The library beckoned. Just visible beyond the cracked chamber door, past the bedroom, a separate room of oak, lined floor to ceiling with thick book spines. Aiden could smell the savory leather and woody pages from his place in the hallway. He closed his eyes, half on his toes, and steeled himself. There was ill-advised and then there was insanity. Sneaking a look at the headmaster’s collection was a definitive step into madness.
The door yawned a little wider. Aiden whined deep in his throat, he’d been doing so well. His fingers had kept themselves to their own pockets and he attended lessons most days. He’d even made a friend who used words like unethical and imprudent. Things were going decently for Aiden at the strange school nestled into the side of New Orleans.
Another inch, and then another, the door slowly creaked itself open like dancer revealing skin. Aiden could see more now, the hint of a desk in the warm glow of good reading light. His feet decided for him, ball to heel, silent in his worn shoes. Aiden moved slowly into the larger room.
He ignored the larger bedchamber for the attached library. The pale light pooled in the doorway and Aiden could see it was more of a study than he’d supposed, complete with a desk and chairs. Except for a solidly carved cabinet, books completely took up the walls. Aiden’s fingers twitched at his sides.
The desk was set with its own enticements. A delicate silver orb with etched lines in geometric patterns, a small pyramid the color of dull charcoal. The air hummed on a frequency that drained the blood from his face. It fluttered in his chest, dumping electric adrenaline into his veins.
Aiden stepped fully into the library. As if set out for him, a single book was laid open on the desk’s surface. He moved around the desk, already reading as he turned. The words themselves were fascinating but set within the text were drawn concentric circles pierced with lines and arrows. Scrawled next to them were handwritten notes in a script he did not recognize.
“You should take it.” A voice said. Aiden jumped, stumbling backward into the shelves. He looked up, Lark smiled at him from the doorway. Aiden almost apologized to the other student, then remembered where he was. This wasn’t Lark’s library.
“Why?” Aiden asked, now half-poised as if to bolt. If he got out it would only be Lark’s word against him. There were worse odds. The headmaster didn’t seem to like Lark.
“Because you want to read it. I won’t tell.” Lark said.
“I don’t trust you,” Aiden said.
“No reason to.” Lark agreed and stepped into the library as if it was his own. “But what have I to gain by admitting I was in the forbidden library too? There is no harm in reading, learning. That is why we’re here. And you won’t ever get another chance at that.” Lark flicked his eyes down at the book.
“Is it dangerous?” Aiden asked. He straightened and took a step towards the desk. Lark had a point.
“What isn’t? Still, the reward is often in the risk. Don’t you think?” The older boy’s smile was conspiratorial.
Aiden nodded slowly, knowing he was being told what he wanted to hear. But the headmaster had been clear, Aiden wasn’t to attempt anything this advanced. This was his only chance. Aiden reached down and closed the text before taking it in his hands. The leather was strangely warm.
“The door was open.” Aiden reasoned.
“Yes, it was,” Lark said. He stepped aside so Aiden could leave the room with the book embraced to his chest. Outside the softly lit library, the bedroom and the hallway seemed overly dark. Aiden paused when Lark spoke again, stopping him. “Fair’s fair though, don’t tell anyone I was here either, hmm?”
“Yah. Fairs fair.” Aiden said. He didn’t stay to see if Lark remained in the library, but Aiden heard the door snap shut as he left.