Baltimore sat under a dim lantern, finishing the last few pages of his book. His eyes quickly moved from side to side, reading each word with great speed and complete comprehension. He adjusted his light blonde hair that would always seem to find its way in front of his eyes. The numerous voices around him never seemed to reach his ears. He flipped through the final pages and closed the book.
"Ah, another excellent book," he said with an accomplished smile.
He put the it in his backpack and the surrounding noise flooded into his ears. It was like a dam had just broken and sound was allowed to flow. The sudden return into reality caused Baltimore to shudder slightly. He looked at the sky as the sun was just starting to fall.
There are a lot of people around for this early.
Baltimore strapped on his backpack and walked over to the market that was getting crowded. The market progressively got louder as people talked more. It did not take long for people to chat with their new neighbors. He made his way through the crowd and noticed a middle aged woman arguing with a merchant selling vegetables. She had various vegetables in her basket that were in all likelihood purchased from him.
He walked slower as he neared them and a man bumped into him from behind. Baltimore faked a stumble, snatched a carrot from the woman's basket, and slid it into his shirt sleeve all in one fluid motion. The woman and the merchant were too busy arguing to notice.
The man looked down and noticed the child he had stumbled over.
"My apologies," the man said, "I didn't notice you."
"It's okay, it happens to short people like myself," Baltimore said with a smile.
The man further observed Baltimore and noticed his stature was quite small. He instantly felt bad but he did not know what to say. He stared at Baltimore but avoided eye contact. After a long ten seconds, the man awkwardly walked away without saying anything else.
Baltimore continued his stroll through the market. He stayed sharp and looked for any easy targets. There were a few elderly folk and some oblivious looking women, but Baltimore caught sight of a weak, bruised man who carried a wide variety of goods. There was a large but fat foreign man ordering him and others around. The workers, or possible slaves, dropped the goods at a stand and went to get more.
Baltimore followed them to the city's harbor. The workers went to a merchant ship and transported more goods to the stand. Now understanding the transportation process, Baltimore had to decide where or who to steal from. The ship, the workers, or the stall where the goods are being sold. The most sensible option to him was to take from the workers. Since they are tired from moving large quantities of goods and moving tediously from point A to point B, they are less aware of their surroundings and less suspicious towards thieves or thugs, like himself.
Baltimore ran through the crowd, slipping past others with ease. He closed in on one of the laborers and ran into him. His backpack, which had been strapped on only one of his shoulders, fell onto the ground. Numerous fruits and vegetables were knocked out of the worker's grasp.
"My book!" Baltimore called out. He opened his pack and took out the book he was reading earlier. It had some dents and scratches on it, but none were new.
Baltimore apologized and helped pick up the goods. The worker did not respond, he just picked up the fruits. His emotions did not exactly beam, it was quite the opposite. Through his wall of apathy, Baltimore could see the despair in his eyes. He knew the feeling too well not to notice it. Not only that, but he seemed, for the lack of a better word, broken. As if he was unable act freely on his own. As if he could only act if he was ordered to do so.
Although Baltimore did sympathize for the man, he still intended to take what he needed. While helping gather the goods, he slid two apples, a pair, and an orange into his baggy shirt sleeves, then let them fall into his still open backpack. Once everything was picked up, he put his backpack on and headed off. He successfully completed two steps away from the scene, believing he was above suspicion. He put his third step in motion but was grabbed by the front of his shirt and hauled up into the air. He looked down in alarm, seeing a somewhat familiar face. With a few seconds to search his memory, he remembered that this was the large, foreign man who ordered the workers around.
"Do you really think you can just walk away after stealing from me, boy?" the man asked.
Baltimore stared into the man's eyes, unable to speak. He struggled to think of something to say. The grip on his shirt tightened, stretching it further. A crowd gathered around the scene, putting more pressure on him.
"If you won't give me an answer, how about a different question?" the man asked with a slightly nicer tone. "Why were you running?"
"I was on my way to the library, I have a book that's overdue." Baltimore claimed.
The man slammed Baltimore into a nearby wall and the crowd gasped.
"That's the best you could come up with?"
"It's the truth."
"Let the kid go," ordered a cloaked figure leaning against the wall.
The man laughed. "Why would I do that?"
"A grown man beating up a child doesn't look so good."
"Like I care what people think of me."
"You'll care once you notice your profits drop."
"What are you talking about?" the foreign man asked with an agitated tone.
"Do you honestly think people will buy your goods after witnessing this? I wouldn't be surprised if you were barred from trading here ever again"
The man doubted the hooded figure at first, but then he looked at the crowd. Their faces showed fear and discontent with his actions towards this young, innocent looking boy.
"Oh, come on people. I'm not beating the little punk for no reason. A boy like this deserves a beating. He stole from me."
"What did he steal?"
"He took some of my fruit."
"You're battering this kid because he might have taken some of your fruit?"
"Might? I have proof." he dropped Baltimore and opened his backpack. "See?" he asked showing the crowd the fruit in the backpack.
"How do we know he didn't buy that?"
"You think this kid has any coin on him? He's a street rat, a bum. He's got no coin. The only way he could have gotten fresh fruit is by stealing from the hard working citizens of Ightorm."
"First off, you aren't a citizen of Ightorm. And second, It's hard to believe anything you say after what we've all just witnessed."
Now realizing his business was at stake, the foreigner returned Baltimore's backpack to him and faced the crowd with a fake, but awfully convincing smile.
"My deepest apologies, I must have been mistaken. Perhaps this boy is not the thief I thought he was. I hope we can all forget about this little incident and continue shopping normally."
The man turned his back on the crowd. The moment he turned, his smile disappeared and he glared at Baltimore. The crowd scattered and resumed shopping. Baltimore looked around for the hooded man who stood up for him, but he disappeared with the crowd. Instead, he saw the large man talking to two thugs. His facial expression was still obviously hateful and he pointed to Baltimore. The thugs nodded and walked towards him.
Baltimore put his backpack on and briskly walked away from them. He wondered if they were going to make it obvious that they were following him, so he looked back. The thugs and Baltimore made direct eye contact while walking. No one awkwardly looked away. No one batted an eye.
Obvious it is.
He slithered through the crowd at a fast pace. The thugs pushed and shoved people aside but they lost Baltimore in the sea of people. He moved around the thugs, concealed by the masses. He poked and jabbed at the thugs from all directions. They caught a glimpse of his face and pushed aside a man in their path. The man's goods were sent flying and he watched as they were trampled. The large man stared at his now bruised fruit and dirtied vegetables. He went though the prices of each thing in his mind, and calculated how long he would have to work to buy them back.
The thugs backed Baltimore into a wall and punches were sent his way. Baltimore narrowly dodged a few but was hit in the stomach several times. He flew his own punch into one of the thugs noses. It was a weak punch but blood still managed to seep out of his nose. The thug was sent a few steps back but he looked more angered than hurt. Teary eyed and nose bloodied, he sent a ferocious fist to Baltimore's face but was jarred back by the man whose goods he had ruined. The other thug hit the man and a fight broke out. A group of Ightorm guards noticed and the tried to break up the fight. In the confusion, Baltimore allowed himself to merge with the common folk and headed to the only completed library in Ightorm.
Baltimore looked at the sky and watched the sun get swallowed by darkness. Eyes opened all throughout the kingdom and an unimaginable amount of lanterns were lit, leaving few pockets of gloom. Ightorm citizens all around the kingdom got ready for the the beginning of the night.
He approached a large, cylindrical building that stood thirty feet tall and had an even wider base. There were eight massive pillars that were evenly placed apart around the building. Each part of the building maintained a pearl color. The front was most noticeable for its heavy double doors. Baltimore always took time to pause and admire this glorious, symmetrical building before entering.
He approached the doors and used all his strength to pry one open. Exhausted, he entered the building.
The interior was littered with lanterns, not letting an ounce of darkness to sneak through. Some were on walls, others hung from the ceiling, and one immense chandelier hung in the center. Book shelves ranged from ten to fifteen feet tall and could only be reached by the ladder attached to each shelf. There were two stories to the building and a large open area in the center for the chandelier.
"Welcome to the Great Ightorm Library, the largest library in all of Alevor," facted a joyous woman with a smile.
"And the only one in Ightorm. Someone has to change that name Ms. Z," Baltimore said with a warm smile, "it's too unimaginative for a place crammed full of creativity"
The woman sighed. "Please call me Ms. Zozia. And believe me, I've tried changing it."
Baltimore approached her and pulled out the book he had been reading from his backpack. He gently set it on the counter separating them.
"You've already finished it? It's only been two days." Ms. Zozia said.
"You told me to bring it back in a day." Baltimore claimed.
"I thought it was obvious I was joking." She picked up the book and read the title. "History of Alevor Book IV..." she mumbled to herself. "This is over a thousand pages long!"
"Shh. This is a library."
"I know that, I'm the librarian," she reputed with a hint of irritation in her voice. She put the book on a shelf behind her that was labeled "Returns." "You must have a lot of free time," she guessed.
"You have no idea," Baltimore reassured with a smile.
That response to her comment sounded sad but he accompanied it with a cheery attitude, which made it hard for Ms. Zozia to regret her statement.
"I was wondering," said Baltimore, "why was the first library in Ightorm built to be the largest in all of Alevor?"
"That's something I have pondered upon myself. I suppose if we live in a land built from nothing, we might as well start grand. Perhaps to show the other territories that we have the money, resources, and tenacity to to create a magnificent empire."
A reader looked up in distaste and glared at Ms. Zozia, who was left in bewilderment.
Baltimore noticed and mentioned,"I think you were being too loud."
"And you weren't?" she asked.
"You are the librarian. You're supposed to be the one enforcing silence, not disrupting it."
She glared at him and then at the man reading. A moment went by without an alteration to her scowl. She seemed to be engaged in a battle of countenance with a man who just wanted to read in an environment absent of sound. Baltimore slipped away into a forest abundant with knowledge and information to search for something that peaked his interest.
He strolled through the history section reminiscing on some familiar titles. He picked up the next instalment of the history books and observed the barren cover. The only way to differentiate one book from another was what was written on the spine. He opened it and began reading. After a brief moment, he returned the book to where it belonged and headed for the folklore section.
Unlike the history section, folklore was more vibrant and each book felt unique. He picked up a legend, and the cover was utterly captivating. On it was a man clad in armor smiting an ancient wolf. A design of white and gold covered the borders of the cover, spine, and back. Though this was not the type of book Baltimore often indulged in, he found it impossible not to open. The first letter was much larger than the others and entwined with the same white and gold that bordered the cover. Words were so different and the sentences were intricately worded, putting great detail into everything mentioned. With each sentence read, he became more enthralled.
Eventually, he got to a gap between two parts and closed the book. He returned the way he came and asked Ms. Zozia if he could check out the legend.
"Are you going to leave a deposit?" was the first thing she said.
"Have I ever?"
"You know I can get in trouble for this. You can't give me anything?"
"All of my possessions are on me. Besides, I return everything before anyone knows it's been checked out."
"That's not the point. If you forget-"
"I've never forgotten-"
"If you forget, I need something of equal or greater value to compensate for the loss. These books take a long time to be recreated. Especially one like this."
"Even if I do forget, I can just turn it in late. It's not like I'll forget to return it completely."
She ignored him observed the cover. "Since when do you read legends?"
"Since I found that one. Please Ms. Zozia-"
"Can't you just read it here? Why do you have to check it out?"
"There are too many distractions in here."
"There are too many distractions in a library? That's the silliest thing I've ever heard. I couldn't think of a better place to read."
"Yes, well... the library does not complement my schedule."
"Now I know you're lying, we never close."
If I stayed in here all day, the best opportunities to snatch would slip past me.
"Please Ms. Zozia, if I stay in the library, I'm afraid I'll never leave. I'll forget to eat and sleep and I will never talk with others."
"People are overvalued."
"You've seen how fast I can read books when I'm out there," he motioned to the door, "imagine how fast I could read without interruptions. I become completely enveloped in books-"
"I've heard enough," she handed the book to him, "have it returned by tomorrow, no later."
Baltimore took the book with both hands and held it with a firm, yet gentle grasp. He lost himself in the cover and almost forgot to breathe. He looked up at her.
"Don't make me regret it," she said.
A grateful "Thank you," was all that could escape his mouth. He put the book into his bag and said, "Have a nice night," which was his way of concluding the conversation.
"Such an odd boy," Ms. Zozia mumbled as he headed for the door.
Once outside, Baltimore took the opportunity to admire the divine building and all its symmetry. After his eyes were had their feeding, he headed home.