Shadows and Silver
IC date: Fall 69, 1007
OOC date: December 12, 2012
PCs: Spindrift
NPCs: Tale Chaser

The sixty-ninth of fall, 1007… one week after the end of the Winter Nightmare…

Far away from that frozen realm across the boundaries between worlds, far away from Horseshoe Harbor, far away from the caress of the wind and the warmth of the sun and the voices of sailors and seabirds, under the tossing waves of the ocean, there was a world of darkness and chill. The gleaming lights of a city spread across the murky ocean floor like the stars far above, lanterns and backlit windows staking a claim for civilization amidst the perpetual gloom. The starlight outlined arcades, and spires, and construction both ancient and new; it shone upon polished stone artfully etched into curls and spirals reminiscent of the waves on the surface, and elegant structures hewn from tough stalks of cultivated seaweed as sturdy and lasting as any wood.

Amidst it all rose the hulk of a school; at one end of this school sat the ornamented arcades of a library wing; and along the walls of this wing, tall and narrow windows of thick glass, reinforced with decorative but secure lattices of of steel, afforded glimpses of the treasaures within- almost all swathed in darkness as thick as that in the oceans outside. Behind one such window, however, shone the comfortable glow of a lantern just bright enough for quiet study, and beside this light sat a young seapony just a few years into adolescence.

Through thick glasses he pored over a tome yellowed with age but in pristine condition. The shadows around him drank in most sounds, and the constant, low thrum of the ocean outside muffled them further, such that as he reached up to turn a page, the whispering noise pierced the warm, dry air of the library and carried across its breadth like an interruption. A list of names greeted him on the other side of the turned page; he gave them a brief glance-over before impatiently- if carefully- snapping the book shut. Self-important letters adorned the revealed cover: On the Lineage of the Dukes of Pelagia in the Age of Undertows.

"Dull as it is useless," he muttered to himself, pushing the book back across his broad desk, towards a growing pile of similarly rejected tomes. "No wonder I'mma first one to open it in nineteen years." Easing back from his desk, which sat at the center of the library along one window-lined wall, he gazed at the books gathered before him- to one side of the lantern, a neat stack of potentially useful finds, and to the other, a distressingly growing heap of disappointments. From their spines and covers, words such as Patronage and History and Provenance leapt out on more than one occasion, but he was beginning to suspect that even the dwindling stock of unopened books would lack the clues he sought. Nevertheless, the whereabouts of the Crest of the Court of Dead Tides weren't going to discover themselves, and with a sigh of resignation, the young scholar sat up and reached across the desk for the next book.

Before his hooves got there, he froze, as the creaking sound of an opening door interrupted him and a column of light cut into the black veil of the darkened library. At one end of the library's vaulted length, the broad double doors that sealed it off from much of the rest of the school were swinging open, revealing at their center a tall and slender figure silhouetted by the light spilling in from behind. Though the glow of the hallway was not bright, it was practically blinding compared to the unlit library, and it followed the figure inside; as it did, towering shelves and neatly arranged desks were thrown into sudden illumination. The murk gave way to a veritable rainbow of colors as the light fell upon fixtures of carved coral and amber, on wood and bronze polished to a careworn luster, on carpets of deep purple and indigo. The stacks bristled with countless hues: the spines of books, the ornamented cases of rolled parchments and scrolls, the gleaming plates of classical texts inscribed on sheets of shell and mother of pearl.

Turning quickly, the young scholar half-rose from his seated position beside the low desk, raising his voice at the intrusion of the figure. "P-pardon me!" His tone was hurried and anxious; the interruption was hardly standard these days. All at the school knew that the library had been sealed a month ago at the Curator's insistence, and few indeed were allowed access. "The Archive's very clearly closed! You have to leave immediately. If you're lost, the guards down the hall'll show…" His voice fell silent as he pulled himself fully upright. The figure had entered and was letting the doors swing shut behind it; only when the doors had shut and the darkness closed back in could the light of the solitary lantern begin to illuminate the mysterious figure's features. Behind his thick spectacles, the young scholar's eyes narrowed for a moment, then opened wide as recognition struck him.

"Spindrift!" he gasped. "You're back!"

Hastening forward, stumbling on four hooves he had never really learned to manage as well as his finned tail, the adolescent approached the taller, slender adult with a burgeoning smile. "You haven't written at all! Does this mean you found her?!" he asked as he drew close. "I didn't know you were coming! You should've let us know, I'd of- would have had the place ready for you!"

"It's fine, Tale Chaser," said the older seapony. Her leaden tone was in distinct contrast with the young male's surprise and delight. As she advanced further into the library, and nearer to the solitary lantern, her features seemed to blend into the surrounding darkness no matter how much light fell upon them. "It is not your job to welcome me." She paused, briefly. "Where is Sinking Stone?"

Tale Chaser fell into line beside his older colleague. "The Curator's gone, been out for days. Not sure where, didn't say. I bet he'd of stuck around if he'd known you were coming." Sitting up, he turned to look back over his shoulder at the door. "Where's Brume? Is he back, too? He wouldn't let you come back here without him!"

Spindrift froze in her steps for a moment, gazing into the farther recesses of the library. Though the light did not touch them, she stared at the spot where she knew there was another set of doors, leading into the deeper recesses of the school, ones far more secure than this one wing. At length, she turned to look back at Tale Chaser. "He perished during our trip to the surface."

It was Tale Chaser's turn to freeze, color draining from his face. "Wh… what? He… what happened?" Dropping to his haunches, he reached up and covered his open mouth with a forehoof.

Spindrift turned away and once more began approaching the distant doorway. "The surface world is a cruel place," she said, "And its people are well-suited to it." She offered no further explanation.

It was not until Spindrift had reached the lantern-lit desk and drifted past that Tale Chaser found the presence of mind to push to his hooves and follow her. "But did… did you bring 'im back?" he asked. "Back home?"

"What little I could," answered Spindrift, in brusque tones. "His phylactery has been laid to rest in the Halls. Go and visit it if you wish."

Tale Chaser slowed his steps and stopped, arrested by his colleague's cold demeanor, confused as he was heartbroken. "Spindrift…?" he asked, blinking back tears.

Spindrift glanced over her shoulder. "Tell me which bays hold the Spire and the Heart," she said.

"What…?" asked Tale Chaser, as though he did not understand the question.

"The Spire and the Heart," repeated Spindrift, over her shoulder. "Tell me what bays they are in."

"The… the Spire!" The shock in Tale Chaser's voice was renewed, and he drew back a few steps. "What're you… you know you can't have them, we're not supposed to do anything with those evil things! Why… why would- I can't tell you! The Curator, he'd…"

Stopping, Spindrift turned halfway, all the better to look at Tale Chaser directly for the first time since entering. Her gaze was direct and piercing, sea-green eyes gleaming in the surrounding murk of the unlit library. For a brief moment that gaze softened, but the moment passed, and she addressed the younger seapony in a tone as direct as her stare. "You can tell me," she said, "And you will. I am perfectly capable of finding them on my own- but this spares me the trouble of upending the place to do so. Spare yourself the trouble of picking it back up afterwards."

Tale Chaser's fear was apparent in his widened eyes, the quiver in his tail. "The- the guards will-" he stammered, breathless.

"The guards are indisposed."

Tale Chaser's stomach lurched, and he glanced back towards the entrance. "D-dead?"

"Asleep," clarified Spindrift. "And they will be for hours. Nobody else knows I am here and I will not permit you to raise an alarm. Tell me where to find them." She stood still, tense and patient, sea-green gaze holding Tale Chaser's bespectacled own in an unyielding grip.

The adolescent stared at her for several moments longer, then blinked rapidly, looking away. He reached up to cover his face with a forehoof. "B-bay thirteen," he breathed, barely above a whisper. "Combination's seven-two-three-nine. Keys're hanging by the door."

Spindrift turned away immediately, saying nothing as she slipped further into the shadows of the library. There was a brief glimmer of silver light as the distant door cracked open and she slipped past into the chamber beyond, letting the door close behind her. Tale Chaser watched, stationary, shoulders beginning to shake gently and a forehoof pushing up his glasses to wipe away the tears soon spilling down his cheeks. He stayed there for several minutes, alone, listening through the hum of the ocean outside, waiting, grieving, fearing, until the silver doors swung open once more. The faint silhouette of Spindrift slipped back into the room and approached; the carpets below muffled her hoofsteps as she strode through the library, towards the center where Tale Chaser stood. Across her back was strapped a long, thin bundle, wrapped in black velvet and tightly bound; around her neck hung a pouch of heavy canvas.

Tale Chaser could only watch, not knowing what to say, expecting more threats, hoping for explanations, apologies, of any sort of the warmth his colleague once showed him. None was forthcoming. Only as she drew near did the young scholar find the courage to speak. "What are you going to do with them?" he whispered, voice carrying through the dread silence of the room.

Spindrift did not answer, merely passing the younger pony as she stalked towards the exit. In the weak light of the lantern, Tale Chaser could see her expression was set, with a tight jaw and a focused gaze. She was obviously ignoring him, and working hard to do so.

For a brief moment, this was only more discouraging, until at last her recalcitrance, her coldness awoke in Tale Chaser a desperate frustration. He repeated himself, louder this time. "What are you going to do with them?" Again, silence was his answer. Spindrift neared the doors to the exit and reached out with a forehoof to open them. Tale Chaser tried one more time, almost pleading in his insistence. "What are you going to do with them?!"

Spindrift paused, as she pushed the doors open, once more allowing warm light to spill into the library and bring life to its night-shrouded treasures. She answered, calling back over her shoulder. "I'm going to make sure this never has to happen to anybody else, ever again." She left, and the doors began to swing shut behind her. Before they closed, a few more words drifted back into the library alongside the rapidly waning illumination. "Goodbye, Tale Chaser. Keep studying."

All was darkness and silence once more.

It took several moments for Tale Chaser's eyes to adjust to the dim illumination of his study lamp. He stared at the faint suggestion of the closed door in the gloom, then turned away, returning to his desk. Sinking down beside it, he reached out and drew On the Lineage of the Dukes of Pelagia in the Age of Undertows close, and as tears filled his eyes once more, he clutched the neglected tome against his chest as though it could ward off the shadows that now seemed dark and deep enough that they might go on forever.