Gawyne was cold, wet, and rocky, but Viden was frozen. Always. While the chill had been bearable earlier in the cycle for the young noble, the cold cycle had allowed him to experience new depths in temperatures his usually over-active mind had never bothered to personally imagine. The signs of snow weren’t foreign to the northerner, either, and as he left his dormitory residence bundled almost laughably beneath too many layers to be comfortable, he felt the weight of the impending blizzard in the moist air that threatened to steal his breath and freeze his lungs solid before he could even make it to the Prime Antheneum for work before class.
His grandfather would have told him to stay home, he would ruefully remind himself trials later, but that would have made him a poor scholar, especially under the judgmental pupil-less gaze of his Eídisi peers.
The walk was torturous, and Caius noticed there were fewer students about than he expected. The young Gawyne was content to judge them in their absence—here he was a mere human enduring the weather for the intellectual pursuits Viden held so highly. Their loss. His gain. The wind clawed and the snow clung to him so that by the time he wrestled the great library doors shut behind him, his pale, exposed skin felt raw and ravaged. He hardly bothered to kick snow from his boots so much as quickly slip out of all of his layers, making use of the coat room to leave behind both his fur-lined winter coat and his dress coat as well as his scarf and gloves. The shift in temperature was just enough to make him momentarily dizzy, cold-flushed face burning like fire, and he paused with a hiss in the hall to check his vest pockets for the list of books he’d be pulling from the shelves for repair today.
A curse hung on the tip of his sharp tongue until numb fingers found the folded parchment—thank the Seven
—and Caius made his way to the small desk on the first floor where the library clerk sat, her impatient gaze just as cold as the wind outside by the time the young Gawyne placed his bony elbows on the smooth stone,
Her tone never changed with him, to be honest, and while she wrote his name down to check him in for work, she didn’t look back up at him for a second time, "Again."
"Have you even been outside?"
He smirked without a hint of apology, his annoyance better delivered in his opinion only by the well-trained virtue of his noble upbringing. The blue-skinned locals hardly took the time to warm up to interlopers like himself. Even after almost an entire season in Viden, he’d hardly seemed to have really found his way through the frozen skin of his classmates, though perhaps it was more for lack of trying than inferiority on his part.
He barely bothered to wait until the clerk had set her quill down before he slipped away, noting that two of the books he was to gather and make ready for repair were disappointingly on the first floor and the last one was on the second to-trial. The rare treat was some third floor book needing attention, especially the ones on the Immortals or something obscure, but, then again, it was rarer still that Caius had much time to wander those aisles as freely as he’d prefer.
The wind roared against the windows as he passed by, the dim light that filtered through the clouds was made etherial by thick flurries of snow. The weather was worse already, and the young Gawyne frowned.
Aisle after aisle without student or staff met his purposeful walk through the stacks, blue eyes scanning the carefully penned numbers on shelves and spines until he came to the first section on his list. It was easy to spot the volume in need of care: a small, leather-bound book on the lifecycle of Videnese plant life with half the gilded spine peeling away to reveal the ribbon-bound signatures underneath. The book was clearly small because the frozen wasteland couldn’t possibly be hospitable to too many green growing things, Caius told himself as he slipped the book from its place, mentally marking his list. Two more books remained.
He paused to open the book and note where several of the signatures had begun to slip free of their stitching, where glue had petrified and cracked. The volume was a first edition. Perhaps a re-print would have to be requested, he mused.
Moving on, he found his second tome in need of repair: a thick, heavy book that titled itself something fancy for being a bestiary of Scalvoris. His notes said pages had been torn, but as he paused to thumb through it, it appeared as though an entire section had been physically removed. There wasn’t much repair for that, and Caius narrowed his eyes to study between the books of the same shelf—there
. Between two other books was the lost section, wrinkled and sad. He tucked it into the cover with a satisfied smirk and made his way to the stairs, already planning how he'd have to remove the cover and rebind the entire book in order to return the lost section. It would require a bit of sewing, and the size of the tome made the thought somewhat daunting.
His last book was in an area of the second floor stacks he’d never had to wander much before. He brushed past another human, a man no older than himself, a clerk he recognized, and they nodded at each other. The young man stopped him, too, with a hand and a furtive whisper,
"I’m to warn everyone that the weather isn't expected to be improving. You’re probably welcome to leave, though I see you’re working too."
Caius shrugged. He didn’t have anywhere else to go, "Like it’s going to get better until Ashan? I’m fine.”
”I hope so.”
The clerk rolled his eyes. No one wanted to take him seriously, it seemed, and so he walked back down the stairs to take care of himself instead.
The young Gawyne glanced warily back out of the windows, but there wasn’t much to see besides snow. How much worse could it get? The weather here was already far beyond even his northern upbringing. Returning to his search, he found the section where the last book was supposed to be, but his searching gaze was met with an empty gap. Someone had his assigned book, though he’d been assured none of his volumes had been checked out.
Some careless, exhausted scholar hopefully left it on a table somewhere.
The bestiary was annoyingly cumbersome, but Caius began to wander the study area between the stacks. There were only two students studying, both Eídisi of course. Just his luck. The noble didn’t bother being coy or suave about his needs, however, and as he made his way to the first student, a woman taking notes, he set his two books just heavily enough on the table to make a dull thud, palms leaning on the cover for a moment, enjoying for just the briefest of trills that he was looking down upon the blue-skinned student instead of the other way around. There was ink visible under his fingernails and a smudge of something on one knuckle,
"Excuse me, miss."
He wasn’t shy, either, and his tone lacked the hesitance of the clerk. If anything, the air of his position as bookbinder’s assistant was his only tenuous hold on authority he could muster, "May I just see the call number of your book there? I’m looking for a particular volume for repair."
He was digging the folded sheet of parchment back out of the breast pocket of his brocade vest, blue eyes noticeably shifting toward a much warmer green as if he was amused. His tone was as far from apologetic as the weather was from pleasant, "I’m afraid you may have it."