound of someone saying her name.

“Lilian,” her father said. “Lilian, are you alright?”

Lilian stood there in numb confusion. ‘Why am I standing?’ She blinked, taking in her surroundings. Everything had changed. She looked around at the polished decor, the finely carved furniture, the glittering chandelier. She knew this room. It was the foyer to the home of Mr. Caraway. Assuredly, there was Mr. Caraway himself, in his navy blue dinner coat, grey mustache, and his cane with the stone headpiece shaped like a bear.

“I’m sorry, w-wh-what was that?,” she stammered.

“I asked if you were alright. It looked like we lost you there for a moment. Daydreaming again, dear?” her father asked. He had a worried look on his face, matched by both her brother and, surprisingly, by Mr. Caraway himself. Her father turned to look at the noble with an apologetic smile. “I apologize for the concern, Mr. Caraway, we’ve had a long trip. You know how long travel gets to you,”

Her father was wearing a light brown, nearly beige, jacket; underneath it was the same shirt he’d been wearing in the motor carriage just moments before. Or what had felt like moments before. She fought against the climbing feeling of confusion and panic, hoping for all hope that her father finished as soon as possible.

“Oh, no worries, no worries. I completely understand. I’ll let you take your leave. I’ll have the money for retrieving the book sent to your place of residence, as usual,” Mr. Caraway said, raising the little leather-bound novel in his hand. Lilian stared at the familiar cover. A willow tree with a sword in its roots. Her brother who was standing to her right caught her eye and gave her a look that clearly said, ‘What’s wrong?’, while their dad finished wrapping up pleasantries. She shrugged and mouthed the word ‘later’, before returning her attention to their father.

“Thank you, sir. I’m glad I could be of service,” her dad said. He turned around and ushered them out the front door. Lilian blinked as the sun hit her eyes, the crisp autumn air carrying the smells of leaves and warm hearths. Astonmire sprawled before her, a jumble of red-tiled roofs and brick chimneys in a flatland dotted with clusters of trees and surrounded by small hills. The manor of Mr. Caraway was on one of the tallest of the hills, on the far east side of the city.

“What was that about?,” Jasper asked, the moment they were out in the open air. Her father grabbed her by the elbow before she could answer and led her to the motor car waiting for them in the driveway. He walked around to the other side of the vehicle and turned to face her.

“Lilian, you need to be more careful. What happened? I had to ask you three times to hand over that book. We’re lucky Mr. Caraway is a forgetful kind of man, or he might have been suspicious,” he said, lifting up her chin and staring into her eyes. He was doing that thing again, where he looked at her as if she were a sick child and he were a doctor.

‘Maybe I am. You’re losing time now, Lilian,’ she thought, but when she spoke it was to say, “Dad, really, I’m fine. I’m sorry. I’m just really tired, is all,”

She gave her best impression of a carefree smile. He kept his eyes on her. For a moment she was worried he might start one of his lectures, to remind her what would happen if people found out she could read. But then he nodded and opened the back door to the carriage. She climbed in, sighing with relief.

‘Am I really alright? That historia…,’ she thought, picturing the book Mr. Caraway had been holding. Lilian couldn’t be certain, but she was sure it had something to do with that book. She’d been known to lose track of time when engrossed in a book, but this was something entirely different.

Jasper climbed into the passenger side, turning around in his seat. Outside, her father was cranking the engine back to life.

“So, how was the book?,” Jasper asked. “You were practically in another world the whole time you read it,”

She opened her mouth to answer. She was going to tell him about the sudden loss of time. The two siblings told each other everything, and there had never been a secret between them. Unless it was a secret they were both sharing. But just as she was about to speak, the car door opened and her dad climbed in. He took off his gloves and rubbed his hands together, looking between the two of them.

“Alright, who’s hungry? You can tell us all about the book over something hot to eat,” he said. Jasper was still looking at her, and now so was her dad.

“It wasn’t that bad of a book, was it?” her dad asked in the middle of the silence.

“Strangely enough…I-I don’t remember,” she said. And the strange thing was…she was telling the truth.

“You,” her brother said, “You don’t remember,” as if that were the most ridiculous statement he’d ever heard.

“Yeah…,” she said, before adding, “I must have been really tired,”

Her brother and dad exchanged looks, but no one said a word. Jasper turned around in his seat, but not before giving her a look that clearly stated he wasn’t satisfied with her answer. He probably thought she was just waiting until she could talk without dad around. No one voiced their concerns, and without any more questions, the motor carriage began rattling down the drive. Lilian gave a glance behind her at the manor of Mr. Caraway. Inside he was probably tucking that book away on a shelf somewhere, under lock and key. Just part of a collection.

No one needed to tell her how strange her statement was. They were all thinking the same thing. Because in her sixteen years of living, Lilian had remembered every word she had ever read. Every word, until today.

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Lilian – Mock Scene #2

The book, bound in cracked leather, was only a little larger than Lilian’s open hands; the pages smelled of vanilla and grass, and on the cover there was the faded picture of a willow tree with a sword in its roots. Such a simple thing. Yet, when Lilian read it, it was with the full knowledge that if anyone saw her, it would be the end of her life as she knew it.

However, she also knew that come tomorrow, she may never get the chance to read this book again. It would be out of her hands, stuck on the shelf of some noble who would never truly appreciate the wonderful story within. A hundred books had passed through her hands and each one had been the same way: delivered by her father to someone with enough money to buy the right to read. How anyone could read a novel and not care about the story was something she would never understand.

Her dad had decided to take the long way back to Corseil, just so she’d have more time to read the book before they were forced to finish the delivery. He was a Royal Librarian. And a Librarian only finds books, they don’t own them. Lilian, as the child of a Librarian, had neither privilege. So these precious moments on the road, so few and far between, were her only opportunities to do what she loved most. Read.

The motor carriage rocked, clattered, rumbled, and rattled constantly, but luckily Lilian had long ago grown used to reading under these conditions. The interior of the black carriage was lit by the hum of electric torches, which cast their orange glow across the worn leather seats and the family of three that sat in them. She looked at her younger brother, Jasper, who was snoring in the passenger seat next to their dad.

Lilian and Jasper shared the same honey-blonde hair, and though he was almost two years younger than her, people often mistook him for being the oldest. He was nearly as tall as their dad, who was the odd one amongst the trio. He had scruffy brown hair and a short beard that was already developing flecks of grey.

Lilian watched as her dad stared endlessly at the illuminated road in front of them, noticing the bags under his hazel eyes, despite them being hidden behind wire-rimmed spectacles. He’d barely slept since they went looking for this book, and she could still see the stain of blood on the sleeve of his white button-up.

“The dangers of being a Librarian,” he’d said, lightheartedly, as she’d stitched up the wound just a few, short hours ago. She’d scolded him for going out for the historia on his own. It was his own rule, and yet he’d broken it. Why even bother creating the rules if he was going to just run off on his own and forget about them? She was still upset over that.

Outside, they were finally leaving the cobblestone streets of the town called Astonmire, where they’d found the book she now had in her lap. Astonmire had been just like most towns they visited for her dad’s work. Secluded, small. But the trees were different here. Tall. They rose up like narrow pillars with hardly a branch, before forming a thick canopy over their heads just as the vehicle wound its way onto a dirt path. With the lights of the small town finally behind them, she was in the clear.

Lilian stared down at the book in her lap. So small for something so dangerous. She only had a few hours left on the trip, though, so she opened the cover and began to read. The pages were coarse, but not too stiff, though the edges had begun to chip away. Her eyes moved over the box-shaped symbols. She sounded it out in her mind and read…

In the forest, there was a creek…

…and then blinked in confusion as she heard her name.

“Lilian,” her father said. “Lilian, are you okay?”

She was standing. Why was she standing?

She looked around, noticing that her dad, her brother, and a man she didn’t know were watching her with worried expressions. “I’m sorry, w-wh-what was that?,” she asked, shaking her head. She took in her surroundings, noting the polished decor, the glittering chandelier, and the man standing next to her father, dressed in a finely tailored dinner jacket and holding a cane with a stone carved headpiece shaped like a bear. Hadn’t she just been in the car reading?

She was dressed in the same clothes; floral skirt, white blouse, boots, and a loose shawl draped around her shoulders. Her mess of honey-blonde hair was still stuffed in the knitted cap she always wore, which didn’t really come as a surprise. But somehow, everything else had changed. She was standing in the foyer of what was clearly the home of a noble. How had she…

“I asked if you were okay. You looked like you left us there for a moment. Daydreaming, dear?” her father asked, before turning to look at the man in the dinner jacket. “I apologize for the concern, Mr. Caraway, we’ve had a long trip. You know how extended travel gets to you,”

“Oh, no worries, no worries. I completely understand. I’ll let you take your leave. I’ll have the money for retrieving the book sent to your place of residence, as usual,” the man named Mr. Caraway said, raising the little, leather-bound novel in his hand. Lilian stared at the familiar cover. A willow tree with a sword in its roots. A sharp pain of confusion rose up in her mind once more. How had she ended up here? Her brother who was standing to her right caught her eye and gave her a look that clearly said, ‘What’s wrong?’, while their dad finished wrapping up pleasantries. She shrugged and mouthed the word ‘later’, before returning her attention to her father.

“Thank you, sir. I’m glad I could be of service,” her dad said. He turned around and ushered them out the front door. Lilian blinked as the sun hit her eyes, the crisp autumn air carrying the smells of leaves and warm hearths. In front of her the city of Corseil sprawled before her, a jumble of red-tiled roofs and brick chimneys on the foothills leading down to the distant coast. The manor they were at was on one of the tallest hills, and from here she could see down to the streets below and the sea beyond.

“What was that about?,” Jasper asked, the moment they were out in the open air. But her father grabbed her by the elbow before she could answer and led her to the motor car waiting for them in the driveway. He walked around to the other side of the vehicle and turned to face her.

“Lilian, you need to be more careful. What happened? I had to ask you three times to hand over that book. We’re lucky Mr. Caraway is a forgetful kind of man, or he might have been suspicious,” he said, lifting up her chin and staring into her eyes. He was doing that thing again, where he looked at her as if she were a sick child and he were a doctor.

“Dad, really, I’m fine. I’m sorry. I’m just really tired, is all,” she said, giving her best impression of a carefree smile. He kept his eyes on her. For a moment she was worried he might start one of his lectures, to remind her what would happen if people found out she could read. But then he nodded and opened the back door to the carriage. She climbed in, sighing with relief.

But was she really alright? She thought back to the cover of that book, the one Mr. Caraway had been holding. The one with the picture of a willow tree and a sword. Something was wrong. Very wrong.

Jasper climbed into the passenger side, turning around in his seat. Outside, her father was cranking the engine back to life.

“So, how was the book?,” Jasper asked. “You were practically in another world the whole time you read it,”

She opened her mouth to answer. She was going to tell him about the sudden loss of time. The two siblings told each other everything, and there had never been a secret between them. Unless it was a secret they were both sharing. But just as she was about to speak, the car door opened and her dad climbed in. He took off his gloves and rubbed his hands together, looking between the two of them.

“Alright, who’s hungry? You can tell us all about the book over something hot to eat,” he said. Jasper was still looking at her, and now so was her dad.

“Strangely enough…I-I don’t remember,” she said. And the the strange thing was…she was telling the truth.

“You,” her brother said, “You don’t remember,” as if that were the most ridiculous statement he’d ever heard.

“Yeah…,” she said, before adding, “I must have been really tired,”

Her brother and dad exchanged looks, but no one said a word. Jasper turned around in his seat, but not before giving her a look that clearly stated he wasn’t satisfied with her answer. He probably thought she was just waiting until she could talk without dad around. No one voiced their concerns, and without any more questions, the motor carriage began rattling down the drive. Lilian gave a glance behind her at the manor of Mr. Caraway. Inside he was probably tucking that book away on a shelf somewhere, under lock and key. Just part of a collection.

No one needed to tell her how strange her statement was. They were all thinking the same thing. Because in her sixteen years of living, Lilian had remembered every word she had ever read. Every word, until today.

Lilian – Mock Scene #1

The festival was like bright paint on the island, and for one afternoon they had been allowed to marvel in it. Lilian looked out the window of their motor carriage at the lamplit streets, cobblestone roads still covered in rainbow colored dust and thousands of little white strips of blank paper. Paper prayers that the people hoped would be carried to truth in the historias. But Lilian knew that come morning all those strips of paper would have just blown away with the wind. That there were no ‘truths’ in the historias, only wonderful stories. But this is something only someone who could read would know. And she wasn’t supposed to be able to read.

Overhead, a burst of colour lit up the night sky.

“See, you still got to see your fireworks,” her dad said, as he climbed into the front seat of the motor carriage, turning to look back at her. He shook her knee with a comforting smile, turned around, and the vehicle rattled on forward. In the passenger seat, her brother turned around to face her, holding something in his hands with a smile on his face.

“Dad found this one while we were at the festival. I read the first few pages. I think you’ll like it,” he said, green eyes beaming under his red hair. Lilian’s eyes widened as she took in the plain leather cover and binding. She grabbed it quickly, opening the first page and seeing the familiar script of a true historia, then glancing up at her father in the front seat.

“You went out there alone? Are you okay? You should have told me, I would have gone with you. Jasper, you should have gone with him,” she said, turning on her brother.

“Hey, I didn’t know that’s what he was doing, either”

“Really, Lily, I’m fine. Your father isn’t completely useless, you know?,” her dad defended with a shake of his head. He was smiling, but she wasn’t fooled. He looked disheveled, tired. He hadn’t combed his dark hair and he clearly hadn’t shaved today, with a mottled shadow of light grey and brown in the stage just before a full beard. She stared down at the book in her hands, wondering over the cover. It was faded, but you could make out the light image of a tree, like a willow, with a knotwork of roots that kept hold of a sword, like fingers wrapped around something precious.

“You’ll have to read quick, though. We’ll be in Corseil by tomorrow morning,” he said. Jasper turned round in his seat, and with one last glance to the fireworks going off over the town, Lilian opened up the book and began to read. She read knowing that come morning, she may never get to read it again. And like a very good dream, it’ll be gone by tomorrow.